Having bailed out of the rec room during a break between AG-races on the telescreen, Miyu was sneaking down the hallways of the Great Fox towards the infirmary. Having watched the racing ships go nose to nose across the finish line had given her a thrill and she wanted to capitalise on it - only one person on the ship actually had a racing craft, and Caiman wasn't letting go of it at the moment. Perhaps going straight to the MP8/10's owner wouldn't hurt her chances of a test flight…
Alfonso had been staying for the most part with his friend Condemned in the med bay, though he was at least honest enough to admit that he didn't feel comfortable around the street fighters without one of his own to watch his back. It said a lot about exactly how much the mercenaries in the army trusted each other, and Fox wasn't happy about it at all.
Miyu bit her lip a little as she thought about how frustrated her captain had been these last few days. Ever since the successful extraction of data from the Janissary, Sparks and Slippy had been trying to make head or tail of the code that Cyrene was using, occasionally drafting those with language skills in to help sort out foreign languages. Progress was slow, and Fox was getting restless. He'd even chosen to watch the Grand Prix in his own chamber, instead of in the rec room along with most of the rest of the army.
Fay had been doing her best to cheer the fox up, but there wasn't any noticeable improvement from either of them concerning the swan admiral currently giving them a headache. Miyu had been called names too many times in her life to care about how Cyrene was addressing her, but she knew that it was personal for the dog.
She entered the corridor to the med bay, not having met anyone else on the way - those not watching the late-night race were asleep or in their rooms, and so she met little resistance on her way to the bay. The door was closed, but the green light showed that entry was possible if so wanted. Low voices were coming from behind the door which Miyu could identify as the two cats. She pushed the door open slowly, and the voices suddenly became clearer, and made her stop.
"Hello, is that Lading Mental Hospital? We'd like to speak with one of your patients." Miyu recognised Lading as being one of the principle towns of Zoness, though why De La Rosa would be contacting it in here was a mystery to her.
"May I ask who is calling, and who you'd like to speak to?" asked a kind, matronly voice, obviously over the video speaker, and this time it was the red tom who answered - revealing something about himself that the lynx had long expected, and was now answered.
"We would like to talk to Alyssa Strype. Please tell her that it is Panther and Sabre who are calling." Miyu ducked behind one of the green partition curtains to listen in - though she couldn't see the two cats nor their screen, she could hear what was going on.
"Of course! Yes, it's very nice of you gentlemen to call. I'll get Alyssa right away," the voice replied, and Miyu had to stifle a look of disbelief. Condemned and Alfonso - 'gentlemen'? Though she reminded herself that they probably weren't those names any more - unless they were also false pseudonyms, and the two cats had lied to the mental hospital nurse.
"You think she'll be allright?" asked the newly re-christened Panther, and Miyu strained her good ear for Sabre's response.
"She had nothing wrong with her mind. It was a problem with her brain. She was not ill to begin with," came a terse reply, and the black cat took it as a sign to shut up. Eventually, scuffling was heard from the video screen, and the matronly nurse's voice was heard once again.
"Allright boys, here she is. I'll be keeping a nurse in the room with her to look after her, but apart from that, feel free to talk," she said politely, and Miyu raised an eyebrow as the two male cats snorted a little once the matron had disappeared. It was only a second or two before a new voice came on.
"Panther! Sabre! Oh, it's so good to see you two again… what happened to you?" the female voice broke off as its' owner no doubt noticed the state that Sabre was in.
"We can't give you details, well, truth be told we could - but I don't think our employer would like it if we did," Panther said, after a minute or two of the red tom's silence. The female voice replied almost as soon as he had finished speaking, in a concerned but also friendly term.
"Well, I'll trust you to look after yourselves from now on. It looks serious, did you get shot or stabbed?"
"Shot," replied Sabre shortly. "I took them down in the end, but it is difficult when they are at range and I am not. Miyu rolled her eyes, thinking that this wouldn't have happened if Sabre would actually carry a blaster with him. Apparently Slippy was working on something for the cat that wouldn't get in the way of his sword play, but the lynx was still sceptical.
"Well, I'm sure you'll make a good recovery. You were back in the club only about a day after you got the living daylights kicked out of you?" Aha, this was a bit more interesting.
"Nothing could keep me away from the 'Seven Aces' if I could get there," Panther said with a smile, and Miyu noted that he was using the first person. Whenever he spoke to her, Fay, Lucy or Katt, it was always in the third person. A form of respect for his closest friends, perhaps?
"Also, I do not know if it was so much we or the others who were badly hurt," said Sabre smugly. Panther snorted derisively, but the woman they were talking to seemed agree with the red cat.
"Come on boys, both of you almost needed your ears sewn on after that night," the voice insisted, and Miyu stifled a laugh. This woman had a sense of dry humour. "But you were both so brave. I can't thank either of you enough…" Damn, there went the tough outlook with the soppy comment. That was worthy of Fay in her softest, complete with pink ribbons around her ears. Now giving in to the urge to see who was talking, Miyu poked her head around the edge of the curtain she was looking at to get a view of the woman on the vidiscreen.
The first thought was envy - Miyu was looking at a feline girl much more attractive and well formed than she was, and her good ear twitched irritably. However she then noticed that the tigress' whiskers were frayed at the edges, and her cheek fur was ruffled in a rather unattractive way. The final thing was that she had her hands bound - maybe cuffed or tied - round her back, and as stated before, she was in a mental hospital. The lynx found herself out looking at the woman for a little too long, however, and she was spotted by the woman on the screen.
"Hey, who's that over there?" she asked, pointing at the screen. The tufted cat threw herself behind the curtain once more, but a quiet padding of footsteps was enough to make her understand she had been found out, and was being pursued. Not wishing to make any more problems, she stepped out to meat whichever of the cats it was that was coming for her.
"Lynx…" growled the newly re-christened Alfonso De La Rosa as he lowered his slender and light handgun from between her eyes. "You could have knocked."
"I was interested," Miyu said brazenly, looking back at the panther with solid purple eyes. Lynxes as a general rule were small cats, but Miyu and her brother had both fortunately overcome the usual height deficits for the race. Miyu couldn't remember her parents or elder brother's stature, and she reasoned it made no difference anyway.
"Then let her come. Ask questions. Our relationship with Alyssa is not something to be hidden behind locked doors," Sabre murmured, his torso leaning from behind the screen to beckon Miyu and Panther forward. The black cat was there first, and slumped down on the bed down from his friend, looking at the newly arrived woman with some dissatisfaction. The tigress on the video screen however was a little more co-operative.
"Hey there - My name is Alyssa. These boys used to be my personal bodyguards," she explained kindly, settling back into a more comfortable position in the communicator chair. "From the newspapers I've seen, you must be Miyu Lynx. Pleased to meet you."
"The same," she replied, her eyes flickering to the two male cats to watch their faces for an expression of sorts. Sabre still held the stony and unmoving expression he almost always wore when not talking to someone, and Panther was grimacing a little.
"I was a singer and dancer at a nightclub where these two came often - Panther was a customer, Sabre was a guard. There was one night when the crowd got crazy, and tried to beat me to death. Those two threw all the others off me and took me back to my dressing room. They looked after me for about a month after that, before I was sent here by my superiors," the tigress explained, glancing around the room she was in. Miyu tilted her head a little, nodding.
"Sorry I was eavesdropping. I came to ask Alf… Panther if I could take his ship out for a spin sometime," Miyu began, but the black cat cut her off with a scoff.
"The McLaren? No. Panther drives Panther's ship, and also those who Panther trusts with it. Panther doesn't trust Miyu So yet," he said, shooting Miyu a hard look, who returned it for a second until she realised the name he'd used for her.
"How the hell did you find out about my family?" she roared, leaping forward with feral speed to grab the black cat's shoulders, sinking her claws through the thin shirt and flesh of Caruso and resulting in confused yelling from all four members of the current conversation. It was the matron from earlier who quieted the three-way struggle on the Great Fox side of the telecommunications by barking out a 'stop' command harshly as soon as she was called over by Alyssa.
"I think Alyssa had best go now, or perhaps she could talk to Mr Sabre, and Mrs Miyu and Mr Panther can take their conversation elsewhere." The two orange and black striped cats glared at their fellows, who growling in displeasure, left the room. The hare matron was apologised to by Sabre before she left, allowing Sabre and Alyssa to catch up on - something unusual for the former - small talk.
It only took about a minute or so for Miyu to find a secluded and quiet enough place to start having a go at the black cat once more, her face contorted into a snarling hiss of anger. Panther was perhaps a little more prepared this time, but still found himself uncomfortably face to face with the tufted cat, her claws sinking into his neck.
"Am I going to get an answer, or to I have to tear it out of your skull myself?" she hissed maliciously, her fangs bared in front of the panther's golden eyes, which flinched only a little.
"Ms So, you're hardly the only child of embarrassing rich parents - Panther just didn't run away at such a young age so he never heard any of his parents' deals and business associates," he said coolly, but matching Miyu's stare like for like. "The arrow stripe on your forehead is the same as your mother's," he added, coaxing a growl from the lynx.
"I hardly need to know that," she snapped. "And for your information, I didn't run away. They abandoned me and my brother - so we've abandoned them," she said coldly. "Don't you ever use my birth name again, or I'll stick a rifle so far up your ass that…"
"Is there a problem here?" Both cats looked round to see primarily a blaster muzzle pointed in the general direction of Caruso, belonging to a blue-feathered avian. Miyu released her claws from his neck, licking them clean before retracting them into her fingers, and stepping away from the still black cat. Panther's hand had eased away from his own weapon, both hands folded in plain sight of Falco to show he had no weapons on him.
"Not one that should be around for much longer," Miyu said icily, glancing over her shoulder as she stood next to Falco, lowering his arm with a hand of her own about his wrist, though the frosty looks remained. Panther's hackles raised a little, but he didn't show any outward displeasure.
"Alfonso will leave you two together," he said shortly, not revealing his 'true' name to Falco, turning on his heel and striding away towards the infirmary, probably to continue the conversation with Alyssa, and to stem the bleeding from Miyu's claws.
"He'd fragging well better," muttered the falcon, holstering his weapon and then turning to the lynx beside him. "It was on stun. If he was giving you hassle, you've got the headshot in your hands," he said with a smile. A fanged grin was sent back in return.
"Such a gentleman," she purred, running a claw down Falco's cheek. His beak curved into a smile as he let a hand curl around her waist.
"Shall we get back to the races? Käirrönen might be in for the win this time…"
The roar of the crowd and scream of the antigravity engines was muted to nothing but dim background static as Fox pored over the data trails that Slippy had recently handed him. Apparently, this was the first coherent piece of data that had been extracted from the Janissary, but it was all still meaningless to the vulpine as he shook his head, scowling at the mocking data-slates. Grand Prix day was usually a day where Fox would forget everything else and enjoy the spectacle along with all the others, but the Cyrene business just wouldn't leave his head. He had to get this woman some way or another, yet there was nothing that was helping. Highlighter wands lay unused by his knees, abandoned as there didn't seem to be any words that made sense at all, let alone relevant phrases.
"Damn her to Sol and back…" he whispered, throwing another slate onto the pile that he had given up on ages ago. The thin wafer of a minicomputer clattered along with the others on a precariously leaning tower that threatened to fall off his bed. He didn't want to bother with the others he had, and yet this was his responsibility as Captain of the ship to help out, and Wolf wasn't one for doing desk jobs - to the point where he threatened to use weapons to deadly effect if he was made to sift through them.
A knock on his door provided a welcome distraction, and he unfolded his tired limbs from his body, shuffling over to the door and letting it slide open. The now familiar sensation of his eyes widening and his ears flushing came back to him as he saw Fay at the door.
"I brought you something to eat," she said, holding out a couple of sandwiches as she entered the room, only briefly glancing around at the scruffiness of the room. Fox smiled, brushing some of the files away to make space for the white dog as she sat down, passing him a plate so he didn't get crumbs onto his bed.
"Fanks," he mumbled through a mouthful of bread and meat paste, swallowing as he caught Fay's sceptical look at him - she'd always liked having good table manners, something drummed into her from when she was a puppy; and though she never enforced them on the members of her mercenary team, particularly when eating alone with someone she tried to at least make sure they didn't crumb everywhere.
"Not getting anywhere?" she asked quietly, picking up the data slates and staring at it for a while, then turning it upside down and trying to make sense of that. Giving up a fair bit earlier than Fox had, the spaniel tossed it onto the pile, which teetered precariously for a moment, then stayed still. Both canines looked at each other for a moment, then burst into laughter at the sheer ridiculousness of it.
"Absolutely none. The techies have run it though every translator they can think of, but there's no hint of sense within it. Have you got some good news for me besides the sandwiches?" Fox asked, swallowing down his food and glancing at Fay. She shook her head, ears drooping lower than usual, and his heart sank a little.
"I got a message from Fara," she said, referring of course to the daughter of the CEO of Phoenix Enterprises. "She says she has a feeling she knows how Cyrene is getting so many fresh ships and means to repair the old ones in the Ship Graves - and it's legitimate," she said glumly, to which Fox's tail froze.
"How come?" he asked. Fay sighed.
"Apparently, she was talking to LEGION's headquarters recently, and they've been given shipping rights to transport all their surplus Midgets to a out-of-the-way space port somewhere near the Epsilon system. They've had to also transfer a couple of their top mechanics to the port as well." Fox's muzzle broke into a smile, and his face lit up.
"How is that bad news? We have a lead, we only need to ask Fara to take us to the LEGION guy…" Fox began, but he noticed at the flinch of Fay's head that there was something that couldn't be done with that proposal.
"Fara's just been kidnapped," Fay said sullenly, to which Fox's ears shot up, and his hackles raised. "I don't know by who - she was at her own flat, and suddenly she said she heard a knock at the door and went to answer it." The dog was shivering a little. "There was a fight - lots of shouting and swearing and Fara screamed at the end of it." Fox stared dumbstruck at the dog.
"Did… did anyone else know of this arrangement?" Fox asked, trying to keep a level head, joining the dots in his head. If LEGION, the company known for mass-producing ships by the million, was supplying Cyrene, and Fara had just been kidnapped, it couldn't be a co-incidence that it was one of the two villains in Fox's mind that had abducted the fennec fox. Fay glanced at him for a moment before replying.
"Apparently, she was given a hint by Makati Kasogi," she said, wondering what the tod was thinking at the moment. Fox mulled this over - Kasogi was a racing driver, and glanced up at the screen showing the race. He flicked through the cameras until he found the one he was looking for - in a deep blue ship with white stripes adorning it, a red panda was wrestling with the controls of a poor ship.
"This is something deep," Fox said quietly, shaking his head. "It's not something that we can sort out with guns and blasters. We need diplomacy, but we need Fara back as well." Fay's face brightened at the determination in the vulpine's voice.
"So what are we going to do?" she asked. Fox mulled this over for only a second or two before he got off his bed, offering Fay a hand for her to follow.
"We're going to Corneria, and we're going to find Kasogi," Fox said bravely, taking the white dog from the bed, and the two of them leaving Fox's room, hurrying through the corridors to the changing rooms. "Flight suits," Fox said, heading into the male section, quickly slipping into his green and red one, with gold trim - a gift from his tailor after his victory over the Venomians in the Lylat War. He wished that it was another straight fight this time, not just mercenaries and independent companies flickering around with undistinguishable loyalties; but he hadn't taken command of the Great Fox without steeling himself for any sort of fight his rag-tag bunch of mercenaries were dragged into.
"Do you think this'll work?" asked Fay, emerging from the woman's area, having wriggled into her white and green flight suit. Fox buttoned up the front of his, pulling a gun-belt from his locker, and shrugged.
"I don't know, Fay. But I'm not going to let Fara get lost like that, and this racer's the only lead we have," he said, clipping a pair of grenades to his side. "C'mon, to the Arwings," he said again, trying to sound businesslike, but Fay tugged on his tail as he started to leave. Stifling the yelp, Fox turned to see Fay looking at him with serious, and slightly frightened eyes.
"Fox, you may be my captain, but I'm not sure you know exactly what you're doing here. You're flying off into dangerous territory, into some political war, without any battle plan," she said, placing a hand on his arm. "I don't want you to make any rash decisions - you're a key player in this army, and we can't afford to lose you," Fox blinked, looking down at Fay's hand, and sighed.
"Fay, I need to do something here. I don't want to just sit around here watching telescreen while Cyrene gets a bigger and bigger fleet, and if it means chasing up a lead early, I'm going to do it. If you'd prefer I went alone, didn't bring you. I wouldn't mind…" he started, but Fay shook her head.
"I'll come with you. I just want to be sure you know what you're doing," the dog insisted, and Fox nodded, giving a little smile.
"We're going to Flower Rise. By the time we get there, the race will be over, and the backmarkers will have returned back to their houses back there, including Kasogi. We ask him for information, even if he can just point us in the right direction, and then we check out this LEGION headquarters," he said, referring to the set of luxury apartments usually lived in by racing pilots and drivers, on a distant and unpolluted continent of Corneria. Fay nodded as she heard the idea in total, and removed her hand from Fox's body, giving the fox a smile.
"All right captain, lead on."
It was incredible how much architecture could change in such short a distance, thought Fay as she glanced away from Flower Rise to where a huge, ugly racing factory was situated. It belonged to a relatively new team to the racing world, and so they'd set up as cheap a place as they could, not even bothering to paint the outside of their new factory with their team colours. In contrast, Flower Rise stood like a sparkling gem at the top of a hill; tall sky scrapers painted in flawless cream colours with gold gilt on the sides, inside a complex filled with freshly-mown grass, colour-arranged flowers and trees that seemed to be trying to compete with the buildings.
"I'd love to live here," she murmured to herself, looking at a gorgeous pink flower with three large petals seem to flop in the breeze and stare at her. Fox seemed to be admiring the nature too, but he was too determined on his mission to properly stop and allow his wing mate to admire the gardens. Makati Kasogi's apartment was one of the lower-level ones, as befitted a backmarker in the racers, who mostly there to appease the sponsors. As such, when the two pilots were buzzed into the building, they left the express lift to the higher floors well alone. Kasogi was already out of his rooms, greeting the two as they left the lift, bowing respectfully and ushering them into his apartment.
"Wow…" Fox whistled despite himself as he stepped into the gorgeous, well-lit atrium - easily as big as his room aboard the Great Fox. The red panda gave a momentary grin at the two mercenaries' stunned expressions, but then hurried on into another room to the left.
"Thank you for coming," he said in his quiet, high voice, not looking over his shoulder to make sure that the two had entered behind him. The lights flicked on with a snap of his fingers to illuminate a study, letters stacked impeccably neatly on one side of a bamboo desk, other files and stationary also placed away in a sort of neatness that would make Fay's father seethe with jealousy, she thought.
"What sort of information have you got?" Fox asked, obviously eager to get to the point. The racer nodded, turning round with a series of photos in hand. Fay took them, flicking through them with rapidly widening eyes. Fox took a couple once Fay had finished looking at them, and he began to mirror her expression.
"LEGION offered me a place as one of their pilots, as I have many sponsors and a good fan base, and I came to take a look round their factory. They were planning on partnering me with Fara Phoenix, to try and lure Phoenix Enterprises away from Arspace Dynamics," he explained, seating himself on a cushioned stool. "Neither of us were going to accept the offer - I'm very happy with Stellar Racing, and Tauv would never agree whatever his daughter did, but we decided to take a look around. I took those photos, Fara managed to get verbal information off some of the workers." He stopped for a moment to get three cups of water, leaving both mercenaries staring in awe at the pictures.
"Was this what they were going to tempt you with?" asked Fox, turning round a picture he was holding, showing a massive, sleek and sharp craft that was glinting in the light of the factory in the photo. Kasogi shook his head.
"I thought so, but that's just a model, a model of another craft, being made by Piranha - it seems LEGION want the prototype that's going to be released at the air show in three weeks' time…" Kasogi barely needed to finish before the two Star Fox members twigged on.
"They're going to take it by force!" squeaked Fay in shock. Fox's expression was more thunderous.
"Cyrene!" he exclaimed angrily. "She'll get them the prototype, LEGION takes it apart, finds out what goes on inside, sells it at high volume, makes cash, and provides Cyrene with the surplus…" he trailed off, seeing the red panda's bemused expression, and apologised. "Acquaintance of ours," he said, pocketing the photos. However, Fay appeared a little confused, and her hand was slipping towards the buckle of her blaster.
"How did you manage to contact us - Fara wouldn't have given you our contact details…" she mused, and Fox looked up, his brow furrowed in thought. Come to think of it, that was a good question. Kasogi was smiling at them both.
"She didn't give them willingly," he said, raising his own blaster and loosing off two stun shots at the canids' torsos. Both mercenaries were already tensed and ready, so they didn't quite topple backwards like the red panda was hoping, but sank to their knees slowly, the shock of betrayal written all over their faces before their eyes closed and they slumped to the floor.
"I'm sorry, Fay." There was a sigh from behind him, and a ripple through the electro-cuffs they were bound with.
"Fox, that's the twentieth time you've said that. I've told you, it wasn't all your fault, and if we can get out of here, I'll forgive you," the white dog replied irritably, attempting to kick against her bound feet. Both canids had woken up, one feeling like idiot of the year, the other feeling foolish for being such a sheep. Fay would have to reassess how much she would rebuke commands in the future.
One thing running through both Fox and Fay's minds at the moment was exactly what was going to happen to them at the moment - they appeared to be inside a storage room of some sort, well-kept, as the strip lighting above them hadn't flickered once, and the shelves were made of fresh, clean metal, the fruit and vegetables on them fresh, cardboard boxes dry and upright. They were currently bound back-to-back around a pole running down the middle of the room, electro-cuffs binding their hands, feet and necks. As expected, their firearms, grenades, comm.-links and ship ignition systems were gone, though that paled in comparison to the fact that both their flight suits had been taken, leaving them in their underclothes. Apparently, a note of some sort was taped to their chests, but given that their necks were cuffed together, they couldn't look down to see what was on it.
Fox was trying not to think too much about the situation in question at the moment, or at least to make it into a humorous situation in his head, trying to avoid thinking about his screw-up with following the lead given. Had Fara been aware of Kasogi's involvement when she made that video call? Was she in the league as well?
"This would be a much better situation if the girl I was with was psychically latent," thought Fox dryly, imagining Fay dressed as a mage, a quick muttered word deactivating the electric charge between the handcuffs, and sending a fireball rocketing down the corridors, helping them both to freedom. Maybe he'd meet someone like that later.
Fay, on the other hand, was seething inside, though doing her best to quell it. She'd been a little apprehensive at the start of this mission, and her fears had been confirmed - it was a trap, and now she was stuck here; all thanks to Fox, and she couldn't even give him a piece of her mind, whether to slap him as hard as she could, or give him a playful lick and forgive him. If she got out of this in one piece, she'd be spending a good week or two back at her parents' house before she went back to the Great Fox. Damn this woman Cyrene! Why did she want Fox so badly, and why did she want her dead?
"Fox?" she eventually said, breaking the uncomfortable silence between the two. Fox's ear flickered a little, but he looked up.
"I think now'd be a good time to actually tell me something about Cyrene. I think I'm entitled to know your history, given that she's trying to kill me and I don't know the whole reasons why," she said bluntly, staring at the opposite wall with her now steely blue eyes. Fox paused for a moment, and then nodded.