Opal: Thank you all for the positive reviews. You have no idea how much that means to me! I apologize for the slow update. My brother brought back our gamecube from his friend on Sunday and I've been playing a series of sonic, starfox and harvest moon. Also, I cracked open a Mario DDR which has a story that is so stupid it's hilarious.

The Past Becomes Present Chapter 4

Mission Commencing

Zel, James and Fox set out for the south mountains after a couple days of planning. James decided it would be best if the whole village didn't know the true intention of their trip. According to the village, the three were traveling to the mountains for gathering fruit, which many families often did when the weather was good. The only person who knew the whole truth was Caya, whom they could all trust to keep the secret with a level head.

James insisted that Fox was given new clothes so that he wouldn't look so much like an outsider. He was given a a green tunic, brown trousers and jacket, along with a weapons belt with knives. Fox was allowed to use his blaster as long as it was used only in emergencies, since the noise would alert anything within a half mile radius. James told his son that the clothes would be more comfortable but Fox felt awkward in his new clothing, the fabric was rough and itchy to the point of annoyance. His only familiarity was his boots, which he decided to keep.

The threesome started down the rutted trail down south with Zel ahead and Fox and James sharing pace. Fox and James carried backpacks with the most provisions while Zel carried a smaller satchel of essentials and wore medical pouches on her belt. James said that the medic of any group should carry the least weight. Fox wasn't in the mood to argue anything and was almost glad that Zel was up ahead and seemingly in her own world. It gave him time to do some catching up with his father.

Initially, Fox was overjoyed at seeing his father for the first time in over a decade. He'd missed his father's company. The two of them were not just father and son but also best friends. Fox also noticed subtle differences in his father. James was more lighthearted and let his emotions show easily on his face. He also seemed wiser than ever or maybe that was just because he was using a wooden staff as a walking stick. Though his father was still familiar even while wearing clothing similar to what Fox was currently dressed in.

Fox reminisce about everything that had happened since James had been presumed dead. How he had brought together a new Star Fox team and managed to destroy Andross along with any other threat to the Lylat System. Even how it got to the point where they could hardly afford repairs for R.O.B. and the Great Fox. James was overjoyed at how his son had followed in his footsteps and finished everything he had started. He also barked with laughter hearing how Peppy had totaled the Great Fox, saying he would never get to see the ship he invested so much in.

But for some reason, Fox couldn't open up about Krystal. As much as he wanted his father's advice, he couldn't even bring up her name. The thought of her still made his heart hurt. He missed her dearly and dreaded that he might not ever see her again.

Fox wondered whether Krystal was thinking of him right now.

~Corneria~

Slippy Toad and Falco Lombardi stood in the general's office. They had been urgently summoned by their former Star Fox teammate, Peppy Hare, who currently stood in the sick General Pepper's place. The two were surprised to see that Peppy wasn't in uniform since the old hare was strict about keeping up formalities.

But this meeting had nothing to do with formalities. Peppy didn't waste any time in explaining. "Yesterday, we recieved a distress signal from Fox."

"From where?" asked Slippy.

"Just listen to the message." was all Peppy said.

"This is Fox McCloud. On my way past Venom, I have crashed onto a planet right behind it. My Arwing is incapacitated due to the heavy gravitational pull and atmospheric pressure. I request assisst-argh-"

The two Star Fox pilots stood shocked for several moments.

"He sounds like he's in trouble!" Slippy exclaimed.

"Wait a moment! Don't get carried away so quickly!" Falco scolded Slippy. "Did you not hear what he was saying? A planet behind Venom? There's no such thing. Even you should know that, old man."

Peppy nodded. "I thought the same thing as well. But I researched it and found data about 'The Shadow of Venom' which may fit what we're looking for."

"'The Shadow of Venom'?" Falco said. "I haven't even heard of that."

"That's because the research dates back to before either of you were born." Peppy explained. "At least thirty years ago, Cornerian scientists were researching Venom and what made it uninhabitable in attemept to improve it. During ventures, many claimed to have seen a shadowed form of a planet as they were passing by Venom. Unfortunately, when they tried to prove their claims, the shadow planet seemingly disappeared. The leading scientist on the project, a man named Sabre, became obsessed trying to prove its existence. One day, he flew solo toward Venom and hasn't been heard from since and the research was then considered taboo."

"And if this shadow planet is anything like Venom, who knows what's happening to Fox." Slippy cried.

"Right after we messaged the two of you, I made plans for us to obtain a ship that can endure heavy gravitational pull." Peppy continued.

"Wow, slow down again old man." Falco countered. "You still believe this is a true message? Who received the message in the first place?"

"Krystal." Peppy answered.

~Orhea~

It took a day's journey to make it to the mountains. The mountains were covered in trees and plants which provided coverage for the group. The mountains weren't very steep so no one had to worry about any real rock climbing. Fox was surprised at Zel's stamina as she climbed up the mountain before him and his father and wasn't the least bit out of breath.

They weren't at the full height of the mountains but their current plain was finally level. Zel knelt to the ground to feel the ground and noted that a water source would be nearby. This was good news since the sun was setting and they were out of water.

Fox immediately shrugged off his backpack, which had to be the heaviest, and his jacket and went to the water's edge to splash cool water on himself. Unfortunately he didn't get the chance to do any real relaxation because something whizzed passed him, slicing his upper arm.

before Fox could even spot where the shot had come from, Zel readied her bow and released an arrow toward into the branches of a tree across the river. A grunt came and then a soldier fell out of the tree and thumped onto the ground, and arrow sticking out of his chest...right where his heart was.

"Fox!" James cried, helping his son off the ground. "Are you alright?"

Fox grunted in response and clutched his arm. He turned to see where the enemy arrow had lodged into the ground after it cut into his flesh. These patrolmen were no push-overs. That arrow managed to penetrate enough to hit Fox's muscle.

"More are coming." James said, looking past where the now-dead patrolman lay. "Damn! I should have known that they would stay close to water."

"Well, it's too late now." Zel said. "They already know we're here."

"Zel, take care of Fox's injury. I'll take care of them." James ordered, already taking off before either could protest.

Before Zel could start patching up Fox, more soldiers skipped over James and went straight for them. Fox took his blaster with his good arm and shot at them. He managed to hit one, but they were very agile and used the terrain to their advantage to avoid fire.

Zel pushed his shoulder back and told him to run. She then grabbed his backpack and followed him. The two ran along the riverside with soldiers in pursuit. Fox turned to shoot every once in a while. Their luck ran out when the river became a waterfall. This waterfall wasn't a very long drop and it led to another river which led into another waterfall. This seemed to go on for a quarter mile.

Zel stood in front of Fox and quickly shot arrows, taking out a couple of the soldiers. The remainder sent a volley, which she was easily able to dodge but Fox wasn't as quick. Arrow scraped across cheek and bad arm again and two lodged themselves into his leg. Fox swayed, losing his balance and fell backward into the waterfall.

He vaguely heard Zel cry out his name as he plunged backwards.

Zel wasn't aware that Fox was hit and continued to incapacitate the patrolmen. A quick look over her shoulder shocked her as she saw Fox fall backwards, too far away for her to reach him in time. An arrow shot passed her ear and after securing Fox's pack and her bow over her shoulder, Zel dove down after Fox.

Zel crashed into the water, where her movements became sloppy with all the extra weight she carried sloshing about on her back. She saw Fox struggle ahead of her, unable to orientate his way most likely due to pain and the sudden plunge. She quickly swam to Fox, grabbed his shoulders and pulled him up to the surface.

They broke through the surface in coughing fits. Fox sagged in Zel's grasp and Zel looked up to see soldiers standing at the edge of the cliff still aiming for two, but none of them had any intention of following. 'We're going to have to get farther down stream to ditch them.' Zel thought, letting the strong current pull her and keeping a strong hold on Fox.

As the next waterfall drifted closer, Zel pulled Fox closer to her and braced for the fall. The weightless sensation still took her by surprise but she managed to get an intake of breath before hitting the water. Zel pulled Fox up to the surface but panicked when he didn't take in any air.

Working as hard as she could, Zel pulled them both to the river edge. After pulling Fox all the way out of the water, she turned him onto his side and thumped his back. Fox flinched, coughing up water. Relief ran through Zel as she rubbed Fox's back until his coughing calmed down and he rolled onto his back.

Zel assessed Fox's injuries. He had a shallow cut on his right cheek, a deep and shallow cut on his left arm and arrows lodged into his upper and lower right leg. She went to work on the arrows first. "Brace yourself." She told Fox as she quickly pulled out the arrows. Fox hissed in pain.

Fox sat up as Zel pulled out her healing herbs. She quickly went to work on his injuries, cleaning out the blood with water before applying chewed up herbs onto his wounds. The bleeding slowed to a stop within a minute and covered them in cloth with more herbs.

Fox felt half-conscious as Zel worked on his injuries. It hurt to open his eyes; the colors were all in disarray. He concentrated on his breathing until she was done. When she finished, she leaned back into a more relaxing position. Fox finally opened his eyes and saw her looking at him with a slightly worried expression.

"What's wrong?" Fox asked.

Zel took a moment to respond. "In the mountains, to patrolmen have their arrows covered in a toxin that produces hallucinations. I can heal the wounds but not the hallucinations."

"What?" It was only then that Fox realized that Zel didn't have her usual grey coloring, but a basic orange.