Chapter 1: Surprise Evolution
Star Fox team is taking a breather. Having just assisted the Katina defense force in repelling an attack from a rebel faction all of them are a bit tired.
“That was a breeze.” Falco says dismissively. “I could’ve done that in my sleep!”
“Easy for you to say, I had more than my share of trouble.” Krystal replies.
“Don’t I know it?” The bird chuckles. “Help, I’ve go an enemy on my tail” He squeals in a high-pitched voice.
“Fearless leader likes bailing you out though, so I guess you’re lucky.”
“Give it a rest.” Slippy says tiredly. “She’s new…”
“You’re right, Slip. Everybody can’t be the Ace pilot.”
The toad smacks his forehead. “Why’d the General ever call you that?” He shakes his head, exasperated.
“Because I’m the best, that’s why!” The Ace replies with a swagger. “What would you do without me?” He turns to exit. He stumbles and nearly falls. “Hey!”
“Don’t break your beak, Ace!” Slippy laughs.
Krystal hastily conceals her staff behind her back. “Do watch your step!” She adds.
“Amateurs…” The A-1 airman mutters, stalking out.
“Anyway, good job team.” Fox says to them all. “Another mission accomplished.”
“Yes, indeed.” Peppy chimes in. “You all do well by the Star Fox name. The leader of Katina also sends his thanks. The large screen in the center of the bridge comes to life as he puts the transmission through. A snake in ceremonial robes is displayed.
“Very well done, Ssstar Foxx.” The Katina prime minister says. “With your help our defense force easily repelled the insssurgent offensive. I look forward to working with you in the future.” The screen flickers blue and displays the money acquired. Everyone’s smile goes down a few watts as the monitor flickers off.
“That was less than I thought it would be.” Peppy thinks, checking the computer account. “We might not have turned a profit this time around.”
“I’ll barely fix Krystal’s Arwing with that!” Slippy realizes. “And what about the rest of our aircraft?”
Falco comes strolling back in. “My baby’s in tip-top shape, no scratches, nothing!’ He looks around. “What’s with the long faces?”
Krystal then voices what everyone’s thinking. “But that wasn’t very much money at all…”
Immediately Falco’s face joins the frown brigade. “How much are we talking? That job had better have been at least-” Slippy bursts out with it and the Ace’s beak drops open. “I can’t even re-detail her with that!”
“And with maintenance to Great Fox and aircraft repairs I don’t think anyone’s doing anything much.” Peppy reminds them.
“Aircraft repair?” Falco looks at Krystal and snorts. “Aircraft repair? What’s it take to keep a dime around here?”
“Falco-” Fox is annoyed at Falco’s comment.
“No, I take that back. It isn’t her fault. What kind of mission doesn’t cover the costs of you showing up? I knew that snake’d cheat us! That low-down, dirty, rotten-”
“You win some, you lose some.” Peppy mentions. “What can I say?”
Falco looks at the old pilot and contemplates for a second. “How about this?” He clears his throat. “We are in dire need of assissstance.” The bird says, mocking the Katina leader. “You will be compenssated well for your ssservicess.”
“That’s enough!” Fox exclaims.
“So, what are we, a charity? Star Wolf’s taking all the decent jobs so what now?”
“They’ve only got three members!” The leader retorts. “Get real!”
“Maybe there’s only room for three here, too!” The raptor yells back, stalking off. Silence falls over the room. Shortly after that, slip no.2 opens and his ship takes flight.
“We could use less overhead, that’s for sure.” Peppy says to himself, looking at the figures. “Gonna have to come up with something soon, too.”
Slippy throws his hands up and shakes his head. “Never thought I’d see the day I’d agree with the bird brain.” He mumbles.
“Slippy?” Fox asks. “Are you alright?”
“Back with you in a little bit. Arwings don’t fix themselves…” The toad sighs. “A mechanic’s work is never done.” He walks off.
“Fox?” Krystal sounds worried. “Is he really-”
“Let him. He’s done it before.” Team leader replies derisively. “It’s his choice.” He watches Falco leave through the window.
“But I didn’t mean to…I’ll do better…” She finishes weakly.
“Don’t worry.” Peppy says absently. “Those two just need some time to cool down. It isn’t the first time Fox and Falco have sparked off.”
“But like this?” The telepath still sounds apprehensive. “I don’t want them arguing about me…”
“It’s not your fault. It isn’t often they see eye to eye on anything. Falco didn’t want to do this job to begin with and it turning out like this an argument was bound to happen. It’s the way things are.”
“So Falco will return?” She asks hopefully.
“Likely. There’s always the chance he’ll disappear again but he probably won’t. Right now he just needs some space is all.”
“I can’t help but feel like I caused this…”
“You didn’t help much today.” Krystal’s face falls. “But we’ve had some pretty serious budget problems brewing for quite some time. Something was going to have to be done regardless of what happened today. I’ve got some ideas though so don’t worry.” Peppy smiles and taps his head. “My mind’s still sharp.” The monitor flashes. “Looks like we’ve got another incoming message.”
“Let’s hear it.” Fox says, still staring out of the window.
The widescreen flashes to life. “Star Fox team, I’ve got a job for you.”
“What do you need, General Pepper?” Peppy asks.
“The queen of Sauria has requested that you come by and patrol. She wants to be sure that all is still well. She has offered a fair sum in return.”
“I’ll consider it.” Fox says, at length. “We are still recovering from our engagement on Katina earlier.”
“I know. But I suggest you get back to me soon. Otherwise, though she requested you in particular, I’ll have to send Wolf and his team.”
“Understood. Fox out.” The display goes black.
“Fox, I think you should go on and do it.” Peppy suggests.
“We work as a team. Krystal’s Arwing is still in need of major repair and Falco is absent.”
“Come on, it’s not that serious! You’ve got us here in Great Fox if you need something. I’m sure all she wants is a foot patrol around her personal territory not a planetary sweep.”
“No, we wait.”
“It’s not wartime, Fox! Do you want Wolf to net this one, too?” The boss shoots him a hard look.
“I would like to go visit.” Krystal says, offhandedly. “It has been a little while since I’ve been to Sauria. We could go together, Fox.”
“It won’t take any time at all.”
“Every little bit helps.” Peppy chimes in.
On the planet’s surface Fox and Krystal are just touching down.
“Okay, we’re here.” Fox says, opening the cockpit. “Not too often I have to use the copilot’s seat.”
“You didn’t need to…” Krystal replies coyly. “You could’ve made room up front for me.”
“Err…well…” He stammers, climbing out of the ship.
“Oh, shh.” The telepath hops out of the Arwing gracefully. “I was only joking.” She gives him a peck on the cheek and smiles. “Don’t turn so many colors.”
Fox, who had the color drain from his face at her suggestion and return full force crimson the following second, shakes his head trying to regain lost composure. “Back to the matter at hand!” He says as authoritatively as possible. His partner giggles. “Let’s go see the Queen.” He walks away.
“Isn’t she the other way?” His subordinate points out.
The “leader” checks his compass reluctantly. “Right. Over here.” He says, turning about. “I knew that.”
“No, you didn’t.” She giggles again.
“How do you know? I was just testing to see if you were paying attention.”
Krystal taps her head. “I am a telepath you know.”
“Anyway, down to business, we should go meet with the Earthwalkers.” She nods and they begin to walk.
It isn’t long before they reach the center of the queen’s territory. The prince waits for them there, sitting around looking bored. He perks up on their approach.
“Hey guys! What’s up?” Tricky yells by way of greeting. “Long time no see!”
Fox nods. “We are here on business. Your mother has a request for us”
“Oh, yeah.” The royal heir doesn’t sound enthused. “She said there had been reports of Sharpclaw in the area. One or two maybe, I don’t know.”
“I am picking up on some strange vibrations around here.” Krystal says as an afterthought. “It would bear investigation.”
Fox rubs his chin, considering what’s been said. “Okay, let’s take care of them then.” He draws his blaster and checks to see that it’s in working order. “You alright over there?”
“Of course.” She replies. “You know what my staff is capable of.”
“I’d rather you carry a blaster…” He reminds her for the umpteenth time.
Team leader shakes his head. “Anyway we should split up and cover more ground. I don’t think this should be difficult. A couple of stragglers aren’t real threats but should be taken care of.”
“Can I go, Fox?” Tricky begs. “It’ll be just like old times.”
“No, you’re too big for this. Those heavy steps’ll send ‘em running.”
“Aww! But it’s so boring! Come on, please?”
“No. It’ll take too long.”
“I’ll walk real quiet. Nobody’ll know I’m there. Please?”
“Alright, but if you cause a ruckus you’re going straight home!”
“That’s nice of you, Fox.” Krystal says. “Be careful, you two.”
“Tricky can take care of himself. He’s good to have around sometimes, I admit. But he’d better stay quiet.”
At the fork in the path the trio split up. Tricky had an idea of where some of them were so he took Fox down to the left side of a network of caves in the hills. Krystal walked over to the right side confident that her telepathic abilities would alert her to enemies.
“You be careful.” Fox says again. “We’re taking the lower area. If they hear us they’ll probably retreat your direction toward the caves and higher ground. But they are likely out hunting so we should get the drop on some of them.”
“Understood.” Krystal replies.
“Don’t hesitate to call for help, either. If I can’t we’ve got Slippy and-”
“Come on, Fox!” Tricky interjects. “She gets it!” The violet vixen smiles at him.
“She needs to know-”
“You’re worse than my mother, you know that?” The person in charge is at a loss for words, mouth agape. “Can we go now?” He nods and the duo walks off, noisily into the Saurian underbrush.
Krystal then turns her mind to the task at hand. Reaching out with her telepathy she scans the area. “Hmm, there are several hostile though patterns in the vicinity. But there’s an even stranger vibration over in this direction…” She heads for the caves nearby. She ventures deep into the cavern with naught but her staff for light. “This is one of those tunnels we cleared of the aparoids…” She says, remembering her last trip underground on this planet.
And it was true. The path was littered with remains of the mecha-organic enemies. The entire area remained oddly hushed as she continued on up the way with the strange sensation in her mind growing by the second. She reaches a clearing where several tunnels intersect and the pressure in her head reaches a new high. “What is this?” Krystal wonders.
But she can’t ponder too long. Preoccupied with figuring out the puzzle in her brain several of the enemy has retreated down the trail she had just taken and through the others as well, leaving her surrounded in the semi-dark by Sharpclaw warriors. “I should’ve been paying attention…”
Emboldened by the presence of allies an audacious reptile makes a bid at the female pilot with his axe. A parry and counterstrike by the staff is his reward. Enraged, he calls out to his brethren and they move to attack together. Just as suddenly the light from their lone opponent’s staff goes out. Surprised and disoriented her foes stop cold, unsure how to proceed.
In that window of opportunity Krystal goes on the offensive. Striking with swift precision she lights the room up and hits one foe with fireballs then lets darkness fall again. Not for long as a second enemy is struck repeatedly in the back and neck, felled by her crippling assault. A t the gleam of the telltale light the third is tripped then disarmed and dealt with by a hard blow to the midsection. The fourth opponent, who is absolutely terrified at this point, backs away. But the flash of her weapon appears right in front of him and he doesn’t even have time to gasp as she cracks him between the eyes with the pole hard enough to leave him with more than a concussion. The entire fight had taken less than one minute. “Was that all?” She scoffs. “That wasn’t much of a challenge.” The vibration in our heroine’s head has her attention again. She starts searching the room. Debris is everywhere but a certain pile draws her scrutiny. “This was one of the aparoid generators…”
Indeed it is. As one of the taller heaps of garbage in the place it stands out. Just going near it causes the vibration in Krystal’s skull to increase in pressure. Something about it seemed to almost call to her. This is why she found herself searching through the wreckage of the production device until she found the source of the psychic signal. At the very bottom of the ruined enemy creation machine was a small crystal. It glows a pale blue as she stares down at it. “What do we have, here?” She picks it up to examine it further.
As soon as Krystal does that she feels a tingle which is immediately followed by the noise increasing in volume so much that it becomes an intelligible voice. Dozens of them, talking all at once like the buzz in a school cafeteria. Pictures accompany the din and don’t make any sense, and the memories of the battles with the aparoids come rushing back as well. Fighting the queen while she attempts to swat them down, avoiding the tentacles, trying to destroy the annoying Arwings- “What in the world?” The telepath yelps, dropping the shard. “That’s not right.”
“Krystal!” Fox yells, from a tunnel. “Are you alright?” He comes bounding in. “…I guess you took care of it.”
“We just saw ‘em come up here.” Tricky pants, making a late entrance. “They must’ve heard us coming so we thought you might be- oh, I guess not.” He sees the defeated dinosaurs lying all around. “Good going!”
“What’s wrong? Are you injured? Krystal?”
The purple fox seems to be ignoring him. She’s still focused on the stone. Gone is its gleam; it looks just like tinted glass now. “Hmm?” She picks it up again. This time no voices or strange flashbacks. Nothing happens. “I know some-”
“Krystal!” Fox grabs her and shakes her a bit. “Can you hear me?”
“Yes!” The lady snaps out of her reverie. “You don’t need to yell.”
“What was with that? It was almost like you weren’t paying attention…”
“I’m fine.” She insists.
After giving the Queen Earthwalker a debriefing on mission events and her assurances that she will send the money the three compatriots are headed back to Fox’s Arwing. Riding atop their gracious host, he regales them with his version of the mission.
“…yeah, they were fast!” Tricky says for the umpteenth time. “I burst through the trees and they took off. Fox went after them but they had a big start on us and split up, too. He cornered one and wham! I slammed right into it. After that we went back to where we lost them. We were on the verge of picking a path when we heard you scream. Fox was off like a shot then and I couldn’t keep up!” The prince laughs. “Got to keep your girl safe, huh Fox?”
“That’s right-hey!” Fox looks uncomfortable. “I watch out for all my team members!”
“So she is your girl? Ooo…”
“That isn’t what I meant…”
Krystal giggles. “That’s sweet of you.”
“You don’t have to hide it.” Tricky says, matter-of-factly. “Everybody already knows.”
“Everybody?” Fox asks in a whisper.
“Everybody.” The heir to the throne affirms. “Me an’ mom are betting on when you two’ll start going out.” He smiles. “Wanna hear the odds?”
“No!” Fox exclaims. Krystal giggles and wraps her arms around him. “Hey!”
“Shh, you.” The lady addresses Tricky. “You can tell me.”
“Ah, I couldn’t.” He replies. “Wouldn’t be fair.” The dinosaur chuckles. “But I already know what’s going to happen.” They arrive at the lead aircraft. “See you two lovebirds later.” He winks before waltzing off much to Fox’s irritation and Krystal’s amusement.
“I still don’t see why you get a copilot’s seat and a cargo hold…” Krystal says pensively. “What if I wanted one?”
“You’d pay it in leg room like I do.” The squadron head replies, hopping in the pilot’s seat. “Ow, almost every single time I do that I hit my knee on the control panel. Geez…”
“Well, I guess there is that.” She clambers in. “It is awfully cramped back here.” She admits.
“That’s technology at work. Thank Slippy.” Fox replies, wryly. “Readying takeoff sequence…”
The Arwing lifts off without much ceremony. The pair is pressed back into the seats as the ship accelerates to gain enough velocity to escape the atmosphere. Once free of the planet’s pull, they float for an instant as artificial gravity activates.
“Hey Fox, is something wrong?” A voice crackles over the radio.
“No, I’m not seeing anything…” The leader replies. “Why?”
“Is something the matter, Slippy?” Krystal queries, butting in.
“Your ship seems sluggish. It’s strange…”
“I’ve got a passenger!” Fox chides the mechanic. “That’ll slow me down!”
“No, it’s something else…let me check…”
The aviator thinks a moment. “I think the G-Diffuser is off; it snapped my head back hard leaving Sauria just now.”
“How many times do I have to tell you guys that your diffusers are fine?” Slippy sounds exasperated. “It looks like there’s more weight on the ship. The balance isn’t right.”
“On what side?”
“It’s heavier towards the rear for some reason…”
“Am I putting on weight?” Krystal asks, mock shocked. “It’s my butt isn’t it?”
“No, that’s not what I meant…it’s just distribution-” She giggles, cutting the toad off.
“That’s probably my pack.” Fox concludes. “Tricky had my field visor and some other things I’d left so I brought it all back with me. Probably all broken now, busted G-Diffuser…”
“It’s your own fault if all that stuff slammed into the side of the hold! The diffuser can only do so much! If you and Mr. Ace didn’t fly like maniacs…maybe everything wouldn’t go flying every time you hit the boost!”
“It’s made to stop that from happening!”
“Ugh!” The line goes dead.
“I’ve never had any problems with the G-Diffuser…” The passenger mentions after a moment. “Plus the screen says you’re going pretty fast…”
Back on Great Fox after an energetic debate about equipment function Fox, Slippy, and Krystal are all headed toward the bridge.
“…but I’ve never had one complaint out of Peppy when he flew with us!” The amphibian continues.
“That’s beside the point.” Fox says flatly.
“Never mind. I did what I could. What more could you expect?”
They enter the bridge area. Peppy is at the computer calculating something. Falco is leaning on the bay window at the far end of the room.
“Everything went smoothly.” Fox says to his advisor. “Except the ride back…” The mechanic shoots him a mean look and he chuckles in spite of it.
“Good to hear that.” Peppy replies. “With no expenses, this mission will be a windfall for us.”
“Falco!” Krystal calls. “You’re back!”
“He got back not too long before you two.”
“Hey there, doll.” The Ace says flatly, looking down. “Fox.”
“Falco.” Team leader replies.
“I’ve been thinking…”
“I said some things I shouldn’t have. I owe you and the lady an apology.”
“Well I shouldn’t have made you go with us if you didn’t want to.” Fox confesses. “Shouldn’t even have taken that Katina mission…not without 100% approval from everybody.”
“Got that right.”
“So I owe you an apology, too.” There is silence for a few seconds.
“So, we’re even?” Falco says, finally looking up.
“Looks like it, buddy.”
“What’d I tell you?” Peppy says enthusiastically. “He always comes back.”
“Well, I have to admit you did have me worried…” Krystal says, relieved. “I thought you’d left for good…”
“Eh, there isn’t that much money elsewhere…” The bird replies disdainfully. “Plus, you guys need me here.” He looks up at her. “What would you do without me?”
Slippy opens his mouth to reply but his words are lost as the main screen comes to life. Peppy puts the transmission through on reflex and the technician is drowned out.
“Well done Star Fox!” General Pepper begins. “Queen Earthwalker is quite impressed with the speed of your service as am I. I believe she has included a tip for your promptness as well. Keep up the good work.” Their superior blinks off and the total appears on the screen.
“You two did pretty well down there.” Falco says. “Maybe we should split up more often.” He retires to his quarters.
“This’ll definitely help make up for earlier.” Peppy concludes mentally. “There might be something to what Falco said…”
“That’s alright for a day’s work. Plus the ships are all 100%. Good way to end the day.” Slippy thinks, going to bed.
“That was nice of her.” Krystal states. “But isn’t it a bit much?”
“You decide.” Fox replies. “You earned it since you dealt with most of the enemies. Don’t you think your effort was worth it?”
In Krystal’s quarters the violet vixen is getting ready for bed.
“Two missions in one day…” She sighs. “I’m really tired.” She hangs up her equipment and changes into nightclothes. “That first mission was difficult; I don’t have that much experience flying against those kinds of odds, which Falco was kind enough to point out. I have to ask for help pretty often still but he didn’t have to be so mean about it. But that other mission was a breeze so that makes up for it. I’m getting better at this too so pretty soon I won’t need so much help. Practice makes perfect.” She hops into bed and closes her eyes. “Ah…”
“You will bring my family back together.” Says a voice.
“What?” Krystal’s eyes snap open, scanning the darkness. Nothing is there. “That was odd.” She closes her eyes again.
“You will bring my family back together.” It says again.
“You…” Krystal mumbles, trying to pinpoint the voice’s source. “Get out!” She yells, waking herself. But she is alone in the room, as before. Standing, she grabs her staff to make certain of it. Checking her bathroom and closet yields no intruder so she sweeps the area with her mind. It leads back to her clothes rack and her bodysuit. In its pocket the stone from earlier is glowing again. “…” She reaches for it and plans to fling it into the disintegrator, as it is far too annoying to keep around but upon touching it is transfixed by a voice and can’t help feeling a sense of impending dread.
Listen to me…
“No!” Krystal exclaims.
Listen to me.
Gather my family. The voice continues.
“You can’t make me!”
So that we may become one…
“Not a chance!”
…and I can live again.
Heed my voice and those of my children.
Krystal’s amazingly clever rebuttal is overridden as the one voice is joined by many. Even within her own mind she cannot hear herself. “Shut-”
Gather my family.
So that we may become one.
And I may live again.
To take my revenge.”
The lurid mental trap disappears as the stone is knocked from Krystal’s hand by Fox, where it shatters on the floor. She falls forward, still in shock and her would-be savior supports her as she collapses on him with her eyes closed.
“Krystal!” Fox yells. “Are you alright? Speak to me!”
“What happened here?” Falco asks, arriving late with blaster drawn.
“What’s with all the noise?” Slippy demands, rubbing his eyes. “Some people are trying to- is she okay?” The toad asks, changing his tone on a second look.
“I don’t know.” Fox replies worriedly. “I don’t know. I wake up because I hear her screaming and she’s standing here, holding that…” He gestures at the floor toward the broken rock. “…and it was glowing so I thought it was burning her so I knock it away. Now, she’s out…” He shakes her. “I can’t wake her.”
“This?” Slippy picks up a fragment.
“Doesn’t look like much.” The mechanic examines it. “I’ll take it to the lab and see what it is.” He leaves.
“Okay…” Falco holsters his weapon. “Well, I’m going back to bed.” He retires back to his room.
The next morning finds Krystal with a monster headache. Awakening slowly, rubbing her forehead she doesn’t open her eyes just yet.
“What happened?” She mumbles, groggily. “My head feels like something’s rattling inside it…” A presence grabs her attention. “Good morning, Fox.”
“Hmm?” Team leader looks up from the floor. “…morning.”
“I’m curious. What are you doing here?” The telepath sounds mildly amused, rolling over to look down at him. “This is my room if you aren’t sure which one yours is.”
“Ah…don’t you remember?”
“Last night. You were screaming and …I don’t know.” He stands up. “I was hoping you’d tell me.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“I’ll try to explain. See-”
“Don’t.” She commands, stares intently at him a moment.
“Hmm?” Fox queries. “But…” Then he feels a warm sensation behind his eyes. “Oh…right.”
Krystal looks shocked after her brief foray into his mind. “I don’t recall any of that…”
“Are you hurt?” The boss sounds anxious. “Do you feel okay?”
“I have a headache but that’s all.” She replies unsteadily sitting up.
“You don’t recall anything?”
“I got up to check on something…” She thinks a moment then shakes her head. “…then it’s black after that.”
“I watched over you while you were asleep. I didn’t know what to do.”
“Thank you for that.” Krystal smiles gently. “It means a lot.”
Fox shrugs sheepishly. “It was the least I could do.” He turns to leave and remembers something. “Would you like to take today off?”
“I’d rather not.”
Later that morning everyone is gathered on the bridge. After assessing mission options everyone has something to say.
“First off, I’m not doing the Fichina mission.” Falco says bluntly. “That weather machine malfunctions every other day and that place is too rough on Arwings when it isn’t working.”
“You’re fast on your feet.” Fox counters. “You’d get done in no time. With me behind you there’d be no problem.”
“If I can’t fly it’s a no go, flat out. Plus the blizzard only gets worse the longer it’s left alone? No sir, that’s too much down time.”
“Slippy, you’ll do this with me, right?” The team leader sounds desperate.
“No dice.” The engineer replies. “I’d rather finish that lab work than go get frozen.”
“You’ll be fine! Dress for the weather!”
“No. I’m cold-blooded.” He shakes his head. “Me and blizzards don’t mix.”
“I’ll do it.” Krystal volunteers.
“There goes taking it easy for the day.” Fox sighs. “Are you sure you’re up to this?”
“Watch the temperature.” Slippy advises. “Your personal climate control fields’ll handle most of it but be careful. You’ll have to get out of the wind occasionally so you don’t overwork them. The last thing you want is for them to quit and you freeze solid.”
“Right” Fox replies. “Anything else?”
In the bay of Great Fox everyone is making last minute mission preparations.
“Falco will drop you two off.” Peppy explains. “He’ll fly you two as close as he can before you have to jump. When you repair the weather machine he’ll come back and pick you up.
“Now, if you’re done, maybe we could get on with this?” The ace says impatiently. “Hop on so we can get this done.”
Without a word Fox and Krystal climb on the Arwing and prepare to wingride. The pilot takes off abruptly, heading off into the storm. A few minutes later the pair is deposited in the snow. After getting up, they’re off.
“We’ve got a long way to go to the heart of this.” Fox notes, looking at his map.
“He dropped us off at the edge of the disturbance.” Krystal replies. “Any closer and he risked going down.”
Team leader nods and they begin the trek. Deeper and deeper snow piles up before them as they walk against the wind. The epicenter of the blizzard remains a spot on the horizon as trudging through the drifts becomes more and more difficult. Progress slows increasingly, all the way up until Fox slips and falls in one of the snow banks face first.
“Brrr…” His teeth begin to chatter. Before he can get up the ice around him melts and he’s in a warm puddle. “...cold...”
“Are you alright?” Krystal inquires, with her glowing red staff close by.
Fox brushes himself off and nods. “I’ll let you slide with bringing that over a blaster on a mission this time.”
Krystal giggles. “You’re welcome.”
But even with the magical heat of her staff it is blistering cold and fearless leader manages to catch a chill from his slip up in the powder snow. Between that and fatigue is beginning to take its toll. Soon the duo decides it’s time for a quick break and duck into a cave to escape the gusting sub-zero winds.
“I can’t imagine why I brought this stick with me…” The telepath mentions as her staff warms up the cavern. “This old thing is barely usable.”
“You win already.” Fox says, exasperated. “I admit it, the staff beats a blaster.”
“But it’s all about preference.” He tries his communicator. “Slippy, do you read? How far away are we from the target?” He waits a few seconds. “Nothing, our communicators won’t reach through the storm.”
“You do know which way to go, right?”
“Yeah, but I don’t know how much further.”
“That doesn’t matter; we’ll make it if you don’t take another tumble…” Krystal smiles. “You aren’t still sopping wet are you?” She asks in all seriousness.
“No, I’m about as warm and dry as I’m going to get.” Fox checks the time and looks outside. “Ready to go?” She nods and they are off again.
Now it’s even tougher going. In addition to the searing cold it is now blinding as they are walking against the wind. Gale force gusts threaten to lift them from their feet with every step. The meager warmth of Krystal’s magic does little against the element of the winter planet. Still onward they trudge.
“Another couple of hours should put us at the installation.” Fox speculates. “If not, we’ll have to camp-” His train of thought is derailed as he takes flight. His trip isn’t long as his landing is just as abrupt. His partner impacts him directly afterward, hindering his attempts to stand. “You’re definitely too heavy to be landing on me...” He concludes, winded.
“Are you making fun of me?” Krystal says, trying to make light of the situation. “I’m not that heavy!”
“Right...” Fox ties a rope around their waists as a safety precaution. “But I might as well make use of a good anchor…” His traveling companion frowns at him before getting back up.
They plod on another half hour before taking a second rest in another cavern. Thankful to be out of the wind they almost collapse on the ground within the grotto.
“I thought we’d make better time than this.” Fox thinks. “This isn’t good.”
“I’m a bit tired.” Krystal says. “How are you holding up?”
“Aside from our time, I’m fine.” Fox replies. “Just a bit cold. Turn up the heat, would you?”
The telepath sighs. “I’m running out.” She shakes her head. “I’m almost drained. Plus, this cave is too big to heat with just this thing.”
“Oh. Never mind.” Fox checks his belt. “Is this thing working? Suddenly, I’m freezing!”
“Hmm?” Krystal is uneasy. “Is what working?”
“The climate thing! It’s supposed to stop the cold, right? But I’m starting to feel like a popsicle!”
“You did fall and get water in it as I do recall…”
“And you fell on it, don’t forget!” Fox adds. “Big butt…”
“Hey! My butt is not big!”
He shrugs. “I can’t help it. You sat on my lap and squashed the thing flat. What can I say?”
Krystal smiles wryly. “Yes, I did.” She concedes. “For that, I’m sorry.” She sits down next to him and wraps her arms around him.
“Now is not the time for that…”
“I’m trying to share my forcefield.” She replies, patiently. “It still works. Or would you rather I not?”
“Oh.” Fox is silent. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” She giggles.
“If you weren’t half frostbitten this would be romantic, don’t you think?”
Fox opens his mouth then shuts it again. Though he is very cold his pulse still quickens a bit and it isn’t the frigid air turning his face red. “Ah…”
“I thought so.” She pecks him on the cheek.
Fox takes another look at his watch. “Hmm…we should wait a while.”
“The wind’ll die down some after the sunsets in a couple of hours. Not much but it’ll be enough to walk through.” He sets his alarm. “Unless you mind….”
On Great Fox everyone is doing something different. Falco is down in the hanger detailing his Arwing, again. While Slippy is in the lab examining that strange rock leaving Peppy to mind the bridge.
“Haven’t heard from Fox yet…” The mission coordinator checks the locator system. “Looks like they’ve made some progress though. No need to worry.” He flips off the map program. “That’s not the problem. I doubt we’re going to get much for this mission either. We’re going to have to find a way to make more money.” He leans back. “I’ve got to think.”
The central area is silent as the old hare gets to thinking. But as is the way of fate, a breakthrough is always just out of reach. Because whenever there is peace and quiet someone has to call and mess it up. The sound of the communicator nearly startles the advisor from his chair.
“Dagnabit! I almost had it!” Peppy looks annoyed. “Who’s this calling?” He wonders, putting the transmission through.
“Ah, just who I wanted to speak to.” Pepper says. “I’ve got a question for you.”
“If it’s about that mission, they aren’t done quite yet.” Peppy says. “I’ll let you know when though.”
The general looks puzzled a second. “I wasn’t referring to that. I have a proposition for you.”
“Oh. How can I help?”
“I think your battle expertise can benefit the Cornerian Army and quite possibly the entire Lylat system.”
“I’d love to help but it’s a tad late for me to join the army isn’t it? I retired a couple years ago if you remember.”
“No, I don’t want you as a soldier. More like an advisor. I can’t think of anyone who’s flown as long as you have. Anything you don’t know about battle probably isn’t worth knowing.”
“I don’t know about all that…” Peppy says modestly. “…but I’ve flown since the beginning Arwings.”
“Exactly! That’s what I need, an experienced fighter. You’d be perfect as my tactician!”
“I’m not so sure.” The retiree sounds uncertain. “I’ve got a lot to do here, yet.”
“You’d only be a consultant, part time if need be. It’d be a worthy venture to consider, what do you say?”
“We could use the money…” The veteran considers. “No doubt about that but still…”
“Well?” Pepper asks expectantly.
“I’ll have to talk it over with my team.”
Inside the cave Krystal is having a nightmare.
It is time. The voice says. For the transformation to begin.
“What are you talking about?” Krystal is clueless. “Transformation?”
For us to become one.
“I will not bend to your will!” She is indignant. “Ever!”
You will merge with me and lead my family. The voice doesn’t seem phased by her misgivings.
“You are sadly mistaken; leave me alone!”
You want a family and that is one thing I can give. You’ll never be alone again.
The telepath is speechless. The loss of her family on Cerinia is still a deep wound. “…”
My family will be yours. All you must do is crush what I hate most then nothing will stop us from being together.
The purple psychic is still reeling somewhat from the memory of her tragedy. “What?” She asks in a wavering voice. The voice makes no reply and images of her friends flash before her. That is answer enough. “No!”
You will. The process begins now. Your mind and body will unite with my soul and you will be queen. Star Fox must be destroyed.
Krystal wants to debate the issue but it feels like she’s being ripped in half. Something is pulling tight against her and the pain is excruciating. She awakens from her slumber in real agony and cries out.
Fox, ever alert, springs back out of her arms in a hasty backflip and draws his blaster. Searching for enemies and finding none he looks back at his partner in distress. Since she’s straining at the safety line linking them he snaps it with a shot. “Wait a second…” He says slowly. “I get the feeling I missed something…”
Krystal is now able to stop bawling and open her eyes. Immediately she startles herself and recoils back, hitting her head on the cave wall. “Ow…” She rubs her cranium and chances another glance. “There’s something wrong here.” She says with her voice reverberating through the tunnel. She looks up at the much nearer ceiling. “I’m certain, now.”
Chapter 2: Within the Mind
In the lab on Great Fox, the mechanic has just finished the diagnostic tests on the crystal pieces.
“Okay, finished.” Slippy looks at the monitor. “What have we got here?” On the screen is pages of data. “Fox knows I’m no lab tech.” He starts reading. “Maybe I should’ve got Dad’s help on this…”
The Arwing specialist examines the screen closely. It takes him a few minutes to conclude the purpose of the material but he is relatively sure after analysis.
“Strange stuff.” Slippy says to himself. “It gives off energy and almost reads like it’s alive. Wonder where she got this?”
The resident technology expert runs the composition through a database of known substances. Watching it check against the criteria for more than a million things the toad is intrigued.
Back in the cave Fox has just finished listening to Krystal’s explanation of the situation. Now he’s in a state of disbelief.
“So, you’re telling me that you’re…turning into something?” Fox starts.
“Not just anything, the Aparoid Queen!” Krystal says imperatively, causing her listener to cover his ears. “Sorry…” She quiets down some.
“Which is long dead?” The tan fox continues.
“I’m telling you she’s here and she wants to take over! She’s inside my mind…I don’t know what to do.”
“And now you’re going to become her and try to take over the Lylat system? All from touching that little rock?” Fox looks like he wants to laugh but just cannot. After all, it’s not funny.
Krystal does not have a reply to that. She looks irritated and snorts. “You don’t believe me?”
“No, it isn’t that.” The boss replies quickly. “I mean, it is unbelievable and all but what am I supposed to say? It’s a lot to dump on a guy at one time.”
“Now, back to something a little more pressing…I’m freezing!” Fox bursts out as a gust billows into the cave.
“Let me help with that.” Krystal says, scooping up the team leader in both hands and embracing him. “Better?”
Fox, reflexively kicking air as he’s hoisted, doesn’t reply at first. Nevertheless, as he touches her warm skin and the forcefield comes around him he sighs. “Yeah, thanks.”
Krystal giggles. “Ooh, you’re like a fuzzy ice cube. That’s no good.”
“Just don’t let go and I’ll be fine.” Her passenger mumbles.
“How are we going to finish the mission? With you tied to me?”
“That isn’t a bad idea…”
“So now you want me to carry you?” The telepath seems amused.
“Unless you plan on fixing that climate thing you broke. The way I see it, you kinda have to carry me since it’s your fault.”
She smirks at his declaration. “Well, you don’t weigh that much now. I suppose I could help…you’ll have to hang on though.”
Fox wraps his arms around Krystal’s neck, not an easy task given the new size of his partner and hangs on tight. As she stands up, he swings a bit from side to side like an oversized pendant until she presses a hand to his back to steady him. Even though he feels amply supported, he can’t help but check his altimeter after taking a glance down.
“Whoa! I’m over twenty feet up!” He realizes. “I’ll just…” He tightens his grip on her collar area. “Can’t be too careful…”
“I won’t let you fall.” The telepath giggles again. “So you don’t have to choke me…” She steps out into the storm with one arm around Fox and her midsection and starts walking.
“Sure beats a cockpit chair any day of the week.” Fox thinks, pressed into her pillowy chest. “This is what comfort is...” He exhales into the warm, violet skin of her neck. “Yeah…”
“Is that so?” Krystal says, seemingly out of nowhere. “Well, I would like you to know that comfort costs.”
“Huh?” Team leader is confused a second. “Hey, don’t pry!”
“I wasn’t trying to. I guess my powers may have increased a bit.”
“But, as long as we’re on the subject, I’m asking for more of the profits this time. Since I’m doing all the work of course.”
“It’s only fair. You get carried while I stumble through the storm. The more I do the more I deserve, right?”
“She catches on quick.” Fox thinks. “And me with no bargaining chips. This makes things more difficult.”
“Quite true.” Krystal says with a smile. “I’m a fast learner.”
“Sorry. I don’t mean to…” The telepath is immediately contrite. “I know it’s rude.”
“It’s not that bad.” He replies. “Just startling. I’m not used to that.”
“It’s hard to tell if you’re thinking or saying things now.” She admits. “I guess you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mi- never mind.” Fox clams up.
On Great Fox in Arwing Slip no. 2, one pilot is re-detailing his ship. Again.
“Okay, let’s get started.” Falco climbs up the ladder. “Now that I could actually afford some decent paint for a change I’ll make you beautiful.”
The Ace starts working and all you can hear is the sound of a paintbrush. It’s like this for a while.
“I don’t know if we need four pilots on at the same time.” Falco says to himself. “Too many allies are liabilities, like with the Katina Defense Force and Bill’s team. He used to have waay too many people.”
He dips the brush back into the paint and stops to think. He almost forgets he is busy doing on a ladder something before starting again.
“Wolf flies with only three members now and they get things done. And well, though I wouldn’t tell him that. But he dropped Pigma because he wasn’t trustworthy and the worst pilot to boot. Who would we drop on this team?”
He climbs down to the floor and changes paintbrushes and colors. Now he brandishes a blue brush for trim work before climbing the ladder again.
“It’s Fox’s team and I’m the Ace so that leaves Slippy and Krystal. Slip’s our mechanic but he’s an all right pilot now. Krystal’s new and not so good yet but she needs time. It wouldn’t be fair to drop the lady yet even though she’s a serious drag in the field sometimes.”
The bird takes painstaking care around the Star Fox Team emblem and pauses. He’s in deep thought.
“Whether I like it or not, she’s one of us. Some missions we don’t need four pilots but there’s no reason to have only three mission ready members. It’s where our strength is.”
“Hey!” Somebody yells into the hanger. “Falco, you down there?”
“Yeah; what do you want, Slippy?”
“If you keep coating her with paint she’ll start slowing up on you!” The mechanic laughs.
“You need somethin’?” The A-1 aviator insists.
“Peppy’s got an announcement.” Slippy explains. “When Fox and Krystal report back he’ll tell us.”
“Knowing them, that’ll be awhile.”
“Yeah, just thought you’d wanna know.” The toad exits.
On Fichina it’s slow progress. Faster than before but slow, nonetheless.
“Man, is that snow deep.” Fox considers. “I can’t imagine foundering through that. I’d be in past my knees.”
“And falling in it if my memory serves me right.” Krystal replies aloud as a reminder she’s still listening in on his thoughts. “It’s not much past my ankles so I suppose you’re in luck.”
“We’re making better time than I thought.” Fox says, ignoring her comment. “We’ll be in sight of the weather installation pretty soon.”
“The sooner we get there, the sooner we’re done here.” Krystal affirms. “Not too long now.”
“Which is good because I’m-”
“-getting cold?” The telepath finishes. “I don’t suppose Slippy’s ingenious device was made for this much area. It’s probably giving out.” She wraps her other arm around her passenger. “I can’t have you freezing though.”
Fox, now firmly imprinted into the warm chest of his caretaker, says nothing. He’s content not to be numb from the sub-zero cold. “Thank goodness for something.” He thinks. “The wind-chill may be something else but I think it’s worth it this time…”
Krystal smirks, poking around in his head. “I guess he likes it.” She notes to herself. “And why not? For work in a blizzard conditions couldn’t be better. Travel on the softest cushions and warmest place on the planet according to him. Call me the veritable lap of luxury.” She sighs. “Enjoy it while it lasts.”
The target comes into view. Krystal steps up her pace, eager to get out of the snowstorm. But the sentry bots and guard systems make themselves known. Nothing is ever simple on a mission.
“Fox, hold on tight!” Krystal calls out, casting a barrier spell. “We’ve got company!”
“Understood!” Fox replies, instantly alert. He puts a vice grip around her neck as she turns a sideways somersault and draws her staff.
Krystal knocks out the cannons mounted on the building with a couple of quick shots. The more mobile enemies take a bit more time to pick off but it’s happening. With only two more to go she whirls to face them staff at the ready only for Fox to sway with her motion and be caught by a gust of wind and flung free of her.
“Wha-oh!” The airborne fox yells. “Aaaaahhh-” But his death cry is cut short as he’s stopped mid-flight. The dangling safety line around his waist found a second use and pulls tight around him to yank him back to Krystal. “…” He’s badly winded from the sudden aerial maneuver and wind-chill factor has bested him again and he blacks out with no fanfare.
“Always getting into trouble…” Krystal says to her unconscious friend, dropping her weapon. He curls into a ball at her touch as she wraps her hands around him and ducks down to avoid more attacks. “This is no good…” Reinforcements are not shy about advancing on her position and her shield charm is failing. “I have to do something or you’ll…” Coming to a conclusion as her protective screen comes down the telepath takes advantage of the increased décolletage of her attire and places the commanding officer down her suit front between her breasts. It’s a perfect fit, leaving him snugly wedged against her midsection. “Ooo, you’re positively frigid already.” She thinks fretfully. “I had better hurry this up.”
That realization spurs her to action and ground bound enemies are hit with the force of a Quake attack from her reclaimed staff. The rest are treated to an impromptu fireworks show of flame shots as she brings them down.
“Now that the hard part’s all done all I have to do is get inside.” Krystal moves to one of the square building’s doors. “I’m way too tall to walk in there. If I remember right I should be able to get in the top…” She climbs atop the roof. “…but it’s sealed with a forcefield to keep the snow out. Darn it!”
The towering vixen clambers back down clumsily. Checking her surroundings again reveals nothing new. She doesn’t see another way.
“I’ll have to crawl inside.” Krystal says, making her mind up. “I don’t know if I can but I don’t have much time.” She looks down at Fox, nestled in her now sizable cleavage. “I know he can’t last much longer out here. I’ll have to try.” She gets down on her hands and knees awkwardly. “I’m glad there’s no one around to see this.”
Now, bent down as low as she can get the oversize team member tries to squeeze inside the facility. What follows is a trick that any illusionist could appreciate facilitated by a mixture of finesse and force.
“Alright, I’ll just slide through.” Krystal gets her head and shoulders in with no problem. “Now, forward. Oh!” She gasps as easing ahead compresses her chest between her arms. “Fox!” She thinks frantically. “But I have to get through!” She moves onward, praying she isn’t crushing or suffocating him. “He seems alright.” The telepath decides with a quick mind scan of her occupant. “He’s dreaming.”
The corridor offers its share of resistance but yields as she makes her way through. Deep indentations are made by her hands and knees as she moves on. “Fichina can bill me.” She thinks sarcastically as her behind pushes up the ceiling every step of the way. Knocking the flimsy, at current, door aside she bursts into the control room with a gasp. “It was too narrow to breathe in there!” Warping the former access gate to fit back in its threshold she sits up and decides to check up on her partner. Conveniently enough he decides to wake up at this point though.
“Where am I?” Fox wonders hazily, amusing his savior. “What happened? I dreamt I was squeezed between-never mind.” He tries to clear his mind and remember.
“Should I tell him now or let him figure it out?” Krystal ruminates, juggling alternatives. “I’ll just wait.” She decides, not speaking. “It’ll be more fun.”
“Krystal!” Fox calls. But the sound reverberates off his mysterious prison very closely. “It’s somewhere tightly enclosed, I don’t think she can hear me.” He realizes.
Actually she had heard. It was all she could do to keep from laughing and giving herself away listening to his muffled voice through her outfit. “He’d never guess…” Her unintentional tabs on his thoughts verify her suspicions as he appears to remain confused.
“I know I passed out during the storm.” Fox recalls. “Now, it’s all warm and comfortable. Did I land in intensive care? How long have I been out?”
“It’s not quite expert medical attention but I’m glad you’re comfortable.” That is worth her smile spreading a bit wider. “I wonder if you’ll be so relaxed when you find out.” She contemplates idly with an impish grin.
“Why is it so dark in here? I can’t figure anything out with no light. And now it’s hot in here too; can somebody open a window? Anybody?”
Krystal’s bottom lip starts to quiver in anticipation and she bites it reflexively. “An outburst now would completely ruin the surprise.” She reminds herself. “I want to see the look on his face. It’ll be priceless.”
“I’m going to stifle in here, who turned the heat up so high?” Fox demands. “I’m getting out of here.”
Sitting perfectly stationary the vixen can hardly contain herself by now. It is bizarre anguish to keep still as Fox tries to escape the confines of her battle uniform. Each pinch that serves as a hand hold causes her a sharp intake of breath while each tickle that serves as a foot hold threatens to get her into a laughing fit. Covering her mouth with one hand and holding her glowing staff with the other she watches his progress.
“What the heck is this? It shouldn’t be this hard to get out of bed. What the heck am I wrapped in?” Fox starts to worry. “Is it a body cast? It’s way too tight on me.” He gets head and shoulders into open air. “Why is it purple?”
Krystal giggles. “Because it’s not a body cast. It’s me.”
“What?” Fox looks up at her face. “But-” He looks down around him. “This is-” She nods. “I-I-” He starts to stammer.
“Well, I thought you were going to die of hypothermia out there.” His comrade says by way of explanation. “I didn’t have much choice or time. But I can say I thought you would just die of embarrassment once you found out. So if you must…” She smiles playfully. “I really am quite sorry.” She chortles softly.
“I was here…this whole time?” Fox asks, turning pale.
“Yes, it was quite entertaining.” Krystal replies. “I do suppose I had little to worry about. You were actually quite hot if what you said was to be believed.”
“You heard what I said?”
“Every word. I assumed that I met your requirements for first class travel here on Fichina. You may disembark at your leisure.” Krystal says in her best flight attendant impression. “Thank you for traveling with Telepath Transportation Services.” She gives him an award winning smile.
Fox looks around again and he’s still engulfed up to his armpits betwixt her breasts and uniform. Pressing down on the pliable, soft skin goes nowhere and makes her giggle while just attempting heightens his discomfiture to a point where the roar of blood rushing in his ears is near deafening. “I-” He reaches a hand upward, hopefully.
Krystal shakes her head. “Go on; you got this far.” She’s grinning from ear to ear now. “You can do it.”
Completely taken aback, Fox is stunned. Having fully expected to be hoisted from his predicament he is not prepared to extricate himself. Once again realizing his location he is tempted to take her up on her offer and expire on the spot due to the sheer mortification. But, taking initiative, he decides to finish what he started. Grasping the neckline of the battle garment and kicking with his feet he is able to propel himself over the now exaggerated V cut and into the waiting hands below.
On Great Fox everyone is gathered on the bridge.
“We haven’t heard from Fox and Krystal yet.” Peppy says. “I wonder if something’s wrong.”
“What’s taking them so long?” Slippy adds. “This isn’t normal. It doesn’t take that much time.”
“It does if you’re playing kissy face the whole way.” Falco says with a grin. “I bet that’s what it is.”
Slippy looks sidelong at the star aviator while the retired rabbit shrugs. The room isn’t quiet for long, though. They’ve got a transmission.
“It’s from Fichina!” Peppy says, putting it through.
“Fox here.” The screen clicks on and hisses some, the reception isn’t the best. “We’ve made it to the weather control installation.”
“Good!” Peppy replies. “Any problems to report?”
“Um…there were several.” Fox replies unsteadily, looking off-screen. “I’ve got something important to tell you, also.”
“Which is?” Falco asks.
“It’s best said in person, believe me.”
“What kind of problems did you have?” Slippy inquires. “Everything work okay?”
“No. Those personal climate control things stopped working. Plus my radio wouldn’t work.”
“With the snow and wind at record highs the signal from your communicator wouldn’t get through.” The engineer concurs. “It’s little better than a transistor radio wave frequency. What I want to know is how you got through the storm if your climate control devices stopped working. The both of you should be ice sculptures by now.”
“Krystal…was able to help me.” Fox replies, looking off-screen again.
“Where is she, by the way?” Peppy asks. “Is she alright?”
“Well, she seems to be.” The leader replies slowly gazing at that spot off camera again. “Say something and let the rest of the team know you’re alright.”
“I’m doing fine.” Krystal says. “Just don’t feel like walking over to the communicator right now is all.”
“That’s good to hear.” The old hare says, relieved. “I was worried.”
“Right…and one more thing guys.” Fox adds as an afterthought.
“What’s that, boss?”
“When you come down to get us bring down Great Fox could you?”
“What? Why?” Slippy is immediately suspicious.
“Because I think it’s required at this point.” The leader replies staring off camera. “Definitely.”
“You know that takes a while, right Fox?” Peppy reminds him. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m positive. Trust me on this.”
“If you insist, we’ll land the ship when the storm clears.”
Back down on the ice planet Fox has just ended the transmission.
“I guess they’ll bring down Great Fox when we’re done here.” He says. “You’re a tad tall for an Arwing don’t you think?”
“Perhaps.” Krystal concurs. “There probably isn’t enough head room anymore. A shame.”
“Yeah.” Looking around Fox notes the damaged door. “How did you get in here?” He asks, giving it some thought. “There’s no way you could’ve…”
“Oh, there is. I thought the same thing until I did it.”
“You’re kidding. You fitting through there is blatantly impossible.”
“You can go look if you like.” Krystal laughs softly. “I did a little renovation. Everyone needs equal access here, don’t you agree?”
Fox waltzes on over and squeezes between the makeshift sheet of steel functioning as a door. After a good, long look (which lingers on the terribly misshapen ceiling) he comes to one conclusion. “That’ll cost a fortune.”
“I’m sure.” Krystal nods.
“It’s your fault you know.” The leader tells her. “Trying to finagle your bubble butt in here, you should know better.” He chuckles. “There are some places it just can’t go.”
The voluptuous vixen grins back. “I did manage to get it in here though. I guess I can take this place off that list.”
“How am I going to explain this to the Fichina counsel?”
“I’ll handle that, don’t you worry.” Krystal replies. “You just figure out how to fix the computer.”
“Right.” Fox starts trying to input commands into the console. “But the system’s locked me out. I know I’ve got the correct clearance codes. I’ll have to reboot the thing all over again.” He retrieves the boot disk from his pocket.
“No, don’t…” A faint voice says.
“Stop.” Krystal commands.
“I know it takes a while to reinitialize but it’s got to be done. The sooner I do it the sooner it’ll be back to working right.” Fox reminds. “It’s all I can do.”
“There’s something else at work here.” The telepath insists.
“What are you talking about?”
Krystal pays him no further heed and walks across the room to the main terminal. Lightly pushing Fox aside, who is completely clueless, she removes an access panel to the machine and reaches inside with a hand the size of a cookie sheet. “It was you, wasn’t it?” She whispers, withdrawing her hand. A small aparoid is perched atop it.
“An aparoid!” Fox exclaims, drawing his blaster. “Krystal that thing’s dangerous! Put it down!” His command falls on deaf ears though.
“Yes.” The weak voice replies. “I am lucky you can hear me. I shall alert the others. We shall come for you, my Queen.”
“Drop the aparoid!”
“What?” Krystal is surprised. “I’m not-hey!” The mechanical insect explodes as Fox hits it with a charge shot. She glares at him angrily.
“It was just an aparoid…” Fox looks uncomfortable all of the sudden.
“He’s right, what do I have to be angry about?” The telepath remembers. “What came over me? Unless…”
“I’ll just run the system re-launch now, if that’s okay with you.” The boss says slowly. “The sooner it starts, the sooner it’s done.”
“You shouldn’t have to, anymore.” Krystal states. “That aparoid was the reason you were locked out. It was logged on and giving faulty commands. Try it again.”
“Okay…” Fox doesn’t seem to buy it but doesn’t want to bother her so he tries anyway. The system comes up with him giving commands as normal. In seconds the storm dies out. “You were right. How did you know?”
“What am I supposed to say?” Krystal wonders idly. “It told me? I couldn’t understand aparoids this well before, what am I becoming?”
You know the answer to that.
“No! You get out of my mind!”
Only a matter of time, now…
“Krystal!” Fox yells. “Can you hear me?”
“Huh? Yes, Fox.” She replies, shaking her head to clear it.
“Like you zoned out for a moment there…do you remember how you figured that out?”
“…just a feeling I had.” Krystal shrugs noncommittally. “It may have been luck.”
“Oh. It was a good call though. You just saved us a lot of time.” Fox sits down. “Now, we wait.”
This gives them both some needed time to think. The day’s events are more than a little unusual.
“It’s like I don’t know myself anymore.” Krystal ponders. “Is it really going to take over me? I don’t want- can’t let that happen but how can I stop it? For an instant I actually wanted to destroy Fox. How can that be?” She pauses for a moment and considers it. “It can’t be.”
Fox is on a similar wavelength, worrying about his teammate. “Krystal’s been really distant. Something’s always on her mind. Being a telepath must be really hard.” He contemplates. “If it’s about what she told me before then I don’t know. I don’t know how to stop her, reverse it and I refuse to hurt her.” He looks up at his massive female friend. “She’s too pretty to hurt anyway. I like her way too much to do that.” He shakes his head. “I just don’t have the heart. So I guess we’ll have to wait and see.” He sighs. “Now if I could only think of an excuse for her to hold me again…” Hands encircle his midsection before he completes the thought. “…?”
On Great Fox the entire crew has just landed the massive vessel.
“We brought her down just like he asked.” Peppy says. “I wonder what for, though.”
“I’ve got a lot of questions for him myself.” Slippy mentions. “Just wait until he gets here.”
“Um, no.” Falco says decisively. “I’m asking now. Might as well, since we’re here.” He activates his headset. “Falco to Fox, come in.” He pauses. “Why did we have to land this thing, again?” He listens for a couple of seconds. “Alright, but this had better be good.” He disconnects.
“What did he say?” Peppy asks.
“What’s the big idea?” Slippy demands. “There had better be a good reason I had to go through all the trouble of landing this thing.”
“He didn’t exactly say.” Falco replies. “He just said ‘come outside’.
Donning equipment appropriate to the weather the rest of the team disembarks from their home vessel. Fox meets them out in the snow.
“Well, we landed her like you wanted.” Peppy says. “Mind telling us why?”
“Ah…” Fox begins.
“This should be good.” Falco chuckles.
“I’ve got to hear this one.” Slippy agrees.
Team leader sighs. “…just follow me.” He heads back inside the building. His team proceeds after him warily.
“What’s all this about?” The Ace asks, keeping pace.
“You’ll see.” The squadron leader walks into the control room.
“Oh really?” The raptor is close behind. “You’re right, I do understand.”
“I certainly don’t hear a lot of commotion.” Peppy calls, walking at a leisurely pace. “Was landing and coming down here necessary?” He walks in. “Well, that’s something you don’t see every day.”
“An understatement if I ever heard one.” Falco affirms. “I’ll admit it was worth the trouble.”
“I’ll be the judge of that!” Slippy yells, having lagged pretty far behind over layering himself with winter clothes. “Whatever you’re talking about had better merit me landing Great Fox, finding my winter coat, and walking all the way here wearing all this.” He pants. “In the cold, no less.”
“Trust me, Slip. It is.” The bird shakes his head. “I can’t believe this.”
“Believe what?” The mechanic finally arrives. “I don’t see- hachi machi!” His amphibian eyeballs nearly fall off his head.
Krystal smiles shyly down at them from her sitting position against the wall. “Hello to you too, Slippy.”
The sound of her voice triggers the moment of initial shock. The mouths of the parties present drop open in synch and brains start processing. Their captain just waits, having already been through it. “Best explained in person, as I said before.” He thinks to himself.
“Can’t call you doll anymore, that’s for sure.” Falco thinks.
“This sure does trump my announcement.” Peppy chuckles inwardly.
“I shall not doubt Fox again.” Slippy reflects in awe.
Krystal continues smiling. Their thoughts actually were a bit funny to her. She was on the verge of replying when hit with another wave of cognition from her companions. The telepath decides to stop and wait her turn.
“She probably won’t be flying anymore.” Falco considers.
“How are we supposed to support her?” Peppy wonders.
“Where will she sleep?” Slippy queries of himself.
The psychic’s grin fades a bit. “We can find a way, right?” She thinks hopefully. But now she has doubts. Pragmatism has done its work. She is less than happy.
Fox picks up on her apprehension immediately. “Krystal-” But his words are no match for the speed of the mind.
“Which isn’t a bad thing really.” Falco concludes. “Definitely dead weight a lot of the time anyway.”
“The whole operation won’t last too much longer like this.” The old hare closes his eyes and shakes his head silently.
“There’s no way we’ll be able to find accommodations for her! There isn’t a place she’ll fit and be comfortable! Slippy exclaims in his head. “She’ll ruin everything!”
You have a place with my family. They’ll take care of you.
“-are you alright?” Fox finishes.
“No!” Krystal interjects.
“Just leave! All of you!” She stands and gestures toward the exit. “I don’t want to hear anymore!”
“But we didn’t say anything…” Peppy says slowly.
“Out!” The room shudders with the force of her shout as she stares down at them, more than a bit miffed.
“If that’s what you want, doll.” Falco says, backing away. “You don’t have to tell me twice.” Everyone else files out behind him.
“You, stay.” She calls to Fox, who was last in the procession.
He stops. “I’m here for you.”
“What happened?” Fox asks, turning around.
“It was their thoughts. They were so mean…I can’t help it.” Krystal almost wants to cry. “They-”
“Shh. It’s okay.” He is fast by her side. “Calm down.” He strokes her consolingly.
“How will I eat? Where? I can’t even help-”
“Don’t worry. It’ll be okay.” Fox says softly. Suddenly he’s yanked from the floor.
“Really? But how?” The enormous flustered girl persists, constricting her confidant.
“I’ll take care of it. I promise.” His fur becomes wet with her tears. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”
“You don’t know what that means to me right now.” She squeezes him tight. “I-”
“Hush.” Fox commands kindly. “I’ll take care of everything.” He says again, gasping a bit as her embrace becomes tighter than comfort allows. “It’s okay.”
So for a while he consoles her. All the way up to when his outfit is soaked through with salt water and she’s done sobbing. Most of it is done in silence as she pops in and out of his mind sporadically. She explores it through and through unintentionally. The link between them so deep that for the time being there was no need for words and his presence alone was enough to ground her. They were content to remain that way until it was time to depart.
True to his word, Fox took care of it. He made space in the bottom hold below the Arwing hangars that would serve as a temporary place to sleep. He arranged for a visit to Corneria the very next day for food and drink as well as appointments with the best medical professionals in the Lylat system. After accomplishing all this he has one more thing to do and that’s explain it all to her.
“Krystal, I’ve got good news.” Fox calls, entering her provisional quarters. “I called in a few favors and-” A familiar tingling occurs between his ears. “-I wanted to tell you myself.” He finishes with a wry half-smile.
The telepath smiles wanly back at him, leaning on a wall of the storage area, and shrugs. “I’m sorry. But I so love good news.” She sighs. “I can’t thank you enough for all of this.”
“You don’t have to. A captain’s duty is to his crew.”
“Never mind it.” He looks around. “Making yourself at home?” He says, noting the arrangement of things. He had brought down all the extra bed setting and pillows he could find and they were neatly arranged in the center of the room. Several heavy boxes of parts had been moved as well to make more space and her staff was leaning against the doorway glowing warmly and giving the place a more personal look. “Good job.”
“I may as well, right?”
The boss nods and looks at his watch. “You’d better rest up. You’ve got a lot to do tomorrow so you’ll be up early.” He says curtly.
“Yes, sir.” Krystal replies softly. “Good night, Fox.” She stretches out on her makeshift bed composed of all the extra linen on Great Fox and closes her eyes. “
On the bridge the remainder of Star Fox is assembled.
“Tomorrow we make the trip to Corneria.” Fox says. “Anyone have any remarks?”
“So, you’ll let me off there?” Peppy asks. “I decided to take a job as tactician for the General. I talked it over with these two earlier and they think they can manage without me for a little bit. Is it alright with you?”
Fox contemplates a moment. “Well if you’re up to it then go. We could use the extra money.” He looks around. “Anything else?”
“Well…” Slippy begins slowly.
“How did the lab results go on the pieces of that rock?” Fox interrupts. “That’s been bothering me.”
“I still don’t have a match to its composition, the tests are inconclusive.” The technician replies. “But I had a question…”
“Okay. What is it?”
“I was wondering…” The toad hedges. “…never mind. It’s not-”
“What Slippy over there wants to know is what you are doing about the doll in the hold.” Falco says without preamble. “I’m curious too; is she staying, going, what?”
“Tomorrow, we go get her something to eat and visit some specialists.” The leader replies. “We’re getting to the bottom of this.”
“That’s all well and good but how much is this gonna cost? She’s probably got a healthy appetite and doctors ain’t cheap.”
“No, they are not.” Fox turns to his advisor. “Peppy, let’s take a look at the numbers you ran.”
“After we called everybody we knew we found some experts who would take this job.” The hare starts. “Since we’ve done favors for them in the past they’ll give us both food and service at a discount.” The video screen pops on. “The first row is projected medical costs and the second is for food. The last line is totals of the first two with tax added in.”
“The last line is what we’re looking to pay?” Falco asks, just to be sure.
The expert flyboy looks at the screen and figures. He starts counting on his digits then stops. “This is at a discount?”
“I’m not seeing it.”
“I don’t think we have that kind of money to spare.” Slippy adds. “We don’t make that much…”
“Yes, we do.” Fox insists. “We just have to try.”
“Not unless you plan on selling her Arwing for this!” The bird screeches. “You must be nuts!”
“That’s exactly the kind of attitude we don’t need. Pipe down.” Fox commands.
“You can’t be serious! These numbers are for one day? You didn’t make that much saving Sauria!”
“Keep it down. She doesn’t need all this negativity.”
“Doesn’t need? What doesn’t she need? She’s needs every penny anybody’s got around here and doesn’t want to hear it? That’s rich!”
“I’d have to sell my copyright to the Landmaster tank for that kind of cash…” Slippy mumbles. “…and I could still be short.”
“She’s one of us!”
“We could buy an actual pilot for this kind of money!”
“Falco…” Fox seethes.
“Oh, I’m sorry, did I offend you?” Falco asks in a proper falsetto voice. “Is Krystal listening? Are her feelings hurt? Well I can think what I damn well please!” The Ace turns to leave. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go see if I can sell my extra cans of paint for something to contribute to the cause.” He storms out.
“What am I supposed to do? Nothing?!” Fox demands.
“I don’t know. But one option is way cheaper than the other.” Slippy says, shaking his head. “Beakhead’s got one thing right; we’re in deep.” He leaves.
“We’ll just have to see how it pans out tomorrow.” Peppy states. “Stay positive, Fox.”
Below the hangar Krystal is quite upset. She was privy to the entirety of the loud exchange on the bridge thanks to her increased powers and is in tears again.
“It’s that expensive?” The vixen is taken aback. “Maybe Falco’s right; I should just quit so they could get a real pilot in here that’s not such a burden…” She wipes her eyes. “Even Peppy and Slippy don’t know what to do; only Fox thinks I’m worth keeping around. He always sticks up for me…but even he was surprised at what it all came to.”
The lights go dim, leaving Krystal in the semi darkness. She lies down on the crude excuse for a bed and continues thinking morosely.
“Fox didn’t find out until Peppy told him.” The telepath realizes. “He must not have wanted me to know when he came to tell me. He even tried to keep Falco quiet so I wouldn’t worry…but he can’t protect me from everything.” She sighs. “And he’s trying so hard too. I don’t feel worth the trouble.” She closes her eyes. “Some way something has to happen tomorrow…” She mumbles, falling asleep with the staff fading out. Soon enough she’s dreaming.
Now Krystal is on Sauria, sitting on a hill watching a sunset. Fox is beside her, holding one of her fingers. “I’ve been meaning to make him do this…” She thinks to herself. “We hardly spend any time alone together.”
Her would-be boyfriend is just sitting there. He looks like he’s got something to say but doesn’t speak. Krystal has to resist probing his mind even though curiosity is really badgering her and it’s quite difficult. Though one thing she can pick up on without prying is that he’s happy to be there with her. He squeezes her hand and she can almost actually feel his grip tighten.
“He’s so shy. It doesn’t take much to embarrass him.” She considers. “Especially when it’s just the two of us. I won’t push him.” She decides, not picking him up though the urge has made itself known.
It looks like Fox has gathered his resolve. He turns to her and their eyes meet. This time she’s sure he’s going to say something. He closes his eyes and sighs. “Krystal…” She gazes all the more intently down at him. “I-what in the world?”
From out of nowhere comes an aparoid. It scampers about behind Fox and comes right at her. Then another comes from out of the sky. It drops down nearby. Followed by two more that come from behind her and stand. In no time at all the entire place is teeming with them.
“…?” Krystal is puzzled. Before she can question it the scenery changes. “What…”
“Aparoids!” Fox yells, drawing his blaster.
…we’ve come for you…
“Sound the alarm!” Fox bellows into his communicator. “We’re under attack!” He starts firing on the enemies.
“Fox! What’s the big deal?” Comes over his headset. “I’m trying to sleep!” Falco says grumpily.
“We’ve been infiltrated! I need help!”
Krystal simply watches it all unfold. Soon Slippy, Falco, and Peppy are all on the scene. She gazes down at them with a strange sense of detachment. “What is all this? This dream doesn’t make sense…” She thinks to herself. “Those voices…”
…it’s all for you…
…we’ll save you…
“Slippy! Where are the weapons?” Fox shouts.
“The armory’s locked!” The mechanic yelps. “We’ve been hacked, I can’t open it!”
“What kind of crap is that?” Falco demands. “We can’t win this with just blasters!”
“There can’t be this many left!” Peppy claims. “Even if we didn’t take care of them all! How’d they get in here?”
“It doesn’t matter; we’ve got to get them out of here!” The leader replies. “Now!”
“That’s Fox for you, strong no matter what.” Krystal thinks absently, delving into his thoughts.
“Whatever they came for they’re not getting it. I don’t care- Krystal stand back!”
The telepath steps back a couple paces, she had wandered towards the combat by mistake. Though it didn’t seem important since neither side seemed interested in attacking her. “I can’t even help them now…” True enough the place wasn’t really tall enough to stand in, much less wield her staff. “I’m useless.” She concludes, watching the heated battle at her feet.
…we adore you…
“Krystal, get down would you?” The Ace requests. “I can’t shoot through ya!” She nods and crouches but his thoughts aren’t lost on her. “Such a drag, just like always.” The bird notes to himself. “Like a darn anchor. Holding me back, in my way…”
…we admire you…
“We’ve got to regroup!” Slippy interjects. “Move towards me so we can stand together!” She nods dumbly and approaches. His apprehension at her movement in his direction is apparent and she peruses his brain as well. “We might not be able to win this. If we knew what they wanted we could surrender it if it wasn’t too vital…” The toad cogitates.
“They want me…” The purple fox reflects. “Maybe I should give up…”
…you’re everything to us…
“Slippy, go blow down the armory door with these mines!” Peppy commands, once they huddle. “It’s our only chance!” While inside his mind he’s already considered the likely endings. “If this doesn’t work we’re done for. We’re not going to last…there’s too many of them.”
“I don’t want them to get hurt because of me…” Krystal thinks, sadly. “They can’t win.” The battle’s pitch reaches a new high and her allies are pushed even further back. Shelter is starting to minimize from the intense firefight and their barrier devices are failing. “It has to stop.”
…we need you…
“I should just go.”
…we need you…
“They need me…”
“Krystal!” Fox yells, seeing her step over them all toward the enemy. “Krystal, wait!”
“It’s okay. You’ll be here when I wake up, right?” The enormous girl asks.
“Stop! Don’t you see? You are awake!”
Krystal pays ignores him and climbs up into the hangar via a brand new entrance she just had the pleasure of making with her bare hands. “If it will end this, I’ll do it.” She walks over to her slip. A large, pod shaped craft is there behind her Arwing. It opens on her approach.”
…come with us…
“Krystal, don’t go!” Fox screams flying through the hole in the floor with his jet pack. “Please!” He runs toward her.
“Don’t worry; it’s for the best…” She says, holding him back with one hand while boarding the ship. His thoughts drift towards her as the hatch closes.
In the morning on the bridge of Great Fox Star Fox is gathered.
“So, tell me again what happened last night?” Falco asks. “I’m missing something.”
“I went down to check on Krystal in the hold. I thought she was crying so I went. I sat with her a while and held her hand-”
“Ooo, isn’t that sweet?”
“Shut your beak.” Slippy interrupts.
“-until the aparoids came. I saw one and sounded the alarm. By the time I’d raised you all the place had already been overrun.”
“When I got there I saw that we’d been hacked.” Slippy says. “The armory was locked and I couldn’t open it and the Arwing slips were locked. Only Krystal’s was open and I couldn’t close it back. That’s how they got in.”
“By the time we started fighting we’d already almost lost.” Peppy adds. “When I sent Slippy for the weapons I was about sure it wouldn’t make a difference.”
“When I finally blew the armory door they had gone.” Slippy mentions. “A waste of a good door.”
“Krystal went with them. She climbed into the hanger and left in a strange ship they had docked there.” Fox concludes. “There was nothing I could do.”
“There was nothing anybody coulda did.” Falco reminds. “Was it me or was she acting kind of strange?” All parties nod. “Thought it was just me.”
“They must’ve wanted her.” Slippy deduces. “She was their objective; when they got her they pulled back.”
“Wonder why that was?” Peppy muses. “Must need her for something.”
“I’ll bet it’s tied to dollface’s growth spurt.” Falco assumes.
Chapter 3: Never Say Never
Meanwhile, in her personal one passenger pod, Krystal is waking up.
“That was a strange dream…” She says to herself. “Ugh, it was so- where is everyone?” The telepath mentally sweeps the area then opens her eyes. “Where am I? It’s almost like…oh no…what have I done?”
You have decided to become one with me.
“No, I would never…” Krystal shudders with revulsion.
A good choice; my family will care for you well.
“Impossible…” However, the surrounding aparoid thought patterns do not lie. The passing stars through the dome of her ship clearly illustrate travel of great speed also. “Unless that dream…”
A pivotal point of progress. Soon, there will be no turning back…
“…wasn’t simply a dream.”
We will go back to where it began to find the last pieces. Then you will be able to take the final step.
On Great Fox, the leader of the team has explained the stakes. The gravity of the situation has sunk in and the entire crew is more than a bit surprised.
“…so dollface is gonna go mega mecha bug queen on us?” Falco queries. “This just gets better and better.”
“That explains what was happening to her.” Slippy confirms. “The results on that rock were that it was a piece of the Aparoid Queen used to power one of those generators. Between all the close combat with the aparoids and her extended telepathic link with the queen in the missions before I guess there was something left of that consciousness inside her mind. Enough to have some pretty serious side effects when brought into contact with that stone.”
“It took a while but it’s trying to absorb and control her like it did me.” Peppy remembers. “Like back on the Aparoid Homeworld.”
“But we destroyed the queen already. So with no body to be in she needs a vessel.” Fox finishes. “And she picked Krystal.”
“So what are we supposed to do?” Falco asks. “Because I won’t…” He shakes his head. “She’s one of us.”
Fox nods. “Yeah. Well, I don’t know what to do. That’s it. This isn’t any ordinary enemy so I’m stumped.”
“I’ll call Dad.” Slippy volunteers. “He’s the aparoid expert.”
“If anybody knows, it’d be Beltino.” Peppy agrees. “Since I’m going down to Corneria I’ll tell the General. You all keep me informed about what goes on around here, okay?”
“Right.” Fox replies. “Keep out of trouble.” The old hare nods and walks off to the hanger.
“So, what now?” The Ace wonders. “Where do we start if we don’t know where she is?”
“I’ve already tried her headset tracer and attempts at transmission.” Slippy lists. “The ship she’s in doesn’t come up on radar and didn’t leave a trail to pursue because it jumped to hyperspace after that. I can’t even run a trajectory map to follow her because the instruments went wacky when they boarded us. So I guess we wait.”
“Maybe not.” Fox says slowly. “I have an idea. I think she’s on Sauria.”
“Based on what?” Falco is suspicious. “Are you psychic too?”
“No, but last night right before the battle…” The leader trails off. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“Understand what? You might as well take a dart and throw it at a map of the system! Why don’t we just go where it lands?”
“We don’t have anything else to go on.” Slippy reiterates. “Do you have any ideas?” He asks, putting the bird on the spot.
“Rob, set a course for Sauria.” The boss commands.
“It doesn’t make sense! Now we’re on a wild goose chase?”
“I hope not.” Fox sighs.
“You don’t know!” Falco restates. “She could be anywhere in the whole galaxy, you don’t know!”
“We’ve got a transmission!” Slippy interjects. “It’s from Sauria!”
“Put it through.”
The screen pops on. The crown prince of the Earthwalkers is displayed. “Fox, are you there?”
“You’ve reached Star Fox Team.” Falco replies, grinning in spite of the situation. “Can we help you?”
“You guys have got to come quick! Krystal is here and she’s huge! She’s tearing the hills apart looking for something. Aparoids are here too! Mom told me to call you guys as quick as possible.”
“We’re on the way, Tricky.” Fox replies. “Just hold tight. We’ll be there, soon.”
“Okay and hurry up!” The screen goes blank.
On Dinosaur Planet Krystal is ransacking the countryside looking for more debris. Most of the natives have retreated by this time, leaving her and her minions to their search.
“I can’t stop myself.” The violet vixen laments. “I’m not in control!”
I am, and soon I’ll have the galaxy.
“Why are you making me do this?”
Because only you can support my life. For it to be perfect, I need my children all around me. They give me power.
“The generators!” Krystal realizes. “You’ll duplicate them and create an army!”
All I need are the pieces to one and I will take everything else I want.
You do not have a choice.
Krystal sees the truth in that, a passenger in her own body. She has all but lost hope until she feels a familiar presence nearby. “Fox won’t let you!”
He will be taken care of in due time as well. His efforts will prove futile.
“Krystal, stop!” Fox calls, confronting her and blocking her path. “We can help you!”
“You cannot.” The queen replies with Krystal’s voice. “You are too late.”
“No, it’s not! Let us help; we can fix it! We just need time!”
“You cannot.” She repeats monotone. “There is nothing you can do. I am what I am.” The exceedingly statuesque lady continues in her search.
“You shouldn’t do this. I’ll…have to stop you if you won’t of your own will.”
“Will you stop me?” The possessed titaness laughs. “You cannot.” She stands to her full twenty-five foot height. “I’d like to see you try.”
“I will if I have to…” Fox advances, blaster drawn.
“No, you won’t. Even if you could, you would not. You can no more harm this body than destroy a comrade.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I do. Her powers are mine and I can see into your mind as one may a window, little man.”
“Your blaster is set to stun and your little friends are hidden close by ready to assist but even you doubt you’ll bring me down. Yet you still possess the foolish hope.”
“I’ve got to.” Fox takes a deep breath.
“Then you will be destroyed.”
Krystal is appalled at the ease the words slipped off her traitorous tongue. “I, but-why can’t I stop it?” She screams to herself as the queen starts to attack her best friend. But Fox is wily and he jumps over the first sweeping staff strike and counters with some blaster shots. They hit her arms and shoulders, leaving slight singe marks on her lilac colored skin. “I can’t…”
“You’ll need more than that.” The queen taunts, unfazed. “And you know it.”
“Slippy, can I get a hand?” Fox yells over his headset.
“Affirmative, Fox.” The mechanic replies, unenthused from the cockpit of a Landmaster.
“Come on, you know the plan!” Team leader implores. “Work with me!”
The toad sighs. “Here we go.” He charges the beam cannon on the tank. “I hope you’re right…” He fires on that which would be Krystal.
“Clever, Fox.” The queen says, putting up the staff force shield. “Now that you’re in here with me what now?”
He does not reply and avoids being kicked by her shuffling feet while implementing the next part of his plan. Aiming high, he shoots for her eyes and face. This blinds his enormous adversary for an instant as her eyes close and she loses concentration. The shield comes down. “Falco, your turn!”
“Alright, but you’re really too close…” The top pilot hedges as he makes a pass overhead in his Arwing.
“Do it now!”
“…you’ve got it.” Falco releases a bomb nearby and the blast causes a large flash and a lot of noise and shrapnel. “This is some plan.” He thinks, looking at the dust cloud below.
In all the smoke and din Fox makes his move. “One full-charge stun blast should do it.” He thinks, carefully circling his immense quarry. “All I have to do is land it at close enough range…” He tightens his radius around her slowly while she flails about, perplexed. “…and be careful.”
“What is all this?” The gargantuan girl staggers about trying to catch her balance. “I’ve fallen into his trap…” She looks around but is rewarded with soot in her eyes. “I can’t see!” She stumbles and falls over.
Krystal, riding shotgun during the whole ordeal, actually smiles inwardly listening to the queen complain. “Telepathy isn’t pinpoint you know.” She laughs.
On the ground, Fox has just found a good angle to shoot from. “All I have to do is fire now…” He charges the blaster and aims for her head. “I can’t…” He looks at her magnified form with her eyes tightly shut struggling to find hand holds to get up without pressing her hands and feet into the ground. “It’s-” He stops as a flailing hand broadsides him. “Gahh!” Bolts of white hot pain lance up and down his side as he takes a brief stint in flight and lands heavily several feet away. “That wasn’t in the plan…” Trying to get up is a failed exercise. “I think I broke something…”
His adversary finally is able to stand erect again and rubs her beautiful eyes, shaking off her disorientation quickly. Finding her intrepid foe prone on the ground, she closes the distance with a few steps to stare down at him. Placing her hands on her knees, she smiles gleefully. Doing his best to roll over he manages to meet her gaze. She giggles at the pitiful act before taunting him.
“I warned you.” His tormentor says in that sweet, familiar voice. “It really is hopeless. I do not see what you tried to accomplish. You can’t stop me.”
“I wanted my teammate back.” Fox wheezes painfully. “A captain does what he must for his crew.”
“A pity too. It almost worked.” The queen admits. “But you small beings are so fragile…” The violet vixen taps his nose and giggles again. “One simple touch left you like this. Your resolve is admirable. It is almost a shame to destroy you.”
“No!” Slippy yells, firing off Landmaster cannon bursts. “You can’t!”
“Predictable.” The queen says derisively. The blasts head her way but she deflects them effortlessly and one finds its way back to its origin and knocks the turret out. “Back to breaking you…” She says with a smile, readdressing her opponent. “Any last words?”
“Krystal…” The battered pilot coughs. “I know you’re in there, somewhere. You can do it.”
“But I can’t.” Krystal moans mentally. “I’m trying so hard…”
“Don’t let it take over!”
“A touching, yet meaningless gesture.” The queen says flatly. “She can no more stop me than you can.” The villainess raises a foot over his face. “This is the end of you.” Judgment comes down.
“No…” The psychological prisoner is in shock. “You can’t, I won’t!” Every fiber in her being balks. The foot above Fox suddenly stops. It won’t go any further. She’s frozen mid-step.
“This cannot be.” The queen whispers in disbelief. “I am in control here…”
“Fox!” Falco interjects. “I have a shot!”
“Don’t.” Fox winces. “It’s not worth it.”
“But you’re about done for down there…”
“Don’t, I said no!”
The aparoid mother looks doubtful. She certainly cannot crush him, having tried and failed. Towering over Fox like a vengeful goddess it still doesn’t look good for him. Slippy’s climbed out of the Landmaster to approach the pair and Falco is circling above, as ordered. It’s a strange stalemate.
“This body will not do that.” The queen realizes. “Not yet.” She looks to the west where her minions have completed the part collection. “But it’s not a total loss. It’s good they have finished.” She starts to walk away.
“Leaving…so soon?” Fox calls after his enormous girlfriend.
“Consider yourself lucky, Fox.” She calls, glancing back over her shoulder. “It won’t happen again.” She walks around the base of a mountain and disappears.
On Great Fox the leader is in the medical exam room.
“Now you know I’m not a doctor.” Slippy says again.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Fox brushes
the comment off. “What’s wrong?”
“Well, it looks like you fractured a rib and got some contusions.” The mechanic looks at the test results again. “You didn’t get a concussion, since you’re hard-headed so…you should be alright.”
“That’s it?” Fox hops off the exam table. “OW!”
“That and you should wear this.” The ‘doctor’ says belatedly. “It’s a back brace. It’ll hold your ribcage from bouncing too much. Take it easy the rest of the day.”
“I’ll do what I have to.” He dons the orthopedic equipment. “We’ve got more important things to worry about.”
“Just don’t kill yourself. I can’t do much for you here.”
A few minutes later the remnants of the Star Fox team are gathered on the bridge.
“You alright over there, Fox?” Falco asks. “You don’t look so hot.”
“I’m fine.” He snaps in return. “It’s not that serious.”
“Well we are in serious trouble!” Falco retorts. “There ain’t no doubts there!”
“Yeah, we’re gonna have to deal with it sooner or later though.” Fox sighs.
“I’m all for that I guess.” Slippy concurs. “But what are we supposed to do? We don’t know where she is.”
“That’s nothing new.” Falco adds. “Her reading us like books is a new gag though. That’s a big problem.”
“One at a time, one at a time.” Fox shakes his head. “I’m thinking.” So then quiet is had on the bridge. The leader of the trio is racking his brain for an epiphany but one doesn’t seem forthcoming. He looks up at them and is about to shrug when the monitor chimes.
“Cornerian transmission.” Slippy says. “Probably Peppy.” He puts it through.
“Hey, team.” Peppy says cheerily. “Now, I heard about what happened on Sauria today-”
“That we got our tails kicked?” Falco scoffs.
“-and I’ve got just the person to solve the problem here with me!” The hare yanks someone into view. “Say something Beltino.”
The guest of honor looks at the crew of Star Fox and scratches his head. “Ah, yes.” He says, recalling something. “You called, Slippy?”
“Yeah, uh dad?” The youngest pilot begins. “We’ve got a problem; see one of my friends is being controlled by the aparoids…”
“Indeed. Peppy was telling me something about that. Quite strange really. I was certain they had all been destroyed.”
“Well they must not have been so what do we do?” Fox snaps. “This is serious!”
“About that, we will first need to isolate the problem. The structure of your friend, Krystal has been altered. Possibly at the base level of genetic code-”
“Skip the science lesson, dad.” Slippy requests. “Please?”
“Okay but I have to say this much. From what I understand of your friend’s race they do not grow to be as tall as I was told she is now. That is the fault of the Aparoid Queen. She is changing Krystal’s structure to suit her needs. Forcing her to evolve into something similar to what the queen used to be.”
“We’ve got that much already.” Falco says. “She’s gonna go mega mecha bug queen on us; how do we stop it?”
“By removing the queen’s influence from Krystal’s body.”
“How are we supposed to do that?” Fox asks. “I didn’t come up with much.”
“The million dollar question.” The scientist replies. “Let me explain.”
“Here we go…” Slippy sounds exasperated.
“Quiet dear boy. This is important.”
“Not everyone has a biology degree-”
“The queen exists as a parasite.” Beltino begins, ignoring his son. “It helps her host to survive. In adverse conditions it makes the organism more able to adapt. Just as she was able to deal with your stun blaster shots she will be completely unaffected by them in the future. The queen before was able to breathe in space, subsist off solar energy, and highly resistant to physical damage. As long as the queen can exist with Krystal she too can become exactly like that.”
“So how do we remove this parasite?” Fox asks, following the presentation.
“The host and parasite relationship in this circumstance is symbiotic. The host is more able to survive and the parasite feeds off the host. We have to break this mutually beneficial bond by making the host/parasite connection unstable.”
“Which is done, how?”
“By causing the connected cells to die through a process called apoptosis. It’s similar to the way we stopped the queen before.”
“Won’t that…hurt her?” Fox asks slowly.
“Yes, that is a distinct possibility.” Beltino admits. “Her dependence on the queen’s presence may be greater than suspected and the consequences could be even more dire.”
“I’m not losing Krystal.” The formation leader is adamant.
“You don’t have much choice.” The researcher sighs. “If you decide against it there won’t be any hope for her. The parasite will have taken over completely should you even tarry too long. Then, there will be nothing left of her to save.”
“Then we have no other option.” Fox looks to his teammates who nod. “Can you make us a cure?”
“It will take some time. I have to reconfigure the old solution to Krystal’s body chemistry but I warn you it will only work once. Otherwise she’ll evolve and…” Beltino shrugs. “Anything else?”
“Yeah. She’s in our heads like a catchy song, picking our brains like there’s no tomorrow.” Falco mentions. “Can you fix that?”
“No, that is not my specialty. But Slippy might be able to. If you excuse me, I have work to do.” The renowned biologist walks off screen.
“That was informative.” Peppy says. “Keep me posted.” The transmission ends and the room is hushed in the absence of Beltino’s lecture.
“…so how much of that did you catch, Fox?” The Ace asks. “I missed the whole symbiotic connection thing.”
“I got most of it…” Fox replies. “…it’s not good.”
“Okay, so what now?”
“First things first. Repair our equipment and ask the resident genius to create something that blocks telepathy.”
“That’s a tall order.” The engineer complains. “Between fixing the Landmaster I’ll probably end up giving ya tin foil hats.” He chuckles.
“Whatever works.” Falco shrugs.
“I’ll see.” Slippy turns to Fox. “What comes after that?”
Out in space Krystal is traveling. From within her pod she watches familiar planets pass by helpless to even blink.
“I went too far…” The imprisoned girl thinks. “But I couldn’t stop myself.”
There is no turning back anymore. You are a part of my family now.
You may as well give up. A part of you wants this anyway.
“I never asked for this!” Krystal rejoins hotly. “Never anything remotely like this!”
A family and the strength to protect it? That is all you have ever wanted. Do not try to lie to me.
“But not like this. I-”
Your feelings for the enemy are not important. They will destroy you if they have to, you should be prepared to do the same.
“You’re wrong!” Krystal proclaims desperately. “They wouldn’t just turn on me!”
Tell that to the broken form of your friend.
Krystal doesn’t respond. The image of Fox sprawled out on the ground reappears and silences her. There isn’t much argument as to what she’s done. “…”
Don’t keep trying to fight me. If you do, you’ll lose everything.
“I’d rather do exactly that than become what you are.” The purple passenger says derisively. “Make no mistake.”
You don’t have the family you lost. The allies you’ve betrayed have turned their backs. My family will always be here.
“That is an offer I will never accept.”
Fox is alone in his quarters preparing for bed. Lying down gingerly, as one side of him is quite sore, he stares at the ceiling.
“She gave in.” The captain realizes. “She wasn’t strong enough to beat it and she let go. I can’t believe it…”
“There is nothing more you can do.” He remembers her saying. “I am what I am.”
“But that’s wrong.” He mumbles. “I know she’s still in there. She wouldn’t let the queen finish me off.”
“It really is hopeless. You can’t stop me.” The vision of her looming over him is still fresh. He shudders at the cold smile she’d given him a second time.
“I may not be able to stop her but there is still hope! Krystal’s still fighting!” He shakes his head. “I can’t give up. But how do I win this battle without losing her?” The paradox sits in the air, like an ultimatum unanswered. The lone occupant of the room sighs into the stillness and closes his eyes.
“Consider yourself lucky, it won’t happen again.” The memory of the total scorn in her eyes chills him to the soul even now, in the safety of Great Fox.
Early in the morning at an outpost on Katina a guard is making his rounds. The sun is just rising in the east, heralded by the first rays of dawn.
“Ah, beautiful.” The soldier says. “I love first patrol.” He spends a moment looking at the horizon. “This is why I never switch shifts with- what is that?” He takes a second look through binoculars. “Enemy attack!” He runs and pulls one of the overused alert levers. “Post three to central command, do you read?” The guard yells into his radio.
“Copy that, post three.” His radio crackles. “We read loud and clear, what’s the alarm status?”
“Red alert! Full frontal assault approaching!”
“Roger. Prepare defensive measures. The KDF are en route.”
On Corneria General Pepper has just spoken with Katina Central Command. He has also roused his tactician to discuss the matter before him and they are now sitting in the war room.
“Peppy, I’ve received word of an attack on Katina outpost #1657FA.” The general starts. “Central Command believes the Katina Defense Force to be outnumbered. I need advice on how to best utilize their resources before our reinforcements arrive.”
“What?” Peppy rubs his eyes. “What kind of attack are we talking about, General?”
“Frontal, all ground forces.”
“I said #1657FA. Don’t you remember?” The blank stare from his new advisor answers that question. “I’ll pull up the layout on display.” A hologram pops up in the center of the table. “Enemies from this angle, east.”
“Okay. Since we’ve got a lot of level ground make sure they deploy land vehicles.” Peppy looks closer. “Most of the land battle will be done by those troops.”
“Tactical movement suggestions?” Peppy asks, intrigued by the retired pilot’s logic.
“This is a fort, right? Its object is to protect the area west of it, I’m guessing.”
“Yes, that’s a major factory facility.”
“In that case, make sure no troops from the fort leave. Only cannon fire comes from the base. This is a siege. The KDF reinforcements should come from the sides to ambush the attackers and stop them from reaching their target. Any air support needs to stay above the area and secure the airspace. Priority one should be the factory’s protection. That’s why they came.”
On Katina the aparoid queen is leading the charge.
“You’ll never take the factory.” Krystal says. “It’s one of the most heavily defended places on this planet. It’s impossible, even with these numbers.”
But I will. I have many advantages in this battle. You, the greatest of all.
“I don’t believe you. I’m sure even my increased powers aren’t enough to pull this one off.”
It’s all a part of my plan. Our victory is certain. You will turn the tide and for this I thank you.
“I can say I’m glad you’re wrong. It will end here at the very least.
Meanwhile in the skies above Katina three savvy pilots make their advance downward to aid the Katina Defense Force.
“Did we have to do this mission?” Falco carps. “I mean ‘my planet isss in great distress; aid us in defeating our foe and it will sssurely be worth your while’ isn’t cutting it anymore.”
“We were closer than Wolf’s team.” Fox replies. “They only need help until reinforcements from Corneria arrive. Then we can bail.”
“I’ve got to say I agree with Falco on this one. He isn’t real generous.” Slippy concurs.
“But he needs help. So we go and that’s that. Neither of you wanted to leave this planet in danger, I know.”
“You’re right but still…and wearing the stupid helmet too?” The Ace’s complaints know no bounds. “You couldn’t make it more stylish?”
“It’s a part of the headset.” Slippy reminds. “And you’d better wear it for all your whining.”
“If this were Krystal and the aparoids attacking you’d wish you’d worn it.” Fox adds. “So no complaints about the equipment. We all have to wear it if we don’t want her in our heads. Especially since it was your idea.”
They reach the surface of the planet. The battle is in its early stages and the KDF pincer attack seems to be working. The enemy seems to be taking the worst of it despite superior numbers.
“I’m glad I suggested it now.” Falco says, noting the nature of the opposition. “Who’d have thought we’d run into the doll here?”
The person in question doesn’t notice them at first. She is heading up the attack and single-handedly attempting to shift the balance by using her powers to try and corrupt the mechanized ground forces. To some extent it’s working and a number of the KDF vehicles are malfunctioning and turning on their allies. It’s when green lasers from above start to fall around her that she looks up and sees them. She rises to her full height and waves.
“Fox.” The queen calls. “Good to see you, I was a bit worried…” She smiles cruelly reaches out with her telepathy. “You’ve found a way to block my peeking into your mind.” She giggles. “You’re no fun.”
Fox doesn’t answer her. He addresses his teammates instead. “Remember, don’t hit her. Not-”
“Don’t hit her ‘or else’.” Slippy interrupts. “Got it.”
“We know how it is.” Falco chides. “She’s still your girl.”
“But, d, ch-” The leader stutters, on the spot. “Take her reinforcements down. She’ll probably retreat when they’re destroyed. At least let’s hope so.” The team breaks formation.
On the ground Krystal is musing to herself. Given her situation, it isn’t too positive. “I miss hearing their thoughts.” She considers. “It was reassuring. Now I feel lonely.”
They hide their true intentions, choosing to shut you out so you don’t realize they could care less.
“That is untrue. They stopped you from spying on them and me as a result.”
They conceal their hatred and the fact they see you as the enemy you’ve become.
“They would never do such things! They are good people!”
How do you know?
Krystal doesn’t have a retort for that remark. She surely can’t tell at this point. She speculates on the matter as her area is strafed again and the queen somersaults sideways, firing back a burst of her own. The Arwing barrel rolls and repels her fire, leaving a parting shot that burns one of her legs considerably. “That hurt…” The captive consciousness thinks slowly.
While over the radio Fox is throwing a conniption fit. “I told you not to shoot Krystal! Are you deaf? Follow orders!”
“It was reflex.” Falco admits. “I don’t flip when you guys friendly fire me.”
“Pay attention!” The leader yells shrilly.
By this time the opposing commander and her forces have reached the gate’s vicinity. Rallying her troops again they push forward swiftly with her running point. The allied forces are surprised and the slow moving vehicles are left behind in the wake of the enemy’s charge. With nothing standing between them and the gate the turret gunners go into action. Even combined with the firepower of their air support little progress is being made. So they switch targets hoping for a quick victory.
“Aaaahhh!” The queen screams aloud, putting up the staff shield after taking a direct hit to the chest. “I can’t lose here!”
“Fox, help!” Krystal implores mentally.
He cannot hear you. Were he able to he still would not. Let me save us.
“No.” Even though her body is getting heavily bombarded and the shield is closer to failing with every shot Krystal remains stoic. “I’d rather not.” She says haughtily.
Meanwhile in the sky Fox is on the verge of having a brain hemorrhage…
“I’ll take those cannons out myself if they don’t stop firing!” Fox exclaims.
“They’re manned, Fox.” Slippy interjects. “You can’t just do that!”
“Then make them stop!”
“Fox please…” The telepath begs silently.
They’ve shut you out and abandoned you. Let me help; I’m all you’ve got left.
“Will you stand idly by and watch me die, Fox?” Krystal asks, surprised to hear her query echo through the battlefield as her shield breaks.
“That’s it!” The senior officer of Star Fox barks. “I’m-”
“Fox don’t do it!”
A lot of things are happening at once. As Fox circles back around to take the cannons down Krystal is hit with another shot and knocked to the ground seriously hurt, eyes tightly shut. He locks onto his targets as allied air support comes from the west. Right before he starts firing his radio crackles on.
“Fox, that’s one of ours!” The head of the KDF Air Division yells. “Don’t you ever get it?” He kids.
Fox doesn’t reply. He begins to open fire on an allied turret despite his radio communication. In no time it’s almost done but friendly fire comes his way and he breaks off to avoid damage. “Now’s not a good time, Bill.”
“Shots on allies aren’t cool, Fox.”
“Quiet I’m trying-” A loud scream penetrates his cockpit. “Dammit! Krystal!”
Krystal curls up from the anguish with a horribly pained look on her face and begins to glow. First, the burn marks disappear. Then she begins to grow.
“There is no excuse for-” Bill begins.
“I really think you’re missing something, Dog boy.” Falco interrupts. “Maybe you don’t understand what’s going on.”
“Uh oh…” Slippy breathes.
“I know I’m late but- whoa!” Bill’s eyes nearly bug out of his head. “Husky, Bulldog, look out!”
The three ships that are the most elite of the KDF Air Division scatter as Krystal’s expansion comes into their immediate area. Her growth stops around 250 feet. She looks around at her new height and smiles.
It is as I predicted. Now we cannot be stopped.
“Why would Fox abandon me?” Krystal wonders, bewildered. “Didn’t he hear me call out to him?”
The queen disregards the question. She steps on the closed gate and cannons, which were still firing ineffectually, and gains entry to the base. The remainders of her forces follow as she cuts a swath of destruction with her footprints to the entrance of the factory through the center of the citadel.
The allied troops within the base that hadn’t been crushed on her entrance decided to regroup as best they could from something that no drill could prepare them for. Assembling into a semblance of formation they all bring whatever weapons they had managed to keep to bear on their vast attacker. Everything from handheld blasters to shoulder-mounted rocket launchers started firing on the cue of the most senior survivor.
The attempt at a counterattack remained beneath Krystal’s notice. After all, the weapons of foot soldiers just couldn’t do enough concentrated damage to make her do more than snort in contempt. But when her aparoids started to diminish in number because of that she gave the resident army more attention. A glare that would freeze the stoutest man came down upon them and the barrage paused in the wake of it. Alas, it would do them no good; no mercy was present in the massive eyes above them.
“You can’t mean to…” Krystal is in a state of astonishment. “I mean-”
“But they don’t have a chance!” The psychic hostage protests. “Half of them are running!”
That is not enough. They should not have harmed my children.
Krystal could see there wasn’t a point in continuing the dispute, as there really wasn’t any discussion. She didn’t have a choice. All she wanted at this point was to be able to shield her eyes but even that was not granted. Forced to watch as her humongous husk matter-of-factly began to obliterate the entire area she felt a profound sense of wretchedness. Each step laden with flattened smears on the landscape and every gesture the cause of dozens more casualties as the battle became what would be better called a slaughter. Emptying their armaments with fever did them no service; they would be just as well halting the death dealing colossus with their bare hands. Irregardless of their powerlessness and the ones that simply stopped and awaited their fate she continued the undoing of the stronghold which was rapidly becoming a ruin. Beholding all of the carnage and feeling each individual light of thought flicker out one at a time made for a divine punishment for the confined Krystal.
“Fall back, men!” One soldier cries, regardless of his rank. “We don’t have a chance!” What was left of the regiment that staffed the stronghold dropped their weapons filed into the bunkers below ground as fast as they could, given the situation.
The Aparoid Queen watched this with a small smile on her stolen face. “Do you think you can escape me that easily?” She taunts to her hidden adversaries. “There is no refuge for you anywhere.” She raises a foot, preparing to collapse the foundations of the underground shelters. “Prepare to be entombed.” Her threat is not carried out, however. Shots from Katina’s elite air force annoy her enough to merit her attention. She turns to the aerial enemies, more than a little irked.
“She just…” Bill is dumbfounded, but not for long. “Alpha Team, Formation Two! Aim high, take the cutie down!” He orders.
“Don’t even think about it.” Fox says flatly.
“Dude, you can’t be serious! Did you see what she just did?”
“Did you see what shooting her did to her?” Slippy retorts. “We’ve got big enough problems as it is!”
“It won’t matter if we do this right.” Bulldog says. “And finish the job.”
“Do not test me.” Fox says coolly. “Now is not the time.”
“Don’t overstep your bounds; this is my home planet!” Bill snaps back. “I’m authorized-”
“Save it.” Falco says dismissively. “That’s Fox’s girl. Long story and questionable choice in women I’ll grant you but that’s beside the point. Bottom line, you’ll have to go through us.”
“Boss?” Husky, asks, awaiting orders.
The Alpha Team leader considers his options. Looking at the extremely oversized purple fox he can see she’s paid them no more attention for she’s bent over and opened the manufacturing plant wide with her backside to them. Her aparoids file in with efficient swiftness, despite the trouble brewing outside. “We could surprise her.” Bill concludes. “She’s a big enough target; we might take her down if we’re lucky but…” He looks at his radar. “Fox and his team are on our tails. They’ll try to take us out if we go for her…”
“Boss?” Husky asks again. “Formation orders?”
The lead pilot looks again. Though her behind presents an absurdly easy target with her leaned forward in such a way his sensors warn him that he himself is locked onto. “If I go, he’ll shoot me down…” Bill thinks. “But...”
“Your move.” Fox reminds him.
“We can’t take them both.” Bill concludes. “Because we have to go through both them and her to get to her and if we fight them first she may leave and we’ll be too hurt to deal with her on top of that anyway.”
At this point Krystal and the aparoids are done here. With naught but a glance at the two squadrons she and her servants leave, flying away with the entire contents of the facility as suddenly as they came.
“Alpha team, move out!” Bill commands. “We’re done here.”
“Good decision.” Falco chuckles. “The one with the least tail kicking.”
Chapter 4: Winning a War
In the Corneria City war room General Pepper is getting chewed out.
“I understand your anger prime minister.” The military figure begins. “But-”
“But, what?” The leader of Katina hisses. “This issss unacceptable. I do not require your underssstanding, I require your compliance.”
“Today was a mistake-”
“Mistake? Is that the bessst you could think of? A missstake? Your reinforcements never showed up!”
“We lost a ccentral installation vital to our defense and a large number of troops to a mammoth girl who squashed most of them flat! You knew of the distance when you promisssed aid. Not to mention the actions of Ssstar Fox…”
“They are not my soldiers. They are independent, I cannot control them.”
“They refused to attack the enemy! An enoromousss, hostile target and they landed one hit throughout the entire skirmish! Their orders were to neutralize the enemy! That was not the worst though. They threatened to engage my forces if they attempted to attack her.”
“Oh no…” Pepper shakes his head.
“Oh, yesss! Alpha Team reports being directly challenged before they were forced to retreat.”
“I won’t believe-”
“Watch!” The ceremonially clad snake disappears and footage of the battle is on screen. Fox firing on the installation and tailing allied forces while Krystal ravages the area is captured on film.
“I will speak with them about that.” The general promises. “That is all I can do.”
“I recommend severe disssciplinary action.” The transmission cuts out.
“What do you think?” Pepper asks Peppy, who had remained silent.
“Fox sure did pick a pretty girl to go for.” The old hare replies. “Reminds me of my younger days.”
“Peppy, I’m talking about the huge liability Krystal represents and the P.R. nightmare that happened on Katina! What about that?”
“What about it?” The tactician asks, genuinely puzzled. “I’m supposed to say something? You seem to have covered it pretty well.”
“What am I supposed to say to Fox? What is Krystal planning? How do I stop her? Come on; give me something to work with!” The bloodhound is frenzied now. “What do I do?”
Peppy shrugs. “I don’t know…”
Pepper turns red as an apple at that statement. “Are you serious?” He almost screeches. “What do I pay you for?”
“Calm down, sir. Getting worked up won’t fix anything.” Peppy rubs his chin. “Well, first off you can tell Fox whatever you want. I don’t think it’ll matter that much.”
“I’m his superior!”
“He’s in love. Don’t argue with me; take it up with him. Nobody knows what she’s planning for sure but she has to be seeking an advantage. Where these aparoids are coming from may be connected. There’s always hordes of them…”
“How do I stop her?” The general repeats. “Any ideas?”
“You don’t want to hear what I think about that…” Peppy says in a sad tone. Before Pepper can question it he moves on. “But, do whatever works. That’s what anyone else would say.”
“Talk to Fox for me. You might get through to him better than I would. I don’t even think he’d listen to me.”
On Great Fox the trio is going over the events of the day. The Katina Prime Minister has just finished speaking with them about their performance, which may explain the overall not good vibe on the bridge right now.
“I knew before we left that it wouldn’t be worth showing up.” Falco says. “I don’t like that snake.”
“He wanted us to stop her.” Slippy replies. “Which we didn’t try to do.”
“Well they tried to stop her and you see what happened!” Fox snaps. “They blasted her half to death now look at her! What happened was their fault!”
“I was just explaining why we didn’t get paid…” The mechanic says quietly. “I wasn’t disputing what happened.”
“Still, we scrapped a lot of aparoids and don’t get a penny for it?” The bird shakes his head. “That isn’t right.”
“So? Get over it.” Fox says coldly. “We’ve got more serious issues to worry about now.”
“Like doll face and her new height.” Falco concurs. “I have to agree with Bill; she is a real cutie.” The head honcho shoots him a weird look. “She’s yours, I know. I was just saying…”
Fox chuckles. “Funny.” He turns to Slippy. “Which way did she go?”
“I checked the radar log as soon as I got back. I don’t know. She didn’t come up on it at all. She left that ship of hers on Katina too so that’s not worth trying to track either.”
“It figures.” The boss smacks his forehead. “Can’t ever catch a break. Couldn’t bring her back, couldn’t stop her, and couldn’t even see which way she went. Today was a total washout.”
“Not to mention we didn’t net a cent.” The Ace adds. Fox shoots him another glare. “We didn’t!”
“The new headgear worked.” Slippy offers. “Krystal didn’t get inside our heads again.”
“For all the good that did us…” Squad leader murmurs. The big video screen flashes. Fox answers it absently.
“Hey guys.” Peppy comes over the com link. “We’ve got to talk.”
“If it’s about today then don’t bother.” Fox turns away from the screen. “There isn’t much more to be said.”
“Pepper asked me to talk to you so I’ve got to try.”
“I don’t need to be told he didn’t like what I did today.”
“Just listen. The whole friendly fire fiasco’s done with. I’m sure Katina’s Prime Minister spoke with you already. I’m not here to talk about the General’s relations issues with him. I’ve got something to tell you.”
“I don’t know if you did the right thing or not today but stick by what you believe in. That’s all.”
“What, no hint?” Falco sounds disappointed. “We’re working with next to nothing here you know.”
“I’ve been thinking…Krystal sure does always have a whole lot of aparoids with her. I didn’t think there were that many left. I thought all the parts she stole may be connected somehow. Maybe she’s gonna build them…”
“She’d have to build something that produces aparoids.” Slippy says. “That’s how she did it before. Using those aparoid generators to produce an army. That’s got to be what she’s doing now, come to think of it.” The mechanic stumbles on a stroke of genius. “That’s why she went to Sauria, to find pieces to rebuild one of those things. She’s gonna make even more of them with the parts she stole I’m willing to bet. This is not good.”
“On second thought I’d rather not have known.” Falco decides. “It’s depressing.”
Fox sighs. “Any insight on where she’s headed, since you just seem to know things?”
“Can’t rightly say for certain. But I’ll tell you what I told the general. If she thinks this is a war she’ll be wherever she can seize an advantage. You can be sure of that.”
“Hmm, a point worth considering.” He turns to face the screen. “Thank you Peppy.”
In space the queen is traveling to her next destination. Krystal, unwilling copilot in her own body, is along for the ride.
“I’m so lonely.” Krystal thinks to herself. “I didn’t think Fox would ever just leave me. I thought he felt the same way I did. I could understand if he hated me and wanted to be rid of me but the indifference hurt the most. He just watched like I didn’t mean anything to him anymore.”
Are you surprised?
“Leave me alone.”
It is as I said. I didn’t desert you.
“You tricked me into accepting your aid. Now you’ve made me into what you wanted and gained even more control over me.” Krystal rejoins with an exasperated sigh. “Aren’t you happy now?”
No. Not until I have the entire galaxy as my family.
“You are never content. A small comfort when I have nothing.” The telepath thinks dryly.
You have us. You have knowledge. We can reach this goal together.
“I don’t care.”
You will help me whether you wish to or not. You have no choice.
“So what? I don’t have to like it.”
In the end it will be us victorious. Embrace it.
On Great Fox the team leader is catching some shut-eye.
“Where…I can’t think…” He mumbles, tossing in bed. “Where is she?”
“Right here.” A familiar voice replies.
“I’m here.” Krystal giggles. “I’ve got you.”
“Huh?” Fox thinks a minute. “Oh no…”
“Mm hm.” She affirms. “But I don’t think you mind.”
Fox pokes his head out into open air. Indeed he is lodged between her breasts again and she’s back to just 25 feet tall. “Ah…” He can’t quite refute her claim either since telepaths just know.
“You’ll be here a while. I hope you’re content with your seat.” Krystal takes a few paces and looks around.
“What?” It is at this time he realizes his arms are trapped at his sides and no amount of struggle would free them. “How-”
“Shh.” Krystal commands gently. “Stay a while, enjoy the view.” She seats herself against a mountainside, facing the sunrise. Morning twilight streaks across the sky, framing her face in its soft glow.
“No buts; I’m in charge here.” She giggles again. “What do you have to say to that?”
Fox sighs. Completely immobilized within her cleavage he’s in no position to argue. He looks up at her beautiful face and can’t help but feel at ease even though. It’s just like before.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything, either.” Krystal says, smiling down at him. “Believe me.”
Fox leans back. “There’s something wrong with this picture.” He thinks a moment. “I’m supposed to be holding her…”
“Well, you had your chance.” Krystal chides, peeking on his thoughts. “You wouldn’t let me in the front pilot seat with you.”
“I’m sure your big butt won’t fit in there now.” Fox chuckles.
“We can still switch places if you want though. I’m certain that there’s room on your lap for me.”
“I’m not so sure…” He pauses and considers it. “I’m good where I am.”
“I’ll bet you are.” The telepath teases. “It must be to your liking since I don’t remember any complaints before…”
Fox flushes involuntarily for an instant but recomposes himself. “Last time you plopped down on my lap you broke that climate device thing. I don’t want to end up like that. You sat on it and voided the warranty.”
Krystal giggles. “Is it really that big?”
“I’m not going to answer that.” Fox thinks. “Though she is using the base of a cliff as a chair.”
“Fair enough.” The purple fox laughs.
“I can’t.” She falsely whines. “And it doesn’t bother you so there.”
Once again Fox can’t dispute her. “Can’t fool a psychic.” She giggles again and they go back to watching the skyline.
The sound of a train whistle splits the morning quiet as it passes nearby. They both look at it and the dawn behind it, surprised at how far up it is.
“How long has it been? It’s flying by…” Fox realizes. “I don’t want it to…”
“I’ll do this as long as you like.” Krystal reminds him softly. “So it doesn’t matter, I promised you. Remember?” Fox nods relieved. “So it won’t even matter when I become queen of Lylat either. I’ll still hold you as often as you want.”
Fox is taken off-guard. “Wait a second…”
“Don’t be surprised. It’s what’s going to happen. You didn’t keep your promise to me so I’m going to take over. You said you would take care of it and not let anything happen to me. You promised but…” The vixen sighs despondently.
“I tried.” Fox protests. “I did all I could!”
“A splendid job you did, too!” Krystal replies scornfully. “Look at me! Look at what I’ve become!” She begins to grow. “You abandoned me!”
“No I just couldn’t –whoa!” Fox’s soft prison is expanding around him. The cleavage of his captor widening to a valley that he’s falling into very quickly. “Help!” Now her breasts surround him on all sides and there’s but a sliver of light left. “Krystal!” He calls out desperately.
“I’ll keep my promise!” Krystal yells, sounding like she’s crying. “How about you?” She starts sobbing.
Fox can’t reply. The pressure is building and it feels like he can’t breathe. Opening his mouth to shout he can find no air to scream and the darkness around him vibrates and pulses with the sounds of her sadness. The last thing he hears is a locomotive bell and whistle as he finally gives way to the strain and bursts-
In the Cornerian War Room bright and early General Pepper is making a call.
“Let’s see.” The bloodhound says to himself. “I hope they’re up.”
“Wolf O’Donnell.” Comes over the connection as the screen brightens. “What do you need?”
“Glad I caught you.” The general replies. “I’ve got a job for you and your team.”
“Go on.” Wolf is intrigued. “It must be urgent, calling this early.”
“First, did you hear about the Katina incident?”
“No, we’ve been on R and R for the last few days. Why?”
“It has a lot to do with the job.” Pepper replies. “I thought you would’ve known…”
“It’s a long story. I doubt you’re up to it.”
“I’ll get it done.” Wolf growls. “What is it?”
“I’ll brief you. It’s about Krystal.”
“The girl on Star Fox team? What about her?”
“I need you to take her out, that’s the short of it.”
“As good as done.” Wolf chuckles. “An unexceptional pilot, nothing serious.”
“She won’t be in an Arwing.”
“That makes it even easier. I’ll take care of it myself.”
“She’s two hundred fifty feet tall.”
“Hold on, I don’t think I heard you right.” Wolf looks at the screen with one eye much wider than the other, apparently disquieted. “Run that by me again.”
Pepper sighs and shakes his head. “I’ll let you judge for yourself.” He reaches off-screen. “Here’s footage from yesterday on Katina.”
The lead pilot of Star Wolf watches the video. He maintains a stony demeanor all the way up to its conclusion. “Hmm…”
“You see what I mean?”
“I’ll have to talk it over with the rest of my team. When are you talking about doing this?”
“Whenever she shows up again. Money’s not an issue either; just get back to me as soon as possible.”
Wolf nods. “What’s Fox’s take on all this?”
“He and his team will probably try to stop you. This is one of their own we’re talking about here. But this is a serious matter that needs to be dealt with quickly.”
On Macbeth, the production planet, a conductor at a central station is checking a train schedule.
“Let’s see…engine no. 91 is due here at 0956.” The coordinator looks along the tracks. “He’s pulling in a bit early.” The rail official notes. “He’ll have to lay over a bit.”
The engine pulls into the station with a squeal and comes to a stop. The engineer opens a window and looks around. “Good morning, Larry!”
Larry looks at his watch. “You’re running early again, Theo.”
“Got to hurry as fast as we can.”
“The ore won’t rust that fast on the way to the refinery. You’ll have to hold up a couple of minutes after the guys are done loading you up.”
“Fine.” Theodore chuckles. “You rail stiffs are all alike. ‘Trains got to run on time.’ Were you born wearing that watch?”
“It’s standard issue.” Larry smiles. “If we didn’t make you run on time I wouldn’t have a job.”
“At the rate we’re hollowing this place out I won’t have a job soon. The planet will be empty as a dry canteen just you watch. There won’t be nothing left to dig up.”
“Well we haven’t yanked the core out of it so there’s still come left. Don’t fret just yet, Ted.”
“You say that. When the ground starts giving way cause there’s nothing under it don’t look surprised.” The driver looks at his own watch. “Can I go now?”
“Not till I say.” The conductor chides, checking his timepiece again. “Looks like it’s about time.” He looks down the track. “You’re good to- no stop!” He yells, spotting an obstruction on the track.
“What now? I’m a second off? This is getting ridiculous.”
“Go back the way you came!” The train official commands. “I’ll call ahead and get you cleared!”
“What the heck’s the matter? I’ve got somewhere-” He looks down the track. “Shifting gears.” The locomotive starts heading backwards.
The obstruction in the way happened to be an immense purple foot encased in an equally enormous boot. This having completely warped the railroad ties rendering the path useless the conductor is at a loss for words. He walks from beneath the roof of the train stop to get a better view.
“There’s no way I’m seeing this…” Lawrence says in disbelief beholding the impossibly huge figure of Krystal. “I’ve got to alert the other stations.” She looks down and spots him. “That can’t be good.” He retreats into the building.
From her vantage point on high Krystal sees the man flee back under the cover of the shelter. A quick scan of his mind reveals his intentions.
“It’d be a shame if you ruined my fun early.” The vixen teases, stepping on the railroad station. “That should buy me some time.” She decides, thoroughly flattening the railway stop.
“What is the purpose of this?” Krystal demands. “Why did you do that?”
It is a part of my plan. By conquering this planet the system will lose a valuable resource. That man calling for help this soon could make things more difficult.
“That was wrong!”
The end justifies the means to achieve it.
“No, that is never true!”
Your objections are negligible.
Krystal doesn’t have a reply to that. She only observes the queen puppet her body further starting a path of destruction. Next she starts destroying the tracks themselves. Bending over and grabbing a railroad tie in each hand she twists them into unrecognizable shapes. “Hmm…” She ties one set into a faultless bow. “I like that.”
Still trains are coming into the area. The queen advances on those as well, looking to cause more wanton devastation.
“What the heck is-” The operator of the locomotive remains unfinished as a foot lands on the cab of the engine, bringing the entire procession to a halt.
Krystal takes this time to walk carefully in a straight line, crushing each car in turn. Debris of all kinds rains from the ruptured compartments. Steel, loose parts and unprocessed ore litter the landscape in seconds. “This is too easy!” She thinks, listening to the train crunch underfoot.
More convoys arrive and it’s a race to destroy them all. The one woman demolition crew tries to run atop a shipment next. Missing the lead engine with her first step the load continues to move forward. This causes her to overbalance and fall on her face, rolling over the remainder of the goods and crumpling them in her clumsiness. “Whoops…” She giggles wickedly. Disoriented, she kicks a third cargo train off track trying to get back up and falls again. “I’m such a klutz!” Luckily, a nearby mountain is perfect to brace against and she finds her equilibrium after causing a minor rockslide. This gives her another idea.
“What better way to seal a mine than an avalanche?” The queen ponders aloud. Krystal cringes inwardly as her body sets about doing that next, slamming her fists and shoulder into the mountainside loosening large boulders to fall into the entryway of the mines nearby. Tearing grooves into the landscape with her fingers she dumps handfuls of granite into the tunnels, smashing dozens of miners under numerous tons of rock and trapping countless others underground. She’s content to do this until she remembers the last part of her plan.
“I’ve still got to bring down the buildings.” The queen says aloud. “Those factories especially. According to my host they manufacture a lot of military vehicles. They need to be taken care of.” The possessed colossus turns to head to a more industrial district. “But it figures that would have to wait.”
The planetary militia has shown up as best they can on short notice. Mainly aerial, they all circle around their huge enemy warily. None of them make any moves as of yet but that’s going to change.
On Great Fox the team is in discussion on the bridge.
“Let’s head to Macbeth.” Fox says seemingly out of nowhere.
“And why should we do that, fearless leader?” Falco asks. “Do we have something on the To-Do list I don’t know about?”
“I have a feeling Krystal is there.”
“That’s not quite enough to go skipping across the galaxy. I’m thinking maybe we could skip the wild goose chase and see about a job in this area.”
“I’m telling you she’s there! I’m sure of it!”
“What, more of the Krystal scavenger hunt?” The Ace rolls his eyes. “Give me a break!”
“We’ve got more important things to worry about than money!” Fox yells. “Don’t you understand that?”
“This chasing after vibes stuff isn’t getting us anywhere! This galaxy’s too big to play tag in! How do you know where she is, huh?”
“Now isn’t the time to tell him that I had a nightmare involving Krystal and trains and Macbeth is the only planet I can think of with locomotives still in service…” Fox considers. “Actually thinking about it the whole idea doesn’t seem that solid…”
“You can’t be that sure she’s anywhere! And if you are, then what? We get there and do what?”
Fox looks to be perplexed. “…something!”
“Exactly. This whole operation is costing more and more. How long do you plan on keeping this up?” The boss has nothing to say. “See? Be-”
“Shut up.” Slippy interrupts flatly.
“What?” Falco is taken aback. Fox turns to Slippy as well.
“I said shut up. You heard me.”
“You’ve got a better idea? And don’t tell me you’re up for another game of galactic hide-and-seek!”
“What else is there? Every world leader in this sector had to have heard about what happened yesterday. Do you think they’re going to hire insubordinates like us? Not likely.”
“This is costing us serious cash! We won’t be able to keep up our ships soon!”
“You got something better to do? The entire system’s at stake if you haven’t forgotten. If we don’t figure out something Lylat’s going to have new royalty running things soon, what then?”
The raptor opens his beak to speak but claps it shut. “What are we supposed to do?” He mutters. “Play follow the leader then what?”
The video screen flashes, indicating there’s a transmission. Fox puts it through. Peppy is on the display.
“Fox, do you read? It’s Peppy.”
“Go ahead.” Fox replies.
“There’s serious trouble on Macbeth! Krystal’s wrecking everything! They need help, quick!”
“What can we do about that?” Falco asks. “Next to nothing’…”
Peppy ignores that comment. “Pepper’s already sent Wolf and his team to take care of her. I’m a bit worried about her myself.” The hare looks off-screen. “Got to go, the general’s coming.” The transmission signal cuts out hurriedly.
“The general must not have wanted us to know where she was.” Slippy states. “Or that he sent Wolf over us.”
“I know why.” Falco adds. “He knows what we’d do if we found out. Fox?” He looks at the commanding officer expectantly.
Meanwhile on Macbeth Krystal is annihilating the resident forces with ease. Given the poor turn out of fast response law enforcement it certainly isn’t much to contend with.
“This was the best you could do?” The queen says disdainfully. “It’s almost laughable!” She shoots a blast of cold energy from the staff, freezing the airborne resistance to watch it shatter on the ground. “Tsk, tsk, tsk. I guessed that something this crucial would be better protected but I suppose not.” She advances on the factories. “A shame really.” A familiar set of thought patterns come to her attention. She turns around and looks up. “Actual pilots, this should be interesting.”
In the atmosphere above the rail-laced world Star Wolf is preparing to attack the violet villainess.
“We’ve been over the plan.” Wolf states. “Bring her down quick.”
“I got you.” Leon replies. “Painfully fast, I can do that.”
“Why did you accept this mission?” Panther asks for the third time. “I would really rather not participate.”
“Now is not the time to question my authority!” Wolf snarls. “You will do as ordered, understand?”
“Yes sir.” The black cat replies reluctantly.
“We’ve only got one shot at this. Pepper said she doesn’t fall for the same tricks twice. So don’t mess up.”
“We’ve got the artillery to do it so it’ll happen no problem.” Leon says confidently, referring to the red double lasers and the powered up bombs their Wolfens are equipped with. “She’s as good as dead.”
Panther sighs. “And to never have shared a moment together…a tragedy.”
“Let’s go!” Wolf commands as they break the clouds. “Take the girl out!”
The Wolfen trio approaches Krystal and begins to circle her. Unphased by their arrival she actually smiles as they come closer to her. She regards them with a strangely warm gaze that is eerily disturbing to the pilots as she strides toward her targets in the industrial district.
“Do you really think you can defeat me with those tiny little ships?” The larger than life lady laughs softly. “I invite you to try.”
“My ships going nuts every time I lock on!” Leon exclaims.
“Go manual; she’s disrupting our sensors somehow!”
“Cheap toys…” Krystal says with a smirk. “Poor you…”
Wolf, now thoroughly insulted, makes the first move. “Take this!” He fires a bomb at her midsection. “We don’t mess around!”
Krystal reacts quickly. She doesn’t get her protective screen up in time but does shut her eyes and shield herself with her arms to minimize the damage. The sheer force of the blast knocks her backwards off her feet though, leaving her sitting in what are now remnants of a manufacturing plant. “There may be something to all those big butt comments…” She thinks ruefully, standing and dusting herself off. “Who’d have thought it?”
“Don’t let up!” Wolf commands. “Keep her off balance!”
“Forgive me, milady.” Panther says, strafing her left with red energy fire and watching as she squeals in pain. “For I’d rather not.”
“Don’t you love the smell of lasers in the morning?” Leon asks, strafing her right. “Because I do!” He chuckles at her pain. “Your screams make it all worthwhile.”
Krystal gives her staff a twirl to ward off her attackers. “My turn!” She declares, opening fire on them with a salvo of her own. Star Wolf goes into evasive maneuvers so she decides to press her attack. She dashes forward, stepping on several belated vehicles to pursue one of her foes. The leader of the team dodges behind a building trying to put distance between him and the force of nature. To no avail as the staff tears the structure asunder and she traipses through the rest of it to try and swat him down. He comes straight for her with a slight change in direction and barrel rolls left and boosts under her armpit to safety. She giggles again. “You have bitten off more than you can chew, Wolf.” She turns around. “We both know it.”
Ignoring the fact she had just spoken about something he had been giving private thought he addresses his team. “Panther, Leon listen.” Wolf begins. “I’ll run point; you two blast her with your bombs.”
The three come up in classic V formation with Wolf in the lead. Krystal analyzes the situation with her unfair telepathic advantage and attacks accordingly. She feints a thrust at Panther. Watching him veer left over Leon, as she knew he would, she then follows up with a horizontal spin slash motion. This almost broadsides Wolf’s rear and clips a piece of one of Panther’s wings as they retreat.
“How could she have known…” Wolf wonders. “It’s not…”
“That someone so pretty could be my undoing, ah cruel irony.” Panther says to himself.
“Your compliments earn you no mercy.” Krystal reminds, charging at the damaged craft. “You shall be first.”
“Cover yourself!” Wolf yells. Panther fires off his bomb and dodges. Krystal strikes it with her staff instead of the Wolfen and is surprised by the flash for an instant. This buys him the needed time to escape. “Hang back!” The team leader commands.
“He can’t run from me.” The colossal cutie says. “None of you can.” She lunges for Panther again but this time is stopped by something new. Ground cannon fire impacts her now. It’s not enough to bring her down but is a distraction enough. “This is annoying.”
The street is filled with the tardy cavalry. Having to traverse broken train tracks and fallen rocks they have finally arrived. “Beginning bombardment.” The infantry leader calls out. The cannons begin to fire in concert.
“Good, some backup.” Wolf says. “Team regroup!”
But the reprieve was not to last long. After not getting though their enormous enemy’s wall they found something equally depressing. After firing off all their ammunition they have to reload. Krystal takes this time to run right at them and start stomping. The sound of metal crunching and grinding fills the air and the reinforcements quickly dwindle. She laughs as she compresses the armored units into oblivion. “Good help is hard to find, isn’t it?” She taunts.
“Damnit!” Wolf swears as she finishes the local excuse for assistance. “This is falling apart!”
“Now for you…” Krystal turns her attention to the mercenary team once more. “Oh!” Still another fusillade of ground artillery fire heads her way. “Is there no end to this?”
It appears not. All the side streets are teaming with members of the Macbeth Army. Every kind of tank every color of the rainbow has surrounded the would-be conqueror. And there’s no surprise there since this is where they are made. “Commence barrage!” Comes from somewhere down there and that’s exactly what happens.
Krystal doesn’t wait to be fired upon. Thoroughly provoked by now she leaps up and charges her staff with energy. As the first shots fly she comes down with awesome force. Her quake attack eradicates the new wave of foes for a mile radius. Not only that, all the buildings in the vicinity rock on their foundations and fall. The sound of demolition rivals that of a war zone as the central part of the production planet’s industry simply topples over to ruins from the power of the shockwave. A dust cloud thick enough to be confused for a sandstorm rises from the rubble and blankets the battlefield. And through the arid, debris filled air over the cacophony of annihilation you can hear another disturbing sound. Unmistakable cackling from the mountainous female juggernaut that is reveling in the devastation she has newly created.
“This is no good.” Wolf realizes. “Team assemble, fall out!”
“Are you sure?” Leon asks, disappointed. “We aren’t done yet, are we?”
“This is too risky; we can’t fight her like this. She’s not even on radar and we’re in the middle of a dust cloud! You can’t ‘t shoot what you can’t see!”
“True we are at a disadvantage but an exit is easier said than done right now.” Panther says. “We wouldn’t want to bump into the beautiful lady on our way out.”
“Don’t leave.” Krystal says. “The fun’s just starting.” The statement is a mystery to her retreat minded opponents but not for long.
“We’ve got company!” Wolf yells. “Everybody look sharp!”
Indeed they do as three new blips show up on radar. They come from above at high speed and are lost in the dust cloud on the opposite side of the field quickly.
“What’s this?” Falco demands. “I can’t see!”
“Careful team.” Fox warns. “Wolf is in the area.”
“What’s that sound?” Slippy asks. “What happened here?”
“Glad you could make it, Fox.” The hidden enemy taunts. “Let’s see how many ships I can hit with one swing.”
“Look out!” Fox and Wolf yell at the same time.
It’s too late to get orders. All six aircraft hit different evasive maneuvers to avoid being smacked, as it is no empty threat. Even though they can’t see everyone takes a gamble. Falco and Wolf go high and cross paths in the form of a minor sidelong collision.
“Watch where you’re flying!” Falco snaps, pulling back with a broken wing.
“Don’t trip me up!” Wolf counters with a similar injury.
Fox and Panther go low and fly a quick S shape though Krystal’s legs going opposite directions. They manage to stay different altitudes and avoid catastrophe.
“Such beauty…” Panther sighs. “You’re lucky, Fox.”
“Strange.” Fox replies. “I don’t feel too lucky right now.”
Slippy and Leon chose to stay level and break opposite directions with a boost. Given the visibility factor of next to nothing that translates to crash course in no time.
“Pull up!” Leon shouts, jerking the throttle lever back.
“Drop down!” Slippy yells, slamming the control shaft forward. They both brake and nearly scrape ships avoiding each other. But even though they missed each other slowing down made them easy targets still in range of the staff…
“Gotcha!” Krystal declares, hitting both spacecraft with one downward swipe.
“Oh no!” Slippy cries as his Arwing goes down.
“Idiot!” Leon yells, bailing out of his Wolfen.
The dust settles as the two ships crash land. Krystal steps forward and flattens both of them beneath her heel in turn, grinding the wreckage into the ground with purposeful twists. “Two down.” She says, proud of herself. “Not bad, who’s next?”
“We can’t take her out with just two pilots…not with our ships like this.” Wolf decides. “This mission’s a failure.”
“Slippy? Do you read?” Fox queries. “Star Fox report in!”
“A pity I’m all done here.” The vast violet fox says. “We could play some more.” She looks around at the leveled area and giggles. “This was too easy. I didn’t even need any help.” She shakes her head with a malevolent smile. “Corneria’s next you know. I can hardly wait.” She thrusts her staff into the ground and performs a boost jump spell into the sky, blowing Fox a kiss as she departs. “See you there.”
“You sure know how to pick ‘em.” Falco chides.
In the Cornerian War Room General Pepper has just been debriefed by Star Wolf.
“Bottom line is we failed.” Wolf concludes. “We couldn’t stop her and we couldn’t protect the area.”
“I wasn’t sure if you were up to it.” The general replies. “There isn’t much to be done about it.”
“I’m not trying again, either. I’m not putting my team at risk like that a second time.”
“Fair enough.” Pepper concurs.
“You said something else, Wolf?” Peppy pipes up. “I was listening and you said she said something…I didn’t quite catch it.”
“Aside from all the taunting and laughing she said ‘Corneria’s next’.” The mercenary replies. “That’s it.”
“Okay. That’s what I thought, had to be sure though. One other question…did you see any aparoids?”
“No.” Wolf shrugs. “Didn’t see any. I thought there’d be some myself.”
“Hmm, I will take all of this into consideration. You will still be reimbursed for your time somewhat despite the occurrences. Thanks for your effort.”
“Right…Wolf out.” The transmission ends.
“This is not promising.” Pepper says. “If Wolf didn’t come close to stopping her then what other options do we have?”
“Right now I don’t think she’s your biggest problem.” Peppy replies.
“Well, there’s only one of her but there could be a whole lot of aparoids…”
“If we didn’t see any today you can bet she’s rallying for her assault here. I’m betting she’s coming here to Corneria City to start in force. I assume she’s amassed quite an army with those generators she made.”
“What can we do?”
“I don’t know. Call in as much backup as you can. It’s not going to be easy.” Peppy stands. “I have to go.”
“Where are you going?”
On Macbeth Star Fox team is at a local repair shop.
“Sorry fellas.” The ship technician says. “I know you’re Star Fox and everything but no discounts.”
“I could get this fixed for half the asking price anywhere else!” Falco counters. “Get real!”
“Look, parts are at a premium right now. Since that whole factory area got totally trashed earlier there’s no telling when we’ll get more parts in. You can either pay the cost like Star Wolf or get lost.”
“But I could buy an Arwing and a half for what you quoted me on the parts for my ship!” Slippy protests. “I’ll do the work myself so take the cost of labor off, please.”
“Labor’s not included. Either you take the quotes or leave them.”
“Come on guys, they don’t want our business.” Fox says. “Let’s go.”
“Sure we do, if you’ve got the cash!”
Star Fox walks out of the establishment. After looking at the mile-long line of people trying to get in they leave the area. Outright disgusted at the price gouging going on they move on to where they parked their ships.
“Okay, it happened.” Falco says spitefully. “Now we’re stuck.”
“We are not stuck.” Fox replies calmly.
“I don’t know what you call it. We hyper jumped from Great Fox all the way here in three ships. Now we’ve got a ship and a half to cruise back in. That’s what I call stuck.”
“Slippy can ride with me in the copilot’s seat. It’s not that serious.”
“It is! It’s going to take me forever to get back home. I can’t jump like this! My right wing’s gone, I won’t hit hyperspace!”
“It’s not that big a deal.”
“Yeah, it is!” The bird yells. “You see what they just tried to charge us? Who the heck can afford to get off this planet?”
“Stop obsessing. We’ll just go somewhere else after we return to Great Fox.”
“No! I’m not flying like this all the way back there. Not just to go somewhere, fix it and get it busted again going after your girlfriend!”
“Falco, that isn’t right.” Slippy interrupts.
“So what?” Fox asks. “Are you leaving?”
“I’m about sick of this.” The ace asserts. “It’s costing too much and it’s too much trouble.”
“So go.” Fox says flatly. “Nobody’s stopping you.”
“Tell me what we’re supposed to do!” Falco bursts out. “How do we stop her without hurting her?”
“Tell me and I’ll follow you till it ends. Say something, anything!”
“I don’t know.” Fox shrugs.
“This is where we part ways.” The raptor shakes his head. “I can’t deal with it anymore.”
“Falco, wait.” Slippy butts in, trying to salvage the conversation. “We need-”
“Fine.” Fox replies, ignoring his mechanic. “Your decision.”
Out in space the galaxy’s next ruler floats, making plans.
“This…I…” Krystal is still stunned at the events of the day. “I hope Slippy made it…”
Today went perfectly. The fools stood no chance of stopping us. Soon it will all belong to me.
“Yes, enjoy it while you can.” Krystal sulks. “You can’t possibly expect to conquer Corneria even with all of your family and my powers combined. That’s not going to happen.”
Ah, but I can. Macbeth was just a test of my might. They could not stop me alone; with the continual onslaught of my children there shall be no hope for them.
“Fox won’t let you.” The telepath says smugly. “There’s no way. It’s his home.”
He is of no consequence to me. Even if he could stop me he would not. He won’t hurt you, he’s too weak.
“You underestimate him. He knows what’s at stake! If Corneria is lost then the system falls. He won’t let you win, even if it means I have to perish along with you.”
You overestimate the man. He would sooner allow himself to fall at my hands. I will crush him because of that.
“He won’t be the only one! There will be others, there’s a way!”
What can stand against me? My powers are too great. Their pathetic weapons cannot harm me. I have evolved past their capability.
At Great Fox Slippy and Fox have just returned.
“Hyper jumps make me queasy.” The toad laments. “Oh, my stomach…”
“Maybe it’s the G-Diffuser…” Fox says absently.
“There you go, blaming everything on the diffuser again!”
“You’re the one complaining.”
“If it was the G-Diffuser we’d be red, pasty goo! That’s what stops 1000+ g forces from liquefying us from all the pressure involved in a hyper jump need I remind you?”
“Well, you haven’t fixed it yet.” The pair walk onto the bridge.
“It’s not broken!”
“Whatever you say.”
“Were you two arguing about the G-Diffuser again?” Comes a voice.
“Peppy!” Slippy says. “You’re back!” He points at Fox. “Tell him it’s working fine!”
“Nope, not getting into that.” The old hare takes a head count. “One, two…we lost Falco?”
“He’s gone.” Fox affirms.
“Not like that.” Slippy corrects. “He left.”
“Wolf said one of you went down. He saw the ship get smashed, he didn’t know who though.”
“That was me.” The mechanic says guiltily. “She swatted my Arwing down and I barely made it out in time.”
“We’re still short a pilot.” The leader reminds. “You want to fly with us again?”
“That’s why I came back. Thought you could use a hand.”
“My ship’s still flat.” Slippy moans. “It wasn’t worth salvaging. At least not for what they were charging.”
“That’s a bind…” Peppy says slowly.
“Then you’ll have to fly Krystal’s Arwing.” Fox says. “It’s the only other ship we have right now.”
“Fox, I’ve got that antidote Beltino promised.” Peppy says, suddenly remembering. “He gave me two doses. He suggested using it inside a bomb to create vapor.” The rabbit reads the canisters before handing them over. “Introduce though contact with open skin. We’ll probably have to weaken her first.” The leader glares at him. “It might not get through if we don’t!” Peppy says defensively.
“You’ll need one of those headset telepathy blockers I made.” Slippy realizes. “I’ll get right on it.”
“Don’t bother.” Fox says. “He can take mine.”
“There’s nothing in here she doesn’t already know.” Fox says, tapping his head. “Get some sleep; you look a bit green…” He chuckles.
“Funny.” The mechanic laughs harshly then grabs his abdomen. “Why’d you remind me?” The amphibian ambles off holding his stomach.
“Are you sure you’ll be alright?” Peppy asks. “It doesn’t seem wise…”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll be fine. I want you flying at your best. No distractions. I can handle it.”
“Right.” Peppy turns to leave. “Are you sure?” He asks again, turning back.
In the general’s second home, the Cornerian War Room, he’s trying to brainstorm ideas for protecting his planet.
“I’ve called in all the reinforcements I could on short notice.” He says to himself. “The entire planet is on high alert but it still doesn’t feel like enough. What I want are some pilots…but Wolf won’t fight Krystal. He won’t risk his team like that again. Not versus her and probably Star Fox too. I don’t think Fox is going to help either. But he can’t possibly intend to oppose the entire Cornerian Army and put everyone in the system in jeopardy for her could he?” Pepper shakes his head. “Even he wouldn’t do that. That still doesn’t give me a squadron to head up my attack with though.” The entirety of the Cornerian Defense Committee sighs and stares out a window.
The namesake metropolis capital lies sprawled out before the general. The familiar skyscrapers and streets climb up above the sidewalks. People walk through the local park enjoying the scenery. Rush hour traffic sits at the same standstill it always does when everyone gets off work. Imagining a vast shadow falling over it all and the city being leveled again makes his skin crawl.
“No, not again.” Pepper says, shaking his head. “Never again. I have a duty to this place. I cannot allow that to happen. I’ll lead the charge myself if I have to. I’ll do whatever it takes to win this war!” He looks at the empty seat that was Peppy’s. “I’ll do it by myself if I must!” A knock comes on the door. “Come in.” The bloodhound calls, regaining his composure.
“Sir. The reinforcements from the southern hemisphere have arrived.” A messenger says, crisply saluting. “Where would you have them stationed?”
“Have them standby. They will relieve the current watch at shift change.”
“Yes sir!” The messenger leaves.
Chapter 5: The Sum of All Choices
Somewhere on Zoness a pilot is haggling on the price of service to his aircraft. Fine tuning the agreement is still in progress however.
“Come on, I know you can do better than that!” Falco exclaims. “I could’ve let the swindlers on Macbeth do it for that price!”
“Then go back across the way and let them.” The repair expert replies. “It’s right over there.”
“Where’s the Lombardi discount?” The aviator pleads. “You know me!”
“Do I now?” The technician chuckles. “What’s that got to do with anything?”
“I come here for repairs all the time! I’m worth a decent amount of business!”
“Not at what you want to pay.”
“Business is business.” Gus shrugs. “Got to make money, somehow.”
“Let him slide.” A female voice says from the entryway. “For me?”
“Ah…” Gus sighs. “Alright, but only because I like ya!”
“Thank you.” The lady bats her eyes prettily at the mechanic.
“Whatever…get out of here, you two. I’ve got work to do.” The pair leaves as requested. “Goddamn highfalutin’ pilots…” He mumbles.
“Long time no see, Falco.”
“It’s been a while.” He concurs. “Thanks Katt.”
“He’d have given you the discount. He just likes messing with you.” Katt pinches his cheek. “Like I do.”
“I see.” Falco tries to stop her from pinching him but she’s too quick and he takes two more. “Quit it!”
“Okay…” The pink feline sounds crestfallen. “Since you asked so nicely.”
“What have you been up to other than annoying me? I’m just curious.”
“Not too much.” She replies. “Things with your team not working out? I see you’re by yourself again.”
“Yeah, I really didn’t like the way things were going. I’m not that good at taking orders.” The bird admits.
“Well, what happened?” Katt asks worriedly. “All you guys seemed to be good friends…”
On Corneria the sun has just risen. It’s about 6:30am and a young couple has just left to see their child off for the first day of school.
“Mommy?” The little girl asks. “Why do we have to leave so early?”
“Because your school is very far away and you don’t want to be late.” The mother replies. “I don’t want you to miss a minute of your first day.”
“Why are you and Daddy walking me to the bus stop? I could do it myself.” She says petulantly.
“I want to be sure you get there.” The father replies. “It makes me feel better.”
“Okay, I don’t want my dad to be sad.” The little lady concludes. Her father smiles at that. “Yay, happy!” He scoops her up. “Whee!”
They walk for a while with their young daughter riding atop his shoulders. They stop and look both ways at the crosswalk and wave to the crossing guard. They are almost to the bus stop when they notice something.
“Who’s that?” The ever curious child asks.
“Who’s who, honey?” The mother looks around. “I don’t see anyone.”
“Not down here, silly.” The girl says as though it’s obvious. “Over there!” She points up. “Who’s that?”
The trio stops. Looking where the kid indicated, above a skyscraper, they spot Krystal. The parents look at each other worriedly.
“It’s just a balloon, sweetie.” The father says. “Nobody’s that size.”
“But balloons don’t move!” The little treasure protests. “Look, she’s looking around!”
“She’s got to be the reason the city’s on high alert!” The mother whispers to her husband. “Where’s the nearest air raid shelter?”
“That way, unfortunately.” The husband replies. “It’s either that or go all the way back home to the one four doors down from us.”
“Let’s just hurry.”
At roof top level the aparoid queen is surveying her surroundings. The most vital part of her plan yet implemented as she is considering her options.
“I need to find the central area of the city to best start this…” The invader muses out loud. “Hmm?” She senses thought patterns near her feet. Looking down she finds a certain family of three.
“Mommy, isn’t she pretty?” The little girl asks.
Krystal can’t help but smile. “Why thank you, young lady.” She says, surprising herself with control of her body again. “That’s very nice of you.” She bows graciously, startling the adults with the sudden movement.
“I do suppose she may be, a bit.” The mother concurs, trying to calm down.
“More than just a bit…” The father mutters, gawking more than decency would normally allow at the well-taxed boundaries of the ponderous girl’s almost overflowing outfit. “Wow…”
“When I grow up I want to be big, just like you!” The kindergartener says enthusiastically. Then she stops and rubs her chin a moment, thinking. “Umm, well maybe not so big.”
Krystal giggles. “No?” The elementary student shakes her head. “Aww…”
“If you will excuse us, we really must be going.” The mother insists, tugging her mate away.
“Bye bye!” The girl waves.
Krystal waves back before returning to the matter at hand rather abruptly, standing up. She sighs inwardly as she’s just an occupant of her own body again and her control of herself was apparently was temporary.
“Ah, this place is perfect.” The queen says, finding the downtown part of the capital. “My children can land here and spread all over.”
“Not so fast!” Comes a voice over a bullhorn. “You’ll have to contend with us, first!”
Gazing down to her left the purple vixen finds the opposition. “A special occasion, General?” She chides. “I’ve never heard of you being on the front line.”
Pepper disregards the comment. “You will be stopped today. Since you were a member of Star Fox in good standing I will give you the option to surrender.”
“Surely you jest!” Krystal laughs, positively tickled at the notion. “Your benevolent offer has not gone unnoted though. Allow me to offer you a counter proposal if you would.” She bends over, looming above the Cornerian top brass and casting him into her shadow then smiles a familiar, fiendish smile. “Would you like me to crush you or your toys first?” She asks in a faux whisper.
“You shall not claim victory.” The field commander states. “Troops go ahead with the attack!” He commands.
“Hmm…” The aparoid queen probes the mind of the retired soldier. She finds something interesting in short order. “Well played, General. Most of these are unmanned.” She says aloud. “I’ll finish them first then I’m coming for you.” The self-contained blitzkrieg steps forward.
Pepper shudders at her declaration but holds steady. “Stay in formation, men!” He calls out. “Hold positions and concentrate your fire!” He watches her wade into their midst. “Center decoys, self destruct!”
Krystal senses a trap being sprung and tries to step backward. But it’s too late. Several of the heavier artillery go volatile and explode quite suddenly, blasting her back. She rips a trench in the ground keeping her balance and glares at her opponent, more than a little hurt. “Good move.” She growls, bounding forward. “My turn!” She kicks the remains of the first wave aside and leaps overhead, clearing the general and landing behind the second line with a target in mind.
“Not yet, our air support is late!” Pepper thinks hurriedly. “I hope this works…” He unslings a rifle from his shoulder. “If it can take down an Arwing in a single shot it should do something.” He lines up the sights on the D-class sniper rifle and fires.
The general’s first lieutenant starts to panic as the massive eyes of the enemy seem to bore into his own as she charges for him. Trapped in a slow, armored vehicle he’s all but resigned to his demise. “I thought I’d have a chance to get away…”
“Bail out!” Comes over his radio. “Pepper’s pushing the plan early! Don’t bother with the other decoys!”
“I can’t!” The frantic soldier replies. “There’s no time!”
“She’s coming right at you, man! Ditch it or you’re toast!”
“I know that…” He opens the hatch and leaps out just in time to see her towering over him. “But if I fly she’ll swat me like a bug.” He sighs as she nods as though reading his thoughts. “Why’d I volunteer?’ He shuts his eyes, steeling himself against the pain that’s sure to come with the advance of her fist. But there’s nothing. Then out of nowhere there’s an unnaturally loud squeal and he snaps to attention. The purple behemoth is recoiling in agony from a red laser laced with blue energy hitting her cheek and the officer takes this chance to leave. Throwing the throttle of his jetpack wide open he takes off like a rocket and barely escapes her grasping hands. He sees the other two lieutenants beating an aerial retreat and leaves the battlefield. “We’re done here.”
The singed savior of the aparoids puts a hand to her burned face and glowers at the high-ranked shooter. “You’ll pay for that.”
Pepper goes for another shot with the Demon Sniper Rifle but Krystal jumps sideways, amazingly agile for something that size and evades the experimental beam. “Where is-” The sentence is unfinished as she snatches him up and squeezes the wind out of him.
“-your backup?” Krystal asks sweetly. “Too late for you.” She tightens her grip a bit. “And it’s a shame all your unmanned kamikaze vehicles need to be controlled by remote since you have so many left and nobody to drive them.”
“That wasn’t all.” The general rasps. “And it doesn’t matter.”
“Really?” She delves into his mind. “What secret weapon is this? OW!” She drops the secretary of defense as that hand is hit with double yellow laser. He flies away using his jetpack as tardy air support finally arrives. “You!” She snarls, scorched a second time.
“We meet again.” Bill says. “This time we’re taking you down for good!”
“Quite a claim.” The titaness replies calmly. “Care to back it up?”
“Alpha unit, circle around and fire at will! Let’s wear her down!”
Krystal draws her staff and watches the professional pilots carefully. She senses their first attack and puts up her shield just in time. “Those lasers are much more powerful than before.” Her expression illustrates her shock at this revelation.
“Surprised?” Bill taunts. “This is the general’s secret weapon! The D-class laser beam!”
“My children aid me!” The aparoid mother commands, casting her thoughts to the sky.
“I don’t think that’s going to be enough.” Krystal says cheerily in spite of the situation.
If they are not then we could be destroyed.
On Great Fox the squadron leader has just woken up. Bolt upright in bed he’s dressed in seconds. He sprints to the bridge to summon his teammates but they are already assembled.
“Morning Fox-” Peppy begins.
“We have to go.” Fox states, cutting him off. “Now.”
“Alright.” Slippy replies. “I’m ready.”
“Shouldn’t we call?” The hare asks. “She might not have-”
“No, we go now.”
“Trust me, he knows.” The mechanic affirms.
Peppy shrugs and they hurry off to the hangar. Three minutes later finds them in Federation airspace. The trio is silent as they make their way to Corneria.
“Okay. We’re almost there.” Slippy says, breaking the hush on the radio frequency. “Now I’m not quite sure what we’re doing, could you remind me?” He asks as nonchalantly as possible.
“Saving Krystal.” Fox replies without hesitation.
“…just follow my lead.”
The three Arwings burst into the atmosphere amid a hail of aparoids. Blasting away, the three of them cut a path through the mechanical insects and emerge above Corneria City. The sounds of battle are fierce as infantry and ground enemies are clashing. The enormous queen of the enemy forces is locked in combat with top quality aircraft. She seems to be losing the confrontation however.
“This isn’t good.” Peppy says, noting the state of the engagement.
“Those are Bill’s ships….” Slippy says, recognizing the crafts surrounding the gargantuan girl. “What are they doing here?”
“Take Alpha Team out!” Fox bursts out angrily.
“Is that any way to treat an old pal?” Bill asks sarcastically. “I thought we were buddies.”
“You’ve crossed the line.” The Star Fox leader drops altitude and boosts after Bill. “I’ll deal with you myself.” He fires blue hyper lasers at the Katina native. The foreign ship takes some damage and barrel rolls, deflecting the rest.
“Do better than that, Fox!” Bill taunts. “That’s nothing!” He somersaults behind his adversary and returns fire. Fox breaks contact and takes a temporary retreat from the golden beams. “You can dish it out but can’t take it, huh?”
“Their ships are enhanced.” Slippy realizes. “Both lasers and shields too, what is this technology?”
“D-class.” Peppy replies. “At least I think it is. Still untested as far as I know, that’s what Pepper told me. I guess they’ve got working prototypes though.” He slips behind Bulldog. “Give me a hand.”
“Right.” The two of them open fire on the same target who does a U-turn and changes direction. When the Star Fox pilots follow suit the enemy ship is gone. Not for long, though as they both take some hits from yellow beams from behind them and split up again. “They’re more maneuverable too, that’s some upgrade!” Slippy notes while attempting to withdraw from the persistent bogey.
Krystal, finally given a reprieve, starts firing fireballs into the dogfight. Fox and Bill dodge away from each other. Peppy is singed while she misses Bulldog entirely. Slippy spins to one side and his pursuer, Husky, takes the shots meant for him. One bounces off the shield while another seems to shatter it and the Alpha team member retreats back into the loose formation they seem to have formed on one side of the field.
“Orders, boss?” Bulldog asks.
“Them or the girl?” Husky adds.
“Whatever you can manage.” Bill replies. “Stay close to her that way-” His ship is rocked with an unexpected charge shot. “You’re serious, huh Fox?”
There is no reply. As the gray dog evades behind a building Fox breaks off pursuit. The other two members of Alpha Team form up close behind their leader. When they rejoin the battle they open up a volley on Krystal together, peppering her chest and face with Demon Laser.
“Krystal!” Fox is beyond livid. But his Arwing is too far away to cover her. He can only watch as she writhes under the assault and makes his ship shudder with her cries. “Hold on!” He makes an effort to assist her.
A wasted endeavor as the shots come for her faster than he can boost. The whole scene plays out in slow motion as chartreuse beams reach her and bounce away, deflected by an aircraft wingspin move.
“Just go the things fixed and there’s already holes in ‘em!” Falco states, annoyed. “Ruined a paint job too!”
“Great timing!” Fox yells. “I knew I could count on you!”
“You owe me wings, Fox.” The ace replies in all seriousness. “You shouldn’t sound so happy.”
“It’s three on four now, that’s no fair!” Bill whines.
Not for long.
“What are you on about, now?” Krystal wonders, irritated at the presence in her head before realizing its intent. “Oh no.”
“But he just saved us!” The telepath protests. “The people!”
I do not give my enemy any quarter.
Krystal’s discrepancies are of no import as her marionette-like body reaches over and tears a monorail off its tracks. Not having finished boarding the doors hastily close as she picks it up and aims at her tardy benefactor, Falco. Cocking her arm back for a pitch she catches a whole lot of attention from the passengers.
“What in the heck-”
“I don’t want to die!”
“Somebody make it stop!”
“Heavens have mercy…”
“Krystal don’t!” This comes from Fox. “Please I’m begging you!”
“Fox…” Krystal thinks as though remembering something important. “No, definitely not!”
This again? You cannot stop me.
“I won’t allow this!” She declares with her will focused.
Foolish child- no, you can’t…”
Krystal’s mammoth body comes to a halt right in the middle of the conflict. “I just did.”
We will be destroyed if you do not allow me to move.
“That’s fine by me.” The psychic says. “I won’t let a travesty like that happen! I won’t have a hand in that.”
The Aparoid Queen seems to be taking this time to dispute this fact but is quite immobile. Her enemies are regrouping and preparing to engage her again and she has remained stationary. One of the daring pilots makes his bid at her prematurely.
“I’ve got this.” Husky decides, leading an attack on Krystal’s left.
“Oh no you don’t!” Both Fox and Falco say at the same time moving to cut the opposing aviator off.
Husky fires a few shots at Krystal, which hit and provokes her to set the train car down instead of continuing trying to propel it at her adversaries. Fox and Falco punish the action of Husky by swiftly bringing both crosshairs to bear on him and shooting him as his shield had already been neutralized by Krystal leaving him wide open.
“I’m taking damage!” Husky says frantically. “Cover me!”
“We’ve got your back!” Bill replies. “Keep cool!” He pulls behind his injured comrade.
“No, I don’t think so.” Peppy says, sliding in front of him. “We’ll take care of him though.”
“What? No!” Bill goes after Peppy but is deterred by a bomb from Slippy. Bulldog cannot cover Husky enough to stop the other three Star Fox pilots from finishing Husky’s craft. “Husky!”
“Sorry boss…” Husky ejects.
“Well now that makes two against four.” Falco says. “You want to continue this, Dog boy?”
“Bulldog, with me! Let’s finish her!” The Alpha leader commands, flying around Krystal’s head. “Enough hits’ll do the job.”
The Star Fox team tries to stop the remaining Katina pilots but is unable to do so. The superior shielding affords them the luxury of ignoring most shots and barrel rolling the rest. They advance on Krystal and prepare their attack while buzzing around her but she’s done playing. The voluminous violet vixen raises the staff and speaks. “I will destroy the city if your attack on me does not cease. I’ll raze it to the ground should you not back off.” She concludes with the threat of Quake as her ultimatum.
From the Cornerian War Room Pepper nearly falls off his chair hearing her declaration. “No, anything but that.” Pepper whispers to himself.
Using his high tech VR tactics table to run a quick simulation he watches as factoring Quake and what happened on Macbeth to a representation of Corneria City. The experiment’s outcome is grim and the general wastes no time yanking up his radio to alert his soldiers.
“You don’t scare us!” Bill says confidently. “Bulldog, let’s get this done!”
“You’ve been warned.” The immense foe says flatly.
“No!” The incarcerated consciousness squeals. “Not a chance!”
You must comply. This is our last chance.
“I do not care! It’s that simple!”
You know you want to survive.
“Krystal! You can’t!” Fox exclaims.
The supersized shell that Krystal calls her body charges the staff. Irregardless of her own wishes she can feel it getting ready to rock the world on its axis. “I…”
“Bill! Stand down!” Crackles over all the radios.
“But sir we’ve almost-”
“Stand down, that’s an order!” The general barks. “Don’t risk the city!”
“This is revenge, we’re going.” Bill says, making up his mind. “Let’s do it.”
“I’m not.” Bulldog pulls back. “I won’t do it.” He withdraws from battle. “It’s not worth it.”
“Fine!” Bill yells. “I’ll do it myself with this!” He releases a D-class high explosive device encased in a familiar red shell stamped with the letter “B”.
“Don’t use that! It’s unstable!” Pepper yells.
The aparoid mother senses the impending attack and raises her barrier. But instead of wrapping it around herself it expands to protect the area nearby.
You are risking us both.
Krystal does not reply but her attitude to that selfish act remains scornful as she changes the shield’s concave nature changes to something more convex and pushes against the force of the ballistic contrivance stretching to retard its increased area of effect. Such an act repulses the transition zone back upward towards the sender. When the smoke and light fade both her and the city are still standing.
“Whoa, this wasn’t supposed to happen!” Bill is buffeted by the reflected shockwave of the blast. “I’m going down!”
“She stopped the bomb from destroying everything.” Pepper realizes. “Why?”
Krystal looks around. Just about all of the aparoids were obliterated in the cataclysm. Too tired to continue her conquest she decides to retreat. She uses her staff to boost out of the atmosphere and is gone almost as fast as she came.
“What are you waiting for, Fox?” Falco demands. “We’ve got to go after her!”
“I don’t really think this is going to work…I don’t want to hurt her.” Fox says softly.
“We can’t just let her go, Fox!” Slippy says shrilly.
“You’ve got to do something!” Peppy yells. “This is the only time we’ve got to use the antidote!”
In space the Aparoid Queen is making her getaway. Clear of the atmosphere of Corneria she’s deciding on where to go.
“There’s nowhere you can run.” Krystal taunts. “They’ll find you no matter what.”
They won’t. Fox doesn’t have the heart to give chase.
“I wouldn’t speak so soon…” Krystal says gleefully. “We’ve got company….” She says in a sing-song voice.
“Do you ever give up?” The queen demands aloud with an exasperated sigh. “How much longer must this go on?”
“As long as it takes.” Fox replies. “Team, cover me so I can get close.”
His subordinates do exactly that. They move ahead of Fox and try to clear the way for him. But of course their foe is against that idea and starts spinning the staff like an insanely huge baton while backing away.
“Time for some new tactics.” Peppy says resolutely. “Team, follow my lead.” The old hare guides his ship in front and starts firing on Krystal’s hands. “Come on now, I need help!”
“This weak point will stop her from using the staff to disperse the bomb…” Slippy realizes. “I’m right behind you!” He calls out giving Peppy backup.
“Whatever you say, old timer.” Falco concurs, following suit.
The idea seems to be almost working. The staff is rotating more slowly but still moving quickly. The three pilots are doing their best but they can’t get Krystal to stop.
“Fox, you’ve got to help us!” Peppy implores.
“I really-” Fox begins.
“I know you don’t want to do it.” The retired pilot says curtly. “I don’t want to either but we’ve got to.”
“Come on, we can’t do it without you!” Slippy insists.
“…alright.” Fox joins in the salvo.
Combined together the four sets of blue hyper lasers are enough to convince her to stop spinning the staff. But it’s far from over. She waits a few moments and as soon as they get close she tries to strike them with the weapon and swat them down despite the scorch marks on her fingers.
“Still slow on the draw…” Falco taunts, evading the swing.
“Whew…” Slippy slides out of the way just in time in his borrowed ship.
“Shoot, I’m getting careless!” Peppy draws back an instant too late and takes a hit to the rear. “Dagnabit!”
“Peppy are you alright?” Fox asks, concerned.
“It was just a nick. I’m a little shook up is all.” The hare comes back into formation. “Wait a second, I can’t boost! My G-diffuser’s down!”
Falco can’t resist laughing. “I know you didn’t just say that!” He says chidingly never minding the gravity of the situation. “Of all people!”
“What the- how did that happen?” Slippy wonders.
“Team, pull it together!” Fox commands. “Incoming!”
Krystal changes her tactic and sprays the area with cold energy. Seeing this Star Fox immediately is forced to give her some distance. Now every time they go nearby she wards them off with frigid magic.
“We’ve almost got this won.” Peppy says encouragingly. “She’s running out of ideas. As soon as we stop her from trying to freeze us we’re good to go.”
“How are we going to do that?” Slippy asks. “We can’t even get close.”
“As long as she’s got that staff we can’t touch her…” Falco agrees.
“Yeah…but I’ve got something. We’ve got to attack her and make her drop it.”
“She isn’t going to let go…” Fox says. “What do you have in mind?”
“We’ll cover you, there won’t be much time.” Peppy begins. “We’ll have to go for her eyes and face and you’ll have to go in for the antidote.”
“I’m not going to let you do that…”
“We don’t have a choice. The others are going to start on my mark so you’d better move quick when we go for it. You’re only going to get one chance.”
“Let’s do this!” Peppy takes a position in the rear and aims upward. The others are not far behind. “Go!”
Krystal isn’t taking it lying down either. On the cue all of them move a little closer for better aim and she manages to graze Slippy with the freezing power and watch as the brittle metal of the left wing snaps right off. But that leaves her open and she takes a few minor burns to her cheeks. When her eyelashes get singed however she falls for their ploy. Unwilling to risk her vision she drops the staff and covers her eyes with her hands.
You’ve fallen into their trap.
“Better that then be blinded.” Krystal replies. “I’m not here to serve your agenda anyway.”
We’ll both die if he uses the antidote on us.
“I guess you’ll take me with you then. That’s no surprise.”
“…I don’t want to do this…” Fox thinks. “I can’t.”
Krystal can hear what Fox is thinking and is touched yet still prepared for the end. But her mental warden can too and it doesn’t bode well for anyone. Her eyes open and she looks directly at Fox and gives him a pleading gaze. “Please don’t!” She hears her voice plea pathetically against her will. “Don’t you love me?” The battlefield comes to a grinding halt at her plaintive query.
“What are you waiting for?” Falco demands. “Do it already!”
“…no.” Fox mumbles.
“You honestly can’t be serious!”
“...as weak as she is, it might kill her...”
“I’m starting to detect a space anomaly nearby.” Slippy says. “She’s gonna try and hyperjump!”
“Fox, she’s going to get away!”
“So, that’s it? You’re just going to let it all go to waste?” Peppy asks. “All that we did and as far as we came you’re going to let all of that go?”
“I don’t want to lose her…”
“Neither do any of us!” Falco snaps. “But I didn’t come all this far just to fail! Not jump across the galaxy to break up my Arwing again and risk my life for nothing! I wanted to help you get her back no matter what it took! That’s what family’s about!”
“Do you think we’ll really be able to do something like this again?” Slippy asks. “We had ‘help’ from Bill and the entire Cornerian Army just to get this chance. I don’t think we’re going to get another opportunity like this again. You’ve got to do this!”
“If you don’t do something she’ll evolve and not only will she be unstoppable but Krystal will be a goner too. We’ve done our parts now it’s your turn.” Peppy says. “Go for it.”
Fox looks over at his team flying in formation beside him and Krystal floating ahead of them like an enemy battleship. He watches as she pulls her staff to her magically and opens a hyperspace portal. “Alright team, let’s finish this!”
“No can do, boss.” Falco says. “I can’t go hyperspace like this, my wings are shot.”
“I can’t do it either.” Slippy adds, trying to keep ‘his’ ship balanced with most of the left half missing.
“I can’t make the jump without a G-diffuser. This you’re going to have to do alone now.” Peppy says.
Fox takes no more time for small talk and hits the thrusters hard. He’s close on Krystal’s heels and he’s all a tingle with the tension. “I can do this…” He reminds himself. “I can do this.” He barely makes in it after her and the portal shuts immediately. “I’ve got to…”
“Don’t you know how to quit?” The aparoid queen queries.
“No.” Fox maneuvers his Arwing close and fires off one of the antidote canisters. “Not ever.”
Krystal starts coughing. “What? Not this…not again…” She falls out of hyperspace with Fox on her tail. “I can’t be defeated…”
“You’ve got to be. It’s the only way.”
The possessed telepath plummets into another planet’s atmosphere. She makes a hard landing onto Titania’s surface on her disproportionate rear end and absently smacks the nose of battered Arwing pursuing her with her staff while sitting up. The pilot ditches the finished aircraft and lands on the sand nearby. Krystal, feeling the effect of the antidote, shrinks down to her previous 25ft height still sitting in the depression she created on impact of a sand dune contoured to the shape of her behind.
“Are you ready, big butt?” Fox chides to Krystal’s amusement. “Don’t get too comfortable over there; I’ve still got to bring you in.”
“We’ve done this dance before.” The queen reminds Fox in Krystal’s voice. “You won’t win.”
“Wanna bet?” Her opponent smiles.
“I know you. You won’t dare-”
“Try me, come on.” Fox starts hopping around. “If you can handle it that is.” He laughs.
“You wish for this to be painful? Very well.” Krystal says, standing up. “I’ll entertain you.” She goes to strike him down.
“Too slow!” The nimble fox jumps over a staff swing and lands a kick to her midsection. “Can you keep up with me?”
Unphased by his attack she continues. But she goes high, he drops down and there’s a blow to her knee. She tries to stomp him but he rolls clear and pulls his blaster, hitting her with worthless stun shots. She reaches for him and he’s always just out of her grasp, dancing away while smacking at her powerful fingers.
“You can’t defeat me. You may as well give this up.”
“Why would I do that?” Fox teases. “I’m having fun, aren’t you?”
“When you tire, I’ll snap you in two.” His exceedingly tall girlfriend reminds him.
“Let me know when that happens.”
The fight goes on. Fox seems to have limitless energy. Every time she thinks he’s going to get hurt he slips away. Him jumping over her sweep kicks and under her swinging arms to touch her face and wink taxes her patience. She counterattacks him with a punch that is dead on but he tucks and rolls with the blow dispersing the force and smiling that irritating smile of his after he gets back up.
“Not bad, but it’s still a good thing I’m taking it easy on you.” Fox says. “I’d hate to hurt you.”
Krystal screams and charges, infuriated at his complacent attitude. But even taunting he’s second-guessing her moves. Sidestep the punch, jump the staff, slide away from her hand, and catch the follow up kick square in the stomach. His face is the picture of surprise upon impact. She feels him cave in under the blow as he’s propelled off her foot a few yards away in the sand. He doesn’t tactically roll or land on his feet. He just lies there, finally bested. She can’t help but feel disappointed though. “That’s it?” She says aloud.
Her opponent hacks a bit before speaking. “Yep, that’s it.” He pulls out a container. “All that to get this all over you and make you go back to normal.” Fox groans with the other antidote canister in hand. “That hurts…”
“After all I’ve been through, this is it?” The oversize telepath walks over to him. “You’re what defeated me before?” She asks, heaving all hot and sweaty towering over him.
“That’s right. Well, you beat me this time.” The lead pilot chuckles darkly. “I shouldn’t have taken it easy on you. Couldn’t help it though. I wasn’t able to do it.”
Krystal shakes her head sadly. “I knew you couldn’t. You knew it too. Why? What was the purpose?”
Fox shrugs, or tries to with multiple bone fractures. “I don’t know, had to try I guess.”
“But you knew you wouldn’t. You would’ve let me win either way.” She says probing his brain. “Why?”
“It’s a choice I made. Why do we do anything? Because we’ve got choices.”
“It was wrong! There’s so much you could’ve done differently. If there is only one right way there is no other option.”
“Life is the sum of all choices. I’d rather make a bad one than not have a chance to choose.”
“Look at where you ended up!”
“I got pretty far.” He chuckles again. “For all the screwing up I did even I’m impressed.” He meets her eyes. “Are you going to finish me or not?”
The imprisoned consciousness that is Krystal waits. She braces herself against what’s coming. It’s no surprise that her disloyal hands pick Fox up and begin to constrict about him slowly. “No! You can’t!” The incarcerated one balks and tries with all her willpower to stop it. The thoughts of the tortured one spur her on as they appear in her mind.
“Oh CRAP! This hurts!” Fox thinks. “I should’ve finished her when I had the chance…”
Now do you see? Even he could not be expected to still care for you after all that he’s been through.
“But Fox I- you, we…” Her digits tighten like a vise as she loses concentration. “I thought you…”
“Owowow!” Fox exclaims with his thoughts running together now. “I can’t think I couldn’t, wouldn’t. It didn’t matter I did so much. All I wanted was to have her back…”
Pitiful, isn’t he? I shall destroy him here and now.
“Please don’t…” Krystal protests weakly. But she’s confused by all the conflicting thoughts from Fox and the queen as well as several of her own so she can’t focus and find the strength to fight back. “I, just stop…” Her grip tightens like the hug of a python.
“Aaaahh!” Fox feels a burst of terror renewed with his anguish. “I’m really going to die. It’s going to end here. I’ll accept it then, I tried my best. It doesn’t matter. I did it all for her. I have no regrets-”
Krystal can only listen to his final musings in astonished silence. “I…No, not like this…” Feeling his consciousness wavering like a candle flame in the breeze her thoughts linger on him with sorrow deeper than she thought possible coming over her as she anticipates his demise. She can only wait for the tell tale sign of his presence in her mind subsiding as his life too is snuffed out. “…?” Something is wrong.
“-whew!” Fox is relieved. “Man does this hurt!”
The grasp of the enormous executioner relaxes. She stares down at the one sentenced to death and the expression on her face changes. Previously it was an unforgiving gaze of hatred, now a look of utmost bafflement.
“Did I?” Krystal wonders. “I tried but-”
No. I stopped.
The aparoid queen doesn’t answer. Instead there is silence. Then both of them are inside Fox’s head, sifting through his memories as the being at the helm of Krystal and her abilities takes a journey through his brain. All the events from the last few days are inspected and examined. She is taken aback at the occurrences; some of them are unbelievable to say the least. It’s a lot to take in and it is over as suddenly as it began.
I won’t do it.
“What?” Krystal is stunned.
I won’t destroy him.
“Why?” Even though the decision is one she favors she can’t help but wonder. “I don’t understand.”
When you chose me first it was because you thought they abandoned you. When you chose me the second time it was the same thing but you thought you were going to die then. Even so, you fought me every step of the way. Some things you simply wouldn’t do. Though it would’ve been easier to let me lead you made me force you. That was your choice.
“You know that already.” Krystal replies. “There’s something more, isn’t there?”
It isn’t just that. Fox wouldn’t stop choosing you. Not when I first hit him when Falco could’ve taken us, not when the cannon hit us and we became a bigger threat or when Bill was bent on destroying us either. When it came time to pick his team or you he picked you. When it was impossible he picked you. Even now, when it was either pick his survival and force you to be normal or put himself and the entire galaxy at risk he chose you. That was his choice.
“Why let him live?”
Because it is my choice alone; you could not stop me. I have never chosen before and this is my choice to make.
“But you will cease to be…”
What is a life without choice?
The aparoid queen sets down Fox delicately and picks up the antidote canister. Gazing at it wistfully she opens it slowly. “I chose…” She says aloud, splashing herself with the contents. “…to choose.”
The effect is immediate. Krystal can finally control herself again. She telepathically scans the area. The aparoid consciousness is gone like a bad dream. “I’m me again…” She whispers.
“You…beat it?” Fox asks, wheezing painfully.
“No…” Krystal says sounding almost sad. “I didn’t.” She picks up Fox and pulls him close, activating her healing magic on him. “It chose to defeat itself.”