Note: The last chapter was revised quite a bit, so if you haven't read the updated version, you might want to do that before continuing with this one.

Departure

Kyla packed the last of her meager possessions into her duffle bag on top of the few things Oska and Salixa had chosen to bring. She ran her thumb along the strap unseeingly, her mind awhirl. She was actually leaving. Though she hated the Orphanage, it had also been her home for fifteen years. She couldn't imagine living anywhere that the wind didn't constantly blow and the air didn't always smell of mildew and salt. Where the food was barely worth eating and the staff too poor to rob. Where fights broke out in the halls and 'school' was a joke. Not living under the shadow of the Witch, but under someone maybe worse… her own father.

Anger rose up in her chest. It had taken Fox McCloud three weeks to let the Witch know he was going to readopt Kyla. There'd been no message for his daughter. Just an out of the blue consent to take her off the government's hands at the very last second. Kyla put a hand to her forehead and took a deep breath. At this rate, she was going to have to take up yoga or something to keep her head. There was nothing she could do about it just yet. But after today, she would have plenty of time to express her feelings on the matter.

Finally, Kyla slipped twenty-five of the credits she and Oska had stolen from her pocket and laid it on top of her clothes, then zipped the bag up. The money was her share of the spoils and also the diversion. A small price to pay to make the plan work.

Rain lashed the windows of the hall outside her room. Kyla closed the door without looking back at her old room. But not without leaving a fun surprise for the next occupant: a dart in the keyhole covered in some nasty medicine filched from the nurse that would induce vomiting. Kyla had once found out the hard way that having even a little bit of it in your blood stream worked. She hoped it would be the Witch who opened this door eventually, maybe to take one last look at its lack of Kyla.

The halls were dark and silent as Kyla made her way up to the landing pad on the roof of the Orphanage. It was the only one in Laasken, only because the Orphanage was the biggest one in the Lylat System, and kids under the jurisdiction of the Cornerian Government were dropped off here from every planet. A lot of desperate parents left their kids here too, thinking a government facility would be best. Wrong again, Kyla thought, and curled her lip at the thought of being left here by her own mother.

Kyla bid silent farewells to every hiding place, every secret hallway, every student or staff member she had pranked… all her memories here as she climbed the last flight of stairs and stopped at the open doorway leading onto the roof. Rain lashed the concrete and lightning cracked the clouds overhead. Kyla's mouth dropped open at the sight of the most beautiful flying craft she had seen. A sleek blue and white Arwing hovered gently over the landing pad, heat rippling the air around it. Kyla longed to run her hand over the white tiles of its great wingspan. She imagined its streamlined body twisting and dodging in the air like a graceful bird of prey. She felt that old itch she'd felt when she first saw one on television during the Aparoid Wars start up in her fingertips. She had to fly one. If all this resulted in getting to sit solo in that cockpit, Kyla decided the whole ordeal of dealing with a parent would be worth it.

Standing under an awning for protection from the rain were Blaze, a few more of the giraffe's staff, and a blue falcon Kyla recognized as Falco Lombardi from the news. They all watched her gawping at the Arwing. Kyla snapped her jaws shut and walked out into the wind and rain. She didn't bother to run, her coat soaking in a matter of seconds anyway. She didn't exactly want to seem eager.

When she walked under the awning, Kyla had to restrain herself from shaking all the water from her fur onto the Witch's staff. She had a grudging respect for Blaze, but she didn't think she should piss off one of the heroes of Lylat. "Where's Fox?" she asked bluntly, still unable to call him her father. A first name basis would have to do.

"Talkin' to the headmistress," Falco Lombardi replied shortly in a strong Cornerian accent.

Great. Kyla had just about resigned herself to standing awkwardly when Blaze and a young iguana stepped forward.

"Please just cooperate for once een your life, Kyla," Blaze said as he approached her, hands raised.

Kyla stepped back. "What the hell are y'doin'?"

Blaze shrugged helplessly. "Eet ees just a search. Her orders."

Kyla stiffened and shoved the iguana back. She definitely wouldn't have someone she didn't know touching her. "Kyla," Blaze warned. "Do you have somesing to hide?"

The fox glared at the cheetah. "No," she gritted.

"Zen let me search you."

Deciding it wasn't worth it, Kyla held still while Blaze patted down her pockets. A cough from Lombardi caused her to look at him. She caught him rolling his eyes as he stared off at the gray, windswept sea. The rain slacked off as Blaze finished his search. Out of the corner of her eye, Kyla saw Fox McCloud and the Witch appear in the doorway.

Just my luck she don't have to walk in the rain. Even the weather's scared of her.

Right then, her ear flicked at the sound of a zipper being opened. Kyla looked down to find Blaze kneeling beside her duffel bag and opening it up. "Hey!" she yelled at him. With a snarl, she rammed into him, the two of them rolling out onto the rain soaked landing pad. Kyla ended up on top and slammed her fist into the side of the cheetah's head. "That was for last time," she whispered.

"Dammit, Kyla!" Blaze growled. Kyla let him take the upper hand. He stood them both up, her arm twisted painfully up behind her back. Under the awning, Kyla saw the iguana standing triumphantly with the twenty five credits from her bag wadded up in his fist. He handed the credits to the Witch, who stood next to Fox under the awning. Fox appeared to be demanding an explanation, but Kyla saw Lombardi looking at her. His expression was somewhere between surprise and disapproval. Kyla winked playfully at him.

Blaze marched Kyla back under the awning as the clouds started to spit rain drops again. The Witch held the credits under Kyla's nose as if she was some feral dog being chastised. Kyla fought the urge to snarl at the headmistress. "Where is the rest, Miss McCloud?" the Witch demanded.

Oh, so now I have a last name, you'll use that instead of my first? Kyla ignored the Witch and looked straight at Fox standing next to Lombardi as she heard a faint hiss coming from the Arwing. "I spent it," Kyla said, somewhat theatrically to cover up the sound. Fox's white eyebrows lowered into a glower. Kyla smiled.

The Witch straightened. "And you were taking the rest with you?" She smirked, looking even uglier in the light of day. "I always knew you would abandon your little friend, Oska. And was there not a squirrel named Salixa? You were going to leave them penniless while you flew away to your happy home in the sky." She clucked her tongue disapprovingly.

Kyla squirmed inwardly. She would never! But she didn't protest. Better to let them think the worst of her. She didn't want to blow it now that they were so close to success. Fox's frown deepened at her silence that proved the Witch's words true. Oops. She had disappointed daddy dearest.

"Let 'er go," Lombardi commanded Blaze. The cheetah released her. She had to fight not to rub her shoulder. The falcon turned to Fox. "We gotta go. We're gonna miss the window."

"I still expect the other twenty-five," the Witch said to Fox.

Kyla could almost swear she saw his jaw clench. "You'll get it," was all he said to her. He and Lombardi started toward the Arwing.

Kyla knelt and zipped up her duffel bag. Blaze stepped close. "For what eet ees worth, I will miss our chases."

Kyla smiled at the ground. "Me too." She stood and nodded to him. Goodbye.

The Witch's dead brown actually blazed with hatred for Kyla right then. "Goodbye and good riddance," she hissed at the fox.

Kyla spat at her hated enemy's feet. "Fuck you," she said, and walked away without looking back.