Snake Circles Journal records of the week known as Fox Hunt Prologue: "We were bosom buddies, you know? Even if he was a guy and I was a girl, we'd share all our problems. You don't have to be in love with a guy to like him, to share your passions. So when he went missing, I was like a volcano. It's lucky I didn't kill . . .or worse."-Zelda Janzzen "I love Fox McCloud with all my heart. Zelda knows it; in fact, she is constantly protecting our relationship. She is everyone's adoptive sister."-Krystal "What happened not even theorists can explain . . .He (McCloud) disappeared without a trace . . ."-Falco Lombardi Log: 21:38, 6/7/02--abandon Titanian Airport (De'Jumea) If you had been walking here three hours ago, you would have seen an unconscious fox lying in the sand, his fur drenched in his own blood. That's the way I found him, for the most part. The perfect victim for my plan; no struggle, no hassle, no problem. What surprised me more was that he was still breathing after I had struck. My name is De'Jumea. I am a Lamia, half-snake, half woman. I do eat children in my spare time, being that in my nature. Many will say that I'm not pretty, but let's face it; not many live long enough to escape me. And when they do . . .well, that's not pretty either. So, like I was saying, I found this little vulpine creature being stalked by a wolf-man, O'Donnell I believe. I knew that recently a vulpine named Fox McCloud was in the Lylat Wars, hauling his butt for some weak general. I've had vulpine before, and though it is good, it's a little too hairy for me. Humans are my favorite treat. Hey, I'm a savage. Get over it, loser. Fox McCloud . . .he is perfect for my plan to take over the world, to enslave the universe in my power. I have tried before to capture the universe, but I failed . . .miserably. Not only was I banished to this rotten desert, the men who defeated me were my own allies. Traitors, all of them! Ah, well. None of my allies failed well after their betrayal to me. Two were scientists, one was a genetic project. The first scientist, Doctor Andross, was later banished to Venom for his crimes against Corneria, the planet I tried to first take over. The second, a Dr. Ivo Robotnik, spends his time chasing hedgehogs. What a loser! The third, known only as Shadow . . .who knows what became of him? The news says that he burnt up in the atmosphere of earth after the Space Colony ARK incident, but I don't know . . . What comes around goes around. I finally have gotten the chance to regain my strength. Although it's taken me fifty years to find the "chosen" captive, I have found him. He's absolutely perfect; he is respected, loved, cherished, and defended by all his little friends. (I even heard one of Andross' daughters saved him . . .how's that?) He is also a very nice specimen, well built in every aspect. A little skinny for my type, but good enough. Like I was saying, I found this little fox running for his life on a jet bike from Wolf O'Donnell, who is apparently Andross' right-hand man. Does all the killing and such. He was getting in my way, as I saw it; trying to kill my sacrifice is a sin. They both had blasters, so it was a battlefield for me to try to sneak up on them. I travel very fast, as Wolf learned too late. Just as he was to fire the killing blow to McCloud, I came up behind him and slapped him off his bike with a swing of my mighty tail. Before he knew what hit him, I coiled around him and yanked him off his feet, strangling him as I dangled him at the end of my tail. I felt a crack in his throat, and I knew that it was all over for him. Just to make sure he was dead, I cut his head off. Fox had been knocked off his jet bike during O'Donnell's last shot, and he was trying to squirm away from the wreckage while attending his wound from O'Donnell's blaster. When I looked into his deep sapphire eyes, I saw what I wanted to see; fear was the look I got. He scrambled faster from me, grasping the ground as he pulled himself along the ground. "Come here, puppy . . .", I taunted to him, just to try and set him off. His left leg was gushing blood now, so I could see that he was loosing strength. He howled in pain as it hit a large piece of shrapnel from his jet bike, it digging into his already huge wound. He laid against the ground, after yanking the piece out of his leg, not have the energy to pursue the idea of escape. "Kill me, if you wish. I can't . . go further.", Fox tried sweet-talking himself into escape, hoping I had some pity in my heart not to just take him out of his misery right then and there. I slithered over to where he lay injured, smirking as if I actually did take up that offer right then and there. My scaly hands wrapped around his waist, pulling him up and over my shoulder. He didn't writhe in pain or fear, but rather passed out like a baby. "I'll take that offer up . . .later.", I murmured to him the last few seconds before he fainted from heat and pain. Log: 21:50, 6/7/02--Great Fox (Zelda) I never knew how psychically strong I was until the vision happened. Peppy said it was set off by some sort of energy field radiated by Fox's fear, so I knew it had to be true. My father, Dr. Andross, always thought that I had some hidden power within me, and today it came out violently. The worst thing about it all was that I saw Fox suffering. And that really, really hurt. It all started when Falco and I were goofing off again. He had lost all his gambling cards, so he was kind of mad about that. (I had disposed of them earlier.) He was so angry that he started kicking the wall of his room in, which was funny to hear as I was in the next room. Every ten seconds or so there would be a bang and a swear. Living with Falco is the next best thing to living in a frat house with daily keggers and cop arrests. Finally, he did come into my room. He asked me, "Got anything I can gamble with? I need something either to rip ol' Pep out of his money or injure Slippy with." I shrugged, laughed, then dug under my cot to see if I could find anything. A few seconds later I pulled up a pair of dice and a new Bicycle deck for him. He scowled at me, knowing what I had done, and growled under his breath. "You're lucky that Fox likes having you around, or I would so kick your ass.", Falco smirked. I knew he was kidding; we have similar personalities, so we know how to make each other mad. Whether it's dying underwear pink or stealing junk, we still can find ways for us to always get along. Falco sighed, then signaled me to toss him the cards and the dice. I handed him the cards, then pitched the dice nearly at supersonic speed, bouncing off his chest. He coughed, then smirked as he bent down to pick up the dice, "Damn, Zelda. You would stink at Craps." Sure enough, both of my dice had landed on the 1 side; snake eyes was embarrassing for me to roll. As I went to look closer at the dice, some soft purple gas seemed to billow slowly out of it in a rotating, tornado-ish form. I store at it for a minute as the dots of the dice flared into black-pupiled orange eyes. My body froze, starting to react to my first vision. "Zelda? Zelda, talk to me. Zelda! Zelda!!", Falco tried to snap me back into attention, but it was no use. My attention was fixated on the glowing orange eyes. I slipped slowly into a coma, loosing my balance and falling on my butt at the same time. I didn't feel it; all I could register were those . . . Orange eyes . . . "Peppy! I . . .I . . .Get up here!", I could hear Falco stutter, or at least I think I could hear him. The growls of a desert wind were whipping at my ears, taking my last senses of reality away totally. I didn't seem Peppy, Krystal, or Slippy come up to my room, haul me to my bed . . .nothing was there . . .all I could feel was . . . Aaah!! My leg . . .my leg. . . what the? Shrapnel . . .my jet bike was broken, I remember. I fell off it . . .Wolf was going to shoot me, but where is he? Where is Wolf? What is that?! "Come on, girl. Pull yourself up. Come on.", Peppy's voice whispered in my subconscious. I couldn't respond to him . . .I was on Titania. My jet bike had crashed . . .Who's that? I fought my brain for control. I wasn't on Titania, I was here on the ship! Wolf hadn't been trying to shoot me! I wasn't riding a jet bike! Hell, I don't even own a jet bike! . . .But I do . . .Zelda . . .Someone! Help! Oh god! I'm . . .I'm . . . That voice, I knew that voice! I could remember that voice. Fox was on Titania, I remember! And he . . .was . . .oh god . . . Somebody! Help!! HELP!!! I've been . . . oh god . . HELP!!! "FOX!!", I screamed at the top of my lungs when I finally was myself again. Peppy restrained me, keeping me on the bed while I struggled to fight free. I still thought I was in trouble; my vision of Titania was fading. While it was disappearing, I began to analyze the surroundings of my vision. There was Fox's wrecked bike, and blood. Oh god, there was so much blood . . . I regained control of myself again and stopped thrashing. Peppy released my shoulders from his grip, knowing that I had gotten through my first vision. The first thing I did after I had broken free was cry. There was some gash in my leg, I still thought, and I thought I was dying. Then the real truth set in, and I became a waterfall. "Peppy . . .Fox . . .Fox . . .", I sobbed, "Oh, my leg . . ." Peppy checked if I was injured, but there didn't seem to be any wound down there. I was as unscratched as I was before I had broken away from my memory. My body felt so cold; I thought I was freezing to death. "What happened?", Slippy was very scared. His naive attitude usually made him more willing to ask questions about the unknown, and it made him nearly twice as jittery. My last few tears dribbled from my eyes down my pillow, then they stopped. Krystal was very concerned about all of this; she knew that I held great powers like my father Andross, and that if I could tell what was going on from far away, that could be all the better. She also knew that I had seen Fox. My brain throbbed for a moment, then settled down again. I leaned back further against my pillow, then curled into a ball and hid myself under the bed covers. Peppy shook his head, then softly started talking to me, "Zelda, I know you're scared. I was scared the first time I had visions. It's natural, Zelda. You'll be okay." "It's not that.", I moaned from underneath the covers, "Fox has been kidnapped by something. He's hurt. . .Oh god, Peppy, something's wrong." Krystal looked extremely worried at me, then glared at Peppy, wondering what I just had seen. I knew Peppy returned that look, and I could her Slippy murmuring his fear too. Falco's ferocious eyes relaxed like that of a concerned parent, then tried to get me talking again, "Zelda, what all happened? How is Fox hurt?" "He's cut up really bad. His left leg was cut by a sharp piece of his jet bike. It's blown to pieces; I think Wolf was chasing him . . .but then . . .he was gone. And something else was there.", I nearly whispered to myself, "Someone wanted him for something . . .I can't remember what they wanted . . ." Falco and Slippy actually made eye contact with each other, then gave a questioning gaze to Krystal and Peppy. Being the eldest of the group, Peppy naturally took the reigns, "We'll have to go to Titania, quickly. I don't know whether Zelda saw the past or the future, but Fox is in trouble either way. We'll have to track down his jet bike and find out what happened." Slippy nodded dutifully, then rushed off to give commands to Rob, their AlLiS-359 pilot robot. Falco ran to his room, where the sounds of gun and magazine packing were heard. Krystal got up from my bedside, then glided to her room. (She always was much more graceful than me.) Peppy just sat there in my room for a few more moments to make sure I was okay. I'm scared for my life. No, I'm scared for Fox's. I don't know which is worse. Log: 22:01, 6/7/02--Hidden Base, Titania (De'Jumea) Everything is going according to my plans. I only have 8 more hours to live, but it's going to be a death worthwhile. Through my plans, I will be incarnated into a newer, more fabulous body than that of a snake. I will be the ruler of all. Shall I explain to you? Perhaps that would make you understand . . . .There is supposedly a prophecy by an old Cornerian predicting their planet's fall to a fantastic beast. It is predicted to be at least 50 feet tall and born from a sky altar hidden many years ago. After some research, I discovered that this place is actually on the top of the Cornerian Museum of Natural Arts and Science. To release such an evil beast, it needs to be born from the egg of a lamia and have a connection to an energy fountain, a person of unending energy. I have also found out that this energy fountain is often times a cherished being of an ultimate life form. Against popular theory that there was only one of these superior species, there are actually several other. To be an ultimate life form, a scientist has to create a being with the best traits of several different alien species, but takes only the form of one. Shadow the Hedgehog was thought to be it, but I have recently learned that there is another. Dr. Andross was sort of always my friendly rival. He knew the tricks to the science of genetics, and he started developing a project called Operation Blue Phoenix that first began with his experiment with Dr. Robotnik. Later, nearly 40 years after our first experiment, he put the operation back into existence, and he created the first human ultimate life form. Its form came as a surprise to all, for its surrogate mother was none other than the vicious Mother Brain herself. To be a human was something unusual. I have been developing my own ultimate life form, but not by Andross' standards. That is my plan as of now, to create a beast so large that it could wipe out Robotnik and Andross' projects and rule the world. My mission was made much easier last year when Shadow was killed during the Space Colony Ark events. I thought I had it easy . . .until Andross' creation finally discovered its powers. Zelda Janzzen, his first truly successful project, broke off from his powers nearly six months ago. She had ruined his attempts to make a giant mountain-sized Golem by Fox McCloud. By saving McCloud, she put him right into my snares. Let me explain more. Ultimate life forms will lead to energy fountains or give them their powers. Shadow activated a fountain by his death; since he was last with his son, Sonic the Hedgehog, he gave this eternal energy spring to him. This made him extra powerful and much faster. Zelda also proved her powers when she undertook a death-defying act with Fox McCloud. Technically, Fox had already died, but she never knew that. Andross had drained the last drop of his energy when she cut him apart from the doctor's Golem, so he should have been dead, correct? She unknowingly transferred some of her sacred energy into his body, which caught him from completely passing away. This energy, as I have noticed over these past few months, has grown with amazing results, and he has started to begin fueling this own energy normally within him. It's almost like she made him an ultimate life form. I finally caught him here on Titania just an hour ago, so now I can begin my project. When I insert the embryo I created into my own body, it will begin to grow at a rapid pace. (I engineered its genetics like that; Andross did not with Zelda and Shadow.) Finally, when I reach Corneria by my newly fixed ship, I will land on the top of the Cornerian Museum where my charts say the altar is and the embryo will take its final developments. It will rip me into shreds by emerging from my body, so that's were Fox comes in. If I am in his presence, his energy will channel into the new beast and my ectoplasmic being (also known as a soul, more simply) will transfer into the beast, therefore reincarnating myself. Now, that wasn't too difficult to understand, was it? My captive finally woke up a few minutes ago. He seems to be dazed; maybe he's just not scared right now. Anything I bring here usually screams. Maybe he's just lost a lot of blood. Whatever the cause, he is certainly an alert little creature. "Where am I?", McCloud whispered almost to himself, afraid I would hear him, perhaps. He pressed against the steel contraption I had created to hold him back, seeing how loose it was. I had fixed it tight enough to keep him in, so he gave up and laid against the wall. "Well, you're where your friends won't find you, if you want to know about that.", I smirked, then turned around to take a glance at him. He was startled, then jerked back against the wall. Nearly sweating from fear, he murmured, "I know you . . ." "You remember me? Oh, I feel so honored.", I laughed, "Yes, I can recall you too. Sixth grade camping trip. I almost kidnapped you because I heard that Andross would have paid anything to have you under his fingers. Then your daddy had to come . . .but your daddy isn't here to protect you anymore, is he? He's deader than a doornail." Fox looked rather hurt by my saying at first, but then got this coy look in his eyes. I was rather surprised by this look; what was he thinking in that wondrous mind of his? He gave me my answer soon enough, "He's not gone anymore." Soon the answer hit me like a bullet; of course his father was alive, especially if Andross' project was involved with it. She probably reincarnated him to his old body somehow . . .And that's how James was alive. True terror struck me then. If she knew she had the power to bring the dead back to life, then what would stop her from reincarnating Shadow? This Zelda could foil my plans! I knew then that Andross really had put in a lot of work into his creation, and he knew how to keep it strong. It's just too bad that she doesn't work for him anymore. My radar on my table started blinking furiously. I turned to glare at it; three ships were incoming, the Star Fox ship, Andross' personal vessel, and a plane from what appeared to be Planet Freedom. Could she have already found out about Shadow? How . . . .would she? Another fear hit me again. How would I hid McCloud if they found where I was? I thought feverishly on the topic for many seconds, then the plan came to me. I would have to inject the embryo into my body, which would hide that, then have to digest the vulpine. (Lamias have detachable jaws like a snake, so it would work.) McCloud gave me this look like he was expecting me to do something, as if he were reading my mind. I grabbed a syringe and the embryo's petre dish, then quickly squeezed the needle and plunged it into my uterus. I could almost feel something squirm inside me, but I wasn't too sure. The vulpine could hear the radar going nuts, and he seemed to be pretty excited, "I knew they'd come." "Not soon enough to save you, dear.", I started working my jaw, then finally got it loose enough for Fox's size. He quivered in fear when he saw that I had this all planned out. I unlocked his cage, expecting him to run, but he stood still, paralyzed by fear. Before I swallowed him whole, I heard him whisper, "She knows." As if that didn't scare me enough, I heard something land right over my hidden lair. I grabbed my sacred ritual items, then scurried down my hallway, then the stairs, then into my basement where my personal ship awaited. Fox was no help to my escape; he kept thrashing around and trying to rip himself out. I knew that he wouldn't hurt my baby though; that thing was too strong for him to kill like that, even if it was that small. Slipping into the cockpit's only chair, I began preparing myself for my escape. The vehicle blasted off on my mark, leaving little to no trail for the brats to follow me. As I began traveling towards Corneria, I laid back against my seat and tried to relax. Sleep came soon enough, and all I felt through the trip was the small movements from Fox trying still free himself. It's amazing how he kept trying even after he was kidnapped. Log: 22:10, 6/7/02--Great Fox, Titania (Zelda) James McCloud, Fox's father, sat across from me at the dining table, watching me play with my straw. I had lost interest in my virgin cherry daiquiri, so I just stirred it slowly, watching the liquid swirl. My little umbrella flopped out of the side of my drink, landing on the table with a sticky plop. James shook his head, then tried to talk to me. "It's going to be okay, Zelda. He's always been safe before, even when he's in trouble. He finds ways out of things.", James tried to encourage me. I nodded soberly, then flicked my umbrella onto the floor. I store at my drink again, watching a small bubble of carbonation pop. Daddy (I accidentally call him that now) patted me on the back, then stood up when Peppy came running in as fast as his shorter legs could carry him. He panted, "We've arrived, but look who came with us!" I glanced out the window of the dining room, catching a Venomain ensign on the side of the ship passing us. Jumping to my feet, I knocked over my chair as I ran to the window. That was no ordinary Venomain cruiser; this was my father’s personal aircraft! “Holy crap, he is behind this, isn’t he?!”, I shrieked in angry, “I’m going to strangle him with his own intestines!” "Receiving hologram.", Rob's metallic voice echoed off the walls. A few moments later, the hazy-blue image of Andross stood behind me, his stern face smug with content. He crossed his arms, then spoke, "Zelda, Zelda, Zelda. Still that violent?" "What did you do to Fox, you slimy bag of pig . . .", I began cursing, but then Peppy hushed me down. "He says it's an emergency call, Zelda." I nodded, then took a deep breath, ready to hear whatever garbage Andross had to spew from his awful mouth. "Thank you for reading the topic of this communication, Peppy.", Andross cackled evilly, "And this is important, if you want to save Fox." I shuddered again, remembering that frightening vision that I had. My true father noticed my displeasure, but didn't say anything on it. He apparently knew what had happened to me already. I sighed, then apologized, "Sorry. I thought you were here to hurt us, not help. Please do tell us what happened to Fox . . .we're all worried sick." Andross was pleased with my etiquette now, so he did answer us, "De'Jumea is what happened, Zelda. It's time." My heart stopped for nearly a second when I heard that terrible name. Andross had told me stories about how cruel she was, and how he had betrayed her in the end. In this case, Andross was the lesser of two evils, so I became desperate, "No. I thought . . .wasn't she killed? She's not dead? Oh god . . . ." James was also concerned now, "De'Jumea? The Lamia De'Jumea? What would she want with Fox?" I became very still, recalling all those horrible stories that I heard about her; how she had killed children, destroyed cities, become so brilliantly intelligent . . .Had all of her life lead up to this? Was this possible her worst crime going on right now? Andross answered James, "He is an energy fountain, one blessed by the powers of an ultimate life form. Someone with all that energy is a gold mine, especially good energy like his. Evil thrives off it." My mind searched for an ultimate life form; I could only come across the thought of Shadow the Hedgehog. "Dad, there was only one ultimate life form, and he's gone. Fox never met Shadow.", I stuttered, "Unless . . .you've been keeping secrets, haven't you?" Dr. Andross adjusted his sleeve cuffs, then continued, "An ultimate life form is hard to create, Zelda. I should know, since I came up with the ultimate life form project. I made not one of these, Zelda, but two." I realized with a cold fear, "She knew I was one, didn't she?! That bitch . . .but how did I . . . and how . . .oh, man, I've got questions." Peppy, Slippy, Falco, James, and Krystal were all shocked to find out what my existence was. I was impressed to find it out myself, but I suppose it would explain a lot about me. Krystal interrupted the silence, "If Zelda is an ultimate life form, then how did she give Fox this blessing?" "I was successful in killing both James McCloud and his son. You just never figured it out.", Andross smirked, "Zelda, you found a keyhole that could only be activated by an ultimate life form; that's how you reincarnated James. Fox wasn't dead long enough to be known as dead." "But how did I do that?!", I shrieked, hysterical now, "And why did it happen?" Andross quickly cut into my stuttering, "I had drained all of Fox's life energy, so he should have been dead. However, in the second that you released him from my machine, your body was radiating enough energy to refill enough of Fox's, therefore reviving him within a millisecond. That is how he was turned into an energy fountain." Peppy looked very sober for a minute. He looked at James, then pushed a tear back as he spoke, "How did we get that lucky, James? Why did we deserve this set of miracles?" I realized within a heartbeat, "Every miracle comes with consequences, Peppy. Since De'Jumea knew Fox as a huge energy source, she kidnapped him in hopes to kill him and to gain an ultimate power through his energy, somehow." "Correct, Zelda. But I have a plan to screw her plans up, and I'm only helping you all out because I hate her guts.", Andross chuckled, "To do this, we need the help of some friends I have gathered and we need you to reincarnate Shadow the Hedgehog. I believe that the both of you could overpower this awesome creature." I was a little bit startled at all of this, so I sat down and tried to get this all through my head. Apparently, what Andross wanted was for me and the others to go kill some rival scientist of his, but could I trust him? If I didn't, then the Lylat System was doomed. And if I didn't do something fast, not only could there be a possibility of everyone getting killed, but civilization could be enslaved as I know it. Damn-it, I hate making hard decisions! "James, you decide. What should we do; can we trust him?", I laid all responsibility on Daddy's shoulders. He pondered the situation for a moment, then said abruptly, "We don't have a choice, Zelda. We have to trust Andross so we have a chance of saving Fox." I nodded, then replied to Andross, "Our fates are in your hands. What are we going to do?" Andross smiled one of these evil smirks that he has, then gave us our first command, "Perfect. First, we'll have to land on Titania and find a purgatory keyhole. Zelda, bring your staff." Our ships lined up in parallel lines as we began to descend onto Titania. The Planet Freedom ship also followed our lead. When we reached the dusty surface of barren Titania, I was first introduced to the most famous hedgehog in the whole galaxy, Mr. Sonic the Hedgehog himself. Sonic was shorter than I thought he would be, only coming up to my elbow in height. He was followed by another hedgehog, then an echidna, a bat, a fox, a cat, and the malicious Dr. Robotnik himself. I shook hands with each animal, learning their names; Knuckles, Rouge, Miles "Tails" Prower, and Big. Amy the Hedgehog nearly climbed all over the Great Fox, asking questions like, "What's that?! Do you know how to drive it, Sonic? How fast does this go? Does it come with a convertible? Can I drive?" The blue hedgehog kept replying, "No, Amy. Amy, stop it. Amy, grow up." "Uh, nice to meet you all. My name's Zelda, and this is Slippy Toad, Falco Lombardi, Peppy Hare, James McCloud and Krystal . . . uh . . .I don't know her last name.", I introduced my friends. Amy was intrigued with Falco, "Oh my god! He looks like you, Sonic! Wow, he must be cool too because all cool guys are blue! He's not as cute as you, though." Sonic shook his head, then just sighed and started to talk to Tails about robbing Amy's hammer. "Get this girl off of me! I'm not a friggen' tree!", Falco scorned. I sighed, then picked Amy up and dropped her on the ground. Andross chuckled to himself, then reunited with his old friend, "It's been some time, Robotnik." Both scientists seemed to be happy enough, then turned to me, "Well, Zelda, Knuckles and Rouge will help you find this keyhole. Hurry it up!" I scorned him, then turned to the bat and the echidna. Knuckles lead the way, sniffing the air every few seconds and tasting the ground for minerals. Rouge cocked an eyebrow at him, then tried to carry on a conversation with me, "Isn't this just perfect? I hate working with evil people. They are so disgusting." I nodded my head, then started kicking a loose rock with my shoe. It became a fun game, so I kicked it some more, following Knuckles in the game. On my last kick to the rock, it sank into the ground. "Huh? AH!!", I tried to step where the rock disappeared, only to find a hole. A few short feet later I landed at the bottom of the pit. Some sort of metallic structured door was here, held together by a cement mixture. It looked like a house under the sand. In front of the door was the keyhole I was searching for, so I plunged my staff into the ground and started mentally looking for Shadow's soul in this catch of people's spirits. I found a darker hedgehog's soul and knew it was immediately his. A few seconds later, a body started materializing in front of me, reconstructing Shadow's old self. In ten seconds, he was alive again, staring me down with fiery brown eyes. "Oh my god . . .Knuckles! Rouge! Down here! Found it!", I shouted. A few seconds later, everyone's head popped over the hole I had stumbled into, staring in wonder at the newly living Shadow. The hedgehog seemed confused, then opened his new mouth and cleared his voice with his first words, "What happened?" Sonic was especially ecstatic to see Shadow alive. He dove into the hole, then store in amazement at the ultimate life form. "You died, Shadow. You were gone, but you're back now!", Sonic was very impressed, "And since you're back, you can help us!" Shadow was confused for the moment, but then I explained to him, "Do you remember De'Jumea, Shadow? She is here and is trying to become an ultimate life form like you and me. She's going to kill us all if we don't do something." Shadow seemed to understand, but seemed sad about something. "I thought Maria would be there . . .I thought we could be together . . .", he was sober, nearly to the point of crying, which was weird for Shadow. Tails and James understood his needs better than anyone else; vulpines have a sharp ability for predicting feelings. I was about to pat him on the back when something shook the earth we were standing on. Slippy shrieked in surprise, "Oh my god! That's De'Jumea's ship, isn't it? She's escaping!!" I was scared, "Oh no! No!!" Climbing out of the hole, I caught the last few seconds before an ancient ship shot of the atmosphere of Titania. James was also pissed off, "Come back here and fight, you wretch!" Falco ran as quickly as he could back to the Great Fox, then shouted, "I'm taking off now! We have to pursue her!!!" Andross pulled Shadow out of the hole, then rushed off to his own ship. Tails raced to the Planet Freedom ship, reading it for launch. I gave one last desperate look into the sky, then ran to the Great Fox, knowing that our plan had to speed up fast! All I could think about was if Fox was okay or not. I wished he was, with all my heart. Log: 02:32, 6/8/02--Corneria City (De'Jumea) It's been ages since I have seen Corneria City, and it's still as pretty as it was since I was banished. How such a large city can keep pollution free and full of life is beyond my mind. Even in its beauty, I hate it. It made me leave civilization and loose so much power that I had deserved. Why don't the smart people ever gain their power? Fox knew we were in Corneria City instinctively. He had given up struggling during the flight, so feeling him move again inside me gave me evil pleasures. He knew he was helpless, and now that we were moving into Corneria's airspace, he probably felt even more hopeless than before. I am astonished by how easily he was tamed. <We're in Corneria, aren't we?>, little McCloud startled me. He knew how to speak telepathically, but I guess that made some sort of sense to me. I suppose after living with Peppy Hare and an ultimate life form, he would learn to extend the use of his mind to communicate. <Yes, little one. You're home, but no one knows where you are. You're with me until the end, McCloud.>, I signaled back to him. He settled down again, but this time the pressure from his body wasn't killing me. It seemed almost comforting. Is this what a mother feels, I wonder? Does being around a child comfort them like this? Maybe it's just sentimental attachment to the poor, weak little being that would be destroyed otherwise. I shook my head, trying to block these motherly emotions from my head. It probably was only in effect because of the life form growing within me at a rapid pace. Something started clicking on my monitor. I looked behind me to see that it was a Venomain cruiser, Andross' no doubt. I picked up my radio and began to talk to him, "I've got McCloud secured still. What's up on your side?" "I think I've got those fools to believe I'm on their side. That, or they're just desperate.", Andross cackled back, "How's your child doing?" I instinctively held my hand over where the head was beginning to form, then replied, "It's doing marvelously." There was some more quiet static over the airlines, then Andross began speaking, "Zelda was successful in reincarnating Shadow. I thought I'd warn you." Why he would warn me about that, I have no idea. Shadow was created to be evil; he wouldn't change even after he was incarnated again. Perhaps he is becoming too attached to his feelings, like Zelda did. She was going to be evil, but then female emotions had to kick in . . . "Is Fox giving you any trouble?", Andross tried to make conversation again. I don't know if he was just lonely or what, but I liked having his company. "Not at the moment.", I replied, "He quit struggling an hour ago. I think he exhausted himself, or he's running out of hope." With a sudden blast of some noise, I heard the Great Fox rip into territory. Following it were four Arwings and some sort of modified Venomain fighter ship. The Venomain sped towards me at an incredible speed, and it took all my steering knowledge to get out of its path in time. "What was that?!", I was startled. Andross replied, "Oh, god. Zelda found out." The Venomain cruiser cut off the passage of the Arwings, the fighter, and the Great Fox, then a hoarse voice yelled, "Run, De'Jumea! Get to that altar! You only have another 45 minutes!" "Andross, I should have known! I'm going to kill you, throw your body into an acid pit, and watch Metroids suck your flesh off, you slimeball!!", I heard Zelda shreiking at him, "You son of a bitch!" <Zelda! Zelda!!!!!>, Fox was ecstatic again, <Zelda!!! I'm okay!! Oh god, have I missed you guys!!> He squirmed excitedly inside of me, nearly thrashing again. He was wild with energy again; I could feel his youthful hope growing, and I hated that. Peppy Hare responded to him telepathically, <It's okay, Fox. We're here to save you!> The Planet Freedom vessel finally caught up, spinning at me from a 45-degree angle. It was too fast to avoid and took off my left wing in the process. An energetic Tails called out, "I got her wing!" Zelda replied hastily, "Don't destroy it. Just injure it so we can board it!" My heart started pounding again; this team meant some serious business. <Fox, I'm coming. Are you okay?>, that nasty girl of Andross' was trying to comfort McCloud again. He was full of life again, his energy nearly brimming over, <I'm alive, if you mean that. It's getting tight in here.> I looked down at my belly and noticed that the embryo had nearly pushed Fox out of my skin. Racing towards the sky altar above the Cornerian Museum, I realized that I didn't have as much time as I thought. In fact, I had only about five minutes left; I had miscalculated the time of my child's birth. No matter, though; I was in close proximity of the museum. Falco Lombardi's Arwing bashed into the right side of my ship, taking down the other wing. From his cockpit, he flipped me off, cocky and knowing that he was going to win. My ship spun for a minute, then settled and went right back on track. I didn't know if I could make it in time with the vicious Lombardi on my tail. Fox lurched inside of me; he was dizzy from all the combat going on around him. Using his sickness as a threat, I spoke to Lombardi, "Careful, your puny commander got a little ill from that." I saw the museum in the skyline coming up towards me. Pressing the accelerator as far as it could go, my ship was speeding at a phenomenal rate. The only ship that was keeping up with me was that blasted Venomain fighter. Its reflective paint, revealing the name Sky Gremlin, nearly blinded me from all the light it was reflecting. Pedestrians down below were beginning to notice that something big was going on. "De'Jumea, how are you holding up? My computers tell me you have only one minute.", Andross was still trying to contact me. He was successful in holding back the Great Fox, so I knew I wasn't going to get any more injured than I already was. My ribcage was starting to constrict from my baby's body, so it was terribly hard to breathe. Fox was fairing no better either; the baby had pressed him into my spine, where he couldn't struggle. <Daddy . . .>, he cried plaintively, <Help . . . > James McCloud's Arwing had caught up with me now too, racing to my left as Zelda was running to my right. They were pushing for time now too; I was in the altar’s realm within 3 seconds and had 45 more to live. Landing in the altar’s main path, I shut down all my controls and waited for the end to come. The altar sealed me in, blocking out the other ships racing around me. Fox screamed in pain within me; my baby was going to kill him if it didn't have room to expand. My skin was turning translucent from the pressure within me, then started ripping at the seams. As I sit here writing my last living testimony to all, I have only one thing to say; Evil always gets its way. Log: 02:35, 6/8/02--Corneria City (Zelda) We've lost. De'Jumea sealed herself into the sacred sky alter, but she didn't have long to enjoy her victory. Barely moments later, she was destroyed, her fighter in pieces. I hold back every tear in my eyes now, hoping that Fox will be okay. Oh, god, I'll kill myself if he's not. He means everything to me. He's my best friend in this whole fricking galaxy, the only one who understands me. I can't think for the moment; my head is weary, my heart is aching, and I think I'm going to throw up. He meant EVERYTHING to me; he . . .he can't die! No! I landed my vehicle on the roof of the Cornerian Museum of Natural Arts and Science, then crept toward the altar when I had the energy to get up. James, Falco, Peppy, Slippy, and Krystal followed me, not knowing how to feel. What would I give to hold him now, to cuddle him, to have him tell me everything's all right? I collapsed in front of the altar, my soul in utter despair. Sticky blood was everywhere, bathing everything in red water, including my uniform. I barely noticed; all I could think about was Fox. I can only breathe in front of this altar. I don't have the strength within me to carry on, if he's gone. Fox McCloud, I loved you! I loved you as any good friend would! I loved you so much; I can't let you go . . .Oh, God, have mercy from up above! "James . . .", I barely whispered, "He's not dead. He can't be. He's too . . .strong . . .oh God almighty . . ." I fell to my knees, crying for someone out there in the giant cosmos of the universe to tell me he's alive. I never, never have felt so lonely in my life. A sudden noise disturbed me. Something was moving inside the wreckage of the alter where De'Jumea had sacrificed herself. It was large, scaly, repulsive to even say. This was De'Jumea's will, I realized, to take over Corneria through her death. She had made her sacrifice well worth it. The first thing that emerged from the altar was a gigantic head, full of teeth, and scales, and eyes and horns! Then a long, curving neck followed, with a smooth underbelly to it. It had two different sets of arms, which it crawled out of the wreckage with, followed by two legs and the last of his tail. He shook himself, then spikes emerged from his back, followed by two large, spiked bat wings. I backed away from it, not knowing was to expect. He opened his mouth, then spoke his first sentence: "You thought you were rid of me, but I am alive!!!" "De'Jumea? No, that's impossible! You died! Your guts are all over the place!! You can't still be alive, unless . . .no.", I was in shock, "You didn't. You did. Oh crap." James McCloud was the one who was daring enough to get close to this beast, "Where is my son? What did you do to him?" The dragon chuckled, snorted, then spat snot onto the ground next to us. I gagged in repulse from this ugly beast, then stood up next to James, asking his question again. "Well, let's see . . . Oh yes, I know what happened. I still have him captive, that's what happened! I drained his energy, but he'll be okay . . .if he doesn't drown within me!", De'Jumea's male form replied, "And I believe I'll keep him for a little while longer . . ." With that, he jumped into the sky, his fresh new bat wings strong enough to carry him up. He roared into the sky, a new, fabulous sound that rocked mountains. I tried to run after him, but he spat a circle of fire down around me, where I couldn't escape. I gazed into the sky, hearing the last words of this new beast before he ran, "I am now Mujemu, and your galaxy will bow down to me!" <FOX!!!!!>, I shrieked mentally, hoping he would wake up from my screams, <Fox, do something, buddy! Don't die on us!!> Something moaned weakly in my head just before the creature escaped my mental reach, and I knew it was him. "James . . . oh, god, what are we going to do?", I was hopeless, "What the hell are we going to do?" Daddy looked weak, like if he was going to faint, so Peppy held him up by his shoulders. Falco was also very sober; even Slippy looked like he was about to burst into tears. I handed Krystal my uniform's handkerchief, and she dabbed her eyes, trying to calm herself. The sound that broke the depressing silence was the laugh of Andross. Falco and I turned to view him, arms crossed, chuckling at our misfortune. He pulled up his sleeves, I brushed my hair back, and we both attacked at supersonic speed. The next few seconds of battle I only remember blood, knocking out Andross' front tooth, then kicking him in the crotch. James and Peppy pulled us away from Andross just before we beat him into a bloody pulp. I was still panting even after I released all my anger. "Let me kill him! Let me take him out of our misery!!", Falco was yelling at the top of his lungs, struggling to loosen himself from Peppy's grip. I didn't try to attack anymore, so James released his hold on me. I don't think I had the needed fire to kill anymore. I was disappointed in Andross, to say the least, "Did that feel good, Andross? Did it feel incredible to hurt your own flesh and blood? Did you like freeing this new beast onto the world?" Andross cackled in joy, laughing at my anguish. That killer rage came into me, and all I could do to suppress it was to kick Andross in the jaw. James stepped away from me swiftly, not wanting to get in my way. Testing if he jaw was still working, Andross moved it up and down with his left hand. He growled in anger, then dashed forward in an attempt to hit me. Falco threw himself back into battle, feathers flying and his fingers ripping Andross' clothes to shreds. The only thing that stopped the enraged avian was the sound of police sirens. "Freeze, Dr. Andross! You're under arrest for the murders of 56 officers and for assisting a crime in operation!", Bill Grey, Fox's school buddy, pointed a .44 magnum straight at Andross' head. Falco backed off, smirking and scowling at Andross. Bill gave us a thumbs- up, then had one of his force officers slap cuffs on my dad's wrists. I was now the cocky one, pursing my lips and giggling at Andross' feeble attempts to break free of the policemen. Bill seemed pleased with his work, "You know how many years I've been waiting to do that? Ah . . . .so, where's Fox?" I was getting dizzy from the fumes of De'Jumea's blood, so I stumbled to the ground, trying to focus my energy. James explained the current situation to Bill while I just tried not to get sick. My face felt like it was covered with . . . with . . . "Peppy, I think I'm doing it again . . .", I moaned. Hare raced over to me, his ears quizzical with astonishment. I laid my head back, trying to understand the vision coming towards me . . .It came to me eventually, and I really wish it hadn't. Muck and some sort of liquid was everywhere. I was bobbing in goo, the floor I was standing on was flesh. Spitting out the awful taste of bile from my mouth, I felt weak again . . .I dragged my body to the highest elevated flesh plateau, where the waters of this monster couldn't get over it. Lying down, I realized how tired I was, and how I needed to sleep . . . . . . The vision and its thoughts faded from my head, clearer than the first one I had had. I could actually feel somewhat better after this one, not scared or anything. I must have been in Fox's head again, but this time it was so much more peaceful, even inside Mujemu's belly. Before it completely disappeared from my brain, I thought I could just feel Fox's warm, slimy fur on me. Peppy looked at me, then nodded, "That was good for your second one, Zelda. You seem much more controlled." "Hey, Zelda, if there's anything you need from me, you just call the police station, okay?", Bill tried talking to me, "Anything to help you guys get Fox back at all." My mind snapped up with pleasure, then I answered Bill, "Search Andross' left jacket pocket. I need his password to his computer system." Bill seemed confused at my request, but then nodded and left for a few moments. He came back with Andross' screen name, his password, and all of his accounts on the galactic Internet. Bill departed shortly after, wishing all of us the best of luck. With all of Andross' information in my hands, I could hack into his computer systems and find out more about this project that De'Jumea had attempted and successfully completed. Maybe, perhaps just with a little luck, I could still save Fox. "Ladies and Gents, it's time for Round 2.", I replied with a coy smile, "And we just got the first uppercut into the match." Log: 08:42, 6/8/02--Abandon Venomain Airport (Fox McCloud) After barely four hours of sleep, I found myself in a cement cell, not within anyone's stomach. I still was a slimy mess, but at least I was free to move around and breathe fresh air again. Someone was watching me sleep from outside my cell, which startled me. "Who are you? What happened to De'Jumea?", I murmured, even inquisitive throughout my exhaustion. Orange eyes glared back at me, curious about what I was doing now. I realized that this must be De'Jumea's child, the ultimate life form she planned to rule Lylat through. He was curious about me too, "Mother wanted you for her evil plan? Well, aren't you just a little skinny sap." I didn't like to be called any names, but I was too tired to fight about it right then. I had only slept for a little while and was still sleepy. Just to make him a little mad, I replied, "Great things are hidden within weak people." "Perhaps, McCloud. You just seem so small to be any bit of good. Why, compared to me, you wouldn't amount to anything!", this incarnation was a vain creature, and he didn't like me at all. What confounded me was why he threw me up; did he just want to kill me right then and there? I tried to continue talking to it, "Why am I out here?" The dragon continued, "I must hunt and gather food to digest. So, for twelve hours, you get to be free, but when I come back here. . . You know what to expect. I have to use you to take over the Lylat System without a scratch to my gorgeous self, you know." I nodded, then laid back down, curling up into a fetal position. If I had the strength, I would have fought back and cursed at him, but I was just too weak. My head felt like it was full of helium, so I felt too dizzy to talk for long. The dragon being seemed amused to watch me sleep, so I guess I was still an interesting toy to him. "And just so you know my name, McCloud, I am Mujemu.", he whispered just before I dropped off. My head and body ached for hours after he had left, and I constantly had to throw up to get rid of whatever I might have accidentally swallowed inside that being. I don't know what I would have given right then to be woken up, for my dad to tell me this was just a bad dream, to be in someone's loving reach again. Tears stained my face as they dripped down my face while I was asleep. Later, I heard Mujemu scurrying about somewhere, fixing up a laser device of some sort. I was interested in what was going on, so I did have the guts to ask what was happening. Mujemu was tickled by me being up, so he responded, "Well, this is to keep you from escaping. It's a force field. I figured I should install it since I'm getting someone to make sure you don't escape . . ." "You mean, like a guard or something?", I asked again. He laughed at my question, then replied, "Yes, a little nanny. I can't trust you alone in this cell; why, you're a clever little demon. You just might escape when I hunt." I suppose he had to concern himself with my escape, since I was pretty damn good at it. (I escaped Venom once under 24 hours with a spoon and a broken leg.) That Mujemu was sure doing a lot just to keep me trapped here. Maybe he's just that desperate to rule the Lylat System. "What's been going on in Corneria?", I doubted that I would get any information from that dragon, but I wanted to try. Just even the weather on Corneria would have really been enough at that moment; I just wanted to be reminded of my beautiful, peaceful home. Mujemu turned his scalene head to me, then responded, "Andross was arrested, so we're going to go bust him out later. The museum's pissed off because of the blood all over the roof, and they had some dumbass woman bawling about how the entire scene last night disturbed her. Heh, she wouldn't survive under my rule at all." He was feeling talkative, so I was lucky this time around. I tried to think of something to talk about, just to find out what was going on. I finally found the right topic, "Any news about my father?" Mujemu was very confused about why I would ask, but did answer, "He's put out a search party for you . . .why do you want to know?" I shrugged, then sighed, "I just miss him, that's all." The evil dragon chuckled at me after making the final installments to the security force field, shaking his head at my questions. I guess I really didn't know what he found so funny about all of this. "You beings and your attachments . . .it's so amusing.", Mujemu continued, "Just because he happens to be your father, you share an emotional attachment to him. It's so unusual . . ." He seemed to trail off for a moment, pondering something else. When I least expected him to talk, he asked, "What was my mother like?" I was startled for him to ask that question, but I tried to explain it the best I could to him, "She was a lamia, and she had your eyes. De'Jumea was very intelligent and vindictive, like you. For many years, she only thought about creating you, you know? She really did care for you a lot, I guess, as much as an evil person would." Mujemu looked at me, then nearly fell over as he began laughing at me. I was a little offended, but I wonder why he found my description of his mother so funny. He stopped laughing, then through watery eyes he said, "My mother was that? Weak and fat? Oh, what a loser she must have been! Well, I guess for her to love me was a good idea, after all . . ." I was shocked by his statement, then whispered, "You . . don't love her, after all she's done for you?" Mujemu rolled his eyes at me, like I was insane or something, then continued, "No, stupid. You creatures don't understand love like I do. Love is weak, useless. Nothing can be accomplished by it!" I kept silent from then on, not wanting to talk to this ruthless person anymore. He was much worse than De'Jumea could ever dream . . .and I bet her spirit within him liked it. Mujemu left a few minutes later to go hunting. I just sat on the cold cement and store out my barred window, looking at all of the dust in the land. My movements echoed off the empty walls, making me feel even more alone. I tried one mental call into space, but no one was near enough to hear it. I felt so alone, and I hate being alone. I really, really, really hate being alone. Log: 13:35, 6/8/02--Great Fox (Zelda) Peppy let me sleep in late today, especially when everything was going so wild last night. I had some really great dreams, so I was sad when I woke up. Just dreaming that Fox was here made everything feel better. I laid back in bed just a little longer, savoring the momentary peace. The silence was broken with Falco screaming, "Slippy!! DON'T TOUCH THAT!!!!" A bang shook my room, erupting from Falco's room, no doubt. I sighed, slipped into my uniform, and went to go find out what Slippy had done now. Little black chars were spotted all over Falco's room, and Slippy and Falco were covered in a gritty black mess. Despite the ruin, I had to laugh. Lombardi shot me a look of pissy anger, then spoke, "What are YOU looking at?" "A mess, apparently. What are you two doing in here?", I had to wonder what they were doing. Falco wiped his face off on a cloth, then replied, "Slippy said that you can make huge bombs if you scorch AC-DC 8-tracks. Dude, and that was my dad's set too!" Slippy looked rather embarrassed, but did respond, "They worked, didn't they? We just need the other 47 tracks you have and blow up that dragon!" I shook my head, then straightened Slippy out, "Slip, Fox was eaten by the dragon. We sure we wanted to use explosives to save him?" Slippy's eyes goggled, then he shook his head no. Falco crossed himself over his chest, then went back to trying to salvage his dad's AC-DC 8-tracks. Peppy and James peeked their heads into Falco's room, wondering what happened. I shook my head, then signaled to them that Slippy had went a little crazy. After exiting the room, I went to go talk to Shadow the Hedgehog to come up with some sort of a plan. We needed to save Fox without killing him in the process. Shadow and Sonic were staring at the computer in the wreck room with some amazement. I suppose I knew what Shadow was up to, being the naughty hedgehog he was, so I snuck him behind him and picked him right out of his chair. Sonic squealed in fright, then ran out of the wreck room at the speed of sound. Shadow cursed me and thrashed while I held him in the air. I dropped him back into his seat, where he scowled at me. "Turn off the nasty crap, bad boy. We need to talk.", I smirked back at him. He muttered a death threat to me, then handed me over the Internet. "So, what are we going to do, Zelda?", Shadow knew just where my mind was, "We can't let this faker take our spots." I nodded, then started hacking into my dad's computer networks. Several sites were of interest to Shadow, but he didn't say anything to me. There was a site under his name where he took pictures of naked dead bodies, which Shadow and I both had to gag at. Finally we scrolled down to a site stating evil jobs for hire. I clicked on it, which confused Shadow. "What do you plan to do here? That Mujemu character couldn't want to hire anyone, especially you.", Shadow doubted my choice, but I felt there was something here. We continued scanning the screen for any sort of search engine to look through the thousands of job offers, which we found eventually at the way bottom. I typed in Mujemu, and sure enough, there was one listing for his name. "Get this: He's looking for someone to baby-sit a pile of puke for 12 hours while he goes and gets lunch. What sort of weird job description is that?", I laughed. Shadow snorted in amusement, then thought of an excellent idea, "Well, if you can find him, that's really all we need, but to get a spy into there would be excellent . . ." I replied to the job offer via instant messenger, since Mujemu was online, strangely enough. The transcript of the message went like this: Mujemu: Hello, and who might you be? (Shadow had a name for me scratched out on a sheet of paper. I read it, then went back to the message.) Akuyo_Tenchi: I am Akumia Tenshi. I heard you needed someone to baby-sit a pile of puke? Mujemu: Hah, you have quite the mouth on you, Akumia. And yes . . .but first, any past job qualifications? (This next part I typed was sheer genius on my part.) Akuyo_Tenchi: Well, let's see. I baby-sat kids when I was 12 until I killed one, then robbed some banks, did some homicides, and was locked up for 48 hours. Stupid prisons are soooo easy to escape, don't you think? Mujemu: Interesting. I'll only ask that you DON'T kill what I have. Akuyo_Tenchi: Tell me what it is, and I'll make sure it stays alive . . . (There was a pause for a long time. I had almost thought that Mujemu had disconnected from me, but then he started to type again. Shadow was relieved at this.) Mujemu: It's a high officer. Vulpine Male. That's all I can tell you . . . So will you accept? (I slapped hands with Shadow, then went back to typing.) Akuyo_Tenchi: Sure. When do I start? Mujemu: Tomorrow, 4:30 galactic time. Akuyo_Tenchi: Thank you for this position. I will be there as soon as possible. The message broke off, then I gave Shadow the computer back. He nodded his approval to me, then went back to looking at his dirty little web pages again. I shrugged my shoulders, then ran off to tell James my plans as soon as possible. When I got to his room, he was looking at some old photographs. "Oh, Zelda! Sorry, you startled me.", James put the pictures away, but I shook my head. I shut his bedroom door, then whispered, "I need to talk to you about something." James looked interested, so he came over to where I stood and paid close attention to me. I got this coy look on my face, then beckoned for him to come closer. "I have a secret.", I played with his head. He hates it when I do that, but he seemed to still be a little interested. He continued to listen while I started to tell him my plan, "I've got a ticket right into Mujemu's prison, for free. And trust me, this means we're one step closer to getting your son back." He looked overjoyed, then hugged me in his happiness. I really haven't ever been hugged by James before, so I found it kind of odd . . .I suppose he was just too happy to be a gentlemen. After a few moments, I did tell him to let me go, and he was rather surprised at his own actions, "Sorry about that. I've just been really lonely." Of course, I thought. A father and a son separated is never a good thing if they are so dearly attached. All my happiness seemed to be cut in half; I was afraid what Mujemu had done to Fox. Does a beast like him know anything about his species, or even care? Had he been beaten, along with having to be held captive at near gun point? What if he was sick? Could he take care of himself? Oh, god, I felt so miserable that I sank into James' bed. He was just as concerned as I was, even more. "What . . .what are you looking at?", I tried to distract James and myself from the agony of pondering Fox's fate. He seemed a little sheepish, then pulled out the photos he was looking at. They were pictures of his wife, Vixy Reinard, and of his son through his life; he also had articles paper-clipped together underneath his photos, of his triumphs and losses in life. It was like he had Fox's entire life on paper in his drawer. He handed me photos, wanting me to look through them. The first one was a picture of James and Vixy on their wedding day, and I had to smile, despite my pain. Fox's mother was beautiful and graceful; I had also heard she was calm and intelligent and loving. She really was such a good mother; why Andross had to take her life, I don't wish to know. I hate that man so much, and yet, he's my father . . . "You still love her, don't you?", I asked James, "Even after 15 years, after being gone so long, you still care . . .I wish I had a family like that." James laughed, then took me under his arm again, showing me all his pictures, telling me stories about all of them. Eventually Peppy stopped in the room too, and they shared with me so much of their past that I thought that I had lived with them. They told me about Vixy's pregnancy, her death, Fox's years as a child, just anything they could think of. They also talked about their college years, and how James had met Vixy, and just everything. Sometimes we'd laugh, and then we'd almost shed a tear, and then . . .I got this feeling that I had never felt in my life. Like I belonged or something. Peppy sighed after the long conversation, "Oh, James, it still feels like yesterday, doesn't it? Everything . . .I will never forget any of it, even when I get even more old and decrepit than I am now." James nodded, then noticed that I was still here, "You stayed all that time? Wow, you must be bored, kid. Usually I can even ward off Fox with all these stories." I blushed, then replied, "Well, this is interesting. I feel like I've been here all this time . . .and then . . .yeah . . ." Peppy chuckled at me, just joking at my strange behavior. He shrugged, then got off the bed. "Zelda, about having a family. You have one with us, you know.", James smiled, "You really don't have to be related to be a family. Hell, we're paying your electric bills, so you must be family." I hid my face in my hands, nearly laughing right off his bed. To tell the truth, I did kinda feel like their daughter, but to have them acknowledge it was something else. I was laughing so hard that I was beginning to cry. Luckily I didn't fall off the bed or something silly like that. Suddenly, the laughing stopped and I felt hollow . . .Oh god, not know . . . "Peppy, she's doing it again . . .", James whined. Peppy looked shocked, then turned to James, "She's doing having a vision, James . . ." I couldn't respond to anything; my arms and legs felt like anvils, so I couldn't move them. I closed my eyes, trying to understand what was happening to me. Something cold was in the room, so I knew what was going on. Damn, I was being possessed! I suddenly felt better again, then started looking at my hands, moving them and checking if they still worked. Sitting up, I noticed my hair was a mess, so I grabbed a brush . . .with my left hand. I wasn't left handed before . . . In any situation, I started to brush my hair back, but it wasn't like I usually brush it, with a few quick whips of my hands. This wasn't exactly what my body usually did, and it bugged me. "I've been possessed, Peppy.", I thought I was speaking, but this wasn't my voice! "Holy crap!!!", Peppy seemed to be excited about something. James looked doubtful, then spoke, "If I didn't know better, I'd say that was Vixy's voice . . ." Only two words came to my mouth, "Oh shit." James was surprised that my voice could produce such language, but it was my voice. I was speaking almost through two tongues. Standing up, I felt lighter than my rougher self. I started walking, but it was more like floating than anything else. My body seemed to have the elegance of a princess, so this was another sign that Mrs. McCloud had possessed me. I also had this uncontrollable urge to kiss James, but I fought it, "I'm not going to kiss James, not in this body, no no no no no no OH GOD YES! Peppy help me!!" The hare seemed to be really confused, then spoke, "Uh, Vixy, Zelda, whoever you are right now, please control yourself. Vixy, this is another person's body, so please try to calm your emotions for the moment. Zelda, DON'T SAY THAT EVER AGAIN!!" James was confused, "Well, we got to get her spirit into something . . .where's the Poltergeist 3000 when you need it?" I was just about to the point of banging my head against the wall to settle myself down, but that probably wouldn't have worked. Peppy fumbled out some sort of emerald, then started chanted something. Suddenly my head cleared, and I could see the spirit that had possessed me going into the gem. My body was itself again, which felt a lot better. "This is an emerald keyhole. I sealed Vixy's spirit in here, so we can reincarnate her, but we've got to wait for a while.", Peppy smiled, "I don't think James would want her in trouble when this Mujemu is out, right?" James nodded, then stood up and lead me to my room, "Take a rest or something. You just might need it." I agreed, then apologized for what I had said when I was possessed. He laughed, then shoved me in my room so I could go relax. Man, so many new options were coming at me. Not only could I get James his son back, but now I had a shot at giving him his wife, the woman he loved, another chance to live. I felt so dizzy right then, that I had to go take a nap. Well, it was 12:01 galactic time then. I just have to wait for that fateful hour, 4:30 . . . .talk about being under pressure. Log: 20:42, 6/8/02--Great Fox (Falco Lombardi) Today has been a long, tedious day. I've been bored out of my mind. First of all, that annoying Slippy killed my dad's AC-DC 8-tracks, so I had to give them a funeral in the toilet. (That backed up the Great Fox for a while. Hee hee hee.) That other hedge ultimate life form dude, Shadow, stole all my copies of Nekkid Girlies, even my dad's issues! AGGH!! Then Peppy Hare had to watch some stupid program on the History Channel about Vietnam combat! That stuff is nearly 1,000 years old!! (But then again, so is Peppy . . .) The kicker of the day was when I finally had the TV, and all the channels had news on them! But it wasn't just any news, as I realized, flipping through the channels. . .It was a breakout at the Cornerian Security Hold, the safest prison in the galaxy. Strangely enough, only one prisoner was freed . . .and that was Andross! You could imagine my fury at hearing this, since I can and will curse up tsunamis. Zelda was the first one to hear my whining, and she came in and watch the television with me. She was quicker to pick up on the situation than me, and she started screaming for Peppy and James to get down to the wreck room. I paid closer attention to the television as the two older men finally made it down here. One officer was talking about the scene, "I . . .I've never been so scared in my life! It was like a huge dragon creature walked in here, and he had Fox McCloud, it looked like! He said something about making a deal with the negotiator at the prison, so we called up Mr. Hotaro Manisho about it. And when he got there . . . .it was horrible! The dragon killed him, just squashed him like a bug! And then he killed EVERYBODY, it felt like . . ." Zelda was scanning the television set, looking for any sort of clues at the wrecked scene. Slippy and Krystal had come to join us, both as scared and confused as the last of us. Zelda muttered, "Mujemu. I know what he wanted . . ." Seconds later, they had another guard talking about how everything had been destroyed, and how they couldn't just cap a missile up the dragon's ass because he had Fox. I was so pissed off that I was ready to just steal a sword and hack Mujemu into little pieces. Hell, I was ready to do that to Andross too. "Fox! Look!", Slippy pointed at the TV. Sure enough, the little fuzzball had naturally gotten himself into the mess of things, Mujemu's hand trapping him like a scaly cage. I was ready just to go into my room, load my G-T7 laser cannon and take out Mujemu on my Arwing. The only thing that restrained me was James, "We already have a plan, Falco." I was so pissed off that I could have shot targets until 2:30 tomorrow. It took all my strength to not holler on top of my lungs in anger. Finally I did yell on the top of my lungs, "I can't take this! We're sitting around here like a bunch of mushrooms while the two most evil people in the galaxy have our leader tied up like a yo-yo! What the hell are we doing, waiting anyway? We gotta go there!!" When I was done screaming, I ran to my room and slammed the door shut, locking it from anyone else. I felt my temperature rising, my heart beating with so much anger. What had we done wrong to deserve this? I have always felt like I was supposed to repay Fox back for giving me a life of my own. My father was a gangster, my mother was a prostitute, and I grew up in a family that hated each other. I made my living for a long time by selling drugs illegally; that was the only way I could ever make my father happy, if I brought in enough money. Maybe I was just naive as a child, but I just never thought there was any better life that what I had . . . My father died by which he lived, the fateful dagger. His assassin, Leon Powalski, cut him off for not supplying enough booze, drugs, and whores to his father's residence. He also took my mother into slavery, and I haven't seen her since. Although I never loved either of them that well, it doesn't give anyone the right to kill them. After that, the cops were looking for me, saying that I had killed them. I had to hide for 2 months in the sewers until they finally discovered that Mr. Powalski had murdered them. Even after all of this, I was forced to live in the alleyways of the darkest corners in Corneria City. My life was over with, until one night when I decided to have a drink. Okay, maybe five. I was so drunk, I could barely stand up. Being the brash dumbass I am, I had to go pick a fight. I could have gotten swatted like a bug, but I didn't care. The blood gushing in my head fueled me to fight, and I took it to the back alleyway with a huge bulldog. He and I threw punches, kicked, and swore, but I never was scared. Not until he pulled the knife on me . . .I had been so scared of knives, since my dad died by one, and I didn't want to die at the age of fifteen. For the first time in my life, I was afraid. Fox must have been walking near the alleyway, going home or something, but he heard the fight. He saw me pinned to the wall, a knife hovering inches above my chest. Like lightening itself, he struck at the speed of light, knocking down the bulldog and that knife away from me. Despite his light figure, he was able to keep that animal down, long enough for me to hobble into the tavern and call the police. The next morning, I was in a hospital. I had never been in a hospital before, really, so I thought I was in jail. My left arm and leg were in a cast, both fractured multiple times. My doctor said that if I hadn't been dragged out of the fight, I would have died. Fox did come and visit me after his classes at the Cornerian Academy and paid my medical bills. Three weeks later, I was out of that joint, but I had no place to go. I signed up for the same military training that Fox was taking, and he got me rooted right into the heart of the school. With some practice and skill, I was able to jump several grades above the entrance levels to high-rank training, where Fox was learning his skills too. There were never any fights with weapons, better food than I was used to, and many, many hot girls. Oh yes, I was a little pimp . . . Fox also introduced me to Katt Monroe, the love of my live. I was so in love with her that she had to slap me to get my attention back into class. I could never lay a finger on her in martial arts class, and I loved her with all my heart. I guess she did too, so we started going out, and well . . .we've been together ever since. So, I owe Fox a lot. I can't control myself like this when I know he's in danger, just like the first time I had met Zelda. Fox's plane had been shot down on Venom, so I dived headfirst into things and got myself kidnapped. I do this kind of stuff all the time, though; I just feel like it's my duty. Zelda knocked on my door a half an hour later, "You dead in there? We've got food, if you need it." I didn't realize how much I was getting the shakes, and I knew I had to go and get something to eat . . .I was kind of ashamed of my behavior, though. "Cheese or Pepperoni?", I asked Zelda as I finally got out of my room. She laughed, then dragged me down the hall by my shoulders, which I fought the whole way down. She can be really embarrassing sometimes, you know? "Whatever the hell pizza you want, bird boy. We just wanted to make sure you hadn't gone off by yourself again.", Zelda sighed, then let me go, "Come on. We'll order some. Get some of those cheesy crap sticks you like." I shoved her into the side of the wall, and she knocked me right back. I was feeling better now, and I knew that Fox would really be okay. After all, we'd make sure that no one would get away with any crime involving taking over the galaxy, would we now? Log: 4:36, 6/9/02--Mujemu's Hideout (Fox McCloud) Last night was horrible. Not only did Mujemu succeed in killing nearly 30 guards in the Cornerian Security Hold, but he freed Andross. I'm not losing hope in my friends, but I am beginning to worry. Despite his intelligence, I don't think Mujemu understands that living creatures need water to live, at the very least. I feel like I'm in a constant sauna, making my need for water worse. Mujemu forgot to put me back into my cell last night, so I had to sleep inside of him again. I hate doing it, but it's the only way I'm going to live. Maybe Andross could explain that this isn't good for me? But why would he care; he wants me dead anyway. I feel like I'm going to die here, and I don't want to die yet. I sometimes try to contact Peppy or Zelda telepathically, but they're still too far away from me to be reached. They know where I am, though, and I know that they're going to get me out of here. Whatever happens, I just hope they won't surrender themselves for me. It's one of my solemn vows to protect my friends; I won't have them dying for me. As I was about to drop back asleep from earlier, Mujemu started walking again. His thoughts were on someone named Akumia Tenshi, perhaps this "nanny" that he has brought to make sure I don't get away? Somehow that name seemed to be made up to me . . .then it hit me. In Japanese, the name means Devil Angel. Complete opposites of each other . . . . Oh, geez! Did Mujemu really hire a real person, or someone in disguise? I hoped that one of my friends had taken the liberty to track him down, but if they found out about this offer and had taken it . . .I just hope they don't get Slippy to impersonate a woman, that's all. "Mujemu, it's only 5:05. Why are you up?", Andross' voice echoed in the halls. I shivered inside of this steaming belly; his voice puts me on ice every time I hear it. Mujemu replied back, "I must go lock up McCloud. I forgot to last night." Andross must have been confused where I was, then laughed, "Best prisons in the world are organic, aren't they?" The two villains laughed about it for a long time until they heard something coming. A jet bike, no doubt. Mujemu seemed happy enough, "Ah, yes. Andross, I forgot to mention that I have installed several security devices to keep McCloud in. I also hired a ex-con to watch him." Andross cackled, then started walking to the front of the entrance of Mujemu's hideout. I was thrown off my dry perch inside Mujemu's body and was tossed into a sea of muck. I hate when that happens . . . . The squealing of metallic doors caught my ears. Three sets of footprints hit the ground at different times; two sets were much heavier set than the third. Andross seemed to be thinking that this wasn't such a good idea after all, but Mujemu was pleased enough with his work. I couldn't tap into either of the two's minds enough to tell what this three people looked like. "I suspected that you were only going to bring yourself, Akumia. Who are these other two?", Andross spoke. The lighter stepped-person replied, "These are my personal guards. They will not cause you harm if you do not cause me harm." This lighter-stepped person had a muffled voice as if she were hiding it behind a scarf or had it damaged by something. I was able to tap into this woman's mind, and boy, was it busy! <Falco, you take out Andross. Lock him in a cell. Slip, inject your virus into whatever holds this system together. I'll get Fox . . .>, damn-it, I knew they would do something like this! I kept trying to defend my mind from probing if Andross was going to come into mine. What was Falco and Slippy disguised as? "Fine, I'll let these ones come. Besides, McCloud is a charmer. It may be best to keep two guards with you so you do not betray us.", Andross nodded, "I've had someone betray me already, and I will not have any more. Understood?" There was a pause of silence, then Mujemu's response, "Good. They're ready. Let's take them to McCloud." There was another lurch, and then Mujemu started walking again. It was all I could do to keep my head above his digestive fluids by the way he was swaggering. I kept trying to listen to what was going on around me since I had no other way to tell what was happening. Sometimes there would be quick flitters of thoughts between Zelda and Slippy, mainly about what would happen if their plan failed, then a small butt-in of Falco's, always with some sarcastic remark. I kept praying that they wouldn't be discovered, mainly because I was afraid Mujemu would have no emotional stress over killing any of them. I don't know if Mujemu could pick up on mental readings like his mother could, so I was a little wary about trying to contact the others. I think they knew I was there, but they were being precautious too. A few seconds later, I felt Falco's mind race. He settled back down into the group again, <Andross is out and locked up. Did Mujemu notice?> Slippy responded, <Nope. Good job!> Zelda also whispered to them, <Cool it. Slippy, you go insert that virus. I just saw a security system switch back there.> Within another few seconds, Slippy had completed his mission and had come back. I was almost seeing them in my head. Zelda/Akumia broke the silence, "Is this is cell? I don't believe I see anything . . ." Mujemu got a kick out of her humor, laughing deeply, nearly to the point of falling over from the joke. He finally stopped himself, snorted, then barfed me into the cell, the sea of bodily fluids and all. I don't think Slippy or Zelda found it very amusing; I'm not saying either way on Falco. Akumia/Zelda broke the silence, "Very . . . gross, sir." Mujemu cackled in raucous laughter, then staggered away down the halls, "Here's the keys. Only take him out if he needs to . . .you know what to do with it." His heavy steps shook the ground as he exited his base, and no one moved until he was long gone. When it looked like it was safe, I stood up and wiped the gunk out of my eyes so I could see. Falco, Slippy, and Zelda were wearing Slip's custom cloaking wristbands, which had changed their forms to two dark, black Chozos and one fire-haired, gold-skinned human. They faded their costumes out so that I could know it was really them, and boy, was I happy to see them! Falco smirked at me, despite my desperate situation, "Boy Fox, looks like you got yourself into a bit of a mess there." Zelda bore her teeth in an attempt to silence Lombardi when they heard something else from the distance. I knew what that was; it was the sound of a creature being hunted and killed by Mujemu. When they were reassured that nobody had picked up on their plan, Zelda opened my prison cell and sat down to clean me up. Falco smiled again, that same old cocky smile that he always is bearing. Although Lombardi could be very irritating and brash to me, he was happy to see that I was in one piece. He started talking to me while Zelda began mopping up my face with her cloak, "You okay? We were all worried about you . . . Even me." For Falco to admit that was humble of him. I kind of felt embarrassed too about this whole thing, especially having them come to rescue me again. "Let's move it, shall we?", Zelda pulled me up to my feet, then checked to see if Slippy's virus had fully taken out the security systems. Everything was dead quite; there was no hum of electricity, no sounds of any life, no sound of anything. It freaked me out a little bit. After a few moments, Zelda got the daring to lead us out of my cell. We ran like hell; no one wanted to stay any longer than we had too. Minutes later, we were outside, breathing the warm, stinging air of Titania. I was shocked to be out in air like this, so I did cough a lot at first. Slippy and Falco were more concerned that I was choking to death than Zelda was; she probably knew what it was like to go from the dense, moldy air of a prison to dusty air. They waited for me to get a hold of my lungs, then took me around the back of Mujemu's Hideout. Two sets of jet speeders hid underneath the shade of the building's awnings, gleaming in the little sunlight that could hit them. Falco scowled as Zelda signaled for him to jump onto one with Slippy, but he didn't argue. Surprisingly, he seemed to be pretty tame this mission. I jumped on the second one, Zelda taking control of the machine, then buckled myself into the seat. She pulled her hair back, then kicked the machine into full gear. Within seconds, we were blazing across the desert like bandits. "Wee haw!!!", Falco yelled from his jet bike, "Hey, Zelda, you sure we can't joyride a little bit before we call it a mission accomplished?" She frowned, then yelled back, "Great idea, Einstein, but I'll have to take a rain check on it. Fox is dehydrated." I had barely noticed how much I really was thirsty until she brought it back up. Hunger also stabbed in my body; I didn't think that I was feeling that much pain, but I guess that I really was. "Hey, Fox, you okay?", Zelda asked me. I was feeling a little dizzy, but I didn't understand why. "I feel nauseous.", I moaned, then leaned over and clung to her body. Oh god, where was all this pain coming from? I suppressed myself from crying, but I was in such extreme agony that I didn't understand why. Zelda was also very concerned, "Fox, do you think you might have drank anything or eaten something bad?" I shook my head, which was still buried against her shoulder, "Andross did this; I remember now . . ." Last night (it was so late that I couldn't have even remembered who my own father was) Andross begged Mujemu to let me out for a few moments to torture me. Of course, the beast had consented to my punishment, as he thought I was getting to be a little more feisty than he would have liked me. (Okay, so I did try to escape when he was breaking Andross out. I just wanted out of there. Could anyone really blame me for wanting to escape?) So, Andross took me to some back room where he must have been living, and he knocked me unconscious. I don't remember what he even did to me, and that just made me sicker. "Fox, hang on. We'll get you home.", Zelda turned her head to me a split second to comfort me, then kept racing through caverns and hooks in the desert. Falco was leading her home, so I guess she had to be fast on his heels to know where to go. I almost feel asleep clinging to her (I don't think she would have cared), but then there was a scream and a horrific roar. Falco seemed to be the most shocked, then hollered, "Bank left, damn-it! Mujemu's out here hunting!" That woke me up. I looked to my right to see that Mujemu was chowing down on some camel-like beast that is native to Titania, and I just about gagged. He was ripping it to shreds with his sharp teeth, and the poor animal was still alive. <I know, Fox. Just don't look.>, Zelda telepathically spoke to me. Mujemu's bright red-orange fiery holes of eyes lifted from his prey to the two jet bikes he just saw zoom past him. He snarled in agony when he realized what was going on, then lurched to his feet and leapt at us. Zelda screamed in terror, but she kept driving through her fear. I wasn't scared yet, but I was really about getting there. What would he do to us if he captured us? Slippy shrieked to us, "Zelda, you're going to have to take a different path out! He's blocking your route. Shoot over the largest canyon you see and you should be able to see the Great Fox. It'll put a tractor beam on your jet bike, so don't be alarmed." She nodded, then yelled back, "Gotcha! I won't let that beast lay a fingernail on Fox." She then veered to the right swiftly, then gunned it as she made the machine jump a ravine. Mujemu decided to follow us, so it was no problem for him to jump over it either. I looked back at Mujemu and saw how threateningly close he was following us. His teeth glimmered in the dark as Zelda entered a cave that wormed through the entire cavern she was passing through. It was a snugger fit for Mujemu to squeeze through, but he was still keeping up with us. I grabbed Zelda's blaster, then shot out one of his teeth. Zelda snickered at me when she heard Mujemu cry out in pain, "I knew you'd do that. You cocky little devil!" I blushed in embarrassment, then my own pain set in again. I bit my teeth together so I wouldn't scream in agony. After emerging from the hollow of the cavern, I saw the Great Fox in the distance. How I was longing to see my home again! The other jet bike shot back next to us, then Falco yelled, "Hey! Looks like you got here in one piece!" I couldn't talk back to him if I tried; the pain in my body was sapping the strength out of my voice. Falco was very concerned, "How long has he been doing that?" Zelda responded, "Not very long. We need to get him to the medical ward as soon as we can." Falco nodded, then shot up ahead of us. She followed on his heels, slipping into another small hole in the process. Mujemu tried to pursue us, but he got caught in the small hole. His body was wedged into the hole like a fat worm in between two branches. We were safe for now. Zelda shot into the greenish hue of the ship's tractor beam, then shut off the systems of the jet bike as we were raised up into the docking bay of the Great Fox. She took that time to check up on me, "You going to be okay? We're going to get you to the medical ward, get you some water, and we're going to get you feeling better. You just gotta stick with us." I nodded, then relaxed my whole body. My muscles were knotting up, and my back ached. Zelda smiled, then helped me get off the bike as we finally landed. She hauled my sorry hide all the way to the medical ward, and didn't leave me until I finally passed out three minutes later. Log: 14:22, 6/9/02--Great Fox (Zelda) I have been watching Fox sleep for the past few hours. He is so quiet when he sleeps, really. He's kind of like watching a little puppy take a nap, just peaceful and silent. Watching him sleep kind of makes me tired too, but I know I have to stay awake. I know that there's something wrong with him. Peppy and I checked his blood system to see if there was something wrong internally with him, and it appeared like nothing unusual was in there except for the chemical C-22/9. It's more commonly known as Dragon's Poison, so we are afraid that's what Andross did to him. He does seem to have the symptoms of dragon poisoning too; slow heart-rate, paled features, and drowsiness. We drained most of the poison out of his system and gave him some of my blood, which is a neutral type that hasn't been given a type yet. It seems to have worked well with Fox's system, so I know that he must be receptive to it. We will have to identify what sort of blood I have later. I slapped my face drowsily to wake me up after almost dozing at Fox's bedside again. God, I hate it when I fall asleep when I'm supposed to be doing something else! I feel so weak when that happens. Well, I guess that nothing was happening anyway. Fox hadn't woken up for any reason, so I guess it was okay to fall asleep. I settled back down in my chair, satisfied with the calm that was finally settling into my life. But I wasn't without trouble in my mind. I suppose what was bothering me the most was that I knew that Andross and Mujemu were still on Titania and that I hadn't taken the liberty to destroy them. They had caused us so much trouble in these past few days that I would like to just end their reign of terror right now. I don't know if I can kill my father, but I know that Mujemu will die by my hands. It does sound barbaric, but I have been raised with this vengeance; besides, Falco would do the same. Fox woke up slowly, pain aching in his entire body. He pushed himself upright so he could sit up, but otherwise he didn't try to make too much movements. Blinking away his weariness, he sighed in some form of restrained joy, then started to analyze where he was. He nodded to himself, probably remembering what had happened to him, then laid back down and gazed at the ceiling. I chuckled under my breath, then whispered, "Hey, silly. How are you doing?" He was a little startled that I was there, but then accepted my presence and had to laugh at himself. "I'm okay. It hurts a little, but otherwise I'm going to be fine.", he didn't have the strength to talk with much force, but he was audible. I smiled, nodded, then started to tell him more of what happened, "Andross must have injected a poison into your blood. We drained as much out as we could and gave you some of my blood. That cleared up the poison, but you still look like shit." He grimaced in small pain, then sighed, "Can you hand me a mirror?" I handed him one I found on the dresser near me, and he gasped at his reflection. I don't think he thought he looked that bad. Fox shuddered at the look of himself, then tried to hand me back the mirror. It slipped from his hands and fell on his bed, but luckily it didn't break. I took it from his lap, then had to ask him, "Fox, are you feeling all right?" He shook his head, then laid back down, curling into a fetal position as he tried to squeeze the pain out of his body. I felt his forehead, and he was running a high temperature. I ran to the door, then yelled down the hall, "Peppy!! Help me out here!! Fox is getting worse!!" The rabbit caught onto my desperate calls, racing down the hall to my assistance at a phenomenal rate. He pushed himself into the room, then ran to Fox's side, taking his temperature and pulse like me. He was just as scared as I was. "Peppy, what's wrong with him?", I stuttered, "Was it my blood?" He shook his head, then responded, "Your blood was perfectly compatible with his. I tested it myself. It's something else." The poor vulpine was biting his teeth together, trying his hardest not to scream. Was there something we could have forgotten? James rushed into the room, gasping for breath. He came in time to hear Fox's first whine of pain and terror, probably forced through his throat with no way to suppress it. He sat down in the seat next to Fox's bed, trying to reassure him that everything would be okay. The younger probably couldn't hear him, which made me feeling worse. What was going on? Did I do this? I was afraid that Fox was dying by the way he was shrieking. I channeled my ESP into his mind, trying to understand what was going on. Images of some sort of torture were flashing through his brain and mine, something fuzzy that I couldn't quite understand with all the commotion. I kept telling Fox to calm down and that he'd be okay, but he wasn't responding to my pleas. All I could do was understand what he had seen, and sometimes that was even hard to do. Suddenly his brain became quieter, fading out of the abuse that had shaken his life and very soul, into when I was talking to him. He was starting to sense that I was there, <Where am I? Zelda, what happened?> I was afraid that I didn't know myself, but I had to keep him calm, <You're having a flashback of some sort. Just relax. You're okay because your safe at home.> His mind was starting to settle down, and then his thoughts went to what he was seeing in front of him. He opened his eyes and looked to see what had happened. Peppy was astonished, "What happened to him?" "I think he was replaying a dramatic experience of Andross' torture in his head. He's better now, I think.", I sighed, grateful that he was just scared, but I still was very concerned. What would make him quiver in fear like that, scream so much, even hurt so bad? Fox usually was the fearless one, but now . . . .I was worried. Really worried. Fox started speaking, "I . . .think so too." If Peppy and James weren't in the room, I probably would have given him a hug. Aren't I supposed to be the tough Venomian warrior? "We're glad you're okay now, Fox, but we are concerned. What do you think happened to you?", Peppy was relieved that Fox was okay, but he had to know what had caused Fox so much pain. I was also concerned about these tortures scenes that replayed in his head, but I was trying to figure out why Andross did them and why Fox was so afraid of what happened. I focused in on the blurry images in my head, then started to clear them up, reaching into the past to find out what happened . . . Snakes were crawling against my skin. No, those weren't snakes; they were tentacles of some sort. They were grabbing me by my chest and my legs, trying to drag me to the ground. Wait, there was only one giant tentacle, and that wasn't even that; it was a long, slimy tongue. It grasped my body and dragged me down into the depths of this creature . . . I fell to the ground with a splash. Wait, there was no ground; it was just simply gunky slime. I was drowning for a moment, then I popped my head back up. I could feel slime running down my back and down my spine back into the murky pond of muck. Swimming as fast as I could, I grabbed ahold of the side of this beast and pulled myself up into a small hammock of flesh where I could lay my head down without fear of drowning. I was so tired for some reason . . .I needed sleep . . . . . I came back to reality with a snap, "Fox is afraid of being eaten alive again. He had some sort of traumatic experience within Mujemu that freaked him out. That's all I can understand so far . . ." Fox nodded wearily, then replied, "He forgot to put me in my cell last night. I had to sleep inside him. I forgot what I was so afraid of. . .Andross must have induced some sort of amnesia medicine into my body so I would forget about it, but I remember parts of it." James shuddered in fear; I don't think he ever endured such twisted punishment on Venom like Fox did. I felt sick myself because I remember what I had to go through to save Fox the first time I met him, when my father had taken him prisoner . . . . . . Fox laid his head down against his father's hand and stretched out into a more comfortable position. James looked just as battered as him at that moment from worry and fear, but he was really proud of his son then too. I knew that I was proud of Fox just because he was able to survive, but he was furthermore able to survive well. Like my father says, it's hard to kill a McCloud. James' son was getting color back in his fur and face, his injuries were fading out, and he looked so much better from the time I hauled his ass out of Titania. I leaned over his bed to make sure he was asleep when something strange hit me about Fox's lighter-colored markings. My hair used to be much darker colored than I saw it then, as I realized that the tips of my hair were beginning to match that color. It was if my hair were colored like a vulpine tail. This was unusual, to say the very least. Krystal ducked her head into the medical room, probably wondering why we were all crowded in this small room. It was her turn to watch Fox, so I nodded and crept out of the room first. I explained to her, "Fox was having some sort of reaction to something. If he starts hurting again, you contact one of us. We're trying to find out what happened to him." She nodded, then replied in a rough Lylatalian-English, "I will do what I can. He will be okay, right?" I reassured her, then went out on my way. I guess I would just have to find a place to abide my time for a while longer. Peppy followed me, and he had some questions to ask of me too. "Zelda, you were in his mind at a very dangerous time, you know.", Peppy began lecturing me, "If he had died, your subconscious would have gone with him. You mustn't risk your skills like that ever again." I agreed with him; I really don't know all of the dangerous of mental telepathy, so I must use his guidance to help myself in the long run. He continued, "However, that was a great way to discover what was wrong. I would preferred if you had used your powers when he wasn't in that great of danger, though. You must learn that there is a time for everything, and you were very lucky this time." I sighed, then listened for him to give me the final knife of his lecture. Instead, he asked me, "You have been eaten alive before, though, so maybe you know what might have traumatized him?" I kept thinking on that matter of when I was eaten alive by Andross' Golem. What made me scared was the long drop down its esophagus, which had to be at least longer than 30 feet. I could have very well been killed by that alone, but I was lucky enough to survive. The creature had ulcer problems, so there was a lot of blood, but I don't mind blood that much. It had to be something else in the belly of Mujemu that would have terrified Fox that much . . . .But what? "I don't know, but I think maybe we need to find out more about Mujemu.", I responded finally, "His species, perhaps his internal structure, maybe we even have to learn something from . . ." I was cut off in mid sentence by a scream. It wasn't Fox, but still, it disturbed me. Where was the shrieking coming from? Peppy knew it right away, "Oh shoot, go to the bridge!! Right now!!" As soon as we returned, we discovered that Sonic and all his little friends were in a hurry to pack their things and leave. I was confused by this mayhem, "What happened? Why are you leaving?" Tails answered me first, "We got a call from Planet Freedom! Dr. Robotnik's trying to take over again! We're sorry to have to leave so soon, but we've gotta!!" Knuckles knocked Peppy down as he zipped out the door first. Sonic called behind him, "Sorry we've gotta split! Call us if you need our help again! We'll listen for your story on the news!!" Shadow was the last to race out the door, but he slowed and talked to me first. He shook my hand, "I'm sorry to leave on such a sort notice. I wish you all good luck, and I am eternally grateful for all you have given me." I nodded, then let his hand go, "Anything you ever need, just call me for it. I promise that I will get you Maria back, someday, too." He shook his head, then ran out the door, calling back, "It's best to leave her where she is. I'll be there, someday!" I heard the Planet Freedom vessel take off, and then they were gone. Peppy and I stood in the silence for a while longer. "Well, that was strange. I'm glad they're gone, though.", Peppy sighed, a sweatdrop of relief rolling down his face, "That Big character was wrecking all my magazines anyway." I focused on what we were trying to do before everyone seemed to go berserk, then remembered that we were going to find out about Mujemu's background. I ambled over to the computer and started to search through their electronic encyclopedia to discover what he was. There were many similar matches for a species of dragon that was 50 feet long, reddish-brown colored, and poisonous. (Where else would have Andross gotten Dragon's Poison?) I added spiked frills along the back to the description, dropping more matches off and reducing the search to ten species. Peppy was dozing while I kept trying to find out what Mujemu was, but that didn't bother me too much. I clicked on each result to look at the matches, and finally I found it at the 6th match. "Peppy, look at this!", I awoke the elder immediately with my excitement. He fumbled to put his glasses on, then took a look at the species I had pulled up, "Well, Draco Gezurda. What does that mean, Zelda?" I studied the bio on this dragon species, then read, "The Gerudo Dragon, apparently. It is a desert species, so it can live as well as it does in Titania. It is classified under the genre Incarnia, which basically makes its life-span similar to a Phoenix's. The Gerudo Dragon is also the only asexual dragon in existance." I stopped in a heartbeat, then shrieked, "ASEXUAL?!" Falco's head popped out from behind the doorway, "Someone say something about sex?" I slapped my forehead, then beckoned him into the room. Peppy began explaining our situation to Lombardi, "Zelda's trying to find out what sort of form Mujemu took as an ultimate life form. It's called a Gerudo Dragon, and she's concerned because it's asexual." Falco paused for a minute, pondering that thought, then replied, "So that means that Mujemu can have kids without having sex?" Peppy nodded his head, and Falco considered that fact for a moment. He then shuddered in disgust, "Zelda, he isn't a girl-dragon; he's more of a guy type. Where would he keep these spawn if he didn't have a . . .a u . . .a uter . . .Damn, I can't say it in front of you!!" "Well, I think that's why he obviously wanted Fox after he had transformed into an ultimate life form.", Peppy explained further, "He probably kept his babies or spawn or whatever you want to call it in his stomach and used Fox's energy as food for his young." I interrupted Peppy's train-of-thought, "Wait, back up. Can we call Mujemu a he if he--it's asexual?" Peppy shrugged, then continued, "I suppose so. He has masculine traits, after all. Anyway, these creatures probably caused Mujemu more of a problem to Mujemu than we previously thought. If he is pregnant with something (That really sounded wrong to me there. Oie!), then he would need extra food and he would also gain more weight. So, by using Fox, he only got enough food for his babies and himself and gained as little as weight as possible." I had to agree with Peppy on that theory; it did sound as close to correct as we could get. Fox probably also saw these things developing and was probably scared of what would happen if a whole army of these beasts were let loose. De'Jumea could never had done any of that on her own. Ah, Houston? We've got a problem--big time. Log: 2:13, 6/10/02--Great Fox (Fox McCloud) I awoke to my father watching over me. I suppose they keep shifts when I'm out and that by now at least three people would have had a shift. He was asleep now, his sunglasses laid on the dresser next to the hospital bed. I almost thought that I woke him up, but he didn't stir. He must have known I was safe. I think I've been sleeping all day, so now I'm wired. No one else was up, so I kept quiet and tried to suppress all my energy. Stretching the use of my mental abilities, I tried tapping into my father's subconscious to find out what he was dreaming about. He was thinking about my mother again, about the day when he married her. Sometimes when I think about the way life used to be for them, I feel so sad. They had so much promise and love in them, and it was all taken away by one man. My ears caught the sounds of someone creeping in the halls. It wasn't the light, sure-footed step of Zelda or the heavy plodding of Slippy. In fact, the sound was unusual to me. That sound didn't belong to any of my friends, and I dove under my covers, trying to act like I was asleep. The door creaked slowly as someone opened it, casting no light or shadow into the medical ward. <Zelda, someone's here.>, I hate contacting my friends late at night like this, but I was afraid. There was a flutter of activity from Zelda's mind, then she responded, <Keep quiet, Fox. Someone'll hear you.> I know she meant it as some sort of comfort to me, knowing my situation, but it came off so harsh. She was masking her thoughts so that whoever was in the room wouldn't understand our telepathy. I blocked my thoughts too, just in case someone could pick up on them. I heard rasping breath coming from an older set of lungs. My heart leapt into my throat; Andross had entered the Great Fox and he was watching me. His hand graced my neck, feeling for something, but I was scared that he was going to choke me in front of my own father. He let me go, my fear still climbing inside my chest, but he didn't notice that I was conscious. I kept my breathing quiet as he turned to my dad. Daddy was still out like a light, even when Andross started searching him for something. His hands cross something metallic, bringing up what looked like a keyhole of some sort. He whispered in eagerness, "Finally." Taking out a pair of metal-crushing clamps, he broke the keyhole away from the chain suspending it and took it into his own possession. Seconds later, he disappeared out the door and away from the scene of his theft. I heard something take off far in the distance and I knew he was gone. <Fox, you okay?>, Zelda contacted me again. I felt a little nervous, but strong enough to reply, <I'm okay. Andross took something from my dad. It looked like a keyhole of some sort.> Zelda seemed to be scared by the pause she took, but then responded, <That's okay. As long as he's not got me or my staff, he can't do a damn thing with it.> I yawned in the dark, settling into a more comfortable position. Mental powers really drain your energy. Before I could fall asleep again, there was another set of footprints in the hall. Andross hadn't come back, had he? Zelda tip-toed into my room, looking around for anything unusual. She nodded, convinced that the room was safe, and crept in to find out if I was okay. I was shivering from fear still, but she knew that I was all right for the moment. She picked up the snipped chains that held the keychain to the keyhole, then placed it on the dresser. Apparently she didn't want to have to explain anything to James any sooner than she had to. Just before she left the room, an ear-splitting screech pierced our ears and then something else shook the Great Fox rapidly. Zelda was knocked off her feet, my dad fell out of his chair, and I was knocked to the ground. We all knew at once what was going on, "The ship! We're being attacked!!" "Rob, status report!", I yelled into the intercom system. His metallic voice echoed back, "80% shields remaining. Damage to the rear left wing has been identified. Venomain Battle Cruiser appears to be in battle mode in the 3 O’clock position." I saw Zelda murmur a few swears, then she ran off in the direction of the docking bay. Running after her, I saw that everyone else on the ship that had a vehicle was going to their stations. It was time for my father and I to take the reigns of the Star Fox team once again. We took off into airspace at the speed of light, everybody hitting their position in our formation with ease. My father and I took the front, Falco took the right, Slippy left, Peppy in the center, and Zelda hit fallback. (She can't fit into our formations perfectly due to her larger vehicle, so she usually takes the back.) The Great Fox was tailing us from behind, bleeding fire from where it's left lower wing was shot out. In front of us was our target, Andross' personal Venomain Cruiser. Something about it was strange, though. Slippy was the first to catch it, "This ship has been engineered with a bio-engineered protection system. It's alive, guys! How did Andross do it?" Zelda responded quickly, "I think he infused amoebas into the shields of his attack cruiser. Don't shoot it when the shields are up." Falco was confused on that subject, but he took Zelda's advice and held off his attack. My father also turned tail on the cruiser, not knowing how to directly attack it. Slippy, however, became more brave and dove for the cruiser, "Let me hand this one!!!!" Peppy forced his Arwing after Slippy, trying to knock the toad out of his path. Falco also became nervous and went after him, trying to keep the both of them out of trouble. James and I were about to pursue them when the ameba layer of the ship shot out arms and grabbed the three Arwings. The gooey layer had them captured immediately. The shield creature reached out for my father and I, but we were able to evade them--barely. Zelda had no choice but to retreat from her position too; she was nearly caught in the sticky mess. "James!! What's happening?!", Peppy yelled over the intercom system. His message was warbled; the energy that was emitting from his ship was garbled by the shields from Andross' attack cruiser. Zelda tried to sever the lines with a few missiles, now not afraid of the beast, but it reflected the energy back in all directions in one single parallel line. We all ducked, once again escaping our doom. The shields weren't weak at all; they had the rest of our team trapped like sitting ducks. Rob quickly analyzed the shield system, "This system is organic, so it will not be easily destroyed by conventional needs. Find the head of the system and obliterate it." My father zipped past the shield-beast, avoiding wave after wave of grabbing arms and tentacles. After flying around the gargantuan ship, he found no weakness, "There's no way we can attack it looking for some organ that is vital to its survival. We must have to destroy the bridge." Zelda circled around another time in the opposite direction, easily slipping past the system like my father. She confirmed my fears, "I don't see any really weak point . . . ." Falco and Peppy's Arwings were still struggling against the shield system, but Slippy's had been overcome completely. Seconds later, he was pulled into the docking bay of the Venomain Cruiser, finally overcome by sheer power. This didn't exactly make me feel any better about the situation. Within the few seconds I was thinking, another gooey arm shot out and grabbed my left wing. I tried tearing away from the mess, but it wouldn't even let my wing get destroyed. It started crawling over my cockpit, covering my vision with a translucent blue ooze. "Dad!!", I shrieked, still trying to yank myself free. My radar caught that he was out of communicable reach; he was getting the Great Fox out of the battle zone. I was grateful that he was getting our mothership to safety, but I really wish he would have picked a better time. Something smashed into the sticky arm of the shield creature, breaking me free from the beast. I was thrown back a long distance from the attack cruiser, but I was able to regain my controls and shake off the remainder of the gooey mess stuck on my Arwing. Zelda's ship had lost a wing, but her shields were still 90% up. I realized now what had happened; she was able to cut threw the beast with her ship. The difference between her ship and the basic Arwing model is that hers is faster and has a "screaming crane" feature that allows her to shoot more powerful energy beams than an Arwing. Although her ship is originally based off a Wolfen II model, she took many Arwing traits into it too. She doesn't have the strong, secure build of the Arwing's wing system yet, but her ship could easily loose all its wings and still be fairly well operable. By running through the slimy arm that had held me captive, she had lost a wing, but sliced through it too. This was our plan of attack now; an Arwing has stronger wings since it is covered with a diamond-based coating, so I could take a few slices into this beast without losing a wing. "Thanks, Zelda.", I gasped, then turned into the beast, skimming across the layer of slime that covered the attack cruiser. Dipping my wings slightly, I cut a fine line into the beast. It oozed a liquid blood out into space, where it dissolved into nothing. I then turned towards Peppy and Falco and cut them out with no problem. This was going to work after all!! Zelda contacted me, "The shield is down to 30% capacity. We've almost got it!" Falco cheered in his rowdy way, then blasted himself right across the skin of the beast. More blood poured out of the creature, only this time it was staying together in sickening blobs. The beast was being sucked out piece by piece into space, finally loosing the strength to stick to Andross' cruiser. Chunks of the beast flew apart everywhere, splattering all our ships with gunk. The creature was gone, but it left us in a sticky situation. My father returned from guiding the Great Fox away from battle, "They're in Cornerian territory now. What in the?!" Andross' ship had turned its lasers toward us, and was preparing to fire. As hard as I tried, I could not get my ship to respond to any of my commands. My father was scared for our lives, "What's wrong, Fox? Guys, what's going . . ." There was a bright green explosion that rocked through the very foundation of my ship, then blasted it until I thought it was going to break apart. I was tossed violently backwards after the beam stopped, nearly spinning out of control. There was a light bump and I knew that Zelda had stopped me from getting lost in space. No one's ship was looking good; one more of those beams and we'd be finished. Falco was the first to speak to Andross via his intercom, "God damn, what was all of that about?!" The evil emperor laughed at the site of us, snickering that we had even had the guts to snap back at him. My G- diffuser shields were completely gone, and I had no way to stabilize my vehicle. Zelda stayed against my ship, knowing that my ship was about to fall apart if it wasn't put to rest. Andross cackled maliciously at us, "Well, are you going to surrender like Slippy, or do I have to kill you first?" "Get to the point, Andross.", Zelda sneered, her voice weak and raspy, "What do you want?" I was scared about then; she sounded like she was in a lot of pain. Were the others okay, and was Zelda going to make it? Andross interrupted my train of thought, "Why, you just surrender to me and we can discuss it from the safety of my battleship. I know that your little friends won't survive much longer if I blast them again . . . ." Falco was furious, "Kill me if you have to! Just don't do that again to the rest of them! We'll never surrender to scum like you!" There was a long pause, and I was afraid that Andross was going to take up that idea and kill Falco. I cut in to Andross' thoughts before he could think about that idea, "I can't let my friends get hurt. I'll surrender if you leave them alone." There was an achingly long pause again, and again I was terrified for our lives. Andross finally responded, "I'll tell you what, McCloud. Surrender yourself and you father and I will let Slippy free." Peppy didn't like the sound of that deal at all, "And what, then you'll just kill us in front of them?" Dr. Andross chuckled again, amused by our plight. I could feel my father's fear climbing while Andross was laughing at us, fear that we would all be sacrificed if we didn't do something. Finally, Zelda interrupted the silence, "Here, let's make a better deal. If I surrender, then you let Slippy go, maybe I can work something out with you aboard your ship. If you take this deal, then I'm sure you will get a better reward in the coming future . . . ." I was scared now; what was she doing? I had to cut in somehow, "What does Mujemu want?" Andross paused again, then responded, "Well, he'll want you, of course. A person of pure, renewing energy is hard to come by. And I want Zelda because I need the one thing that will finish the war . . . If you two agree to become my prisoners, the whole Lylat War will be finished in your favor." This sounded confusing; what would Andross want so badly that he would surrender the entire war for? Falco and Peppy pleaded on the intercom system to not listen to Andross, but what could I do? I couldn't just let my friends and family get blown to pieces. There were many more minutes of intercom silence before anyone dared to do anything. I knew that I couldn't go myself into Andross' ship because my Arwing was falling apart; only Zelda's ship was keeping it together. I couldn't run to the Great Fox now that it was in a safe harbor because it was too far away and I didn't have any fuel left. My life support systems were running low, so I didn't have any chance what so ever of surviving without surrendering myself to Andross. I felt hopeless about then; either way, I was going to suffer a long and painful death. James finally spoke to me, "Fox, this is your own decision. I know that it'll be hard for you, but you don't have much time left. If you decide to waste out here and die, there's no chance for Corneria. You still have a chance if you surrender, even if you feel like you're betraying us. You're not, Fox." Peppy, with his voice crackling from his own tears, responded, "Do what you must, Fox. You only have three minutes left of oxygen." Even Falco looked sad, even though he was furious, "If you do go, Zelda will protect you. We'll . . .do something to help." And with that, the three broken Arwings hobbled out of the battle grounds, waiting for me to make my decision. I couldn't give myself up yet; it wasn't like I had just my life in my hands. I had the whole fate of Corneria in my decision, and if I failed them . . .what sort of hero would I be to them dead? "Fox," Zelda whispered into the intercom system, "I'll go if you go. I don't want you to die out here." That settled it, then. We had no choice but to surrender. Our ships started moving towards the cruiser, then landed in the docking bay. Seconds later, Slippy's Arwing was released and he shot out of there like a ball from a cannon. The rest of the Arwings tore out of site, not wanting Andross to have any second thoughts about them. As soon as Zelda and I left our cockpits, we succumbed to Andross and Mujemu. We had no choice. Mujemu nodded at our decision to be captured, "Very good, you two. That's the way to negotiate, isn't it?" I was just grateful that they didn't kill any of our team members. Andross was also happy about our imprisonment, especially Zelda's, "My girl, welcome home. I knew you'd come back if Fox's life was at stake." She hid herself in her hair, not wanting to face anyone for what she had done. I could taste blood in my mouth from being injured in flight. We both were finally defeated, unable to even protect our own selves. Perhaps though, we won in a small way. None of our friends were killed, and our mothership was going to be fixed. We had only lost ourselves, but we'd get out somehow. I just could feel it in my bones. As we were lead to our cells, I grabbed Zelda by her shoulders and held her together as we traveled to our fate. She eventually warmed up to my presence and held me too. We needed each other more than we thought. This is the first time in my life that I ever had someone with so much power and confidence needing me so much. And to admit it myself, I don't think I could do this alone either. Log: 20:34, 6/10/02--Venomain Spacecraft Atropos (Zelda) I really don't know what I should be feeling right now. If I were with Falco, I'd be pissed off at him for his failure in driving. If I were with Peppy, I would be clinging to his wisdom, scared like a little girl. But, this is Fox. I can't be weak around him because I am supposed to protect him, and I can't be chewing him out for his own problems with his piloting. So, I sat here for many hours, just being silent. Fox was really pissed with himself, I could tell. He would pace for a few minutes, then sit down and try to calm himself down. I had to do something to clear his conscience, "Fox, it's not your fault. We both know that. Why are you so mad?" He turned his face to me, and it wasn't a face of anger. It was wet with tears, his eyes red from crying. "I know, Zelda. But . . .", he shuddered in mid-sentence, "I'm not feeling very good right now." He slunk down next to me, then clutched his head in his hands, "I think I have a fever." Despite all the anger and rage I had within me directed at so many targets, I had to feel bad about Fox. Here he was, being loyal and suffering for his planet, and I was griping about being kidnapped. I sighed, then felt his forehead. It was burning up like back on the Great Fox. He shivered from shock, then laid himself down on the hard metallic floors of the spaceship. Oh god, I was going to have to take care of him here, and I didn't know how to help him get through this. Fox curled up against me, trying to suppress his pain again. I held his head up from the hard metal floors, trying to comfort him in any way I could. He whined for a quick second, then moaned, "Andross . . . " I snapped my head up to see that Corneria's most feared tyrant was standing over me, my cell unlocked, scowling at me and yet humored at the same time. It was all I could do to not scream at him and attack, but I did let him have a piece of my mind, "How dare you come down here! How dare you laugh at what you have done! How . . .dare you do this to him!! If you want to victimize anyone around here, I'll be taking the blunt of your punishment. Leave him alone!" Fox's ears flattened against his smooth fur, trying all that he could to stop the pain inside of him. I placed his head gently against the floor, then stood up to stare at Andross. "My girl, my oldest child, the sympathizer of her enemies . . .how weak you have become.", Andross cackled at me, "You even still protect him even when you know he's going to die! I knew you would know what I did to him, the poison injection. . .I just didn't think you would dare let him run his ship into my snares again." I stopped my breath for a second when he mentioned the poisoning; he had made sure that what he had done would kill him. That's why there was so much poison in his blood when Peppy scanned him in the medical ward. Andross had meant to kill him before Mujemu would ever know . . .but why? Despite my attempts to stop, I sneered in the evil way only a Venomain can do, "You think that would stop him? We found your poison, all right. And we took it all out." Andross was a little surprised at first, but then continued, "There's no way he could be that healthy, if you did. He wouldn't have had enough blood in his body to survive . . .And I was positive that none of the rest of the crew had mammemilain AB positive . . ." I stopped my thoughts at that; okay, so I might have AB positive blood, but that was strange. AB is the rarest blood type, and yet types B and A can be used by it. I knew then that I didn't have O type blood, so this meant that I had an uncommon blood type. . .Perhaps Andross would know about me? "Father, what blood type do I have?", I asked him. He seemed surprised by my question, but he responded to me, "Your blood isn't A, O, B, or AB. You have what is called blood type X positive. It's a new blood, but it's found in the more superior life forms, like Shadow and yourself. Why do you ask?" I didn't know if I wanted to answer that, but I still had to wonder . . . Could Fox have been receptive to type X? "I gave Fox a pint of my blood. That's how he survived.", I muttered under my breath, "He was receptive to it." Andross paused for a moment, then stepped backwards, away from Fox. I was confused; what did he know that I didn't? Andross replied to me sooner than I thought, "Only ultimate life forms are able to receive that blood, Zelda. There's no way, unless . . . ." We both store at Fox at once, who was still slightly writhing in pain. I took his temperature again, and it had decreased back to its normal temperature. This wasn't possible that he would be able to get through this on his own; last time I had to bring him out of his comatose. I gasped slightly, then replied, "Andross, this means . . . but how . . . ." Andross growled in anger, then smashed his fists against the wall, "No, I didn't think that was possible! My studies showed that it wouldn't . . .why is it now?!" I yelled at him, trying to get his senses together, "What the hell is going on?!!!" Fox whimpered as I screamed that; I was a little too close to his ears. I brushed his forehead and apologized to him while Andross started getting his bearings together. Soon enough, he was ready to talk. He began, "There are three steps to every being's form: the normal form, the energy fountain form, and the ultimate life form. Ascension from these genetic levels requires one ultimate life form taking on several challenges with a lesser form. Ultimate life form blood is accepted by some types, but doesn't have any sort of reaction unless it is with an energy fountain’s blood. In other words . . . . ." Andross had to pause, gasping for breath. Fox was also listening intently to our conversation, now that his seizure had stopped, and he was becoming anxious listening to use talk. Andross finally finished, "Because you transferred some of your own blood to him, his body has become open to it. Your cells are replacing his own type and he is becoming. . . an ultimate life form." Fox looked like he was going to throw up. I felt the same, and I bet Andross did too. We store at each other for a while before anyone dared to do anything else. I was the first one to utter any sound . . .and it was laughter. Laughter, of all things, in the grimmest situation in the middle of Venom's largest battle cruiser! Andross scowled at me, but I had to keep laughing! I finally controlled my voice enough to say, "You say. . .ultimate life form?! Fox?! I did that?! Oh, doesn't everything look good now!!" Then I had to rub it in by singing that Andross had more or less screwed himself. Fox stumbled to his feet, then whispered, "Zelda, this isn't a good time for joy." Andross nodded, then grabbed Fox by his throat. I was stunned out of happy time and lunged at Andross, trying to get him to drop Fox. The vulpine wasn't also very happy about this, flailing and kicking Andross' knees in vain. My father pushed me to the ground, then dragged Fox out of the prison cell. He pushed on the power current, sealing me off from them. He snarled at me, "No, this is the time to kill, don't you know. And if I am to get the most powerful army from Mujemu, Fox will be needed. Toodles!" And with that, he ran down the hall, pulling his unwilling slave by his uniform. I screamed after him, "You goddamn asshole! May the damn dragon eat you alive!!!" That, of course, didn't bring him back. I watched their shadows disappear from my sight, then the sound of a door opening far away. Andross had gotten his way, as usual, just because I wasn't able to control my emotions. Shadow had adapted to his emotions simply by blocking them out; Mujemu had done the same. I felt so mad at myself, so I shrieked as loud as I could in the hallway. Like screaming would help anything. I stood near the laser- screened door, waiting for Fox to come back, but after an hour, I knew that he would be gone for a very, very long time. Seven hours I spent by myself with no one else around me. Some might think that it wouldn't be frightening to be by themselves in the dark, but seven hours would make anyone shiver. It was silent, except for my breathing. Nothing ever came; not a fly, not a mouse, not anything. It was as if I was cut off from civilization. Oh god, I was so afraid . . .of everything. After staring at the shadows on the wall for hours, I heard someone scuffling down the hall. It was Mujemu, no doubt, for only a huge person could make that much noise. He was snarling in the hall outside my cellblock, "Andross, I only need three more days. Then you can do with McCloud as you wish afterwards, but until then, no more poisoning!" That Gerudo Dragon was pissed off, and I could feel the anger in his voice from the walls and the floors. There was a pause, then a reply, "You think that I can't do with him as I wish? This is not your war, Mujemu. You have nothing against the militia of Corneria. Your mother may have died fighting against them, but it is of no concern of you. If I find that McCloud is becoming useless, he will be exterminated. Is that clear?" I was frightened, then; they could have fought out there in the halls, and they would probably killed one or the other. Even if it was an elimination of an enemy, Fox was out there with them . . .and he could get hurt worse. "Yes, Andross. We have a deal.", after the deadly silence, Mujemu finally came to some agreement with Andross. The door to my cellblock opened, and then the shields around my prison deactivated. I didn't even raise my eyes to look at Mujemu as he tossed Fox back into the cell, like a mother lioness with a kitten. I didn't speak until the shields had gone up, and then I muttered, "He's no one's slave." Mujemu cocked his head at the words I had spoken, as if they were in a strange language, and then replied, "Wily girl, Andross. It's too bad we'll have to . . .strip her of her free will after we annihilate Fox." Andross laughed for a moment, then spoke, "She'll be dead the same minute we kill Fox. Wasn't that your vow, dearest, to protect the innocent?" They guffawed and ridiculed me until they left, and I didn't say a word. Mainly because they were right. I would die if Fox died. As soon as they left, I went to Fox's side to help him. His face was pale, and his eyes were bloodshot. I didn't think he had the energy to even stand up. "Oh, Fox . . .", I sighed, "I'm sorry . . .I swear I'll get you out, if it kills me." I really didn't care if I died, right then; I was just a pawn. Fox meant something to his planet; he was their freedom, their symbol of what they wanted to live by. If it went down in history that I was merely a betrayer to Venom so Corneria could survive . . .then so be it. Fox was in so much pain, but he didn't seem to mind. He smiled, then responded, "We'll be okay, Zelda." He laid his head back against the wall, then fainted in absolute exhaustion. I was tired too; living in fear wastes more energy than running laps for hours. Fox was here, and thankfully he was safe. But . . .he did say we would be okay. He knew something in that ingenious little mind of his . . .and I loved it. . . Sliding back to where I had sat for hours earlier, I laid down to finally be able to sleep peacefully. I pushed Fox into a more comfortable position for him to sleep in, then I slept next to him. Even if I slept a good distance from him, he sure was a little warm body. I felt really, really sorry for him, and yet at the same time, I was glad he was safe with me again, not having to endure any more tortures for the night. Maybe we'd be okay, just for now, anyway. I didn't realize until I was practically asleep that Fox was covered in dragon drool. Log: 3:27, 6/11/02--Venomain Spacecraft Atropos (Fox) At two in the morning, I had no other plan but to sleep for the next 72 hours. I was dead tired; the only person on this ship that knows how to take care of me is powerless to help me. There are many things in life that have crushed me, like my father and mother's death, but there are three things I hope to never see: Corneria surrender to Andross, my team losing all that they have, and Zelda actually giving into hopelessness. My team is my family, and that means everyone, even Falco. I won't stand to see any of them suffer for me. It's kind of hard for me to be protective and strong when I have eight people defending me, though. I awoke to a door being opened in the distance. As the blinding light struck my face, I closed my eyes. Several prisoners were being dragged in . . .and it was . . .Sonic and his crew? What? Zelda told me that they had gone away on an emergency call while I was unconscious. It must have been a false alarm, because they were all trapped here now. Rouge in particular was upset, "You scoundrel, Dr. Robotnik! I'll make sure you choke on your own stupid tie!" The latter didn't seem to be too offended by it; in fact, he found it humorous. I kept quiet, making sure that no one knew that I was awake. Andross stormed into the cellblock we were occupying, quite excited for some reason. He dashed his eyes around, then quickly murmured, "Retrieve Fox. We are now contacting the Cornerian Military Defense. I want to see the look on their stupid faces when we . . .you know." I was frightened now; were they going to kill me? Maybe it's just me, but I really don't like dying . . . Dr. Robotnik unlocked my cell, then grabbed me by the back of my jacket and hauled me to my feet. He smirked, "Looks like he's already up, Andross. What a silly little creature, thinking he can outwit us." Andross chuckled, then signaled Dr. Robotnik to follow him. They lead me down several passages to the main bridge, which was massive in size. Mujemu was there, watching me with his red-orange eyes, wondering probably how I should be punished tonight. There were blips emitting from the ship's radar system and small waves of energy coming in from the holograph projector. Finally, a picture cleared on the screen and a familiar voice started speaking, "Andross, this is ridiculously late at night. Whatever it is, I'm not letting you . . ." "You don't need to give me anything, General.", Andross laughed, a harsh tone to his voice, "I have all that I need . . .here." He jerked me into the projector's view, and threw me to my knees, "I'm sure you've been looking for this!" General Pepper was beyond mad, "Andross, you swine, why are you doing this? The boy is under my authority! He's not doing anything that deserves this sort of torture!" Andross paused for a moment, then guffawed at the screen so hard that he was about falling over. The general was ignoring him, more focus on my well-being, "Fox, we're doing everything that we can to help. Please be careful." I nodded, but I felt so tired that I couldn't lift my head up to look at the general, never the less stand at attention. Pepper returned to speaking to Andross, "What is this, some sort of maniacal mind game of yours?!" The doctor finally snapped back into reality, then sneered at the screen. Dr. Robotnik tossed Andross Zelda's staff, then a small green keyhole of some sort. The latter tossed the keyhole on the floor, letting its powers latch into the metallic floor. He forced me to my feet, then shoved Zelda's staff into my hands, "If my calculations are correct, only an ultimate life form can unseal a purgatory keyhole. This is my final test, General." Andross snatched my hands, forcing me to clasp onto the staff; as hard as I tried to struggle, I had no energy to do so. He forced the staff into the keyhole; my entire body went numb, and I was unable to remove my hands from the staff. I couldn't breathe or scream or anything; I was completely powerless to whatever fate awaited me. General Pepper was yelling from somewhere far away, "Andross, don't! He's too young! I don't want him to go like his father did!!" His cackle from behind me was maniacal and callous. There was a current of wind spinning around me, thrashing me and howling in my ears. I wanted it all to end, even if it meant death. I couldn't take this insanity anymore. Somehow, there was some sort of voice back in my throat, "FATHER!!!" And then, suddenly, my arms slipped from the staff, and I collapsed onto the floor. Everyone bent over to see if I was still alive, and for a moment, I wasn't even certain about that. Then the pain set in, and I knew I had to be alive. General Pepper gasped, then slowly asked, "What . . . have you done to him?" Again, Andross, Dr. Robotnik, and Mujemu were humored by the general's ignorance, and they all started chuckling at him. I couldn't move for a moment, but then I was able to pull myself to my feet. Some form was beginning to materialize in front of me. It started mainly as a tornado of dust and cloth, but then the dust began to settle into bones, connecting a skeleton as it was coming together. Muscles and tendons started stretching around the skeleton, giving a body to the frame of this person. Cartilage started growing over the joints, ears, and nose. Skin quickly sealed over the muscles, and then fur grew in over that. It was freaking me out, so I closed my eyes and tried not to gag. Suddenly, the rushing stopped and everything was normal again. I opened my eyes and dropped my mouth. "M-mom?", I stuttered, "Oh my god . . ." My vision went fuzzy, and I thought I was going to black out. My mother caught me before I could hit the ground, and tried talking to me, "Fox? What's going on? Why are you . . .older?" At this, Andross was laughing so hard that he fell right off his feet and hit the ground with a thump. I guess my mom didn't even know she was dead for a while, "Mom, you died. And . . .I don't know why you don't remember that, but now you're alive because I reincarnated you . . .I think." She nodded, then turned to the holograph projector, "Sergeant Pepper?" General Pepper fumbled with his sunglasses for a moment, then explained, "Mrs. McCloud, it's been seven years since I've been called Sergeant. I was promoted to General six years after you died." My mom nodded for a minute, absorbing all this information, then started observing who was in the room with her. She screamed in terror as she realized that we were in a very bad situation, "Andross! You little pervert, what are you doing?!" Now it was my turn to explain what was happening, "The fight that was just beginning when you died has turned into a war. He is the opposition. And why I'm here is because . . .I've been captured." Vixy was appalled, and she did something I didn't expect from her; she walked up to Andross and slapped him across his face. Dr. Robotnik didn't think it was funny, but Mujemu was amused by this, so he chortled a little bit. A quick glare from Andross silenced the dragon, but deep inside his head, Mujemu was still laughing. I would have laughed a little bit if my ribcage didn't feel like it was being crushed. . . Who was doing that? Something shuffled from outside the bridge. A quick flash of a tail was all I saw, but I knew that it was the rest of the Star Fox team. Whatever was squeezing my lungs stopped, then a voice hit me, <Be quiet. Sorry about being a little rough with ya.> I glanced back at the hologram for a minute, just to throw Andross off my thoughts, but then glanced back at the door. All I saw was two blasters, but I knew to hit the deck. I pushed my mom to the ground, and twin shots of green energy shot over our heads, barely missing us. She screamed, not knowing what was happening, but when the dust cleared, we knew what was going on. "Hellooooooo Andross!!", Falco called into the wreck. The older simian snarled, "Oh great. The stooges have arrived." Dad, Falco, Slippy, Peppy, Bill, and Falco's girlfriend Katt Monroe saluted the general from the doorway, "We can take care of this. Thanks for the distraction." Pepper nodded, then quickly shut off the transmitter before Andross had time to react to the plan. He turned around to see that one of his devious crew hadn't survived; Falco had aced Dr. Robotnik right threw his head. The rest of Sonic's crew came out to see the wreckage, and they were pleased with the results. Andross paused for a second, "Wait, if you've freed the Sonic team . . . Where's Zelda?" There was a blur of black and silver uniform, and within seconds, Zelda had her father pinned to the floor, standing on top of him, sneering even. I slapped my head; Zelda would always be the flashy human Falco. My mom tossed Zelda her staff, and the latter pressed the sharpened edge against Andross' throat. "Shall I kill you now or later?", she was really being a mean little bitch, "Maybe I should flush your carcass out into space and watch you blow up." My father started talking sense into Zelda, "Kid, we've come only to get you guys . . .Vixy?" After that, there was a silence that I had never known in my life. Katt Monroe looked like she was going to have herself a happy little spaz with Amy Rose, while the rest of them were pretending to gag. My mother and father were ecstatic to see each other alive again, and they ran to each other and kissed. Well, I was kind of embarrassed, but at least I wasn't Knuckles who had to flush Dr. Robotnik out of the ship, "Stupid fat jerk, get in there!" Sonic sighed, then shoved him out of the ship. The two high-fived each other, then went back to tease Andross. Unfortunately, Mujemu decided that he had had enough of our victory. He bashed everyone over with his tail, knocking us all backwards at least seven feet. The dragon snatched me with his left middle hand, and he nearly got my dad too. I tried squirming out of his hand, but he had made sure to get a good grip on me. Zelda swung to her feet and pointed the end of her staff at Mujemu's nose, "Drop him, or I'll make you wish you were never born." The dragon laughed at her, then smashed her to the side. She was knocked unconscious, her staff spinning until it hit the feet of Andross. He wasn't happy at Mujemu either. "What are you doing?", Andross was actually furious, "No one hurts my daughter but me. And we agreed not to kill McCloud until he was useless." Mujemu scowled at him, then sneered, "He is useless to me. Don't you realize I'm going to die soon?" Even I had to stop breathing for a moment on that thought; what was he talking about? He looked perfectly healthy. Peppy gasped all of a sudden, knowing what he was talking about, "Right, he's right! His class is listed under Incarnia, and because his mother died giving birth to him . . .so he will die giving birth to Andross' army." Andross nodded, but then cut in, "So what is good in killing Fox?" Mujemu continued, "Well, Andross, we can call it payment. An entire army for the head of your most hated opponent. Besides, you were planning to murder him anyway . . .I thought I could finish the job for you." I yelled out on the top of my lungs, "Hey, this is very nice and all, but I don't think I want to die, thank you very much! Put me down!" The dragon snarled at me, then had to chuckle, "And what are you going to do about it, little one?" Well, I hated to get down and dirty, but . . .I really don't want to die quite yet. I bit Mujemu's hand, hard enough to pierce through his scales. He shrieked in pain, then flung me to the ground. I got out of his grasp as soon as I could and went to go try and wake Zelda up. She was hit right across her chest, dead straight through her identification tag. It was lucky that Mujemu hadn't grazed her further; the bullet-proof vest I issued to her was nearly sliced completely. "Zelda, are you okay?", I whispered, pulling her hair out of her bleeding wounds. She stirred within moments, saw the blood all over the floor, and moaned, "Great. I'm bleeding to death, but I'll be okay." She cast a quick healing spell and her injury stopped bleeding, but she still was in a lot of pain. I sat her up and took her staff, "I'll fight this time." I don't think she was too hyped up about it, but she had no choice; she'd have to wait for the pain to stop in a few minutes before she could fight. Mujemu thought I was being particularly funny, "Oh, the little one wants to fight? Heh, this is surprising. I thought your little wench fought only . . ." I was really pissed off when he sad that, so I scraped him across his left eye, a thick river of blood following it. He snarled in pain, then took a blind swipe at me in anger. I was able to dodge it, but just barely. The others watched me, paralyzed by my courage; even Andross pondered to watch me. I swung at Mujemu, this time flying through my actions with a quick, high kick to his nose. He was becoming annoyed with me rather quickly, so he started snapping at me, trying to get a hold of me somehow. I wasn't going to give up for a second; I had had enough of my enslavement to Mujemu, and I was going to end it right then and there. I summoned a blaze of fire from Zelda's staff, scorching Mujemu's wings in a bonfire. Jumping as high as I could, I cut off the bloody, burned wings and watched them as they fell to the ground in flaming clumps. Mujemu was enraged beyond the point of sanity, so he was doing anything he could to kill me. Something crackled in the air, and then electricity thundered through Mujemu's legs and arms. I realized that I hadn't done that attack at all, and I was distracted for a moment. In that time, Mujemu took the liberty to smash me across the floor with his tail, where I was knocked back against the wall. My head was beginning to swim, but first I looked over to see who had attacked Mujemu. Maybe I was just a little bit dizzy, but if I didn't know better . . .I'd say Andross was attacking Mujemu too! "What is the meaning of this?!", Mujemu barked at Andross, now enraged beyond control. Dr. Andross, smug as ever, spoke, "I wish you to stop attacking Fox. I have decided his fate . . . .and mine." Zelda looked over at him with confusion, "What? Andross, what are you talking about?" My mother's eyes softened, then she smiled, "Finally?" Okay, whatever they were talking about was really tripping me out. Andross cleared his throat, then stated, "I realize that I have done these past 15 years has been wrong . . .and I don't even remember why. Could it have been that the one thing that was taken away from me was . . .killed by my own hands?" Zelda gasped for a moment, then responded, "Vixy. You loved . . .her. What happened, Andross?" James' face also relaxed for the moment, then he explained, "He put a bomb in Vixy's car, hoping to kill me. It back-fired. . .horribly." Andross nodded, then continued, "I was driven insane by the fact that the only woman I had ever loved was dead. That's why I went on with this war because . . .I felt sorry for myself . . .So, I decided to kill every last member of Vixy's new family, including Fox, who was just a little child then. It took me 13 years to get James, and I almost had Fox too. But, my daughter . . .You brought James back, and I knew that it was possible to revive Vixy. So, I stole that keyhole and planted it here and let Fox open it for me. I purposely injected him with poison, and I knew you'd have to give him your blood. I had this planned all along." Falco was gapping at the whole system, confused as all of us were about this, "But, you're the enemy! You're supposed to be heartless!! And all those times that you've tried to kill us! . . .Doesn't any of that matter to you anymore?" Andross shook his head, and then Falco murmured, "Wha . . .You're going to give up everything because the only one you loved is back alive?! Sorry, but this doesn't sound like you!!" Peppy was thinking for a moment, then replied, "Andross, you realize you could die if you surrendered?" Andross hung his head, then nodded, "But I am ready to go. All I wanted in my life was to see Vixy again . . .and I have seen her once more. And I know that she could never forgive me, or James, or Fox, or any of you. So, I am ready to face the consequences." My jaw hit the floor, and there was absolute silence for many moments. Mujemu laughed at Andross, then sneered, "Fine. Go, be weak. You're never going to be any good anyway! My mother was way more evil than you can ever be. . .I'll just finish off the little pup right now." He turned-tail on me, then grabbed me before I could run. There was many screams of horror, but I couldn't hear any of them. Before I knew it, something slimy had grabbed ahold of me and dragged me into the maw of the enemy once again. There was a scuffle for blasters, but I didn't see them. I didn't see anything. All I could tell was that I was falling . . .falling . . .into emptiness . . . Splash! Something sucked me under water, then I struggled to get up and breathe again. I was swimming in yellow goo, but that didn't bother me at all right then. There was something else more important to worry about right then. Roughly 45,000 of them. Black eggs had lined the flesh of Mujemu's stomach, and they had red eyes staring back at me. I was completely surrounded by the unwanted army of dragons. There was cracking beginning to happen alongside the wall I was closest too. I pushed myself away from the walls, but there was no place that I could escape to. Mujemu lurched in pain, then slammed into the ground, pressing the floor of his stomach up against the top of the ceiling. I was pinned in between, and I was choking from the pressure and no air. My head was swimming again, and I was afraid that it was all going to be over too soon. If I should die before I wake . . . . . Log: 6:27, 6/11/02--Venomain Spacecraft Atropos (Falco) I think I'm going to be sick. Not only is Mujemu bleeding all over the ship from his battle with my commander, he swallowed Fox alive again . . .and I just can't take that anymore. Hey, it's like you don't think about people eating dead stuff because it's dead, but when it's alive . . .ugghh . . .I think I'm going to be a vegetarian now for the rest of my life too. The Star Fox team and I were shooting our fingers off, mainly at Mujemu's eyes and face. We were pissed off, and that doesn't even begin to say how angry I was. Fox's mother looked like she was going to pass out, and Andross was about as equally disgusted with Mujemu as I was. It's funny to think that my worst enemy and I were actually agreeing on something for once. However, this was no time to laugh, as I soon found out. Mujemu lurched suddenly and hit the floor with such a tremendous force that he knocked all off us off our feet. After we picked ourselves back up, we noticed that Mujemu wasn't going back up, and that his eyes were glazed over. Zelda murmured, "What . . .he's dead?! How?!" Andross shook his head, then mumbled, "When Fox tore off his wings, he was bleeding a lot. He probably hemorrhaged himself to death." Well, this was all fine and peachy-keen, but . . .what about Fox?! How's he going to get out of a dead carcass that ways nearly two million times his weight? I ran up to the beast as fast as I could, trying to pry his mouth open. Maybe I could get down to Fox from there . . .But, I couldn't open his tightly sealed jaw. It was almost like he had planned to die like this. Peppy, Slippy, and James kept trying to help me, but escape that way was going to be useless for Fox. We gave up on that idea and regrouped, trying to think of something we could do. Katt was afraid of what was going on, "Falco, come on! Can't you think of something?!" Slippy paced back and forth for a few moments, Andross echoing his movements in the opposite direction. Zelda was looking a little paler than usual, maybe from inner torment or something else. My girlfriend kept Mrs. McCloud company while James and Peppy were thinking of what to do. Suddenly, a lightbulb went off in Slippy's head, "I've got it!!" He yanked out his Swiss knife, which he always carried with him so he could fix anything if we ran into trouble. The blade he pulled out was polished to a nice and clean cut. The frog handed me the knife, "Cut against his craw, Falco. You're the strongest of us, so you should be able to slice right through his gullet." I groaned in disbelief, then went against Mujemu's cold fleshy stomach and thought where it would be best to strike. "Come on, Zorro, we don't have all day.", Zelda snapped. I growled back at her, then went back to concentrating on where to cut this son of a bitch. Maybe I should hold it like this . . no . . .this? . . .No . . .aw hell, I wasn't good at dissecting organs in academy school. What gave them the thought that I could cut this guy open? I closed my eyes, then slashed Mujemu's corpse blindly. There was a fine red line of blood, then something started bulging out under the redness. I backed away slowly, not knowing what was going on, then ran, "He's gunna blow!!" Several black bony things ripped out of the hole that I had cut. Most of them looked like their necks were broken, but some were climbing over the dead bodies of their siblings and hissing at us. They charged us, teeth gnashing and snapping. I slashed back at them, decapitating several at once. James was surprised how easily they were killed, then started blasting others that came out at us and charged us. Peppy, Bill, and Slippy followed in his steps, blasters screeching flames and lasers, while Katt and Mrs. McCloud hid themselves from the dragons. Andross also was helping us, using his telekinetic powers to hurl the dragons into blaster fire and snap their necks. Zelda tried using her limited telekinetic powers, which paralyzed most of the dragons coming at her, but she wasn't thinking about fighting, "Someone cover me. I'm going in." I grabbed my blaster, then guarded her as we made the way inside Mujemu's belly. If there was a hundred dead outside, there was a thousand dead within the beast. It looked like they had died from suffocation, which made me even sicker; if these things couldn't get enough air, how could Fox have? Zelda kicked the corpses and some living dragons out of her path, searching through the gunk for Fox. Well, if she was still alive, then Fox was still kicking, so he had to be somewhere in here. Several of Mujemu's ribs had been crush and pinched together when he dropped over dead, impaling nearly seven hundred more of his children. Some eggs had been punctured by the mess, so an uncounted number of them hadn't even been born alive. I was actually kind of scared of all of the death now; how could have anything survived in this wreck? Zelda shoved the broken bones backwards so we could proceed further into Mujemu's stomach. She screamed in such anger and sudden surprise that I nearly jolted out of my skin. Fox was pinned to the roof of Mujemu's stomach, dangling from where he was suspended. Two ribs had criss- crossed each other, one shattering into the other, and they had Fox pressed up by his chest. It looked like one of the ribs had also pierced into his left shoulder. He was pale from lack of oxygen, unconscious from loosing too much blood. I hacked against the rib nearest to me, which splintered away slowly as I continued slicing at it. The rib eventually broke away, crashing into the ground just centimeters from where I stood. The other rib fell with it, unpinning Fox from the ceiling and sending him down with the mess. Zelda looked frightened for a moment, but then she went and tried to get Fox up. I helped her get him out of the wreckage safely, then carried him out for her. She grabbed her staff from the floor of Mujemu's stomach, where Fox had dropped it. We pushed ourselves out of the slit I cut into Mujemu, knocking dragons out and away as we were trying to get Fox to safety. Zelda took her turn defending me, finally back to her true power with her staff, while I ran behind the navigator's counsel. Several hundred fell at her feet before we got Fox to safety, all of them rabid with un- calculated rage. Katt covered fire beside me so I could attend to keeping Fox alive. The rib that had pierced right through his shoulder missed his heart by nearly centimeters, and I discovered that being pinned to the wall had broken a couple of his ribs. He was breathing normally, though, so nothing had punctured his lungs, thankfully. I laid away on my blaster from the navigator's counsel, enraged with anger and indigence. Heh, Falco Lombardi, the rough, surly pilot of Star Fox, full of indigence. What had become of me? Fox was stirring from my side, aching with pain and coughing up a little blood. I pulled away from the battle to check up on him for a moment, "Fox, you okay? God, we were worried about you for a moment." His eyes were full of surging pain, but he was trying to block it all away, "I . . .what . . .where's the General?" That made me somber; even during his worst, Fox was thinking about his duty towards Corneria. I ripped my jacket off and tried to cover Fox's wounds so they wouldn't get infected any more, if they already had. "I'll send out a distress signal right now, Fox. You just hang on, okay? You need to concentrate on living right now." He nodded slowly, understanding that for once he had to let me take control. I slammed on the S.O.S. signal, sending our desperate cry for help into space. It wasn't a cry just for Fox's help; we all needed it. Andross had been bitten several times by the dragons, and even if he was immune to their poison, he was still bleeding a lot. James and Peppy had maxed out their charge on their blasters, so they were forced to hand-to-hand combat, which they were exceedingly good at. Slippy was attacking them with his tool now, which he had recovered from me while I was protecting Fox, and he was also pretty damn good at fighting, considering the fact that it's Slippy and all. Bill and Zelda were attacking together in a strange sort of martial art dance that I had seen them practice with Fox. One would grab the other and flip them onto the back of their enemy, knocking them out cold with a roundhouse, and then the other would pivot backwards and use the other for balance as they slammed on the brains of other creatures. We were winning the battle, but at a higher cost than we were willing to pay. Numerous ships sailed to our rescue within minutes of the distress signal being fired. Many were famous Cornerian Militia ships, such as General Pepper's Golden Justice, the Sweet Sorrow, the Dove's Fury (the best medical ship in this quadrant), and the Siren's Song. Another strange ship showed up, Aran's Pride, and I knew that had to belong to my fellow Super Smash Sister Samus Aran. (How's that for a title?) Several other smaller vessel surrounded the Atropos, preparing to board us when General Pepper contacted us on the still functioning hologram, "Thank god you're all alive. What's going on?!" I responded quickly, "Beam us aboard the Dove's Fury. Andross too. We all need some medical attention." Within milliseconds, fuzzy green beams transported all of our figures aboard the Dove's Fury, all of us still intact. Bill collapsed against the ground; he was weak from fighting so hard. Zelda and James were also looking a little woozy, but they were going to be in better shape than Bill was. Andross didn't struggle against Cornerian Forces as they arrested him once again, but he did look a little bent out of shape, "Well, what can I say? I gave it a run." Slippy and Peppy were breathless from fighting, but they were nearly unscathed. Men in white robes surrounded us as they drug us apart separately to our own medical rooms. Moments later, there was a blast from the Siren's Song and Aran's Pride; the prize death ship of Andross' fleet was gone, and so was any evidence that Mujemu ever existed. I felt my head spinning for a moment, then I looked at my right arm to see that I had somehow been scratched by one of those infernal beasts. A fairly attractive nurse led me down the hall to where I could rest and relax for a few minutes, but I wasn't eased by any of it. Fox was clinging to his life, and I was okay. . .for once, I felt like this was wrong, to go and get myself healed up. The nurse spoke to me, "Don't worry about your friend. The doctors will have him fixed up in no time flat." I nodded, not even conscious of my own actions. She helped me hobble down to my room, where I collapsed from exhaustion and worry. An hour or so later, Katt came in to check on me. She was doing fairly well, considering she had walked out of that mess without getting hurt physically. She picked up my ice water from the desk near my bed and helped me drink it. I realized way too late what was going on, "Katt, I'm fine, damn-it!" She giggled at me, then whispered, "I know, I know. But still, you were pretty brave back there, saving Fox and all." I growled unhappily, then asked, "Where's Fox? Is Krystal and Rob okay?" She nodded, then answered, "Silly. Of course, the Great Fox is fine. It'll need some repairs, but it'll be okay. Everyone aboard it is okay too. . . ." She was trailing off about Fox. I was very concerned, but I didn't want to show it. Katt finally continued, "The doctors say Fox should have been dead by now. He's still ticking, though. Zelda's keeping vigil in his room with his mother and father. They're hoping he'll pull up . . .he lost a lot more blood, and he could be sick from an ammonia of some sort." I shuddered in sudden coldness; here I was again, pondering fate. This wasn't me at all; I'm not scared for anyone, and I'm certainly not caring for anyone but myself. But . . .Fox has been my first and sometimes only friend in life, and I didn't want to see him dead. I took my dice out of my pocket, then rolled them onto the table. A six and a one landed on the table, giving me a seven for a total. If seven is lucky as I think it is, then Fox is going to be okay. I have to believe in that, at the very least. To believe in nothing is to be nothing. Epilogue: "Perhaps we were lucky. Perhaps not. All I know is that we stopped what was going to be the worse loss of life in the galaxy . . .but at a cost."-James McCloud "So I didn't kill the bastard. Fox gave him what he deserved."-Zelda Janzzen "Where life ends, love lives on eternally."-Vixy McCloud-Reinard. Log: 18:24, 6/15/02--Great Fox (Zelda) The whole ordeal is over. With De'Jumea and her legacy destroyed and the Lylat War finished, life can be what it was meant to be. But not everyone will live happily ever after; we have all been scarred, and for some, that will effect the rest of their lives. I am one who will be marked forever as a scarred one because of my father, but I will not let it destroy me as heritage destroyed Mujemu. With Andross locked away for the rest of his life, the Cornerian ruling district appointed me to be the new leader and ambassador for Venom. As its new ruler, I disbanded the robotic army of Andross and terminated all projects and bio-weapons that he created. Well, almost all of them. Some of the weapons escaped, other killed themselves. Star Wolf, Andross' mercenary unit, has also been disbanded tragically. We discovered Wolf O’Donnell’s remains on Titania, where Fox was attacked. All doctors on our search party agree that he died first of strangulation before he was decapitated, and so we knew that De'Jumea had killed him. When I went to tell the Star Wolf team of their loss, I learned that they did not exist anymore. Pigma Dengar, the first betrayer to the Cornerian army, committed suicide after he discovered that the war was over, leaving only a cryptic message that read, "The dead may walk, but I will not walk with them." Andrew Oikonny, my cousin and Andross' nephew, was assassinated by Leon Powalski. We found his body riddled with several bullet holes, and he was ultimately ruined beyond recognition; only DNA tests proved that he was once Andrew. Leon Powalski is still on the loose, but I'm not sure where he could run. Falco is taking personal responsibility for hunting Powalski down and collecting his bounty. There is much hope for the new, abandoned planet of Venom. Several scans of the planet showed enormous quantities of natural fuel and rare crystalline structures, making its worth nearly increase two-fold. The planet also has rich soil, so many farming communities have been planned to inhabit Venom. I personally made sure that Andross' base was cleared of all prisoners, sending nearly forty thousand men and women home to their families, and will preserve the base as a museum for the next generations to learn about what evils my father committed against Corneria. Within a few years, the planet will be able to be called "functioning" again, but this will be at least 5 years into the future. The only mystery left for me about Venom is what happened to my sister, Lutania. As no remains of her existance were left at the base when I cleaned it out, I guess she simply ran off or disappeared into the vastness of space. It is possible that she could have died during the time I was gone and the seizure of the planet, but . . .something tells me that she's still alive. When and if we ever find her, we will rehabilitate her and have her live out her life in a Venomian colony. If we never find out about her, then I guess . . .that's the way it will have to be. Still, I have concerns about her; will she adapt to new life peacefully, or live on the legacy of Andross that I was supposed to carry? Andross was charged with several crimes against Corneria, from theft of nuclear supplies, forgery, betrayal, and even a rape charge, to first degree murder. He was not charged with the deaths of James and Vixy McCloud, however; since they were still living, they couldn't punish him for the deeds according to the Cornerian Constitution Amendments, Article 8. (How that fits into this, I do not know. I suppose you can't play Double Jeopardy if you haven't played the first round.) He's been locked up for 45 life terms, however the hell that works out. All I know is that they're not going to ever let him out again. As for us, well . . .It's been peachy. The door to James' room has been locked for days. I think I only saw him out once, and if I didn't know any better, I'd be saying that he's getting the past 13 years of marital faithfulness made up. Peppy . . .just doesn't want to think about it. Neither does Slippy, Katt, Krystal, Fox, or Bill. Falco's a perv about it, so I had to upside his head a couple of times. Oh well, Falco's getting his end of the bargain with Katt too, I suppose. The doctors say Fox is healing up really well. They let us take him home yesterday, and he's been sleeping in the Wrecked Den, as I call it. It's essentially a couple of old couches, a pretty good TV, a VCR/DVD player, an NES, SNES, N64, a Gamecube, and a little refrigerator where we keep lots of pop. We kept Fox in there because a lot of us hang there at night so we can watch him. He sleeps a lot, but he's happy to see us when he's up. Last night I caught him playing Wizards and Warriors on the NES, and he was a little sheepish about it. I figure he deserves a little fun; after the hell he's gone through, he needs a break. Personally, I'd like to sit around on my ass and play video games too. I'm the Castlevania master! No one messes with my Belmont whip! Hoo-haa! Fox pretty much is good at any given game, but he's really good at Wizards and Warriors and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Falco is better at fighting games like Bad Dudes and River City Ransom. Slippy . . . just . . .sucks. Peppy's an old schooler, so when and if he ever plays video games, he's playing things like Mario Brothers or Pong or . . .Tetris. Ya know. Krystal is also surprisingly good at EVERYTHING!! AGGH!! I don't know how she got so good!!! . . .Okay, so that was off subject. I did get into contact with Shadow and the rest of his crew on Planet Freedom. They are grateful that we took out Dr. Robotnik, but now he thinks his life will become very boring. I offered him one last shot at reincarnating Maria, but once again, he said that he'd meet her someday in the afterlife. Perhaps so. I wonder if reincarnating James was the right thing to do sometimes myself. Well, fate will be whatever it wants to be. Maybe I was fated to bring James back to this mortal life again, and maybe my purpose in life was to restore life to others. God sometimes has weird plans for those who follow. I guess I'll just keep have to play the cards that I've got for the moment. I can't control my life to the point of knowing my own purpose, but I'll try to understand it somehow. I never knew until tonight how much I really need the Star Fox team to live, even. We were all watching TV in the Wrecked Den, Falco perched in his orange junked recliner from god-knows where, Peppy sitting on an old striped couch across from Slippy, Krystal on the blue beanbag on the floor, James and Vixy on the faded sage green love seat, and Fox stretched across the longest couch where I was sitting. We were just us, the few of us, being a family. Hanging together for what we had, all of us just being us for the moment. We'd been fed, we were tired, and frankly, we were content just to be with each other and watch a movie. And we were happy to just be. Perhaps I don't really know what a typical family is; a father, a mother, sisters, brothers, that stuff. Well, the truth is that I don't have a normal family. We are not related by blood, but yet, we are connected by love for each other. It's a strange sort of link that makes us . . .well . . .us. If this is the only thing in life that matters, I'll take it. This is what a family truly is, a group of people who love each other more than life itself. I don't think Falco would ever admit that, but he silently agrees with me. Fox laid his head against my legs, trying to prop himself up with a couple of pillows. He finally adjusted himself, then flopped back into a more comfortable position. His tail flickered back and forth lazily, just moving enough to know that it was still back there. Maybe it's simply female instinct, but when I look at what I've gone through to keep him . . .I know it's been worth it. It'll be good to go home, get back into the routine of things. Faye Dog and Miyu Linx are probably going to be pissed at us for not letting them come along this time, but they'll get over it. I can get back to reporting Super Smash Brothers fights, and even do a little bit of snooping on Fox's mission to Dinosaur Planet. Heck, maybe I'll try this thing Katt calls "spaz shopping" when I get home. There's going to be a hero's welcome waiting, but screw that . . . Heroes are cool and everything, but I'm not a hero. I'm just a background trump card. Hurt Fox, see me get pissed and blow people's heads off. It's my job to see that the entire Star Fox team, not just McCloud himself, is safe. That's what family's all about. Blood's thicker than nectar, and all that good stuff. . . .Aw shit, I've got a doctor's appointment next week. --End Document. ******* Well, there was story 2. I'm actually remembering to put an author's note down this time. Man, am I lazy or what? . . .that's rhetorical, buddy. Anyway, to cut sort on everything, if you have heard of any of this stuff outside my stories, then that's Nintendo's. The only things that I really even made up in the story were De'Jumea, Mujemu, and myself. (Yes, Faye and Miyu are real; they were in the canceled Star Fox 2 game.) Sonic & Co. are copyrighted Sega. I dedicate this story to my old English teacher Mrs. Hurst, who will hopefully never discover how crappy my English truly is. I hope you enjoyed this story and are up to reading my third one, whenever I start it! Toodles, and thanks for reading! Zelda Janzzen-- July-October 2002.