Chapter 13: Collective Energy

It had been more than an hour since Fox McCloud had disappeared into the mysterious confines of the Otherworldly Gate, and the more time that passed, the fewer festival goers that remained within the Valley of Miracles. In the distance, most of the stands and concessions had dimmed their lights. The previously loud, celebratory atmosphere began slowly fading as night continued to fall deeper upon the city. Before long, the grassy depression was empty; spare the cool, idyllic breeze that swept effortlessly though the plains, and one pink-furred feline who leaned against the imposing rock structure at her back, her foot tapping and head in her chest.

Maybe I should have gone with Sharra to check on Klyph. I know that Overseer guy said it might be a while before Fox came back, but come on…

She subtly tilted her head upwards and glanced up at the spot where Fox had descended for what seemed like the hundredth time, but after seeing no change, she hung her head back in its original position with a pensive sigh.

With all this magic energy talk, who knows what's going on in there. Hopefully he's doing alright…

"Still waiting on your friend, I see?"

Katt was jolted back to awareness of her surroundings by this voice, the first she had heard besides the one in her head for what seemed like forever. Looking quickly to the left, she noticed the form of the old Overseer echidna standing feebly next to her, a meek smile on his face.

"He can count himself very lucky to have someone who would so patiently wait on his return."

Katt let off a bit of a smirk as she replied, "Well, I'm not waiting THAT patiently, but I get what you're saying. …Thanks."

The echidna gave a slight nod, and continued in a terser manner, "I sensed great pain behind his energy. Stay close, he'll need you more than you realize." The elder's eyes focused intensely into the felines and he continued, "Promise me."

She gave a somewhat unsure nod at his prophetic words, "Y…Yeah, don't worry. I'll do what I can…"

"Then he will have no need to worry. Thank you."

The elderly animal turned and began to pace away, but was quickly stopped as Katt called out to him, "Hey wait…"

Zaglossus hesitated, "Yes?"

"What exactly do you know about all this "Energy" stuff I keep hearing about? And what does it have to do with Fox? It's all getting a little too real for me to just pass it off as some weird hokey religion crap anymore…"

"It would probably be best if you asked your friend…"

As the elderly echidna spoke these words, Katt turned her eyes quickly once again towards the stone monument, but this time she was finally met with the familiar face of her Captain.

She watched as he stood there for a moment, noticing his eyes were fixated on the gem necklace that he wore around his neck, a posture that he kept for several moments before beginning to descend back onto the Valley floor.

"He's in caring hands indeed…"

These subtly cheery words broke her lapse in concentration. She glanced back to witness the Overseer gingerly walk free of the area, but her attention quickly changed again as another voice broke the otherwise calm nature of the now all but abandoned Valley.

"Katt?"

Her eyes met with Fox's as he stepped down onto the grassy surface of the ground, responding while shaking free from the thoughts of the echidna's words, "…About time, Foxboy. I was almost starting to worry about you."

"Sorry Katt, you didn't have to wait for me…" Fox started contritely, but then after scanning the surrounding area, continued with a bit of a laugh in his voice, "It doesn't look like anyone else did."

The feline smirked back, "Well, according to your Overseer buddy I did."

Before Fox could even think to comment back, she continued on, "So how'd it go in there?"

Fox took a second to think back on what had happened just minutes ago, reliving every precious second that he spent in the Spirit Realm. It was all he could think about. Seeing her beauty again, hearing her caring voice, being with her despite being physically apart, even for those mere moments, it was all he needed…

His expression reflected all these wonderfully comforting feelings as he spoke simply in response, "I saw Krystal."

Katt looked back at him with unbelieving eyes, "Wait…you what? Krystal? Your Krystal?"

Fox nodded with a smile before continuing on in a lucid voice, "Yeah…I did."

"…How is that possible? I mean she's…dead, right? I mean I know you said she isn't completely dead, but…how could you do that? When you say you 'saw' her does that…does that mean…"

"There are a lot of things I need to tell you about…" Fox interjected, mercifully cutting Katt's stumbling words short.

"…Apparently!" Katt exclaimed back in an exasperated voice.

Fox couldn't help but let out a slight laugh as he heard this, speaking shortly after as he waved his hand subtly away from the stone monument behind them, "I'll tell you when we get back to the ship, there's still a few things I need to figure out myself… For now, let's head back to the Great Fox."

Katt could only shake her head, bemused by even those few details he had exposed to her, "…Alright. You're the Captain…"

Finding their way out of the Valley of Miracles, they began their mostly silent trek back into the town of Estorra. The moon hung high above them, shining brightly enough to provide all the light they needed to make their way out of this less developed part of the planet, as well as highlight the natural beauty that Xantia held. The tall, thin wisps of grass and other greenery that grew abundantly just off the gently winding path they walked glowed with an almost magical bluish hue as they swayed gently in the breeze. With no more festival lights to impede them, the stars shone just as brightly as if you were up among them in space, only adding to the dreamlike landscape that laid in front of them.

It would be easy to see how someone could lose themselves in such entrancing natural beauty, but for the moment Fox found himself, instead, lost in his own thoughts…

Krystal, Andross, Wolf, the Energy of Life, Spirit Links…this is all a lot to take in. I'm glad I have an idea of what I need to do now, but I've got a long way to go before…before I can get her back. How could Andross be back again…and trying to destroy both realms? How does he keep reviving? It has to have something to do with him existing in both realms…And why is Wolf suddenly after me? I don't really know what to expect, but those planets Krystal mentioned will have to give me some signs. And the Spirit Links? Energy of Life? How exactly am I actually supposed to use this power? I mean, I've felt it before, but I've never really used it…Maybe I should…

"Katherine!?"

Fox was jolted from his thoughts as this jarring voice broke through the calm quiet of the plains, a voice that shortly after was answered by his walking companion, "…Hayley? What are you doing out here?"

Fox looked to his side at Katt, then back to the figure in the distance towards what looked to be a small kitten, accompanied by a larger female cat. The younger of the two called back in an excited voice, "It is you! I told you, Mommy! It's really her!"

The young kitten quickly freed herself from the grasp of her mother's hand and rushed towards them, jumping up and wrapping as much of a hug as her tiny arms could muster around the surprised Katt, who knelt down slightly to accommodate her small size.

"I brought my Mommy to show you, Katherine! We wanted to make sure you were ok!" The kitten spoke excitedly, hardly taking time to take breaths as she went.

Katt dropped down to one knee and allowed the small kitten to sit on her lap comfortably as she spoke in a soft voice, "Of course I'm ok. If you didn't notice from before, I'm pretty tough. Right?"

"I know, I was just worried. I like you so much. And Mommy was worried too…especially when she heard what Daddy tried to do…" Hayley's voice became more somber as she finished, no doubt flashing back to the scene of her father trying to kill her idol, while at the same time putting her in extreme danger as well.

At this point, the kitten's mother had made her way towards the two members of the Star Fox team, approaching with a look of both great appreciation and guilt on her face, "Thank you so much for watching over Hayley…I don't think I could ever repay you for what you've done…"

"She's pretty tough on her own, ya know. She was actually really brave earlier today," Katt began, placing a soft hand on the kitten's shoulder and giving her a reassuring smile. Quickly after, however, she looked back up towards the mother with a tinge of disdain, "But why did you let her go out like that in the first place? Little dangerous for a kid to be out on their own, don't you think?"

The mother look away briefly before responding in a contrite voice, "I know, it was an awful…awful idea. But when I heard that THE Star Fox had come to our planet, I felt like maybe you could help with…"

"Your husband?" Katt interjected.

"Yes…my 'husband.' He'd been gone for several days, talking crazy about some get rich quick scheme…I thought maybe if I couldn't find him and talk sense into him, maybe you all could. I had no idea he was after you…I had no idea he would…endanger his own daughter like that." She bowed her head fervently before the two animals, traces of tears forming in her eyes, "I'm so…so sorry."

"Don't worry about it, everything turned out fine in the end. And besides…" Katt paused momentarily, gently covering Hayley's ears before continuing on, "You deserve a lot better. To hell with that deadbeat."

As the kitten futily struggled against Katt's hands, the mother stood up with a wide smile and a laugh, "My thoughts exactly."

Managing to wriggle free from the grasp on her ears, Hayley jumped out of Katt's lap and turned to stare up at her, asking in a slightly upset voice, "Why were you doing that, Katherine? You aren't leaving yet, are you?"

The pink-furred feline stood up, brushing the dirt from her flight pants as she motioned towards Fox and spoke simply, "Yeah, we are. My captain and I need to get back to our ship. Our team is waiting for us."

The kitten thought for a second, finger to her chin, before she carefully responded, "Ok, you can go. Sounds important." Walking back towards her mother, she continued, "I'll make sure Mommy gets home safe, don't worry."

The group of animals couldn't help but laugh at the young feline's adorable confidence, to which her mother responded in an amusingly sarcastic voice, "Oh, I feel so safe now. Thank you, Hayley."

Grabbing onto her mother's hand, the kitten continued, "You have to be safe too, Katherine. Promise you'll come back, ok?" Looking up very zealously into Katt's face, she resolutely repeated, "Promise me?"

"Alright, I promise." Katt replied with a smile.

"Ok good. You should take this for good luck too." Reaching into her small pockets, she revealed a small pin that was designed in the shape of a simple pink heart. "It's my favorite pin, so don't lose it, ok?"

Katt gently took the pin from the kitten's hands, examining the trinket briefly before pocketing it, "Thanks. And I'll take good care of it, don't worry."

After a few goodbyes, the two groups parted ways. Katt however, delayed slightly as she watched the sprightly young kitten disappear between the buildings of the town. Once out of sight, she let off an undetectable smile that lingered for several seconds before she turned to follow after her Captain.

"Looks like you have some things to fill me in on too…" Fox commented lightheartedly as the feline rejoined him.

Katt shrugged her shoulders, "Hey, I figured while you were off making a fool of yourself with Wolf earlier, I may as well prevent my own murder, save the good women and children of Xantia, bring peace and harmony to the dirty streets…You know, the regular, everyday duties of a full-time model."

Fox's slight smile remained as he commented back, "That little cat really seemed to like you."

"Yeah…she recognized me from a magazine she had. She's a spunky little kitten, kinda reminds me of myself when I was younger."

"I've never really seen that side of you, Katt. It's a little weird to see, honestly."

"What? You think just 'cause I'm usually a relentless, cold-hearted killer I can't like kids?" She responded with a bit of a wink.

"It's just nice to see you can break out of your shell every once in a while." Fox replied with a kind smile.

Katt lost herself for a moment in those words, not sure if she should take his words as a compliment or criticism of her character. She looked away slightly, quickly attempting to formulate an appropriate response; she decided instead to change the subject. "…Oh, before I forget. When Sharra took off from the Otherworldly Gate, I gave her the comm codes to our ship so she could update us on Klyph's condition when they learn anything new."

Fox paused for a moment, noticing that Katt seemed to try and evade his comment, but decided not to press the issue by responding instead to her prior statement, "Alright, good idea. I hope to hear from them…both of them, soon. I didn't get to thank them for all their help…"

"Time and place for everything I guess, Foxy." Katt began as both members of the Star Fox team gradually directed their attention towards their waiting Arwings within the Estorra Docking Bay, "But right we should worry about getting back up to the Great Fox and see what kind of shenanigans the crew got into while we were gone."

Mounting their Arwings and letting the cockpit shields come to a close above, the two animals started their ships, slowly making their way off the ground, out of the Docking Bay, and with a quick and emphatic blue blast of their boosters, shot off away from the planet below.

Glancing over his shoulder, Fox peered down listlessly at the planet as it slowly grew smaller and smaller. He would always remember that place, Xantia, as the place he finally got to see her again. He looked back fondly as it continued to fade. Even though they were only there for a short while, he would never forget the wonderful gift that planet and its Energy Temple had given him, even if it was tinged with the bitter taste of having to leave her so abruptly.

As soon as his ship breached the outer portions of the Xantia's atmosphere, he turned his attention to his Arwing's onboard computer, realizing he should be using this time to perhaps gain some clarity about what exactly laid ahead for himself and his team. He paused before entering the first thing that came to his head, however. His fingers fell heavy and unsure onto the keyboard interface as he cautiously typed the letters…

A-N-D-R-O-S-S

Moments later, the screen came back to life with any and all information about Star Fox's ultimate enemy. Predictably, most of the results were about his triumphant defeats at the hands of Fox himself. After browsing through several different articles, there seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing to indicate he had returned or was causing any problems in the galaxy, be it the Lylat system or beyond.

"Figures…" Fox sighed as he fell back in the seat of his cockpit. He lingered there for a few frustrated moments before sitting back up.

Maybe something else…

Starting a new search, he entered everything else he could think of into his computer. The planets he was told about, Spirit Links, Energy Temples, anything that would help him in the coming days. Leaning back again in his chair, his Arwing's console steadily gathered the information he required, giving him time to let his mind wander as the space outside his cockpit slow drifted past.

I wonder how the crew is going to react when I tell them Andross is back…again. What about when they hear the real story behind the Energy of Life? This should be a really interesting couple of days. Should I tell General Pepper? It is a little unsettling that Andross hasn't made any moves yet. Maybe we could use Pepper's help on this one after all. Maybe…maybe after we learn some more, gather more clues and get a better idea of what exactly is going on…what exactly Andross has planned for Lylat. If I told them now, there would be a huge panic on Corneria…that's the last thing they need. They're still enjoying peaceful life after we got rid of Scales…

Wait…what if Scales…

"…Krux, a planet known mostly for its vast rock formations and active volcanic landscape, sits on the outskirts of the Lylat System…"

Fox snapped from his train of thought as the computer's voice had come to life.

"…Because of Krux's dangerous conditions, it is very sparsely populated and underdeveloped, but is a popular destination for miners and researchers due to its high volumes of natural minerals and precious gems."

The vulpine tabled his thoughts for the moment. "…Alright, well that's good to know," he optimistically mumbled quietly to himself as he proceeded to his next search topic.

"Sauria, also known as 'Dinosaur Planet,' is a lush green planet known mostly for its sprawling vegetation. One of the only known locations in the galaxy to contain ancient dinosaur species, Sauria is an underdeveloped planet with relatively little known about its history…"

"I could probably help with that…" Fox muttered amusedly under his breath. He didn't linger on his current search result long, knowing he had a pretty good feel for what Sauria would hold, and continued to filter thought the rest of the results. Unfortunately for the vulpine, any results that came from the other searches came up empty.

This misfortune did seem to come at a good time though, as he found his Arwing quickly approaching the hull of the Great Fox. Taken by surprise was he, however, when he noticed a small, dull looking security transport ship departing from inside of the Great Fox's docking bay. He watched carefully as it passed, but without any official markings, he still had no idea exactly what the ship was or what it was doing.

"…Shenanigans. Told you so, Foxboy."

Fox glanced over his shoulder at Katt's Arwing, noticing immediately her shrugging shoulders and the "I told you so" look she wore on her face.

The Star Fox Captain could only shake his head as he refocused on the open doors of the docking bay. Gliding easily through the large doors, Fox and Katt simultaneously landed gently and safely with a slight thud on the floors of the Great Fox docking bay. Looking out of their cockpits, they noticed Falco, Kaya, and Ayame standing on, watching them as they came in.

As soon as their cockpit windows opened, they were met with the voice of Falco Lombardi, who spoke in his usual self-assured voice, "McCloud, nice to see you back in one piece. And before you say anything, yeah, everything went perfectly up here while you were gone."

Fox dismounted from his Arwing and slowly approached the avian as he spoke, "So that ship that was leaving the Great Fox…"

"We had a bit of a security breach, but we're fine now. We handled it like the consummate professionals we are." Falco ignored the discouraging look his Captain gave him as he continued on, "You should be proud of us, Foxy!"

"Where is Slippy?"

"He and ROB are fine...just a little unconscious at the moment, that's all. No big deal…"

There were a lot of things Fox wanted to say to Falco in that moment, but he knew there were bigger things that needed to be discussed.

"You all owe me an explanation about what happened up here…" Fox began in a stern voice, his eyes glancing over each and every member of the crew that stood before him. However, his expression withdrew slightly as he continued on, "But I also need to tell you what I learned on Xantia…"

Guess the best way is to just come out and say it…

The pause in his speech seemed to quickly spark the curiosity of each of the animals that stood before him.

"As hard as it may be to believe…"

He hesitated again, still unsure about exactly the type of reaction his next words would garner, but taking in a deep breath, he managed to confidently speak words that even he himself still had a hard time believing. Words he never thought he would have to speak again…

"Andross is back."


AUTHOR'S NOTES: So that update didn't take a full year at least. For the time being, I'm back again. I've said that way too many times to expect anyone actually believe it's true, but there ya go. I really don't have any excuses, I wrote this whole chapter in 3 days, haha. Again, thanks to all the readers and commenters and private messagers and just everyone who has stuck around. Love ya'll. Time to get back in that writer grove…

MAIL CALL: (There were a lot during the last year, so I just picked some at random.)

NaillMarston:
Great story! Can't wait for the next chapter, if there's gonna be one, that is.

FoxMC: Guess this chapter answers your question. Thanks for the compliment! Hope I'll keep the updates coming!

mccloudfan50
Wow, poor Kaya! That's quite a tough past she's got there. I feel pretty bad for her.
You have no idea how much seeing your updates inspires happiness and hope in people. It's been a hell of a long time, and it took me a month to see the email that informed me of the update, but I still felt that spark of "YES!"
I wish I could ask you to update faster, but coming from me, that's a bit hypocritical. All I can do is hope.

FoxMC: Better start checking your email a little more often then! It's crazy to me to hear people saying this story is so inspiring. Greatly appreciated though, it's what's kept me going (or trying to) all these years.

MasterPsyke:
Beyond ecstatic for your return Fox MC, love this story and can't wait to see it finished. Echoes of the Future was a masterpiece and the story deserves to be completed. Once again, so glad to see you've come back, best wishes.

FoxMC: I can't wait to see it finished either, I feel like we've all been waiting long enough, haha.

XxSanitariumxX
Nine years ago this story started... dayum. I thought my updates took forever! Really good stuff here, I'm really liking how it's going and wish you luck in finishing it.

FoxMC: Going back and reading through EotF and this story and reading some of the Author's Notes really dates me, haha. It's been a long time. Maybe I'll shoot for a 10 year anniversary finish?