An original novel based on the Starfox Team from the Nintendo games and comics...Dedicated to our dear friend, Jill Denisse (aka Zerofoxie). Thanks for everything! Summary:Trouble is afoot. After 7 years of peace, the Starfox Team are called upon to be the saviours of Corneria once more, when a new threat from the once defeated evil scientist, Andross. However, all is not well in the team, and vice captain, Falco quits, when General Pepper makes Bill Grey Starfox captain after Fox is injured during another mission.Fox finds himself turning to other sources for help, even if it does involve one Katt Monroe, admirer of Falco, and a well known space pirate. Meanwhile, Falco finds himself at the mercy of Andross' new henchman, and is forced to captain a new team, against Starfox. But luckily, he has a helper who prevents the brainwashing... one that none of the team could ever have imagined... Juliet A. Singleton, March 1999
Chapter 1 "Falco! Cover me!" yelled Fox McCloud through his microphone. "Sure Fox," replied Falco coolly. Fox dodged to the side in his Arwing trying to avoid another shot fired off by one of the Wolfens. "Too slow," he jeered to whichever Star Wolf member might be listening. "Fox, watch out!" Peppy screamed a warning. Too late. He felt the impact of a heavy laser, crashing into his Arwing, jarring the whole machine. "Damnit!" Fox muttered, through gritted teeth. He did a barrel roll to avoid more oncoming shots. "I said cover me," he yelled back to Falco. He saw a sheepish looking image of Falco crackle onto the screen. "Bygones," he said, then ended the transmission. Fox shook his head to himself then manoeuvred his Arwing around a massive floating beam. He looked to his left, and saw a Wolfen drawing up level with him. Through his window he could clearly see the face of Wolf O'Donnel, the leader of the Star Wolf team. The Wolfen began to fly dangerously towards Fox, and all that he could do was to try and go a little faster, try and outrun the thing. But he was already going as fast as he could. The chamber that had contained the nitro-booster had been severely damaged by a Star Wolf member so he couldn't go any faster. Wolf's face flashed onto the screen. "Try and get yourself of this one McCloud!" he challenged. Fox bit his lip and looked back towards the Wolfen. He took a deep breath then rammed his Arwing into the Wolfen. The arwing wing slid over the Wolfen wing and tore into the body work of Andross' creation. Fox then stamped on the accelerator as hard as he could and the wing cut a deep hole into the body work, slicing through it effortlessly. "What the hell do you think you're doing!" yelled Wolf down the microphone. Fox flew closer to the ground the Wolfen wedged onto the tip of his wing, a big grin spread across his face. He saw the look of horror in Wolf's eyes when he realised what Fox was going to do. "Any last requests?" asked Fox, sneering. "You can't do this, why, why it's..." started Wolf trying to think of a reason why Fox shouldn't be doing this. Fox grinned then executed a barrel roll, smashing the Wolfen into the ground then quickly diving upwards before the thing blew. A bright explosion lit the sky, and Fox glanced down at the wrecked Wolfen, now licked with flame. "Way to go McCloud!" cheered Falco enthusiastically, pulling up besides his comrade. "Nice one," called Slippy down the mic. There was another crash and another Wolfen hit the ground, exploding on impact. "Hey, Peppy!" yelled Fox, laughing. Peppy was forty one, the oldest by far in the group, but he still had it in him. "Who'd d'you get?" asked Slippy. "I'm not sure, I think I got that idiot Andrew," replied Peppy. "What happened to Leon?" asked Slippy, concerned. "Hmm, not sure," reported back Falco, his sharp eyes scanning the landscape for any sign of another Wolfen. "I think Pigma deserted a long time ago," said Peppy, his voice filled with disdain. He couldn't believe it that, his once great friend, Pigma Dengar had betrayed the Star Fox team as well as it's captain James McCloud - Fox's father. "Well isn't that just like him?" retorted Fox in disgust. He had hated Wolf but he hated Pigma more. If it hadn't been for his greed his father could still be alive today. Fox still couldn't believe that Andross had outwitted his father. Cool, collected James McCloud, killed by the twisted genius Andross. Then Leon Powalski's face appeared on their screens. "Hey, just thought I'd better warn you about the surprise I've set up for you," he purred. "What might that be?" asked Fox, training his eyes on the landscape. Suddenly a large ship appeared in front of them. Something they'd not seen before. It had a round base, and sprouting up from the top of it were millions of lasers, in tubes. "What on Corneria?" began Falco in awe. "Roll, roll, roll," instructed Fox, as lasers began to rain down on them. Between rolls, Fox tried to look for a way of entrance. As far as he could see the only way to get in would to dive into the middle of the lasers, they could all sustain a lot of damage though. "Okay guys, put your shields to full power, we're diving in," he commanded flipping the shield switch. "Shouldn't we save it for Andross?" asked Slippy concerned. "This is the only way in, we'll have to use shield," replied Fox. He waited till the bleep went off to inform him that shield was up to full power, then dived towards the entrance. Falco followed him swiftly, followed by Slippy and Peppy. The lasers whipped at the Arwings, draining the shield down at an incredible rate. Fox prayed that they'd saved enough. He then flew into the ship. As soon as he entered, Andross' face appeared on the screen. His laughter cackled through the mic. "Very impressive Fox, but can you and your little Arwings cope with what I've got in store?" he asked, cutting off the transmission. "Is it too late to turn back?" whimpered Slippy. "Uh-huh," retorted Falco snidely. Slippy gulped. A sharp beam rose from the floor, slicing the tip of Fox's Arwing wing clean off. "We're gonna get cut to pieces," panicked Slippy. Falco rolled his eyes, which quickly widened as another beam rose from the floor. He quickly avoided it, only to have another shot from the wall. "The sooner we get to Andross the better," said Peppy, using his nitro-booster. Slippy followed suit. "Hey you guys, not too fast," warned Fox, wishing that he could repair his nitro-booster. A moment later he heard the sound of cutting metal when he turned and realised that a laser was cutting through the floor of his Arwing, just behind him. He stamped on the accelerator again, but with little effect. "Fox, watch out!" screamed Slippy through the mic. Fox looked up through the laser to see a Wolfen starship charging towards him at full speed. He saw the features of Leon Powolski through the window. "There's something you forgot!" he yelled to the lizard before quickly manoeuvring to the side. The wing of his ship smashed against the wall of the ship and clattered harmlessly to the ground and the laser cut through the side of his ship. Leon tried to swerve also but instead he went flying straight towards the laser, which sliced right through the ship, splitting it into two halves. Leon screamed then the transmission was cut off. Fox turned behind him to see the Wolfen explode into flames. He glanced to his right, where the damage had been done. "Pepper ain't gonna be too happy," crowed Falco over the mic. "Shut it Falco. I think Pepper won't care about the damage as long as we get rid of Andross once and for all," gritted Fox. Laughter filled the radio waves. "I killed the best pilot in the system, your father, Fox, what makes you think that a bunch of amateurs like you can do if your father's team could not defeat me!" cackled the ape. Fox winced at the mention of his father's name. "Last time we had a traitor on our side, but not this time," bit back Fox. "How do you know?" asked Andross smugly. Fox went silent. He thought of his team. Peppy, Falco, Slippy. Would any of those be traitors? He doubted it. "I know," he said confidently. "Ever wondered how Peppy escaped?" questioned Andross. Fox bit his lip. Peppy? "He's a good pilot," replied Fox, getting less confident by the minute. "Your father was a lot better Fox. Why didn't he escape?" continued on Andross. Before the Arwings the passage grew narrower. Fox tilted on his side and led the team through. The passage grew larger and higher. Suddenly Fox heard a grinding of metal behind him. He realised in horror that the passage had closed behind him. Separating him from his team. "Peppy, Falco, Slippy? Anyone? Come in?" he tapped his mic. He got no reply. "Ah, looks like it's just you and me Fox McCloud," sighed Andross, his face appearing on the screen. Fox shook his head and flew on. "You'll never win Andross, my team will get to me," said Fox, trying to sound confident. "Funny, that's exactly what your father said. Except his team were gone. One dead, one trapped, and one on the right side. The winning side," said Andross grinning evilly. "Do you want to know how he died Fox?" asked Andross leeringly. "I know. You sucked him into that black hole," said Fox, gritting his teeth. He dodged another laser that sprouted from the wall. "No, I put him in there after I caught him and had tortured him. Pigma and Leon helped. Leon and Wolf were good pilots, my nephew not so good. But you will pay for their deaths," continued Andross. Fox felt physically sick. He saw the passage bend up ahead. "Prepare to meet your doom Fox McCloud, and I shall finally end your name!" cackled Andross triumphantly. Fox turned the corner then he gasped in horror. It looked as though Andross had been inventing new monsters in his spare time. If he had had a religion, Fox would've prayed. But he didn't. He just hoped his father was watching over him. He supposed that was a kind of religion. It was huge. It was double the size of the core, and there was only him to tackle it. Suddenly the front opened up, and cannons began firing plasma bombs. Fox flew up to the ceiling and circled around the monstrosity, looking for weaknesses. He couldn't see any. Lasers began shooting at him from the top, but he barrel rolled his way out of it. He only had one laser, after he'd lost his wing. What good was that going to be? He decided that he'd disable the plasma cannons first. They would do the most damage. He waited till the cannons paused and then dove down shooting at them. One exploded, and then he flew back to the top, to wait for it to fire off more rounds. "McCloud, I'm controlling this, not some crummy machine," cackled Andross. Fox silently cursed. He'd have to go down there and coax Andross to empty the cannons, then attack. He dove down again, taking some minor damage from the lasers up above. He dodged and swerved in and out of the plasma bombs, quickly flying upwards to avoid the blast and then dive down again and attack the cannons. "Three down two to go," he murmured under his breath. He dove down and attacked again. "Your effort is futile," laughed Andross, flashing briefly across the screen. Suddenly, Andross caught Fox off guard and the bomb hit. "This is it," sighed Fox inwardly. The Arwing started to fall. Fox looked down at the button beside his seat. He pushed it. He was ejected from the seat and from the ship. He was flung into the air, where he pulled the cord on his parachute. He floated down to the ground, just after his Arwing hit the ground. It exploded, sending sparks towards Fox. His fur singed at the heat. As he touched the ground he noticed a small door open in the bottom of the huge machine. He saw the red cloak of Andross. "Your father did the same. That's how I got him," cackled Andross, rubbing his hands with glee. Fox pretended to keel over in pain. "He was injured, just like you. Dying in the most unfortunate fashion must be in the McCloud genes," cackled Andross. Fox placed his hand secretly on his hand laser. Andross, standing ten feet away pulled a rod from his cloak and pointed it at Fox. A laser jumped from the tip and hit Fox, sending him to the ground. Fox opened his eyes groggily. His vision was blurry, the room span. "Ah, you've come around," said a distinct voice. Pigma Dengar. Fox tried to leap at the traitor but he was bolted to a table. He struggled but to no avail. Pigma leaned over Fox, smugly. Fox spat in his face. Pigma stepped back in disgust, wiping the saliva from his face. "You're not even worth that!" spat Fox angrily. "Now, now. You want me to be easy on you don't you?" asked Pigma sweetly. He picked up a long rod. Fox dreaded to think what it was for. He looked down and realised he wasn't wearing his uniform. Just rags. And his headset was gone. Pigma flicked a button on the rod and a bright light shone from it. He approached Fox and shone the light into his face. Fox shut his eyes, his fur began to singe. "Nah, not painful enough. How about if I remove a limb," said Pigma grinning. He went back to the table of apparatus and picked up a laser. Andross entered. "Before you start Pigma, I want to show Fox this," said Andross, proudly holding a small item before him. It was a small metal box with a thin needle sticking up from the centre. "What is it?" asked Fox, leaning as far forward as he could. To his left, through a window he could see a hangar. He must be on Venom! "I'll plant it on Corneria, pull the needle, escape and boom!" said Andross widening his arms to emphasise the explosion. "Once you're dead, I'm going to Corneria," he said, his lip curving into a smile. He pushed a button in the side wall and a unit opened out. He placed the box inside, and closed it again. Then he left. "Pigma, why did you betray my father? You were friends," said Fox. "I should've been leader, not him. He was too good for his own good," spat Pigma bitterly. "But you still weren't captain of the Star Wolf team," reminded Fox. "I am now," replied Pigma, turning to Fox his eyes burning. He clutched a laser in his hand and leaned over Fox's arm. Just as he turned on the laser, Fox managed to stick his foot out and knock Pigma. The laser went further up Fox's arm and cut the bolt holding his instead of his arm. Pigma fell into the wall, and the laser sat balanced on the edge of the table, it's beam lay across Fox's chest. If he sighed it would cut into him. He moved his free arm and grabbed the laser. He cut free his other arm, singing his fur as he did, then his legs. He turned off the laser and jumped up. He pushed the button in the side wall, and watched as the unit opened out. He pulled the needle, then pushed the button again. He heard footsteps and turned to the window. He jumped through it. He fell for what seemed hours before he hit the ground. Glass showered down around him. He stood up and dusted himself up. Then he ran towards the Wolfen. Once he was inside he thanked his dad for showing him how to hot wire a Arwing. Once, when his dad had left his keys at home, and he'd taken Fox with him to show him the ships, he had shown Fox how to hot wire one. How different could a Wolfen be? It took him seconds to get it started. He ran along the run way, and rose up towards the exit of the dome. It didn't open. "Oh well, it's only a Wolfen," he thought and smashed through the dome. As he rose towards space he heard an explosion behind him. He looked down and saw pieces of debris float towards him. "Andross hadn't left much time for his original escape," thought Fox. He shook his head then surged forward using a nitro-booster. The Wolfen wasn't all that different to the Arwing. "Pigma must've shown him the blueprints," thought Fox sadly. He started to tune into the Great Fox's frequency. "Great Fox? Do you read me? It's Fox McCloud. Andross is dead. Repeat Andross is dead..." Fox, however, didn't notice the small ship that had ejected itself from the base moments before the explosion....
Chapter 2 7 years later... Life was quiet in Corneria these days. The threat of Andross was gone, and finally, the Lylat system seemed safe. The people were happy, and on the whole, the universe finally a pleasant place to live once more. Even so more quiet, for Fox McCloud and his team of Arwing Fighter pilots. They were rarely needed, and spent more of their time simply doing displays of their skills for the people of Corneria, than going out flying. Every now and then, a dangerous mission would crop up, but nothing that ever endangered Corneria and its civilians. Peppy Hare, the veteran member of the Arwing crew had finally retired earlier that year. At forty-eight, he'd felt that he was simply too old to keep up with the much younger members. Fox, who admired Peppy greatly, still felt that the rabbit still had a lot left to still give the team, but Peppy hadn't agreed, and retired gracefully, handing his badge back to General Pepper, their commander. He'd promptly been given the job as Vice-General, but spent most of his time in the laboratory, researching new gadgets and weapons for the Cornerian Special Forces. His oldest son and daughter hadn't taken much interest into joining the Special Forces, Lilly had become a nurse, and Ralph had opted for a career in journalism. But to Peppy's joy, his youngest son Timothy had already begun training to join the Cornerian Army. Peppy hoped that one day, Tim would try out for the position of an Arwing pilot. He was extremely proud of all of his children, but very happy that one of them was trying to follow in his footsteps, the dream most fathers have for their son. He saw Fox and the others regularly, not just at the base, but out of work hours too. Peppy had become a great hero in Corneria, and a well respected figure by all. Falco, while often bored with not having missions, enjoyed being able to display his aerial skills off to the public. Being of the avian race, he was most at home up in the air, and some of the tricks he could perform in his Arwing could not even be done by Fox, who was the team leader. Living life on the edge, he enjoyed learning the most death defying stunts possible, indeed if a small silver plane went flying close past a window of one of the city skyscrapers, people would just nod to each other and say that Falco Lombardi had just flown by. It was his favourite trick to roll his Arwing onto it's side, and fly it that way between the narrow gap of two tall buildings built almost next to each other. He was very confident, and most of the time, he pulled his daring antics off. But General Pepper was never very happy when Falco returned back to the base with a damaged Arwing, and a bill from angry civilians. Luckily, Falco was also very rich, and paying such bills was not a problem. Still an extremely eligible bachelor, Falco resided in an expensive, rooftop apartment in the classiest part of Corneria City. Every now and then, he often wished that he could be flying up front as team captain, and was secretly a little jealous of Fox. But, they were such good friends, there was no use being sour over it, and he was glad that he was second in command. Slippy took a step back and looked at his latest creation. He had modified his own Arwing so that it could go under water for a period of time. He placed a wrench on the workbench and took a sip of his drink. He was a better mechanic than he had been seven years ago, and a better pilot too. His father, who had helped him with his mechanics, had sadly passed on two years ago. He was twenty five now and married, with two beautiful kids. A girl and a boy. His son, Slippy Junior, wanted to be a pilot like his dad. Every so often, Slippy would bring him to sit in the Arwings but never let him fly them. He could wait another few years, Slippy had decided. He and his family lived on the outskirts of Corneria City in a nice, big house. It wasn't as though he couldn't afford it. Although he made less money through piloting than his team-mates, he still made plenty through his mechanical skills. He was surprised in a way he hadn't been taken off the team once Fara had joined. But Fox had kept him on and Slippy was grateful for that. He glanced up into the windows that stood high above the hangar and saw Falco watching him. He grinned and gave a wave to his feathered friend. He would never have the kind of fame Falco had for his amazing flying, but his name would go down in the history books for his creations the Land Master and the Blue Marine. Fox glanced at the surveillance screens that covered the walls of the main control room. They covered all of the planets in the Lylat System. If anything sinister was going on, they would know about it. He glanced at a picture on the side wall, it was of his father and Pepper standing in front of the Arwing. A pang of sadness and regret filled him. He looked at one of the screens that was watching over Venom. Had he killed Andross? He hoped he had. He glanced back at the picture of his father and shook his head. He heard someone approaching and turned. He smiled at the approaching Fox. "Hi, Fara," he said, taking her into an embrace. He looked at the ring on her finger on her left hand. It was her engagement ring that he'd given her seven years ago. As soon as he'd returned from Venom he'd asked her to marry him. She'd said 'yes' immediately. He smiled, it had been a long engagement. "So, when are we gonna get married?" he asked casually. Fara grinned at him. "Well, I'm not sure. Did you have anything in mind?" she replied. "Well, we have been engaged for a long time," started Fox. "Don't tell me! Tomorrow, in order to upstage Falco's display you want us to get married in the air?" laughed Fara. "Hey, that's not a bad idea," started Fox grinning. "Don't even think about it!" shrieked Fara playfully. "Why not? I think it's a great idea!" exclaimed Fox. "Well, for one, I've already got my display all planned out. It took me ages to get it all worked out, it'd be a pity to waste it!" retorted Fara. "Oh so your air display is more important than us finally tying the knot?" asked Fox, trying to look hurt. "Yep!" replied Fara, pulling from his arms. "Oh, d'you know how great that makes me feel? Now, I, captain of the team will be upstaged by second-in-command!" said Fox in mock despair. "Fox, don't be silly! All of those people love you! You were the one who single handedly killed Andross, not some stunt-pulling bird !" reassured Fara, patting him on the shoulder. Fox's eyes met hers. "You're right Ms. Phoenix," he said grinning. "I always am," she replied smiling at him smugly. "I should be worrying about more important things than air displays," he said suddenly. "Please Fox, don't tempt fate," said Fara in an exasperated tone of voice. Bill Grey looked at his Arwing. He threw another bucket over the top of it and began scrubbing it with a sponge. Tomorrow there was a big air display and he wanted his Arwing to be spotless. He had been called up to the Star Fox team after Peppy had retired. He was member number five. He had enjoyed heading his division of the force but he was in love with the prestige of being a Star Fox team member. Yes, he'd had respect and all the rest of it before, but being in the Star Fox team symbolised that you were the best of the best. He grinned at his reflection in the shiny surface of the Arwing. Yes, he was indeed cool, collected Bill Grey. People respected and loved him even though he had never really done anything of note whilst being a member of the team. He was like Fox and Falco rolled together. Cool like Fox but as daring as Falco. He was a sharp shooter too, which counted for everything when you were out there. Falco walked into the hangar. "Hey Grey!" he called. Bill turned and looked the bird over. "Yeah?" replied Bill. "I'm gonna totally upstage you out there!" he yelled. "Oh yeah!?" retorted Bill. "Fancy putting a little wager on it?" asked Falco approaching the dog. "Sure, make a offer," replied Bill turning back to the Arwing. He glanced at Falco in the reflection. "How about, hmm, let me see," mused Falco, folding his arms. "$200," blurted Bill. "I'm impressed, how about we go a little higher though? Say $250?" retorted Falco. "It'll be the easiest money I ever made!" replied Bill confidently.***** Fox polished the front of his Arwing proudly. That afternoon, they were all due to give a flying display in Corneria City, the planet's largest city, as part of the autumn celebration. Falco was nearby, just finishing up. "I suppose you'll be looking forward this afternoon, won't you?" he called over to his friend, grinning. Falco nodded. "Just wait Fox! I have the most amazing display planned," Falco told him. "Yeah, but just don't show me up too much!" Fox laughed. Falco smiled, and picked up the buckets of water around him. His Arwing shone bright silver, a truly beautiful piece of aviation machinery. Fox turned back to his own plane. He was almost done himself, and well ahead of time. He'd be able to go and pick up his best uniform from the dry cleaners without rushing. "Wait a moment Falco, you off to get your uniform?" Fox called after the bird. Falco nodded. "I'll come with you," Fox said, giving the wing a quick rub. "I'll just tidy these things up while you finish off, then," Falco answered, clearing away the spray cans of polish, and the cleaning rags and sponges. Bill walked into the hangar, and grinned at them. "Getting ready early, I see?" he said, walking over to his Arwing. "Bill, the display begins in less than three hours!" Fox exclaimed. "I'll be ready before then," the dog declared confidently. Fox looked at Falco, but the bird just shrugged. "Where's Slippy?" Fox asked. "Dunno. You know what he's like, won't turn up until the last moment," Bill replied, starting to work on his Arwing. "I'd better go and call him, in case he's forgotten," Fox decided. "We'll do it on the way to the dry cleaners," Falco said, taking Fox by the arm and leading him to the hangar exit. Fox rolled his Arwing three times, the other three members keeping in close synch. They'd done this a thousand times, but the audience loved it. They zoomed down low, over the top of the crowd. Then flew back up into the air, spinning round and round, until they reached the clouds. At Falco's signal, Fox veered off to the left, and Slippy and Bill also manoeuvred out of the way, to give the bird space to put on his solo show. Fox had to admit, Falco was a stunning pilot. Some of the aerial tricks he managed, Fox wouldn't have dared to do, only in extreme circumstances. He was looking forward to his own solo sequence though, which he would perform right at the very end. It wouldn't be for another half an hour or so, so he flew downwards and landed on the nearby runway. As he climbed out of his plane, he noticed Falco do a particularly spectacular stunt. Smiling to himself, he walked over to where the crowd of people were gathered. Fara Phoenix, part-time Arwing pilot and also Fox's girlfriend was stood waiting for him. She hadn't taken part in the group display, but she was up for her own display later on. She came over and gave him a hug. "You were marvellous Fox, but what are you doing down here?" she questioned. "I'm not due back up for about half an hour, the others are doing their solos," Fox replied. "I noticed. Bill was telling me that he'd planned something very special," Fara answered smiling. Fox laughed. "Seems like everyone has some new trick, even you and Slippy have, but not me!" Fara smiled at him again. "I'm sure you'll be great. Everyone loves you, you are the team captain, after all," she said, hugging him again. "Here comes Bill," Fox said, shading his eyes against the sun and looking upwards. "I wonder what the surprise is," Fara said, looking up as well. Fox's features suddenly became more concentrated. He stepped forward, away from Fara, looking worried. "What's wrong, Fox?" Fara asked in a puzzled tone. "Oh no, we have company," Fox groaned. "What?" Fara said. "Get your Arwing out, quick!" Fox ordered. "But, I'm not even due up for at least half an hour yet," Fara protested. "Just do it!" Fox replied, hurrying off towards his own plane. Are these enemy planes, Fox wondered, as the large planes flew closer. They were big, and black in colour. Fox wondered where they were from. They looked nothing like Wolfens, why he hadn't seen one of those for years. They were at least twice as big as the sleek Arwings, and Fox guessed at least double the weight. And they looked to have a heavy artillery, too. None of the Starwing team even had time to find out if the vehicles contained peaceful visitors. One of the planes fired a plasma bomb at Falco's Arwing. His team-mate dodge it easily, and at once let off a round of laser fire at his attacker. Fox gritted his teeth, and continued his ascent. "Give them all you've got!" he spoke though the microphone. "What does it look like I'm doing?" Falco answered sarcastically. "At once captain!" Bill said. "Ready when you are!" Slippy declared. "I'm here!" Fara said. Fox fired off a couple of rounds at one of the huge planes. The lasers seemed to bounce off the vehicle's shiny black surface. Oh great, he thought, firing off some more. They looked like they were reflecting, but Fox hoped that they were at least doing some minor damage. A brilliant explosion suddenly changed the colour of the sky, he realised that one of his team-mates had let off a nova bomb, at some more approaching planes. There were at least ten of them. Fox wondered where on earth they'd come from, and who had sent them. They were quite unlike anything he'd seen before. "We're here, Fox," said Jeff Rogers through the mic. "Cover us," Fox replied back to the Cornerian army air force commander. At least twenty army planes were arriving, not as fast or resilient as the specially designed Arwings, but nonetheless good support. The enemy planes fought back, but seemed rather sluggish, perhaps because of their bulky size. Fox switched on his plasma blasters, and prayed that they'd do more damage than the standard twin lasers. Fara executed a neat barrel roll, which sent the ball of plasma bouncing off the surface of her Arwing. The reflected plasma hit right off the plane that was chasing her, causing damage. She smiled to her. "Everyone, try the plasma," she called through the microphone. "Don't worry Fara," Fox called back. An Arwing suddenly veered past her. "Help! Help!" came Slippy's voice. Fara only just managed to move out of the way, as she saw the plane that was trying to shoot down Slippy. Next moment, Falco's Arwing went shooting past her, hot on the enemy plane's tail. Falco got lucky. One of his plasma balls hit the main engine, blasting straight through the metal and inside. The plane faltered, and juddered a bit. "I got one!" Falco called. "Nice work. Lombardi!" came Fox's voice. He was shooting one down also. In fact, a lot of the enemy planes seemed to be going down. The remaining ones turned, and suddenly used their nitro-boosters to fly off. Fox continued the chase, along with Bill, trying to blast them into oblivion. The crashed planes began to explode, causing fires all around. Falco, Fara and Slippy all landed, and went to check out the damage. The Cornerian fire brigade arrived on the scene. "I wonder who they were, I couldn't get radio contact with any of them," Falco mused. Fara folded her arms. "It's all very mysterious," she commented. "Hmmm.... Well I don't like them one bit," Slippy said. "Well I'm just glad that they arrived after my display," Falco said, smiling to himself. "Jeez Falco, is that all you care about?" Fara asked, looking offended. "I never said that Fara, I just said I was glad they arrived after, not that I didn't care about them arriving," Falco replied, walking off. Fara looked like she was going to say something else, but then didn't. Fox and Bill came running over. "You guys any idea who they where?" Fox asked. "Nope," Slippy said. "A few of them escaped. Hopefully, we gave them such a whipping, that they won't be back in a hurry," Bill added. "Let's check the downed planes for remains," Fox suggested. The four walked over to one of the blackened planes. Falco was stood there, surveying it with a thoughtful look on his face. "Whoever was is there must be dead by now," Bill said, folding his arms and looking serious. "Either that, or they ejected before impact," Fox said. "I didn't see anyone doing that," Falco said, looking around at the others for confirmation. "Neither did I, but in all the commotion... it would have been easy," Fox said, looking around. "They can't have gotten very far, if any of them did eject before impact," Bill remarked. "Why don't some of us take a look around?" Slippy suggested. Fox nodded. "Good idea. Here comes Peppy, you guys go and scout around for a bit, Falco here wait with me," Fox commanded. Fara, Bill and Slippy all walked off, whilst Fox and Falco stood there, waiting for Peppy Hare. Their great friend and mentor, and also ex team-mate, walked over to the duo, a serious look on his usually amicable face. "Pepper and I saw what happened on the surveillance screens," the rabbit said, referring to the General of the Cornerian Army, and also Fox and his team's boss. "Do you have any idea who they were?" Falco asked. "I was hoping that you'd be able to tell us," Peppy answered. "We couldn't seem to get contact," Fox replied, feeling glad that it was Peppy that they were talking to. If it had been Pepper, he'd have at boiling point with them by now. Peppy walked closer to the plane, puzzled. "We have no idea where they've come from," he said, thoughtfully picking up a shard of blackened metal. "Venom?" Falco volunteered. "Or some sort of Cornerian rebellion?" Fox suggested. "I don't think so. Perhaps they came from another system," Peppy said. "But... there are no systems even close to ours! I thought that they were all hundreds of years away!" Fox exclaimed. "Technology is advancing even more rapidly than ever," Peppy answered, gathering up more parts from the wreckage. He turned back to the two pilots. "Pepper wanted to talk to you two, but I offered to. He seemed a little steamed up," Peppy said. "Thanks, Peppy," Fox said gratefully. Falco nodded. Peppy smiled at them. "Consider yourselves out of trouble at once," he said, walking off back towards the Base.
Chapter 3 Fox finished checking his Arwing for any problems and wiped his hands on a rag. "No problems over here!" he called over to Falco. "Same here," called back Falco. Fox nodded to him, then began to make his way out of the hangar. Suddenly, the intercom system crackled to life. "Could Fox McCloud make his way to General Pepper's office right away," growled Pepper. Fox turned to see a wide grin on Falco's face. "Hey, he could call you up next Falco pal," said Fox. It was his turn to grin. "Aren't you gonna wish me luck?" he asked. "Sure Fox, like you need it," said Falco laughing, turning his attention back to his Arwing. Fox shrugged and began to make his way to Pepper's office. "I understand you wanted to see me sir," said Fox, standing in front of General Pepper's desk. Pepper turned away from the wall of surveillance screens that were behind his desk, a grim look across his features. "Yes Fox, our station in Sector Y has been besieged." "Besieged?" repeated Fox in astonishment. "Who by?" "I wish I knew Fox, but whoever they are, they are demanding we remove all of our units from Venom, Area 6, Bolse, Sector Z, Macbeth and Titania," explained Pepper. "Or what?" asked Fox, warily. "We have men on that ship Fox, 600 to be exact, these people are holding our men hostage and they say that with each area we clear they will release 100 men. They say if we don't start clearing out within the next 16 hours, they'll blow up Katina with some kind of death laser," answered Pepper, beginning to pace. Fox shook his head in disbelief, "I can't believe this," he said dismally. "Well you'd better start believing it Fox. I've chosen you to accompany an agent of the LSSF to Sector Y," blurted Pepper. "What!?" said Fox in shock. "I'm not," Fox paused, trying to find the right words. "I'm not some secret agent Pepper! I'm a pilot," he finally finished. "So broaden your horizons Fox. I know you can do this. I've known you since you were a pup Fox, and I know you have the lethal combination of stealth, courage, wit and intelligence required for this sort of job. Also only you, or maybe Falco could get near to this ship without being blown up. I have every confidence that you could pull this off," said Pepper fiercely. "I, I don't know sir, I need to think about this," said Fox, shaking his head. "Fox, those men have 16 hours before they begin to be systematically executed, Katina has what? At the most 28 hours before being blown up. We can't evacuate because they'll know, we can't clear our units in that amount of time either, it would take at least a week before we could even think about clearing those units. These people know that Fox, but they'll go ahead anyway. You're our only hope Fox," pleaded Pepper. He took a brief case from under his desk and placed it on top of his desk. "Everything you'll need for your mission is in there Fox. Slip's put a temporary cloaking device on your ship that you can activate but it'll only last a few minutes, enough for you to board Station Y without detection," answered Pepper before Fox could ask. Pepper looked at Fox imploringly, "Please Fox, unmask these villains and stop them from destroying our sister planet," he gasped. Fox looked at the briefcase and then to Pepper. He firmly grabbed the briefcase and saluted to Pepper. "Sir, I'm on it," he said confidently. Pepper beamed at him. "Your new partner is waiting for you in the hangar Fox. Good Luck," he said. Fox turned and walked out of the office. "Fara?" asked Fox, knocking on her office door. "Come in," she said from behind the door. Fox walked in and smiled at his fiancée. "Hi Fox," said Fara without looking up, she was studying some sky charts of some kind. Fox walked over to the desk and put the briefcase down. "Fara, I've been sent on a mission," he said. She tore her gaze away from the charts. "When do you leave?" she asked, her voice full of concern. Should could tell by the grave tone of his voice that this was not to be taken lightly. "Soon," he said. She stood up, and he pulled her into an embrace. "What is it?" she asked. "Station Y, it's been invaded. Pepper want's me to go and stop these people but Fara, I don't even know what I'm dealing with," admitted Fox, holding Fara close to him. "How exactly do you stop these people?" asked Fara, she was worried. "I don't know," he whispered. "Who's going with you?" asked Fara, stroking the back of Fox's head gently. "An agent from the LSSF," replied Fox. "The LSSF?" asked Fara in surprise. She'd heard about the Lylat System Secret Force, but had doubted it's existence. She had heard, however, that the agents were paid a lot of money due to the fact that every time they took on a mission, they risked being arrested by other planets, torture from rebel groups or even death. She shuddered at the thought of any of these things happening to Fox. "Why you Fox, you're a pilot," asked Fara, she was puzzled. "Well because Pepper seems to think that no ordinary agent could get near to that ship without being blown to pieces," explained Fox. He stepped away from Fara and gazed into her eyes. "Fara, as soon as I get back, I want us to get married," he said firmly. Fara hugged him again. "Of course Fox, but, just be careful," said Fara. She wanted to cry with joy and unhappiness at the same time. Her and Fox would finally marry, if he ever returned. She shared one more kiss with him, then he left. She slumped back into her chair, not knowing what to do. "Fox McCloud?" questioned a pretty, blonde dog stepping from the shadows. She stuck out a paw. "Sandy Singleton, I will be your partner on this mission," she introduced. Fox managed a smile. "Fox McCloud, what exactly will I be doing on this mission? Be your escort?" he asked. "We don't have much time, but I'll explain exactly what both of us will be doing on the way there," replied Sandy, walking towards the Arwing. Fox took a small control from his back pocket and the Arwing opened. Sandy climbed into the back seat, and he climbed into the front. He then closed the top of the Arwing. He picked up the mic that was in the front of the plane and pushed a button. "Hey Shaun? You still up there?" he spoke into the mic. Shaun McDooley was the hangar controller. "Yep Fox, you going out again?" asked Shaun, his voice crackling back through the mic. "Yep, open her up," sang Fox. He saw the hangar doors begin to open. "Good Luck!" called Shaun as Fox launched the Arwing out of the hangar and into the skies of Corneria City. Sandy gasped as Fox just narrowly avoided an oncoming building. "Have I got the right pilot?" she joked. "You should've gone with Falco Lombardi!" said Fox, laughing at the thought of Falco barrel-rolling under and above bridges, dipping and swerving to avoid the oncoming buildings, then Sandy probably would be reaching for the ejector seat button. "Oh, now that you put it that way," said Sandy grinning. "Well enough of that! When do I get told my mission briefing?" asked Fox, beginning to gain altitude. "Well, it goes like this Fox. You land inside Station Y, and I find the cells were the hostages are being kept. While I do that, you find the main control room and sabotage the laser. Then you find out who's heading this, what can only be described as a, rebel movement then, kill or capture the invaders. In that case you'll find a hand communicator, a silenced laser gun, infra-red contact lenses which will enable you to see any lasers set to set off an alarm and a uniform that we saw one of the rebels wearing. "Great, so I guess I'm not just the escort," said Fox. "But Fox, try not to blow your cover until I've released the hostages and you've disarmed the lasers, ok?" warned Sandy. "No, that's fine with me," said Fox, keeping his eyes open as they sped through the space debris that occupied Sector Y. "If you don't mind me asking, do I know you? I'm sure your name is familiar," said Fox, glancing at Sandy in the rear view mirror. "Well, there are two ways you could know me. Me and Fara Phoenix used to go to school together, we were best pals and Bill Grey is my cousin," replied Sandy, opening her briefcase. Fox watched as she put in her contact's but averted his gaze as she changed into the rebel uniform. "So I guess you've seen far superior flying from Bill then," said Fox grinning. "Oh, I don't know," mused Sandy teasingly. "Well let me tell you, I'm a better shooter than he'll ever be," boasted Fox. "Oh, sure," said Sandy, still grinning. Fox watched as the space station loomed up ahead. "Right, I'm going to cloak now," he informed Sandy. He activated cloak and they safely boarded the ship, through the garbage dumpster. Fox had skilfully manoeuvred the Arwing through the lasers that were constantly being shot from the ship. As soon as they landed on the ship, the cloak began to fade. "Avert your eyes now," said Fox grinning as he changed into the rebel uniform. He quickly placed the contacts into his eyes and holstered the silenced laser gun. He grabbed the communicator and plugged the receiver into his ear. Sandy did the same. He then opened the top of the Arwing.
"Okay, the communicator has all the info you need including the blueprints of this ship. Make your way to the command room, and wait until I've freed the hostages," instructed Sandy. She jumped out of the ship and landed on the floor.
"Phew! It stinks in here!" commented Fox.
"Look's like they just emptied," commented Sandy. Fox tapped a button on the communicator and looked at the blueprints of the station. He and Sandy would split up at the end of the passage. Fox pulled the cap down over his head, so that no-one could see him clearly. When they reached the end of the passage he turned to Sandy.
"Good luck!" he whispered and then walked of down the passage. Fox stepped down the next passage and came face to face with another of the rebels. He was in a different uniform though. The guard quickly saluted.
"Sir, I'm sorry, wasn't watching what I was doin'," apologised the dog. Fox just nodded at him and continued on his way. It looked like he was wearing a uniform of a higher rank! He didn't know whether it was a help or a hindrance. He shrugged and glanced back down at the communicator, he should be pretty near his destination by now. Fox patted his sides, and his hand came across something in his pocket. Sun shades. He grinned, he'd remembered that his father always wore them, he never had. Suddenly an intercom crackled to life. "General McCloud, report to command room immediately," the voice stated. Fox nearly fell over when he heard the announcement. "General McCloud!" he thought in astonishment. He quickened his pace, he had to get there before the real General McCloud arrived. He eventually arrived and quickly his behind a stack of crates before anyone spotted him. As he waited he heard a voice whisper in his ear. He froze, but then realised that it was Sandy - the communicator. "Fox, do they know?" she asked. "I don't know. We've got a uniform that's of a higher rank, but I'm in the command room now - waiting for the real General McCloud to arrive," whispered Fox, keeping his eyes on the command room. "You don't think?" started Sandy cautiously. Fox cut her off. "Shhh!" he said, watching as a tall, red fox entered the room. He was wearing the same uniform as Fox, and sun shades too. Fox gasped.
"Dad?" he barely whispered. "Fox, what is it?" asked Sandy frantically. Fox just ignored her, watching the scene before him unfold. "What is it?" asked James McCloud gruffly. "Sir, we've found an enemy vessel on the ship. An Arwing," said a small rabbit. "An Arwing?" repeated James, as if the name rang a bell. "Yes sir, it look's as though Pepper sent one of the Star Fox crew to defuse the situation. James waved his hand dismissively. "What harm can one pilot do? Not much I doubt," he said carelessly. "Just put everyone on alert, make sure those hostages are locked up tight, that's what they'll be going for," instructed James. "What about the laser?" asked the rabbit. "Hmm, you could be right. Lock up the command room and block all exits. Then contact Pepper and tell him that if this agent doesn't show we will blow up Katina," said James. "Yes, sir!" said the rabbit enthusiastically. Fox grimaced. "Dad, are you still in there?" he mentally pleaded. Suddenly Fox snapped back to reality and whispered into the mic. "Sandy, they know. You anywhere near those hostages yet?" "They know? How?" whispered back Sandy. "They found the Arwing. Sandy, it's, it's my dad," muttered Fox. "Your dad?!" asked Sandy, amazed. "Uh-huh, quick - go release those hostages," said Fox. He waited for his father to leave, then he swiftly put on the shades and waited. After a while, when no-one was looking in his direction he stood up. He walked to the exits. "Sorry sir, we've," came a whiny voice from behind him. "Well open them then," said Fox, trying to impersonate his father's voice. The rabbit looked at him and squinted. "Sir, are you okay?" asked the rabbit. Fox cleared his throat. "No, I need a lie down," said Fox. The rabbit nodded his head and punched in a code by the door. "Oh, and," started Fox. He squinted at the rabbit's name tag. "Beppe, turn off that laser," said Fox. He was beginning to perfect his father's voice. The rabbit stared at him amazed. "But sir, Andross-" started the rabbit. "Andross!" thought Fox in shock. He was glad for his glasses, otherwise the rabbit would've seen his eye's that revealed his shock. "But nothing Beppe. I have a better plan that I'm sure that Andross will approve of. Oh yes, and release those hostages," said Fox before he left. The rabbit stood with his mouth agape. Fox turned to face him. "Believe me Beppe, when Andross hears of this new plan we will all be highly rewarded." Fox flashed his father's toothy grin, "Trust me," he said as he walked out. As he walked down the deserted corridor he contacted Sandy. "Sandy, meet me back at the Arwing in an hour, I've got everything under," Fox cut off his sentence as he bumped into someone. He looked up. "Dad," he gasped. Fox stumbled backwards, walking into the wall. "Fox. What are you doing here!" hissed James. Fox had expected his father to not even recognise him, like he'd been brainwashed by Andross. "You, you recognise me?" asked Fox. "Well I'm going to recognise my own son if I see him aren't I?" asked James. James quickly looked around and then grabbed Fox's arm, leading him to his quarters. Once they were inside he locked the door. "Dad, what's going on?" asked Fox. "I'm trying to get rid of Andross, what does it look like?" said James agitatedly. "Oh, and blowing up Katina is going to achieve that?" said Fox angrily, clenching his fists. "I'm not going to blow up Katina you idiot! That laser will soon be useless. Thank God it was you who came and not one of the others, I might've had trouble explaining this," started James. Fox cut in. "Explaining what?" he asked. "Where are your manners Fox? Andross didn't kill me he injected me with some kind of drug that was supposed to give me amnesia. After five years in isolation Andross had me retrained. Little did he know that I hadn't forgot a thing. He promoted me to General almost immediately, the fool, and sent me to carry this out to prove my worth. Well you take this and escape, I've ensured that the hostages will escape also," finished James shoving a small metal piece into his son's hand. "What is this?" asked Fox looking at the small piece of metal. "It's a vital part of the laser. When the time comes to fire the laser it will be useless and I'll just have to assume that those blundering incompetents didn't notice you disarming the laser," explained James, a conspirators smile on his face. "Um, just one thing dad," started Fox unsurely. "What?" asked James. "Well, I kinda look like you don't I?" asked Fox. "Well yes. But the glasses don't suit you," agreed James.
"I sort of told someone to shut off the laser and release the hostages," went on Fox. "You what?! Now they'll find out that the laser has been sabotaged and you're still on board!" yelled James. "I told him to release the hostages as well," added Fox. "You what!? Please tell me this doesn't get any worse," exclaimed James. "Well, I'm not the only one on board. There's an LSSF agent on board too. She's dealing with the hostages," said Fox. "Hmm, perhaps we can salvage this problem after all," said James thoughtfully, rubbing his chin. "How?" asked Fox. "Well, do you have a way of contacting this agent?" asked James. "Yup," replied Fox. "Tell this agent that the code to release all of the hostages is 4274. An alarm will go off, but I will order my men to abandon this station - we would be outnumbered after all. Your Arwing is in the garbage disposal, am I right?" said James. "Yeah, it was anyway," answered Fox. "Great, once the hostages have been released go down this corridor to your right and you'll find a garbage chute. Jump down there and you'll find yourself next to your ship," instructed James. "Okay," said Fox. He placed one hand over his ear and established contact with Sandy. "Sandy, the code is 4274 to release the hostages. But be careful, an alarm will go off. Once you've released the hostages, meet me next to the Arwing. The hostages will easily outnumber the guys up here," said Fox. "Copy," crackled Sandy's voice. "I'm entering the code now." "Dad, I've gotta go now," said Fox, turning to his father. James gave him a brief hug. "I'll be home soon son, don't tell anyone about me though. I can't afford to blow my cover," he said. Fox returned the hug. "Dad, I'm engaged," Fox told James. James stepped back and shook Fox's hand vigorously. "Who's the unlucky girl then," he asked, grinning. "Fara Phoenix," replied Fox. "She's on the team with you isn't she?" commented James. "Yeah," replied Fox. "I'm sorry I didn't manage to tell you sooner Fox, but Andross would know if I tried to contact you. Why, the more time you stay here," started James. A siren began to wail throughout the ship. "Go now Fox, don't marry her without me," said James walking over to his desk. "Dad, how did you knock out the whole crew of station Y, I bet there's less than fifty of you," asked Fox. "Gas Injector. With the proper use it can render a whole army unconscious in minutes," replied James. Fox grinned and ran out of the door. He heard his father's voice over the intercom. "Abandon Station Y immediately. Beppe, fire laser on Katina immediately," he ordered. Fox dashed down the corridor until he came to a garbage chute. He kicked in the grate and jumped down the chute. "Ouch!" exclaimed Fox in pain as his slide came to an end. He'd shot out of the chute and landed in an unsavoury pile of garbage. "Halt!" demanded a voice. Fox looked up and grimaced. He was surrounded by Andross' men. The dog who had instructed him to halt caught sight of him and stepped back. "Oh sir, I didn't realise it was you," said the dog apologetically. Fox stood up and brushed himself down. "Yes, well what are you doing down here anyway?" demanded Fox. "We were guarding the Arwing so that the intruders could not escape," explained the dog. "Yes well, they've released the hostages. It's more likely that you won't be the ones leaving if you linger here any longer," said Fox. "Ah yes, good point sir," said the dog. "Well what're you waiting for! Get out of here," demanded Fox. The group began to leave, then one of them turned and eyed Fox suspiciously. "What are you doin' down here sir?" he asked. "I'm here to make sure that no-one remains," said Fox quickly. "Hey boss, doesn't a Fox still head the Arwing team?" reminded the dog, turning to his commander. His commander turned around and stared at Fox. "Hey, you're right. Let's get him," said the commander, pointing a laser to Fox's chest. "Hands up mister. The game's up," he said grinning. "What are you talking about!? How dare you insult me like this. You're all sacked!" said Fox angrily. The commander marched up to Fox and grabbed him roughly round the neck. He snatched off Fox's glasses and stared him in the eye. "Hey boys, we got ourselves Foxy McCloud here," he laughed. Fox gulped and tried to struggle from the dog's grip. "Hey, is Wolf O'Donnel around here somewhere?" asked the commander. "Yeah sir, I'll go get him," replied one of the guards. "Wolf O'Donnel, he's dead," blurted Fox. The commander tightened his grip around Fox's neck. "I know that. But he had a son, Wolf O'Donnel junior," he spat into Fox's face. Fox turned away, then head-butted the commander. The commander stumbled backwards, letting go of Fox. Fox quickly pulled his gun from his holster and grabbed the commander, pointing the gun to his head. "Any of you come anywhere near me and I'll shoot him," threatened Fox, edging towards the Arwing. Some of the guards looked at each other and nodded. They turned to Fox and opened fire on him. Fox stood back surprised then quickly regained his composure and used the commander as a shield. Blood spurted from the commander as the powerful laser beams tore into him. "Of course. They work for Andross, they have no morals or loyalty," thought Fox. He edged towards the Arwing then flung the commander's body aside and took cover behind the Arwing. He stood from behind the Arwing and fired of three shots. He hoped that Sandy would take her time or at least stay away until the danger was gone. Then he remembered, he could still talk to her. "Sandy, get those hostages and get them down here! I'm under attack!" he whispered frantically. "Right, I'm on my way Fox," replied Sandy reassuringly. "So where is the mongrel?!" he heard a voice cry from behind the Arwing. "Hidin' behind that piece of junk," he heard another voice tell the first voice. He heard approaching footsteps and peered around the arwing and saw the face of a wolf. He looked just like his father, Wolf O'Donnel, except younger. "Okay Wolf, step back. We'll just take the damn machine out. He'll go with it!" Fox heard someone say. He heard the ping of lasers as they began to shoot the Arwing. He rolled out from behind the arwing and shot his laser blindly. "There he is! Over there!" cried another voice. Fox stood up and took refuge behind a garbage pile. He panted for some air, then stood back in horror as a laser tore through the garbage bags. Fox jumped out from behind the pile and found himself face to face with Wolf O'Donnel Junior. He groaned as the young wolf punched him in the stomach. He fell to the floor and Wolf began to kick him repeatedly. Fox tried to shoot Wolf with his laser but the wolf just kicked it from his hand. He heard the rest of the group egging Wolf on and he rolled over clutching his stomach. When Wolf went to kick him again, Fox stuck out his leg and tripped him over. He staggered to his feet and retrieved his gun. Suddenly the intercom system crackled to life. "Self Destruction mode set. Station Y will self destruct in T minus 10 minutes. Repeat, you have 10 minutes to abandon ship!" Fox took his chance as several of the group were caught off guard and he let off five shots. He then turned to Wolf and booted him in the face. "You're just like your father Wolf. You'll end up just the same. Six feet under," Fox told him. Then Fox howled in pain as a laser cut through his side. He fell to the floor, holding his side as blood gushed from the wound. Then everything went black.
Chapter 4 Fox opened his eyes tiredly. His eyelids felt as though they were made of lead. He lifted his head groggily and realised he was in the confined space of the backseat in his Arwing. His vision was bleary , but he could just make out that the pilot was a blonde dog. Sandy! Fox immediately propped himself up. "Sandy? Do you know even how to pilot one of these things?" he asked. Sandy turned to him, just narrowly dodging a piece of space debris. "Sure, Bill gave me plenty of lessons," replied Sandy grinning. "What happened, my side's killing me," said Fox wearily. "Someone tried to conduct open heart surgery on you whilst you were still awake," explained Sandy smiling sympathetically. "Oh," replied Fox blankly. He lay back down. "Station Y just narrowly escaped self-destructing. One of the crew managed to stop it," went on Sandy. "Station Y?" asked Fox. He really couldn't remember much. "Yeah, we had to release the crew Fox. And stop them from blowing up Katina. I see you saw to that," replied Sandy. "What?" asked Fox. Now he was even more confused. Sandy held up a piece of metal. "You got this from the laser, they couldn't activate it without it. And you found out the code to release the crew. You're a hero!" exclaimed Sandy. Fox shook his head groggily. "I can't remember anything," he said. "But, what about your dad Fox?" asked Sandy suddenly. "My dad? He's dead," said Fox blankly. "No, Fox. You said you'd seen him," insisted Sandy. Suddenly it all came back to him. It was his father who'd helped him. Who'd told him the code, given him the vital piece of the laser gun. He grinned then remembered what his father had said. "Don't tell anyone, I can't afford to blow my cover." He shook his head. "It wasn't him. Just looked similar," said Fox vaguely. "You sounded pretty sure," said Sandy quietly. "I guess I just wanted to believe he was still alive. But at least we carried off our mission partially successfully," said Fox, brightening up. "Well, you get some sleep Fox. You need it, you were lucky though. That laser could've been fatal," said Sandy on a more serious note. "Sandy?" asked Fox after a few minutes. "Uh-hmm?" replied Sandy, concentrating on the sky ahead. "Andross is still alive," said Fox meekly. "What?!" exclaimed Sandy in surprise turning to face Fox. "Hey keep your eyes on the skies!" warned Fox. Sandy turned back just in time to avoid an oncoming meteor. "Yeah, they mistook me for their boss and one of the guys started talking about Andross. Something about Andross' orders. That was it, this whole thing was on Andross' orders," recalled Fox. Sandy shook her head in disbelief. "But you saw the base blow up Fox. You said yourself no-one could escape that place alive!" said Sandy. "I know but, I must've been wrong. Looks like I've been wrong about a lot of things," said Fox quietly. "Don't say that Fox. Perhaps Andross escaped and you didn't see, perhaps," reassured Sandy. "No, it's okay. I just feel like such a cad. Letting all those people think that Andross has been dead while all this time he's been plotting and planning stunts like that," sighed Fox unhappily. Sandy didn't reply, just concentrated on flying the Arwing. Eventually Fox drifted back off to sleep. "Ah, Mr Lombardi. So glad you could make it," one of the doormen gushed, as Falco walked into the foyer of Arlington Grange, one of the largest private mansions in Corneria City. It's owner, the rich Lady Jennifer Arlington, was holding a private party for some reason or other. Falco couldn't remember why, but he just fancied a night out, and when he'd found the invitation waiting back at home, he'd immediately dressed up in his best tux and made his way over there. "Honoured, I'm sure," Falco remarked dryly. Someone took his outdoor jacket from him. He walked into the main room. It was full of people, all high-society. Falco knew most of them, although he couldn't say that he happened to like them all that much. In reality, he much preferred a night out with Fox and his other team mates. Then again, he still liked to make his presence known higher up. He walked across the room, nodding in greeting at all those who welcomed him. The bird arrived at the bar. "What'll it be, Mr Lombardi?" the barman asked. "I'll have some of your finest champagne," Falco decided. He was promptly handed a glass of bubbly, golden liquid. Falco tasted it. "Is it to your liking, Sir?" one of the dog waiters asked. Falco nodded. "It's simply exquisite," he replied in approval. The other dog waiter spoke. "The Lady would wish you to try out her buffet. She had the chef prepare some extremely interesting dishes." "Certainly," Falco replied. He strolled off into the crowd, to mingle with the guests... An hour or so later, Falco decided that he might as well get ready to leave. He was sat between two pretty looking birds, they were busy telling him about some new fashion line or something, that would apparently really suit him. He couldn't care or less about it though. Smiling politely, he stood up. "Thank you for your wonderful company, ladies, but I fear I must be going," he said in an apologetic tone. The purple bird, her name was Lena Macolne, if he rightly recalled, grabbed hold of his arm. "Oh, must you leave so soon, Falco?" she asked. "I'm afraid so. You get very busy, being a member of the Star Fox team," he replied. There was some truth in this, it just wasn't true presently. But it didn't matter. "Oh yes, of course. You are the most skilled member, after all," Lena said sweetly. "Oh yes, but isn't Fox McCloud the leader? He's just so dashing..." her companion said, she was a green bird called Valanice Bessou. "Oh yes, that Fara Phoenix is so lucky..." Lena said. Falco felt a slight flare of jealously towards Fox at this point. Everyone admired Fox, Fox was the team leader, he had the position that Falco had always wanted. Leader. He walked off in a huff, Lena and Valanice were so busy talking about Fox that they didn't notice his departure. He made his way to the exit, but as he did, someone grabbed hold of him, and pulled him off down a side passage. "What the..." Falco began. He realised that Katt Monroe was standing in front of him. She smiled. Falco wondered if his night could get any worse... Katt Monroe was one of Falco's biggest admirers. The pink cat was two years younger than him, and they'd met seven years back, when she'd helped out the Star Fox team in Sector X, against some enemy ships. She was a bit of a regenade, having her own private battles against Andross' cronies, in her own fighter plane. She'd rebuilt it from the remains of a fallen Invader class ship, and customised it to her own liking. They'd all appreciated Katt's help, but Falco avoided her as much as possible. She'd given up chasing him a few years back, and he'd thought that she'd disappeared into the woodwork, hopefully for good. Obviously, he'd been wrong. Suddenly, a thought struck him. Katt wasn't rich... or of high-society. So what in Corneria was she doing at Lady Arlington's private function? "Well, it's been a long time," she remarked slyly. "Katt, what are you doing here?" Falco blurted out, unable to contain his curiosity much longer. She hadn't changed at bit, he thought, glancing over at her. She was wearing a golden coloured silk dress, sipping a glass of wine delicately, and looking every bit the part of an aristocrat. "Does that matter?" she asked. "Well, Lady Arlington only invites..." Falco began. "I don't care who she invites. But I was hoping to find you here," Katt interrupted. "What, why? If you wanted to see me, why didn't you come to the base?" Falco questioned. "Because I knew you'd probably have security turf me out the moment you laid eyes on me," Katt replied simply. "I could have them do it here, too," he growled. "Wait," Katt said, setting down her glass. "Very well. What do you want?" Falco asked, folding his arms. "What do you think?" Katt asked teasingly. "Forget it," Falco immediately retorted. He turned to walk away. "No, no. I was just joking. I have something more important to say," Katt quickly said. He turned back impatiently. "Well, hurry up. I'm a very busy man!" "I was out flying around near Venom a few days back," Katt began. "So?" Falco said, looking bored. "And, I intercepted something odd," Katt replied. "What do you mean, odd?" Falco asked. "Well, something came up on my radio scanner," she said. He noticed a bag on her shoulder. "Like what? A signal?" Falco enquired, leaning back against the wall. Katt reached into her bag. "Yes. A message. But it was encrypted. I managed to capture it on this DAT," she said, pulling a small tape out of the bag. She handed it over to him. He examined it. "Encrypted? In what way?" "I don't know. I was hoping you might be able to decode it," Katt answered. "Hmmm... I think you've come to the wrong person. Pep might be able to figure it out though," Falco said thoughtfully. Then he looked back at her. "Wait a minute! You shouldn't be intercepting private, encoded messages! This could be from one of our bases to another!" Katt slowly shook her head. "No. It came from Venom. I traced it back... it came from underneath the planet's surface! The co-ordinates are on this piece of paper," she said, handing him a small note. "What?" Falco exclaimed in surprise. Katt shrugged. "Well, there you go. Now, how about a date?" she asked, smiling. Falco turned and ran. He placed the DAT in his pocket, and looked around the room nervously, to see if Katt had followed him. He couldn't see her, but he noticed a big, fat grey cat staring at him. As soon as Falco stared back, he seemed to look away. Falco recalled seeing the cat looking at him earlier. He wasn't very happy about it. Folding his arms, he strode over to the cat. "What's your big problem?" he demanded. "What? Oh, ah, Mr Lombardi. Such a pleasure to meet one of such fame!" the cat declared. Falco gave him a distasteful look. The creature was almost bursting out of his grey pinstripe suit, and he was blowing smoke rings at Falco from his cigar. "Do you mind?" Falco asked, nodding at the cigar. The cat placed the cigar in a nearby ashtray, and lowered his shades over his eyes. "I don't believe I've yet introduced myself. Eldon Devilin," the cat said, shaking Falco's hand eagerly. Falco stepped back. "Pleased to meet you. Falco Lombardi," he said. "Ah, I already know! So famous, such a great pilot," Eldon praised. There was something about him Falco didn't like. He seemed... the bird couldn't quite place his finger on it, but he didn't like it at all. "Thank you Sir. But I'm afraid I really must..." Falco began. "No, no, please stay!" Eldon cried. Falco sighed. "As you wish," he remarked. Eldon smiled. Well, more like leered. "Marvellous! I've been waiting for the opportunity to speak to you all night, but of course, you're so popular, always busy speaking to someone else or other..." "Hmmm... quite so," Falco said. "What I would give for your prestige and fame!" the cat exclaimed. He'd lit another cigar. Falco remained silent. "Such aviation skill! What would Corneria do without you?" Eldon questioned. "I'm sure they'd get by," Falco remarked dryly, thinking of Fox again. "Such wonderful machines, those Arwings..." Eldon began. "Yes, certainly," Falco cut in. "I would love to know more about them," Eldon said, leering again. "I'm afraid that's classified information," Falco said firmly. "I hear Fox McCloud is the captain of the team? Why not you? I mean, you're such a talented flyer, so daring..." Eldon said, suddenly changing the subject. "Yes, well..." Falco said, glancing down at the floor. "Fox was chosen because he obviously has the best leadership skills," he said loyally. "Oh no, everyone knows that Fox was only chosen because of... well you know... his Father," Eldon said slyly. Falco looked up. "I don't think that had anything to do with it," he said stiffly. The thought had once crossed his mind before, but he hadn't dwelled on it. Especially since Fox was his greatest friend. But could it be... "Personally, a lot of us think it did. Perhaps you should make a stand, ask to be team captain," Eldon said lazily. He began to puff some more smoke rings. "I'm quite happy with my position as second-in command," Falco answered, folding his arms again. "I've always been very interested in aviation," Eldon continued, switching the subject back to the Arwings. "I see..." Falco answered. "Yes, and the Arwings... such an ingenious design, so sleek," the fat cat praised. "Certainly are," Falco agreed. For a moment, a look of frustration seemed to pass over the cat's face, but it was quickly replaced the usual leer again. "I have a lot of money... a big business..." "Well, I figured you would," Falco said, slightly sarcastically. "A multi-billion dollar company..." Eldon continued. Falco wondered why he'd never heard of it before. "Yes, I'm sure it is. But now, Mr Devilin, I really must be going," he told the cat. "But Mr Lombardi! I have a proposition for you!" Eldon suddenly exclaimed. "Well, make it a quick one," Falco said. Eldon pulled out a laminated business card, and handed it to the Arwing pilot. Falco examined it closely. Devilin Mechanics and Retailers, Venom, he read. "You work on Venom?" he questioned in surprise. "Why yes... we took over some of Andross' industrial plants there," Eldon said. "They aren't keen to have factories built in Corneria anyway." "That's true," Falco mused. "But what's this got to do with me?" Eldon smirked. "Ah... Mr Lombardi. Let's get straight to the point. I want to build planes, well in fact, I'm building some right now. In fact, I hope that they'll be far superior to the Arwings..." "What? Whoever are you building for?" Falco blurted out in surprise. "That's it. No-one. But once you see my design, Mr Lombardi..." Eldon said. "Once I see it?" Falco questioned. "Yes. You. Falco, I'd like you to test one out for me," Eldon answered. "Well, why?" Falco asked. "Because, I greatly admire your skills as a pilot," Eldon replied. "Hmmm... ask Slippy Toad. He's more into this than me," Falco said, shifting from one foot to the other. "No. I want you to see it. You'll want to fly it when you do. And Mr Lombardi, I'd like you to be the patron of my company too. If you do, I'm sure Pepper will be dying to buy my planes. You'd be rich, a whole share in my company," Eldon tempted. "But, the mechanics at the base do a fine job already. We don't buy from outsiders," Falco answered. "Just come and see it, at least," Eldon begged. "Okay. Maybe," Falco replied, pocketing the card. "Thank you. It means a lot," Eldon replied. Falco nodded. "Goodbye, maybe we'll see each other soon," he said, walking away. He had no intention of going to see him again. Fox climbed down off the examination table. "Thanks," he said to Dr. Drake. "No problem Fox, you were very lucky though - just make sure you don't get into that situation again," warned Dr. Drake. The laser had done some minor damage to Fox's left leg, so for a while he'd have to hop around on crutches. Fox nodded his head and made his way out of the room. Suddenly, the door flew open and hit him in the face, sending him sprawling to the floor. Fara walked in. "Oh Fox, I'm so sorry," she apologised in distress. She kneeled down to help Fox up. "No really Fara, it's okay," insisted Fox, managing to get up. Fara hugged him tightly. "I'm so glad you're okay," she exclaimed, kissing him. Fox managed a smile, then slung his arm across her shoulder for support. "Pepper wants to see you right now," Fara told him. Fox groaned. "The last thing I want to do is see Pepper. I just want to go home and rest." "Look it won't take long, just a few minutes," Fara reassured him. "Okay," sighed Fox wearily. He allowed Fara to help him to Pepper's office. "Ah Fox, it's good to see you in just about one piece," boomed Pepper, as Fox and Fara entered the room. Fox collapsed into a chair. He noticed that Peppy, Bill, Falco and Slippy were also in attendance. "Well sir, the feelings mutual," replied Fox dryly. At this moment in time he felt he could hack Pepper into a hundred pieces for being so cheerful. "Well, your partner informed me of your findings, and I want to send a group of you out immediately to Venom," said Pepper. Fox gulped. "Sir, I'm really in no fit state to pilot an arwing right now," said Fox. Pepper looked at him then continued on. "As you aren't fit enough to undertake this mission, I'm officially putting Bill Gray in charge of the Starfox team," said Pepper. Fox caught Falco's eye and grimaced. He knew this wasn't going to be pretty. "Sir, I'm second-in-command. Shouldn't I be captain?" protested Falco, eyebrows raised. Pepper shook his head. "Falco, you are too flighty to ever be a captain. We need someone who's good and solid with a good shot like Bill to head the team," explained Pepper. "Sir, I think that Falco should assume the captaincy role for this mission. He's the best flyer in the group and he's not a bad shot either," said Fox, hoping this wouldn't get him a grilling from Bill. He looked over to Bill, who nodded at him reassuringly. "Sir, I second that notion," chipped in Bill. Pepper looked around in annoyance. "I'm in charge here, so I'll decide," said Pepper huffily. "Well actually sir, it is my team," pointed out Fox. Pepper glared at him. "Fox, your days of space piracy are over! You work for me now," said Pepper angrily. Fox shook his head. "Well sir, if I'm too flighty for captaincy, maybe I'm too flighty to work for you!" snapped Falco. There was a stunned silence for a few moments. "Come on Falco, there's no need to be like that," tried Pepper soothingly. "I know where I'm not wanted sir, and you obviously don't want me around. Well believe me, there's plenty of other people out there begging for my services. Perhaps I'll take them up on their offers," yelled Falco hotly. "Fine, Mr Lombardi! But if you leave now, you will never be welcomed back here! Do you hear me?!" Pepper yelled after the bird as he stormed out of the room. Fox tried to get up to run after Falco, but a sharp pain seared through his left side, and he collapsed hopelessly back into his chair. Fara placed a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry Fox. They'll both come around," she said soothingly. "Yeah but at the moment the team's down to three," said Fox worriedly. Pepper looked across the room to Peppy. Peppy nodded. "Well I guess it look's like I'm gonna have to put my flying boots back on," said the rabbit determinedly. Fox smiled, perhaps something good would come out of this situation after all. Fara kissed Fox on top of the head. "I guess it's my turn to say that we'll get married as soon as I return," she joked to Fox. "About that," started Fox, but then he stopped. Perhaps by the time Fara returned his father would've also returned. "Well, good luck," said Fox smiling at Fara. She smiled back. "As if I'll need it," she said grinning. "Well, with Bill captaining, you never know," remarked Fox grinning. "Yeah well when I get back, Andross will be long gone," said Fara confidently. Fox nodded his head. "Just be careful, yeah?" he said. "Don't worry Fox, I'll be as careful as you were on your last mission," retorted Fara grinning. "Don't even joke about that," warned Fox. "Well, see ya Fox!" she called as she climbed into the Arwing. Bill came along and patted Fox on the back. "Don't worry Fox, I'll keep everything safe," he reassured Fox. "Sure Bill," replied Fox. Peppy and Slippy appeared beside him. "Hey Fox, I'll miss you savin' my hide!" joked Slippy. "Don't worry, Bill will look after you," reassured Fox. Slippy bounded off to his own machine. Peppy turned to face Fox. "Fox, we won't let you down," he promised. Fox nodded and just as Peppy turned to leave, Fox caught hold of his friend's arm. "It wouldn't harm to tell one person," thought Fox. "What is it?" asked Peppy. "Peppy, it's my dad. He's still alive," whispered Fox. "What?" cried Peppy in disbelief. "Shhh. He's captaining one of Andross' teams. Andross never killed him just drugged him. He thought my father had forgotten everything but he hasn't and now dad's plotting against Andross! He was on station Y and he was the one who told me the code to free the hostages and he was the one who sabotaged the laser," said Fox quietly. Peppy broke out into a wide grin. He slapped Fox on the shoulder. "That's great news Fox, really great! Best I've heard in years," exclaimed Peppy happily. "Don't tell anyone though. Dad told me not to, but you two were the greatest of friends. You deserved to know," Fox informed Peppy. Peppy nodded understanding this. "Okay Fox, you have my word. No-one will here about this," he said. Fox grabbed Peppy's hand and shook it. "Good luck Pep, hope this convinces you that there's still life in you yet. Pilot wise of course," said Fox grinning. "Perhaps Fox, but I was just beginning to enjoy my retirement," said Peppy. Fox watched as Peppy got into his arwing then saw them all launch off into Corneria city. He wished he were with them, he really did. Chapter 5 Falco stormed into his high-rise apartment, slammed the door behind him, and flung his silver flying jacket down onto the couch. The majority of the lounge had a roof made from glass, and two walls had big long picture windows. Falco loved to see the sky; he was a bird, after all. The sun was shining brightly through the glass panes though, and it was too cheerful looking for Falco. He suddenly wished he had some curtains that could shut it all out. He walked into his bedroom. Sighing, he unpinned his badge from his uniform, and held it in his hand, studying it closely. It was made of metal, and oblong in shape, with a circle in the middle. On the two oblong pieces, his name was inscribed. 'Falco' on one end, 'Lombardi' on the other. In the circle was the symbol of the Cornerian Army, and a ring of four stars marked his rank. Supposedly 'Group Vice Captain'. He threw it down onto the floor in frustration and anger. If that had been true, he would have been heading this latest mission. But General Pepper had went and given that honour to Bill Grey. Bill didn't have four stars on his badge, only three. He wasn't happy about the situation at all, and now it looked like he was out of a job. He remembered what Pepper had said. Fine, Mr Lombardi! But if you leave now, you will never be welcomed back here! Do you hear me?! If he even dared to set foot back inside the base, security would be on the look out to throw him out at once. What was done was done, maybe it was all for the best. He'd never have got the chance to go any higher than he was, in fact, the stars on his badge were probably meaningless; Pepper had just given him them to keep him quiet. It seemed all the more that way, now that Bill had been chosen as flight captain. The bird stomped back into the main living area. He didn't know what to do; flying was his life, his passion. He stared out at one of the windows sadly. In the distance, he saw flashes of silver in the sky, some small ones, and one large one... obviously Bill and the rest setting off on their mission. He turned away and wandered over to the wall that separated the room from the kitchen. Hung up in pride of place were all his certificates, and commendations during his seven year service to the Cornerian Defence Bureau. He looked through them, feeling a little sad. Perhaps if he at least tried to apologise... "No! Pepper obviously doesn't appreciate me, why should I have to be the one who goes crawling back?" he wondered out loud. Falco knew he was being proud and stubborn, but he didn't care. His feelings had been genuinely hurt, and he'd never appreciated being second best. And now, when he'd finally gotten the smallest chance to prove himself to the General, it had been thrown back in his face. The only thing that comforted him had been the fact that his friends had at least tried to convince Pepper that he should be given the chance to fly as team captain. He sighed. On a nearby table, he suddenly noticed a small card. It was the business card Mr Devilin had given him. He read through it again. What had he got to lose? Falco decided to head out to Venom at once, to check out this extraordinary plane the cat had been going on about. He grabbed his jacket, pulled on his boots and rushed outside. Then, he remembered that he had no means of getting there. Pepper certainly wouldn't let him use one of the Arwings, or in fact any other flight vehicle at the base. He needed a plane quick, but since such things tended to be custom built, it was unlikely he could get his own at such short notice. Besides, he wanted something sleek and speedy, preferably with some sort of defence mechanism on it. Travelling through the Lylat system could get pretty dangerous at times. He paced outside the lift for a while, wondering what to do. Then, a sudden thought came to him. Katt Monroe owned her own plane, that converted Invader, she'd stolen from Andross' forces. If he could just borrow it from her.... Of course, there were disadvantages. First of all, it wasn't an Arwing, and second of all, Katt had spray painted the half of the thing a pink colour. He would certainly stand out in it, that was for sure. And last, and most obviously, Katt would make it into a favour, she'd probably blackmail him into agreeing to go out with her, before he could borrow it. He travelled down to the bottom floor, and made his way to his car. He sincerely hoped his bribe of money would do the trick instead. He soon arrived at her apartment. It had a pink front door. He decided that Katt was obviously obsessed with the colour. He rang the doorbell, hoping that she was in. She arrived at the door a few minutes later, a big smile on her face. "Well.... I just knew you'd turn up here someday. Looks like you can't keep anyway from me, huh?" she said. He walked past her into the hallway. "Cut it out, Katt. I'm here to talk business, and that's the only reason!" Falco replied coolly. Katt shrugged. "Fine by me, anytime I get alone with you means..." she began. "I told you to quit that!" Falco said, in an annoyed tone. She didn't look disheartened by his tone one bit. "This way," she said, leading him into her small living room. It had a big, fluffy pink carpet that Falco seemed to sink into, and cream sofas with pink cushions. Many pictures hung on the walls, mostly ones of a feline nature. Falco wondered if any of them were relations of Katt's. "Wait here," she ordered, disappearing through another pink door. Falco decided to take a seat on one of the squashy sofas. Everything in here was too soft for his liking. He'd be glad to get out as soon as possible. She arrived back a few moments later with a tray holding two big cups of coffee, a jug of milk and a sugar bowl. "What've you put in it?" Falco asked, eyeing his cup suspiciously. "Nothing. Well, except for the coffee, of course," Katt giggled. Falco added some milk to his drink. "Katt, are you using your star ship a lot at the moment?" he questioned. "Sometimes. Why do you ask?" Katt replied. "Because..." he paused. "Well?" Katt enquired, filling her cup to the brim with milk. Falco suspected there was more milk in her cup than hot water. She then proceeded to stick five sugar cubes in it too. "I need to borrow it," he finally admitted. She giggled. "What? Why?" "Look, don't ask questions. I just need to, okay?" he said shortly. "Why can't you use your Arwing?" Katt persisted. "Quit with the questioning. Can I borrow it or not?" Falco asked. Katt pretended to muse over it. "Well..." "I need to know now, not ten million years later," Falco cut in sarcastically. "Hmmm, we are desperate, aren't we?" Katt taunted. Falco finished off his coffee. "Not really, I have a number of contacts whose ships I could borrow..." he began. "Well, you have your own ship! Your Arwing!" Katt retorted. "I can't use it right now. I need to use something else," Falco replied. A big smile appeared on Katt's features. "Oh, I get it. You're going undercover, right?" she said. "On a secret mission! Oh Falco, you're working for the LSSF, aren't you?" Katt continued, looking thrilled by this new found fact. "I never said I was..." Falco interrupted. He didn't even know if the LSSF even existed. But Katt wasn't listening. "Oh, of course you can borrow my ship!" she exclaimed. Falco smiled. "Good," he said. "I just re-sprayed it dark purple and silver too! And I fitted a new cloaking device!" Katt replied, standing up. "Where on earth did you pick up one of those? They're for Cornerian Defence planes only!" Falco said in surprise. Katt grinned. "I found it. Come on, I'll take you to the hangar were I keep it," she said, leading him back to her front door. Katt handed over the keys to Falco. "Take good care of it, else I'll demand your Arwing in compensation!" she laughed. "Hmmm... whatever," Falco replied, eyeing up the ship with interest. At least it wasn't pink anymore. Then again, he could've done without the silver stripes on it. "Uh, nice paint-work," he remarked, stepping back. "I like to stand out," Katt replied simply. "What, and make yourself an easy target?" Falco said incredulously. "I can look after myself," Katt answered. "Yeah, sure," Falco said, sounding somewhat bored. He wanted to fly the plane straight out of the hangar, and get going to Venom. "Well, aren't you going to say thank you?" Katt asked, looking expectant. "Uh, thanks," Falco managed to say. He opened the door to the cockpit. "Wait a moment," Katt said quickly. "Oh, what now?" Falco questioned in disbelief. "Since I'm doing you this huge favour, I think that you and I...." Katt began. "Never in a million years. Forget it. No," Falco interrupted. "Well, if that's the way you're going to be, perhaps I shouldn't let you borrow my ship!" Katt said, folding her arms and pouting. "You already said I could, you can't back out now," Falco replied. "You're such a jerk!" Katt exclaimed. Falco just smiled. "Big deal. You can live with it, right?" "The least you could do would be to be nice to me!" Katt retorted. "Uh, well... er... I'll think about it... uh, perhaps we can go out for dinner when I get back," Falco finally said. Katt's face lit up. "Really?" "Uh, sure," Falco lied. "Oh great! I'll start planning it right away!" she cried. "What?" Falco said, looking surprised. "Well, you have to plan dates you know," Katt replied. "Hey, I never said it was a date! I said dinner!" Falco protested. "Date... dinner, same thing," Katt said, smiling. "Uh, whatever. I have to go now," Falco said. "Can I give you a goodbye kiss?" Katt enquired. "No!!!" Fox limped out of the lift at Falco's apartment complex. He rang the doorbell at his friend's door. He waited for a few moments then tried again. He tried the door. It was locked. It looked like Falco was out. "Oh great," Fox said to himself. He'd been hoping to catch Falco, have a talk to him, persuade him to and apologise to Pepper. The Star Fox team needed Falco as much as they needed Fox, after all. Fox took out his mobile phone, and dialled Falco's number. "Please pick up," he pleaded. But, either Falco didn't have the phone with him, or it was turned off, the line just kept ringing and ringing. Fox wondered where he might have gone. If he could find him tonight, it wouldn't be too late to Falco to set off after the others, with his great piloting skills and speed, he'd surely catch them up in no time. Finally, Fox removed a bunch of keys from his pocket. Falco had once given him a key to his apartment, in case he ever needed to go in it, for some reason or another. Fox unlocked the door, then stepped inside the small hallway to turn off the hi-tech security system that prevented intruders from getting in. He inputted the necessary number and password needed to disable it. A green light flashed on, to say it was all clear. He closed the door behind him, and walked into the lounge. It was impeccable, as always, not a thing out of place. Fox wondered if Falco had been back to his apartment at all, after the big blow up back at the base. He wandered into the kitchen, the only items in the sink were a bowl, spoon and cup, indicating Falco had obviously had some breakfast. He walked back into the lounge, and as he did so, he noticed a small, shiny piece of laminated card. He picked it up for closer examination. Devilin Mechanics and Retailers, Venom, it read. What would Falco be doing with something like this? He isn't interested in that kind of stuff, Fox thought to himself, puzzled. He put it back down. The he noticed something that was out of place. Lying open on one of the couches was a leather bound book. Fox went to have a look at it. An address book. It was lying open on a page that noted Katt Monroe's address and phone number. Fox felt surprised. Surely not? As far as he knew, Falco hated Katt, and wanted absolutely nothing to do with her. It was worth a try though, however unlikely the possibility. He picked up the telephone on a table nearby, and dialled her number... Katt was just returning home from the hangar, when she heard the phone ringing. She rushed in the lounge to pick it up. "Hello, Katt Monroe speaking!" she said breathlessly. "Er, hi Katt, this is Fox McCloud..." Fox began. "Fox? Oh, this must be my lucky day or something!" Katt exclaimed. "Um, I'm hoping it'll be mine too. Could I ask you something?" Fox said. Katt smiled to herself. A date with Fox McCloud was almost as good as a date with Falco Lombardi. Well, not quite, but it would certainly make Falco jealous. "Sure, ask away," she said amicably. "I was wondering, is Falco there with you right now, or have you spoken to him at all today?" Fox questioned. "Oh... oh I see. You want to know about Falco," said Katt, feeling slightly disappointed that he wasn't asking her out after all. She then remembered that Fox wasn't single anyway, he was supposed to be marrying that Fara Phoenix girl. "Well, yes," Fox replied. "Oh, I'm sorry... yes, I have seen him today as a matter of fact," Katt replied, unable to keep the smug tone put of her voice. "Oh, er, right. Well, do you know where he is now?" Fox asked. He sounded quite worried, Katt noted. "He's gone off someplace in my plane, not sure where. He was all very secretive about it," she said. "You have absolutely no idea at all?" Fox asked again. "No idea whatsoever. But..." Katt lowered her voice to a whisper. "I think it has something to do with the LSSF." "What?" Fox said in surprise. "The LSSF?" he said. However had Katt got that idea? He wondered what lies his friend had been telling Katt, in order to get her plane. He also wondered what Falco wanted the plane for. "He just wanted to borrow it, and that's all he said?" Fox said. "Mm-hmm, but I'm sure it's something to do with the LSSF, from the way he was acting," Katt replied. Fox was feeling more puzzled by the moment. "Did he seem... upset or angry at all?" he tried. Katt went silent, like she was thinking about it. Finally, she said, "Not really. Though he was being rather impatient about the whole thing, and said not to ask any questions." "Well...okay. Thanks, Katt," Fox said. "Oh, anytime, Fox," Katt replied in her most syrupy tone. "Uh, well, see ya later," Fox said. "Goodbye." He put the receiver down, thinking to himself. So Falco had borrowed Katt's plane, for some reason. He couldn't think why, but perhaps he'd be able to contact him later. Maybe Falco had gone to join up with the team already, and had taken Katt's plane, just because he was too proud to apologise to Pepper. Fox placed the address book on a side table, and stood up. He might as well go home. He hoped he'd be able to speak to Falco soon, and that the bird hadn't decided to quit the team all together. For more than seven whole years they'd worked together, it seemed such a waste, he thought, as he set up the alarm then locked the door behind him.
Chapter 6 Falco set the ship to go on auto-pilot, as soon as it left the outer atmosphere of Corneria. He was debating the quickest route to take to Venom, wondering if he should fly through the Meteo asteroid barrier, over Fortuna and Titania, and through the debris filled Sector X, or cut out the asteroid part all together, and brave sectors Y and Z, along with Area 6. After a few moments, he decided on the second route. It was more dangerous, but quicker, besides, he liked a good challenge. And Katt's ship was easy to manoeuvre and use, he was quite impressed with her mechanical skills. Not that he'd tell her that of course; some things were best kept to yourself, especially if they were going to get you into a situation you couldn't get yourself out of. One compliment to Katt, and she'd probably think he was hitting on her or something. Shaking his head, he shifted up to a higher speed. Something suddenly came up on the scanner, another ship. Falco watched the skies carefully for any sign of what the object was. He hoped it wasn't an enemy plane, or perhaps a space pirate. It was rare for enemies to be about these days, usually they were creations of the rebels who still insisted with carrying on with Andross' plans, even though the scientist was long gone. He laughed to himself quietly, but then, he supposed, if Fox's words were true, and Andross was still alive.. maybe they weren't being so pathetic after all. The ship came into view, it was black, and looked like it was dropping to pieces. A space rogue's ship. Falco had wish to speak to the pilot, or deal with him. He stepped down on the speed booster and performed a U-turn, so that he ended up on the tail of the plane. He tried out one of Katt's lasers, a low powered one, and shot out in warning. He heard the crackle of static, and looked down onto a communications screen. "Give it up, I want all your cargo!" a skinny-looking weasel sneered. Falco picked up the microphone. "Forget it. You're dealing with Falco Lombardi here. I can take you out in a shot if I feel like it," he said back coolly. "Haha, if you're Falco Lombardi, where's your big, fancy ship, then?" the weasel laughed. "Where do you think?" Falco snapped back. He turned up the lasers to full power. He pulled the trigger, gathering the lasers up into a pink energy ball at the front of the ship. "If you don't get lost, I'm gonna fire, and I'm not joking!" he warned. The weasel just laughed. "Haha, I can outrun you any day, Mr Lombardi!" "We'll see about that," Falco muttered to himself. He let off the shot. It landed right on target, and he smiled to himself as the pirate plane juddered at the impact. He knew that he could probably take the rodent down in another shot, but he was feeling generous. "Stay away, else I'll shoot your sorry junk heap right into that asteroid field!" he called through the microphone. Keeping an eye on the stern of the star ship, he moved forward at a leisurely pace, towards Sector Y. These space rogues often had a tendency to come back for more, and Falco stayed at a controlled speed, just so it didn't look like he was running away. He hated to shoot ships down in cold blood, though, especially since he himself had been a space pirate in his youth. The yellow-green gas clouds of Sector Y loomed up ahead. Falco hoped the place wouldn't do any funny trick whilst he was passing through; the sectors could be unpredictable, and sometimes a dangerous place for pilots to be, especially if they didn't know it very well. He steered Katt's ship through some floating scrap metal; probably the remains of old spaceships. He didn't know why, but these places always gave him the creeps. Almost space graveyards in a way, he thought to himself. They were a lot more stable than black holes, but still the place of many a ship's demise. Falco placed the thought to the back of his mind, and pressed on. It was eerily quiet, and he didn't like it. Last time he'd been here, it had been full of Andross's forces; then again, that had been seven years back. A sudden beeping brought his attention back the scanner. It was picking up something big, he figured it must be the CDB's space station Y, the one which had been infiltrated by the enemy, which Fox had recently gone to check out. He immediately became on his guard, just in case any of Andross's cronies still happened to be hanging around. The space station came into view, it's huge bulk looming ominously on the skyline. The communication screen flickered. "Identify yourself, please," said a female dog wearing a silver space suit. "Falco Lombardi, CDB, Starfox Team, I.D LOM3434814F. I'm just passing through," he said. Suddenly, he remembered he'd quit the team. Slowing the ship down, he wondered if his I.D would still be valid. His screen was silent for a few moments, then it flickered again. "We're sorry Mr Lombardi, but do you realise that you're driving an illegal vehicle?" the dog said. "Oh jeez," he said to himself. He'd forgotten that Katt's plane probably wasn't legally registered. "I realise this. I'm escorting it to our base in Area 6," he said in a cool tone. "Okay Mr Lombardi. Have a safe journey, watch out for the rebel ships stationed in Sector Z, though," the dog advised. "Thanks," Falco said, sighing with relief. Fox closed his eyes briefly in frustration. He was sitting in General Pepper's office, trying to persuade him to let Falco come back - so far it wasn't working at all well. "Look, sir, Falco is a great pilot and we can't afford to lose him. Not all of us put together could equal Falco's mastery at flying," put forward Fox hopefully. "Look Fox, he was also the wildest member on that team, he reminded me of a space pirate," said Pepper grimacing. "But sir, Falco's come such a long way since his space pirate days, we all have. The point is that we need someone like Falco in our team. Even when stuff was looking down you could always count on Falco to come up with something. He knows the skies like the back of his hand," pleaded Fox. "So do you Fox. Look it's been obvious for a long time that Falco didn't fit in with the team, and I know he was your friend but what's the use in keeping on spare baggage when it's not needed?" replied Pepper firmly. Fox gasped, taken aback at the things Pepper had just said. "Of course Falco fits into the team! How could you say those things sir? Falco is one of the most loyal pilots to the Cornerian cause that I know," said Fox, beginning to get angry. "He proved he wasn't so loyal anymore Fox when he walked out of that building! If Peppy hadn't been around the team would've left with only three, Falco certainly didn't think of that!" said Pepper. Fox shook his head. "You know Falco sir, he's as short tempered as you," pointed out Fox. "Watch your tongue Mr. McCloud, just because I was friend with your father it doesn't mean you can insult whoever you want," snapped Pepper. "Sir, please at least consider," tried Fox once more. "No Fox, he's had one chance to many! Do you know what this list is?" asked Pepper waving a piece of paper in front of Fox's nose. "No, I don't," said Fox carefully. "It's a list of the best pilots in the Lylat system," started Pepper. "No sir, you can't possibly be..." interrupted Fox, faltering for a moment. Pepper finished his sentence. "Yes Fox, I'm replacing Falco immediately," said Pepper sharply. "Who, who with?" stuttered Fox. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Well, I've got it up to a shortlist of four pilots. There's Timothy Hare, very promising but perhaps too young. Alan Crowdon, head of the Bulldog Division. Heaton Cliff, you may remember him Fox, he came to escort you from Venom. And finally, a brilliant pilot, I'm sure you've heard her name before, Katt Monroe," listed Pepper. Fox snorted at the mention of Katt's name. "Sir, I'm sorry but not one of those pilots could even compare to Falco. Replacing him is simply out of the question, I think you should both swallow your pride. If I could get Falco to apologise, would you let him come back here?" said Fox, he looked at Pepper pleadingly. Pepper sighed. "Fox, it should be Falco doing the pleading, not you but if you can get Falco to apologise I will accept him back here," said Pepper wearily. Fox mentally cheered, but he now realised that he first had to find Falco, then he had to persuade Falco to apologise. "Thanks sir," said Fox managing to get out. He saluted to Pepper then hobbled out of the office on his crutches. Bill marvelled at the landscape of Fortuna, he for one thought it was a beautiful planet. He watched as the huge dinosaurs that inhabited this planet roamed below. He touched his mic. "All systems report," he instructed. They'd just flown through an electrical storm, but apart from Slippy, everyone had only taken a few scratches. "I saw my life flash before my eyes back there Bill, I'm getting too old for this," said Peppy. Bill grinned, "Nah Pep, you're doin' just fine," he said encouragingly. He enjoyed taking on role as team leader, it reminded him of his Husky unit days. He still thought that the role should've been given to Falco or, after Falco had left, Peppy. "Everything's just great back here," chimed in Fara. Bill stared down at her picture on the screen. Fox had certainly done well for himself. "Great," replied Bill. "How about you Slip?" he asked his fellow pilot. "I thought I was a goner back there Bill! I've barely ever ridden through one of those things," admitted Slippy. "Slippy? Didn't you have to go on the simulator? You know that machine that simulates all kinds of situations - such as electrical storms?" asked Bill. "Well yeah, but in there you know it's not real. Out here you know that one mistake and BOOM! You're toast, it makes me real nervous," said Slippy uncomfortably. "Well Slip, try not to think about it. If you could do that I bet you'd make an even better pilot," said Bill encouragingly. He hoped he didn't sound too patronising. "Well, I guess that's a pretty good idea, but as soon as I get back I'm going to take a re-test," said Slippy firmly. "Whatever you say," said Bill brightly. Suddenly a huge blip appeared on the scanner. "Hey Slippy! What's happening?" called Bill. "I, I dunno Bill! According to this, whatever this thing is it should be in out view, not too far away! And it's huge according to this! We couldn't miss it!" replied Slippy. "Pep? Got any ideas?" asked Bill, turning to the most knowledgeable of the team. "No Bill, unless it's got some kind of cloaking device.." started Peppy. Suddenly, Bill noticed a rippling effect in the earth. "No, it ain't a cloaking device! It's underneath us!" he yelled, pulling up the nose of his Arwing. The other three followed him, just in time as a huge robotic creature burst from the ground. "Oh, I never thought I'd see him again," gasped Peppy. "What the hell is that?!" gasped Fara. "It's the primitive dinosaur Monarch Dodara!" replied Peppy. "I thought that thing was officially part of history!" yelled Bill down the mic. "So did I!?" yelled back Peppy in disbelief. "Guys, guys calm down!" yelled Fara. "This guy looks metallic, since when were primitive dino's metallic?" pointed out Fara. "Yeah, you're right!" agreed Slippy. "Well, no time to debate whether or not this is the real Monarch Dodora, let's kill this thing!" yelled Bill. "I'm with you on that!" cheered Fara. Bill quickly manouevered around the creature and aimed for it's head. "That's right Bill! Aim for it's head!" shouted Peppy. "I'll get the other head!" cried Fara, dodging a stream of fireballs that poured from the monster's maw. "Analysing energy meter!" yelled Slippy, quickly getting to work. No less than a few seconds later a large meter appeared on everybody's screens. "I'm letting rip a nova!" yelled Bill, releasing a nova bomb. The bomb directly hit Dodara, taking a huge chunk from his energy. "Good move!" complemented Fara, taking another shot at the dinosaurs head. "Use bombs wisely!" warned Peppy over the commotion. "You never know when you might need them," he finished. Monarch Dodora began to swing wildly around, almost knocking out Slippy and Bill with his tail. "Keep going you two! Trust your instincts, never lose your faith!" encouraged Peppy as Fara blew off one of Monarch's two heads. "Nice going Fara!" said Bill. "What the..." Falco began, as the Sector Z station came into the view. He was immediately attacked from all sides. "Damn it!" he said, as he heard a bleeping, Katt's ship shaking violently with the impact from an enemy missile. Luckily, Falco was smart enough to deal with the situation. Executing a perfect somersault, he rose up above some of his attackers, and shot some down before returning to his previous height. All the same, he suddenly wished Fox and the rest were there... Katt's ship was a little bit heavier than the Arwing, so he couldn't roll it as fast as usual, in an attempt to deflect the enemy fire. If he didn't move fast, Katt's ship would be a bit beat up by the time he took it back to Corneria. Suddenly, his radio crackled to life. "Falco, is that you?" said the familiar voice of Rufus Moore, a rabbit in charge of a Cornerian Army flight patrol. "Yes, what's going on here Ruf?" Falco asked, glad that there was support around. "I didn't recognise you in that ship, for a second! Watch your back! There's rebel ships all over Sector Z, they're attempting to invade the station and take over it. We hear that the Star Fox team has already set out to Venom to look for the source, but we weren't aware you were coming this way. Where's everyone else, and what's with the ship?" Rufus questioned. Falco swerved quickly, just avoiding an enemy craft's laser. "This isn't my ship. Pepper fired me earlier today. I'm on my way to Venom," Falco replied. Rufus looked surprised. "What?" "We had a... disagreement," Falco explained. "Whose ship are you in then? And what on earth are you doing?" Rufus asked. "This is... a friend's ship. And... well, I'm off to check a few things out myself at Venom," Falco said. That was a change in plans, he thought. But he couldn't help feeling curious; the sudden arrival of all the rebel ships was worrying, especially since Fox claimed that Andross was back. "We're doing fine holding them off so far. But they just keep coming and coming!" Rufus cried. "I'm on my way to the source at once," Falco answered. "Roger," Rufus replied, closing down the communication. Angry as he was at Pepper, Falco still wanted to help Corneria. He would go down to Venom, and try to find out what the hell was going on, perhaps meet up with the others. He smiled at his hit down three ships with one plasma shot. He wondered how the rest of the team were doing, if they were coping without Fox and himself... "We sure gave that prehistoric dino a lesson!" cheered Slippy enthusiastically. "Shouldn't that be space age dino?" corrected Fara. "Yeah well, if you'd been around when me and Peppy were a few years back, you would've called it a prehistoric dinosaur," said Slippy proudly, after all he and Peppy were practically old pro's compared to the likes of Fara and Bill. "Yeah, yeah, sure whatever Slip," groaned Bill as the four steered their way to Sector X. "Here we go!" cried Slippy, in his usual positive voice. As the first wave of rebel attackers approached, Bill didn't feel so confident as Slippy sounded. "Well here they come!" shouted Peppy, and they all began to open their lasers on the critters. "Jeez, these ships are pretty well shielded," complained Slippy. "Yeah well, get over it Slip!" said Bill, as he took out five ships with one well aimed shot. "Hey, quit showin' off!" said Fara, just before she did the same, she then somersaulted and took out another three. "Oh, now who's showin' off!" jeered Bill. "Don't go messin' up those Arwings!" warned Peppy frantically as Bill barely missed a huge chunk of floating space debris. "Pep, it's Bill and Fara driving here! Not Fox and Falco, you don't have to worry about a .... Eyow!" started Bill, just before he narrowly missed another piece of space debris. "Hasn't anyone ever thought to clean these places up?" asked Fara in distaste as she watched more debris float past her. "Well, a few years back they did, but since all these sectors are linked by some kind of warp to a black hole, it just keeps spewing more of the stuff out," explained Peppy. "Anyone ever been in a black hole?" asked Bill grinning. "Yeah, Fox took us in one once! It was real scary!" said Slippy, shivering at the thought. "Scary, how?" asked Fara curiously. "Well, it was more weird than scary but we kept seein' all these ships floating past with no pilots, and it just seemed to go on and on until Fox figured out how we could get out of there," recalled Slippy. "Hey, guys! Hate to bust this up, but shouldn't we be concentrating on the skies?" asked Peppy worriedly. "Pep, Pepper should've made you captain, you certainly worry enough," said Bill light-heartedly. "Yeah! Well if you ask me it's quiet, too quiet!" said Peppy, oblivious to what Bill had just said. "Well, remember. There won't be that many ships flying about, after all - we are only going to check out Venom, not going there through a battle zone," reminded Bill. "Yeah but still," said Peppy slowly, still not convinced. "Watch out!" cried Slippy, as another wave of attackers appeared. They swiftly took them down but more attackers kept on coming. "What was that you were saying Bill? We're NOT going through a battle zone?" asked Fara sarcastically. "Well excuuse me! So I made a mistake!" replied Bill hotly, bringing down another rebel aircraft.A few hours later, Venom was in Falco's site. He successfully avoided going through Area 6, he had a feeling that it would be full of enemy vessels already. Using his cloaking device, so that none of Andross' forces would detect him as he flew into the planet's atmosphere, he flew down onto the murky planet's surface. Several small towns were supposedly flourishing there, and Falco noted that this was one of them, the supposed capital, as he came down. Andross, if he was still hiding out, could be absolutely anywhere. Then, he remembered that DAT tape the Katt had given him a few days ago. She'd claimed it was a message that had been transmitted from beneath the planet's surface, almost at these very co-ordinates he was at now! Had Andross a base hidden there? As he flew further down to land, he noticed a huge sign. Eldon Devilin's business! It was a huge factory, big smoking chimneys reaching high up into the atmosphere. He remembered Eldon's words. I want to build planes, well in fact, I'm building some right now. In fact, I hope that they'll be far superior to the Arwings... Could the cat possibly have been lying when he'd said that he was building for no-one? Was he building for Andross? But why would he invite me up to see these planes, if he was an enemy? Falco wondered, feeling puzzled. The co-ordinates Katt had given him appeared to be directly where this very factory stood, and yet surely it was just a coincidence? He landed, and climbed out of the plane. The smog hit him almost straight away, and he choked a little. He hated smoke. Big iron gates blocked his way into the factory. He walked over to a small box, were a lizard was sitting on guard duty. "Yeah? Whaddya want, birdy?" the lizard questioned. Falco managed to keep his mouth shut from reply with a sarcastic comment. "Tell Mr Devilin that Falco Lombardi is here to see him," he stated. The lizard laughed. "So you're Lombardi. Hehe, you're in for a treat," he sniggered. Falco began to lose his patience. "Well, are you gonna let me in or what?" he asked. "Oh, sure. Go on in," the lizard said, opening a small gate. Falco headed inside the building quickly, eager to get away from the polluted air. Two tough-looking pigs immediately escorted him to some sort of waiting room. They were sniggering amongst themselves, like there was some sort of big jokes going around, that Falco didn't know about. "Wait here," one of them said. Falco was feeling more and more worried. This factory appeared to be some sort of ammunition factory. Falco knew fine well that the CDB didn't buy ammo from any suppliers, they made it themselves. In which case, it meant that Eldon was some sort of illegal supplier. But to who? His first thought was the rebel army... Andross! He suddenly head the click of a lock. He ran over the door, and tried to open it. It held fast, and Falco realised he was trapped. The room was bare, except for a nearby bench, that was bolted to the floor, and a window high up in one corner. And a video camera. It was trained right on him. The bird didn't understand what was going on. He'd been locked up in a room in an ammunition factory on Venom. Nobody knew where he was. It was a hugely elaborate plan, he thought to himself. Had Eldon tempted him over here in hope of trapping him. "How could he have possibly know that I'd come here?" Falco said to himself. No-one could have guessed that he'd quit the team. He thought about the tape. Had Eldon known that Katt had intercepted messages and passed them on to him? He paced uneasily. Now he was being paranoid, he thought. The camera seemed to be watching every move he made, and the room looked to him to be like a prison cell. His head was spinning, he felt so confused. He wished that he'd bothered to tell Peppy to analyse the DAT at all, he felt like it must contain something important. If Eldon knew he'd had the tape, perhaps he'd invited Falco to the factory as one big farce, so that it looked like he was completely innocent. He had probably never thought that Falco would come, and that if the tape was analysed, along with the coo-ordinates, when the Star Fox team arrived, they'd see the factory, and Falco would vouch for Eldon, saying it was nothing but a normal factory. But it still seemed like a crazy plan. He eyed the window. If he could somehow reach it, he might be able to escape. But not with that video camera in his face. Standing to one side of it, he removed his concealed gun from inside his boot. Once he blew it up, he'd have to move fast. He examined the bench. If he stood it up on it's side, he could probably climb up it, and reach the window. It was bolted down, but he knew a couple of well aimed bullets could probably loosen it from the floor. He eyed the camera carefully, skirting round to one side again. It would be better to take it out at the back, he thought. He aimed carefully, and the bullet flew into the contraption. He jumped back as it spat out sparks and smoke. He put another bullet through the window, shattering the glass. As he moved the bench up to the window, he heard the sound of footsteps rushing towards the door. He jumped up onto the narrow sill, and stared out of the window in horror. There was at least a 30 foot drop down onto a concrete yard... "Well, well, well. I might have guessed you'd pull a stunt like that, Mr Lombardi," Eldon declared lazily. "I didn't come here to get locked up!" Falco retorted. He attempted to struggled out of the two pigs iron grasps, but couldn't. "This is absolutely preposterous! It's a felony against the CDB!" Falco exclaimed. "But you aren't on Corneria now, are you? Besides, word has it that you quit working for the CDB yesterday," Eldon leered. Falco remained quiet for once in his life. Eldon paced. "Well, I have a proposition for you anyway." "I'm not interested in any of those right now! You're working for Andross, aren't you?" Falco blurted out. Eldon laughed. "My, my, we're sharp today, aren't we?" he remarked glibly. "I was onto you right from the very beginning!" Falco shot back. Eldon just smiled. "Take him down to the lower levels, boys. I want him to see my creations." Falco was then dragged off down a number of passages by the two pigs. They went lower and lower underground, until they finally arrived at a huge hangar. Falco gasped when he saw the ships in there. They were those strange black fighter ships that had arrived in Corneria during his stunt flying display a few days back! "Surprised, Mr Lombardi?" Eldon said, stepping out of the shadows. "Those are enemy fighter planes! I've seen them before!" Falco said. "Yes, quite good, aren't they?" Eldon purred. "You'll never get anywhere with those. They're far too heavy for one thing," Falco said critically. "Ah, that's why I like you, Falco, You know exactly how a plane should be designed," Eldon said. "No, I'm just not foolish," Falco snapped back. "I'd say you were, coming here... when you suspected it was enemy ground," Eldon laughed. "Can't blame me for wanting to investigate," Falco replied, still eyeing the planes, and glancing around warily. It looked like he'd stepped right into Andross' arsenal, yet he had no way of contacting the rest of the team. "Go on Mr Lombardi, tell me. What's wrong with these planes?" Eldon questioned. "What? Why should I tell you? So you make them better? I don't think so!" Falco answered, looking angry. "You'll tell me... if you value the lives of anyone on your home planet," Eldon said snidely. "What are you talking about?" Falco asked. "Andross has a bomb. A big bomb. A bomb so big, it could blow up the whole of Corneria," Eldon answered. He had a sick looking smile on his face. "You're bluffing," Falco said, shaking his head. "Am I?" Eldon asked. "It's there, waiting, somewhere in space. All I have to do is give the word, and Andross' men will drop it off." "No..." Falco said, looking worried. Eldon walked over to one of the planes. "These weren't designed for quickness. They're military machines, capable of carrying a huge range of artillery, including nuclear bombs, Falco. Can one of your pretty Arwings do that?" Eldon questioned leeringly. Falco shook his head. The heaviest weaponry an Arwing could carry was a maximum of nine nova bombs. "The thing is, I need someone skilled to head my attack team," Eldon continued, a while later. "Why don't you just drop your bomb and be done with it?" Falco said sarcastically. "That's only as a last resort, if you refuse to surrender," Eldon replied. "So you were bluffing!" Falco said, looking angry. "The bomb is there, Falco. But, Andross wants Corneria for himself... no interfering wretches like you and Fox McCloud and the rest of your sorry team mates will stop him this time!" Eldon declared. He paced around a few times. "So, will you head my team?" "Never!" Falco replied. "But Falco, you always wanted to be team captain so much... here's your big chance!" Eldon said slyly. "I don't want it so much I'd betray my own country!" Falco retorted. "Oh, of course, we'll brainwash you first, so you don't know any different. Come on, it's what you've always dreamed about! You can head a squadron as big as you please!" Eldon tempted. Falco shook his head stubbornly. "If you don't, we'll take you prisoner, hold you hostage," Eldon answered. "Do it. I'll never side with the likes of Andross!" Falco replied stubbornly. Eldon didn't look very happy. "As you wish, Mr Lombardi. We'll hold you hostage, and if Corneria doesn't give us what we wish for you within 48 hours, you will be shot. However, if you wish to live, you can agree to join us..." "I'd rather die, thank you very much," Falco answered, trying to put on a brave face. He didn't fancy being executed at the hands of Andross, but then again, he didn't want to betray his country. "Very well. Men, take him down to the cells," Eldon ordered.
Chapter 7 "Fox!" Katt exclaimed, bursting into his office. She looked worried. "Katt?" Fox said in surprise, glancing up from a strategy sheet he was reading. "It's Falco. I'm worried about him!" she cried. Fox nodded. "I second that Katt. But I have absolutely no idea where he could be." "I do!" Katt replied. "What?" Fox said in surprise. "Fox, is it true that Andross is about to declare war on Corneria?" Katt questioned. Fox nodded. "It looks likely. He's built up a huge arsenal, we've got a lot if squadrons fighting it out to keep our space stations and bases clear from invasion," he replied seriously. "Fox, a few days ago, I was flying out near Venom. And I intercepted an encrypted message," Katt began. "About what?" Fox questioned. Katt shrugged. "I don't know. All I know was that it came from beneath Venom's surface. I captured it all on a DAT, and gave it to Falco three nights or so ago," she explained. "You think Falco's gone to check it out?" Fox enquired. "Yes! But I don't know what the message was about," Katt answered. Fox stood up, and grabbed hold of his crutch. "With any hope, he may have left it in his office. It could have been a message from Andross to an enemy outpost," he said, limping towards the door. Katt followed him. "I have the exact co-ordinates from where it originated," she said. "Good," Fox replied. "What I don't understand, is why Falco wanted to borrow my plane. D'you think he was using it for cover?" Katt asked. Fox shook his head. "I might as well tell you, Katt. Falco quit the team two days ago," he said sadly. "What?" Katt exclaimed. "Yeah. Pepper made Bill Grey captain of the team, because I wasn't fit to fly. It should have been Falco, and well, you know how he is. He and Pepper argued, and Falco walked out on us," Fox said. They arrived outside Falco's office. Fox inputted the security code to unlock it. They went inside. "Where does he keep stuff like that?" Katt asked, looking around the office with interest. Fox walked right over to the desk. He opened the top drawer, and pulled out the DAT. "How did you know?" Katt asked. "Lucky guess," Fox replied. "Can you de-code it?" she questioned. "We're about to find out," Fox answered, as he booted up Falco's computer. He inserted the DAT into the machine. The screen was immediately filled with gibberish. "Damn, you were right," Fox said, staring at the screen intently. "I wish Peppy was here. He's a computer genius," he added. Katt nodded. "Falco told me that, too." "This could take hours," Fox sighed, scrolling up and down. "Look for matching strings or something," Katt remarked, leaning down over Fox's shoulder to study the screen herself. "It's hopeless," Fox answered. "We can't give up. It may have important information on!" Katt replied. Fox got up. "I'll take to one of our specialists. They'll get the job done quicker. You say you know the co-ordinates?" he enquired. Katt nodded. "Yes, I've..." She was interrupted by a message on the intercom. "Could Fox McCloud please report to General Pepper immediately!" "Oh great," Fox muttered. He limped out of Falco's office, DAT in hand. "Come with me, I have a feeling this could be important," he said. Pepper was sitting behind his desk, looking very grave, as Fox and Katt entered. "Fox, we've just received a message from Andross himself!" he said. "I thought so, sir," Fox replied. "He's almost ready to declare war... and he's holding Falco hostage!" Pepper said. "Oh no!" Katt gasped. Pepper suddenly noticed that she was present. "What are you doing here?" he questioned. "Sir.. that doesn't matter. Hostage?" Fox asked. Pepper nodded. "He's going to execute Falco in less than 48 hours, if we don't surrender our space stations!" he said. "But..." Fox started, looking horrified. "If we did that, his battle fleet would get through easily!" Katt exclaimed. Pepper nodded. "We simply can't do as they ask. But Falco is in danger..." "Sir, we're on it! Me and Katt!" Fox promptly decided. "What? You're not fit!" Pepper said. "We don't even have any idea of where Andross' base is, for a start! And what on Corneria was Falco doing on Venom in the first place?!" Pepper said. He stood up, and paced uneasily. Fox held up the DAT. "Katt and I think the answer to that lies in this Sir," he said. "What? What is that?" Pepper demanded. Katt stepped forward. "Sir, it's a message I intercepted, from beneath Venom's surface. I gave this tape to Falco, and the next day, he asked to borrow my plane. He must have gone to check it out, and got captured," she explained. Pepper nodded. "And, Miss Monroe, what were you doing intercepting messages in the first place?" he asked. "I uh..." Katt began. She stopped, and just gave Pepper her most charming smile instead. It didn't work. "Do you realise, I could have you arrested, Miss Monroe?" Pepper questioned. "Well, Sir, I'm sure there's no need..." Katt began. "You constantly interfere with CDB business, you make transcripts of messages not meant for you, you drive an illegal vehicle..." Pepper said. "Sir, that doesn't matter right now. I believe we have the co-ordinates to Andross' secret base, me and Katt wish to check it out, and help Falco. Where are my team right now?" Fox interrupted. "I believe they've landed on Venom. But no. You two aren't going alone," Pepper said. "Sir..." Fox started. "I'm sending Sandy Singleton along with you. She has access to gadgets that will help you in this mission. Andross has told me that if any of our men set foot upon his base, he'll shoot Falco at once," Pepper replied. "We need to contact the rest of the team," Fox stated. "Are you sure you're up to this?" Pepper questioned. "Don't worry Sir, I'll be just fine," Fox replied. Pepper turned to Katt. "Miss Monroe, can you pilot an Arwing?" he questioned. "I can pilot anything!" she replied in a sultry tone. "Then you're on your way. Sandy Singleton will be waiting for you, And be careful. Andross' forces are everywhere!" Pepper warned. "We'll do our best. I'm taking him out for sure, this time," Fox replied decisively. "The fate of Corneria is in your hands now. One wrong move..." Pepper began. "We know Sir. Have this decrypted," Fox said, handing him the DAT. "Katt, you'll have to take Falco's Arwing," Pepper said. Katt smiled. "Oh, my pleasure," she said, looking smug. "Let's go," Fox said. "So? What did they throw you in here for?" asked a dishevelled looking coyote who sat in the next cell. Falco looked up from the floor, surprised. He hadn't realised that there was anyone else down here. "Why don't you tell me about yourself first," replied Falco. He didn't know what it was about coyotes but he didn't trust them. "Eldon Devilin wanted me to design some new plane for him. I refused," replied the coyote. Falco shuffled along the bench to get a closer look at the coyote. He looked familiar. "Say, don't I know you?" he asked warily. "If you've been watching the news recently. Latest news is, I'm dead," said the coyote nonchalantly. "Of course! You're William Runner aren't you?" asked Falco. It was true about the news. William Runner was just about the cleverest animal in the system, but he'd disappeared six months ago, according to some rumours he had gone to Fortuna to live in isolation. Apart from the dinosaurs not much else lived there, there were the odd settlements but even though now the Monarch Dodora was gone, people where still wary of the other life on the planet. Three months had passed when people began saying he'd found some way to warp to another system and that was where he was. It was only three weeks ago that someone had said he'd committed suicide by flying to solar and crashing into the fiery surface. "Well you know me, and now I recognise you. Lombardi isn't it?" said William. "Yeah, Eldon wants me to pilot his new planes, I refused," said Falco. "Hmmm, so he designed a ship then? What's it like?" asked William. "Well, good for carrying weapons but not fast enough to catch up with the Arwings," Falco informed William. "Hah! Eldon thought he could design a ship that could combine the two, speed and weapons, shows me how much he really did need me. The whole point is so that they could use them to down the Arwings. He should've stuck to the Wolfens," said William triumphantly. "How long you been down here?" asked Falco. William gave him a withering look. "Well, I disappeared six months ago," he started. "Sorry I asked," apologised Falco quickly. He didn't wish to be victim to Williams renowned sarcasm. "No, sorry," replied William. "I should be more operative, not treating you like an imbecile," said William. "Well okay Mr. Brain, any ideas on how we get our butts out of here?" asked Falco. "Yes as a matter of fact," said William. "So spill it," urged Falco. "The only way we get out, is to so-operate with Eldon - although it may be a little late for me," replied William. Falco groaned. "Any other ideas?" "Well, I'm afraid that's my best," said William regretfully. "Of course, you could agree to drive his planes, infiltrate the ranks, find out about his evil plans," suggested William boredly. "Hey, that's not a bad idea," said Falco his eyes lighting up. "I wonder why you didn't think of it," said William sarcastically. Falco let out a snort, then he stood up and called for the guard. One of those pigs almost instantly appeared. Falco wondered if he had been watching them. "Tell Eldon I've changed my mind, I want to pilot those ships," Falco demanded. The pig nodded then waddled away. "Okay, Falco. Listen to me carefully, there may be a way for us to get an extremely happy ending which could involve Andross' death," said William leaning over towards Falco, his voice barely a whisper. "I'm listening," he said obediently as William began to explain all. Two guards led Falco and William into a small room. It looked a bit like something you'd seen in a hospital; all shiny metal, green and white tiles. Cold and clinical. There were two tables there, with huge metal devices hanging overhead. Falco didn't like the look of them one bit. They were dragged over, and strapped down onto the tables. Eldon walked over to them, a big leer on his fat face, a cigar hanging from his lips as he peered down at Falco. "Now, I know you agreed to pilot my ships, but I can't fully be sure that you won't turn against me once you're up in the air," he began. Falco remained silent. This wasn't going to plan at all. "So, I have to brainwash you. It's a relatively painless process - most of the time. So long as you're completely willing to join us, you'll be just fine," the cat laughed. Oh great, Falco thought, studying the device above him with interest. It looked like it would fit over his head; there was some horrible looking metal probes inside it. He shuddered at the thought of what they might do. "Once the process has finished, you'll remember nothing of your own life before now, only that you want to help the Great Andross take over the universe!" Eldon said. He paced up and down for a moment. "I'll send someone experienced to control the machine, to make sure it all goes according to plan," the cat continued. He checked on their metal bonds one more time, then pressed a button on a nearby computer to lock them into place. "This will be the best experience of your sorry lives," he snickered. Then he walked out, the guards following him. "Oh well done, genius!" Falco said angrily to William. "Well how was I supposed to know that they'd brainwash us?" William snapped back. "Wasn't it obvious?" Falco replied. "If you already knew they'd do this, why did you agree to it in the first place?" William said. "It was our best chance of escape. They were going to execute me anyway," Falco replied. "They wouldn't have executed you. Eldon's been desperate to get your piloting skills for a long time. I heard that he thinks you'd make an excellent leader," William said. "Yeah well, he got the wrong person," Falco answered. They remained there in silence for a while, awaiting their fate. A few minutes later, the door slid open, then shut again. They heard a surprised gasp. Falco looked up, and saw a Fox who looked vaguely familiar. He was dressed in rebel attire however; the stars spread across his badge showed him to be highly ranked. "James McCloud?" William asked. Falco sat up. What? He thought. Wasn't that Fox's father? But James McCloud is dead! William must be mistaken! The Fox walked over. "William, finally, I get the chance to speak to you," the fox said. He turned to the console, and pressed a few buttons. There was a whirring noise. "All set. Andross won't suspect a thing," the Fox said. "What? It is you?" William questioned. The fox nodded. He turned to Falco. "The infamous Falco Lombardi, I presume," he said. "Uh, yes," Falco managed to say. "I hear you're a great friend, and team-mate of my dear son," James said. "You're Fox's dad? I thought you were dead!" Falco said quickly. "There is much to explain Falco, and I don't have the time right now. But your arrival here may prove useful for the final battle," James said, pressing another button on the console. The metal bonds sprang open. "Final battle?" Falco uttered. He jumped off the table, and so did William. "I knew something was going on behind Andross' back," William grinned. James nodded gravely. "The Starfox team will be arriving shortly, and Andross knows it. He's surrounding the outer atmosphere of Venom already. No doubt the fight has already started," the fox said. "Who told Andross?" Falco wondered. "He suspected already. I only hope Fox is prepared," James said. "But Fox isn't with them! He's injured, and well, I figured since I'm second in command, I'd get to head the team. But Pepper wouldn't let me, so I kinda... well.. quit," Falco said sheepishly. "But how did you end up here?" James questioned, keying some things into the console. Falco looked down. "I met Eldon at a dinner party not long ago. He asked me to come and check out his ships. Katt Monroe had picked up an encrypted message from this very location, and when I arrived, I knew something suspicious was going on. They locked me up in a room, I tried to escape but got captured and disarmed," he explained. "I see. Katt Monroe? The name sounds familiar," James said, looking thoughtful. "She's..." Falco began. "Yes, I know who she is. Miss Katherine Monroe. An unofficial spy for the CDB. Andross sent some troops to try and shoot her ship down very recently, on the day she managed to intercept a very important message," James said. "What did the message contain?" Falco asked. "Blueprints for Andross' newest weapon. He was sending them to a contact stationed on Zoness," James said. "The intermolecular death ray!" William said. "How do you know that?" Falco asked, suddenly feeling worried. "And what can it do?" he added. "This ray, which Andross controls himself, can down a ship in one shot. He can even miss if he wants, because the radiation will fry anything in its vicinity anyway," James said. "What are we going to do about it?" Falco asked. "That's what I'm planning now. Andross has a bomb that could eradicate the whole of Corneria in a matter of seconds. If Corneria send reinforcements along with the Starfox team, an attack ship is waiting near Bolse, ready to send it," James said gravely. "Eldon told me that. He said they couldn't get it past Corneria's defence space stations though, so they were holding me hostage. If Corneria don't surrender the space stations, they told Pepper that I'd be shot within 48 hours," Falco said. "A military hostage. How low," William commented. James nodded. "But why ever were you brought down here?" he questioned. "We thought if we agreed to head Eldon's team, we could turn on them and escape," Falco said. "We didn't imagine they'd do this though," he added. "Oh, this is Andross' secret weapon. He's been converting innocent civilians into drones for his cause for years," James remarked. "So what are you doing here? Poor old Peppy came back, saying you were dead," Falco said. "Andross kept me aside for his own vile plans. He put me through that brainwashing device there, but back then, the technology wasn't very good. I successfully managed to evade being transformed into mindless scum, and have been plotting against him for years," James answered. "Is that state-of-the-art now? I've never seen anything quite like it," William asked, pointing to the mind probe. "Indeed it is. It's lucky I managed to get to you in time, else you would have been done for. Now, what I need for you to do is act like a follower. Just agree to serve Andross, and get in those ships. No doubt Eldon will send you up right away. While you do that, I'm going to plant a virus that I've been working on for years into the main computer. It will screw the communications systems to hell, and Andross will have no way of contacting either his pilots or the attack ship carrying the bomb. William, you'll come with me, and help me disable that death ray," James ordered. "Wait, you say the message that Katt intercepted contains the blueprints? She gave me a DAT copy, and it's in my office back at the CDB!" Falco exclaimed. "Then you must contact Pepper as soon as you get up in the air and inform him. They could easily decrypt it and send the details back to you, or another member of the team. Then one of you could come back down here, and hand over a DAT containing the appropriate information. Though I'm a high-ranking official here, I've never managed to access Andross' blueprints. They could prove useful," James said. "Okay, I'll do it," Falco said. "Let's get ready, then," James replied.
Chapter 8 "What the ...?" squeaked Slippy. Bill gulped when he saw the massive fleet surrounding Venom's atmosphere. "I knew we should've gone the other way!" exclaimed Fara. "Well, we're here now, so let's get on with it. Why, it was a lot worse than this a few years back!" said Peppy, using a solid tone of voice. "I don't like the look of those ships one bit!" said Fara, still unsure. "Hey, they're not bad, quite good in fact. Well built, nice shape," started Slippy. "Shut up Slip!" chorused the other three. He shut up. "Incoming!" cried Peppy, as the first wave of attackers approached. Bill and Fara took out most of them with a few well placed laser charges. "Corneria, this is Star Fox, military activity on Venom is confirmed," said Bill, as he dodged another enemy ship. "We read you Star Fox, back up is on it's way," boomed a voice over the speakers. "Roger," finished Bill as he ended the transmission. "Did you hear that?" asked Fox, as he flew over the surface of Titania. "I heard it loud and clear," replied Katt. "It doesn't sound good, I hope they're okay," said Fox worriedly. "Ah Fox, so dedicated to your team," said Katt soothingly. "Your point is?" asked Fox, a little annoyed that Katt wasn't taking the situation as seriously as he was. "Fara is so lucky," continued on Katt, ignoring Fox's question. "I thought it was Falco you liked," said Fox warily. "Oh I do, but," gushed Katt. "I don't want to hear it," said Fox quickly. "Well okay, but when we land, I'm going to make sure you get what's coming to you," said Katt mischievously . Fox didn't like the sound of this threat. "Yeah whatever Katt, let's concentrate on getting to Venom," said Fox offhandedly. "Is that anyway to speak to a girl?" quipped Katt. "Come on Katt, cut it out, you're scaring the poor guy," said Sandy, laughing. "Oh, am I? I'm so sorry Fox, I didn't realise," said Katt sweetly. Fox shook his head and activated the nitro boosters. The quicker he got to Venom, the better. Perhaps then Katt would stop annoying him. "Ah, Mr. Lombardi. It's nice to see you're feeling better," leered Eldon. Falco nodded, keeping quiet. "I think it's time for you to see your new air craft, and meet your new team," continued on Eldon. He led Falco out of the room, through a few corridors until they eventually reached a huge hangar. Falco saw four of Eldon's new ships, and a crowd of three pilots standing by. Falco did a double take, one of the pilots was the double of Wolf O'Donnel. "Now, this is Wolf O'Donnel," introduced Eldon. Falco nodded shakily to the wolf. Perhaps he was Wolf's son, he looked pretty young. "And this is Sparky Garrison," continued on Eldon, introducing Falco to a dark pit bull who looked pretty vicious. Falco nodded again to the dog. "And finally, this is Kevin Mustofski," finished Eldon. Kevin was a scrawny looking monkey, with darting eyes. Falco didn't like the look of them one bit. "Well, now that our introductions are over, you can go get that pesky Star Fox team," said Eldon enthusiastically. "Who are they?" asked Falco, trying to put on a blank expression. Eldon looked frustrated then sighed. "They are a group of elite Cornerian military pilots who fly Arwings. You must kill them, I'll send the information you need up onto your ships computer whilst you make your way to the team. We've managed to plant devices on the ships so that a blip will come up on your radar which you can follow," explained Eldon. Falco nodded. "Good luck," said Eldon as the four boarded their ships. Falco suddenly realised he didn't know how to fly one of theses things. He shrugged and belted up. "How hard can it be?" he muttered to himself. Indeed, Falco managed to soon master the controls of the ship, and soon he was flying over the surface of Venom. He made out the signs of some kind of battle going on not so far away so he quickly speeded ahead. He was surprised how well the ship handled, and it felt at light weight and agile as an arwing. Suddenly a list of information came up onto his screen. It was about the Star Fox team. After briefly scanning through the contents he clicked off the information and opened radio communications. "Okay, team, I want you to go ahead and surround Star Fox, keep them stationary until I arrive," instructed Falco. They all did as he said and sped off, leaving him alone. Once they were out of range for short communications, Falco managed to open up a channel with Corneria. "Corneria, this is Star Fox! Immediate request to speak with General Pepper," said Falco. He hoped that his ship wasn't tapped or anything, but he needed that information to be handed over straight away. "Hello, this is Pepper," boomed the commanders deep voice. "Pepper? It's Falco Lombardi here. There's a DAT in my desk that needs decrypting then sending to a channel 8184," said Falco quickly. "What? 8184 is on Venom," exclaimed Pepper. "Yes sir, there's a resistance, they need the information quickly, no time to explain," said Falco. He closed communications, because he knew that the out going signal could be picked up at any time. "What's this?" asked Peppy as they approached the surface of Venom. 3 large ships were heading their way, they weren't the normal run-of-the-mill cannon fodder. "Hehe, Star Fox, this is Kevin M speaking. Say your prayers!" declared a whiny voice. "Looks like Andross' new team," said Peppy warily. "Andross shall soon rule this system, and there ain't nothing you can do about it!" ranted a familiar looking Wolf. "Wolf O'Donnel?" asked Slippy in surprise. "Ya got it in one froggie," replied Wolf. "Aye, soon no one will stop us!" slobbered an ugly looking dog. "Oh yeah? We'll see about that!" quipped Fara, she began launching laser charges at one of the ships. It was Wolf's. The young wolf masterfully avoided all shots, then managed to get in some of his own. "You think you're good? Think again!" snapped the Wolf. "I'll cover you Fara!" reassured Bill, as he carefully monitored Wolf O'Donnel's movements. "Where's Foxy? I was hoping to do some real damage this time!" asked Wolf. "What?" asked Fara in surprise. Suddenly one of Wolf's laser charges hit her wing, it immediately broke off. "Oh, shoot!" she screeched, dodging another one of Wolf's shots. "Thank you, I will," said Wolf quickly, taking two more shots at Fara. Bill closed in on the back of Wolf and hit him with a nova bomb. Wolf's ship wobbled for a moment or two, then he fled from the oncoming Bill. "Thanks Bill, I owe ya!" thanked Fara. "Hey frog boy! Why don't ya get back into the water?" taunted Kevin M. He took some more pot shots at Slippy before Peppy chased him off. "Thanks Pep," called Slippy, narrowly avoiding the oncoming Wolf, with Bill hot on his tail. "Hey bunny rabbit, I eat guys like you for breakfast," slobbered Sparky being to chase the veteran hare. "Fara? Bill? Get your asses over here, I need help!" cried Peppy trying to avoid Sparky's laser charges. "I'm coming!" reassured Fara, charging after Sparky's ship. Suddenly another ship appeared on the horizon. "Finally our captain arrives," spat Wolf venomously. The mystery ship opened no channel, but started to pursue Slippy. "Aargh! Guys, help me!" cried Slippy. "Got our hands full Slip," said Bill apologetically, still chasing Wolf. "Same here!" called Fara, still trying to shake Kevin M from Peppy's tail. The mystery ship, instead of shooting at Slippy, drew level with him, tilted to one side, then drew up close. Slippy saw clearly the details of the pilots face. Falco put a finger to his lips, then held up a hand written sign. Slippy slowed down to see what was written. It read ' Don't shoot. I'm fine.' Suddenly a loud explosion rang through everyone's ears. "I got him!" cheered Fara happily. Slippy watched as the ship burst into flames. "Who'd ya get?" asked Slippy. "The monkey, need any help Slip?" asked Fara. "Naw, I can handle this guy just fine!" said Slippy. He turned and winked to Falco, but the bird had disappeared. "Thanks Fara, don't know where I'd be without you," thanked Peppy. He was still chasing Sparky. "No sweat Pep, just doin' my... whoa!" Fara's sentence was cut short as she avoided Wolf's oncoming ship. She'd just about recovered when Bill came charging towards her at an alarming speed. She pulled back on the joystick and executed a perfect U-turn. "You okay Fara?" asked Peppy, his voice full of concern. "Uh-huh, I think so," said Fara shakily. "Hey Bill, be more careful," Peppy scolded Bill. "Yeah, sorry about that Fara," apologised Bill. "Look, back-up's here, looks like Fox, and, well I don't know," said Slippy, suddenly realising that Falco wasn't piloting that ship, and there was another unknown pilot there too. "About time too, these guys are good," muttered Bill, avoiding another one of Wolf's shots. "Guys? Everything okay?" asked a welcome voice," it was Fox. "Yeah, but Fox, aren't you injured?" asked Fara. "Uh-huh, but this is too important for me to miss," explained Fox. "Falco back?" asked Bill. "No, it's Katt. We're looking for Falco, we think he's been taken hostage." "Hi Bill," came a female voice over the line. "Sandy?! What are you doing?" asked Bill in surprise. "Helping you out," replied Sandy calmly avoiding Sparky's pot-shots. "Hey Sandy, it's neat to see you again," Fara greeted her old friend. "Well enough of introductions, let's take out these guys," said Fox in a business like-tone. "I agree totally," seconded Bill. "Ah, Fox McCloud. Come back for more?" sneered Wolf. "Whatever Wolf," said Fox nonchalantly. He quickly began to chase Wolf, shooting off several shots at the Wolfen III before he could escape. "That's more like it!" cheered Bill, also beginning to chase Wolf's ship. "Hey boys, let the ladeeyz come through!" purred Katt. She flew past Fox and Bill, and took a shot at Wolf before continuing on. She headed straight for Falco's ship. Slippy spotted this and protested. "Hey he's, uh, mine!" he cried. "Not any more toady!" purred the feline. She began to launch several shots off at Falco's ship. Slippy turned on the nitro boosters and sped his way towards Katt, placing himself in between Falco and Katt. "Hey, get out of my way little man!" protested Katt, but Slippy didn't budge. "Come on you two, work together, don't compete!" scolded Fox. "I'll work together with you any time Foxy," purred Katt. Fara winced at this comment but said nothing. Wolf suddenly doubled back on Fox and Bill and began shooting at them frantically. Fox and Bill spun to deflect the hits, but they were so close together, their wings hit off one another. Fox quickly pulled away and frowned. "Sorry Bill, my fault," he apologised before performing a U-turn and resuming the chase. Then, to everyone but Slippy's amazement, the mystery ship turned on Wolf O'Donnel and began to shoot at him frantically. "What?! What's happening, Andross, Eldon, we have a resistance!" screamed Wolf before his ship came down. Meanwhile Sparky was relaying the same message. "I've got it sir!" a young dog cried out triumphantly. Pepper rushed over to see the decrypted DAT that Fox had given to him. It sounded like the one Falco had been talking about. He was wondering how Falco had managed to escape, and what was going on outside Venom right now, but there was no point in worrying about it right now. "It looks like blueprints, sir," the dog continued. Pepper sat down in a chair, and looked intently at the screen. Dimensions of a weapon came into view. He scrolled down, looking at it worriedly. It was obviously some sort of laser. A deadly one at that. "Send it up to channel 8184 immediately! And make sure that Agent Sandy Singleton intercepts it before anyone else picks it up!" Pepper ordered. "At once, Sir!" the dog responded, saluting. Pepper turned back to the screen, still worried. Things didn't look good for Corneria at all... "Get him down!" commanded Falco. "Falco!" cried everyone in confusion, but Slippy was quick to follow Falco's orders and began hounding the pit bull. "What, why?" stuttered Bill in confusion. "No time to explain, we need to get him down," said Falco quickly. "I got one, I got one!" cheered Slippy as he sent Sparky's ship spiralling out into space. "Hey good on you Slip. You ain't such a screw up after all," joked Peppy. "Jeez, thanks a lot Peppy," retorted Slippy. "Well, what are we waiting for, this time, we'll finish Andross for good!" said Fox, speeding off. Everyone else followed. Falco flew downwards, shooting down some enemy fighters. "Time for a little payback!" he said. "All range mode. Come on guys, let's take it to 'em!" Fox cried. "They're everywhere!" Peppy exclaimed, narrowly avoiding a collision with an approaching enemy fighter. "Fox, I'm glad you're finally here! And you too, Falco," Bill said. "We figured you'd need some help once you saw Andross' new party piece," Falco said dryly. Katt flew up alongside Falco. "Falco, I was looking forward to rescuing you," she purred. "Katt, what are..." Falco began, looking surprised. "I'm joining in, flyboy. Why else would I be here?" she replied in her sultriest tone. "Okay guys, I'm going down," Sandy interrupted over the intercom. "Whatever for?" Fara questioned. "I just received a decrypted message that Katt intercepted from Andross a few days back. It will help me to disable Andross' new weapon," Sandy replied. "What?" Bill said. "I'll explain later," Sandy replied. "Wait! I'm coming with you!" Falco said quickly. "Are you sure?" Sandy asked. "Yes. There's someone you need to meet once you get inside the base, and I know the way," Falco explained. "You're not going anywhere, we need you here!" Katt protested. "No, if Falco knows the base, then he should go down too," Peppy said. "Yes, and we'll hold Andross' troops off back up here," Bill decided. "It'll be no problem!" Slippy declared confidently. "I'll second that!" Fara added. "Me too," Peppy said. "Then it's all set. Falco, you accompany Sandy to the base, and take out that weapon. The rest of you stay up here and hold off the enemy. Don't let any of 'em though!" Fox ordered. "What about you, captain?" Bill questioned. "I'm going straight to Andross," Fox answered. "Alone?" Fara gasped. "Alone," Fox agreed. "Let's go then! It's time to show the monkeys who's boss!" Falco declared, jetting off towards the planet's surface, Sandy close behind. "Wait, I'm coming too!" Katt cried. "No Katt, don't!" Fara shouted through the intercom. But she'd already flown out of short radio range. Falco and Sandy shot down several enemies, before they managed to land on Venom's surface, at the correct co-ordinates. Falco was annoyed to see that Katt had followed him, but there was no use in sending her back up now. They jumped out of their planes, and Sandy handed Falco a silenced revolver, and a laser. Katt had her own weapons, given to her already by Sandy. "Now, where to?" Sandy question, hopping up and down on the spot, vigilant, as always. "In there," Falco pointed, towards a large, industrial building. "Keep close together, and stay alert at all times," Sandy ordered. They headed towards the building cautiously, Sandy first. They took the security guards out in a couple of well-placed shots, and Falco was pleased to note that the surveillance cameras had been turned off. "James McCloud is waiting for us, along with William Runner," Falco explained. "What?" said Sandy looking surprised. "I'm not lying. They've had Runner locked up here for a while, and James has been secretly working against Andross for years," Falco continued. "Then Fox really did see him!" Sandy suddenly said. "What?" Now it was Falco's turn to be surprised. "No time to explain now. We need to destroy that death ray!" Sandy replied, turning a corner, and aiming carefully for a guard stationed at the end. She downed him in one shot, before he had a chance to react or make any noise. "You're good," Katt said. "I hope I'm good enough," Sandy answered, through gritted teeth. "This way," Falco said, taking Sandy's arm, and leading her down a corridor. Katt's eyes narrowed, and she suddenly felt jealous of Sandy. Who did she think she was anyway, joining up with the Starfox team? Wasn't that her job? I'm going to have a few things to say to her, once we get back to Corneria, Katt fumed to herself. She didn't noticed the large, armed lizard sneaking up behind her. "Ah, Miss Monroe. Andross has a price on your head almost as large as Fox McCloud's. And it looks like I'm going to get it!" he sneered. Katt gasped, and wheeled around. Andross' worker was at least twice as big as her. She squeezed a shot off with her gun, but he evaded it, and grabbed hold of her by the wrists. She screamed. "Andross wants you dead!" the lizard continued."Get off me, you big oaf!" Katt cried. "Falco, help me!" she shouted. "Hehehe, you pathetic little feline! You won't be spying on us anymore, once I'm through with you!" the lizard replied, holding up a gun to her head. "Katt?" Falco called, spinning around as he heard her shrieks. "Oh great. That's all we need," Sandy muttered, looking displeased. Falco frantically turned to Sandy. "Sandy, you go on ahead, we're not far from the rendezvous point with the others. Just turn right at the end of this corridor, and go through the double doors. Then go left. I've got to help Katt!" he said. "Sure, help your silly girlfriend. She shouldn't be here in the first place. "But she's not my..." Falco began. But Sandy had already run off down the corridor. Falco turned and ran in the opposite direction. He saw a huge lizard hold of Katt, holding a gun to her head. "Ah, look, it's the little birdie come to save you, kitty," he jeered. "It's Katt, actually," Katt managed to say. "Whatcha gonna do, birdie? If you come any closer, I'll shoot your precious kitty cat," the lizard taunted. Falco stood his ground, moving neither forward or backward. He was trying to think of something - fast. "Let her go," he finally said. "No way. Andross wants this kitty cat dead," the lizard replied. "I'm working for Andross now, don't you know?" Falco tried. "Whaddya talking about birdie? You don't work for Andross," the lizard said. Falco looked down, and wished he hadn't changed back into his old Starfox uniform. It was a dead give away. He slowly put his hand into his pocket, ready to withdraw his laser. The lizard's beady eyes watched his movement, and just as Falco withdrew the laser and leapt towards him, taking a shot, he took a shot at Katt. Falco managed to push her away before the bullet landed somewhere deadly, but it still hit her. She screamed. They landed on the floor together. Falco immediately got back up, and fired off another round of lasers at the lizard who was hurtling towards them. The guard didn't have time to deflect the shot, and was sent flying backwards, screeching in pain. "Hold still and let me shoot you!" he muttered, as the lizard writhed around in pain on the floor. He turned back to Katt, who was lying on the floor, bleeding, and looking very faint. "Now, don't you go dying on me, okay?" he said to her. She managed a weak smile. "I won't... if you give me a kiss first," she said slyly. "Jeez, you never quit, do you?" he said in disbelief. "I guess not, flyboy," she said, smiling lazily. Then she closed her eyes. He checked her pulse; she was still breathing. He stood up, and fired a few more shots at the lizard, but he was already out cold from the previous shots. "Time to finish you off pal," he muttered, shooting him in the head. He turned back to Katt, wondering what to do. He then ripped some material from the lizard's outfit, to make a crude sort of bandage. "James McCloud?" Sandy said breathlessly, as she ran down the corridor to see a Fox and Coyote fitting Falco's description. James noted her LSSF uniform and nodded. "Sandy Singleton, LSSF. Mr Lombardi informed me you'd be here," she said. James shook Sandy's paw. "Where's Falco? And do you have the DAT? Times running out," James said. Sandy handed over the DAT that she'd recorded Pepper's decrypted message onto. James put the DAT into a console, and at once, an image appeared on the screen. "You beauty!" William exclaimed triumphantly. "It's not over yet," James muttered, looking at the screen closely. "What about the bomb?" Sandy demanded, her arms folded. "We'll have to take the ship out on our way out of here," James replied. "That could be too late," Sandy said. "Communications from this base are down already. Most of Andross' men are either up in the skies fighting the resistance, or down in the main control room, trying to get all the systems back on-line," James replied. "So they can't transmit a signal to the mothership?" Sandy questioned. "The virus is infallible," William said positively. "Where's Andross?" Sandy asked, suddenly thinking of Fox. "Waiting for my son," James said darkly. "I thought Falco said Fox wasn't coming?" William asked, looking confused. "He's here alright," Sandy said. "When I was planting the virus, the scanner picked up seven Arwings on the scanner. Nearly everyone was positively identified; Fox, Peppy Hare, Slippy Toad, William Grey, Fara Phoenix and Katherine Monroe. Sandy, you must have been the other pilot," James said. Sandy nodded. "Yes. But Falco and Katt came down with us... Katt's been captured, and Falco's gone to help her," Sandy said. "Oh no," James said. "I heard shots, and Falco shouting. I think they're okay," Sandy affirmed. "I hope so, because once we've dealt with this ray, we'll have to get out of here as quickly as possible," James said seriously. "The Great Fox is waiting above Venom. Providing we have enough ships to escape, we should be able to make it," Sandy replied. James quickly switched off the console. "Come on, this way," James urged, racing off along the corridor. Katt had been shot just above her chest, near her shoulder. If it had been any lower, it could have been lethal. "You should count yourself lucky," he said, mopping up the blood which was seeping through her pale purple uniform. She didn't answer him, she was obviously unconscious; perhaps fainted from the blood loss, he thought to himself. He lifted her up slightly, and tied the bandage around her neck and past around her shoulder, so that it covered the wound tightly. Taking some more material, he made a thick wad of it, to place over the actual entry point of the bullet. Katt's eyes flickered open, as she came out of her stupor. "Oh, hello there little man," she slurred. He ignored her, slipping the wad down beneath her top, then tightening the bandage over the top to keep it in place. "Oh, perhaps I ought to get injured more often. You're actually taking some notice of me," Katt murmured. "Ah jeez Katt, be quiet," Falco said, feeling embarrassed. He helped her to stand up. "C'mon. We have to get out of here before anymore of Andross' loonies show up," he said. "Ohhh... I feel faint again," Katt said, leaning heavily on Falco. "Pull yourself together Katt! I can't carry you!" Falco protested. "What's the matter? I'm not too heavy for you, am I?" she questioned. "A big, strong, guy like you..." she continued. "Katt, I'm not carrying you full stop! You can walk just fine! Now let's blow this joint, and get some help!" Falco said, dragging her off down the corridor.
Chapter 9 Fox glanced to his sides from his Arwing. The place had definitely been refurbished since he'd last seen it. Well, that was understandable of course as the last time Fox had seen this base it'd been aflame. And so had Andross, or so Fox had thought. He snapped out of his thoughts when the communicator came to life. "Strange, I thought all communications had been cut off," thought Fox. "Bwa-ha-ha," boomed a familiar laugh. "Andross, you never cease to amaze me," sighed Fox. He turned sharply left and continued on. "Those tin cans will never defeat me!" declared Andross. "Maybe not Andross, but the pilot will," quipped Fox. "I am indestructible, haven't you learnt that by now?" asked Andross. "Well, an egotistical ape can only have so many lives," answered Fox. He took a right. "Well, this time, things are going to be a little more interesting," continued Andross. "I'm trying to concentrate," growled Fox through gritted teeth. "Like you said Fox, the pilot will be the one who defeats me, so en guard!" cried Andross. Suddenly, Fox's surroundings began to fade, and he found himself in a large room, or a maze. "What the..?" started Fox in surprise. "Fox, you have exactly 60 seconds to escape this maze to your Arwing. If you don't I'm afraid that the Arwing won't be the only kind of tin can you ever find yourself in!" boomed Andross' voice from a hidden speaker. Suddenly, a high pitched beep pitched rang through Fox's ears. "I guess that means start," sighed Fox. He quickly ran to the nearest exit and into the next room. The next room looked exactly the same as the last. Fox gulped, and headed right. There was the Arwing! Fox whooped and raced towards the ship, but as he put his hand onto it, the machine vanished. Andross began to laugh, his long continuos laugh. Then a huge monster appeared in the Arwings place. It resembled two large eyes, and the pupils began spitting laser fire. Fox dived out of the way and rolled over, drawing his laser at the same time. He took two shots at the monster and side-stepped left. Andross was still laughing. Fox took another two shots and rolled across the floor towards the monstrosity. Fox pulled a small bomb from his belt and threw it to the feet, or rather mounds of gelatinous goo, of the eyes. Andross stopped laughing. "An LSSF agent always comes prepared!" quipped Fox, diving out of the way before the bomb blew. "Okay, I hope this works," gulped Runner. He planted a second virus into the main computer. "What'll it do exactly?" asked Sandy, glancing at her watch. "Well, it will cause a huge power surge to course through ray, and hopefully, the vital fuse will blow," explained Runner. "Well, excuse me for asking, but isn't that a bit risky? I mean won't the power turn the ray on, and cause it to do some serious destruction?" asked Sandy. "Well yes, but it's the only plausible way," said Runner. "What if Fox is near Andross at the time?" asked Sandy. Runner shrugged. "Perhaps Fox will be near Andross, but providing the virus works, the ray will blow up Andross rather than Fox," said Runner. Sandy shook her head not looking too convinced. "Yes, but if it does blow up, doesn't it melt anything within a certain distance?" pointed out Sandy. James nodded gravely. "The virus is only a last resort, we can see everything that Andross is doing from here, if Fox is in trouble then, we activate the virus," said James. "If only there was a way to warn Fox, but he's already gone in," said Sandy. "If only life were so easy," added Runner, shaking his head sadly. "Hehe Andross, beat that!" mocked Fox as his Arwing reappeared. "Cocky little freak!" cried Andross in anger. Fox jumped into the Arwing and took off. His surroundings returned to normal, well as normal as could be expected. "Well Andross, you've had your fun, now let me have mine!" sang Fox. He flew through the all to familiar entrance way. But, instead of a huge ape face appearing, all Fox saw was Andross, in normal form, standing at the bottom of the room. There seemed to be something propped up in front of him. Fox dove down to inspect what was going on. "Andross, what's going on?" asked Fox as he neared the mad ape. Andross sneered and ignored him. He took something from his pocket and appeared to push a button on it. Again, Fox's Arwing disappeared. "There, that's evened thing up," said Andross looking satisfied. Fox caught sight of a huge gun mounted on a tripod. "You reckon?" asked Fox, looking blatantly at the gun. Andross grinned and pushed another button. Fox suddenly felt a lot lighter. He suddenly realised all of his weaponry had gone. He gasped and took a step back. "Ever try fencing Fox? It really is a very soothing sport," asked Andross, almost pleasantly. A thin sword, a foil, materialised in Fox's hand. Fox stared at it. The last time he had held a sword was when he was a kid imaging to be the famous Dogtanian, a member of the four Muskahounds. Andross caught his expression and smiled. "I'm sure you'll get the hang of it Fox, besides this will be your last shot at me before I use that!" said Andross, pointing a the huge gun. "But why Andross? Why not just kill me now?" asked Fox, still looking at the sword. "Because Fox, you've been the closest thing to my arch enemy. I want to do something to remember you by," explained Andross. "Oh, well I may as well give it a shot," sighed Fox wearily. He raised one hand, and struck a classic pose. "En Guard!" he called, and charged forward towards Andross. A huge Saber materialised in Andross' hand, and he deflected Fox's blow with it. Fox rolled his eyes and stepped backwards. Andross approached him. Fox, pitched his arm back, and hurled the sword straight at Andross. It hit the scientist right between the eyes. Andross fell to the floor screaming. Fox approached Andross and grinned. "Too bad they didn't tell you that I was a champion at javelin!" said Fox grinning. Andross stopped screaming, and reached and pulled the sword from his face. It wasn't a pretty sight. Fox backed off a bit. "Uh, joke?" offered Fox. Andross frowned, his face covered in bright red blood. Suddenly, Andross' head began to swell and grow. Fox gulped. It looked like Andross was resorting to old tactics. Fox turned and ran to the Arwing and boarded it. This time, he was gonna take Andross out for sure. "Andross, don't you tire of being beaten?" asked Fox as he hovered in front of Andross' bloodied face. Andross opened his mouth, and a white laser beam shot from the back of his throat. Fox swerved to the side, but not before the ray managed to dissolve part of Fox's right wing. Fox gulped. He'd have to get this over with fast. Then, to Fox's horror, he realised that part of the right side of his Arwing had begun to dissolve. It was the laser. Andross began laughing maniacally. Fox waited until Andross shut his mouth, then drove straight towards the evil apes pursed lips. He shot out a few laser rays, causing the ape to open his cake hole. Fox shut his eyes and thought of his father and Fara. "What?! What's he doing?" asked James in alarm. They were all watching the battle on the small screen in front of them. "There's no way we can activate the virus now," said Runner. Sandy closed her eyes for a second. "He knows what he's doing," she pronounced confidently. James turned to her. "You're right, I always taught Fox to trust his instincts, that's what he's doing," said James proudly. Fox opened his eyes again, he was inside Andross! Right before him, he saw the laser. "This is gonna be easy!" exclaimed Fox, beginning to shoot at the laser. Suddenly, he began to feel a pulling on the Arwing. Andross was trying to breath the arwing out. Fox stamped on the nitro boost and kept on shooting. The laser began to whirr. It was activating again. Fox took three more shots, and dropped a nova bomb. Then he U-turned and flew out of Andross' mouth. Fox stamped on the boost again, making his way for the exit. He had one last chance to look before him, and see the distorted face of Andross. He stamped on the boost one more time and hurled himself towards the exit. "Come on you guys, we gotta get out!" insisted Runner. Sandy and James had their eyes on the monitor. Runner grabbed them both by the arm and dragged them out of the door. The three came face to face with a huge crowd of rebels, all holding guns. "Ah, so it's you James," sneered a large lizard. Without warning, Sandy took something from her pocket and threw it to the floor. "Cover your faces!" instructed Sandy as she ran through the crowd. She'd dropped a gas bomb. The rebels all began dropping like flies, and even William Runner became woozy. James caught hold of him and dragged him through the crowd. "Shoot, what we gonna do now?" Falco muttered, peering through the small porthole in the metal doors. The last room, before he escaped the base was full of Andross' followers. They were all armed, and outnumbered Falco and Katt on a large scale. No-one had spotted them yet, since they were behind the door. Katt turned to him and smiled sweetly. "What's the matter flyboy? Can't handle a few of these bozos by yourself?" she mocked. "I'd like to see you try!" Falco retorted. Katt just smiled, and stepped aside. "I don't want to get even more hurt. I'll just wait here," she said. Falco nodded. It was true that Katt was in no fit state to help him out. It looked like he was by himself. "Fine," he replied, pulling his laser out. He put his revolver in the other hand, and checked that it was fully loaded. "Oh, my heart's turning somersaults! You are such a hero, Falco!" Katt exclaimed dramatically, putting one hand to her chest. Accidentally, she moved the muscle where she'd been shot, and flinched. "Owww," she groaned. "You're most definitely staying here," Falco said. He dashed forward, and did a flying kick. He went sailing through the swing doors, right into the fray of rebels. His metal boots hit the floor firmly and he stood up straight, then smiled to himself. The rebels were too stunned to do anything for a moment, obviously impressed by his entry. "Alright guys, the party's over. Give it up for Falco Lombardi!" he cried, beginning to fire at them. The troops quickly regained their wits, and began to fire back. Falco dropped down to the floor, taking pot-shots at their feet as he did so. Somebody kicked his hand, and he dropped his revolver, but luckily he still had his other weapon. Jumping up again, he used his laser in a sweeping motion, downing several rebels in one go. The remaining guards attempted to shoot him from behind, but Falco quickly leapt out of the way, and turned his fire onto them. "Ha, too slow!" he jeered. "Ah, the traitor shows himself," came a familiar sneer. Falco turned to see Eldon stood before him, holding a pistol in one hand, and a HUGE bazooka in the other. Falco had never seen such a big hand weapon. He backed away, warily. "Scared, traitor?" the cat sneered again, advancing towards him. "Forget it. I'm scared of nothing, pal," Falco replied, raising up his laser. Eldon shot it out of his hand. Falco gulped. "How did you know?" he asked quickly, hoping to stall the cat for a little longer. "Well, for one thing, you're running around in your old uniform, shooting MY men. And for another, I heard the message relayed to us from Wolf O' Donnel, just before our communications were cut. Not all of it, but enough to know you must have turned on us! Obviously, there's some other traitor around as well!" Eldon said lazily. He held the bazooka up menacingly. "Time to let it spill, Lombardi. Who's the other traitor?" "I don't know what you're talking about," Falco replied, taking another step back. "Oh well, such a waste, but I guess I might as well shoot you now. Andross would thank me," Eldon said. He lifted the heavy machine gun towards Falco's head. There was a sudden sound of shooting, and Falco ducked. Eldon went careering onto the floor, his bazooka landed near Falco. "What?" Falco said in surprise. He'd thought that Eldon had been shooting at him! Unable to believe his luck, he grabbed the machine gun. He shot Eldon in the head, before the cat had a chance to recover, but perhaps he was already dead anyway. Falco looked up, to see how had saved him. Katt was stood in the doorway, one hand on her hip, the other was holding up a smoking gun. She had a smug smile on her face. "You owe me one, Falco," she said in a syrupy tone. "No, we're quits. I saved you, now you saved me," Falco retorted. "Oh, I guess you're right," she sighed. Suddenly, an alarm sounded. "60 seconds until base detonation," an electronic voice stated. "What?" Falco said in horror. "Oh no, it's going to blow up!" Katt cried. He grabbed her arm. "Come on, this way!" he said, running towards a corridor which he thought was the way out. He could vaguely remember it was the exit down a long passageway. "Falco, I can't run fast enough, I feel too faint!" Katt panted. "30 seconds, until detonation," the electronic base stated. Falco scooped Katt up into his arms, and ran. As he ran through the main doors, the was a huge explosion. Glass shattered and concrete went flying in front of him and Katt. Smoke was all around, and fire was beginning to lick at the base. As a shower of glass and rock rained down over them, Falco wasn't sure which way to go. "Quick, to the gates!" Katt said. He deposited her back down onto the ground, and together they wound through the debris. A series of explosions went off behind them; obviously some sort of weaponry had set on fire. "I sure hope our ships are still there," Falco said. "Falco, wait!" called a voice. He turned, to see Sandy Singleton, James McCloud and William Runner, coming out of a blackened side entrance. "Thank goodness you're all okay," Falco said in relief. "We can't count our blessings just yet. We still have to get rid of that bomb," James said, jogging to catch up with everyone else. Sandy turned back to look at the burning base. "I hope Fox got out okay," she said. They ran out through the gates towards the ships. "Look!" Katt said, pointing upwards. As one final explosion occurred, a lone Arwing was seen flying up into the sky. "That's our leader!" Falco exclaimed proudly. They stood next to the ships. Two Arwings, Katt's Invader, and the Wolfen III. "Katt, are you fit to fly?" Falco questioned. "Sure thing, but I think I'll need a little attention... from you, once we get back to the Great Fox," she remarked, smiling at him. "Of course," Falco replied sarcastically. "I'll take my Arwing, Sandy you take yours. James, there's enough space for William in that Wolfen III. Think you can drive it?" he questioned. James nodded. "Yes. Let's just hope the worst of the battle up there is already over," he said. Falco nodded. "If it isn't, you and Katt go back to the Great Fox, me and Sandy will help out," he said. They all climbed into their respective vehicles, and flew upwards into Venom's atmosphere.
Chapter 10 "Come on guys, let's go!" Falco called through his mic, as he approached the rest of the group who were finishing up in the battle zone. Falco noted some green coloured ships; Cornerian military, he guessed. "Yeah, back to the Great Fox everyone!" Fox agreed. "All aircraft report!" he added. "Bill here, great job guys!" Bill said. "Fara here, thank goodness you're okay!" Fara exclaimed. "Peppy, let's take it easy now," Peppy said happily. "Slippy here, I'm okay," Slippy said. "Sandy here, everything's fine," Sandy said. "Katt, I'm just about holding together," Katt giggled. "Falco, I'm fine," Falco said. "James and Runner here, it's all good," James said. "What? James?!" Peppy said in surprise. "Dad?! I didn't know you where at the base!" Fox exclaimed. "Peppy old friend, it's a long story. I'll tell you once we board the Great Fox. And Fox, my son, I will explain all to you at the same time," James said. "Alright, well, we're all done here," Fox noted, looking around the skies. They all flew upwards to dock inside the Great Fox. Everyone climbed out of their ships thankfully. Fara rushed over to Fox and gave him a big hug. "I thought for a while there that you might not make it," she said. "Andross will never get the better of me!" Fox replied firmly. "Ohhh... Falco. I feel terrible!" Katt exclaimed. "Oh jeez Katt, it was your own fault," Falco replied in a bored tone. Fox and a few others looked over at Katt to see what was the matter. They saw the blood on her uniform, and the bandage that Falco had made. "Katt, what happened?" Fara questioned. "Well..." Katt began. "She came down to the base when she wasn't supposed to, and one of Andross' henchmen tried to shoot her," Falco calmly explained. "I only wanted to help you, Falco," Katt replied, pouting. "You should do as you're told instead of jetting off after your boyfriend all of the time," Sandy remarked. Katt just smiled, but Falco looked horrified by Sandy's comment. "Sandy, I already..." he began. "Katt, if you're injured, you ought to get medical aid at once!" Fox interrupted. "Oh yes, of course," Katt said, nodding. "What's up? I can probably help you," Runner said. "I got shot. Here," Katt said, pointing to the spot near to her left shoulder. "Take her to the examining room. There's a big first aid kit there," Peppy advised. "Can someone show us the way?" Runner asked. "Falco will! Come on Falco, I need a little assistance to get there," Katt said imploringly. "Jeez, can't someone else help you for once?" he asked, looking slightly exasperated. "Oh, but Falco..." Katt started. "Oh fine. Come on, this way," Falco said huffily, stomping off down a corridor. "Aren't you going to help me? I feel a little faint," Katt said in a soft tone. Falco turned around and stomped back over to her. "If you'll shut up, I'll carry you there," he said. Katt smiled. "Oh, that's even better!" she exclaimed. Falco didn't reply. "Come on everyone, we've still got that bomb to be rid of," James said. "Bomb?" Fox questioned. "At Bolse. Let's leave those two alone, they obviously need to see to a few things themselves," Sandy said, suddenly smiling slyly over at Falco. "Obviously," Fara giggled. "Don't count on it. I'll be straight back with you guys in a few minutes," Falco retorted. "Okay ROB-64, let's head for Bolse," Fox ordered. "Great Fox, ready to go. Affirmative, Captain," the ship's computer responded. Falco helped Katt up onto the examining bed. "Are you okay?" he suddenly asked. A bullet wound could often be very painful. He'd received a few himself, especially when he'd first started out as a pilot. She nodded, her usually cheerful expression looking a little nervous. "It won't hurt, will it?" she almost whispered. "What, removing the bullet?" Falco asked. Katt nodded. "Well, you can't feel much under anaesthetic. Runner will extract it out, just don't look. It's sometimes not very pleasant. Close your eyes, and just relax. He shouldn't take too long. Oh yes, and you'll have to have stitches probably. It'll hurt afterwards, so I guess you'll just have to rest and be careful," Falco advised. "Okay," Katt said, lying down. He felt a little sorry for her, and felt a little bad for being horrible to her back at the base, when she'd probably been in a lot of pain. "Thank you," she suddenly said. "What for?" Falco questioned. "For helping me back at the base," she replied. "You helped me out too," Falco replied. He shuddered, suddenly remembering Eldon and the bazooka. Katt smiled, and then closed her eyes. Falco stood there for a moment, thinking to himself. He put his hand over Katt's. "Don't worry," he told her. She looked up at him in surprise. "Oh, coming round to the idea?" she said silkily, noting his hand over hers. "I was just offering my support," he replied quickly, not wanting to imply anything else. Katt sighed. "Oh well..." Oh, what the heck? Falco thought. She'd never stop bugging him otherwise. He leaned down to give her a small kiss. At that moment, Runner walked in, wearing a white coat, and pushing a metal trolley full of various instruments. Falco quickly stepped back. "I'll be going now," he said, nodding at Runner. The coyote nodded his head. "Yes. It shouldn't take too long, come back and see her after," he said. "I'll think about it," Falco said, turning and walking back outside. "Captain, we are approaching Bolse," informed ROB-64. Fox looked up from what he was doing and nodded to the ship's computer. He nodded to Slippy, then turned to Sandy. "Let's get out there and give it to em'!" exclaimed Fox. "Right away Fox," said Slippy obligingly. He picked up a small gadget that he and Runner had knocked up only minutes before. Once they got out there to the ship holding the bomb, Fox and Sandy were going to board the vehicle and plant the gadget on the main engine. Then they'd escape, and Slippy would activate it. That's if everything went to plan. "Catch!" called Slippy across the hangar, tossing the gadget to Fox. Fox whipped around and deftly caught it. "Hey careful Slip!" called Fox grinning. He looked at the gadget. The gadget consisted of a box, with three switches on it. From one end emerged a blue wire, and the other end came out a red wire. He pocketed the gadget and climbed into his Arwing. Sandy boarded hers, and Slippy his. Fox put on his headset and tuned it into ROB-64. "Rob, close all door from Hangar," instructed Fox. The robot did so. "Open main hangar exit!" cried Slippy before Fox could get a word in. The hangar door began to open. Fox turned to Sandy and winked at her. For the first time in this mission, he felt in control. Fox took out two drone ships, and dodged a third. "We're approaching the main ship!" yelled Slippy. Fox winced as the frog's voice vibrated in his ear. "Not so loud Slip, my ears are working perfectly fine," scolded Fox. "Gee, I'm sorry Fox," apologised Slippy. Fox did a quick spin, and slowed down his Arwing as he approached the ship. This ship was carrying the most powerful weapon ever created. Fox wiped at his brow, nervous at being so close to such a powerful weapon. "Okay, remember what to do?" asked Fox, turning to look at Sandy's ship. The dog nodded in agreement. Fox, tilted to one side and got as close as he could to the ship's side. Then, he pressed a button that activated two sucker like objects that clamped to the ship. Fox, reached down and took hold of his oxygen gear and put it on. Checking that all was safe, Fox put the Arwing on auto-pilot and crawled from out of his seat to the floor. He prepared opened the hatch in the floor and took out a laser knife. He made sure that he had a tight hold on the support pole and opened the hatch. A strong rush of air rushed through the hatch, but he clung on. He activated the knife and began to cut through one of the oxygen vents that lay on the side of the ship. The piece of vent clattered away and fell into space, Sandy was doing the same. In a matter of minutes the two were back together in the air ducts of the ship. "Won't oxygen run from the ship?" shouted Sandy over the rush of air. Fox took two pieces of plate metal from his pack and placed it in of one hole. He quickly fixed it into place using a laser welder. He did the same with Sandy's hole. "It'll hold for now, until we need to make out escape," explained Fox. "The way is clear!" hissed Sandy, looking down through the air vent. Fox looked at the map his father had given him. "Then we're outside the main control room, it'll be packed!" whispered Fox. "You stay here Fox, I'll deal with it," said Sandy. "What!?" asked Fox. "Look Fox, you're a pilot, a good one. I'm an experienced LSSF agent, I've handled situations like this before," stated Sandy. Before Fox could protest, Sandy slithered into the passage, armed herself and entered the control room. "Intruder!" yelled someone from across the room. At least 20 crewmen turned around, training lasers onto Sandy. Sandy drew a gun and everyone began shooting. She didn't fall down, in fact all of the bullets just passed through her! The crewmen dropped their guns, puzzled. Then, another Sandy stepped out from the shadows, the first one had been a pre-recorded hologram. The crew began scrabbling for their guns, and Sandy through a gas grenade into the middle of the room. She quickly put on a gas mask, and watched the rest of the crew succumb to the deadly fumes. Placing one hand over her ear, Sandy whispered to Fox. "All's safe, equip gas mask!" she instructed. Seconds later, Fox appeared. He looked around then rushed towards the main panel that lead to the engine in the floor. He quickly unscrewed the screws on the panel and climbed down. "Okay Slip, I'm in the engine room, what do I do?" asked Fox, placing one hand over his ear so that he could hear Slippy speaking. "Okay Fox, tell me what you see?" said Slippy. "I see... an engine," said Fox sarcastically. Slippy sighed. "Okay, you need to look for a small alcove in the engine, that contains six different screws, all of different colours," instructed Slippy. Fox turned on his torch for better viewing. He ran his hand along the engine, which was just a huge piece of oily machinery. He finally came across a small alcove in the engine, and there were, six screws! "Okay, okay Slip, I see it!" said Fox. "Great, you need to take out the blue, and the yellow screw Fox. No other!" instructed Slippy. "Okay, I got ya Slip," cried Fox, quickly unscrewing the blue and the yellow. "Once you've done that, slip the blue wire into the yellow hole, and the red wire into the blue hole," said Slippy. Fox quickly did as he was told. "Now, put the screws back in," said Slippy. Fox quickly obliged. "Right, once you've done that, switch switches one and two," said Slippy. Fox pushed the two switches down. The box beeped, and a little red light flashed. "Okay, the beep tells you everything's fine. Now get out of there!" said Slippy. Fox turned and ran to the panel opening, and climbed out. "Everything go to plan?" asked Sandy casually. Suddenly a computer voice filled their ears. "Self destruct sequence set! Five minutes and counting to escape." Fox turned to Sandy, wild eyed. Sandy returned the look. Fox pulled out his gun and grasped Sandy's hand. "Let's go!" he yelled over the din of the alarm. They opened the doors, only to be met by a huge crowd of guards and crew. Fox and Sandy rolled forward, taking out a few guards with their guns. Sandy through another gas bomb, but this time some of them were prepared. "How did they know?" asked Fox in surprise. Sandy shrugged her shoulders then spotted a huge security camera. She shot it out. Fox took out the few remaining men, then gave Sandy a leg up to the air-duct. She pulled him up. They quickly crawled through the winding tunnels that Sandy had marked with a fluorescent marker on the way there. They soon arrived at the hastily welded on panels. Fox quickly took out the panels with his gun and they both climbed back into their own Arwings. "Yay! You did it!" cheered Slippy as he saw the two back in their seats. "Not quite Slip, activate the gadget now!" demanded Fox. Slippy quickly activated the gadget. The ship turned, and began to move away, towards Venom. "Well, if Andross ain't already dead, he will be know!" jeered Slippy. "If it gets there on time," said Fox. "What!?" asked Slippy. "They set off a self destruct device. There'll only be about two minutes left!" explained Sandy. "Well, let's put some distance between us!" said Slippy. He stamped on the nitro-booster and sped off. "Let's go," sighed Fox, following Slippy. Sandy did the same. As the three Arwings reached the Great Fox, not to far off, a loud explosion boomed through their ears. Fox turned to see that the ship had exploded not to far off the surface of Venom. This was followed by another huge explosion, which made Fox and the rest lose their balance momentarily. The three quickly docked, and rushed to watch the explosion. As the gadget had been programmed, it had made Venom a target, and let off the bomb. Venom now looked like a half eaten apple. "Wow, exclaimed Slippy in amazement. Fox shook his head in disbelief. "It seems that Andross exaggerated a little. He said that it'd destroy the whole of Corneria, yet it only took half of Venom," said Sandy. "The bomb was probably knocked off course by the first explosion. If aimed at the centre, it could take out any planet easy," explained Slippy. Sandy nodded and smiled. "Well, it seems that it's over. For now," said Sandy, before leaving.
Chapter 11 Katt sat up, feeling a little woozy. She looked down at herself. Her uniform was clean. She supposed Runner must have washed the blood off whilst she'd been lying asleep. A sharp pain shot across her left side, as she reached up to touch it. She could feel some sort of padding, and she guessed that there must be stitches underneath. She got up off the bed, and wandered outside. This was the first time she'd been aboard the Great Fox, and she wasn't sure were the main console room was. She walked down the corridor, and noticed many doors set in the sides of it. She peered through them with interest. They looked like bedrooms. She pushed on door open, and glanced around. A bunk in one corner, desk, wardrobe. A small door leading to a bathroom perhaps? She wasn't sure whose room it was, and walked back out. One of these was probably Falco's room, but she didn't want to snoop, or get caught doing it, so she continued down the corridor. As she arrived at the intersection, she saw Fox walking down towards the passage she was standing in. "Hey, Fox!" she called, quickly walking up to him. "Did you get rid of the bomb?" she questioned. He nodded. "Feeling better?" he asked. "Yes. It hurts, but I'm just glad that the bullet's not there anymore," she replied. "Yeah, they're nasty," he agreed. He stopped outside a door, and opened it. "Come in if you want," he offered to Katt. This was Fox's room. Full of all kinds of things, personal touches. A photo of Fox and Fara say on his desk, next to a big computer. Boxes of games, and lots of disks were scattered about. Lots of books were piled onto a small shelf, and more photos stuck to the walls, mostly of foxes. Katt saw one of Fox and Falco stood together, medals pinned to their outfits. Some of a younger looking Fox, with Bill Grey. Fox booted up the computer. "Just filling in the log," he explained. Katt nodded. "I'm glad it's all over," she admitted. "Same here. But some good things have come out of it. Andross is finished, and my dad's back. And you're okay," Fox grinned. "I was lucky. If it hadn't been for Falco, I would have been dead. He saved me from death," Katt said. "Oh, Falco playing the old hero, eh?" Fox laughed. "He's a great one if he was. I think he finally realised how much he cared about me," Katt said dreamily. Fox looked up. "He told you that?" he said, slightly surprised. Katt leaned down. "It wasn't what he said, it was what he did just before Runner came in to operate on me," she whispered. "What he did?" Fox questioned. He grinned. What had his friend been up to? At that moment, the door opened, and Fara stepped in. Katt and Fox looked up, surprised. A look of suspicion was on Fara's face, but only for an instant. "Sandy informed me you were back," she said. "He held my hand. He was going to kiss me!" Katt quickly whispered to Fox. He nodded, grinning a little. Falco was sure going to get the third degree about this from him! "What were you talking about?" Fara asked, looking a little suspicious towards Katt again. "Oh, nothing much," Katt declared sweetly, smiling over at Fara. She turned to Fox. "Ask him if he meant it, don't tell anyone else," she whispered again. "No problem," he replied. Katt smiled over at Fara, who was looking slightly annoyed. "Well, catch you later... Foxy," Katt said to Fox. "See ya, Katt," he replied. She walked out. Fara suddenly turned towards the door. "Excuse me Fox, there's someone I suddenly remembered that I want to have a word with," she said coldly. She walked out, and Fox watched after her, puzzled. "Alright Monroe. Hold it right there!" Fara called after Katt. Katt turned around. She smiled prettily. "Yes Fara?" she questioned in a sweet tone. Fara walked right up to her, and folded her arms. "Do you ever give up?" she demanded. "Give up? Of course not," Katt answered. "If you didn't notice, Fox and I happen to be engaged. Engaged, ever heard of it Katt?" Fara said sarcastically. "Of course I have. What's the matter?" Katt asked, looking innocent. "Go and practise your flirting skills on Falco, I thought you liked him. Just stop hitting on Fox, okay?" Fara replied angrily. "Me? Hit on Fox? I would never dream of it," Katt replied incredulously. "So what was all that whispering about?" Fara questioned. "Oh, that's mine and Fox's... secret," Katt replied. "Secret?" Fara asked. "Oh Fara, have you never heard of the word?" Katt replied, mimicking Fara's earlier remark about engagement. "Of course I have!" Fara snapped. "Well, so sorry for stepping on your territory, Fara! But I can't help it if Fox and I happen to be good friends. After all, we have been working closely together for the last few days. Ever since Fox called at my place because..." Katt started. "Fox came to your place?!" Fara said, looking even more angry. "I never said that, I said he called," Katt explained. Fara didn't seem to hear though. "Katt, you are so low! Can't you just keep away from Fox?" she shouted. "Oh, I just can't help myself," Katt joked. "You're such a..." Fara began. Sandy walked up over to them. "What's up?" she asked. "She's been hitting on Fox!" Fara accused, pointing over at Katt. Katt raised her eyebrows. "I have not. Fara dear, you just get too worked up about little things," she remarked silkily. "You were hitting on him when we were in Venom airspace! I heard you!" Fara said. "Excuse me?" Katt said. "Oh yes, I heard you Katt! Saying you'd work together with him anytime, calling him 'Foxy'..." Fara listed. Katt folded her arms and looked up at the ceiling and sighed. "I'll vouch for that Fara. She was doing it all the way to Venom too," Sandy suddenly said. Katt stared over at Sandy in surprise. She didn't want the two of them ganging up on her. She remembered when Fox had told her about the mission with Sandy. She quickly turned to Sandy. "Oh, you're one to talk! I know all about the little secret mission you and Fox went on together," she said. "What? Who told you?" Sandy said in surprise. "That doesn't matter," Katt answered. "What?" Fara exclaimed. She glared over at Sandy. "What's she talking about?" "Fara, we're such good friends! How could you even think that I'd flirt with Fox? He is your fiancé, after all," Sandy replied. "It was strictly business," she added. "Then why won't you tell me what you're talking about?" Fara questioned. "Because it was a top secret mission. Confidential," Sandy replied. "Then how come she knows?" Fara asked, motioning over at Katt. "That's what I want to know," Sandy said, turning to glare over at Katt. The cat just looked smug. "I know because Fox told me. He said it was... very enjoyable working with you, Sandy," she said. "Katt Monroe, not only are you stupid, you're a lying..." Sandy began. Fox suddenly walked out of his room, looking puzzled. "What's going on? What's all the shouting about?" he asked. "Fox, how dare you tell top secret things to Katt Monroe and not to me!" Fara yelled. "Yes, he started it," Katt remarked. "Fox McCloud, that mission was strictly confidential!" Sandy cried. "What? What's the matter?" Fox asked, confused. "While I've been away, I hear you've been trying it on with these two!" Fara accused. "What?" Fox cried. He couldn't really say anything else. "Fara!" Sandy said, looking upset. "This is nothing to do with me," Katt remarked, starting to walk off. "Hold it right there. You started this!" Sandy accused, grabbing hold of Katt by her jacket. "Hey, let go!" Katt answered, wrenching her arm away. "I didn't start any of this. It's just Fara jumping to conclusions," she added, looking completely cool and at ease. "Yes, Fara, how could you think such a thing?" Fox said, looking hurt. "She said it!" Fara said, pointing to Katt. "What? Please Fara! Just because Fox and I have a little secret, there's no need to say we're... well, you know," Katt replied, smiling again. "Oh Katt, why don't you just get lost and make your own way home! You're not a part of this team anyhow!" Fara cried angrily. "Hey, hey, now stop this at once! Katt is staying here, she's been a great help to us," Fox said quickly. "Oh, I'm sure she has," Fara remarked sarcastically. "She just managed to get shot," Sandy added, looking disdainful. "Yes, and you just left me!" Katt retorted back, her cool demeanour slipping away for a moment. "Disabling Andross' ray was more important. Besides, you had Falco to play the big hero," Sandy answered calmly. "Alright, enough of this!" Fox said firmly. "I don't know how this started, but I don't want to hear another word. Fara, we need to talk," he added, taking her by the hand. "Not now," she snapped. She stomped off down the corridor. Sandy quickly ran after her, leaving Katt and Fox standing alone together. "What did I do?" he wailed. Katt shrugged. "I think she got upset about well... I guess it's all my fault," she said, looking down at the floor. Fox took her by the shoulders and looked her squarely in the eyes. "What are you talking about?" he asked. "Uhh... well, she seemed upset because you and I had that little secret... you know, about Falco and I, and I wouldn't tell her, and she just lost it with me, then Sandy came along and accused me of always flirting with you!" Katt said. "Don't worry about it. It's just Fara, she must be feeling a little insecure. I'll get it sorted out," Fox replied. "Oh, Fox you're so great! It's just too bad you already got taken!" Katt exclaimed, laughing. She reached up, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Good luck, Foxy," she murmured, sashaying away down the corridor. Fox watched after Katt shaking his head. Then he turned to go after Fara and Sandy. He quickly jogged won the corridor, until he heard voices coming from Fara's room. It sounded like Fara, and she was crying. "It just seems to be coming more and more obvious Sandy," wept Fara. Fox paused at the door. "I mean take this for instance; he said as soon as he got back from that mission we'd get married! Did it ever happen?" wept on Fara. "No, but..." started Sandy. "And how come he wasn't fit enough to fly with us, yet less than 24 hours later he'd decided to fly to Venom with Katt and you? I really don't believe that you'd betray me but Katt..." interrupted Fara. "Well, do you really believe that Fox would betray you?" asked Sandy. "I don't know Sandy. He's always been such a perfect gentlemen to everyone, but he has been so reluctant to actually marry me. We've been engaged for something like seven years! And I don't know about you but I think that's a pretty long damn time to wait!" replied Fara. "Well, I see your point," agreed Sandy. Fox knocked on the door. "Who is it?" called Sandy. "It's Fox, can I come in?" asked Fox politely. A minute later the door slid open. Fox stood face to face with Sandy. She turned around to look at Fara then looked back to Fox. "I'll leave you two to it," she said before passing Fox. Fox stepped in and closed the door. Fara turned to look at him, her eyes swollen with crying. Fox walked over to her. "Fara, I'm really sorry," started Fox. Fara stood up. "I'm really sorry that you feel like that," continued Fox. Fara said nothing. "But I swear to you Fara, that you are the only one for me. No-one else, just you," said Fox. Fara smiled a little, then hugged Fox. "I'm sorry for ever doubting you Fox," cried Fara. Fox stepped away, then leaned forward to kiss her. There was a knock at the door, but Fox ignored it. In between kisses, Fara paused to whisper, "Shouldn't we answer that?" Fox smiled and shook his head. "They can wait," he grinned, kissing Fara again. They knocked again. Fox through up his hands in defeat, he turned towards the door. Fara grabbed his arm, and flung him to the bed. "If anyone's answering that door, it'll be me," said Fara quietly, grinning at Fox. She jumped on top of him and smiled. "And I say they can wait," she said. She began to kiss Fox again. A louder knock came at the door, followed by the booming voice of James McCloud. "I know you're in there Fox! Pepper wants to speak with you at once. This was followed by retreating footsteps. Fara looked at Fox, smiling. "He can wait," pronounced Fox. He grinned then began to kiss Fara again. "That was an hour ago!" yelled Pepper over the screen. Fox tried to stop himself from grinning. "Yes sir, I was busy," replied Fox. Pepper raised an eyebrow. "Doing what exactly?" Fox's face kept solemnly straight. "I was taking care of a few things," said Fox. "I give up Fox, this behaviour is more what I would expect from Falco!" said Pepper, sounding displeased. It was Fox's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Well sir, I thought it could wait. After all, we've dealt with Andross and his cronies, what else could you want?" "Well, I want you to have a report ready by the time you get back," said Pepper. "Well sir, do you find it really necessary to kick up such a fuss? Couldn't you have just told someone to give me the message?" asked Fox. Pepper growled and cut off the transmission. James came up behind Fox and placed one hand on his son's shoulder. "Fox, I really can't think what possessed you to actually join the Cornerian air force. You should've followed my example. I never had to deal with reports unless I wanted to," said James. "Yeah well, Pepper promised to help pay off the debts you left me with," said Fox grinning. James laughed. "Well, I suppose you have a point," said James thoughtfully. "Besides, Pepper ain't all that bad. Just a little demanding," said Fox, sticking up for his boss. "Well, I had always admired Pepper, but," sighed James. "Hey dad, it's great to be together again!" interrupted Fox, hugging his dad. "When do I get properly introduced to your wife-to-be?" asked James. "How about now?" came Fara's voice from behind them. The two McClouds turned and laid their eyes on the pretty Fox. "Father, this is Fara Phoenix. Fara this is my father James McCloud," introduced Fox. "It's wonderful to finally meet you!" Fara said, giving James a small hug. Suddenly, Falco walked over to the small group. He didn't look at all happy. "Can you believe it Fox? I just got a real telling off from Pepper over the video link, for 'breaching CDB protocol'! He wants a big meeting as soon as we arrive back," he said to Fox. "What? What's all that about?" Fox said, in disbelief. "What I want to know is, how could I have breached the protocol, if I'd quit?!" Falco answered. "Yeah, but you didn't really quit," Fox replied. "I guess not, but I was previously as good as fired. Pepper's not happy about me infiltrating Andross' base without telling anyone, and for keeping back that DAT. But none of that is breaking any rules!" Falco said. "Mr Lombardi, you did keep back an important piece of evidence," James remarked. "Yeah, but I got fired before I could hand it over!" Falco retorted hotly. He suddenly realised who he was talking to. "Sorry," he said apologetically to James. The fox nodded, and smiled. "Don't worry Falco, all the team will support you. I'm sure Pepper won't make too much of a commotion about it," Fox said hopefully. "He wants a full scale report on my version of events. And a meeting with CDB officials," Falco explained. "Peppy will be there, he'll go easy on you. And you will, right Dad?" Fox questioned his father. "You think I'll be joining to CDB committee?" James said, a hint of a smile on his face. "Well, you are the greatest pilot ever. I think Pepper will be begging for you to join up!" Fara exclaimed, grinning. "Hmmm... I'll think about it," he promised. "Join up. I need all the help I can get!" Falco said. Fox grinned. "Well, dad, Fara, why don't you two get better acquainted. There's a little something... that I need to discuss with Falco here," he said slyly. Fara nodded, and she and James walked off to go and get a drink. "What's up?" Falco questioned. Fox looked really amused. "Well... I just heard something about you," Fox began. "What? What did you hear?" Falco asked, suddenly looking nervous. "I'll tell you in a moment. I just want to ask you something first," Fox replied. Falco folded his arms, still nervous. "Go on then. Ask me," he said in a cool tone. Fox couldn't keep himself from grinning. "Katt Monroe. Do you think she's a real hot babe?" he blurted out. He wasn't sure if it was his imagination, but a look of guilt passed over Falco's face. "Uh... why are you asking me that? You know I totally hate her. She's not hot, no not my type, no way," he said quickly. "Oh, I think she's kinda cute. If not a little overly flirty," Fox said. "What about Fara?" Falco asked, looking surprised. "Hey, just because I'm engaged, doesn't mean I can't compliment other girls," Fox said, still grinning. "Don't encourage her," Falco replied. "No actually, she's not my type. But I reckon she's right up your street," Fox continued. Falco looked horrified by this. "Hey, no, you're getting me all wrong. I hate her, Fox. She's, she's..." he started. "Hot?" Fox stated helpfully. He looked like he was having fun, Falco thought. "Crazy," Falco quickly put in. "Oh, yes, of course. I already know how crazy she is about you," Fox said. "Well, she doesn't stand a chance," Falco put in firmly. "I've already heard about your wonderfully gallant move, back at the base, saving her from Andross' henchman," Fox said. "Oh jeez Fox, what else could I do? I couldn't let her get killed! Despite what you might think, I do have a heart, you know," Falco said, rolling his eyes. "I know. Especially when it comes to Katt," Fox said, grinning again. "I'd have done the same for anyone else," Falco replied coolly. "But especially for Katt," Fox added on mischievously. "I just helped her out, that's all. It doesn't mean that I have a thing for her!" Falco retorted. Fox raised his eyebrows. "Hmmm... really, Falco?" "Yes, really," his friend replied, looking a little flustered. "Well, it's funny, but Katt was just telling me about the little incident that happened in the examining room," Fox said, laughing a little. "Oh yeah?" Falco said. Fox nodded. "You know. The hand holding. The 'near' kiss," he listed, looking amused. "What?! She's making it all up! I never did any of that!" Falco protested. Fox decided that his friend looked decided guilty. "Are you sure?" he teased. At this point, Bill and Slippy wandered over. "So, what's going on guys?" Bill grinned. "Falco is admitting his undying love to Katt," Fox said, laughing. "Don't believe a word of it!" Falco said pointedly. "Ooh, we always knew it!" Slippy said rather loudly. Bill laughed. "You're a strange, strange bird, Falco," he said. "I do not fancy her!" Falco objected, still looking flustered. "Actually, I think they'd make a darling couple. Right guys?" Fox said, turning to Slippy and Bill. "Oh sure," Slippy affirmed. "Well... she's not my type, but yeah, I think she'd suit you, Falco," Bill laughed. "Oh great," Falco groaned. "Go on, admit it. You think she's a goddess, don't ya?" Fox urged. "I simply just don't!" Falco answered. "Speaking of miss Monroe, here she comes," Bill warned, spotting the cat walking over to them. Katt strolled over towards the guys. She'd spotted Fox talking to Falco, and hoped that he'd asked Falco about whether he'd meant to kiss her or not. She put her most charming smile on her face, and flipped her hair. They all looked over at her as she approached. "Oh, Fox," she called, still smiling. "Yeah?" Fox said, glancing over at Falco. "I need to ask you something," Katt said. He walked over, and grinned at her. "About Falco?" he asked. "Did you ask him?" Katt questioned. "Kind of. He says you're making it up, but I think he's lying. I can just tell, by the way he keeps denying stuff," Fox replied. Katt smiled. "Denying stuff?" she asked, curious. "Oh, just about you," Fox grinned, his eyes twinkling. "Is that so?" Katt said, looking satisfied. "Oh, he's been looking very guilty. I think he likes you," Fox added, still laughing. Katt laughed too. "This is just my best day ever! Even if I did get shot," she said, suddenly looking a little rueful. Fara and Sandy walked over to Fox and Katt. "We want a word, Katt," Sandy said, giving her a meaningful look. "Oh, okay," Katt said amicably. Smiling to herself, she turned back to Fox. "Thanks Fox. You're such a darling," she purred, feeling satisfied when Fara shot her an annoyed look. "Anytime Katt," Fox replied, putting his hands in his pockets and walking off. "Oh, Katt, I thought that I had told you to stay away from Fox," said Fara silkily. Katt tossed her hair and smiled. "Did you Fara? Well I can't really recall you saying anything of the sort," the feline purred. "We're warning you, Katt," Sandy growled. "Look, I don't appreciate you two ganging up on my like this! I haven't even done anything," Katt retorted. "You won't leave Fox alone, I don't like you talking to him," Fara said. "Well, it's not my fault that I needed to talk to him," Katt said simply, raising her eyebrows. "Yes well, if you did need to talk to him, couldn't you at least do it normally, instead of hitting on him at the same time?" Sandy questioned. "You're imagining it. I would never hit on Fox, I assure you," Katt said, smiling. "You are so dumb," Sandy said, looking at her disdainfully. "Excuse me? You're calling me, dumb?!" Katt asked, looking angry. "You're a cat. What more can be said?" Sandy remarked. "Oh, and just because you're a dog, you're suddenly much smarter?" Katt answered, folding her arms. "Well, it is true that most of the canine race happen to hold top positions in the CDB," Fara said, looking smug. "Hmphh! Who cares? That doesn't mean that I'm stupid!" Katt defended. "You managed to get shot. I'd say that was pretty stupid," Sandy said. "I was unlucky! It could have been any of us!" Katt protested, her voice rising a few decibles. "I never get shot. That's how good an agent I am," Sandy boasted. "Jeez, if it wasn't for me, you wouldn't have even had those blueprints to help you out!" Katt retorted. "Oh, and that makes you smart, does it?" Sandy questioned. "I knew what I was doing, yes," Katt said. "Oh, you'll just do anything to get on our team, won't you?! Well, I'll tell you one thing, Pepper hates people who break the law! He'll never let you join Starfox, not with your track record!" Fara yelled. Several people turned to look at the three in surprise. "Did I ever say I wanted to join? I don't think so! But anyhow, is it me, or did Fox and Falco used to be just as wayward? And Pepper signed up both of them!" Katt yelled back. "That's completely different! Anyhow, why don't you go home now? Your injuries have been attended to, and your ship is fine! You're not wanted here!" Fara cried. "Only not by you two! I think you're just jealous of me!" Katt retorted. "Us, jealous of you? Don't make me laugh," Sandy exclaimed. By this time, Fox, Falco, Bill, Slippy and Runner had gathered around, looking surprised. "You girls aren't arguing again, are you?" Fox asked. "What does it look like?" Sandy snapped. "Come on Fox, tell Katt to get out of here. She's not part of the team!" Fara said. "Well, uh..." Fox began, looking unsure. "I don't see what your problem is with me!" Katt interrupted. She turned to the guys, looking hopeful. "Can't I stay?" she asked. "No, you can go!" Fara said. "Well, I..." Fox started again. "Fox!" Fara said, looking annoyed. "Uh... maybe you should go now, Katt," Fox said, in an apologetic tone. Katt looked upset by this. "Well, fine! If I'm just going to get yelled at, maybe I should leave!" she said. "I'm sure it's not really necessary..." Runner began. "If it means we're going to get some peace. I hate it when girls fight," Bill said. "Oh yes, typical! You canines are always the same towards my people!" Katt exclaimed angrily. "Well, you are trouble makers," Sandy said. "Surely all of you don't think that?" Katt asked hopefully. "Uh, I'm staying right out of this," Slippy said nervously. "Oh, just tell her where to go, Slip! The sooner she goes, the better!" Fara said. "Hey, now, this isn't fair!" Falco suddenly spoke up. Everyone looked at him in surprise. He just shrugged. "I just think it's a little one-sided, that's all," he remarked. "Yes well, I think you're out numbered. Go on Katt, I'm sure you're quite capable of flying home by yourself," Fara said pointedly. "Yes, of course I am! But..." Katt began. "Er, it's causing too many arguments. Maybe you should go, Katt," Slippy said. "Yes, like, now!" Sandy added. Katt looked down at the floor, her usually charming expression looking very upset. Runner suddenly felt very sorry for her; he'd quite taken to the pretty cat, even if they hadn't spoken much to each other in the short time they'd known each other. She'd been a very good patient, no complaining or anything, even if she'd probably been in a lot of pain. "Now, I think you're all being very unfair. What's she done, for you all to be so horrible?" he questioned. "She's a terrible flirt, and she's dumb," Fara said stubbornly. "You're ordering her off this ship, because she's not a member of the team? Well, what about me? Perhaps I should leave too. Maybe Sandy here should leave too," Runner added. "No, no, we didn't mean that!" Fara said quickly. "Well then, isn't Katt as much as a guest, too?" Runner asked. "Of course she is," Fox said. "Yes, but she's been causing trouble!" Sandy replied. "I have not!" Katt said. "From what I see, it looks like you Fara, are feeling threatened. I've heard what an exceptional pilot Katt is, and she was the one who got those blueprints. Are you jealous of her, Fara?" Runner questioned. "Of course not!" Fara said, looking offended. "So why are you telling her to leave?" Runner asked. "She's been flirting with Fox; he is Fara's fiancé, you know," Sandy said, giving Katt a cold look. "It was harmless! We were joking around!" Katt protested. "That's true. She really didn't mean anything by it, Fara," Fox suddenly defended. "You might not think that, but she has a hidden agenda!" Fara replied. "Oh sure!" Katt said sarcastically. "This is what it's all about?" Runner said, looking annoyed. "Just leave her alone. She's not harming anyone, I think you should lay off her," he added. Katt smiled over at him. "Oh thanks! I could kiss you for that!" she exclaimed. "Uhhh... right," Runner said. Falco suddenly felt himself feeling a little jealous over Runner's defence of Katt. She was smiling over at the coyote gratefully, and he was smiling back. Falco didn't feel very happy about that. "Yes, leave her alone, Fara. Stop being such a... such a... a... girl!" he said quickly. "What?" Fara said. "Oh Falco! Thanks!" Katt exclaimed, giving him one of her smiles. "And I don't care what anyone else says, Katt is staying aboard this ship," he added. "Oh but Mr Lombardi didn't you get fired?" Sandy put in slyly. "I don't see how it's anything to do with you, Miss Singleton," Falco answered. "I was only pointing it out. Surely it's the captain's decision who stays aboard anyway? I think he already told Katt to leave," Sandy said. "I think Fox agrees with me that Katt should stay. Besides, she's in no state fit to fly. She just had surgery, for crying out loud," Falco said, looking over at Fox hopefully. "Yes, that's true. Can't you girls just all apologise, and we'll forget about this stupid argument?" Fox said. "I don't want to stay where I'm not wanted," Katt said quietly. "Of course you're wanted here Katt! Please don't go just because certain... people, seem to have a problem with you," Falco said, glaring over at Fara and Sandy. "Oh well, you would stick up for her, wouldn't you Falco?" Sandy said sarcastically. "Right, come on, that's enough! Apologise, like your captain ordered," Runner said. "Well, I'm sorry," Katt said, looking over at Fara and Sandy. "Fine. Sorry Katt," Fara said flatly. "Yes, sorry," Sandy added. "Does that mean you're all going to shut up now?" Bill said hopefully. "Yes, Bill," Fara said in an exasperated tone. "Alright, alright, I was only asking," Bill replied, holding up his hands, then walking off. "Alright, the show's over now," Fara said, looking round at everyone. She walked off, Sandy close behind. "I think... I think I'll go lie down. I feel a little unwell," Katt said quietly, turning to go towards the cabins. "Wait, I'll come with you, Katt, just to make sure you're okay," Runner offered. "I'm afraid that won't be necessary, but thanks for offering. I'll go with her instead," Falco said pointedly. Katt smiled at Falco. "I might just take you up on the offer, flyboy," she said, her smile widening. "Come on, let's go," he said quickly, taking hold of her hand.
Chapter 12 "I can't believe that all those guys stuck up for her!" fumed Fara as she watched Katt and Falco walk away. "Me neither," sighed Sandy, folding her arms. "Well, Fox has a lot of apologising to do," said Fara coolly, eyeing her so called husband-to-be from across the room. "Well it's hardly his fault," said Sandy quietly. "If he hadn't been so indecisive, she'd be gone by now," replied Fara. "Look, maybe we were being a little to hard on her," suggested Sandy. Fara shook her head. "As far as I'm concerned, we weren't hard enough. Look at her, as soon as it's over she decides to run off with Falco. She makes me sick," said Fara bitterly. "I'd like to see how she reacts if someone started hitting on Falco," agreed Sandy. Fara looked at Sandy. Sandy looked back and shook her head. "No way Fara, I know I'm your friend, but there's no way I'd hit on Falco. No way," stated Sandy. Fara looked at her pleadingly. "Please Sandy, I would do it, only I'm engaged to Fox and well, you know. But you, you're perfect. Falco likes smart women, and you are. Far smarter than that stupid cat," said Fara, trying to warm Sandy to the plan. "Maybe once that happens, she'll stop doing it to us," said Fara. "Us? I recall that she was only hitting on Fox. I don't have a guy remember?" said Sandy, her arms still folded over her chest. "Think about it Sandy, it'll be revenge. She annoys you too, and besides, I happen to think that you suit Falco," said Fara. Sandy laughed and shook her head again. "You can sweet talk me all you want, I wouldn't do it for anything," stated the dog. "Anything? So if I were to offer you, let's see," mused Fara, trying to think of something. "Nothing in the whole Lylat system would change my mind," said Sandy firmly. "Sandy is an LSSF agent, now what would someone like her want more than anything?" pondered Fara to herself. She couldn't think of anything. "Oh go on Sandy, be a sport," tried Fara again. Sandy shook her head defiantly. Fara pouted, it would be such a good plan. "Fine, I'll hit on Falco myself," said Fara determinedly. "What about Fox? Won't he get jealous," asked Sandy. "Well, if Katt hitting on him is just a harmless bit of fun, then so is this," said Fara stalking off. Sandy sighed and quickly followed her friend, hoping she wasn't going to get herself in a hole to deep to jump out from. "Falco," exclaimed Fara as she burst into his room. The bird looked up surprise, Katt was lying on his bed, asleep. "Uh, yes?" asked Falco, a little puzzled. He wasn't used to surprise visits from Fara. Fara perched on the end of Falco's desk and smiled at him seductively. "So what are you doing?" asked Fara innocently, leaning over Falco's shoulder to look at his work. "Well, I'm kinda busy right now," started Falco. "What!? Too busy for your best friends fiancée? Surely not," said Fara loudly, hoping to awake Katt. "Well it's just that I need to finish this report by the time we get back to Corneria, or I could find myself unemployed," said Falco, a little flustered at Fara's attention. "Do you want some help Falcy?" asked Fara giggling. She heard a yawn coming from Falco's bed. "Uh, not really," stuttered Falco. "But I practically know Pepper inside out. I know what he'll be wanting to read," stated Fara. "Maybe, but you weren't with me all the time, so I don't really see how you could help," said Falco quietly. Fara turned round to see an astonished looking Katt. "Oh hi Katt. Falco wanted a little help... on his report," Fara informed Katt. Katt stood up and walked over towards Falco. "Well, I'm sure he'd prefer my help much more," purred Katt, casually touching Falco on the shoulder. Another knock came at the door. Falco pushed a button on his desk which opened it. Sandy stood there, looking a little lost. Falco stood up and walked over to Sandy. "Ah, Sandy, just the person I needed to see," said Falco, using Sandy as an excuse to get away from these two crazy woman. "Oh, you do?" asked Sandy, looking a little surprised. "Actually, I was just looking for," started Sandy. Falco pushed her out into the corridor. The door slid closed behind him. "Thank goodness you came," sighed Falco in relief. "What?" asked Sandy. "Well, it's bad enough having Katt drooling over me all of the time but Fara!? She's Fox's future wife for goodness sake!" poured out Falco. Suddenly Sandy heard the door slide open. She saw Katt's figure and quickly grabbed Falco around the neck and drew him into a passionate kiss. "Ah, don't they make a perfect couple?" she heard Fara sigh in the background. The next moment Katt tore the two apart. "Hey! What gives?" asked Sandy, smiling with glee. Katt did not look amused. She poked the astonished Falco in the chest. "You buddy, can not have it both ways!" she spat. Falco opened his mouth to protest, but Katt had already stormed off. Falco turned to watch Katt, then turned back to Sandy, still in shock. Sandy shrugged. "You're just too irresistible Falco," said Sandy, smiling at him. Fara stepped forward then grabbed her hand. "I believe someone is calling for us Sandy," said Fara sweetly before dragging Sandy off down the corridor. Falco stepped back into his room, his jaw hanging like a dead mans. He slapped his forehead and sat on his bed, unable to believe what had just happened. "Yes, it's definitely time to make an appointment with that psychiatrist mom always talked about," said Falco to himself. Still shaking his head in disbelief, he lay down and decided he needed some sleep. "I knew you'd come through!" cheered Fara to her friend. "You did didn't you?" said Sandy sheepishly, she couldn't believe that she'd done that! "We sure showed Miss. Monroe a thing or two," raved on Fara. "Yeah! See how she likes being on the receiving end!" gloated Sandy. "So, what was Falco like?" asked Fara. "Oh, I'd say a seven," said Sandy laughing. "Eight considering how well he responded," said Sandy smiling. "What!? He actually went along with it?" asked Fara in surprise. She stopped in the middle of the corridor and looked at Sandy suspiciously. "I'm telling you, he was enjoying it until his beloved Katt ripped us apart," said Sandy grinning. They began to walk again. "I can't believe it," said Fara shaking her head and laughing. "See, I told it you he wasn't so bad!" went on Fara. "Look, just because I kissed him it doesn't mean I like him," protested Sandy. "Oh of course not," said Fara trying to sound sincere, but she couldn't keep her face straight and burst out laughing. "Besides. I think Runner is more my type," said Sandy smiling. "What?" blurted out Fara. "Yes, Runner. Does that surprise you? I like a man with intelligence," said Sandy grinning. "Oh, but don't you think it'll break Falco's heart. He'll think you like him now. How could you lead him on like that?" asked Fara with mock sincerity. "He'll get over it," said Sandy casually. Then the two both burst out into giggles. Katt through a pillow across the room. She was in her guest room, and she wasn't very happy. She picked up another pillow and began pounding it with such a vicious ferocity, that it was soon in shreds. "I can't believe this!" moaned Katt out loud. Grimacing she walked over to the other pillow and started on that two. "This is for you Falco!" she screeched, tearing the pillow to shreds with her claws. She stomped on it, then walked over to the window just in time to see a shooting star fly down. "I wish, I wish that Singleton bitch would just go back to where she came from," spat Katt, wishing on the star. Sighing she looked at her shoulder, it still hurt a little. Perhaps she would go and see Runner, he'd probably be able to give her something for the pain, then she could blast this joint. Nodding her head, she left the room and headed back to where she'd last seen Runner. "Oh, hi," said Runner, turning around after he'd felt a tap on his shoulder. It was Katt. "Hi Runner, I was just wondering if you could give me anything for my shoulder. It still hurts a little," explained Katt. "Well, sure I could," agreed Runner. He opened the Great Fox's medical kit and began to rummage through it. He held up a needle and a box of pills. "The injection is more effective, but the pills last longer," he said. "Well, I'd best have the pills," said Katt. It was a long flight back to Corneria. "Well, take one now, and then you'll need to take one every twelve hours. You'll probably need three or four more until the pain completely goes," explained Runner. He put four in another container and handed it to her. He then got her a glass of water and handed her it with another pill. Katt smiled at him, and took the pill with the water. "Thanks," she said, smiling at him again. William reciprocated the smile, then turned back to whatever he had been doing. She leaned over his shoulder to see what he was doing, then turned to face him again. "Well, it's been nice to meet you Runner," she said. Runner looked up from his work. "You aren't leaving I hope," he said, his voice full of concern. "Well, I'm not wanted aboard this ship, so I might as well," said Katt, shrugging her shoulders. "Whatever gave you that idea?" asked Runner. "Look, thanks for sticking up for me and everything, but Katt Monroe knows when she has outstayed her welcome," said Katt a little mournfully. "Well, if that's what you want. But just give it a little more thought right? I don't want you agitating that wound," warned Runner. Katt smiled and left. Runner watched after her, hoping she'd be okay. Katt stomped into the hangar, still fuming. Everything had been going fine, until Fara and Sandy had went and spoilt things for her. While their argument had caused Falco t stick up for her, and then admit that he did like her after all, Sandy and Fara's next move had proved totally low. Everything had been going fine. Falco had taken her back to his room, which had sounded like a good prospect at the time of suggestion. She hadn't been too happy when he'd told her to get some rest, and that he would stay and make sure he was okay, whilst he wrote up some dumb report for Pepper. She had hoped that he'd be more interested in kissing her, but perhaps, she'd thought, he was just trying to show his sensitive, caring side to her, which if he was, she figured it was pretty sweet of him. The next moment, she'd woken up to see Fara there, and then Sandy, who had then proceeded to kiss Falco, and he hadn't done a thing about it, or even protested. That was what made her upset, and also angry. He is such a first-class jerk! she fumed to herself. As for Sandy and Fara, well, they could forget about ever being her friend again. Katt made her way over to her ship, eyeing it critically. The Catspaw, as she called it, was a modified Invader class ship she'd stolen from Andross' forces a few years back. It had obviously taken some damage, when Falco had been using it, she figured, looking at a dent in the side. But nothing she couldn't easily fix. And of course, it was flyable. She bent down, to open up the door. A pain shot up her side again. "Ouch!" she exclaimed, rubbing her shoulder, trying to ease the pain. Ignoring it, she pulled the door open, and peered into the interior, looking for the keys. They weren't in the ignition. "Damn!" she cursed, wondering what she'd done with them. I must have left them in my room, she thought. She closed the ship's door again, and made her way out of the hangar again. "Just take a look at this! Isn't it beautiful!" Fara exclaimed, pointing out a picture in a wedding magazine to Sandy. Sandy looked at the picture. "Oh yes, that's pretty. It would certainly suit you," she agreed. "I'm just so excited, you know. I've been dreaming about this day for years!" Fara replied, her eyes alight with happiness. Sandy nodded, smiling. "I think you should have an assorted bouquet. Roses, lilies, everything! All trimmed with gold ribbon," she said. "Oh yes, gold ribbon! In satin!" Fara said, smiling. "Yes, that'd look so nice with that dress," Sandy decided. "D'you think Fox will like it?" Fara questioned. "Of course he will! Fara, you'll look exquisite!" Sandy promised. Fara smiled happily to herself, imagining Fox's face when he saw her all dressed up like that. It'll be the best day of our lives... she thought dreamily. "And I know a great little place for the reception," Sandy continued. Fara suddenly snapped out of her daydream. "Oh, what?" she said. "Don't you mean where?" Sandy laughed. "Uh, yeah," Fara agreed, smiling apologetically. "The Empire Hotel. We once had an LSSF function there. It's classy and elegant, but with a touch of romance too. They have an outdoor dance floor, and live band," Sandy explained. "Oh, it sounds just perfect! I'll tell Fox as soon as possible!" Fara said. "You'll love it Fara, I promise. The food is great too, I'm sure they'd help you settle on a menu that would suit everyone," Sandy continued. Fara leaned over and hugged Sandy. "I'm so glad you're here! I promise you'll get to be head bridesmaid." Sandy smiled. "Speaking of bridesmaids, what do I get to wear, then?" "Well," Fara began, picking up another magazine. "I saw some nice silk shift dresses... in a gold colour, that would look really great. You could probably wear it after as a normal dress, too," she said, showing Sandy another picture. Her friend nodded in approval. "Do I get to wear a tiara like her, too?" she grinned, pointing to the model in the picture. "Oh, I dunno yet. I might wear one, you can have a wreath or a tiara, whichever you prefer," Fara answered, smiling. Sandy laughed. "Sounds good to me, you do want to look like a princess, after all," she said. Fara nodded. "I just want Fox to be proud of me," she said quietly. "Hey, he already is, Fara. You know you don't need to impress him," Sandy said. "I know, but... well, I'm hardly gorgeous. Not like Katt... or you," Fara said, suddenly looking a little sad. "Don't be silly! You're too pretty for you own good, Miss Phoenix! Much more than plain old me! Besides, you don't want to look like Katt, she's just all glamour and nothing else. She thinks she's a movie star or something. You know that isn't Fox's thing," Sandy replied. Fara cheered up a bit. "You really think so?" she asked. "You betcha! You're going to knock Fox dead at this wedding, you'll look so beautiful!" Sandy grinned. Fara smiled too. "Yes, but I don't want him too dead," she laughed. Sandy laughed too. "Maybe not. He'll just be a bit stunned," she concluded. Fara nodded. "It'll be the best wedding ever," she said, smiling to herself. Katt hurried down the corridor, and into her guestroom. She realised she'd made a bit of a mess with the pillows. Though personally she thought it would serve them right having to tidy up after her, she felt bad about it. Quickly, she picked up all the bits, and stuffed them down the garbage disposal. Then she looked around for her keys. "Darn, I wish I was more organised," she said to herself, suddenly thinking of Falco. His room had been pristine, not a thing out of place. "Stop thinking about him, you idiot!" she said to herself sharply. The keys weren't on any of the desk tops, or on the bed. She reached into her coat pockets, but they weren't in there either. She knelt down onto the floor, suddenly spying the gleam of metal. In her fury earlier, she must have tossed them across the room, Katt thought, picking up the lost keys. Time to go now, she thought, walking back out into the corridor. As she did, she came almost face to face with Falco, who was just coming out of his room, a sheaf of papers in hand. "Katt!" he exclaimed. "Get lost, you jerk!" Katt retorted, quickly walking off along the corridor in the general direction of the hanger. "Katt, wait!" he called after her. "Leave me alone!" she shouted, without turning to look at him. She couldn't; she was starting to cry. Falco quickly hurried after her, and grabbed hold of her shoulder. "Katt, please. We need to talk," he said. "Falco, I already told you, just stop this!" she said angrily, turning to face him. He noticed the keys in her hand. "You're not leaving, are you?" he questioned. "Why should you care?" Katt sniffed. "Because I feel like it's my fault. Don't Katt, you're not fit to make the journey back home," Falco answered. "Too right it's your fault! But it's too late now, I'm going, fit or unfit," Katt replied, before turning on her heel and walking quickly away from him. "Katt, this is stupid!" he called. "I don't care!" she retorted hotly. He jumped in front of her. "Katt, you're not going anywhere. Give me those keys," he ordered. "No!" Katt said, trying to get past him. He blocked her, and grabbed hold of her hand. He dropped the folder onto the floor. "Get off me!" she cried. "Just hand those over now," Falco answered, trying to prise they keys out of her hand. She kept a tight hold of them though. "Let go, Katt," he said. "Falco, let me go, if you don't want to get hurt," Katt warned. He managed to push her fingers up with one hand, while his other kept a tight grip on her. "You're hurting me!" she complained, suddenly letting go of the keys. They fell to the ground. He let go of her. "Sorry," he apologised, reaching down to pick up the fallen objects. He pocketed the keys, and put the folder under one arm. "Come on, go and get some more rest," he advised. "I've had all the rest I need! Don't pretend to care about me when you don't, Falco Lombardi!" Katt said angrily. "Of course I care about you!" he retorted, looking surprised. "Oh yeah? Well, why did you let Sandy Singleton kiss you like that then?" Katt questioned, looking furious. "Uh...." Falco began. He looked down at the floor guiltily. "I was surprised. I didn't know she was going to do that," he said, still looking down. "You could have at least pushed her away!" Katt exclaimed. "Well I..." he began again. He wasn't going to admit to her that he'd sort of enjoyed it. "Just forget it. Anything we had is over before it's even begun!" Katt said. "No, no, look, I'm really sorry, okay?" Falco said quickly. "I hate you! I don't know what I ever saw in you! You stick to Sandy, you suit each other!" Katt yelled. "Please Katt, you know that's not true! You ran off before I could even talk to you!" Falco answered. "Oh yeah, but you had plenty of time to come and apologise! But you never did!" Katt said, folding her arms. "I was giving you a chance to calm down, that's all," Falco said quietly. He wasn't used to this. "It's hopeless. You'll never reciprocate the feelings I have for you. I might as well give up while I'm ahead," Katt replied sadly. "No, I... you're getting me all wrong, Katt," Falco said. "Am I?" she asked, sounding unconvinced. "Yes. Listen Katt. I have my faults, I know. Work has always come before relationships, so I'm not very good at this. But at least hear me out," he pleaded. "Okay," Katt said, looking expectant. Falco led he back up the corridor. They paused outside his room. "Look, I'm sorry I kept blanking you for all these years. I... I... well, I prefer to make the first move, and I don't like being chased. That's why I kept brushing you off. But well, I kinda do like you anyhow, and back in the examining room, I guess I realised that," he admitted. A trace of her pretty smile was evident, but she didn't fully show it. "And I wasn't happy about Fara and Sandy being so mean to you. It was unfair," he continued. "You can say that again," Katt remarked. Falco nodded. "Yes, well, I figured I had nothing to lose by giving you a chance. I guess... well, it's just Fox and the rest. I know what they'd be like if they found out," he said. "Don't you worry about them," Katt said. "I won't, I can deal with it. Now, if I'm going to give you a chance, won't you give me one?" he asked hopefully. "I'm going back home," Katt stated firmly. "If you want to go home so bad, at least let me accompany you," Falco asked. "I'll be fine. Can I have my keys now?" Katt questioned airily. "Oh Katt..." he complained. She reached up into his top pocket, and pulled the keys out. "Look, I'm only causing trouble by staying here. I don't belong, and I never will," she said. "Well, let me do one thing before you leave," Falco stated. Katt looked at him in surprise. "What?" she questioned. He pulled her towards him, and kissed her. Just a small kiss, nothing more. Katt stepped back, surprised. He looked surprised too. "Sorry," he quickly apologised again. Katt suddenly smiled. "Whatever for?" she asked, looking pleased. "Well, uh..." Falco began, looking a little shy for once in his life. "Alright, you're not backing out of that one!" Katt decided, stepping forward again. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and reached up to kiss him, standing on her tiptoes. He dropped the folder again, to hug her back. He slipped his arms around her waist and they kissed each other longingly. A few moments later, they let go. "Wow," Katt murmured, looking satisfied. "So, well... will you stay now?" Falco questioned. "If you kiss me like that again, yes," Katt replied. "Uh..." Falco began, backing off a little. "Be back in one minute Katt, I promise. I just want to clarify part of this report with Runner," he said. "Oh, you're not still on that, are you?" Katt complained. "If I don't make it good, I might get sacked from the CDB. So you'd better let me get it finished," Falco said. "Oh, but Falco! It wouldn't matter if you got sacked, you can just be like me! We can work together," Katt suggested. "Nah, I like my wages, and my Arwing, Katt," Falco answered. "Okay. But hang on a moment," Katt said, reaching up to kiss him again. He let her, then stepped back. "I'll be right back," he promised, quickly walking in off in the direction of the main control room. Falco soon arrived there, and he looked around for Fox and the rest. He noticed Fara and Sandy sat in one corner, as he walked across the room, and tried not to look at either of them, he felt so embarrassed about what had happened earlier. "Oh... Fal-co!" Fara called after him. He turned around impatiently. "What now?" he questioned. "Just come here a moment," Fara said. He walked over, looking quizzical. "Falco, Sandy was wondering..." Fara began. "Fara!" Sandy hissed, looking embarrassed. "Shhh Sandy. Falco, will you accompany Sandy as her date at the CDB celebration party when we get back?" Fara asked, grinning. "Well... I..." Falco started. "I didn't know there was even going to be a party!" he added. "Of course there will be!" Fara exclaimed. "Well, I, well, uh... I already might have a date," Falco replied, looking apologetic. "Who? Not Katt?" Fara questioned. "I don't know yet. Maybe, if she behaves herself," he replied, fiddling with the folder nervously. Sandy smiled over at Falco. "Are you sure you won't reconsider?" she asked. "Well... I don't know. Perhaps," he said. "Hang on," Sandy said, rooting in her bag. She took a pen and notepad out, and scribbled something down. "Here's my number, if you change your mind. Can I have yours?" she asked sweetly. "Well, I don't think..." Falco started, looking unsure. "We can always ask Fox for it," Fara remarked slyly. "Oh fine," Falco replied. He took Sandy's notepad and pen, and wrote down his mobile phone and home number. "Here you go," he said, before turning to walk over to Runner. "See ya, Falcy," Fara called after him. He heard them erupt into giggles. Jeez, women! I hate them sometimes! Falco thought. He saw Fox, and the rest, and walked over to them. "Hey Fox, tell your lunatic fiancée to stop setting me up with her friend over there," he said. "You're calling Fara a lunatic?" Fox asked, pretending to be offended. "Yes, I am. She's acting as bad as Katt, with little pet names and all that stuff, and next thing I know, she's setting up me and Sandy, and I'm sure they're just teasing me. Never mind that, but I got Katt jumping on me every moment of the day, I just can't take much more of this," Falco said, sighing dramatically. Fox, Bill, Slippy and Runner all laughed. "My, we are popular at the moment, aren't we Lombardi?" Bill laughed. "Cut it out Bill, I'm serious," Falco replied, dropping down onto one of the chairs. "Slip, go and get me a coffee," he ordered. "Why do I always have to everything?" Slippy complained, walking off obediently. "I mean, has she ever heard of the term breathing space?" Falco continued. "Who, Katt?" Fox asked. "Who else?" Falco groaned. "I thought you liked her," Runner remarked. "I...." Falco began. "He hates her, Runner. Or so he always says. We know he's lying," Fox laughed. "Oh shut up," Falco replied. "Quit complaining Lombardi. I'd kill to have women fighting over me, or at least throwing themselves at me," Bill commented. "You wouldn't," Falco answered darkly. "What's up Falco, Katt tired you out already?" Fox joked. "Very funny Fox," Falco replied dryly. Slippy returned with Falco's coffee. "Looks like ya need it, Falco," he grinned, handing it over. "Too right I do. Thanks Slip," Falco answered gulping it down all in one go. "Aren't you all going to do your reports?" he added, looking around at everyone else. "Ummm... eventually," Fox said, suddenly looking guilty. "Pepper can wait," Bill decided. "I agree," Slippy added. "Yeah well, if I don't get mine done, Pepper'll have my hide for sure," Falco replied getting up. "We know where you're off to really," Fox said winking. "I don't think so. I'm going to get some food and finish up on this - in peace," Falco replied pointedly, before walking off to one of the Great Fox's automatic food dispensers.
Chapter 13 "Well, what do you reckon?" Fox said, straightening up his best suit, and fastening his various military medals onto it. The plain black suit looked good on him, he wore a crisp white shirt underneath that Fara had painstaking ironed only a few minute before, and a green silk tie. "Hey, looking good, Fox!" Fara grinned. She looked just as good in her formal cream coloured suit, her medals pinned to the lapels. It was long and close fitting, and her skirt, slit up both sides came down to her knees. She'd accessorised the outfit with a black satin top and cream court shoes. "And you, look stunning," Fox complimented. He and Fara were busy getting ready for their presentation that night at the CDB. The door bell rang. "That'll be Falco," Fox said, walking out of the bedroom into the main hallway of the apartment. He opened the door to see Falco stood there, Katt hanging on his arm. "Someone's out to impress," Fox grinned, leading them inside. Falco smiled. "Yeah, well, I want Pepper to be on his good side when we have that meeting tomorrow," he said, looking down at his new charcoal coloured suit, endowed with all his medals. A white silk shirt and gold bow tie completed the look. "Oh, don't worry Falco, Pepper couldn't bear to sack you," Katt remarked supportively. She was wearing a stylish looking, short lilac jacket and matching skirt, with a pair of white strappy sandals. Not being a member of the CDB, she didn't have any medals, but Pepper had decided that she deserved some sort of commendation after all the help she'd been. "Katt's right, Falco. You'll be fine," Fox replied. Fara stepped out into the hallway. "Hi Falco," she said. He nodded and smiled at her. "Nice outfit, Fara," Katt remarked. "Thanks," Fara answered coolly. She still wasn't feeling too friendly towards the feline. "Well, are we all ready?" Falco asked quickly, before the two had a chance to start bickering. "Just about," Fox said. "Yes, I just need to fix my hair. I'll be five minutes," Fara said, disappearing back into the bedroom. "Well, here we go," Fox said, grinning. "Oh, I can't wait! But I'm so nervous!" Katt exclaimed. Falco gave her shoulder a comforting squeeze. "You'll enjoy it," he reassured her. "Once you're up on the podium, you just feel real proud," Fox grinned. "I'll agree to that," Fara said, coming back into the hallway. "Alright, let's get going," Falco said, walking out of the apartment. Fox locked the door behind him, and they went down to the ground floor, and climbed into Falco's silver sports car. "Are you stopping back here for a while after the presentation?" Fox questioned Falco, as his friend steered the car out onto the main highway. "Might as well," Falco answered, nodding. "Why not invite everyone back?" Katt suggested, turning towards the back seats. "We were thinking about that," Fara said. "We should've stocked up," Fox groaned, thinking about their empty cupboards. "Come back to my place. I've got plenty of drink in," Falco said. The CDB came into view, and Falco swung into the side road. "Oh yes, let's do that," Katt said enthusiastically. "Uh... well, we'll decide after the ceremony," he said, pulling to a stop. They all made their way to the main hall. Pepper was stood up on the podium, pacing. Someone was setting up a microphone there. Bill came over, looking smart in a blue coloured suit. "Hey guys. Just waiting for Slip, Runner and Sandy," he said, grinning. "I just called Sandy on my mobile, and she says she's on her way," Fara confirmed. Peppy came over, also dressed up, along with James. "All excited kids?" he teased. "Oh, sure, Pep," Falco said glibly. "I am!" Katt exclaimed. "You would be," Fara replied. "Well, it's not everyday that an ordinary citizen like me receives a commendation," Katt answered, looking pleased with herself. "Well, you deserve it at least," Fox said. "Thank you, Fox," Katt answered smiling at him. Slippy suddenly rushed up, looking all flustered. "I'm not late, am I?" he asked. Peppy shook his head. "I'd say that you're right on time," he replied. "Shouldn't we go backstage? Or should we wait for Sandy and Runner?" Fara asked. "You all go on ahead. I'll give them directions," Peppy answered. The group all walked up the stairs at the side of the stage, and slipped through the curtains beyond. General Pepper, dressed in his best red uniform, followed them. "I just wanted to thank you all myself for a job well done, Star Fox Team," he began. Runner and Sandy appeared, followed by Peppy and James. "And the rest of you. Thank you. Sandy, the LSSF are arranging your commemoration and prize, which comes after this lot. You can come and sit in the wings with James, myself and other CDB officials if you like. Runner, Katt... well, you two go on after the Star Fox team, and before Sandy," Pepper explained. "Sir, well, what about dad? Doesn't he get a medal too?" Fox questioned. "Fox, your father's getting his own special moment, don't worry," Pepper smiled. A squirrel dressed in military uniform ducked around the curtain. "Sir, it's all ready now," he informed. "Okay, thanks Todd. Alright you lot, get ready for your call-out," Pepper said, before turning and walking back through the curtains onto the stage. "May I present to you all, the saviours of not only Corneria, but the entire Lylat System; the Star Fox team!" Pepper said. Fox, and the rest of the team all trooped on stage, smiling widely. "First up, the team leader, Fox McCloud!" Pepper continued. Fox stepped up onto the little podium in the centre of the stage, where Pepper handed him a new medal. "Well, thanks," he said, grinning. "You deserve it Fox. Is there anything you'd like to say?" Pepper questioned. Fox told hold of the microphone. "Well, I guess I'd just like to thank the rest of my team, first of all. Oh, and various other people who helped out, who you'll see later. And I'm glad that everything worked out... don't worry everyone, hopefully Andross is truly gone for good now!" Fox stated. There was lots of clapping and cheering, and Fox stepped down. "Nice speech," Falco remarked, walking past Fox to take his place on the stage. "Second-in command, Falco Lombardi," Pepper introduced. The rest of the team all received their medals, then Katt and Runner came on to receive theirs. Fox watched them carefully, thinking that both would make excellent recruits for the CDB. It was too bad that Katt didn't seem that interested, he thought, listening to her thank Falco and Runner for saving her life. He smiled, wondering if Falco could possibly change her mind. Runner stepped up next, Fox thought about how the coyote could help them out. For example, his medical skill had been exceptional, when he'd helped out Katt. None of the other members had that skill, just basic first aid training really. And he could certainly help us out with the development of new weapons or aircraft, he's smart enough, Fox thought. Then Sandy walked on, accompanied by an LSSF official. She looked very smart, in her navy trouser suit, LSSF badge pinned onto the lapel. Until now, even the Star Fox team had doubted the existence of the LSSF, but there they were, stood in front of the entire CDB. The dog was awarded a medal, and she stepped down without saying a large speech. Then, came Fox's father. James McCloud. There were gasps from over half of the audience, of shock and surprise. Whispers. James stepped up onto the podium, and looked around the room, before beginning his speech. Fox felt a hand on his shoulder, and turned to see Fara stood there. He put an arm around her shoulder. "Happy now?" she whispered. Fox nodded. "Things couldn't be better," he replied, smiling. "Great party!" commented Bill to Falco of the loud blare of music. "Isn't it just?" agreed Katt, clinging onto Falco's arm. Falco just grinned and nodded to Bill. After the award ceremony, it had been eventually decided that everyone go back to his place. Falco had told bill to invite some old friends from the Husky and Bulldog units, just to liven it up. Fox, Sandy and Fara were all having an animated discussion in the far corner, as were Peppy, James and Runner. Katt looked down at her medal proudly and smiled back at Falco. "I told you there was nothing to be worried about," said Falco, grinning at the feline. "As always Falco, you were right," purred Katt, "Care to dance?" She pulled Falco onto the temporary dance floor that had been constructed, and soon they were dancing to a feisty rhythm. "Well, who'd of thought it?" asked Fox, smiling slightly as he watched his friend Falco on the dance floor with Katt Monroe. "Me neither," said Fara shaking her head. "After all these years of denial, they've finally got together," continued Fox. He looked down into the bottom of the glass and swished the contents around. "Anyone want a fill up?" he asked, snapping his head back up. Fara looked into her glass and smiled sweetly. "Sure thing Fox," she replied then looked at Sandy. "I'm fine thanks," said the dog. Fox smiled and walked over to the hastily constructed drinks table, to fill the two glasses, meanwhile leaving Fara and Sandy alone. "Well, at least she'll stop flirting with Fox now," said Sandy, taking a neat sip of her drink. Fara's eyes narrowed a little. "Do you think? I'm not sure," said Fara not sounding convinced. "Well, Falco is the jealous type I should think," said Sandy, picking her words carefully. "Uh-huh, I guess you're right, I don't know why I was so jealous in the first place, after all she's hardly a threat," mused Fara. Sandy nodded. "Exactly," she agreed. Fox walked back over and handed one of the glasses to Fara. She was just about to take a sip of her drink when Fox stopped her. "Not yet, we have an announcement to make," he reminded her. Fara nodded. "Oh, of course," she conceded, her eyes lighting up. Sandy looked at the two suspiciously. "May I ask?" she questioned. Fara looked at Fox for confirmation. "Nah, look the break is coming up, she'll find out pretty damn soon," said Fox grinning. "Ah well, I guess I can wait," pouted Sandy, folding her arms over her chest, pretending to be offended. Fara laughed and tugged on Fox's arm. "Come on, the breaks about to start," she said, pulling Fox onto the dance floor. Falco tapped on a glass with a spoon to get everyone's attention. "Excuse me!" he said raising his voice slightly. Everyone turned towards him. "Excuse me my friends, I must admit there is another reason for holding this gathering tonight, it is for a rather important announcement." There were a few excited whispers. "An announcement that will be made by two very important people in my life, in all of our lives, Fox McCloud and Fara Phoenix!" introduced Falco. There was a burst of applause as well as a few whistles. Fox and Fara stepped up. "Nice introduction Falco," whispered Fox to his feathered friend. Falco smiled and stepped away. "What's it about?" hissed Katt. Falco turned to her and smiled. "You'll see," he answered. Katt pouted and turned to listen as Fox started his speech. "A-hem," coughed Fox, he felt a little nervous. "As you may all know, me and Fara have been engaged for seven years," he started, there were a few whistles. "Well, we have finally decided to tie the knot," spoke aloud Fox. This time there were more whistles and cheers. "Exactly one month from today. We would have it tomorrow if we could, but we need to give you the time to by us the presents," he chuckled. "Everyone here will be invited, and official invitations will be sent out," Fox paused. "Eventually," added Fara. There were a few guffaws from the crowd. "You will actually get them before the wedding anyway," said Fox. "Oh, and I'd just like to add," continued Fox, he paused and pointed at Falco and Katt. "Those two, are official!" Fox bowed slightly and stepped away, signalling the end of the speech. It was met with rapturous applause. "Gee thanks Fox," said Falco, rolling his eyes. "Just wanted to make it clear," said Fox grinning. "Well, congratulations anyway," said Falco, shaking Fox's hand, he turned and pecked Fara on the cheek. "I'm glad you eventually decided, it's dragged on long enough," he laughed. Fox patted Falco on the back, laughing too. "Well, I think I better go see my dad, see what he thinks," said Fox. "I'm sure he'll be very pleased," offered Falco before Fox and Fara turned away and made their way across the room to where James McCloud was standing. "Nice speech," commented Runner as the couple approached. Fox nodded to him. "Well Fox, it's good to see you finally got round to setting a date," said Peppy, winking at Fara. "Fox, you never heard me say this, but I'm proud of you. For everything you have achieved, why you're as good as I was, yet only half the age. But this must be your finest achievement, how in Lylat you managed to find and keep a woman as fine as this is beyond me! But then, we just must be good at finding tolerant woman eh? Your mother certainly was," boomed James."Hey dad, in this relationship, I'm the one who's tolerant," said Fox cheekily. Fara slapped him on the arm, "See?" said Fox grinning. "Well if that's the way your going to be!" exclaimed Fara, she couldn't keep her eyes from twinkling. "Well, we manage," shrugged Fox, slinging his arm over Fara's shoulder. "I'd just like to say congratulations to both of you, it couldn't have happened to two nicer people!" added Peppy. Fox smiled warmly at his older friend, but before anything could be said, Fara dragged him onto the dance floor. "Come on Fox, let's show 'em how to really dance!" exclaimed Fara excitedly.
Finale1 month later... Fox stood by the altar, nervous and excited at the same time. He looked around the church, trying to spot his friends. There was Falco, whispering something down to his girlfriend Katt, both were dressed impeccably in the latest Cornerian fashions for formal wear. Slippy was sat close by to them, with his family, looking equally as smart, in a less flashy way. The frog looked over, and winked at Fox. Fox grinned back at his friend, still looking. Peppy was there of course, next to his wife and grown children, sitting near the front, close to Fox' father, and General Pepper. He looked around for Runner, and a few other of his friends, then managed to see them. He was glad that most of his friends and family had been able to make it to the wedding. Fox then quickly glanced down at himself, checking that nothing was out of place. "Don't worry, you look just fine Fox!" Bill, his best man, reassured him. "I was just checking," Fox protested. "Shhh! Here they come!" Bill said, pointing over to the doorway. Fara stepped into the church, looking completely beautiful. She was wearing a long white silken gown, which had lots of gathers in the skirt, decorated at intervals with little silk rosebuds and lace at the edges. The V neck at the top was delicately trimmed with more lace and the bodice was decorated with a delicate pattern of pearls and sequins. She was carrying a bouquet of fresh assorted wildflowers, and wearing a little gold tiara and long train on top of her head. He reddish brown hair was curled, and piled up gently, with wisps of hair dropping down in places. She looked very romantic, Fox thought, smiling over at her. "Wow, you sure are lucky," Bill grinned over at his friend. "I know," Fox replied, standing up as straight as possible, a big smile on his face. Fara paused nervously, looking around at everyone. "Come on, they're all waiting my dear!" her father said. Fara smiled. "I know... I was just..." she started. Then she smiled again, and began to walk resolutely down the aisle. Sandy walked behind her, in an elegant golden shift dress and matching high heels, her short blonde hair piled on top of her head in an dressy style, finished off with a wreath of flowers on top of it. She was also carrying a bouquet. Fara's younger sister, and another old friend were her other bridesmaids. Fara walked past all the guest slowly, so they could admire her. She saw Fox waiting at the other end, looking extremely proud. She thought he looked very handsome in his smart black tuxedo suit and white silk shirt, decorated with a red silk cummerbund and matching bow tie. A piece of red silk was sticking out of the breast pocket. Bill looked equally as dapper in his outfit, but in a more casual sort of way. Fara smiled at Fox, and the next moment they were standing together at the altar. "Oh Fara..." Fox whispered, learning forward to give her a quick kiss. "Hey, there's time for that later you guys!" Bill laughed. Fara smiled, and nodded. The vicar nodded over at them, ready to begin. The bridesmaids went to sit in a side pew nearby, and Fara's father sat down too, with the rest of Fara's family. The whole church went silent, and the vicar stood behind the altar, book in hand. "As you all know, we are gathered here today to witness the marriage of Fox McCloud and Fara Phoenix," he started. Fox took Fara's hand and smiled at her. She smiled back prettily. Fox listened intently to what the vicar said, the stories and statements he told. Fox wanted to cherish all of this moment forever. Glancing over at Fara, he saw she was paying just as much attention. I love her so much, I'm so lucky, he thought to himself happily. The last month or so had been almost perfect. Andross was finally gone, and he'd got his father back. The team had two excellent new recruits; Katt Monroe, whose surveillance skills were almost unrivalled, and she happened to be a pretty good flyer to boot too. William Runner was the other recruit; the shrewd, clever coyote was astounding in all scientific matters, and was currently helping the CDB to design a new kind of discreet ship. Not that they'd ever need them with Andross gone, but it was always nice to be prepared. And of course, he was an excellent pilot too. Falco had managed to sweet talk Pepper into letting him stay on the team, although Fox had doubted that his friend would be dropped anyway. His aerial skills and knowledge were too invaluable. Slippy had began a new project too, and Bill and Fara remained wonderful pilots as always. Fox felt privileged to be in command of such a talented team. And now here he was, getting married to the woman he cared most about in the whole, entire world. As they went through the vows, Fox knew that he was going to keep every single one. Fara deserved the best in the world, and Fox wanted to be that for her. Bill handed over the rings, and they put them on each other's fingers. "I love you," Fara murmured happily. They leaned forward to exchange a proper kiss. There was plenty of clapping and cheering. It was the beginning of the best day in the entire world for them both, Fox figured happily. "Alright, it's on to the Empire Hotel guys!" he heard Bill shout, as he and Fara signed the register together. He then took her by the hand, and they strolled out of the church together. Everyone threw confetti over them as they walked over to the gates. "This has been wonderful so far!" Fara said joyfully, smiling widely. Fox nodded. "I'm enjoying it too," he replied. They would both go off to get some wedding photos done in the ornamental grounds at the Empire Hotel, and the rest of the guests would wait inside there, beginning the wedding reception. Their hired, white stretch limousine was waiting next to the pavement. Fox spotted Falco's silver sports car parked right next to it, obviously, his friend was trying to show off. Fox reckoned it wasn't a patch on the limo (and also his own sports car), and seeing Falco, he grinned over at his friend. "Falco, d'ya mind moving your trashy vehicle, so that our limo can get past?" he joked. "Hey Fox, you'd better take that back right now!" Falco replied, laughing. "Not until you move the car," Fox replied, pausing at the gates. "Okay, I'm throwing my bouquet girls!" Fara called, holding up her bunch of flowers. All the women in the crowd dashed forward hopefully, wanting to catch the special object. Amongst much pushing and shrieking, someone finally became triumphant. "Oh wow! I don't believe it!" Katt screamed excitedly, holding up the bunch of flowers. "Neither do I," Falco groaned. "You'll get over it Falco," Fox said, grinning. Falco grinned back, just before Katt grabbed him by the neck and kissed him. "Oh, I always knew I was meant to be with you Falco!" she sighed happily. "Uh, well, sure," Falco said, eyeing the bouquet warily. "It's not so bad, you know," Fox said, laughing. "That's alright for you to say," Falco answered, smiling as Fox walked off with Fara towards the limo. "So how about it Falco?" Katt questioned, as he quickly made his way over to his car. They climbed in together, and he steered it away from the curb. "What? Marriage?" he asked, a little incredulously. "Of course!" Katt said, hugging the bouquet proudly. "We've only been dating a month!" Falco said. "So?" Katt whined. "I'll... uh... I'll think about it," Falco promised, as he pulled out onto the freeway to drive to the hotel. "I know what your problem is, Falco Lombardi!" Katt suddenly exclaimed, five or ten minutes later. Falco was making it a leisurely drive to the hotel, letting his car do fifty or sixty along the freeway. He almost enjoyed driving as much as flying, especially in this particular car. "Problem?" he asked in surprise. Katt, who'd been busy reapplying her make-up, snapped her compact shut, and pushed the mascara brush back into the tube. "Yes, I know too well!" she said darkly. "Uh, Katt, what are ya talking about?" he asked. Katt replaced all the make-up containers that were on her lap into a small bag. "You're just scared of commitment, that's all," she said lightly. "What?!" Falco said in surprise, quickly swerving to avoid a slow moving lorry. "I didn't shock you that much, surely?" Katt questioned, glancing back at the lorry. The driver was beeping his horn in annoyance. "Of course not," Falco replied, trying to concentrate on the road more. The lorry pulled up beside him, and an angry looking mouse peered through the window. "I got your plates buddy!" he screeched, before pulling away. Falco sighed, wishing for a moment that he didn't have a private number plate that blared 'F-Lombardi' to the whole world. "Now look what you made me do!" he grumbled. "That wasn't my fault," Katt replied, flipping her hair nonchalantly. "So what's all this 'commitment stuff' about then?" Falco questioned. "I think you're frightened of it, that's what," Katt said. "I am not," Falco replied, still keeping an eye on the road. "Besides, it's not relevant to bring up. We've only been seeing each other for a month, after all," he added. Katt sighed. "All you guys are the same. Us girls, we like commitment. But guys, well you're all just scared of it. Look how long it took Fox and Fara to get married!" she said. "That was them," Falco said. "Aren't we talking about us anyway? Besides, wherever did you get such a crazy idea?!" he asked. "Oh... it was just your reaction before, over me getting Fara's bouquet. You didn't exactly act... how can I say... thrilled," Katt remarked, glancing over at him. "That bouquet doesn't prove a thing," Falco replied. "See! That's my point precisely," Katt said. "Oh jeez Katt," Falco sighed. He turned off the highway, onto a smaller main road. "Where's the map?" he asked. "You know where you're going, don't change the subject," Katt snapped. "Alright fine. We'll just get lost then," Falco retorted. "Don't be silly, we'll not get lost," Katt answered in a sugary tone. "Alright, I guess you're right," he concluded. "So, anyway," Katt began. "Look Katt. I really like you and all that stuff, but I don't think we ought to go getting married or anything like that just yet," Falco interrupted. "Well, maybe not just yet, but we should at least think about it," Katt said. "Hmmm... maybe in a few months, years even," Falco answered. "Can't I at least move in with you?" Katt pleaded. "After only one month?! Katt, are you crazy?" Falco asked. "Just about you," she smiled. "Let's discuss this later," Falco answered, driving up alongside the Empire Hotel, and parking it. Katt didn't look too happy, but remained quiet as they locked up the car then walked inside the building.2 weeks later.... "Now sorry Falco, but this is what I call a real party!" yelled Bill over the din. Fox and Fara had just returned from their honeymoon just in time for the enrolment of Katt Monroe and William Runner to their growing squad. They were now at the celebration party, not only for the new recruits, but for Fox and Fara's return. Falco shot Bill a withering look, and decided to see if he could locate Katt, it seemed she'd been avoiding him all night. He soon found her, with Runner on the dance floor. He marched over to them and cut in. "Mind if I take over?" he asked Runner, not waiting for an answer. "Hey, Katt! You been avoiding me?" asked Falco, taking Katt to the edge of the dance floor. "Of course not Falco! Runner was looking a little lonely so I figured..." explained Katt. Falco nodded, and spun Katt around. "Yes Katt, your heart is so big, you feel everyone should get a piece of it," said Falco sarcastically, he didn't look happy. "Jealous?" asked Katt giggling. "No, he's only a scientist, I on the other hand am a daring pilot. I'm far more exciting," replied Falco. "Well yes Falco, but his mind is so intriguing," teased Katt. Falco laughed, continuing the dance. "Jeez, and she thinks I don't know anything about the word commitment!" he thought to himself hotly. "True Katt, but since when have you fallen for mind over body?" asked Falco. "Never, but you never know," giggled Katt. Falco sighed, he really liked Katt, but she was still a flirt with other guys. "Well, I can cope with that," he thought to himself. But could he? "So, happy to be back?" Sandy asked Fara, she wanted to know every last detail. "Why of course, but I could of stayed on Aquas forever," sighed Fara dreamily. "So I take it you had a good time," asked Sandy enviously, she could do with a holiday. "Fox, is just the most perfect guy in the world," continued on Fara dreamily. "Hey come on Fara, I'm already jealous enough," scolded Sandy. "But," protested Fara. Sandy glared at her, then they both burst out into laughter. Once they had both calmed down Fara looked across the room. "How's things been round here?" she asked casually. "Well, okay I guess. I've been working non-stop, but then that's life. My turn will come," said Sandy. "What've you been doing?" asked Fara in surprise, she'd assumed Sandy would've rested after her last mission but she was wrong. "Well, there's been a little terrorist activity in the city, I had to make sure nothing went wrong," explained Sandy. "Everything okay now?" asked Fara. "Yeah, I managed to arrest their ring-leader last week, since then things have died down again," nodded Sandy. "Well, that's good to hear, I guess you're the one who deserves a holiday though," said Fara thoughtfully. "Oh believe me Fara, I'd head to Aquas as soon as I could, it's just a matter of getting time off. And seeing as a few of the members from that terrorist group are still out there, I can't go anywhere until they're all rounded up. otherwise they might try and track me down," said Sandy wistfully. "Well, I'm glad I don't have your job," said Fara. "Mmm, well I'm glad I don't have your job," laughed Sandy. "Why not, you're a pretty good pilot," said Fara. "Oh you think? I nearly crashed that Arwing on more than one occasion," admitted Sandy. "And you think I haven't?" said Fara grinning. "What?!" burst out Sandy. "Let's just say, I've had wing damage on more than one occasion," giggled Fara. "Ssh, don't let Pepper hear," whispered Sandy. "Oh, don't sweat, Slippy's a worse flyer than I am and he's been on the team for years!" said Fara confidently. Fox and his father approached them, both carrying glasses of wine. "Hi!" said Fox, greeting the two ladies. "Hi!" replied Fara, slipping her arms around Fox's neck and kissing him. "Hey, I'm holding a glass of wine here!" protested Fox, trying not to spill it. Fara drew back smiling at Fox. "Well, it's good to see you two again," greeted James, nodding at Sandy and Fara. "Same to you James," chirped Fara, Sandy nodded back. "Fox was telling me that you two both had a great holiday," said James. "Oh, we did," replied Fara. Suddenly, all the colour drained from Sandy's face. Fara looked at her friend then followed to see what she had seen. "What is it?" asked Fara. "It's him," she whispered. Sandy pushed her way through and drew her gun. A few people shrieked and gasped in terror, everyone drew back from the point that Sandy was aiming at. A perfectly normal dog was standing there, but he drew a gun and pointed it at Sandy. "Drop it!" ordered Sandy. James meanwhile had spotted someone on the first floor balcony of the ballroom. Whoever it was had a sniper, trained on Sandy. At the same time, he heard a shot being fired off, and instinctively he dived towards Sandy. "Dad no!" yelled Fox as he watched on in horror. It all seemed to go in slow motion, from James diving towards Sandy, to the bullet ripping through James' chest, and to James slumping down onto the ground, blood pouring from his wound and settling around him in a pool. At the same time, another shot was fired off, followed quickly by another. Fox gasped, dropping his glass, and dove towards Sandy, to push her out of the way, the last thing Fox heard was the shattering of glass and Fara crying out his name.... "Fox? Fox? Can you hear me?" Fox opened his eyes, a stabbing pain in his shoulder. It was Fara. "Fara," he cried out happily. He tried to remember what had happened, but he couldn't for the life of him. Then it all flooded back. Fox bolted upright and looked at Fara, there were tears in her eyes. He shook his head, "Please Fara, is dad?" asked Fox pleadingly. Fara could barely look at him in the eye. "I'm sorry Fox, I'm so sorry," was all she could manage. Fox gasped, and laid back down. "I don't know what to say Fox," apologised Fara. "It's okay Fara, but could you leave me alone? I need to think," asked Fox, his voice almost cracking. Fara dropped his hand and left him alone, with his thoughts...***** Fox wiped a tear from his eye as he threw the first handful of soil onto the grave. "I'm sorry dad," he whispered, sniffing. Pepper followed, as did Peppy. It began to rain. Fox looked up to the sky, the rain pouring onto his face. He felt Fara squeezing his hand, then she dropped it to his side. Everyone was leaving, Fox turned to Fara a managed a smile. "I'll be back in a while," he croaked. Fara kissed him on the cheek and left with everyone else. Peppy came up to Fox and put his hand on Fox's shoulder. Fox turned to look at Peppy. "You need anythin' Fox, just say," said his old friend. Peppy had always been a second father to Fox. Fox nodded then looked back down at the grave. Soon he was alone in the graveyard. Fox's father had requested that he was buried next to his wife, Vixxy McCloud. When James had first died though, his remains could not be recovered, now he had his final wish. Fox fell to his knees, so he came to eye level with the grave stone. It read 'James McCloud, Loving father, brother and husband.' The epitaph read 'My last ally laid to waste as I ran towards the light, as I paused and prayed for the strength to fight the final fight.' It was a verse from one of James' favourite poems by Gabriel Kite. Fox sighed and stood up, brushing the dirt from his black suit. He turned to his mothers grave, it was a good fifteen years older than James headstone was. Fox sighed. "Well at least you'll be together now," he whispered. He turned back to his fathers grave. "They'll pay dad, I promise!" Fox promised. Fox stood there for a good few minutes in the unforgiving rain, just thinking, just dreaming of what could have been... The EndWatch out for the possible upcoming sequel!