Author's Notes: Well, here it starts. This is the rewrite to my previous story, The Saurian Gambit. Based on your feedback, I decided to change things around a little bit. Firstly, even though the prologue might delve a bit onto what happened to Cerinia, rest assured that the plot will be much closer to the SFA game than the original story. I also decided to start out with Krystal's POV instead of Brian's... hopeful I don't write her in as too much of an emotional wreck, but the loss she experiences coupled with what happens when she finds herself on Sauria is going to be a central element of the story. Brian's part comes in on the next chapter; you will find I have done some changes to him as well.
You won't find rampant OCs in this story, and I haven't fully decided if the canon Star Fox team will really play a part, either. If enough of you want Fox and Co. to play a part, I will definitely write them in, but it will be closer to the end than the beginning in any case. The only human OC in any case will be Brian. I have the next chapter already written, but I want to get people's opinions on this piece before releasing it. That one will be a bit more action-packed, believe me.
My profuse thanks to JyrFalcon345 for a great deal of help and ideas surrounding this rewrite, as well as everyone who chimed in with their thoughts about doing this rewrite. I cooked up this particular scene just tonight, so let me know what you guys think.
Prologue: Innocence Lost.
Even though it was in the early hours of the morning, the Great Hall was packed with Cerinians. The massive stone structure was one of the main buildings in the small city of Cassat... home to the Family of Haleth. One could almost taste the excitement in the air, even at the late hour as it was. The one hundred fifty-four blue-furred vulpines present were there to witness a great event... an Ascendancy of one of the hopefuls from the Council Family.
The rituals of Ascendancy were much like a coming of age, although only those Cerinians that had aptitude in an Aspect of the Art were able to undergo the trials. The trials were ancient, and the few who were chosen to take them regarded it as the highest honor possible... other than joining the Cerinian High Council.
One of the two Cerinian honor guards at the doors of the Hall turned around, addressing the gathering with words that held much promise. "The candidate approaches! She has obtained the Weight of Trials!" Everyone turned around to look out the door... seeing a lone figure bearing a large stone start to scale the steps leading to the building.
Carrying the Weight was the last trial to be endured before completing the Ascendancy. The physical endurance of the candidate was tested to the breaking point, as Council members were expected to be strong in the body as well as the mind. The heavy stone was carried for a distance that would equate to twelve miles in human terms, and a weight of nearly ninety pounds.
The figure entered the building, dressed in the traditional clothing of candidates taking the Trials. She was clad in ceremonial pauldrons, bracers and greaves, and clothed only in the top and loincloth that was mandated by tradition. She held the stone in both arms, and her exhaustion was noticed by everyone... even those without an sort of telepathic ability. The vixen continued without a word to the end of the Hall where three other Cerinians stood expectantly, dressed in flowing white robes... Priests of Melos.
Slowly and reverently, she set the Weight down in front of the priests, only then allowing herself to take a few deep breaths. "The child has returned to the fold, only not a child any longer." She had to keep a straight face for the end of the ritual, but inside she knew she was triumphant and wanted to cheer. "Please pass your judgment on me, servants of the Creator."
The head priest knelt down and placed his paws on the Weight... offering the young vixen a soft smile as he did so. The Weight also held the experiences of the candidate's Trials, and would be used to judge if she had performed her given tasks acceptably. "You are a child no longer, Krystal of Family Haleth. You have performed admirably, and Melos is pleased to have a Guardian such as yourself."
Krystal grinned, even through her exhaustion. She had made it... her years of training in the Art had not been for naught. She would eventually become a Council Member, and stand by her parents at the proceedings... and she would help guide her homeworld and keep it safe. It was something every Cerinian dreamed of doing, and something so few actually got the chance to pursue. "Thank you, Teacher." She beamed up at the priest, who had been her mentor and teacher since she was a little kit. "I am glad I have not failed any of you."
"And for that trust, you have earned the right to become a Guardian, Krystal." He held out his paw, and one of the other priests handed him an object. Barely a foot and a half long, it was the traditional weapon of a Guardian as well as the symbol of their duties to protect Cerinia. The staff extended in the priest's paw, and he gently lowered it to the vixen. "Take your place amongst us, and do us honor." With trembling paws, Krystal grasped the staff. It was lighter than she expected it to be, yet she had been taught from her training classes that they were infused with magical energy and almost indestructible.
Applause shot through the audience, and Krystal was confronted with a throng of her family, friends, and even some strangers offering their congratulations and well wishes. She startled as a pair of arms wound around her, sweeping her up into a hug. She looked behind her, her excited puzzlement turning into an expression of relief. "Maloc!" she cried. "You managed to come!"
Maloc was her brother, a slightly taller and more heavily built Cerinian. While he had passable ability in the Art, he had no interest in becoming a guardian, and was actually one of the more successful merchants in their region. He had been dealing with some traders from the Lylat system, who even now were coming less and less frequently. High-tech trade goods were luxury items for the elite, and Maloc had made more than his fair share of silver by dealing in them. "Silly! I wouldn't miss my little sister's Ascendancy for all the silver in the world!" He hugged her even tighter, beaming at his sibling.
Krystal beamed back. "Thank you, brother! I'm so glad you showed up... the party is to be held tomorrow, and I think Keyla will be there..." she winked at him. "I know you two would take an interest in one another."
Maloc chuckled and set her down. "You and wanting to play matchmaker with me. And, no, I haven't found a handsome Lylatian that I'd take you to go meet, so don't ask." At her playful pout, he reached out and ruffled her headfur. "Now, let's go and find Mom and Dad, Krys." Guiding her through the jovial crowd, they attempted to find their parents.
They never got the chance. The priest's voice boomed out over the chatter of the crowd, and this time it sounded urgent. "Guards! Something hostile approaches! They are surrounding the Hall as we speak! Take defensive measures.. protect the guests!"
The six Guardians selected to act as honor guards moved through the crowd, their staffs extending with a barely perceptible glow of energy. Krystal hefted her own, but was stopped by a paw on her shoulder.
Their father, Haran, stood behind her as well as her mother, Yitana. He shook his head. "You might be a Guardian now, Krys, but this is not your fight. Something is amiss... we are being attacked by unknown forces."
"Father! I swore that I would protect our people, and if I have to, I shall!" Krystal pleaded, her senses as well as that of the other telepaths in the Hall were poking out, trying to sense the unknown enemy. Cerinia was by and large peaceful... why would someone be moving out to attack them?
"Now is not the time, Krystal!" Yitana chimed in. "You are a prospective member of the Council... and you are a Channeler as well as a telepath. We will let the others protect us, as we are honor-bound to let them do." She was not trying to be a coward... she knew that all of them were simply too important to come to harm.
Maloc placed his paw on Krystal's other shoulder, as his other withdrew a Lylatian blaster pistol. Since he had never gone through the Trials, he didn't have a Staff... and unlike the miriad of spears, swords, and ranged magical devices other Cerinians carried as weapons, he preferred the high-tech Lylat weapons that he had gotten a hold of. Blasters were rare on Cerinia, even amongst the elite... and for good reason. "We'll get you out of this, and if the Guardians haven't kicked their tails, I'll come back for more!"
The Guardians moved outside the Hall as the other Cerinians stayed where they were. The six staff-wielding warriors saw the group moving towards the building... ten of them. The group was dressed in red armor, and also wielding blasters. They were obviously from the Lylat System. The six Guardians activated the shielding matrices on their staffs, standing their ground.
The Lylatians fired first, knowing that the Cerinians had sensed their intent from the get-go. The battle would be hard, but the objective had to be gained. The red-suited soldiers were hand-picked for this job from the remains of the once-powerful Venom military, and knew that the stakes were high. Red blaster bolts bounced off Cerinian energy shields, although one of them was armed with a grenade launcher. This one didn't bother targeting the defenders... opting instead to fire three green cylinders into the open door of the Hall.
The canisters bounced into the main room, and Cerinians scattered. A thick orange fog began to spew out of them... Maloc grabbed Krystal's arm. "We need to get out of here!" Without waiting for their parents, he pulled Krystal behind the ceremonial stage and through the short hallway that let through the priests' chambers.
As Haran and Yitana followed, Krystal looked back. Several of her friends were enveloped by the fog, and she saw them clutch their throats and crumple to the ground. "No!" she screamed, trying to tear out of her brother's grasp... which tightened to the point of causing pain.
"Don't be foolish, Krys!" he snapped at her. "That stuff will kill you if you breathe it in. I'm sorry, but we need to get out of here, now!" With that he picked up his struggling sister, running off into the night with their parents not far behind.
The Red Storm soldiers, once the elite special forces division of the Venom Imperial Navy, fired back at their Cerinian adversaries. The red flash of blaster bolts clashed with the flaming pulses of energy the Guardians' staffs fired back. Two Venom soldiers were hit, the flames incinerating their armor as well as their bodies... the simple-looking weapons weren't anything to sneeze at.
The Gramet gas they fired into the building was doing its job. It was a calculated risk... the stuff was extremely lethal but they were figuring that it would serve to rout the Channeler from the building. Several other operations were in place around the planet,trying to capture the six other individuals with that particular ability... identified by intelligence teams that had spent upwards of a year gaining that information.
Even with a decent portion of the population sporting psychic skills, infiltrating the planet had been deceptively easy. All the 'hard' intel had been unwittingly gained from the Cornerian Traders' Guild, whose braver members had taken the three month-long Slipspace trip to Cerinia in the first place. Spying on them and hacking into their records had been extremely easy... finding out who the Channelers were, however, had been a different story.
Still, the Red Storm troops had a job to do, and even though their numbers were dwindling, their main purpose was to make a distraction... to lure the Channeler to the nearest spacecraft. After they were captured, they would slag the planet from space... no witness were to survive the event that had been eight years in the making. As they continued firing, two of the Guardians fell to the assault. Others staggered out of the entrance of the building, either dying of the gas or of the blaster bolts that soon followed. The surviving members of the team grinned as they started to mop up. They were making history... history at the barrel of a blaster.
Maloc set Krystal down as they cut through the path in the forest, rushing at full speed. The sounds of battle carried over the night air; apparently the Lylatians... no, those were Venom troops, he was sure of it... were attacking all over. He could hear the occasional sob from his sister; knowing full well that most of her childhood friends were dead. He wished there was something he could do for her, but he couldn't... except to keep her alive. 'The bastards want her for something, I'm sure of it.' he thought, knowing full well that she could sense him.
"Why do they want me?" Krystal choked. At least they were together as a family, and were going to get away from their attackers. "Why kill everyone just to get at me!?" She was visibly and emotionally upset, the confusion and pain of the attack burning themselves in her mind.
Her father spoke up next. "None of us know, Krystal. I doubt even they know... they had been ordered to take you prisoner, but were not told the specific reason. We are dealing with someone who knows about us as well as your abilities... and will stop at nothing to use them." He sent calming thoughts to his daughter's mind... trying to ease the blow they all had been dealt. "We will not take this lightly."
"There's not much we can do, Dad." Meloc sighed. "These are Venom troops. They fought a war with Corneria years ago and were soundly defeated, but they have warships, armored vehicles... the only way to make sure Krys is safe is to get her off-planet without them noticing."
Yitana nodded. "We can't come with her... we will need to divert their attention so she is not found. Do you have a way to do it?"
Meloc nodded, keeping the details behind a mental block. As the sole non-telepath of their family he had learned to block off his thoughts very quickly. The only way to get her off-planet and escape any Venom sensor nets was one that would cause his sister severe discomfort... but it had to be done. He would feel sorry for what he did later, but it would have to be done.
By pure dumb luck they reached the small clearing in which their craft was long before the Venom troops that were supposed to be waiting for them had showed up... being redirected from engaging the jaser, or Cerinian police forces stationed around the city. The shortcut they took had been an unexpected boon to the Haleth family.
The Vucsed luxury shuttlecraft Meloc had ensured they got a very good deal for sat behind their house. It was seldom used, and never as a true spacecraft... only for short-range cross-planet trips. They had cleared the ship out over the season since there were no scheduled trips to the main Council gathering for the next few months at least. The four Cerinians scaled the entrance ramp... Krystal turning to the others. "No... I don't want to leave you!" Tears brimmed her eyes, spilling over to soak into her fur. "Why can't you come with me?"
Yitana sighed, wrapping her arms around her daughter in a tight hug. "We cannot, star blossom. You must promise to stay strong. You are a Guardian now... and there will be trials ahead of you. We will come for you, I..."
The embrace saved Krystal's life. A red bolt shot out from the forest ahead, and she felt her mother stiffen in her arms, her grip loosening as she slipped to the floor. "Mom!" she cried out, grasping for Yitana as her brother pulled her away.
Haran engaged the shield matrix on his staff, moving forward with tears in his eyes... and Krystal could feel the rage that poured from his very soul. "Get Krys off the planet, now! I'm going to take care of this... this fatherless spawn of Jalat! I will damn him to the Void!" With that he started forward, a couple of the blaster bolts that were fired at him bouncing off the matrix. The enemy had to be a long way off, considering the fact they couldn't sense them.
Meloc held back his own tears, and Krystal was clutching at the body of her mother. "Please, don't go..." the vixen sobbed, looking up at her brother. "Why? Why all... this?"
"I don't know, Kryssy." He used his old nickname for her when they were kits. "Let Dad take care of it, but we need to get you somewhere safe." With a sigh he led her into the Vucsed, and headed for the bridge... bypassing the luxurious living quarters the executive-class craft had with nary a glance.
The bridge was decked out with what had been the latest and greatest personal starfaring technology several years ago. It was still leaps and bounds ahead of what Cerinian raw tech was... and the onboard computer system had a protocol designed just for this. He pressed the call button, and was greeted with a chime. The shuttle was equipped with a 'dumb' AI, or a majorly stripped-down variant of a capital ship's artificial intelligence system. The system was designed in Corneria, and he had to operate it by speaking in Lylat. "Computer, initiate Executive emergency protocol Alpha. Passcode 8736-JG54." With another chime, the computer's 'voice' echoed through a tinny speaker; a flat male monotone that had never received a voice package like most 'dumb' AIs ever produced.
"Passcode is accepted. Silent running protocols activated. Stasis bay unoccupied, please ready occupant for emergency travel. Destination coordinates are Kramer Station, Aquas Orbit, Docking Bay Seven. Estimated power drain from current location is eighty-seven point eight percent. Takeoff will commence in six minutes; please ensure occupant is readied before this time." The computer chimed once more, and Meloc exited the bridge with a sigh.
Krystal was slumped on the floor, her head in her paws and still sobbing. He didn't blame her, he was feeling the tears come on himself. He missed their mom terribly, and the shock of it happening was taking its toll on them both. He placed his paws on her shoulder, drawing her into another embrace. "It'll be okay, Kryssy. Mom'll be looking over us in the Beyond, and when we pass there ourselves, we will be there with her." He was saying that partly to comfort himself, but he felt Krystal nod into his shoulder. "You're not safe here, sis. Come with me... we need to get you off Cerinia safely.
"Why can't you come with me? I don't want to be alone!" Krystal tried to hold back another wave of tears as her brother led her down a flight of steps. She wasn't sure why they were heading for the rec room, but as they passed it she realized they were going to the medical bay. The worst they used it for was when she had broken her arm five summers ago... and Lylat medical technology made it heal up within two weeks. "Why... why are we in here?"
Meloc sighed, his brown eyes looking into his sister's green ones. "Krystal, I'm so sorry to do this, but the only way to get you out of here alive is for the ship to be completely powered off. This means thermal scans, power scans, everything. I put in a program that will send you to a location in the Lylat system." He guided her towards the back of the medbay, where a circular chamber lay in an alcove. It looked like a coffin, almost, but Krystal didn't know what it was.
"When you take off, I'm going to take Dad and get on one of their ships. I'll meet you in Aquas. Just stay on the ship; I've got a contract on this ship there just in case... the station attendants will take care of you for free, so don't worry about that." Meloc motioned her over towards the 'coffin', which he opened. "I'm so sorry I have to do this."
"What, brother?" Krystal sighed, looking disinterestedly into the contraption. It looked like a bed, although it was lined with foam it didn't look all too comfortable. She suddenly realized what was going on. "I... I have to be shut in there?"
Her brother nodded, sighing once more. "It's a stasis chamber, Kryssy. Because the ship is running silent, the life support will not be on, and everything needs to run as minimally as possible. The chamber will keep you alive until you reach Aquas. I'm going to be blunt about this... you will be unconscious throughout the entire trip, but waking up from stasis is extremely uncomfortable, sis."
Krystal gulped and nodded, the sudden realization that she was going into the chamber whether she liked it or not working its way into her mind. Beyond their shared sorrow she could sense her brother's remorse for sticking her inside it. "I'll... I'll do it. With a deep breath she slid into the machine, feeling the foam conform to her body. She placed her staff on a nearby shelf and laid down... the foam cold to the touch but surprisingly cushioned. "Promise me that you and Dad will be there."
"We will, Krystal. You will go to sleep, and when you wake up we will not be far behind. He grasped her paw tightly. "We will find out who did this... and we will hold them accountable for their crimes. Rest easy, sis." With a sigh he closed the lid and made his way out of the spaceship... and into an uncertain fate for all of them.
Krystal was enclosed in darkness, the foam absorbing all sound. She was alone with her thoughts, letting memories of her friends and her mother come to light... the good times and the bad. She started sobbing once more... the priest had warned her that there would be great trials in her life, but he never mentioned anything like this.
The voice that came into her ears was that of the ship's computer... which startled her out of her thoughts. Within the cocoon she couldn't move that far, and had to listen to what it had to say. Her brother had taught her most of the Lylat language, but she was still a bit rusty. "Stasis program initiated. Please follow instructions to ensure proper induction procedures. Failure to follow instructions may result in hyper-accelerated neurological decay. Look up into the light."
A tiny light in the top of the chamber switched on, and Krystal had no choice but to look at it. The tiny amount of light it actually put out would have been laughable had she not been enclosed in the dark for several minutes, but with the circumstances it was nearly as bright as the Life Star. Still, she looked into it, trying not to squint. As she did so, she felt a pricking sensation in several spots, and the foam seemed to shrink in on her.
"Brainwave patterns recognized. Vital signs registering as normal for vulpine body type." The vixen yelped as something stuck her in the arms and legs... needles. The one thing she hated about Lylat technology was their need for injections. The needles hurt, but then stopped... her arms, legs, and then tail becoming numb. It was a strange feeling. "Initial sedative injection administered. Say the word "yes" when you can no longer move your arms, legs, or tail. Move said limbs once every ten seconds.
It took thirty seconds... her appendages first feeling like they were being weighed down with lead, and then as if they had been removed entirely. "Yes." Krystal noticed her voice was slurring a bit... an effect of what she had been injected with?
"The final procedure will commence shortly. Once stasis commences, the emergency protocol will engage. All sensor arrays, life support, and non-propulsion systems will be kept at minimal levels to avoid sensor detection." As the computer droned on she felt some sort of mask being applied to her face. The cool, metallic tang of recycled air rushed into her lungs as she took a breath, feeling her body slowly fade from her senses. Some sort of liquid started pouring into the chamber, soaking into her fur. It felt very cold, but the feeling quickly faded with most of her senses.
A sickly-sweet scent wafted into the mask, but she couldn't even feel enough of her body to struggle. Before she knew it she sank into a pit of darkness... feeling nothing else.