Author's Note: I am not completely sure on the whole titles thing. For instance, is the ship named "The Condor", or is simply "Condor"? Is it "The Far Side" or simply the last two words? The Dark Ace is included in the mix too, but the show suggests only "Dark Ace".

Please excuse my attempts at being funny here- you'll see when the next chapter comes out and this chapter's title is revealed. Sarcasm is also grouped in this sad pile.

Depending on my revisions, this version of the story may be different in contrast to later versions, as I perform revisions during the publishing process. Add ons include more descriptions and subtle details, as well as grammar and spelling checks.

"Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles, and kindnesses, and small obligations, given habitually, are what win and preserve the heart and secure comfort"
~Humphrey Davey

A slash of purple sliced through the air.

Trapped, ragged, dangerously low on food and water and slightly delirious, the last Cyclonian heir desperately staged her last stand over the ruins of a kingdom's decrepit castle. Without the aid of her night crawlers, her once-vast crystal supply dwindled to almost nothing. Unable to efficiently mine and refine the treasured stones, Master Cyclonis practically had painted herself into a corner- sawed off the branch she sat on, even- just to escape the sight of over 60 years' worth of work crumbling to the ground.

Not that she was a wizened old crone, mind you. This Master Cyclonis was a plucky 17 year old, the latest to have the Cyclonian empire thrusted into her hands. Her grandparent's war pressed on her mind, ageing well beyond her years both mentally and physically. And keep Cyclonia well she did, allowing the struggling empire to wax in power and devour terras whole- that is, until power corrupted her, goading her into gaining a Far Side door. Then, that's when her carefully laid plans fell apart. The Storm Hawks, protectors of Atmos, came into the picture and liberated all those trapped under the empire's thumb.

As of last week, Cyclonia failed to exist.

Aerrow leapt above the deadly wave, bouncing off of Piper's half-clasped hands like a skilled cheerleader. Well-toned legs wrapped around the latter's waist as he flipped forward, using his drive to send the team's navigator flying through the air towards the evil empress just as the brightly colored energy sizzled the air under his feet. Like clockwork, they worked well in battle together; he tumbled forward and used his hands to rocket off the ground, giving his teammate a sure-footed kick to add momentum to her attack.

Master Cyclonis snarled and whipped out her staff from the depths of her flowing, inky black cloak, having withdrawn it earlier for reasons unknown.

Piper whimpered, recognizing the glowing icy blue rock clutched within the staff's end as a Frost crystal.

Apparently, Aerrow did too, for his face stretched into one of the widest maniacal grins The Far Side had ever seen.

"Stay on it, Piper!" He cried, just as a beam of blue issued forth from the scepter, "Use it to your advantage!"

And so the First Officer did, directly taking the blue bolt to the chest. A thick layer of ice soon covered the entirety of her body, preventing further movement. However, the crystal's power failed to nullify the Storm Hawk's momentum and, as he predicted, it only increased the force of her attack.

Amethyst eyes widened the slightest bit, their owner holding up the crystal rod as a feeble line of defense.

Piper's encased form smashed into Cyclonis's, easily snapping the latter's weapon like a twig while at the same time shattering the protective layer of frozen water. The force of the kick sent both girls reeling back. Her broken staff's spindly form flew out of sight, clattering loudly on the stone pavement below.

Caught off guard, Cyclonis could only stare in awe as the hotheaded team leader leapt over his recovering teammate to plant both feet onto her chest and pin her to the ground.

"Double-teaming, how… resourceful," the supposedly trapped villain snarled.

Time impatiently pressed itself upon her. Within minutes, the rest of the fools would break through her hastily erected traps. She had to escape. She had to end this now.

A fist flew out, landing squarely on the Sky Knight's jaw, joined by a well-placed front stomp.

Aerrow flew back into the depths of the derelict structure, dazed. Piper started towards him, only to be immobilized by a blast from a Paralyzer crystal.

"Aerrow!" the girl cried, shivering violently from the remnants of her ice cover and wishing her legs would cooperate.

Cyclonis snickered darkly, approaching the stunned woman. A gaunt, spidery hand stretched out; her black staff answered the silent call and flew into its master's hand, the halves already bonding to each other once more.

"Perfect attunement has certainly gifted both of you in skills and power, but…"

Piper snapped her attention back to the treacherous villain...

…Just in time for a streak of pink to smash against her body.

"…It's not enough to spare you from my wrath!"

Wave after wave of scorching heat sent fire pulsing through the poor girl's veins, searing off the ice cover's remnants. Minute after agonizing minute passed for what seemed like hours on end. It was like Grunting, she fell to her knees, unable to even move her pinky finger; all she could do was lie on the ground wait for her death to come.

And just like that, a miracle happened.

Quad-engines flaring, The Condor soared over the treeline with its frontal cannons deployed, distracting the villainess long enough for the Storm Hawk to break free of the crystal's hold.

Now fully deiced and able to move once more, Piper launched into a somersault, successfully evading the other's cursory defensive potshots. An effective head butt to the stomach caused momentary paralysis; it was all the crystal mage needed to land a few hits in retaliation.

A kick meant to sweep her legs right from under her swung in her direction. Piper sprang above the attack, cocking a fisted arm back for her next attack. Already, she could hear Aerrow arriving once more above the din of battle. Unbeknownst to her, the villain waited until she was close enough and went in for an uppercut.

Both deadly moves landed on their targets.

Head snapping back, Piper lost her footing and tumbled over the land's end. A reflexive clutch and the girl's momentum were all that was needed for the evil empress herself to fall after her. Soon, both plummeted like lead weights. Screaming, they descended into the sea of clouds, soon smothered within its embrace.

Only one parachute deployed.