In the shadow of the universe: Rise to power

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This story is pretty old (Started 2013 in German, has over 100.000 words and is close to the end), but nevertheless, I might give it a shot here. I have nothing to lose, right? ;)

Although I know that most of the people here will dislike it for the overall theme, but that's the risk. Still hoping that I'm trying something new from an overused formula. :)

Critics and opinions, positive and negative, are always appreciated.

And with that: Let's set sail!


After Wolf O'Donnell lost against the Star Fox-Team on Venom, he is brought heavily injured to the depths of the planet torn apart by war lords. With his remaining strength he manages to escape into the unknown, but finds himself stranded on a planet controlled by pirates - and meets a strange race, as well as new allies and enemies. His biggest fight for survival begins now...

Fandom: Star Fox / Star Wars
Genre: Adventure / Sci-Fi
Rating: P16
Pairings: None
Warnings: Alternate Universe, violence
Cover made by LunaHydreigon.

Beta reader: Silvermoon42

Chosen canon basis: Lylat Wars
(It's interesting that the plot differs clearly from Starwing in some points. I don't really like the idea of James, how he is trapped in a parallel dimension and only comes out as a ... space whale of some sorts.)


The wind blew over the sandy and dusty surface of the planet. The sands had many stories to tell, were witnesses to almost infinite battles and wars. So now, in the final stages of the system-wide conflict, they watched a personal campaign of a four-headed group under the star-filled sky against the cruel and unstoppable power of an insane scientist. But despite the enemy waves, the heroes succeeded in fighting their way to the entrance to the planet core – and panic broke out.

The scientist called his most capable troop, appropriately the greatest rivals of the attackers, who had already claimed victory in another world, for help. The men of the despot understandably didn't want to let this ignominy to remain and engaged the fight with improved equipment. An air battle, to which all involved should remember still for a long time, took place between grotesque monuments, old stone columns and over the entrance. But … despite superior technology, it was of no use.
Under cries in the radio traffic four fighters fell after each other and dug into the sand of the desert. Fire darted out of the ship's hulls and black smoke ascended into the atmosphere.
Once again triumphant over his rival, one surviving fighter dived into the entrance tunnel, while the rest retreated to their mobile base. Only in one of the destroyed flyers something stirred.
Here began the story of an ambitious, infamous and currently furious bounty hunter …

'Argh! You'll hear from me, Star Fox! You won't get away from me so easily!' He sat crooked in his Wolfen II-fighter, buried deep in the sand and trying to get out. He pushed different buttons in the cockpit hectically, to test the functionality of the ship. As expected, nothing reacted anymore. Next, he looked forward to crush the glass. The pain, however, prevented him to move his limbs fast enough. He had no idea about the area of health care and medical branches, as he held the thesis that pain was weakness leaving the body and as long as his extremities wouldn't be affected somehow, there wouldn't be a necessity for a doctor – except for the dentist. But also without informed knowledge he could say how he was suited:
numerous contusions in the arms, sprained legs and a splinter of glass was in his ear. In addition, he noticed a restricted view field. Apparently the seeing device on his left eye ceased to function by the impact.

'Fortunately grains of sand can't tell any stories', he meant viewing his injuries. 'If they twitter now every hobo who comes along will know what happened to us. I should better look for an honest job, which idiots also do … hm, fork-lift operator Wolf …'
Since it didn't work with pure strength now, he reached without further ado for his Blaster and fired on the glass repeatedly. He removed all of the glass bit by bit, so that he could climb out, not without pulling out the glass shard before. He held a bloody fragment in his hand, the face grimaced briefly, after that. A drop came loose and fell on the trousers.

'Ah, only a flesh wound' he played down the injury and climbed slowly and painfully from the cockpit. Then he stood on wobbly legs on the planet surface and looked around. The burning wrecks of his comrades were scattered on the battlefield, no movements could be recognized in their cockpits. A white ship with four wings circled in some kilometers of distance, high in the sky. His blood immediately boiled in the veins and wolf bared his teeth.
'Grrr … Star Fox! I will shatter these rats and dance on their graves someday!' He wanted to examine the ships for signs of life after that. The first had broken through one of the columns and was buried under the stones. He ran there as fast as possible, approached the flames and asked loudly:
'Hey! Everything alright? Hellooo!' But when he saw how deeply penetrated had the chunks, his hope for a survivor faded. 'Oh no ..!'

He tried it now at the next team member whose flyer had landed headfirst in the sand. The chances also stood rather badly here. How could he be able to free himself without help?
He suddenly heard a silenced blaster shot. Frightened he opened the eye widely, then shook the head, however, and said:
'Damn, why have you done it? I could have gotten you out with a little patience … but I can understand your actions.' He was astonished by his missing sympathy, his emotional cold towards the poor guy, and he wondered if he should mourn. Like every other who lost a good comrade. But what were his wing men for him, then? Feeling queasy, he realized that he couldn't find a clear answer for this question and therefore decided to keep it in the back of his mind until he had sufficient time for thinking. Because there were more important things to do at the moment, particularly since men were not allowed to cry in his opinion. At the end he inspected the last wreck. Exactly like his own ship, it lay in the sand, therefore the pilot had to have a somewhat of a safe fall. In there, he saw even something alive, much to his relief.

'Andrew! Finally a survivor!' The glass was pushed open slowly and a dirty monkey came out.
'Ack, I hope uncle Andross kicks their bottoms back to Corneria!' However, Wolf rather thought of the money. Who should pay them if Andross died? He wasn't interested in knowing what happened to the Lylat-System as long as he received _ his reward. The compensation at present, however, seemed to have moved in a wide distance …
Suddenly, a small lightning leaped out of the hull. The leader of the Star Wolf-Team could recognize the meaning just in time to shout that Andrew should immediately leave the wreck. He turned around, surprised.

Wolf covered his face when the ship exploded in a glazing light and debris fell in all directions. Of the nephew, every trace was missing_. He frankly didn't want to find out where the remains were and he didn't want to pick them up either. He only needed to know that Andrew was, except to Wolf, dead and therefore his complete unit was wiped out. 'Great, and the complete career already is left unexploited …' He was wondering now what he should do. His ship was no longer operational, his crew was dead and there was a yawning emptiness in his wallet. So he would drink no glass of beer today and his invoices for the house remained unpaid. 'I want to go home …'

His legs couldn't keep the balance anymore and he fell down. 'First the crash and now an earthquake, can anything still make my day?' he asked in annoyance, as two Arwings squirted out of the opening, an inferno immediately afterwards. It seemed like a firework to him, but why were there suddenly two airplanes?
'FIVE Arwings?!', he discovered astonished, 'I thought their gang consists only of four!' One of them turned off and disappeared into the infinite reaches of space. While he watched the headquartes of Team Star Fox, how it retreated from Venom, he noticed something completely different.
Something grey and wedge-shaped appeared in the midst of the darkness, raced a bit and stopped with a jerk. By apperances it was very far until there, the object extended to become gigantic.
'What in the world is THIS?'

His view suddenly became blurred, his strength dwindled. He felt a pungent pain in his chest.
'Argh! Apparently more broke than I thought ..!' Nausea, that let him retch, joined the coming headaches, but without vomitting.
'Fox you ass!', he sweared one last time at his rival, 'You still have got me, I thought to take you for a ride ... uaaaahaha ...'
He then tipped over where he dropped the eyelids and hoped for a miracle.

Before he fell asleep, his ears registered an engine noise.

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Chapter 2


"Good morning, Mr O'Donnell!"
Wolf woke up. His head ached and he couldn't see clearly. He felt weak and exhausted, as if he had to get up after only four hours of sleep – and felt somehow abused.
"Well, had a good sleep?" He lay in one of these uncomfortable hospital beds and his look fell on a white, sterilized ceiling, similar to a doctor's surgery room. Although not necessarily the place where he would like to wake up, miraculously he lived. His head carefully turned to the right; he saw a row of empty beds, as well as a drip. The hose on it was connected to his right hand, a catheter attached to it.
"Happy to see you in good health." And who spoke to him with an annoyingly easy voice constantly? As he examined the other side after that, horror went through him.
Fox McCloud personally stood next to him, grinned stupidly, gave him both middle fingers and laughed.

"Holy moly, you are truly horrible, do you know that? Even my grandma can fly better than you and I don't know her. You are lucky that grains of sand can't tell stories; that would be really embarrassing. How about carrying crates as a serious job for idiots? Ha ha!" Once again Wolf's veins pulsated.
He shouted furiously into his face, "Fox! You dare to sneak in here and make fun of me in front of my nose?! I will so destroy you, I…argh!" However, Fox just stuck his tongue out and continued to laugh. With that Wolf's limits were reached: for one moment he forgot the agonies and tiredness, sat up, transferred any power to his left arm, and struck out for a blow.
With a direct hit he sunk his fist into his foe's face, so that he lost his hold and hit the ground on his back.
All of a sudden Fox dissolved and someone else lay in his place.

"Ouch! Nnnngh, what was that for?!" his victim complained, holding his bleeding nose. "Do I look like the leader of the Star Fish-Team?" Wolf examined the fellow carefully: it was a male fox who wore a black cap with a dog skull and crossed sabers, and additionally a brown leather jacket, which enclosed a soldier uniform. His fur was bright red, and except for the missing white stripe Fox had between his ears, he looked very similar to the mercenary. Wolf guessed the age based on the voice on seventeen years at the most.
"Err, if I was drunk and had a blaster, you would be dead now," the bounty hunter apolegetically replied. "I really have to say, you look damn similar to the guy. And it's called Star Fox, not Star Fish…"
With an unhealthy crack the man adjusted his nose, stood up, wiped the remaining blood from his face and said, "Well, this is the first time someone has confused me with him…"
But Wolf wanted to come to the essentials now and asked, "Sorry that I gave you one, but who are you?"

"Hermann, Mr O'Donnell. Jan Hermann." He stood upright, saluted and spoke barrack-room. "Second punishment battalion under the eighth of the infantry regiment of Venom!"
As a result of this Wolf looked annoyed to the side and whispered, barely audible, "Ah, that's why I feel raped…" Then he continued, "Nice, err, Jan. Were you by chance the one who got me out of the mess?"
The soldier nodded proudly and explained, "Yeah! They observed the aerial combat between both groups via radar and assembled a task force as a precaution, which should collect the remains after the battle. I found you during my search and got you treated immediately as an out-patient. You had quite ugly inner bleeding…"
Instead thanking him and asking why nobody had intervened in the conflict despite the observation, Wolf wanted to hear excitedly, "Say! What about the others? How long have I already lain here?"
Jan put up his hands soothingly and answered, "Calm down. You are not in a good condition for now, you need rest urgently…"
"Say it already!'
Intimidated by the loud voice, the soldier forced the wished information out of himself. "O-Okay, that's what you wanted! Err, Pigma's skull was mashed by stones, Leon blew his head off and Andrew… I'll say it this way: If the smell of burned flesh wasn't so unbearable, one could sell him as a construction kit."

Wolf's expression darkened, which frightened Jan even more. "If I said something wrong, I'm really sorry. But you wanted to hear it."
"All right, I just disliked the absolutely despicable joke about Andrew. How long have I been here now, then?"
Jan thought briefly and responded, "Since two days ago, approximately." Wolf didn't interrupt him and listened patiently. "I picked you up the evening before last and until now you were subjected to regular operations. Must have been a lot of work to stop the bleeding." His listener's face darkened again and Jan corrected his last sentence immediately. "I-I meant of course, that the surgeons fought for your life for hours! Maybe you even noticed that your weird device on your left eye is missing."

At this statement Wolf put his hand on the spot; Jan was right. In place of the device he felt an empty eye socket. "They removed it to be on the safe side and throw it in the trash; it was apparently prone to short-circuiting. The surgeons suggest you put on your eye-patch again."
The bounty hunter worried less about it. Two days was a long time, and a lot could have happened within them. As much as he felt hurt about the loss of his men, it was of no use to mourn day in day out about it. Now they were gone and life went on regardless.
So Wolf wanted to know, "Okay, what happened in both days? Oh, thanks for the help."
Happily smiling because of the thanks, Jan responded, "Oh, err…" He hesitated. Was he allowed to say it? Only at Wolf's angry face he told him, "Well, actually I was ordered to guide you to our boss when you woke up…" After the former leader started to growl, the soldier discharged some beads of sweat and said, "Bu-but it will be a great honor for me to accompany you! I'm your biggest fan!" Frowning.
"Do you happen to be homosexual?" A wide grin became apparent on the corners of Jan's mouth, his cheeks blushed and a strange glance filled his eyes. Wolf became slowly afraid. "So I WAS raped?"
As if it was the most normal thing in the world, the soldier answered simply, "Possible, why?"

The bounty hunter thought he fell from the faith. His sole comment on this was, "Now I know why you are in the punishment battalion." While he let Jan stand perplexed, Wolf removed the catheter and got off the bed. He wore his trousers only and his chest was covered with scars.
"Where is the rest?" Startled from this demand, Jan put himself into motion. For this he left the room through an automatic iron door and returned two minutes later with pieces of clothing in the arms. Wolf used this time meaningfully for stretching exercises. Dressed, he spoke, "Thanks. And if you abuse me one more time, you will wish to have been never born. Understand?"
"But I don't have you..!" Wolf however didn't listen to him, but shoved him away from him, so Jan fell back.
"Now lead me to your boss, right now." Quickly recovered, the soldier guided him out of the hospital room into a corridor that appeared as a strong contrast to the previous room.

Filthy and dusty bricks dressed the walls; the floor on the other hand consisted of tiles, which, though, weren't cleaner. The corridor was wide and tall enough to accommodate a battle tank. The lighting was ensured through weakly glowing ceiling lamps and torches. All in all the architects seemingly followed during construction the maxim 'mainly functional'. Although that resulted in a different problem, that concerned mostly Wolf.
"Bombs and grenades, how far is it still?" he griped, gradually exhausted from the walking. Two days not afoot had a negative effect on his fitness and only ten minutes had passed. First Jan wanted to criticize Wolf's stamina, but because he didn't intend more trouble, he kept it to himself. Therefore he merely answered, "Still approximately half a kilometer. Come on, you are still young and fresh."
"But I'm an old man!"
The surrounding infantrymen, who patrolled the corridors, giggled. They fell silent as Wolf let his angry look go around.
"Sure? I heard, you are eighteen."
"Believe me, in my business area it's already old."

They moved through several corridors until they reached a massive steel door, guarded by a broad-shouldered lion. Jan gave him a gesture, then he stepped aside and granted them free entrance.
"Are you ready? The boss thinks highly of you, so please don't disappoint him, okay?" Wolf nodded.
"Let's get this over with." No sooner said than done. After Jan entered a code on a keypad right next to the door, it slid open to both sides and enabled a view into the room beyond.

"Ah, I have been expecting you," someone said with a deep voice. "Come in." Inside Wolf saw the amazingly Spartan chamber from a high-ranking officer of the army. Short of a giant desk, two chairs, a coffee machine, a bed of enormous proportions and several filing cabinets, he found nothing, which would attract his attention immediately. Possible that fat rhinoceros in a General's uniform behind the desk, protected by two soldiers.
"Sit down. Coffee?" Jan said no, therefore Wolf accepted the offer thankfully and soon hold a cup of steaming coffee in his hands.
Now the military leader started the talking. "O'Donnell, I thank you for your coming. At this point I have to praise Jan for saving you from death." Wolf grinned and Jan saluted, smiling. "My name is General Rhino, and I must say, it is in certain respects an honor to finally meet you personally." At 'in certain respects' though, Wolf noticed, that it wasn't meant positive. In the ensuing sentences he found himself in his fear that one would dwell on his defeats confirmed.

"The story goes that you have the reputation of an unscrupulous hitman, who would do rather anything for an appropriate price, right?" He answered in the affirmative and Rhino added, "In doing so you are quite effective, which results in a high success rate, is this correct?" He verified this, too. "Now, then…except for the Star Fox-Team, it seems. Beaten two times in no time, once on Fichina, and now even on Venom. From indisputable sources I know that you were defeated each time by Fox and his pals until now."
Then he bent over the table closer to Wolf, his bad breath almost pungent. "And you know what? I don't believe a word from your oh-so-daring stories and statistics and think you are extremely incompetent."
Infuriated by Jan's lie and the treatment, Wolf wanted to pick a quarrel when Rhino said, "And because of that I offer you the unique chance to prove yourself and to change my mind."

Wolf did not like the direction the talk took at all, because it meant a lot of unpaid work for him.
"If that means that I should serve your mom as a sex slave, I pass gladly!"
The general got angry there and rumbled, "Yes! If I want you to become a sex slave, then you do it! When I order you to clean my toilet after a drinking bout, you execute it! And when I even demand you to kill Jan, you comply with it promptly too!"
Wolf looked shortly at his companion, who did the same with a worried expression and said, "Well, I can gladly do it, for a payment, if you know what I mean…"
"Man, why does everyone want to see me dead?"
Rhino hit the table hard with his fist, which had a notch now, and replied, "I wouldn't even pay you if you were a wart on my ass! Just do everything that I say and we should get along fine."
"And what if I don't do it?" Suddenly one of the guards shot the floor and Wolf understood the intention behind it instantly. Because he had no other choice, he decided to cooperate and to sling his hook at a suitable opportunity. Thus he steered the conversation to the important things and asked, "What's even going on here? Why do you think now to issue orders to me?"

His opposite sat down again, folded his hands together and answered, "Right, you were out of action for two days. All right, I make it short: Andross was surprisingly killed by Fox and now we don't have a leader anymore. Before the collapse I was in charge of various units of ground troops…" The bounty hunter didn't need long to discern what game was played. Therefore he dared the brazenness to cut him off.
"Yeah yeah, already understood. Now the Generals think they have a claim on Venom and beat each other up, although it would be more effective working together. And I shall help you with your personal running battle, right?"
Rhino scratched his head and said, amazed, "Congrats, how do you know that?"
"No wonder, Andross lost the war…" Wolf thought, and inquired, "Well then, what should I do?"
The General shook his head and answered, "Patience. I'm willing to grant you a small break at first…in Jan's quarters."

Wolf's eyes widened out of terror and Jan cheered.
"But General! You can't do this to me! I won't go in a room with a rapist together! Who knows what he will do with me in my sleep!"
But Rhino wasn't open to reason and sent the unlike duo out with the order to wait for further instructions tomorrow.
While Jan tried to explain to Wolf that he didn't abuse him, but only aggravated the situation through contradictions, the bounty hunter mused how on he could escape Venom the easiest. He didn't want to stay longer than needed and opted to enter service as a mercenary again. But how, without equipment and crew?
The entrance to Jan's quarters was in a long row of doors situated closely next to each other, each with a nameplate and a control panel. The door, after entering the code, opened, and the soldier welcomed his ideal to his 'humble realm'. This, however, teared him up.
It stank of alcohol and sweat and he had never seen a shabbier 'housing'. A bed with broken springs, an armchair eroded from moths, a perforated shelf with rags and a TV poorly held together with glue. In an upper corner was a mounted fan, which didn't function. Next to the TV, moreover, lay a pile of old uniforms and in front of it two crates of beer.
"I know, it isn't a luxury hotel, but nevertheless make yourself at home!"

Wolf dug his face into his hands and sobbed.

"What did I do to deserve this…"

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The stony ceiling seemed to widen. Or did it contract? No, wait, it split up and moved through the room…strange, how this "elixir of life" could mix up the think central. In any case, that was too much for his head.

"Ouch, the blasted light dazzles…!" With uncoordinated arm movements he tried to protect his eyes from the dangerous radiation. But he didn't even manage to shift his body into place. He immediately let his lids fall down and tried repeatedly to stand up from the bed. It remained with those tries and he fell back. "Where the hell am I? And what have I done?" His left hand held something glassy, and when he wanted to look at it, he hit himself with it accidentally. That short moment, where he discerned the basic form of the object and the pain alone was enough to know what he had there: a beer bottle. "Have I got myself drunk with it..? Really? But why?" The alcohol sloshed around in his bloodstream and he felt like a boat on a storm-tossed sea. The hangover did its usual to bring his mood to the absolute lowest point; he hadn't feel so miserably like this for a long time.
Someone knocked at the door. "Eeeh... Who's there?" he slurred questioningly, but didn't move. And so he heard the quiet pushing of buttons and the door finally opened.
"O'Donnell, the General sends…" said an authoritarian voice, whose speaker he couldn't see, and faltered. Then it started from new and hinted at a clearly audible disgust, "What is THIS?! What happened here?!" Wolf was instantly annoyed at the guy and only wanted to be left in peace. Whatever reason the visitor had for coming, he had forgotten it already.
"I don't, burp, care, and now piss off..!"

In the next moment the bottle was snatched away from him and his head got hit hard, which led to him leaping up out of reflex and sitting. It wasn't the glass. "ARGH, OUCH! What do you think you're doing?! Do that again, and..." His wide open eyes only saw how a shadowy figure rammed something with high speed into his mug and thus caused an unpleasant cracking noise. He nonetheless felt that the inflicted pain was a…welcome change to the hangover, and took delight from it.
His woozy brain still switched to red alert and Wolf yelled, "That's enough, you are so dead, buddy! Come here!" But it was of no use. The muck let his arms go limp and it was easy for his opponent to grab and lift him up. He then hurled him back-first against a wall and hit him with a powerful kick in the pit of the stomach. In the midst of all the pain, the feeling to have to puke got pushed through instantly. "Okay, okay," capitulated Wolf. "What do you want? I'm not in the mood for another beating..." The brawl still offered a positive side effect: His eyes could process the information better and project a sharper picture. So he finally discerned who just beat him up, namely a tomcat in soldier uniform with blaster rifle.
"Well, well, the great Wolf O'Donnell, yes?" he mocked, disgusted. "Here I come, yet smell a horrible alcohol breath one kilometer ahead and what do I have to see here? A piece of shit of a drunkard! Even though I have heard a lot about you and really looked forward to meet you. But if someone would tell me that this one here in front of me is indeed the famous O'Donnell, I would have him declared insane." Slowly it dawned on the bounty hunter what happened last night. To not tarnish his reputation even further, he didn't give an explanation. That would have been a disgrace beyond compare.
"No, I'm Karl-Heinz. And now tell me why you are here and beat up a poor drunkard, who scrawls in self-pity." Meanwhile he sees a puddle in front of the bed of…indefinable stuff and the shelf to his left lay together with its contents on the floor, surrounded by glass shards.

The soldier rubbed himself mumbling over the face, shook his head and strode without comment towards him. He lifted him up with strong tension, pushed him to the armchair and sat himself on the bed afterwards, keeping a distance as long as possible to the puddle. Wolf defended himself in no way, as he was too disturbed by the beer. Besides, the soldier knew what was best for him at the moment.
"So, now I give you a piece of my mind. You will tell me on the spot now, what has happened to you, why you drink yourself to unconsciousness. We already had to drag the drunken bodies of the idiot Jan and his shady 'friends' out of the billiard room this morning, now I don't want to put you in the drying-out cell too. I really thought that you would be reasonable enough to maintain decency."
Now Wolf's head began to rattle and the events of last night happened in front of his mind's eye...
While he was complaining about the mood of destiny, his room-mate retired to the billiard room, allegedly to play a few rounds with buddies. Although he didn't come back, which Wolf enjoyed at first. But then he decided, in a spontaneous fit of despair, anger and depression, to rampage in the room and to make a quiet and painless departure with the help of alcohol. And how he detected now, it didn't work.
He still wished to have never woken up and he was tempted to grab the soldier's rifle to put an end to his desperate situation. He had nothing to lose anyway… Did he? When he thought about it...
"No matter, I understand you." Wolf was abruptly pulled out of his thought processes and stared confused at the tomcat, who continued. "Yep, must be really lousy losing his men first and then sliding into a war between Generals, especially if you certainly don't want anything to do with it, right?"

The bounty hunter felt he was at the complaint box for bad guys, which exceptionally displeased him. First he had the opinion that he doesn't need a 'strong shoulder' and secondly, his problems concerned nobody anyway. He wanted to pull himself out of this hole.
So he replied, "Thank you very much for your sympathy, but I wouldn't be Wolf O'Donnell if I can't help myself. Take a close look..." The visitor just became a witness to the pitiful attempts of a still inebriated celebrity to get up. It finally worked after an unbelievable four attempts and Wolf stood on rickety legs. To prevent himself from falling, he occasionally had to support himself on the wall. "See? I can cope alone alright." His interlocutor answered with slapping himself with his flat hand on the forehead.
"I think this crap isn't your biggest problem... Your extreme over-estimation will kill you someday, most certainly. If you have to learn one thing, then that you can't manage everything alone, regardless how courageous and strong you are." Wolf showed only contempt for such lectures, after all he wasn't a child anymore.
So he replied defiantly, "Oh yeah? Who do you think you are? My father?"
"No, but someone who can think clearly in contrast to you. If you want to honestly tell me, you could have managed the Star Fox-Team without your colleagues, you commit the worst betrayal to them one could think of. And you would gain everything, just no admiration and respect." Wolf wanted by no means to leave it this way and opened his mouth to counter. But his throat choked immediately. Paralyzed by this experience he noticed, that he didn't know what he should say to those reproaches. Was the soldier right?
"Hmph, I thought of that…" he muttered and looked at his watch. "So, march off. That took longer than thought and the General hates to wait longer than necessary." Then he took the brooding O'Donnell by his hand and led him out of the room.

His unsteady gait drew many looks at himself, once amused, once repelled. What were the gapers thinking? Did they know him at all? Wolf didn't dare to think about it. Of course he found it cumbersome for his work, if every buffoon already discerned him from a distance, but it was pleasant under four eyes. He found it even nicer to be regarded as an idol for prospective hunters and having fans in diverse circles. He could safely go without having such fans like Jan, though. The soldier wasn't a supporter, but according to his disappointed remarks, a sympathizer.
But nobody should see him in this condition. By this time Wolf regretted emptying the crate. Now he received the deserts in the form of those embarrassments.
"I got how the General snubbed you." Hardly heard, it made the bounty hunter's blood surge. Nothing and nobody was allowed to call him incompetent, for the reason that it wasn't correct. He had to admit, it didn't go well against his eternal rival, but else? The 'Most Wanted' of the Lylat System, a fortune placed on his arrest – a considerable accomplishment, he thought.
"You know, I wanted to enter your business too, but that was too risky for me. As I far prefer a regular income and a reasonably safe life. Personally I can only admire you, how you managed to climb up the career ladder."
This, in turn, caused Wolf to feel the pride growing in him, which decreased at the spot, as the soldier added, "But then this fall from grace..." From now on the alcohol's victim shut his mouth. Not that he catapulted himself further to the end with thoughtless comments.
The tomcat's next sentence though caused his full attention. "I guess, you need now a..."small" jump-start. Not yet, only after the briefing." So Wolf pondered about the meaning of said jump-start and let himself be silently escorted by the also quiet soldier until they stood at the gate to the General's chamber a second time.
Next to it, constantly observed by the annoyed guard, sat someone...

"What is Jan doing here?!" the company rumbled. "He should sit in the cell for sobering up until the rest of the day!"
The lion shrugged and answered, "Well, the little fellow came together with two men in tow, who said the General wants to see him with Wolf. Then they let him lay here and since then he sleeps here..." The soldier looked suspiciously at the guy on the floor: the cap crooked, the clothing covered in strange stains and an odd smell got in their noses, consisting of a mixture of ethanol and tobacco.
"I told you, he rapes people," Wolf commented to shabby figure, without being noticed.
Next the tomcat strongly kicked once and woke Jan up. That one was awake immediately, curiously enough without registering the kick. A consequence of intensive alcohol consumption?
"Eh, what?" he asked around, but stood up fast after he recognized Wolf. "Oh, good morning! But you really don't look good, perhaps you put yourself back to bed?" The bounty hunter couldn't force more out of himself apart from a growled "hello", particularly as the idiot insulted his sense of smell in the coarsest way. If Jan hadn't woken up…unfortunately his controlled movements seemed to hint at a long career as an alcoholic.
The soldier now had enough of the waste of time and said, "That's enough, the General waits. Behave kindly if you don't want to be shot early. This applies especially to YOU, Jan!"
"But I didn't do anything!" Regardless of this the leader placed himself in front of the keypad, entered the code and opened the door.

An extremely disturbing image awaited them inside: Rhino wasn't wearing his general's uniform, no, but a baby blue dressing gown in floral pattern. Wolf would have spared himself this sight best of all, apparently even both guards behind the rhinoceros shared the same opinion, who kept staring at the walls. Rhinos sole comment on this:
The soldier frantically searched for words, which would express his request, the General please may put his normal uniform on again, without letting his currently undeniable indignation flowing in, as politely as possible. However he admitted to himself quickly that he wasn't in the position to do so at the moment and therefore restricted himself to greet him with a friendly sounding "Good morning, sir!" His protégés did the same, even after Wolf had to force himself for it.
Satisfied, Rhino began to speak. "Good. I'm glad that you managed to..." He set a short pause in speech and scrutinized Jan like a suspect, who made himself small instantly. "... not get yourself killed by this stuff. Because for this task I need every single man." The General pushed himself back a bit on his chair, pressed a, to his listeners not visible, button and a 3D-projection appeared on the spot over the work surface. Apparently there was quite the technology in the piece of furniture.
"Do you know what that is?" Wolf investigated the displayed object carefully: a wedge-shaped form, four engines at the rear, a bridge high above the hull at the end and lots of guns and two torpedo launch tubes following the longitudinal axis of the hull. Moreover the construction showed a kind of landing pad on the top.
Then the scales fell from his eyes and he spoke excitedly. "Hey, I saw that in the sky three days ago!" All at sudden everyone looked at him inquiringly and expectant at the same time, which made him feel uneasy a bit. Thus he explained, "After I, how everyone knows by now, crashed, observed the Great Fox. Next to it suddenly, seemingly out of nothing, appeared this spaceship. It raced a short distance, until it stopped. And then I was out of the running."

"Hm, strange…" said Rhino. "Then I want to tell you what my scouts discovered, before they were blasted from behind by the enemy." Another push of a button added technical data to the hologram that only elaborated on the size and number of the weapons. Conspicuous was the question mark at the end of each detail. "They couldn't take precise measurements due to the ambush, but the ship's length is guessed to be almost 800 meters, the armament to over 20 guns of intimidating size that surpass everything we have ever seen. We assume that it's easy to destroy a planet with those weapons." Interested, the soldier asked the question whether it was already attempted to establish a communication to the crew and a reaction occurred. "We have tried it several times, but without result. But it is even stranger that they don't seem to use radio. Even with the best will in the world we didn't find a frequency to reach the crew. Of course they could be dead and that's why they don't answer... And because of it we have to act quickly." Wolf knew instinctively] what would come now and decided to give it away.
"Alright, Mr. General... We should go in, onward to the bridge and take over control?"
Surprisingly Rhino shook his head and replied, "But no! What are you talking about? I have a much better and safer plan that will reliably procure us control over Venom." From now on the bounty hunter saw his chance of survival plummeting drastically into the cellar. Every time when a power-thirsty commander, mostly in combination with madness, was convinced of his own plan, it became apparent that it was basically a suicide mission that every third-rate officer could think through better.

Even the soldier wasn't enthusiastic about what he heard and put up a worried expression.
"Well, all right then, Mr. General. What is your plan?"
"I'll say it this way: Imagine wealthy, but greedy persons, who guard their riches jealously. Now a chest suddenly appears among them, full of indescribable valuable treasures... And then it's there, the greed, and hits them with blind- and carelessness. Like predators they rush to it and tear each other apart, but without keeping an eye on their possession. And while they fight for it, an individual, who can still think rationally, sneaks to their properties and takes everything. Thus in the end he is richer than the one who fought for the treasure."
It was all Greek for Jan and he produced a "what?". The tomcat looked helplessly at the ground and Wolf was bored. Apart from his appraisal, this 'effigy' was outrageous nonsense, he asked himself, why one had to ramble on, if one could get to the heart in only one, at the most two sentences.
So nice, how he was for once, he took that part from him and said, "So, in short: Your enemies fight each other with everything they got for the spaceship and you simply march into their unguarded bases." Rhino nodded and expressed a praise.
"Indeed, the rumours about your quick perception correspond to the truth."
"Who could have imagined something else by that level of primary school?" Wolf thought, annoyed, and considered whether he should smack all the catches in the planning into his superior's face.
The soldier suddenly pawed him and shook his head, which is why he disregarded it. He would have likely gotten even deeper in trouble than he bargained for.

"If there are no more questions, I ask you to report to Major Steinhauer in his quarters. He should have developed a flawless battle plan relating to this. Good luck and happy hunting!"
Ordered this way, the soldier disbanded on Wolf's and Jan's behalf and the trio left the chamber.
Outside, the tomcat led them a little farther from the door and looked carefully to all sides, before he leant himself against the wall, sighed and said, "I'm really getting too old for this dragon dung. I'm 100 percent certain that I read nowhere on my job contract, that I have to shoot at our own people someday." Then Jan asked for his name and age and he answered, "Call me Moritz. And with 39 summers I put myself as an old geezer..." Wolf's worries meanwhile circled around how he could flee from Venom. In no case did he want to carry out this suicide mission – well, except he would be a millionaire after that, but as it was generally known, he should work "voluntarily".
"Could you imagine sitting at the General's place?"
"Hm, what?" Jan looked at him smiling and nodded.
"Yes, exactly. You as the boss, possessing the supreme command of a whole army that can conquer the entire system." The bounty hunter dismissed that imagination immediately as rubbish. He couldn't even play chess right, the well-known king of strategy games. How should he command thousands of troops, without sending them to the slaughter? Although, the thought was attractive...
"A not at all uninteresting idea, but how did you get that idea all of a sudden?" Jan shrugged.
"Oh, just because. A bit of wet dreams and stuff." Luckily he remained silent about that, or else Wolf was threatened to nightmares over quite some time. But before that he would kill him for revenge.
Now it was Moritz who interfered in the conversation turned their attention to the current situation.

"Alright, guys. I can speak from experience, this will be a complete flop. And besides you both can't seem to be bothered with this like me, right?"
"Tell me something new," said Wolf and Jan agreed with him.
He spoke further. "I have already said earlier, you need a small jump-start." The mercenary promptly strained his ears and closely paid attention to what he said. Maybe that would be his ticket to freedom? "Well, the overseer of the hangar is an old friend of mine and therefore I thought that I offer you an escape vehicle... How does that sound?"
Instead of an answer a wide grin beamed towards him. Moritz rated this logically as a yes.
"Good... But only on one condition!" Wolf's excitement and rare gratitude were abruptly curtailed and there was nothing left of his euphoria. Would have been too easy. Nevertheless he waited, to hear what the soldier wanted from him.
"I don't ask much from you. Just one thing: take me with you."
Taken by surprise by this "modesty", he scratched his head and replied, "Well, um, you will get a plane for me and enable a restart, so... Why not? But where do you want to go?"
Moritz looked for a long moment at the ceiling and said, "I think, I'll try to make my way to Aquas. I love to fish, so therefore it certainly wouldn't be wrong to spend my twilight years on a fishing cutter. But I guess I'll more likely survive as a refuge if I stick with you."
That didn't mean anything to Wolf. It was trivial to him anyway, what career aspirations the others had. But they forgot someone there...

"And what about me?" Two gloomy faces turned around to Jan; his eyes shined like those of a child, who wanted to convince his mother to buy a chocolate bar.
"So I have to bear your mug even longer?" Moritz snorted, "Forget it, you kindly stay here!" Now Jan began to whine and beg at the top of his voice, to such an extent, so that Wolf considered to calm him down with one handle – for eternity.
But the impedance broke down fast, which is why the tomcat was at the end of his tether and finally accepted. "Grr..! Fine! But for that you do everything we say, understand? And don't you dare to stand in our way once..." The mood promptly changed to 180 degrees: one overjoyed wanted to fling one's arms around his neck, but Moritz was already on the way to the hangar and hence Jan fell against the wall.
After that obstacle was overcame, Wolf's thoughts now circled around, where he should resurrect his team. He didn't have a concrete goal, unless "Far far away from Venom" counted. The warlords shall beat each other up for the spaceship!

Moritz directed them determined through the base's corridors, past numerous intersections and it didn't take long until Wolf's condition caused problems. Beforehand the soldier instructed his entourage to be silent and inconspicuous on their way. Nothing would be more dangerous than causing suspicion and being blown, which would result in a prison stay. It then came to such an encounter.
An officer with company crossed their route, which "prominent" person behind them wasn't quite kosher to him.
He distrustful asked, "Private Moritz, what are Wolf O'Donnell and the bonehead doing with you? Shouldn't they be at the briefing?" To further complicate the matter, Jan started to sweat. Wolf however put on a brave face and looked calmly into the superior's eye.
"They should, yes," the tomcat tried for a plausible explanation, "but the General ordered to execute them in the hangar due to incompetence instead."
"What?!" Jan protested, "I thought, you... unngh!" Wolf strangled him with an iron hand, but it was too late. The officer furiously inspected them and even Moritz put on worry lines.
"Good choice," the officer suddenly acknowledged Rhino's order and the soldier was flabbergasted. "It was about time to dispose of Jan and the disgrace of a bounty hunter. Continue, Private." Moritz happily saluted and dragged them straight away before Wolf came up with stupid ideas out of rage. The following tirade from Jan, the tomcat was a lying ass and would really shoot them afterwards, they simply overheard.

After twenty minutes marching it was finally time.
Only one sliding door separated them from the fresh air and the soldier prepared himself without delay to open it. Soon after they stood in a small but fine hangar, how they were frequently found on Venom. Isolated fighters, the same models from the defense of Bolse, waited here for their mission.
Further ahead extended the planet's wasteland, criss-crossed with valleys, canyons and plains. The sky hadn't changed since Wolf's crash.
"Oh, Moritz, what led you to finish up here? And who are those weird figures?" A seemingly frail tortoise with glasses sat at a small table and spoke to them from the side. On the surface lay a portable computer that had a holographic screen.
"Hello Torteus, I..."
A deafening siren sounded and signal lamps dived the room in regular intervals into a dark red. Simultaneously echoed a known voice from the loudspeakers, from which the refugees thought they got rid of.
"Escape attempt in hangar 38-C! Three traitors try to flee with fighters, Wolf O'Donnell among them personally! I repeat, escape attempt in hangar 38-C! Whoever brings me their heads gets a promotion!"
"Ack, the officer apparently smelled a rat!" Moritz yelled against the noise and turned to Torteus again "Listen, we must urgently grab three fighters and get out of here! Can you turn a blind eye this time? Please tell them that you got overwhelmed, okay?" His friend stared at him confused and ultimately, overtaxed by the exceptional situation, gave his approval. "You are the best, I owe you one!" Then he ran, without addressing a last parting word to the overseer, together with his partners towards the planes that they boarded in haste.
In the meantime the first infantrymen entered the hangar.

"Come on, come and get us!" Wolf provoked them unheard in the cockpit. "[I'll mop the floor with you in no time!" They hadn't started yet and bailiffs checked the corners first. Therefore there was enough time to enter the coordinates for a stopover. Hopefully he was sober enough to fly by now.
"Where are we flying anyway?" Jan asked, but didn't get an answer. Wolf calmly inspected the map of the system, which he examined for an outside lying planet. To his disappointment he only found Dinosaur Planet and for that, they had to get past Area 6 – despite the massacre of Andross' fleet still a dangerous place. Certainly cornerian units currently scoured the surrounding areas and wiped out latecomers, so the bounty hunter wouldn't stand a chance with his company of three men.
Thus he had to escape in the opposite direction.
There, where only some had ventured till now.
"What takes you so long, O'Donnell?!"
Moritz' nearly panic-stricken cry stressed Wolf, in which he caught himself to scroll faster through the listed coordinates. But as hectic he searched, any options guided him in the clutches of the victorious power. He almost wanted to declare it useless and give up, until...

...he discovered a mysterious entry.

Coincidence? No, it truly was in the list. The cursor pointed on a with a question mark marked spot behind Venom, the way there more or less matched the one from Corneria to Solar. Would the warp drive last?
He had to risk it. Everything else meant sure death, no matter how self-confident he was. So he sent the data to his wingmen, the reactions riddled with insecurity and fear.
"Are you sure that you want to go there?" Moritz asked, disbelieving. "Nobody knows what's there. We could run into an ambush or meet a hostile world." Wolf answered it in the affirmative. In such occurrences, that required quick acting, he was adamant.
Thus he ordered them to ready their flyers for take-off and to follow him. And to pray that they may not be shot down now.
Few inputs were sufficient and the vehicle already took off. Now it hailed heavy fire from the rows of the pursuers.
As soon as they reached the right height in the barrage, he gave the instruction, "Full throttle!"
Together they flew through the opening out of the hangar, some projectiles after them.

Flying over the mountain ranges and steadily rising, after all the strains they had at last the opportunity to take a deep breath. But they weren't in safety yet. At any moment a pursuing group of fighters could appear out of one of the open gates on the ground.
"Well boys," he prepared the next and last step. "Status report."
"A few dents and burn marks, nothing else," Moritz reported down-to-earth, Jan could even confirm a full integrity. Then Wolf checked his own condition – and swallowed. The word 'Engine damage!' was emblazoned in big letters on the screen.
"Damn, they got the engine. But I won't turn around for sure, the warp drive has to manage it now. Hold formation, we jump!" No sooner said than done.

After his wingmen took their positions next to him and the team corrected their direction, he gave the signal to jump.

"On to the unknown world!"

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"Somehow cross has to win...argh, no! Lost again!"

Even in the turbulences of the warp speed, Wolf kept a cool head. Stars ran past him everywhere; even the "Engine damage!"-warning displayed permanently on the screen wasn't able to worry him, as he knew anyway that the warp drive worked independently of the jet engine. Or it was due to the intellectual Tic-Tac Toe game where he tried for two hours to beat himself. Card games however bored him stiff because he always won there. Certainly because he always drew "purely coincidentally" the right cards. But winning didn't quite work at the former…

His comrades had unhooked themselves already shortly after the departure. Looking into the black for three hours, lined with white stripes, was too boring for them anyhow. After an exhausting and foolhardy escape it was best to put the head down and to sleep. However, one had to remain awake in case of their arrival and so Wolf volunteered for it. One could pass the time in various ways.
Fortunately no obstacles like asteroids seemed to be in their way. Not to think how they would look after a collision far above the speed of light. An "official" warp route to their destination didn't exist and on every system map which Wolf had seen in his life, the planet, or whatever hid behind the question mark, wasn't recorded. All the bigger the mystery about this, was why the entry was in the Venomian databases in the first place. Had Andross' scouts reached into the unknown regions once or had they simply registered the existence of this world and moved? Of course this also could be antiquated data - perhaps the tyrant had even a secret base there, which nobody knew about. And the least which Wolf could need on her flight was a meeting with his stooges.

It was anyway too late now, though, and with the damaged jet engine he wouldn't go far. The warp drive would give up sometimes and he would drift like an oversized piece of stone through space. Not really the kind of death which he preferred.
In the meantime the onboard computer informed him about their arriving soon. Only five minutes, then they would be there. "Finally, it was about time. These cheap productions are extremely uncomfortable," he mumbled, and told his wingmen by radio. When no reaction came, he got considerably louder and after that, frightened voices reached him.
"Wah! Don't yell like this, we're not deaf!" But he only laughed.
"...Wremja sakrytija...dostatotschno...segodnja..."

"Hm? What are you prattling? And why did you ruin the radio?" Wolf asked furiously, after he heard strange-sounding scraps of conversation, accompanied by a horrible hissing out of the loudspeakers. He was convinced that one of them had played around with the radio and obliged his foreign language skills.
But they made themselves out as clueless and Jan told him, "I have no idea what it was, but I listened once to the language of the dinosaurs from dinosaur planet for fun and I believe, it was the same..." If these explanations were actually correct which, however, Wolf doubted strongly, the scientists should deal with a new riddle from this time on: How could dinosaurs with their rather bulky and for crafting unsuitable "hands" build spaceships and where did they get that knowledge?
He had gradually had enough of these jokes. So Wolf murmured, "Can't you talk normally? I must pay attention so that we arrive and not decipher a pseudo-intellectual language!"
"But we didn't say anything!" There he wanted to reprimand them angrily, but was foiled by an interrupting interjection from Moritz.
"Hold on. I think I know from where that comes… Let's wait until we arrive." So the bounty hunter desisted from his plan.

"Arrival in: Five. Four. Three. Two. One."
They were soon afterwards shaken and slowed down abruptly. Wolf hated this part of a warp the most. It was much more comfortable with his Wolfen-flyer than with this cheap scrapheap. No wonder since he outfitted his "Baby", as he called it, with the best equipment one could steal or buy. Which way he preferred?
"Everyone can hand money over to the cashiers, but only pros can come home unrecognized with a 'present'!", as he always liked to say.
Even if the braking was uncomfortable and painful, what they saw out there in front of their eyes compensated more than enough for their expenditures.
An idyllic planet, seemingly untouched by civilization, appeared with its deep blue oceans, large landmasses and curved cloud formations, extremely inviting for lost souls. No doubt, one discerned at first sight the perfect retreat from everyday stresses. All that remained was to hope that the wildlife might be peaceful as well.
The jet engine punctually ceased to function. The yellow color gave way to red and a pestering signal tone got quickly on his nerves. Instead of the usual text was "The engine is absolutely busted. Please call the service number on our homepage, if you are not currently drifting helplessly through space." on the screen now. The same happened to the warp drive. But he didn't need either anymore. Just floating down to the ground and he would stand on solid ground. Because they were directly in orbit, it shouldn't take long.
What was with these voices again?

"It comes from the planet's surface," Moritz explained. "I received radio signals out of the planet's forests. But they are neither Venomian, nor Cornerian frequencies!" Wolf easily heard that the soldier was not at all pleased. Jan took a similar line too, who promptly shouted wild stories about barbarians and mutants. But the headhunter ignored him and, from this time on, paid attention to whether they were still receiving strange messages.
"Ljudi, my dolschny…" Someone spoke again, this time entirely without disturbances, but paused, like he noticed something odd. Then he gave an amused laugh and continued, "Ach u nas jest possetitel! Podgotowleno no naschi priwetstwuija Komiteta, he he he..."
Wolf didn't understand a single word, but according to the voice they were discovered. And what worried him the most: The speaker didn't sound friendly, but malicious. So he decided to warn his wingmen. "Boys, looks like we are not welcome here. Who of you has...hey!"
Interrupted by sudden rattling his mood darkened. "All right, who here is wetting himself at the moment?" In his experience he could determine those sounds as teeth chattering. Of course he knew immediately who it was and roared the name through the radio. "Jan!"
Instantly it stopped.
Exposed, the frightened one tried to justify himself. "I-I am really shit-scared, okay?!
I don't fancy getting slashed by some freaks and handing over my nut for their crappy village!" The soldier let his aversions against him run free once again and soon a battle of words ensued, which frequently went below the belt.
Wolf merely kept himself out and pursued the progress of their landing attentively. Nevertheless Jan's statements set him thinking...

While they dived into the atmosphere and his flyer fell due to the gravity like a stone, the argument ended. He didn't know the reason, but it was not of his concern. His thoughts primarily revolved around how they should react in the case of an attack. They would naturally defend themselves; the next problem, however, would wait at the ground subsequently. Were anti-aircraft guns installed? Maybe ground forces stationed in addition? Besides that, Wolf could only manoeuvre, brake and float. Under these circumstances aerial combat was hopeless.
"Uh, O'Donnell?" Moritz spoke suddenly to him.
"What's wrong? I'm trying to think of how we are going to survive down there!"
"Look at the radar..." With a queasiness in his stomach, he did what it was advised to him and saw – a dot. That was nothing unusual at first, as their ships were shown as dots themselves. Appropriately there were three visible, two of them behind him. But this one dot was alarming, as Wolf discerned a fourth marking. Possibly that was the cause for the end of the verbal quarrel.
And the dot approached fast.
Indescribably fast.
Within the time it took to blink, something big dashed past them. The extremely loud jet engine noises and the concussion of their fighters were also just as short. The dot was, after this encounter, on the other side of the radar.
"Okay, he really had fire under his butt…" Jan described the event appropriately. "I think Andross' army doesn't have such fast airplanes, does he?"
A transmission occurred again, this time more aggressive and demanding. "Glupyje inostranzy: snuck w wosduschnoje prostranstwo piratow! Jebat pokinut nemedlenno ili sakantschiwajetsja wremja gorenija oblomkow!"

Naturally, none of the three could understand it; they interpreted only one thing correctly: They were in great danger. To clarify this virtually, the fourth radar signal positioned itself a bit behind their tails. A look over his shoulder showed Wolf a comparatively large and streamlined combat aircraft in black paint with ten missiles on each wing. He couldn't, however, make out the pilot due to the mirror reflections. Despite a missing board cannon, their pursuer had more than enough firepower to shoot them down in one stroke.
"Oh dear...O'Donnell, what shall we do? Attack?" Moritz suggested skeptically. He himself wasn't convinced of his idea; however, a getaway seemed impossible in view of the outstanding speed of the opponent.
To quickly come up with a plan that would bring them all uninjured to the ground was a colossal task in such distress. Wolf was a progressive thinker, not a man of spontaneity. Especially not when they could be taken apart in any second. He needed more time now and he could buy it momentarily in merely one single way.
"Moritz! Babble at them on and on, no matter what. Main (thing,) you delay them as long as possible, so I can work out a plan!"
"Uh, yes sir!" the tomcat confirmed the order.
And so he told jokes to the strangers that would have been funny around 100 years ago.

Wolf used the confusion that arose from it to brainstorm. They headed directly for the first cloud cover, though they would never arrive without a hostile attack on time. He believed firmly in a language barrier, that prevented a peaceful outcome, or they were possibly simply asking for trouble. Moritz couldn't stall them for long and then they would die ablaze. Their only chance consisted for these reasons to assault the plane. But not because of its destruction, it was too fast and powerful for that. With it the armour plating not forgotten, it didn't look weak measured in terms of the vehicle's size.
So an inevitable air fight. Therefore he turned to his wingmen. "Boys, when I give you the signal, you slam on the brakes and attack the guy. That should chase him away at least...for the moment."
"All right, just as you like," Jan replied. "But what will you do?"
Good question. How should he support them without working jet engines? He was anything but a coward but there were situations where he wasn't capable of doing something. Like now.
"Sorry to say this now, but everyone who expects me to seriously attack a superior enemy with a totally broken flyer has lost his marbles. I..."
He somehow had to make himself useful…

An idea. Not his favourite role, but afterward he could boast about having rendered his service also in a complete inferiority. "...will be the target simply to be shot. While he attacks me, you hit out at him. Got it?"
A horrified "But...!" was quickly drowned out with a "Just do it!" and after they promised he made himself ready.
"My moschem snimat nakonez wy tak tschto eto takoje?"
"Hit it!"
His comrades at once braked and placed themselves on the heels of the combat aircraft. Obviously the pilot was so confused by the action that at first he didn't react. Only when lasers fired at his back, he gave it his all and pulled the column up. With breathtaking speed he went beyond reach and left his attackers literally standing still.
"Good grief, look at he goes off."
"O'Donnell, I'd like to mention at this point that we can't keep up with that speed. He will come back for sure, be careful." It would be wrong to say, they put him to flight. But after all they had provided themselves some air. Their aggressors were, who would have guessed, less excited about it. The angry yelling out of the radio only amused them, though. A great feeling, to cheat a stronger opponent!

It was nevertheless still too early for a victory celebration. Jan and Moritz restricted themselves to watch the enemy's movements and to inform Wolf. They just broke through the second cloud cover, so seven kilometers remained until the landing – or the impact.
"Watch out, O'Donnell! Attack at six o'clock!" Basically O'Donnell didn't need them for the defense anymore, unless they really wanted to get a missile in the face. That's why he issued them the order, to dive in by means of afterburner and leave the rest to him. They should meet him then at a glade or similar, if he survived.
No sooner said than done, even if involuntarily.
After they left him and he stood as the sole one against the interceptor, the warning signal peeped tumultuously. No problem with flares, but apparently Andross had never heard of them. Wolf also couldn't perform a barrel roll in this condition. What now?
"Oh oh...I don't know if the stuff in action movies works in reality too, but from a physical perspective, it should be possible..!" So he began with the briefly considered feat and hoped it worked.

Wolf pulled the column to the side, didn't bother about wings breaking off, and turned his flyer 180 degrees in fall. As expected, the wings decided for an independent life; they loosened themselves from the body and sailed away. That was nevertheless the least of his worries, much more problematic were the rockets, that came hurtling towards him.
All or nothing.
"Here we go!"
Holding a button, he started a barrage of lasers without keeping an eye on the energy consumption. His life was at stake after all. And his plan worked out: the first missile exploded as it got hit and in this manner Wolf continued with the remaining projectiles. Once again he admired himself proudly for his imaginativeness and skill, to deal with seemingly impossible circumstances. Not everybody could just fend off twenty missiles.

"Eto perwy ras ja ne mogu sdelat kogo-to," the pilot spoke, enraged, then laughing, "odnako, semlja moje proiswedenije moglo by sakantschiwat!" After that the plane turned off.
"Har har, that will teach him a lesson to mess with Wolf O'Donnell..." However, in the midst of his victory celebration, he didn't notice that he had passed the third cloud cover.
Two kilometers until impact.
Only another warning signal broke in on his euphoria. He frantically pressed the button for the floating mode, but a text display on the screen reported a critical, technical error. Whatever the reasons were, he had to try something else. "As far as I know, these things even have an ejector seat...that has to suffice."
The altimeter displayed just about one kilometer now. The flyer indeed had an ejection seat; escaping per se would have been no problem. But what if the colleagues of the pilot were waiting down there?
"It has to be done...even if I leave a wreck behind again." The switch activated, he hoped for the best.

In the next few moments everything happened rapidly one after the other: first the glass detached and he was furthermore catapulted together with the seat out of the flyer. Under him, the wreck fell down into the forest, where it was smashed to pieces and exploded a short time later. "Phew, that was lucky."
Attentive round views assured him that the opponent wasn't to be seen anymore; he also didn't spot enemies on the ground. The fireball though might lure them...
Enjoying the fresh air, his seat with the parachute gently fell to the ground. He still didn't know how he would meet with Jan and Moritz now. But the main thing was that he survived, wasn't it?
The noises of birds, rustling leaves and insects closed in and Wolf mentally prepared himself to leap from a great height. The parachute would definitely get caught in the branches and leave him dangling.
So it went.
A short jolt and he hung four meters above the forest floor. "Oh well, it could have been worse," he said, and worked on getting the seat belt undone. Suddenly however, he squalled, startled as he fell along with the seat and landed hard. Mind you without the parachute, merely some shreds of it were left at the back rest. "Ouch! Stupid piece of scrap, would have been too much to expect to design something durable."
By then really unbuckled, he stood up, stretched his body, and looked around.

One wasn't able to see the wood for the trees anymore. Isolated sunbeams got through the foliage, airworthy insects wandered from flower to flower and in the distance he heard the hammerings from woodpeckers. He even saw the crash site from his position. Thick, black smoke ascended out of the charred wreck to the skies, visible for everyone. Briefly reminded of the disaster yesterday and thinking of the death of his team, he sighed and cogitated about how he should continue. "There have to be people here after all who don't blast every newcomer..."
Engine sounds.
Instinctively hidden behind a tree, he spotted an armoured car on four wheels with active headlights, painted black and a mounted machine gun on the top not far from the crash site. Nobody sat behind it. "Time to clear off, they will certainly scour the surrounding area!"
While he slowly retreated, he observed them to make sure where they started with their search. The vehicle conveniently stopped at the wreck and two large figures left the car.
In his opinion they looked...strange. Humanoid and walking upright, but something didn't fit them. With everything Wolf knew, he had never seen such creatures.
What exactly he found disconcerting about them, didn't interest him though, since there was a more important thing to do in the moment: Fleeing.

That they investigated the place alone was completely enough for him. Wolf instantly turned around and ran, further into the depths of the forest.

Translation of the transcribed language in order:

-...End of


-Guys, we need...ah, we have visitors! Just prepare our welcoming committee, he he he...

-Stupid aliens: You violated the airspace of the pirates! Piss off immediately or you end as burning wrecks!

-So what's wrong, can we finally shoot you down?

-This is the first time that I can't bump someone off...but the ground should complete my work!


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