"Think fast, act faster, this is how they lived. They were the best. You read about stuff like this in novels, really. Kids play games these days, all the same. One jet, or a pair of 'em against the enemy, impossible, improbable swarms of gunfire baring down upon them like sheets of rain, the heroes squeaking between the cracks and coming out on top. Kids play stuff like this in games. Heck, the boys in Bulldog and Husky always unwound with a game or two after a rough fight in those days. I'd give 'em trouble, all the time. Games and reality are different, I'd say! They knew, we all knew. So many kids in my teams back then." The canine on the screen coughed once, hands caressing a flight helmet that sat upon his lap. Despite obvious age impairments he suffered, Former CAG 104th Aerospace Superiority Tactical Fighter Wing, Captain William 'Bill' Grey sat straight and tall in his chair, only his voice betraying his war weary truth.

"You describe them in your recent book, Pack of Hounds in the Sky, but only very briefly." The Lizard sitting before Bill was accompanied by a camera, and both camera and lizard belonged to the Military History Channel, number 252 on the receiver in hundreds of thousands of homes across all of Corneria.

"Star Fox? Yeah, I flew the same skies as they did. I'd need a bigger book than that to really talk about those people!" The hound chuckled at that.

"Hinting at your next release?"

"They deserve it. Y'know, much of their handiwork made it's way into the military as parts of training manuals and such, and they are pretty infamous for some of their more notorious jobs, but in the end, most people just thought about them as mercs." Bill lowered his head slightly. "To see them fly, they…they were more than just mercs. It wasn't just the money. There's precious little actual footage of them. It's up to old dogs like us."

"I've asked this next question to every war veteran I have come across during the course of this documentary. How significant was their impact? How much did they mean to the final days of the war in 2216?"

"I'd have lost more than merely half the pups I was assigned on Katina. Star Fox were…" Bill paused. He shuddered slightly, eyes blinking rapidly. He breathed in, opened his mouth again to continue. "Fox McCloud and the people he stood with are-" Another pause, as if wanting the trembling in his voice to cease. "They aren't gods. They were people, just like you and I. They were at the right place at the right time. For that, for their skills, I can assure you, all of Lylat should be thankful."

Observance
A Star Fox Fanfiction

KATINA
GALACTIC STANDARD CALENDAR 03042216, 1420 HOURS

"Husky Flight, you have inbound, vector nine-oh, ten klicks, speed, nine hundred closure. Large incoming, not responding to IFF. Clear to interdict."

"Command, Husky Lead, we confirm contacts. Moving to intercept now. Three? Four? Lock up, combat spread, five hundred meters. Go Angels ten. Two, stick to trail." Captain Bill Grey rolled his fighter to the right. His wingman dropped back to follow him. As he straightened out from the roll over course correction, his HUD lit up with a series of markers, denoting the contacts, the location of Husky Three and Four at his flanks, a timer began ticking down, indicating when he would be within range of his targets.

"Lead, Four, new contacts, almost same bearing, same altitude."

"Command, Husky Lead, unknowns currently superior."

"Confirmed. Simulation cancelled, Husky Flight, RTB. Commander wants you in the briefing room in five."

The skies of Katina faded away, replaced by the flight hangar of New Prospect, Katina. Techs and pilots filtered about the busy area around the simulation pods. Undoing his straps, he released the canopy, climbing out of the sim pod as he'd done so before so many hundreds of times. His fellows did the same, although looking rather confused. His number Four pilot scratched at his chin with a paw.

"Some sim. Testing our ability to sound official over the comms or what?"

"You heard the lady, kids! Get up to the BR." The captain allowed a small edge into his voice, reinforcing the point, and the three subordinates made haste.

Grey was a career pilot, serving his world, his blue home in all theaters she asked of him for the last few years of his life, having decided that his time and energy would be best spent in Her defense. Her government had deemed the dry world of Katina safe for terraforming, and Her military had assigned him to Katina's New Prospect. Despite having been born in an era of peace, there were no doubts in the minds of Her defenders that they still were needed in this universe, and there was no doubt in the Captain's mind that he was needed to lead who he was assigned. Despite barely of legal drinking age, Bill's demeanor, discipline, and skill had shot him right through the O-Course at the academy, where he distinguished himself above his entire class save for a pair of other students, but unlike them, he'd stuck to the path, and was rewarded with this command. Husky and Bulldog teams, of the 104th ASTF Squadron, Wardog, the first and last line of defense for New P, the recent winners of the annual Readiness for Scramble competition among a pool of twenty hand selected squadrons, response time of two minutes, thirty seven seconds. The men that flew and the men that maintained were his, and because of what they all brought to the 104th, Katina and Her surrounding sectors were as safe as they could be in an age of hyperspace gates, cloaked plasma AI guided mines, pirate ships mounted with 'procured' Cornerian MC-12 Anti Fighter Beam turrets, among other things.

He found the Commander along the way to the Briefing Room by chance, who was toting a series of data diskettes in a case marked 'SOCOM-Venom Intelligence GSC 06012215-02102216'. The keypad, DNA lock, and retinal scanner built into the case said potentially more than what the feline in charge was about to say.

"Excellent timing. More is to be explained inside, Captain. I'll warn you in advance, the 104th and 25th are to be on Alert Five until further notice. That'll get disseminated in the Room."

"Venom, sir?"

"Not much thinking needed to guess that." The cat grimaced slightly. "After this, I'm going to have to begin lining up the ships I need to be able to move civilians out of NP in the event this goes down." He caught himself. "I'll explain inside, after you Captain."

Civilian evacuation thought the Captain of the 104th.

Bill sat down at the front of the room, while the Commander unlocked the protected case. The pilots whispered among themselves as to the nature of what was to follow, but nobody was here for their lack of insight. They hadn't been on secondary alert for the last three months for no reason at all.

The Commander had finished handing out the data discs, Bill receiving the last one. The pilots quickly inserted the discs into drives on their PDA's. Information began to stream across the screens.

"To cut to the point, ladies and gentlemen, we have officially been issued a War Warning from General Pepper at GHQ, Corneria. The CSC Lysander was attacked by a combined Venomian fighter-bomber wing six hours ago, in an sector of space within the demilitarized zone surrounding Venom, now designated Area 6. The Lysander was conducting routine inspections of the orbital defense grids for illegal interplanetary missile platforms when she was attacked without provocation. Though she claimed another carrier's life, the Lysander went down with all hands. Of her fighter squadrons, only six pilots managed to fight their way out of Area 6 to deliver the report. Simultaneously, a series of heavy jamming pulses were detected emanating from Venom, wiping out our long range surveillance capabilities of the planet until the jammers can be circumvented. As of right now, we have no idea of the size of the fleet Venom is massing, nor do we know where it is exactly. As improbable as it sounds, the Venomians have defeated all of our forms of intelligence gathering for the time being. We can only assume that we will be at war within hours." The cat took a breath, glancing about the room. Nobody smiled. Nobody cracked a joke. Professionalism and anger filled the air.

That Venom had been able to do this was a frightening prospect, though not entirely out of the question. Unfortunately for the Lylat system, they had a trump card by the name of Andross Oikonny, former head of weapons development for the Cornerian Military. The genius. The ape that made both miracles and misery. Developer of gravity based weaponry. The engineer behind the Nova Bomb. The designer of several recently declassified and banned bio-organic weapons. Disgraced and banished from Corneria to a prison planetoid at the far reaches of Lylat.

Emperor of Venom.

"As of right now, I am placing the 104th Wardog and the 25th Ravens on Alert Five until further notice. I will be making preparations to evacuate civilians ASAP to Corneria. We do not have the capacity in our underground shelters to contain the civilian population if and when the attack occurs. For that, the 242nd Suicide Kings and the 87th Lions will be flying cover for the transports when I am given authorization to start the evacuation. I'm expecting to hear back from Command within the hour. All pertinent information regarding our force deployment, current counter insurgency planning, and what kind of forces we can likely expect on Katina and elsewhere within the Lylat system is now in your PDA's. Questions?"

"Reinforcements, sir. When can we expect them?" This was from Captain Denise Saru, the hare in command of the 25th. "Katina's orbit around Solar currently has the asteroid field between us and GHQ. They'll come at us from space, but they will land ground troops to be certain."

"As soon as a threat to Katina is confirmed, we can expect at least a day before we'd get ground reinforcements." Captain Saru's face twisted slightly at that assessment, but otherwise betrayed nothing. "Right now, the current plan is to use the asteroid field as a part of Corneria's defensive net. Sector Y will likely be where GHQ will place the Second Fleet. Third Fleet will be scattered about around Corneria, Fichina also. We're somewhat isolated at the moment, no point in lying about that."

"Seems dicey, sir." Bill motioned to the map. "If HQ wants to use the field as a natural barrier, they're just relying on how damned big it is. Current ship specs aside, we'd normally think of it as a hassle to navigate 'over' or 'under' the field, and take a different route. Venom's going through the field, losses or not." The Commander turned away from the pilots for a moment after this, sighing.

"HQ is most likely aware, but the honest truth is that this fight is coming at the worst time. We all know how military spending has been hacked apart for the last twenty years. Who wants to fight a war in these times, right? The fleet was supposed to be getting a series of new space carriers, one a year, starting ten years ago, but the plan was mothballed. We're working with aging capital ships, fighter squadrons that are scattered across the entire system with practically no actual space stations to fly out from, having to always land at a colonial installation. Our response times to simple pirates are typically to slow to save beleaguered civilians, just because we're scattered too damn far." The Commander sounded frustrated as anyone could expect, that he was being so open about his misgivings was an alarm to everyone in the room. "I can only ask of you to do the best you can. I'm also going to be putting out a call for mercenary units to also fly cover on the civilian evacuation. Assuming we can get enough help through that channel, I can keep the 242nd and the 87th closer to home, but I can't operate under that assumption until it actually happens."

"How long can you expect for them to get to us?" Saru spoke up once more.

"Call it about three or four days, at most. If Lysander was picked off because she found exactly what we've banned around Venom, we can expect IPBMs within twenty-four hours. We're short on time, and don't have much to work on. For now, lets prepare for what we know we can expect. The clock is ticking, ladies and gentlemen. Lets get to it." The cat paused, tapping a communicator buried in his ear. He nodded after hearing something assumed to be favorable. "The 87th is to prepare for sortie within the hour, we are going to be sending the first transport at 1540 hours. The 242nd will launch in ten minutes, flying patrol sweeps over the intended passage route to the gate station at the edge of the asteroid field. As far as the data I've assigned to you all, I am sure you know the consequences of unofficial disclosure of said data. It contains a copy of intelligence reports regarding currently known equipment the Venomian military is armed with, and force readiness observations on their overall military. I recommend reading up as much as possible as often as possible; we're going to need every edge we can get. That is all, dismissed."

So, we wait, Bill mused as he filed out with the others.

KATINA
GST 03072216, 1202 HOURS

"So we can't expect any reinforcements for the time being?" Bill was incredulous. In response to the question, the CO handed him an official report from GHQ Corneria.

They were losing. Three days in, and they were losing.

"Just like I said, they came right through the Asteroid Field with their main force. They can't divert anything from Sector Y?"

"Not likely. Venom gated in a Bolse class defense sat, trying to use it as a forward base. This has been our only victory in the entire war thus far, if you can count the loss of sixty percent of the Second Fleet as a victory. What they have left is holding just outside of the zone. When the Bolse gated in, Second Fleet was all over it like a pack of-" the feline paused to allow himself a small grin, "-dogs, but they didn't quite expect the aftermath to be so violent. The nebula is irradiated from the Bolse's detonation, and right now the Venomian armada there is gathering up for a final push through to Corneria. Both sides have been circling around each other, taking potshots as they can, but the Second Fleet is definitely out of the fight as far as we're concerned."

"How is She?" Bill asked quietly.

"Corneria is currently fending off ground troops. The orbital defenses were bypassed within twelve hours. Casualties on both sides militarily are staggering, but they are definitely making a push at the capital."

"What about that hired help?"

"Not happening."

"Well, damnit, sir!"

"I know, Captain." The Commander puffed at a cigar, sighing. "Well, I'd like to hear your report."

"Well, as of now I've taken the survivors of the 242nd and have placed them under my command to fill up for the losses we sustained today. They claim the transport made it through the gate to Fichina about as safe as can be. Hopefully the local squadrons over there haven't had the same problems in the vac as we have. The 87th reported a series of gate transmission contacts within the Katina sphere of influence from the same direction as Solar, and looking at the long range scanning data, it's my opinion that we're next on the invasion list. From what SOCOM has told us, we're facing off against the First Vangaurd, same fleet that Andross used to secure Zoness, Macbeth, and the outposts on Titania. Same guys that Beltino Toad at Cornerian R and D was warning us about their activities around the star itself. "

"Busy little bees." Thinking for a moment, the Commander turned away for a long while before gazing back at Bill. "How soon can we expect them overhead?"

"Ten hours sir."

"Well, we should at least welcome them."

"The 87th is still fully operational, and we can spare the 104th for a preemptive-"

"Yeah." The feline was prone to cutting off his people when he agreed with what they were saying. "I'm giving you control on this one. Get your people moving."

Without waiting to be dismissed, Bill saluted, and marched out of the office, while tapping several keys on his wristwatch. Within moments, indicators sprang to life on its LCD, indicating the twenty-nine pilots of his command acknowledged his summons to the flight deck. Around the base, these men and women made their way to the deck to begin emergency preparations of their craft.

Next, he put in a call to the Captain of the 87th, Miyu Lynxara. Her face sprang up on a small holo projected from the watch.

"Kitty, I need to know your OpStat."

"We're tired as you can probably imagine. Have something in mind?"

"It's about the First Vangaurd. Commander wants us to soften them up some before they arrive, and we will not get another chance. Professional assessment, you think you can put up a Full Launch of the 87th to provide us some additional craft?"

"Seems like this is a rush job, Captain."

"Isn't it always?" He decided that he rather liked her challenging tone whenever they spoke to one another.

"If I had it my way, Captain sir, I'd tell the Venomians to get lost for a day or two to give my boys and girls some sleep. We've been flying twelve hour Combat Air Patrols around the immediate Katina system since the War Warning went out, I want to give the recent flight sleep if at all possible. You have half of us, myself included." She purred. "That ought to be enough to cover your sorry butt, Captain Puppy sir." She bared teeth with that smile.

"It's exactly what I want to hear. Try not to get lost on your way to the flight deck with your crew."

"Getting lost is a canine thing, last I heard." She laughed as she signed off. Bill shook his head. She's taking the occupation of Zoness really well, he thought. Part of him said for him to pull her off of this 'rush job' for the sleep she was obviously needing, the time to write a letter home or to get into contact with any family on the ocean planet, but the last time he'd tried to do anything considerate for her, when she'd snapped her arm during a training exercise, she'd gotten her panties in a bunch over it, accusing him of treating her like a woman and not a soldier. She'd then gone on to worsen the injury by trying to fly with a cast on, and that had finally gotten her to stay off of the flight line. No, it was probably best that he left her on the line, if only to spare him the lecture he'd likely get from her regarding male-female participation and ability in the military, and he really couldn't deny her skill in a fighter.

He checked his PDA for the current up to the minute update on the advancing First Venomian Vanguard. At last count, they had two carriers, well over three dozen other smaller vessels. His flight of forty-five would be up against at least two hundred fighters, but they didn't need to actually stick around and dance with the lizard and ape aviators when they could just launch forty-five BUL-13 Nova Bombs into the battle group as the biggest wake up call anyone this side of the Lylat system could ask for. Elsewhere, the Cornerian military was being beaten back, but at least at Katina, they were still relatively fresh and ready to repel an assault. For a limited time, in any case.

KATINA, COMMAND CENTER
GST 03072216, 1420 HOURS

"Awright boys and girls, here's the gameplan, we fly in hard and fast. Shoot and scoot, troop transports are high priority, bombardment craft are next. Once you have fired your Nova, disengage at make best speed for gate transmission to the First Lagrange." Bill's voice was clear over the tac net, the upcoming drama for the controllers and the Commander playing out as a series icons marked by display windows with realtime relays of the combined 104th and 87th pilots. The cat was puffing furiously on his pipe, and everyone in the command center was focused on the red and green arrows that angled in on one another, many hundred thousands of kilometers away in the vac.

"Roger that, Husky Lead." Captain Lynxara spoke, the false calm tempered by experience already dripping from her voice. They all sounded bored.

"Waypoint in thirty seconds."

"I'm seeing drives lighting up. Confirming fighter presence around strike area."

"Lead, capships are turning to bring guns to bear, we are targets!" announced Husky Four.

"Keep closing, ripple fire on mark."

"Roge."

"Incoming."

"Break break break-"

"Heavy fire, watch the beam-"

One face near an icon held an expression of extreme terror for one moment before being wiped away by flame and static.

"Ten seconds kids, keep 'em jumping."

"Four's down-"

"Got fighters in range, permission to engage." Miyu said, her voice now laced with tension.

"Reign it in, Miyu." Bill, calm still.

"Kibbles, he's on you!" she cried now.

"Shields down to thirty, cant shake this ape."

"Markmarkmark!" Bill cried. From the green arrows, blue markings indicating the Nova Bombs being released, racing in on the larger red contacts. Smaller reds were beginning to swarm the green group. Having gated in so close was a risk, but it gave the Cornerians a chance to at least release before the bulk of the fighter cover came into play.

"Shields down. Captain I'm in-"

"I see him, roll to evade, gimme a shot Kibs!"

"Captain Lynxara, bail Kibs out of that situation and disengage ASAP."

"That's a goddamned ROGER!"

"-hit! HOTAS control gone-" Kibbles, fading in and out through static, his green dot moving erratically from the pack of fleeing Cornerians, his thrusters clearly shot.

"Come on Lead, give us some-" Miyu, her voice shaking with emotions caught between rage and fear.

"Miyu, where you at kitten he's coming ba-" Kibbles, for all the world sounding like a sports commentator. His face on the display was replaced by static.

"THEY JUST KILLED KIBBLES!" Miyu roared over the tac net. Seemingly in sympathy, five small red contacts vanished from the displays.

"DISENGAGE." Bill repeated.

"-can't shake this one-"

"-boxed in, can't break-"

"I'm hit! I'm-"

Static.

"PERMISSION TO ENGAGE, I'VE NEVER LOST A WINGMAN! NEVER!" Miyu was still howling at what had become of her second in command.

"Reign it in." Bill said, sounding not much better. "Command, we're going to need some assistance." With that, the Commander stood up from his chair and marched over to the communications officer.

"Get me the 25th. Now."

KATINA SYSTEM, FORWARD EDGE OF BATTLE AREA
GST 03072216, 1422 HOURS

Within the one minute of contact, Bill was down seven craft. The Venomian response was faster than anticipated, but not fast enough. Of the forty five craft that had gone out, only one was unable to launch their bomb, and of those, thirty found targets in the oncoming First Vangaurd, the detonations turning the night into day for a long moment. Now all he could do was to control the situation the best he could until help arrived, but they had bought themselves some time. The enemy fleet ground to a halt in the distance to take stock of what just hit them, so for the time being, it was fighter to fighter, with very stacked odds against the Cornerians. There was little to no time to actually call out orders any more, and the tac net was reduced to strained grunts and heavy breathing, with occasional kill confirms. Even Miyu had quieted down. They were all officially in a furball, and no amount of calling to disengage was going to change the fact that they simply couldn't, so Bill merely told his people to find a dance partner and stick nice and close.

His fighter bucked at his command, thrusters lighting up and shaking the fighter like a rat caught within the mouth of an angry hound. A wrenching spiral to his right put him at a Venomian's back, and in that short moment, Bill immolated the target with a short barrage from his laser cannons. He continued his spiral, avoiding another Venomian that was coming apart under the sustained fire of Miyu's craft, and as she passed him by, Bill halved another hostile with a dozen shots down it's center, that pilot dead well before his craft reduced itself to flame and fragments of armor. Finding himself on the 'edge' of the firestorm his flight was in, he banked around, spotting another target, alone and without friends, and put this one to rest as well, before boosting back into the melee.

An alarm sounded, indicators lighting up and a reticule marking an inbound missile, almost head on. He went ballistic, a booster climb and roll, popping countermeasures, small cartridges that suddenly expanded into a shape that was roughly similar to that of his craft, transmitting the same IFF codes. For being a simple AI, the missile did not change course, adjusting to lead his craft slightly. If he kept his course it would hit him midship for a definite hard kill. He jinked right, then hard left, turning back at the oncoming projectile.

Deep breath.

Three more countermeasures.

Exhale.

MOVE he screamed in his mind. Nose over. The cushion of the seat shoving itself into his back. Explosions and stars blurring across his vision. A violent tremor.

Miss.

"Found you!" he cried out, spotting the craft that had put him on the defensive. The small, dart-like craft opened up first, red bolts spilling out of its cannons, a deluge of plasma directed for him. Bill shifted the fighter hard to the right with a last moment thruster burn rolling away from the line of fire, countering with shots of his own. Both craft blitzed past one another, neither pilot successful. Bill turned to follow, as did the hostile, and they crossed paths once more, mere meters apart. Again, another pass, this time the Venomian had a decent angle, getting off a short burst of plasma fire. Bill's craft shook in protest, several diagnostics lit up his HUD. Instinctively, he hit his reverse thrusters as hard as they could take him, taking him out of the rolling pattern he'd been weaving. The enemy pilot saw this and countered by flipping the his own craft one hundred and eighty degrees to face down the Cornerian as they charged back at one another. Green and red light flashed between both craft. Bill flew through an expanding cloud of debris. Rolling once in victory, Bill managed a half salute to his surprisingly skilled opponent, partly relieved to see an escape pod breaking away and out of the fight.

"Captain Gray, this is Captain Saru. Two Five is inbound hot. Looks like they know it too. Seeing thruster burns, now in the direction of the Venomian fleet. Think they're calling it."

"Confirming." Miyu said quietly. "Enemy is withdrawing." With that, cheers filled the tac net for a few moments before Bill made it clear that they were to stay under radio silence until their gate drives powered back up and they were safely in orbit over Katina.

Eleven pilots down, over thirty six confirmed fighter kills, and the long range sensor and telescopic intel on the First Vangaurd said that the larger ships were all out of the fight for now, and a large number of the ground invasion forces, the large saucer like troop transports were missing from the fleet, their debris scattered for thousands of kilometers around. The ratio was good, eleven of his for thousands of theirs, and eleven of his for potentially more time to hold out against a ground assault when it did come, as they all knew it would. They were up against numbers, not necessarily skill, which didn't make the fact that eleven of his people died any less painful to him. As they fled, the 25th flying trail in case the Venomians decided to turn back for a second round, he sought out Captain Lynxara's craft, pulling along side. He switched to a private frequency, and started to raise her on it, but stopped.

Her helmet was clearly off, floating in the cockpit, her face buried in her hands, shoulders shaking, a small fist occasionally pounding the canopy fiercely.

Sorry was all he could think.

The gate out of the op zone was the most relief he'd ever felt after a good and proper firefight, seeing the planet spreading out beneath him, seeing it turn orange as his fighter burned in through the atmosphere for reentry was calming, the adrenaline from the fight just now beginning to wear away. Rest now, more fighting later, of this he could be assured.

Author's Note: Picked up Star Fox Command on the DS the other day, and thought 'Hey, I like Star Fox. Hey, I like writing. When I am not lazy, anyway. Why not?' So here ya go! Please read and review! Tell me whatcha like, or dislike. Hope this is enjoyable.