Sliding Time 1:
No Clash of Cultures (old)

by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/F/M and M/M sex
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

"~What did I do to deserve this, Master?~" Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi sighed deeply as he pretended to pay attention to a very excitable scientist yammering on about his latest project. Like any good Jedi, the information was being retained, and he looked attentive, but he was decidedly elsewhere in mind.

"~You are the one who knows advanced time/space physics, my Padawan.~" Came the reply, Qui-Gon's chuckle clear in the thought. "~It is better than high tea with the house matriarch.~"

"~Perhaps, Master. At least they leave us be at night.~" He smiled secretively as he added a few select memories from other nights with the though.

"~Do you really think you can out-do me there, Padawan?~" Qui-Gon chuckled mentally and repaid the distracting images with a few completely seductive ones of his own, carefully chosen for the effect they'd have on the youth in his charge.

"~You ....~" Obi-Wan gasped sharply as his eyes caught the first sparks of an overload in the large, equipment-filled room.


Obi-Wan held a groan silent, keenly aware that he was not in a familiar place. Whatever that explosion had done, it hadn't been just injuries. Physically, he was fine except for a headache. His mind ... he could tell his bond with his Master was intact, they were both alive, but that was all it provided. Wherever he was, it was a long ways from where he had been.

He reached out with his Force-senses to explore the area around him before he gave an indication he was conscious. No buildings ... plant life, some small animals... mostly things he wasn't familiar with, but it seemed like he was out in the wilds of where ever he was. He could hear vehicles passing by overhead, but nobody seemed inclined to stop and check him out just yet.

He opened his eyes and confirmed what he'd sensed. In addition, there was a large city visible when he stood up and looked around.

"Wonderful." He muttered slightly and patted himself down, pleased that at least his lightsaber and equipment was still intact, and working. He looked around one more time and spotted the control device he'd been shown not long before the explosion. He scooped it up and put it in a pouch before heading for the city and some hope he was still in the Republic, or at least known space.

At least there was a city. That was usually a pretty good sign that he could find out where he was at the very least.

The young Jedi started towards the city, feeling uneasy as he saw the ships flying through above him. They didn't look anything like the designs he was used to. All angles and lines, clearly designed for speed, and probably for combat. He couldn't imagine any planet he knew having such an active space fleet, not without a battle going on.

As he got closer, he was even more sure this was not anywhere in the Republic. The architecture was all wrong, and the species mix he was beginning to see was just as off.

Humanoid animals, every one of them. Rabbits, Foxes, Cats, Birds, Reptiles, a couple of Frogs ... all manner of species, dressed much like anybody he might expect to see on the streets of Coruscant, walking about and doing their business.

And, to judge by some of the looks he was getting from passersby, he was as unusual to them as they were to him.

The chatter on the street was also a language, or mix of languages, he had no clue about. He knew he wasn't fluent in all the languages of the galaxy, but anywhere with a spaceport he was sure was around would have some people taking in at least one of the couple dozen major languages he was familiar enough with to recognize.

But not here; not Hutt, not Basic, not any one of the tongues that he would have expected from some of them, given their shapes. It sounded more like muttering or mumbling rapidly between each other, with the occasional semi-bestial sound.

He noticed a Wolf with an eye patch watching him curiously as he walked along, but he didn't seem to be following as Obi-Wan worked his way into a shopping district. The goods looked more normal than the people. This he recognized; clothing, jewelry, books, decorative items, children's toys. The language remained the same though, and more people looked at him nervously.

He could see the spaceport from here, however, and worked his way in that direction. If anyone here could speak with him, it would be there. As he was making his way towards the spaceport, he became keenly aware that there seemed to be more focused attention on him. Everybody made room for him without hesitation, and he knew he was being watched.

A bright red-wheeled vehicle pulled up in front of him as he approached an intersection, the Fox behind the wheel stopping in his path and looking up at him. It was clearly not a law enforcement vehicle, designed for speed and show rather than rough and tumble work, but you wouldn't know it to look at the driver. He was wearing a light vest that Obi-Wan could see concealed light armor plates, and there was a blaster near his off-hand.

He said something in the local language; while the young Jedi couldn't understand him, he was pretty sure from body language that whoever this Fox was, he wanted information about the new arrival that was so clearly different.

"I'm sorry, but I do not understand you." He made his tone apologetic and his body language as friendly as he could.

The Fox frowned, reaching up to tap the headset he was wearing roughly and trying again. The sounds were vaguely similar, almost like somebody rapidly trying to learn Basic. He was sure he made out a 'you' in the middle, shortly before the Fox nodded towards the back seat of his car.

Obi-Wan hesitated, but when an empathic scan picked up nothing hostile or deceptive about the Fox, he got in.

"My name is Obi-Wan." He offered, not sure if it would be translated yet.

"Obi-Wan?" The Fox repeated uncertainly, starting the vehicle again and pulling into a u-turn, driving towards one of the other large facilities in the city. He was saying that himself, and his muzzle wasn't really built for it. "Fox McCloud," he said, the device translating the name into Basic. It did seem to be picking up the language fairly quickly... this might be a good sign.

After all - if they had translator devices like this, it meant they probably weren't that unused to aliens.

"What world is this?" Obi-Wan asked, hopping the device was up for the questions he wanted to ask first.

"You... on Corneria...." The Fox said. There was more, but that was all he understood so far. "People... about you. You... quite a...."

Well, at least he was getting more of it.

"What is your title?" Obi-Wan kept up the conversation, hoping it would eventually learn enough to really talk.

"Rank?" The Fox asked him.

"Rank, job, what do you do?" He elaborated. "I would like to teach your device faster."

"Commander Fox McCloud," the Fox explained to him, reaching up and fiddling with one of the settings on the headset. "Are you military?"

"No," he shook his head. "I am a Jedi. We are negotiators, diplomats, warriors when we need to be."

"New one to me," Fox mused. "You can understand me pretty well now?"

So much for it being anywhere with any contact with home. He'd be hard pressed to find a world, civilized or not, that wasn't at least aware of the Jedi. They may not have all seen one, but they all at least recognized the title.

"Yes," he nodded. "Why did you stop to pick me up?"

"Good, means Slippy's finally getting the bugs worked out of it. I got a call from General Pepper; seems you caused quite a stir when you started walking down the streets. Nobody was quite sure what you were, so they called in. I was off-duty, but the Star Fox team usually handles anything involving strange aliens showing up in Corneria City."

"I'm not the first then." Obi-Wan nodded with the confirmation of what he'd suspected. "What happens next?"

"Well, first I take you back to base, so we can make sure there isn't anything that's a biological threat that came with you. Slippy'll work on getting you a translator of your own, programmed for the local languages. Then we'll try and figure out how the heck you got here, since you didn't have a ship that I saw," Fox chuckled. "You hide one, or something weird happen?"

"Something weird happened." The Jedi confirmed. "I was listening to a scientist about his latest project and a power surge blew things up. I woke up not far from the city."

"You still have the device?" Fox asked him, slowing down as they approached an obviously military compound, pulling his ID out and showing it to the guard on duty before pulling in.

"No." he shook his head. "The device was the size of a very large room and exploded."

"Ouch," Fox winced. "Well, you might just be stuck here for a while then, if we can't figure out some other way to get you back. What's your home planet?"

"Coruscant." He supplied easily. "There are several hundred I can make my way home from as well."

"Okay ... you ever hear of the Lylat System?"

"Can't say as I have." Obi-Wan admitted and watched the controls as McCloud parked the vehicle. Being able to drive one of these could prove useful. "The races here are also new to me. A few could be from back home, but I doubt it."

"Definitely going to be around here for a while then," Fox said, pulling the keys and pocketing them. "Come on, I'll introduce you to the others. Maybe Slippy'll end up having some idea how to get you home."

"Or something I can do while I am here at least." He suggested, following the Fox towards the building, their difference in dress very obvious.

"Oh, that I'm sure we can find for you," Fox chuckled. "Even if things are pretty peaceful since Andross went down the last time, we've got plenty of work for anybody who's on the good guy's side."

"How many worlds have people on them, that you trade with?" Obi-Wan asked curiously as they entered the main building.

"On a large scale, or counting the reclamation stations?" Fox asked as they walked through quiet halls. It wasn't particularly busy at this hour; the few passersby there were giving Obi-Wan strange looks but continued on when they saw the much shorter Fox with him.

"Large scale." Obi-Wan decided, looking around and taking in everything.

"Four others, for now," Fox said. "Katina, Sauria, Titania, and Macbeth. The other planets are still being recovered after the last couple wars against Andross."

"Sounds like you took some hard losses." He said sympathetically. "Are all the worlds in this system?"

"Yeah, unless you say Sauria is outside of it. Still orbits our star though, so it's an academic argument. We don't really have inter-system travel yet, honestly. Not that's really any good," Fox said with a slight shrug as they approached a lab. "You're not really used to people like us, are you?"

"No," the Jedi admitted. "I've seen many races, but never a concentration of humanoid animals that are here. A few races look familiar, but not many."

"Well, just so you know, Slippy's a Frog. Smart as anything though. We've had a few folks come through who weren't very comfortable with amphibians."

"I've worked with insectoids and giant slugs before. I don't expect any problems with an amphibian." Obi-wan smiled slightly. "I grew up surrounded by many kinds of people."

"Sounds like it," Fox chuckled, clearly thinking about the idea of insects and slugs. "I've worked with a couple people who've grown up never meeting an alien that didn't want to erase their planet. It gets... interesting." The door slid open, revealing a three-foot tall Frog that looked even smaller scrunched down under a console.

"Hey Fox!" The Frog called out, his voice almost painfully high. "You bring in the new arrival?" He asked, crawling out from under the computer and turning to see Obi-Wan. "You're not a Mouse," he observed, cocking his head at the human.

"No I'm not." The Jedi agreed with a smile and slight bow. "I am a human."

"So we do have two coming in," Slippy observed, turning to hit a button on the console. "Hey Rob! Set up scans for two new arrivals, not just one!" A viewscreen turned on, revealing a droid on the other side who looked like an archaic design from back home.

"Yes Slippy," the droid answered easily. "A second translator is also in production."

"Great," the Frog grinned at the droid. "Thanks Rob!"

"You're welcome, Slippy," Rob answered, the viewscreen turning off a few moments later.

"So... what is this about a Mouse?" Fox asked.

"After you went out after your friend, we got a second call," Slippy explained. "A giant Mouse with antenna. I thought it was just additional details, but Falco's on his way to check it out."

"Oh no," Fox groaned, shaking his head. "This could get ... interesting."




Falco grumbled to himself as he watched the scanners of his Arwing. Of all the nights to get called out to look for a strange alien, it had to be a night he was planning to spend with Katt.

"There you are," he muttered as the scanners picked up an alien life form. He gunned the engines, streaking out over Corneria City towards the nearby hills. The lush green grass and trees were unscarred by any crash, but the alien was there all right.

Just like the reports had said, a Mouse... with antenna.

A very large tan Mouse in biker gear that looked like he'd been on the losing end of a war he'd fought hard in.

"Well, you're definitely not from around here buddy," Falco grumbled and put on the brakes, his Arwing flipping the flaps down and slowing almost to a halt before he nosed it down towards the newcomer was now looking up at him with an expression somewhere between hopeful and ready to be shot at.

"Okay, remember, don't start a fight or Peppy'll have my head," Falco reminded himself, strapping on the translator he'd been given after hooking back up with the team at Sauria.

He brought the Arwing down for a landing, broad landing pads stretching out from the angular ship's bottom. He opened the cockpit, stood up, blaster at his hip, fighting the urge to rest his hand on it. This stranger had made no hostile moves, yet. It wasn't in his best interests to change that idea.

"Here's hoping this thing works," he muttered, turning on the translator. "Hey there; you okay?" He called to the unusual Mouse that was cautiously approaching, a sizeable blaster on his own hip and three visible blades, one on each boot and a third opposite the blaster.

"Mostly." He nodded, still pretty wary but a bit more open as he took a few steps closer. "Who are you?"

"Falco Lombardi," the blue-feathered Falcon said, grateful that the translator was working the way it was supposed to. "Where you from, stranger? You don't look like any Mouse I've seen around here. They're not built near as well as you, for one," he chuckled, relaxing a bit, though still keeping an eye out for any sudden moves.

It was an attitude he could see was accepted and returned.

"I'm from Mars," he answered simply. "It doesn't exist anymore. Where is here?"

"Corneria, Lylat System. How'd you get here?" He asked. "And you have any idea what system Mars is in?"

"Humans on Earth called it Sol. We called it Ramilz," he answered evenly. "I'm Throttle. You have a very green world. Hope the Plutarkians don't find it."

"Well, not a system I recognize off the top of my head, but Slippy might be able to pin it down. Climb in," he said, leaning down to offer Throttle a hand up. "It's a tight fit for two, but it's a short trip back to HQ."

There was a moment's hesitation, but he accepted the hand up and settled in the ship without complaint.

"So, you've had to deal with the Plutarchians?" Falco asked him, climbing back into the pilot's seat and closing the cockpits. "They the guys who trashed your planet?"

"And the other two habitable ones in the system," he nodded. "You've crossed with them before?" He sounded weary at the idea.

"No, but we've heard of 'em," Falco said grimly. "We've had enough trouble with our domestic version of those scumbags. At least he's dead now."

"Did you find the body?" Throttle asked quietly.

"I watched Fox blow it up the second time," Falco pointed out. "If he's not dead, we've already cleaned his clock a couple times. The first time was the only one he made any real progress on, and that's just 'cause the ape took us by surprise."

"Good to know. So what is this world like?"

"Heart of the Lylat System," Falco said, not as proud of the fact as one might expect. "There's Corneria City, a few smaller ones here and there. Between them, we have a lot of green and open spaces, like you landed in. Good place to live, even if it's not as perfect as the government wants folks to think."

"They rarely are." Throttle nodded without much question. "Governments aren't usually about the truth after all."

"Heh - have to agree with you there," Falco nodded, taking off and turning the Arwing back towards the base. "The General's a pretty good guy, but I wouldn't want to deal with his bosses if my life depended on it. There's a reason the Star Fox team is still independent."

"Same with mine, back when they were alive." He looked out the cockpit to the green below them, his heart tightening for the last time he'd seen anything like it.

"You were a pretty close knit bunch, weren't you?" Falco asked him softly.

"We were bros." Throttle nodded. "We saw a lot together before it was over."

"So what happened that brought you here?"

"I made an emergency teleport using one of the Plutarkian devices after I set enough charges to make sure the ship blew. Anywhere was better than there. I never expected to see a green place."

"Well, might want to stick to Corneria, Katina, and Sauria if you want to keep seeing 'em," Falco warned him. "I'm guessing you're not lookin' to go home."

"Not really. The worlds haven't been habitable by cockroaches in a decade." He shook his head. "Now ... I'm just looking to retire."

"Well, worse places to do that," Falco mused. "Sounds like you're probably gonna be out of our hands pretty soon, really; once you get through med scan and Slippy gets you outfitted for a translator, you'll probably be able to start huntin' for a job and get on with your life."

"I hope so." Throttle tried not to swallow hard when he realized that he didn't have any skills outside of combat and survival, and he really didn't want to live alone, for all he could well enough.

"You've been fighting all along, haven't you?" Falco asked, recognizing the vibe he was getting from the back seat of his ship. "Long as you can remember, at least?"

"Since before I could walk." He nodded, his voice low. "If we weren't fighting, we were being hunted by somebody. Usually both."

"Sounds worse than growing up on the streets," Falco said sympathetically as they passed over the city and touched down in the hangar of the base. "Here we go; I'll take you to the lab, leave you with Slippy."

"I had family, then my Bros. It wasn't bad till I was alone." Throttle said almost reflexively, something he'd told himself a hundred thousand times in his life already, and followed the blue Falcon to the ground with an easy leap and powerful grace at odds with his mangy looks.

"Well, you'll probably find some new friends around here. Not the same as your old ones, obviously, but it'll be better than nobody," Falco said, clearly speaking from experience on some level.

"Very true," Throttle agreed with a nodded and followed him inside the lab. There, they found Fox and Slippy, and a human newcomer Slippy was measuring for a translator.

"So you got called on duty too, eh Fox?" Falco chuckled.

"Yeah, before you did too," the Fox shot back. "This is Obi-Wan Kenobi, a human from way out of this part of the woods. Who's your friend?"

"Throttle, Martian Mouse from the Ramilz system. Probably gonna be sticking around, instead of trying to get back home," Falco said easily.

"Welcome, Throttle." Obi-Wan stepped up and offered his hand.

"Thanks, Obi-Wan Kenobi." Throttle accepted it before looking around at all the other new races in the room.

"Good to meet you, Throttle," Fox nodded. "Why -" He caught the indication to not ask about home from Falco, and accepted it. "There anything we should know about your biology before Slippy sends you and Obi-Wan in to let Rob run the medical scans?"

"What kind of things?" Obi-Wan asked even as he picked up a bolt of near-panic from Throttle that the Martian Mouse didn't show in the least.

"Just checking for any contagions you picked up from here that need to be treated, or that you brought here that we need to watch out for," Slippy explained, the Frog's voice grating on Throttle's more sensitive ears. "Either of you have any cybernetics that need maintenance?"

"No," Obi-Wan shook his head. "No medical conditions either."

"Mine don't need maintenance anymore." Throttle said simply.

"Okay," Slippy nodded. "Rob'll run a quick scan on them, but there isn't any need to remove anything unless there's something wrong. We had a bad incident once with a guy with an artificial heart that reacted badly to the energy impulses some engines generate," he explained. "Got put in standard procedure since. So, you two want to follow me?" He asked, indicating the proper direction.

Obi-Wan followed first, Throttle behind and significantly more cautious. Slippy led them into a room that looked like a robotics lab as much as a medical one, putting Throttle even more on edge.

"This is Rob 64," Slippy said, introducing the robot standing behind the control console.

"Good to meet you," Rob said, nodding his head slightly. "Is there something wrong, sir?" He asked, looking at Throttle. "You seem agitated."

"I've had a lot of bad times in places like this." He cut the explanation short before it got more graphic that he ever wanted to remember.

"If you would like, I could conduct the scans in the main lab," Rob offered.

"I would." Throttle didn't even hesitate before backing out of the place from far too many real nightmares.

"Very well," the robot nodded.

"I'll handle Obi-Wan's scans, Rob," Slippy offered, moving up to the console.

"Thank you, Slippy," Rob said, following Throttle out of the room as the Frog started running his scans on the human.

"Have a seat, Throttle," Rob suggested, noticing without surprise that Falco was already gone. The Martian Mouse complied, grateful that it was a normal looking seat and to be out of the cybernetics lab.

The robot looked him over, no visible signs of the medical scans that were currently going on inside Rob's powerful computer brain. Before long, it was done, Rob preparing his diagnosis.

"You have a very strong immune system," the robot started, "but you will need medical care soon. You have been exposed to several bio-agents of unknown nature, your cybernetic implants need maintenance, and -" He was cut off as a tiny black speck jumped off the Martian Mouse and landed on one of his optics. "And could probably use a flea-bath," Rob concluded, squishing the insect.

For the first time, Throttle looked embarrassed. It had been a decade and more since he'd seen anyone that it would matter too, and nearly as long since he'd cared about the parasites. They were simply a fact of life for him with no real way to deal with them since Itassa had fallen to the Plutarkians and ended life in his solar system. "The bio-agents would be Plutarkian. I don't know which ones."

"Anything we need to warn Falco about?" Fox asked, concerned for his wingman.

"Only the fleas, and that mostly so Katt doesn't injure him," Rob decided. "You will want to spray down his Arwing for anything living that may have crawled off."

"I'll give him the head's up," Fox chuckled slightly. "There anything in the datafiles about the Plutarkian bio-agents?" He asked Rob.

"No, but they do not seem to be contagious anymore. I would recommend a few days medical isolation while we analyze the agents and develop a cure, just in case."

"Well, probably going to take that long to make sure your cybernetics are kept up," Fox mused. "Going to be any real trouble, Throttle?" He asked the Martian Mouse, not missing the signs of tension that rippled across his broad frame as the beginning of a fight response.

"I do not get along with medical labs." He said, not quite ready to fight, but not about to take it without a challenge and reassurances he could believe.

"We can give you a set of quarters; medical isolation only means that you're under a limited quarantine," Fox explained. "We'd want to keep your contact to people who've already been exposed. You know what those weapons can do; we just want to be sure they don't spread any farther if we can help it."

"All right," he nodded and relaxed significantly. As long as it wasn't a cell or lab, he could go with it. It did make sense after all.

"Well, Obi-Wan's clean," Slippy said as the door to the lab opened and the Frog and human came out. "He's got a really unusual immune system, but it seems to be fine."

"Do you know of Earth, Sol system?" Throttle asked the Jedi.

"I'm afraid not, Throttle." He answered with a sympathetic tone. "Something like me lived there?"

"Yes," he nodded, disappointed but not surprised.

"What class star did the system have?" Rob asked. "With how many habitable and uninhabitable planets?"

"A single young yellow star with three formally habitable planets in positions two, three and four, an additional nine uninhabitable planets and three asteroid belts." Throttle supplied. "Depending on who you ask, it was called Ramilz, Sol or Cobon."

"We don't have a formal name for it, but I believe we have an entry in our database for your home system," Rob offered. "It is on one of the outer arms of this galaxy, I believe. If you do not mind, I would appreciate any information about it you can give us. Even if the system is dead, its history would be welcome."

"I'll tell you what I can." Throttle agreed. "It is in an outer arm. I know where, and where a lot of Plutarkian planets and facilities are, or were before I got there." He added with a kind of vicious pride at the past tense he had the right to claim on them.

"Thank you," Rob nodded. "If you would like, I can lead you to your quarters. If you would prefer replacements to repairs for your current cybernetics, we can offer you those too," he added, almost as an afterthought.

"How long before new ones would need maintenance?" He asked simply, torn between the temptation and not trusting them that much.

"Routine maintenance taking a couple hours every six months to a year is recommended, but unless something happens to alter the shape of your skull they should last for your lifetime," Rob said easily.

"It's a modification on the design I've used for Rob's own optics," Slippy explained. "You've had bad run-ins with cyber-techs before, haven't you?"

"You could say that." Throttle tried to keep his tone level with decades old and the pain and terror was as fresh as the day it happened. "None of these were voluntary, or replacing anything already damaged. Just one more thing I can credit to my first Plutarkian imprisonment."

"Jerks like that give the rest of us a bad name," the Frog muttered. "I can understand not wanting to trust anybody to do that sort of work for you again, but from what Rob's scans found, I'd have to say it's a good idea. The eyes are sub-par, and not designed to work with the way your brain's wired."

"I know," he admitted softly, put a little more at ease by the Frog's manner. "They're thirty-something years old too. Happened when I was in my teens still. You mentioned a pest bath?" He changed the topic to something he was honestly looking forward to a lot now that he'd thought about it to stop himself from blabbering more information than he wanted out. "Or just a bath."

"Sure thing," Slippy said. "We'll get you to your quarters, and everything you need'll be there. Don't have to worry about money for a while either; until we get you set up here, you're on our ticket."

"Just keep it reasonable," Fox chuckled. "I'll go show Obi-Wan to his quarters, you guys can get Throttle set up."

"I doubt he will take advantage of your hospitality," Obi-Wan commented when they were out of hearing range of the unusual Mouse. "Things we take for granted are luxuries he hasn't even dreamed of for years."

"I know," Fox nodded. "Things can get a little tight around here sometimes though; it's mostly habit to mention it. The Star Fox team isn't officially a part of the Cornerian military, so we're at the mercy of employment offers, Slippy's royalties, and the occasional endorsement deal to keep all our stuff maintained. The Great Fox is not a low maintenance ship," he chuckled as he stopped in front of a door that opened to Obi-Wan's temporary quarters.

"Even as a Jedi with official support, I've been on enough missions that were like that to understand." He nodded easily and stepped inside. "I will not push your hospitality either. I'm still grateful for a soft bed and warm meals."

"I've been in the field enough to know the feeling," Fox nodded. "So, what are the Jedi?" He asked. "Some sort of warrior-priest, from what you said earlier?"

"Something like that," he nodded and sat down on one of the two padded chairs in the small reading corner of the room he was to occupy for a while and motioned to the other for Fox to make himself comfortable in. "We serve the Force, as much as we use it. We do not consider a it a God, however."

"Just as well," Fox chuckled as he took a seat. "Last guys we met that claimed to be followers of an actual god were trying to tear their planet apart for him. Literally. So what is the Force?"

"It is the energy all around us. It is generated and influenced by all living things, as much as it influences those who can sense it. Those who can manipulate it can create effects around them, and the strongest can learn to become Jedi." He explained.

"You should talk to Krystal some time," Fox chuckled. "She'd probably understand this a lot better than I am just now. Upshot of it; it's some sort of magic?"

"That has an opinion of what you should do sometimes." He nodded.

"Destiny and that sort of stuff?" Fox asked, the question at least partly rhetorical. "Yeah, you and Krystal will get along great," he chuckled. "I'm not so sure about that sort of thing myself; I've heard too many people try to pass the buck for what they've done to destiny."

"Sometimes," Obi-Wan nodded. "Most of the times I know of are warnings of what could happen. The Force isn't much on giving direct information about the future. It is far too much in flux to have anything set, but sometimes a person will get a strong premonition or vision of a likely future. It up to them to figure out what it means and what to do about it, if anything."

"That's a bit better," Fox conceded. "That sort of destiny still means it's your fault if you screw something up, usually at least. So are Jedi common where you're from? Because I've never heard of anything like that, at least not that's native to our system."

"We are not common at all." Obi-Wan shook his head. "There are about ten thousand Jedi, and over a hundred trillion people in the known galaxy."

"So one of you for about every...." Fox did the math in his head quickly. "One for about every ten billion people? Must keep your guys stretched pretty thin."

"It does," he agreed. "There are never enough Jedi to answer all the calls of need. We have never been many; there simply are not enough people capable of it to train. It usually takes twenty-five years to train a full Knight, the rank where you are considered ready to operate on your own."

"So what's your rank?" Fox asked him. "After all, you didn't seem to have anybody else with you when you arrived here."

"My Master was not caught in the accident. He was elsewhere in the city at the time." He explained. "I am a Padawan," he fingered the long, slender braid over his left ear. "An Initiate has not been selected for individual training yet. A Padawan had been, but is still in training. A Knight has completed their formal training and can be sent on solo missions. A Master is one who has successfully trained a Padawan."

"You're probably looking forward to getting home then," Fox mused. "Too bad there isn't anything left of the machine that brought you here. Even info on how it worked might've helped."

"I can't really help you there." Obi-Wan lied easily and smoothly. "Things have a way of working out in the end." He added to cover his acceptance with the truth.

"Well, I should probably get going," Fox said, checking his watch and standing up, a move that Obi-Wan went with easily. "See you around Obi-Wan; after Slippy's done helping Throttle out, maybe we can do some work on getting you back home."

"Sounds like a good plan." Obi-Wan stood to show the Red Fox out, then turned back to examine the rooms of his quarters a little more closely.

The bed was simple but quite comfortable and suitable for his height; clearly some races around here were normal-sized to him. So was the fresher room and it's large shower, toilet and vanity. Everything needed to live comfortably except a kitchen. Given this was a military installation, he had no doubts food would be in a cafeteria of some sort. It was something he should have asked about too, even though he would not feel the need to eat for several more hours.

There was even enough space to perform many of his katas and meditate.

It would be quite a pleasant place to be while he worked on getting home.

Obi-Wan drew in a deep, centering breath and removed the large bracelet/ arm guard like device from it's home on his belt and began to work through his memories of the inventor's descriptions with new important on understanding them and what had happened to bring him here.


Throttle glanced towards the door as the Frog left, grateful beyond words to have him gone. He looked far too much like a fishface flunky for any comfort, even if he didn't act like one.

Still, the room was suited to his six plus foot frame and not the short people he'd seen so far, it smelled good, the bed looked softer than any he could think of, and the bathroom ... it had a hot water shower to clean up under and a large whirlpool to relax in. Most of the food that had been brought to tide him over until morning could be easily eaten while in the water too.

He couldn't help a light shudder of anticipation as he stripped down and put his badly abused biker clothes in the container Slippy had indicated for them and shut the lid. He couldn't help but muse about why they had buildings and facilities that suited him, when everyone was barely more than half his height.

He wasn't about to complain though, especially when he felt hot, clean water splashing on his palm shortly after the shower was turned on.

"Sweet," he whispered to himself and stepped under the spray, just standing there for the longest time as the loose grime and dried blood was hydrated and washed away to be removed from his world by the drain between his feet.

Even without touching or looking at himself, he knew he was in bad shape. Fur was missing, or would have to be cut off to the skin to unmat it. Most clothing would cover if he wore more than usual, but he wouldn't be presentable without a careful check for what was showing for several months if he kept his true nature a secret.

At least he didn't have mange. It was a small miracle he was more than grateful for.

Nobody had commented on his looks when he'd gotten in, but he knew he'd still be a mess even after the shower. He noticed some fur shampoo in the alcove along the side and began to work it into a lather to deal with the more stubborn filth and the parasite infestation he knew he had carried for years.

It was beginning to sink in, right along with the achingly pleasant heat of the shower, that he was not only back in civilization, but a civilization that wasn't on the verge of being slaughtered.

That realization weakened his legs as something that had kept him up and going for so many years began to dissipate.

"Free ... the world is safe." He whispered and closed his eyes as a shudder ran from his skull to the tip of his tail. Slowly he sank to his knees in the steaming hot shower, the tears he hadn't had time to grieve with beginning to fall.




Obi-Wan drew himself out of his meditations at a light chime from the door the next morning. He could sense her controlled nervousness and excitement even before open opened the door to a sleek black female Cat in a very un-military dress and clipboard.

"Hello, Miss. How may I help you?" He asked with a friendly smile.

"Actually, I think I'm here to help you," she smiled up at him. "Obi-Wan Kenobi?" She asked him, checking her clipboard quickly.

"Yes, ma'am." He nodded easily and stepped aside to let her in. "Please come in. I was told you would be here today."

"Good," she smiled, stepping inside. "I'm Casey Tenna; I've been assigned to help you with adjusting to life in the Lylat System, while you're here."

He nodded easily and motioned her to have a seat if she wanted. "What is first?"

"Well, the first thing to do would be to make sure all your personal information is correct, and have you fill in a few blanks for us," she smiled. "Were you able to review the datafiles on Lylatian?" She asked him.

"Yes," he nodded seriously. "What did you want to know about me?"

"Local age, date of birth if it means anything here, that sort of thing," she said easily, showing him the clipboard and the blank spots on the entry. "We don't know how long your years are, so we're not sure what to fill in exactly."

"Judging from the planetary rotation from your records, I am twenty-two here, which would put my local date of birth around the eighteenth of Caysis, 488."

"All right," she nodded, filling in the information. "So, what sort of work do you have training in, or enjoy?"

"Mechanics, electronics, piloting, combat, wilderness survival, tracking, diplomacy, negotiations, languages, teaching, medicine." Obi-Wan listed off his primary skills. "Those are my best skills at least. I can pick up nearly anything."

"I would say so," Casey said, clearly impressed. "Well, medical certs would have to be taken again here before you could practice those skills, for obvious reasons ... probably harder for you too, since nobody here has the same anatomy or tools as you're used to. Do you have any interest in ecology or ecological systems?" She asked him.

"Some, yes." He nodded. "I studied farming and plant biology when I was much younger."

"Well, most of them aren't nearly that far along yet, but if you have any interest in seeing more of the system, we might have a place for you on Zoness or Aquas' reclamation team. Zoness was the planet his the hardest during the first Lylat Wars," she explained. "Aquas wasn't hit nearly as hard, but it's also a water-world; some people aren't too thrilled with the prospect of living on one."

"Either would work," he nodded thoughtfully. "I have helped on a reclamation project before."

"Well, we'll consider that then," she smiled. "Most of the people at the stations are either military and mercenaries providing defense, or scientists there to help fix things. Somebody who can do both would be quite welcome. So; how would you like to get out and take a look around Corneria?" She asked him.

"I would like that." He nodded and politely offered her a hand to her feet.

"Thank you," she smiled, standing up. "You're definitely the polite one," she added cheerfully. "We have a touring shuttle cleared for our use today; hope you don't mind if I fly, at first at least?" She asked with a chuckle.

"Not at all, Casey." He smiled warmly. "You are more knowledgeable about its operation."

"Some people are touchy about it, particularly ones that Commander McCloud likes," she chuckled as they left his room. "You prefer natural areas, or a tour of the city first?"

"The city first." He nodded and followed her out. "I think I make him slightly nervous. He keeps mentioning how I would get along great with his girlfriend."

"She's another person from out of system," Casey explained. "Her planet blew up a few years back, and she's one of the few people we've met who can claim to have magical abilities that can't be defined by science in any way we've found. Anything more than that... well, it's not my place to talk about that sort of thing," the Cat shrugged slightly. "He does seem to like you though, on principle at least. I think it's the 'warrior brotherhood' thing I keep hearing about," she chuckled.

"That does sometimes happen." Obi-Wan smiled faintly in amusement. "Though you now have two, possibly three."

"According to our records, very true," she chuckled. "You'll probably find people very interested in you for just that reason. I think the only reason Krystal isn't still being hassled is because she set the last scientist's tail on fire." They turned towards the hangar, the sounds of various starfighters taking off and landing clear to Obi-Wan's trained senses.

"That wouldn't deter any of the scientists I've meet," he mused quietly. "Of course, most of them can also put me on my tail in a sparring match."

"They probably wouldn't be as fascinated either," Casey pointed out. "If it's more common in your neck of the universe. They approached a large, old-looking transport that was set up near the launch bay. "Ah, good, they're ready for us. You're lucky I managed to get one of the transports like this, instead of my usual one," she smiled. "It would be a little cramped, most likely."

"Not designed for someone my height?" He half guessed and boarded with her.

"Not usually," she confirmed. "Most of my cases are locals, so I only have to have a transport that'll hold somebody about my height. Just be glad you weren't picked up in an Arwing; Falco's the only one who's had his modded enough that you can even fit a second pilot my size into it comfortably, let alone anybody else."

"That would have been Throttle's ride in." Obi-Wan nodded as they sat down in the still-tight confines of the larger transport. "What is first on the tour?"

"Shopping district, maybe?" She suggested. "No offense, but those robes stand out more than your species does."

"All right," he glanced down at his cream and brown robes. "Never thought of that before."

"Robes are pretty unusual around here," Casey nodded. "They look good on you, but pants and vests are more usual. Is that what Jedi usually wear?"

"Yes," he nodded and watched everywhere, everything, including how she drove the vehicle. It wasn't that different from fighters he was familiar with; things were just labeled and arranged differently for a pilot her size and using the local language.

They slipped into a busy aerial traffic stream, not nearly as organized as he was used to from Coruscant, but effective all the same. People darted all over, flying up to higher levels of stores or parking areas before touching down, with seemingly little to no concern for the other pilots around them.

No wonder people tended to take ground vehicles when they were relaxing.

"Well, I'm sure we can find something that fits in a bit better that's similar," Casey said easily, turning the transport nearly on its side to avoid a smaller, single-man ship that darted through. "Damned kids," she muttered.

"I am sure," he agreed easily. "A few more traffic controllers would likely be useful."

"Yeah, they probably would be," she agreed. "But it usually works out; this is the only place that's really this chaotic, most of the time, and the ships are designed so it's almost impossible to have a serious crash. Only time I've seen one was back during the wars, about 10 years ago, and that's because Andross practically made his ships out of tinfoil."

"Sounds like he went for quantity over quality." Obi-Wan mused as she maneuvered into a rooftop parking lot for one of the large clothing stores.

"Pretty much," she agreed. "Of course, it came pretty close to working, so there's something to be said for the tactic." She stood after they landed, the door opening. "Well, let's go look for some clothes for you."

Obi-Wan nodded and followed her out, then into the store. It wasn't the largest he'd been in, but it was definitely impressive and Casey knew her way around.

"What colors would you like to start with?" She asked politely as they entered the 'tall males' section.

"Muted," he answered, looking around at the rainbow. "Browns, creams, dark blues, greens."

"Something like that, perhaps?" She suggested, indicating a Panther in rugged looking dark green slacks and a light brown vest over a shirt that matched his slacks.

"Yes," he nodded agreeably. "They look suitable for field work as well as city wear."

"That is the idea for them," she nodded. "Now let's just find something in your size," she said easily, leading him over and starting to look between him and the clothes with a practiced eye. "These should work for a start," she decided, picking out an outfit for him to try on. "Let's see if I'm right about your size."

Obi-Wan nodded and accepted the bundle of items that had little relation to each other except as a test of sizing. He expected a couple acceptable combinations could be made of them.

"The changing rooms are over there." Casey pointed to a sign near one wall and guided him there. A quick exchange with the very fluffy Spotted Skunk at the desk in front of it and Obi-Wan was handed a plastic hook with a number on it. "You can try them on for fit in there. I'll stay out here. If you'd like a second opinion, just come out so I can see."

"I understand." He nodded easily and slipped into the very reasonably sized room with many mirrors and several hooks for the clothing. He quickly stripped his robes off and began to dress in the local clothing. It was hardly the first time he'd done such things. Many missions required looking less like a Jedi than he preferred.

"Pride is unsuited to a Jedi." He whispered to himself in a reminder and began to button the sturdy, warm and surprisingly soft shirt before he tucked the rich, dark blue fabric into the equally sturdy dark brown pants. He looked at the mirrored surfaces and worked a few simple katas to test the flexibility.

With an approving nod he pulled his boots back on and settled the slacks over them as the Panther had, then added the thick utility belt he wasn't about to not wear.

"Have I got it about right?" He asked Casey as he stepped out of the changing room to show her the effect.

"Looks very good," she nodded. "Is it comfortable? Everything fits right?"

"I believe so." Obi-Wan nodded. "It moves well with the basic stretching katas I tried."

"Glad you had the space," she chuckled. "So, want to change back and we can pick out a few more outfits before we see about anything else you need?"

"Sounds good," he nodded and quickly changed back into his robes, putting the unpurchased clothing back on the hangers flawlessly before emerging with them.

"Okay," she mused, thinking about what he'd need. "You might want some summer clothes; it's coming up on hotter months here, can't be sure how long you'll be on Corneria yet," she suggested.

"At least a few weeks. I know Slippy wants to talk starship technology with me before I go anywhere." Obi-Wan offered hopefully.

"At least something would be a good idea then," she nodded. "Your outfits there should work out for most weather, but we can get hot spells from time to time," she explained, leading him towards a section of clothes that were very unusual for what he was used to seeing. One of the advantages of Coruscant; the weather satellites made hot spells a thing of the past.

"Looks like what I would go swimming in." Obi-Wan commented curiously as he examined the shorts and light shirts meant for summer. "At least the shorts are."

"Swim trunks are also available, though a lot of folks don't bother," Casey explained, indicating a display of the lined shorts nearby. "Most folks either swim in the nude, or in their usual outfits, depending on the situation."

"Not a problem," he nodded and considered the offerings on the light summer wear and selected two pairs of shorts and a three light shirts to go with them. "I don't think my boots would be suitable with weather these require."

"These are, however." She pulled out a pair of simple sandals. "The light shoes are in the athletic department."

Obi-Wan nodded and added those to the pile. When he spotted a pile of empty baskets he shifted his direction slightly to pick one up with a minimal amount of floating objects.

Several people looked over in surprise, but decided their eyes must have been playing tricks on them before returning to their own shopping.

"Handy trick," Casey chuckled. "So, anything beyond some lighter shoes you want to pick up here yet?"

"Nothing I can think of, ma'am." He answered easily.

"Well, once we get those we should be able to do a little sight seeing," she said cheerfully, leading him back and quickly finding some shoes in his size.




A young Mouse in a Cornerian uniform walked up to Throttle's door a few days later, carrying some fresh clothes for the larger Mouse, and some good news. The brown-furred Mouse knocked politely on the door, wondering if what he'd heard about the newcomer really was true.

There was a fairly long pause, long enough that he wondered if the newcomer was asleep. He was just about ready to go double check with the sensors when the door opened with a slightly surprised sound from the Martian Mouse inside.

"Um, hi." Throttle managed after a moment.

"Hi," Tony said, blushing brightly as he focused very hard on looking up from where his head was level with on the very naked and quite wet tawny-furred Mouse. "Uhm ... brought some fresh clothes," he offered. "Want me to bring your lunch back in a few minutes?"

"Yes, that would be great." He nodded and accepted the small pile of rugged jeans, socks, a leather jacket, red bandana and heavy boots. "Does this mean I'm off quarantine?"

"Yeah," Tony nodded. "Actually, want to grab lunch in the mess after you're dressed? I can bring something back too, no problem."

"That sounds really good." Throttle nodded with a smile and stepped back into the room. "Just let me dry off."

"No problem," Tony said easily, stepping back and closing the door to wait for the Martian Mouse.

He was huge!

In more ways than just height too. Tony blushed brightly at the thought, and still was when the door opened to reveal Throttle in his preferred dress.

"Ready to go?" The Private asked Throttle easily, trying to hide his embarrassment for the time being.

"Yes," he nodded, the eagerness to be out and about clear in his voice. "What's for chow?"

"Well, what sort of thing do you like?" Tony asked him easily. "Vegetarian? Or a bit more variety in your diet?"

"I do like variety," Throttle chuckled. "Though I have noticed hot dogs and root beer has been on the menu sometimes."

"Yeah," Tony chuckled. "They're easy to make, hard to screw up, store well, and you can ship 'em out to a front half a system away when you have to. Think they're on the menu today too, if that's what you're in the mood for." They entered a lift, quickly moving up a few levels to the mess hall.

"So are you average height for a Mouse here?" Throttle asked curious, very happy to be dressed properly again, and beyond thrilled to be clean, well-fed and pest-free.

"Yeah," Tony said with a bit of a blush. "Gotta say, I figured Slippy was exaggerating when he said how tall you were."

"There much be some folks my height around. The quarters are the right size." Throttle considered him seriously. "Is that blush because you've never seen a naked Mouse before?"

"Oh there are," Tony said easily. "Panthers, Horses - the bigger breeds. And no, it's just that I usually don't knock on somebody's door and greet them at that particular level when they're naked."

"Hadn't thought of that," he chuckled lightly and followed Tony out when the lift opened.

"Yeah," Tony chuckled, fighting back the remains of his blush as they entered the mess hall, noisy, active, and smelling strongly of various types of hot food and drink. "Nice view, but not one I'm accustomed to."

"You could be." He smiled faintly, even as his nose started to take over his thoughts with the offerings of so many kinds of food. Fresh, hot, savory food without mold, maggots or anything else that wasn't exactly edible.

Tony took advantage of the mental change of subjects to get in line, passing a tray up to Throttle.

"If you need any help reaching anything, let me know," he said. Some food items on the lower trays were set where the more common, shorter people there could reach them, but not up on the upper trays. Not much though, and nothing much that Throttle was interested in after a few days to get used to the fact that food wasn't going to be in short supply any time soon.

"I will," He smiled down at the native Mouse.

Then they reached the fresh fruit and Throttle made a sound deep in his throat. An instant later several slices of melon and a bowl of mixed berries were on his tray courtesy of his tail.

"Whoa," Tony said, blinking. "That's a new trick," he grinned up at Throttle.

"Really?" He looked down in real surprise and claimed three hot dogs.

"Yeah," Tony nodded. "Most Mice around here don't have tails that are really prehensile. We can snag something sometimes, but it has to be pretty big, or have a good handle on it."

"I'm used to using it as a weapon as much as a third hand." Throttle explained and filled a large glass with root bear. "Makes a great whip."

"I'll bet," Tony nodded, filling a smaller glass with cola for himself. "So you're out of a war zone?" He asked as they headed towards a table.

"Yes," he nodded, much more quietly than usual as they selected a table. "One that was lost. This is the first green and real food I've seen in a decade. First company too." He added, not missing the looks he was getting from many people. His looks, despite the occasional furless patches on his arms and chest that weren't covered by a shirt, didn't hurt either.

"Well, you'll be able to get a lot more of that, I'm sure," Tony said confidently. "It's a lot safer here on Corneria, and I don't think you'll have any trouble finding friends if you want 'em."

"That's good to hear." He nodded and sat down. "So what's your name?"

"Private Tony Musculi," the brown-furred Mouse offered sheepishly. "Sorry, forgot about introductions when I delivered your clothes."

"Well Tony, what are you doing after dinner?"

"Actually, I was thinking of talking to you a bit," Tony admitted. "I was curious about you, and where you came from. Of course, if you'd rather not talk about it, I understand."

"I don't mind talking." Throttle agreed easily. "Especially if it includes a tour of the city."

"I think I can handle that," the smaller Mouse grinned as he ate his own meal, rather smaller than Throttle's. "Ground car, or fighter?" He asked.

"Ground car, I think." He cracked a bit of a grin. "Been shot down too many times already."

"Funny, most folks around here say that," Tony smirked. "Not surprised though; you look like a 'cycle kinda guy to me."

That half surprised him, then he chuckled lightly. "You could say that. I still miss my bike, Lady. It's been ages since I had a good ride."

"Well, not many around here that'd be good for touring the city, but you should be able to get your hands on one before too long. Not that expensive."

"Good to hear." Throttle nodded between two hot dogs. "I wouldn't mind a walking tour either, if this place is small enough. I've been cooped up in that room for days."

"Of the base, or the city?" Tony chuckled. "The base you could walk, but the city is way beyond too big."

"How about the party district? City that size must have one." Throttle cracked a grin. "I'm going to enjoy these peace while it's here."

"What sort of partying you have in mind?" Tony asked with a grin. "There's the clubs most of us hang out in, and then there's the ones where things really get going."

It took Throttle almost a solid minute to remember just what the other Mouse was talking about, then he managed a bit of a blush. "A good place to drink and dance. I still prefer beyond that to be in private."

"We'll hit the Event Horizon then," Tony grinned. "You'll love the place. Just remember that the pred species around here aren't going to eat you; any club you go to'll probably have a Panther or a Puma or two there."

"I understand. Mars had Lions once. They weren't terribly friendly, but they didn't eat you either." He nodded and took a long drink. "At least when the choice didn't involve starvation as the other option."

"Yeah, that choice puts things all off," Tony chuckled slightly as he finished his meal. "We've had some folks come through here from worlds where predation was normal; they get really on edge around pred's. So, when you're ready to go, I'll get out of uniform and take you down there," he offered.

"Sounds good to me." Throttle nodded and went to work on the fresh fruit on his plate. "So how many races are native to this system?"

"Dozens," Tony said easily. "I can't name 'em all, honestly. We've got the... I think it's five different tribes on Sauria. There's the space whales, depending on whether or not they're really intelligent. Only one report that indicates they are, but nobody's about to throw out a report from the Star Fox team about something like that. All sorts of morphs on the various planets; we're pretty diverse, all things considered. I mean," he chuckled, "just look around the cafeteria."

Tony had a point. Foxes, Frogs, a couple Iguanas, various felines and canines... Rabbits, other Mice... it was almost dizzying to really think about.

"Kind of looks like the galaxy in a room." Throttle chuckled slightly. At least there weren't any fish.

"That's about right," Tony nodded. "At least according to the other folks who've been through here from other places. Not sure why, but the Lylat System has an incredible number of species."

"There are a couple ways it can happen, when it isn't a trading hub for a large network of worlds," Throttle commented absently. "None are easy to prove, one way or another."

"And nobody's that worried about it," Tony nodded. "Everybody gets along for the most part, though there's a little tension between mammals and reptiles, and it's not really a good time to be an Ape. But that's got more to do with the Wars than with race."

"An Ape was responsible for it?" He barely had to guess.

"Along with a small army of robots and reptiles from Sauria he convened he was some sort of God," Tony nodded. "Andross made about half the habitable planets in the system into uninhabitable ones... still a lot of hard feelings about it."

"That I can easily understand," Throttle nodded grimly. "Rather like my reaction to Fish. Only you won, we didn't."

"Yeah," Tony nodded slightly. "I try not to get too worked up about it, myself ... Andross wasn't his whole species, after all. But that's the closest we come to racial tensions, for the most part."

"Good to hear," he agreed. "Different from the Plutarkians too, the Fish I met. They are an entire species like that."

"Ugh, we've even heard about them here," Tony muttered. "If there was ever an argument for genocide, they're it."

"They've committed it enough times to warrant it, just in my system." Throttle's tail snapped against the floor, leaving a long scar. "Two dozen sentient races that I know about, likely a few I don't."

"Well, they're not here, and if they ever change that they're going to learn a lesson or two about coming after systems that know about them," Tony said firmly. "For now, nothing we can do about 'em."

"Nothing but enjoy it." Throttle nodded, trying to throw off the serious mood as he finished his fruit.

"Right," Tony agreed. "Enough chances to get yourself killed in the universe - have to take advantage of the times to live. Speaking of which, ready to hit the town?"

"Definitely," he nodded and stood to follow the smaller Mouse's lead.

"Great," Tony grinned, standing and dropping his tray off on the way out to the lift. "We'll just head back so I can get changed, and then we'll take my car to the EH."

"Sounds good." He agreed and was content to walk in silence for a while. The trip was fairly quiet; Tony changed quickly, coming out in a pair of loose jeans and a shirt with the logo of a local band on it, by Throttle's guess. It didn't take them long to get down to the garage and find Tony's car. Throttle had to run the passenger seat all the way back to fit properly, but it wasn't half bad, really.

As they pulled out of the base, Throttle let himself really focus on the city that seemed to have adopted him. It was bigger than Chicago had been by far, bustling and busy and populated. Various types of ships flew through the sky, the vast majority apparently unarmed. People went about their business happily, stopping to chat with each other without worrying that they were about to be picked up by a passing patrol.

It was alien on a level he couldn't even explain. Even before the Plutarkians life hadn't been this peaceful, at least not for his kind. He couldn't help but wonder if he'd ever stop looking over his shoulder or waiting for someone to point to him and call for a mob to hunt him down.

Of course... they didn't know what he could do yet. They didn't know exactly what he was. Or if they did, they hadn't said anything to him. He really should figure out a way to ask if they had shifters here, and what they thought of them, without incriminating himself in the process.

They drove into a part of town that had a lot more flashing lights and music pouring out of clubs, obvious street walkers on a few of the corners, more than a few people noticing the large Mouse with antennae as they drove by.

"Here we are," Tony said, "the Event Horizon. One of the newer clubs around here," he explained as he parked his car and hopped out.

"Feels good," he rumbled, welcoming the semi-drunk feeling of so much energy in the air. If ever there was a night to just lose himself, this was it, and this was how.

"So, mind giving your ride the first dance?" Tony asked with a grin as the walked into the building, passing by the bouncer without any trouble once he saw the smaller Mouse. It was definitely a busy night; the place was packed with people dancing, talking, drinking - just having a good time and letting go.

"Not at all." He grinned and slipped his tail around Tony's waist on the way to the dance floor, even as he tried to remember how to dance. By the time they joined the throng, Throttle had given up on that idea and just began to move with the music.

It seemed that was good enough for people around here. Tony started dancing along with him, moving with the music and the larger Mouse nearby, occasionally brushing their tails together as others noticed the newcomers, particularly Throttle. Round ears that high up was an eye-catcher, adding red antenna between them made him that much more noticeable.

It was an environment that encouraged Throttle to let down his tight social self-control just a little. His tail gently began to explore Tony's much smaller form, though he was careful to keep it from being too suggestive to those watching. The rush of having someone feel good nearby was something he didn't want to give up anytime soon.

Tony certainly didn't seem to mind; Throttle could pick up the arousal from the smaller Mouse's scent and mind alike before too much longer. It was a decidedly enticing sensation, especially when backed by the ambient nature of the club. The music shifted, and Tony nodded over towards the bar.

Throttle smiled and slipped his tail around Tony's waist again, the tip of his tail slipping under Tony's belt to tease a bit of fur.

"How 'bout a drink, handsome?" Tony asked him, running his own tail up Throttle's leg a bit.

"Sounds good," he nodded and glanced at the large decorative menu, confirming that he recognized next to nothing. Scent told him it was all alcohol and probably all quite drinkable. "I'll try whatever you like."

"Like to live dangerously, huh?" Tony chuckled. "Two G-Bombs," he told the bartender, hopping up onto a relatively tall stool, glancing at who else was there. He noticed a Wolf sitting further down the bar with an eyepatch, and turned away quickly, indicating another stool for Throttle to sit down at. "Get to look you in the face for once," he chuckled.

"That and I don't have a clue what any of those are." Throttle chuckled and settled down as he cast a quick look at the Wolf that Tony had looked at, curious what had drawn the smaller Mouse's attention.

"Well, if you don't want anything real hard, speak now, before the bartender takes another order," Tony chuckled. "I might be small, but I'm not a lightweight."

"Let's start with how hard this stuff is compared to what I am used to, and what my tolerance has done in the last couple decades." Throttle rumbled agreeably. "The atmosphere is likely to do more than the alcohol to me."

"The atmosphere?" Tony asked as their drinks were served, bright orange sandwiching a layer of a white, creamy liquid.

"We're empaths," Throttle answered softly and downed the shot, alcohol burning the back of his throat as the light orange flavor flowed over his tongue briefly. "When a group this large is in the same kind of mood, it's hard not to go with the flow."

"This must be pretty intense for you then," Tony chuckled.

"A good kind of intense," Throttle nodded as his tail slipped along Tony's leg and caressed his ass.

"The best kind then," the smaller Mouse grinned, his own tail returning the attention with a little less skill.

"Hey, back off you creep!" Somebody said across the crowded room. A woman, from the sound of it... and from what Throttle could sense, she meant it. Not complying was also in the air near her.

He was part way across the room before Tony even realized his date had moved, but it wasn't hard to spot Throttle's path. The crowd was quite willing to part for him.

The smaller Mouse was following shortly, not entirely sure what he'd end up doing once they got there - but hoping it was just escorting the 'gentlemen' out.

On the other side, a young Squirrel fem was facing a Fox who'd clearly had a few too many.

"C'mon babe," he rumbled, leaning in close to her, blocking easy ways away from him. "Just a little kiss, eh? No hard feelin's?"

"She said no." Throttle grabbed the Fox's shoulder and spun him half around, clearly willing to take advantage of his substantial extra height to back the words up. "It's time for you to leave."

"What the fuck are you?" The Fox asked, looking up at Throttle, focusing on a Mouse with over two feet height on him as the Squirrel quickly moved to get away from them.

"Someone you don't want to piss off." Throttle rumbled darkly. "You can leave on your own, or in an ambulance."

"I was about to say the same thing, Rat," the Fox growled. Suddenly, there was a squawk from behind Throttle.

"You know, I really hate it when people don't have the balls to fight fair," Tony muttered, holding down a Dog who'd been trying to come up behind Throttle with a bottle. The rest of the crowd seemed to be clearing room, just in case this didn't go any better than it seemed to be going for now.

"Thanks," Throttle nodded slightly to his date.

It was just the opening the Fox was looking for and he landed a hard punch into Throttle's gut.

"Bad move." Throttle snapped and closed his fist, putting all his considerable strength and experience behind a punch to the Fox's jaw. He kept his hand on his shoulder to stop the Fox from rolling with it and was pleased with the crack of bone. "You can let the mutt go, Tony." He added and wrapped his tail around the Dog's neck, lifting him up by the base of the jaw and skull when Tony was out of the way.

"Think we've got trouble coming," Tony said, looking around as a couple of their friends moved forward out of the crowd to help their clearly outclassed, and beaten, pals.

Throttle snapped his tail around, throwing the Dog into one of the oncoming targets, and dropped into an easy crouch that came instinctively after a lifetime of being outnumbered but rarely outclassed.

This situation wasn't much different; even if they were good fighters normally, which he was sure some of them were, most of them had more than the one drink he had under their belt, and didn't have much beyond guts in their favor. Tony at his side didn't hurt a bit; he was smaller than Throttle, but only a little shorter than most of his opponents, and sober to boot.

The two of them were holding up pretty well, but a half-dozen different guys, including the Dog once he picked himself up, still managed to get a few shots in.

A large part of that was Throttle constantly reminding himself that this was not a fight to kill in. Defend himself and others, yes, but these weren't Plutarkian goons or collaborators. They weren't people he could kill freely.

The small brawl was interrupted by the familiar sound of a blaster going off into the air, everybody spinning to look at the one-eyed Wolf who'd fired it. He holstered his weapon as the bouncers hurried in, grabbing the drunks who'd come after Throttle and Tony and hauling them out.

"Thanks," Throttle nodded to the other war veteran as things calmed down.

"No problem," the Wolf said gruffly, glancing down at Tony as the smaller Mouse watched him warily. "Don't worry, I've been off the clock for the past few years. And I did just save your tails," he pointed out.

"I'll give you that," Tony admitted grudgingly.

"Care to join us for a drink?" Throttle offered, his instincts to accept another lonely Wolf-Kin and own need for a packmate, overriding his desire to go with Tony's dislike of the one-eyed Wolf.

He couldn't miss the obvious surprise the Wolf had for the offer... or the pleasure at it.

"Sure," he said, cracking a bit of a smile. "Thanks for the offer."

"It's only fair," Throttle nodded and relaxed his body language a bit, showing the lupine pack nature he tended to keep hidden. "It sucks to be alone."

"Tell me about it," the Wolf chuckled ruefully, offering Throttle his hand. "Name's Wolf O'Donnell," he said.

"Throttle." He offered and shook his hand firmly. "I take it you were a merc?"

"Still am," Wolf said with a bit of a shrug. "Just pickier about who I work for now."

"Not hard, given you used to be working for Andross," Tony said pointedly.

Throttle winced at that. Replaced 'Andross' with 'Plutarkian' and Wolf would be dead right now. He couldn't hide all his surprise that Wolf was even allowed on world, much less survive the company around here. What really hit him though, was Wolf's expectation to be sent away now, and that he truly regretted what he'd done for his paycheck back then.

"Only during the first war, and that was a mistake," Wolf said quietly. "A hotshot pilot who made a fucked up mistake when he listened to the wrong wingman. I wasn't anywhere near the front during the second war, and would've been on the right side that time if they'd taken me."

"Yeah, well I don't blame 'em for not doing it," Tony pointed out. "Even if they did clear you afterwards."

"Look, I've already done everything the courts wanted me to," Wolf said, ears pressing back, trying not to growl. "I only fought in the war, even if it was the wrong side."

"Tony, have you ever been in a war?" Throttle shifted his gaze to the smaller Mouse, the tip of his tail twitching in irritation.

"Not as a soldier," Tony admitted. "But I was on the base at Katina with my family when it was almost turned into a glowing crater. And when Wolf's team was trying to keep Star Fox from stopping it."

"And I didn't know there were civilians on the site," Wolf pointed out. "You're a soldier now; you should know as well as I do that military targets are targets. Besides; I'm not the one who blew up the facility on Macbeth."

Throttle couldn't miss the mental wince from Tony when that was mentioned.

"Look," Wolf concluded with a sigh. "If you guys want me to go, then I'll go. I just figured I'd help out with that fight." He turned to leave, a result he was clearly far too used to.

"I'd rather you didn't." Throttle said quietly.

"Thanks," Wolf said, turning around with a bit of confusion and relief all at once, glancing at Tony.

"If Throttle doesn't want you to go, then it's his call," the smaller Mouse said.

"Warmest welcome I've gotten in about a year," Wolf chuckled slightly, cracking a slight smile.

"You're a pretty good person," Throttle returned the smile. "Besides, I'm not one who can judge anymore. My own government thought I was a terrorist, my people thought I was a traitor ... I was just doing what had to be done to have any chance of winning the war. We almost saved enough to rebuild too."

"We'll have to talk some time," Wolf nodded slightly. "Tonight, let's relax, right?"

"That was the idea," he nodded agreeably and tried to put the past out of his mind as he looked at Tony. "A toast to you remaining as innocent as you are?" He suggested.

"Yeah," Tony half-chuckled a bit. "Another drink does sound like a good idea right about now. C'mon, this one's on me."




Tony groaned lightly the next morning, snuggling up close to the broad-chested Martian Mouse next to him, nuzzling his chest with his long muzzle. Despite Throttle's unwillingness for anal sex either way, they had one hell of a night. It was something of an eye-opener for Tony, for the pleasure to be that good without anyone being penetrated. If that had been Throttle after ten years of abstinence, it would be incredible after he had some experience.

In there somewhere it had really sunk in for him just how incredibly lonely Throttle was, being the only one of his kind, and the only one he had to talk to, for more than a decade. It was hard to think of just being close to another as that could top an orgasm for pleasure, but he believed it now. He didn't understand it, but he believed.

The smaller Mouse also wondered at the slight canine 'tint' to Throttle's scent, but brushed it off. Probably just something about his species. It wasn't like Throttle was just a Mouse. The antennae and height were outward reminders that he was an empath and an alien. A friendly one to be sure, but about as local as Krystal.

For now, Tony was more than content to stay in bed with him, nursing his slight hangover. He glanced at the clock on the wall and was even more grateful he had the day off today; he was really not inclined to leave bed for a duty shift just now. His bedmate didn't seem to be inclined for a morning person either, and it was a good enough reason to settle in and take another nap wrapped in the warm strength of his companion.

He blinked awake after drifting off to the tension that ripped through Throttle's body and the insistent nudge he got.

"Someone's at the door." Throttle told him, likely not for the first time.

"Want me to see who?" Tony offered, reluctantly reaching back to grab his pants off the floor, having to roll over and reach down to get them from the taller bed. "It's your room," he pointed out.

"I'll get it, but you might not want to be naked when I do." He chuckled lightly and grabbed his own jeans to pull on before opening the door. "Hello?"

"Hello," a smaller Cat on the other side smiled, Obi-Wan behind her. "I'm Casey Tenna. Hi Tony!" She called out, glancing around Throttle with a bit of a grin for the smaller Mouse as he dressed.

"Hi Casey," Tony said, waving slightly before grabbing his shirt.

"I'm here to help you around the city," Casey explained to Throttle, seemingly not letting the definite scent of sex in the room bother her at least, or their half dressed state. "Would you like a chance to get dressed and get some breakfast first?"

"Yes, at least a shower." Throttle nodded definitely. "We can talk over breakfast?" He suggested with a glance between all three of them.

"Sounds fine to me," Casey nodded easily. "I'm your case worker, by the way; we'll be going over a few questions to help you find a job too."

"Mind if I join you?" Tony asked, asking Casey as much as Throttle.

"Not at all," Casey smiled. "Glad to see somebody's making him feel welcome on Corneria," she winked.

"He definitely is." Throttle cracked a momentary grin. "Do you want to wait here, or meet somewhere?"

"I don't mind waiting," Casey said easily. "We can talk on the way then, get some of the boring stuff out of the way."

Throttle nodded and stepped back to let them in. "I'll try to keep the shower short." He added as he grabbed a fresh set of clothes and motioned Tony into the bathroom with him.

"That is so like that Mouse," Casey chuckled as she closed the door surreptitiously. "By the way, Obi-Wan, thanks for coming along with me," she said, turning to face the human behind her.

"You are welcome," he bowed to her slightly before sitting down to listen to the two very different Mice under the water. Even as shielded as he was normally, he couldn't miss how intense Throttle's pleasure was at the simple act of a hot shower. "I recognize some things about him that are not common here."

"I don't doubt it, from what I've heard," she nodded, sitting down near him. "It's never easy, integrating people from warzones into a relatively peaceful society. And that's when they handle what they've been through well."

He could not help but nod. "Considering he is still able to socialize and not lash out as soon as he's uneasy, I would say he is handling things well." Obi-Wan pointed out. "As erratic as I expect him to be for a while, he is remarkably stable."

"He seems to be," she agreed. "Though sometimes it's hard to be sure up front. Mostly, I'm worried about what Lieutenant Lombardi's report says about him saying he didn't know anything but fighting. If he's been a soldier that long, he might be a while getting ready for the work force. But we'll have to see; he might have a few skills he doesn't remember just now," she said optimistically.

"Even if fighting is all he knows, he has other skills." Obi-Wan assured her. "He's not a foot solder, he's a survivalist ... special ops, I believe it is called. It's just a matter of finding something he wants to do. He's smart enough to pick up any skills he's missing."

"Maybe a mechanic," she mused. "Well, at any rate, he seems to be getting along nicely so far; should be a good sign."

"Something like forest ranger or law enforcement may also suit him very well. I get the feeling he is well-adapted to wilderness life." He considered the bathroom door for a moment. "Reclaiming a planet may do a world of good for him. Help offset his loss by doing what he couldn't do for his homeworld."

"Assuming he'd be willing to visit a planet that was only green because the water's still mildly radioactive, it might," she mused. "Thanks for the suggestion," she added as the sound of water from the other room quieted to be replaced by the hot air blowers. "Well, that was a bit faster than I expected," she giggled.

"They can both focus when they need to." He chuckled softly and stood to greet the pair when they came out a short time later.

She stood with him, the door sliding open to reveal Throttle and Tony, Tony's outfit clearly wrinkled and from the night before.

"You two ready to go?" Casey asked them easily.

"I think so," Tony said. "I'll probably go change after breakfast, leave you three to handle the business stuff."

"And maybe meet up again afterwards," Throttle winked at him, though it was largely concealed by his shades that never came off, not even when they were in bed together or in the shower.

"Maybe we will," Tony winked back, Casey shaking her head.

"Xenophile," she teased the smaller Mouse lightly.

"Jealous?" He smirked back with the familiarity of long friendship.

"That's not fair," she smirked. "I have to keep my relationships professional. So, anybody have any preferences for breakfast?" She asked, not sure what Throttle's preferred diet was yet.

"Fruit, pizza ... but I haven't met the meal I wouldn't eat." Throttle offered up.

"I think the cafeteria will work for everyone." Obi-Wan suggested to nods from the other two males.

"Let's go then," the Cat said cheerfully, leading the way there. "So Throttle; think you'll be able to fill out some personal information while we eat, or on the way?" She asked him as they walked.

"As best I can," he nodded with a very subtle shift in his body language as he settled fully into a place in his mind that he hadn't been in a long time.

"All right," she said easily. "I'm going to need your birthdate and age around here, if you can do the math up in your head. If not, we can figure it out later on."

"I don't know." He shook his head slightly. "I'm ... between forty-five and fifty-five back home. I lost track a long time ago."

"Must have an impressive lifespan," she mused. "It's not that important, probably; you're clearly old enough, physically, for any age related legal issues to be out of the way. We'll probably just split the difference and figure out what fifty back home means here, if you don't mind."

"That's fine," he nodded easily.

"That'll make things easier," she nodded, mentally running through her checklist. "Any particular job skills you have? We understand that those things aren't as important on a planet that's in the middle of a warzone, just helpful to know."

"Demolitions, stealth, mechanics, urban survival, wilderness survival," he drifted off for a while as he thought over his experience. "Teamwork, I'm a crack shot and I haven't met many things I couldn't turn into a bloody pulp."

"Are you interested in mercenary work, or would you rather stick to something a little more peaceful for a change?" Casey asked him as they climbed onto the lift.

"You don't have to be a fighter anymore," Tony pointed out quietly.

"I am not a merc." Throttle said rather forcefully. "And yes, something more peaceful would be welcome."

"Not a problem," Casey nodded. "You mentioned you have good mechanical skills; there's always somebody looking for a good mechanic around here. Do you want to stay on Corneria, or are you interested in seeing the rest of the system? Possibly helping out on one of the planets we're cleaning up?"

"I'm not sure," he admitted, seeing benefits to both ideas. "How is travel between worlds here?"

"It's not usually that hard to come back for a while," she said easily. "Barring some sort of mishap in space, it's usually a day's trip from here to Zoness by jump-drive."

"Good," he nodded, working that into the choices.

"Either choice would be fine, ultimately," Casey explained as they entered the cafeteria. "You'll be handy anywhere you go, I'm sure, and nobody's about to blame you for staying here if you'd rather not go to Zoness. Not sure if you've read anything about it, but it's pretty bad there."

"It can't be as bad as my home system." Throttle reminded her. "Rebuilding ... it would be nice to create something for once." He added softly.

"You'd definitely have the chance to do that," she reassured him. "Bring a planet back from the brink to somewhere it's increasingly inhabitable."

"You would have a familiar face there too." Obi-Wan added as they got into a lift. "I'm going to be working on Zoness as well."

"Sounds pretty good, with coming back here to camp and such." Throttle nodded, the idea really beginning to appeal to him.

"Well, after breakfast we'll see about getting you scheduled for some tests and take a bit of a tour of the planet," Casey offered. "You have any questions for me?"

"May I see that sheet you're filling out?" He asked politely.

"Certainly," she nodded, offering him the clipboard and what information she had on him, sketchy as it was.

He checked it out, working on some of the words in the new language, handed it back, and took a bit of a breath.

"I'm also known as SunWind. I think I am going to go back to that now." He began, then paused uneasily. "I did a little looking. You don't seem to have any real take on were races...."

"Were-races? Shapeshifters?" Casey asked, taking a moment to place the phrase.

"Yes," he nodded cautiously and stepped out of the lift when it stopped.

"As far as I know, we've never met an entire species capable of it," Casey admitted. "As such, we don't really have a take on them in general. Can you control it?"

"Yes," he nodded seriously. "Five forms, this being my default one."

"People didn't accept your kind for what they were in your home system, did they?" Obi-Wan asked, picking up on the tension and fear in Throttle's frame.

"We're hunted," he nodded. "All three worlds had their local kinds, none were considered people."

"That won't be an issue here," Casey said firmly. "You might run into some folks who are frightened, but you're not about to stop being a person or having rights because of that."

"And I know it doesn't bother me," Tony piped up.

"I've dealt with many kinds of shapeshifting races, SunWind." Obi-Wan added seriously. "It is nothing that bothers me."

"Thanks," SunWind told them quietly as they entered the cafeteria.

"Do you think you could show me sometime?" Tony asked, very curious about what a were-Mouse would turn into.

"Up for camping?" He looked down at the small Mouse.

"Sure," Tony said easily. "Just have to arrange a little time off. I know a couple good places away from the main campgrounds, too."

"Sounds very good." SunWind smiled a bit shyly.

"Would a trip out into the country, away from people, be good enough for a look?" Obi-Wan asked, knowing Martian Mouse was as eager to have their reactions proven as he was nervous about it.

"Yes," he nodded slightly. "The Lumari form is very large."

"And probably good for freaking people out when it shows up in cities?" Tony guessed as they started getting some breakfast.

"It's called a war-form for good reason." Throttle nodded, his voice low as he got in line and began to select his breakfast of fruit, several kinds of meat and pancakes. "I'm around ten feet tall and close to a thousand pounds of killing machine in Lumari."

"Yes, that definitely sounds like something better to adopt where you have plenty of room," Obi-Wan observed, selecting a light breakfast of his own, mostly fruit and a mixture of yogurt and sweetened grain.

"That's definitely not something we have around here," Casey nodded, clearly impressed by the notion. "Would you mind if I take pictures of these forms for the file?" She asked as she poured a large cup of coffee. "Do your kind have a racial name for yourselves?"

"You can record it," he agreed, emboldened by this acceptance and the lack of anything but a positive interest in the subject. "We call ourselves Loup Maru."

"If you'd like, I'll make the change from 'Martian Mouse' on your file then," Casey said. "If not, I'll just include it as a note."

"I think so. It is what I am." He set himself to be what he was born to be, now that he was free. This was an easy world to hide in too.

"Once we get to our table, I'll make the change," the Cat said easily, adding some sugar to her coffee. "Not a problem at all."

SunWind nodded and followed her to a table suitable for both the tall and short members of the party, a mixture of fear and excitement at what was happening in him.

The others followed, taking their seats and starting to eat quickly.

"You don't need to be afraid," Obi-Wan told the larger Mouse quietly. "At least today, you will be safe."

SunWind looked at him, an expression on his face as the two warrior-empaths, one from each end of the experience spectrum, regarded each other with an understanding and acceptance of what they had in common and the bond of circumstance and experience that they shared.

"SunWind?" Tony worked the new name in the silence that lasted a little too long for him. "Are you still you in all those forms?"

"Yes," he nodded clearly. "Each has a bent that can color my reactions, Lumari most of all, but I'm fully sentient and me in all of them."

"As long as none of 'em think I'm an appetizer, I don't see any reason I'd be too scared then," Tony reassured him.

"Only if I'm starving, literally, and that has it's own set of rules." SunWind said seriously. "Lumari has a very short temper and likes to kill. It's not that social, but what do you expect of a walking weapon?"

"You said it was still you, though." Obi-Wan pointed out.

"Yes, it is me," he shifted to look at the human Jedi, "but it is very difficult to resist the bloodlust or a call to battle in that form. It is not much different from how this form is much less predatory than most of the others. The quadruped form, Luprani, is very canine, and much more instinctive. My mind is there, but the razorwolf instincts are strong in it. It's what that form is about." He paused to fiddle with a strip of bacon for a while. "There is a lot of social and historical stuff involved in it I'd rather get into when I'm free to shift and show a bit better."

"I think I understand the idea," Casey nodded slightly. "If you're not comfortable discussing this in public...." She trailed off, fairly sure the offer was clear.

"That, and it's not a short story, or one to take in parts." He drank deeply of his milk. "What I am is closely tied to a lot of history and many races across three world. It's been a long time since I really thought about it, for all I do know our histories. I'd like to teach you, but I want to teach it right." He looked up with a bit more pride. The first he'd really shown here, or in years even to himself. "I want to represent my people correctly, not in bits and pieces."

"I can respect that," a new voice said from nearby. Turning to look at the newcomer, they saw a blue-furred vixen, lighter blue on her face and neck leading down to the dark-blue flight suit that clung to her slender body beneath her vest. "Mind if I join you?" She asked.

"SunWind, Obi-Wan, this is Krystal McCloud," Casey explained. "Last name adopted, not official yet," she added.

"I'm working on it," Krystal chuckled slightly. "I'm sorry to jump into the conversation, but I overheard what you were saying. It's good to find somebody else who wants to keep their people's memories alive."

"I believe that would be all three of us," Obi-Wan stood graceful to bow to her and motioned her to pull up a chair as he set her tray down. "I believe SunWind simply has the most to tell of us."

"So where are you from?" SunWind asked curiously, placing the name as the Star Fox team leader's mate; someone to respect for her connections, if nothing else. Only she had the bearing of someone who rated it on her own, and the feel of another telepath.

"Cerinia," she replied, pulling up a chair and sitting. "Thank you, Obi-Wan," she smiled, nodding politely to the Jedi. "And it's not a name I'd expect anybody to recognize; my planet blew up years ago," she explained.

"A war?" SunWind asked, already liking her a bit for her strength at being the only one of her kind as well. That she was an empath as well was definitely a plus.

"I don't know, for sure," she admitted. "Whatever it was, I was the only person off-planet. I spent the next few years looking for answers before I got tangled up in the Sauria incident. It was very similar, but I don't know for sure if the same thing happened."

"What was that?" Obi-Wan asked for SunWind as well as himself.

"On Sauria, it turned out that the SharpClaw tribe had stolen a number of magical artifacts that were literally holding the planet together," she explained. "When they stole them, it started falling apart until Fox managed to return the stones, and we returned the Krazoa Spirits to the Temple. It's possible that there were similar artifacts on Cerinia; the ruins on Sauria reacted to my staff the same way ruins and temples on my homeworld did before I left. Somebody stealing or destroying them could have caused Cerinia to detonate, if it was as unstable as Sauria was."

"Wow," SunWind murmured, more than a little stunned at the idea, and just how plausible it was.

"Yeah," Krystal nodded. "There's no way to prove or disprove it ... but I take some comfort in knowing that whoever or whatever was responsible was either natural, or died along with Cerinia. We only had one space vessel, and that was only to be used for the Testing Rite. Something best not explained over breakfast," she added quickly, cutting off Casey's unanswered question.

The move earned her understanding chuckles and grins from around the table.

"So how is life here for you?" Obi-Wan asked more conversationally.

"Quite well," she smiled. "I've learned to keep my mind to myself after the first few weeks, and found out some very interesting things during that time, including how to make General Pepper swallow his lollipop."

"That happens when nobody warns the General that he's about to meet a casual telepath after a top-secret briefing," Casey pointed out.

"I didn't realize nobody else around here was one," Krystal shrugged. "But I've adapted pretty well. Life around here isn't that different from Cerinia, once you ignore all the extra spacecraft, and it's a lot better than wandering from planet to planet and hoping you can work for supplies."

"Very true," Obi-Wan agreed to SunWind's nod. "Have you been to Zoness?"

"I've seen it," she nodded. "There's a great deal of pain there, for all that it's slowly improving... it's almost like Sauria, without anything like as quick a fix available."

"You can feel a world's condition too?" SunWind suddenly looked much more interested in her.

"Sort of," she explained. "I'm not sure if it's the world, or the background generated by the creatures on it, but I can empath the sense of fear or desperation when a world is in crisis. I try to avoid staying on Zoness for very long as a result; Corneria's much more comfortable for me."

"I don't doubt it," SunWind nodded. "It's alive, though. It can be helped."

"Yes," Obi-Wan nodded. "That is the point of reclamation. It is a mess, but it can recover."

"I'm sure it can," Krystal agreed. "And when it is, I'll be happy to visit it more often. Just that for now, it's a little loud for me, even with my shields up. I've always been a little too strong an empath for my own good."

"That can be a major headache," SunWind nodded seriously, a bit sympathetic to the condition.

"So are you coming with us for the tour and display of abilities?" Obi-Wan asked casually, keeping a mental eye on SunWind's reaction.

"If you guys don't mind," Krystal nodded. "It's up to you though; I'm not about to invite myself along."

"I don't mind," SunWind said, knowing full well it was directed mostly at him.

"If you don't mind, I'd like to see your magic at work." Obi-Wan suggested. "I've heard you can create some very interesting effects."

"The full deal, or what I can do personally?" She asked him easily. "I'll have to bring my staff along when I go to meet you if you want to see my full talents."

"The full deal," he smiled at her. "It is a use of energy I haven't heard of before."

"I'll get it from my quarters before heading out then," Krystal said easily, finishing her light breakfast. "If you don't mind, I would appreciate seeing what you're capable of as well."

"That will be part of the demonstration for Casey," he nodded. "Though you are welcome to ask questions as well."

"Same here," SunWind nodded in agreement.

"Well, I should go fetch my staff then," Krystal said easily, standing with her tray. "If Casey could send me the ID code for your ship, I'll meet you in a little bit."

"Sounds good to me," Casey nodded. "Should we be going then?"

"Yes," SunWind nodded, feeling happier about his situation than he could remember in a long time.

"I am ready." Obi-Wan nodded in agreement.

"Well, I'll be seeing you around then, SunWind," Tony said easily, standing with a smile and taking his tray. "Give me a call if you're looking to hit the clubs again later," he grinned.

"I'm sure I will." He smiled at the smaller Mouse and followed Casey and Obi-Wan to drop off his tray and get a good tour of the city and surrounding areas.


Casey rolled her head, stretching out her neck after a quick shopping trip to pick up a couple less biker-like clothes for SunWind, and a tour of the city. They'd just gotten out of a quick trip to the Cornerian Zoo, taking a look at some of the native creatures of the Lylat system - and a real quick primer on which ones he and Obi-Wan could expect to run into and have to fight on Zoness.

"So, ready to head out to Battle Park?" Casey asked SunWind and Obi-Wan cheerfully as she lifted off. "Best place to do things like we were planning on; not too many people visit it during the week."

"Sounds good." SunWind nodded with Obi-Wan's agreement.

"Great," she nodded. "I know you two are empaths, so I should warn you," she said as they flew off. "It's on the site of the climactic moment of the Battle for Corneria. No great loss of life, but I've heard it can be a little overwhelming the first time you go there."

"We will keep that in mind." Obi-Wan nodded seriously, very grateful she had gotten a larger transport today.

"Okay, sending a message to the Blue Fox," Casey said to herself, quickly keying it in and pulled their transport to the side abruptly as a smaller military ship zoomed by, everybody moving hard and fast to get out of its way. "We'll be there shortly."

"What is that about?" SunWind almost demanded, his tone sharper than he intended as he picked up Obi-Wan's interest in the other ship.

"Traffic accident," she explained. "In Corneria City, the military usually provides police services too."

"Ah," Obi-Wan nodded and relaxed back.

"Is that common?" SunWind asked curiously as they left the city and the traffic slackened up drastically, much to the relief of both aliens. They passed out over the green surrounding the city, mountains nearby stretching up above the ship. Occasional signs of battle were visible, craters and patches of scorched earth, but most of it had been cleaned up and replanted.

"Accidents, no. The military doubling as police, it is around here," she explained. They touched down at a small facility for spacecraft, remains of what looked like a giant robot scattered in the valley that served as the main park.

"Here we are," she said cheerfully, opening the door. "Feel free to take a look around, probably be a few minutes before Krystal's here."

"Just what was that thing?" SunWind asked, his eyes wide as he took in the sheer size of the robot scattered about.

"That was the Granga," Casey explained. "Andross' attack juggernaut during the battle. Star Fox destroyed it before it could reach the city, thankfully. We established the memorial park around the remains of the final battle."

"It is much more pleasant than most memorials I have encountered." Obi-Wan commented as he looked out across the green valley.

"It's a memorial of a battle that very few people died in," Casey pointed out. "Thankfully. The valley was about a foot and a half shallower prior to the thing exploding."

"I do not doubt it," he nodded and looked up to see a smaller ship coming in for a landing.

"I think I will be some time getting used to seeing green again when it isn't my own blood." SunWind murmured as he looked around, breathing deeply of the fresh, clean air.

"Well, hopefully you will get used to it," Casey smiled as the ship touched down, the cockpit opening and Krystal hopping out, still in her flight suit, though she wore a jeweled circlet on her brow and carried a golden staff strapped across her back, a bright red gem in its tip.

"An impressive item, Krystal." Obi-Wan commented as he felt the power enshrined in the staff. It was as potent as his lightsaber, though quite different in feel.

"Very," SunWind added with a low whistle.

"Thank you," she smiled. "It's an ancient relic of my people. To be honest, I'm still not entirely sure how Fox managed to wield it on Sauria. I'm not even sure how half of its powers work yet."

"Knowing Fox, a lot of luck," Casey chuckled. "So, here we are; who's going to go first?"

SunWind looked around. "I brought this up, I'll start."

"Sure thing," Krystal nodded, indicating a nearby picnic table that'd work for all four of them and joined Obi-Wan and Casey while SunWind gave himself some space.

"My world, and the solar system it is in, is one that is not like most I have encountered or heard of. It was created by a very powerful entity, a creature we call Ramilz, or the First Mother. She gave birth to three daughters, Itassa, Enderonth, and Haloeth and gave each daughter a world in her system to create as they wished.

"Haloeth had the fourth world from the sun, a smaller, red world and began to create a creature to tend it while she did other things there. That first guardian was Lumari." He paused and relaxed into the massive shift that added more than half his height and many times his mass, and turned him into a biped killing machine with a sleek dark tan mohawk than ran down his spine, a very canine head with rounded mouse ears and long silver and gold double helix horns. His bright red antenna were still apparent between his horns.

"Very impressive," Obi-Wan observed, assessing the new shape and deciding that SunWind hadn't been exaggerating its abilities.

"Like something out of a myth," Krystal agreed, Casey taking a picture for the file before SunWind shifted back to his Mouse form. `` "As Haloeth continued to work on her world, she created the seeds of intelligence in two of the creatures that had grown from those first seeds of life and charged Lumari with caring for them and guiding them to the point where they would be equals. It was a task he greeted with pride and joy, for he had long been very lonely as the only person on the world.

"As the Maru, the Mice and Luprani, the Razorwolves" he dropped to all fours into a sleek tan canine with small silver and gold double helix and red antenna. He paused for Casey's picture before shifting back. "Began to gain intelligence and numbers, Lumari asked Haloeth for assistance and she agreed.

"She created two females similar to him in form and gave them all the ability to shift between the forms that she wished for the Maru and Luprani to grow into. From these three, Lumari, Maru and Luprani, the Loup Maru came. When they grew older, they passed their duties onto us. The protection of the world and the care of its people.

"Loup Maru have two other forms; larger, more primitive versions of the Maru and Luprani," he shifted to each and waited for pictures to be taken. "We are not very sure when or why they exist."

"When did things start to go wrong then?" Obi-Wan asked softly. If they were protectors... it seemed strange that the people would turn on them so thoroughly.

"When we lost our unity over how to treat them," he said quietly and sat down. "The Maru in particular had a great deal of difficulty controlling their own population. It was simple when they were not sentient yet. We culled them as we culled any other creature that grew too populous.

"But once they were intelligent, there was a great deal of contention over how much authority we really had over them. Most believed that until they could control themselves, they were still no more than animals and it was our duty to control them as needed. Many believed that it was now our duty to educate them gently, to teach them what was right and wrong as you would any pup. By the time they had true cities and had begun to systematically eradicate the Luprani, there was a group that believed that we had failed completely and it was now our duty to wipe them out and start over.

"None of those approaches were taken well by the Maru, even though we agreed to try with educating them before we turned to violence. Twelve generations we tried to teach them. We did not cull a single Maru. We helped them with their cities and tried to teach them how to live with the world without destroying it.

"We failed completely. By the time we realized it, they had powerful weapons, weapons that could actually kill us, and they had the numbers to hunt us." He finished, the grief at failing in his duty to Haloeth more potent than his failure to save his world from the Plutarkians.

Krystal and Obi-Wan were both quiet, his pain palpable. They both had their opinions, but they kept them to themselves for now.

"They weren't a particularly old species then, when the Plutarkians arrived?" Obi-Wan asked, hoping that moving beyond that point would give SunWind the chance to leave his pain behind for a time.

"No," he shook his head slightly and pulled himself together with difficulty. "They had only developed true sentience about fifteen thousand years before."

"And only twelve generations without the culling?" Krystal asked him, sure they weren't that long-lived that it was any appreciable amount of the time they'd been sentient.

"That is how long it took before they declared war on us." He sighed. "When they began to hunt us, it changed a lot of minds."

"And you were born during a time when they had already nearly driven your kin to extinction, weren't you?" She asked him, her own emotions well-shielded as her mind worked to put what pieces she had together. His words, his emotions... he was relieved now, mostly because he hadn't been attacked for what he'd already said, and she could understand why.

She wasn't wholly sure what she thought of it, but she was sure that this story was one of the most morally complicated she'd heard in years.

"And the other sentient race on Haloeth," he nodded. "They started hunting the Luprani first, then they hunted us. I've spent most of my life as a Maru, even since my mother's pack was destroyed trying to broker a peace treaty. My Bro's were Maru. I still don't understand them very well. Why they were so bent on destroying the other races on our world."

"Even the ones you were closest to?" She asked, surprised that he'd have associated with somebody who had done something like that.

"Fate and Plutarkian prison camps makes for strange mates." He chuckled weakly. "Vinnie's family were some of the deadliest hunters on the planet. Don't know if he did too. Modo ... he was from an area that made a point of shunning people-hunters of all kinds. Fine warriors, but they didn't hunt. What got us together was survival." He looked at her seriously. "I've sided with pure evil before to defeat a greater evil, or just survive long enough to defeat it. You do things like that in a war."

"I can understand that," she said, inclining her head towards him in respect. "It is just odd to think of. I hope you can find peace here, SunWind, even if you can't find anything else."

"So do I." He nodded slightly. "I hope I can accept it too. It's a very strange idea sometimes."

"You seem to be doing well so far," Casey pointed out. "And if you find yourself needing help, we can get it for you. There isn't anything about your situation here that we haven't seen before; we're willing and able to help you with it."

SunWind nodded and looked over at her with a look of gratitude that he didn't quite have the voice to express just yet.

"Should we move on to somebody else?" Casey offered. "I don't know if there's anything else you want to talk about just now."

"I will go," Obi-Wan offered and stood. He put a reassuring hand on SunWind's shoulder and felt the gratitude for it. "Is there anything you wish me to start with?"

"How about showing SunWind and Krystal some of your skills?" Casey suggested. "Telekinesis... or maybe some of what you can do with your 'lightsaber'?" She suggested, indicating the weapon at his side.

He nodded and stepped a bit away from the group. "How about that?" He pointed to an empty picnic table.

"As long as it's in one piece afterwards, they're not attached to anything," Casey nodded.

"It will be," Obi-Wan assured her and focused on the table. The response was not immediate, but soon the object lifted up smoothly and followed his slight hand motions to turn around and set down in a different location.

"A lot more control than I have," Krystal told him. "How fine is it?"

"I can type, but I can not write yet, though with practice I should be able to. It will never be as fine control as with my hands." He explained and put the table back where it belonged.

"Mine has best been described as explosive telekinesis, so you're hardly far behind the curve," Krystal chuckled. "It's an excellent level of control, by all that I've seen."

"Thank you, Krystal." He bowed slightly to her. "Much of what I have learned has little to display; the ability to survive on very little food or water, in hostile environments and other subconscious physical controls. The most interesting display of my training is usually with a lightsaber." He unclipped the weapon and relaxed into a basic open stance that was the beginning of so many katas and lit it.

"Don't see those often," Krystal said, leaning back to watch him work with his energy sword.

"Never seen anything like that before," SunWind murmured, entranced by the sheer deadliness he saw in the simple display.

Obi-Wan came to a stop and tipped the weapon to his left. "SunWind, would you try to shoot me?"

"What?" The Loup Maru stared at him.

"I will be perfectly safe," Obi-Wan assured him. "A single shot, near me if you prefer."

The dark tan Loup Maru nodded and fired a shot almost too fast to see just over the Jedi's left shoulder. Obi-Wan's bright blue lightsaber was up before the bolt had even reached him, the beam deflected off into the sky by the lightsaber blade.

"At this point, I'm capable of deflecting beams from several practice drones at once for a relatively prolonged period of time," Obi-Wan explained. "Typically quite long enough to handle most firefights without being in undue danger."

"Very impressive." SunWind admitted. "How hard is it to make one of those?"

"Quite difficult," Obi-Wan admitted. "It takes a certain level of technical knowledge to produce the technical components, and Jedi training to properly tune the weapon to function as a true lightsaber. More importantly, it requires years of training to wield a lightsaber properly and deflect blaster bolts."

SunWind nodded in acceptance. "It seems like it would be useful as more than a weapon." He observed.

"It is," Obi-Wan nodded. "Mostly for carving through doors and walls when negotiations become strained. One of the reasons the training is so difficult; it can carve through an inch of durasteel like soft butter, and it's not easy for an untrained user to keep track of the blade in use."

"And loosing track is a very dangerous thing to do." SunWind nodded in understanding.

"Is there anything else you'd like to demonstrate, before we get into your people's history?" Krystal asked Obi-Wan.

"I do not believe, so." He inclined his head to her politely and sat down. "The Jedi were founded roughly twenty-five thousand years ago. Life was already long established in the galaxy, but we had recently developed hyperdrive, a means of traveling from one system to the next at a relatively swift speed. Many different races had already discovered the Force; with the advent of hyperdrive, we were able to communicate with each other, share information, and come to a unified philosophy regarding its use and training."

"So you are the only people that have power?" SunWind asked curiously.

"No, we are not," Obi-Wan said, shaking his head. "We are the dominant group that uses the Force, but not all Force users are Jedi. There are other groups in existence, and some individuals who, for whatever reason, were not trained. There is also a rival organization to our own, but they have been extinct for a thousand years."

"It is unusual that none have risen in their place," SunWind mused. "Power hates a vacuum."

"Some have tried, but the Jedi are there to confront them when they do," Obi-Wan explained. "The Sith were the opposite of the Jedi in every way. Where we consider the Force an ally, and believe in helping others, the Sith valued only strength and ruthlessness."

"You have mentioned the Force several times," Krystal pointed out. "What exactly is the Force?"

"It is the energy all around us; it feeds and is fed by life. Those he can feel it can sometimes use it to create effects. Telekinesis, enhanced senses, speed, foreseeing, empathy, telepathy, likely your magic as well, all draw on the Force."

"Different names for the same thing then," she nodded slightly.

"Quite possibly," he nodded. "Through the following centuries, the Jedi helped guide the Republic, protecting justice and order throughout the galaxy as it developed. We have helped to maintain the peace, and freedom, of people throughout the Republic."

"How good a job do you think the Jedi do at it?" SunWind asked with a morbid kind of curiosity.

"Better could be done," Obi-Wan admitted. "However, given that the Republic encompasses thousands of systems, hundreds of sentient species, and many of them consider each other to be food, I feel the fact that it has survived for over twenty thousand years says a great deal about how well the Jedi have helped it to hold together."

"Yes," he agreed with a slight nod.

"Well, if there are no more questions, I think I've reached the end of the condensed version," Obi-Wan chuckled. "I'll admit, I do hope to get home some time soon."

"It sounds like you have quite the home to get back to," Krystal smiled. "Well then, I think it's my turn to show and tell."

"Yes," SunWind kind of grinned at her. "What can that staff do?"

She stood up with a chuckle, pointing it skyward and taking it in both hands, firing off several bursts of flame that arced through the air, the staff recoiling with each shot like a blaster rifle.

"As you might imagine, Fox was thrilled when he discovered that ability," she chuckled a little dryly. "I can also cause it to release a blast of freezing vapor," she explained, swirling about agilely and spraying the grass with the blue liquid, causing it to frost over instantly. "Extremely effective against large, slow enemies, I've found."

"Oh, I can imagine." SunWind perked up a lot. "You said that was a relic of your people, I believe?"

"It is, an ancient one," she nodded. "The Testing Rite I mentioned to you was a temple on one of our neighboring planets. The planet was deserted, but the ruined temple included places to use the rest of the staff's main powers. With a properly reinforced floor plate, I can use its telekinetic abilities to launch myself into the air, or to create a shockwave through the ground. It could also unlock certain doors.

"The idea was that a Priestess would have to reach a certain level of training before she could reach the inner chambers of the Temple. A master Priestess could reach the central chamber, which was rumored to contain a great secret about our people... nobody had reached it in centuries though, myself included," she admitted.

"Is that world still in existence?" SunWind asked, his interest peeked.

"It is, but without somebody to help me unlock the remaining abilities of the staff, I can't get any deeper than I already did, and it's about a two-year trip even in the Great Fox."

"Who, or what, is required for you to unlock those abilities?" He was even more keyed up, his mind working on something that had latched onto his interest.

"Without the resources from the temple, probably a fair amount of time to study the staff and try to find out what I have to activate to bring out the rest of its powers," she explained. "And to work on doing so myself. I haven't really focused on doing it... needed to get settled in, and once I was it seemed far enough away that it wasn't important."

"And it means facing the pain of being the last one." SunWind said softly, understanding a little too much.

"Yes," she admitted, nodding slightly. "And the fact that I, of all people, should have been there to try and stop whatever happened to Cerinia. The Priestess is supposed to be the planet's protector as well."

"I understand," he nodded, willing to let it drop. "It's something to do when you are ready."

"Thank you," she smiled, nodding slightly. "It might well be a while," she admitted.

"Are you part of the Star Fox team?" Obi-Wan asked in the lull that followed.

"Yes," she smiled, taking her seat again. "I'm filling in the gap that Peppy left when he retired from the field. Not half the pilot he was, but I'm getting better."

"What does your team do, when you aren't rescuing lost travelers?" SunWind asked curiously.

"Special jobs for the Cornerian military," Krystal explained. "The Lylat Wars were before my time, the incident on Sauria... honestly, there hasn't been much aside from some space pirates that happened to be in our part of space for a big job. From what I understand, the team had almost fallen apart before Sauria... maybe there's a little caution because of that yet."

"Sounds like they've been through some rough times." SunWind said quietly. "What holds them together now, when there isn't a war going on?"

"The same thing that holds any group like that together," she smiled slightly. "They're partners. Peppy's been a part of the team since before Fox was born. Slippy doesn't have many friends, and he's loyal to the ones he has. Falco and Fox... they're something else," she chuckled. "Falco's left the team once in a while, but he always comes back. He and Fox are about the best friends you can find, and sometimes I think that drives 'em both crazy. There's not much that could create a real, permanent rift in the team."

SunWind nodded thoughtfully, fully aware that there were parts to it she just wasn't going to go into some parts of this on her own. "Do you know anything about a Wolf named Wolf O'Donnell?"

"Oh yeah," Krystal said, shaking her head. "He used to be one of Fox's best friends in the Academy, but went with Andross in the first wars, along with Pigma from the old Star Fox team. From what I understand, he decided he'd made a mistake after the first Lylat War and was eventually cleared. But he's the reason the team almost broke up right after the second War, not that he'll ever admit to it."

"He was a Star Fox?" SunWind looked at her in real surprise. "How ... what convinced him to leave?"

"Wolf wasn't," Krystal said firmly, shaking her head. "He left before Fox was part of Star Fox, officially. Pigma was part of the team, but he betrayed it to Andross in exchange for a small fortune. I hope the fat fuck choked on it," she growled, then shook her head.

"I'm sorry; Fox's father died when Pigma betrayed the team. Then, later, the team reformed when Fox, Falco, and Slippy joined Peppy to go against Andross. Wolf had already gone over to Andross; he, Pigma, Andross' nephew, and a mercenary named Leon had formed Star Wolf, Andross' answer to Star Fox."

"Wow," he murmured, more than a bit stunned and trying to correlate that story with the person he'd met the night before. It wasn't an easy match.

Of course, it was also Krystal's version of events, which was probably mostly Fox's. There'd be some differences... might not hurt to get Wolf's take on it some time.

"And it gets worse from there," Krystal sighed, leaning back against the table and looking skyward. "I don't have all the details, but after the second War, Fox ran into a sort of perfect storm of personal disasters. Major personality clash between the two new members of the team and the older ones that had Peppy about ready to leave at the same time Fox found out that his girlfriend at the time had been cheating on him during the last months of the war. With Wolf, of all people."

SunWind had to shake his head. "Sounds like it was a real mess. He seems to have recovered some, though."

"He has," Krystal nodded. "Think he was ready to move on when Sauria came up, just didn't want to yet. He's notoriously stubborn when it comes to carrying a grudge, and he still hates Wolf pretty seriously."

"I can't say I blame him," SunWind admitted. "That's some heavy stuff to go through with a former best friend."

"Especially when he keeps trying to get in touch, and you don't want to hear it," Krystal nodded, a sharp beeping coming from Casey's communicator, the Cat checking it out.

"SunWind, will your shapeshifting require any changes to be made to your new eyes?" She asked him, checking the message.

"These work with it." Was the best he could manage. "I don't really know."

"Then it won't really help to give them warning," Casey decided. "If you're ready, Slippy just messaged me to say he'd finished designing your replacements and was ready to swap them out for you."

"All right," he nodded, abruptly very nervous again.

"~I'll be there, if you'd like.~" Obi-Wan reached out with his mind gently.

"~Thank you.~" SunWind nodded to him, grateful for the support.

"~You want somebody else there too?~" Krystal offered. "~Somebody cleared to cream Slippy if he screws something up?~" She suggested, trying to lighten the mood.

"~Yes,~" he looked down at her with a slight smile.

"~I'll meet you back at base then,~" Krystal told him with a smile of her own. "~And double-check with Slippy to see if there's anything he can do at the last-minute to make sure they work for you in all your forms,~" she added, standing up.

"~I will,~" SunWind agreed.

"Well, I'll see you guys back at base," she said. "It was good getting to know you all."

"Yes it was." SunWind stood and offered a hand in parting.

She accepted the offered handshake, and returned Obi-Wan's bow, then climbed into her Arwing and took off.

"You three were having a bit of a conversation without letting me in on it, weren't you?" Casey asked them with a chuckle. "Not that I mind, I'm used to it."

"Yes," Obi-Wan told her. "Some things are for private."

"I'm ready to go." SunWind added as they stood.

"I understand," Casey nodded, leading them back to the transport. "Just keep in mind that most folks around here aren't used to it, so you might want to downplay it a little bit."

"I understand," Obi-Wan nodded.

"I'll try," SunWind added as they got in the transport. "If there are not many telepaths around, it won't come up often. I'm used to speaking to most people I'm not kin to."

"Okay," Casey chuckled, climbing into the pilot's seat and taking off. "I hope everything goes well, SunWind. Cybersurgery isn't too common yet, but Slippy's one of the leading experts."

"He can't be worse than the guy who put these in." He muttered darkly. "At least Slippy'll use an anesthetic."

"Oh gods," Casey said softly, shaking her head. "Yes, yes he will. That explains the note about doctors in your file, doesn't it?" She asked him as they flew in towards base.

"Yes," he nodded slightly. "I haven't had a very good history with them, or labs of any kind."

"Understandable," she nodded. "That was Andross' one good point; he preferred robots to experimenting on the living."

"Small favors," SunWind sort of chuckled as the group relaxed into silence and the two aliens focused on watching the scenery pass by.

They reached the base quickly, touching down near the hangar they'd first come to where the Arwings were based. SunWind noticed that Krystal's was already back, the blue stylized fox on the wing making it clearly. Slippy was waiting for him, looking at a datapad and seemingly oblivious to the transport that had touched down just a few inches in front of him.

"So what am I going to look like after this?" SunWind asked evenly as he exited, his nerves solidly under control, though he knew Obi-Wan, Krystal and Rob would know without a glance just how scared he was of what he'd agreed to.

"How do you want to look?" Slippy asked, looking up at the Mouse. "The color's not set for a few hours, gives me the chance to tweak with it if you change your mind. By the way, would you mind if I got a scan or two of your other forms? I need to know how much give to put in for the change to your skull shape."

It was almost comforting how at ease the Frog seemed with the idea.

"Brown, round pupils." He answered, remembering the shade he'd only actually seen for a few months between when his mother's pack had been slaughtered and when he'd been captured by the Plutarkians that first time. "Scans are fine." He added with a nod as they entered the Frog's lab/workshop.

"No problem," Slippy said easily, his high-pitched voice prattling on as he set up the scanner. "Could you shift through your forms? All of 'em, I need to know the shapes to go through."

SunWind nodded and dropped to all fours in his smallest form as Krystal came in the room.

"That is a Luprani." Obi-Wan supplied, waiting for the Frog to indicate that the scans were done before SunWind moved threw the other four forms in order: Lupki, a dire wolf sized Luprani; Lumari, the monstrous war-form; Marki, a brawny ancient Maru; and Maru, his base form.

"Okay, don't need to change too much," Slippy mused as he looked at them. "And what I do need to change is just one setting; your eye sockets don't change too much. I should probably warn you, your eyes won't actually change colors or visible shape when you shift. That a problem?" He asked.

"Neither do his current ones, Slippy," Krystal pointed out.

"Just asking," the Frog shrugged.

"No, that will not be a problem, as long as they work." SunWind assured him.

"That they'll do, Throttle," Slippy nodded.

"SunWind, Slippy," Casey corrected him. "I'm afraid I've got another appointment; give me a call and let me know how it goes?"

"Sure thing," the Frog agreed. He moved over to a short computer console, two cybernetic eyes sitting under a glass case. He tapped a few buttons, a gas filling the case and obscuring the eyes.

"Okay SunWind," he said, turning back to the Loup Maru. "You still want to stay out of the medlab?" He asked.

"I can handle it if it'll go better there." He decided quietly.

"It's set up for it better," Slippy nodded. "I don't think I'm going to have to go in too deep, but I might have to replace some of the interface from what you've said about the butcher who put them in." He opened the door to the next room, heading in. "You'll be under for all of it though."

SunWind nodded and followed him in. The disdain Slippy held for what had happened to him helped a lot, as was the promise of not feeling it. He trusted Obi-Wan and Krystal to protect him in this too. He just kept telling himself that he'd be fine and when he woke up, his eyes would be better. Maybe even good enough to drop the shades as a requirement.

Sweet Mars... that would be a welcome change. Having real eyes again, or at least being able to pretend he did.

"Take a seat on the table," Slippy said, changing behind a screen. "Krystal, can you help him with the mask? SunWind, the anesthetic is going to smell pretty bad, but you'll have to take deep breaths until you're under. I should have it calibrated for your body, but it's hard to tell with new species."

"All right," he nodded and didn't fight it when the blue Vixen held a clear mask to his face and the foul-smelling gas came out. It took all his self-control to breath deeply of the chemical-laden air, especially when he began to get woozy.

He was being given a second chance like none he had ever dreamed of. He couldn't let his fear and past destroy it for him.

Suddenly he felt a light touch to his mind; Obi-Wan was there, his clarity and calmness helping out tremendously as he closed his eyes and his head lolled to one side, only just on this side on consciousness.

"He's almost out." Obi-Won spoke quietly, monitoring the Loup Maru's mind as his body surrendered to the gas. He admired him for being about to do this with so little assistance. Even with what little he knew of SunWind's past,

SunWind couldn't feel a thing as Slippy came out from behind the screen, but his mind and ears picked up occasional details.

"I made better eyes than this when I was in college," Slippy grumbled....

"He's starting... under, Slippy," Krystal said some time later, her voice and mind concerned. SunWind remembered that he'd smelled something else after that, his mind clearing a bit.

"Starting to come out of it," Obi-Wan warned them.

"I know what I'm doing," Slippy said firmly, as firmly as he could, even as the light floral scent was replaced by the sickly sweet anesthetic again. "By the way, why'd he change his...."

"Have to replace all of this," Slippy sighed again later. "You two keep an eye on him. Rob...." Some time passed before he remembered anything more, the sickly-sweet smell becoming stronger and putting SunWind completely under for a time, his mind too far out of it to focus on anything.

"Okay, he's coming out of it," Krystal finally said as SunWind woke up, feeling incredibly tired as the lighter floral scent brought him out of the drugged state.

"So, how do we look?" Slippy asked SunWind as he started to wake up.

"Still a bit out of focus, but a lot better than before." He answered, his movements slow as he looked around to adjust to the clarity and level information his brain hadn't received in decades. Everyone in the room felt it when it hit him just how real this was; that he finally had a home again, a place where he wasn't hunted for what he was born as.

"This better?" Slippy asked as his eyes slowly came into focus, actual lids closing as Throttle blinked.

"Yes," he drew in a sharp breath of surprise to have real feeling eyes again. "Thank you."

"No problem," Slippy grinned. "Those just handle regular vision, but your sunglasses should still do different types of light for you with 'em," he offered. "Want to try shifting, see if they're soft enough?"

"All right." SunWind nodded and drew a breath as he dropped to all fours in the relatively small space to accommodate the huge Lumari form.

"I can see fine," he said after a moment. "Nothing feels like it's pulling."

"Good, I thought I had them right," Slippy grinned, obviously proud as SunWind slipped into his Luprani form to test them, finding that the outside of his eyes seemed to adjust to match his shape now. It was a lot more comfortable than the dull ache he'd gotten used to years ago.

These actually felt real.

"These are amazing." SunWind murmured after shifting back to Maru and touched his face with a hand, eventually brushing over his closed eyes. "Truly amazing."

"I do my best," Slippy grinned. "Glad they're working out. Now like I said, they'll need a little maintenance every few months to keep working perfectly, but as long as you don't get your head smashed in, you ought to be fine."

"That would either kill me, or I'd heal from." He chuckled slightly. "Thank you." He said very sincerely. "I'd forgotten what real vision was like."

"Have a good day, SunWind," Slippy said cheerfully, stretching out. "Oh by the way, it took a bit longer than I expected, so if you've got anything planned for the afternoon yet, better get going."

"Right now, I think I'm going for a run." He grinned, a ripple running down his spine at the excitement of simple exertion just for the fun of it. "I'll see you around."

"~Thank you,~" he added to Obi-Wan and Krystal.

"~You are welcome, SunWind.~" Obi-Wan smiled at him. "Have a good run."


SunWind looked at himself in the mirror of his quarters, pleased at the extent his fur had grown in since his arrival here. He was still marveling at his eyes. They not only looked perfect in his face, but they worked as well as his natural ones.

It was a good day to be alive.

He'd spent nearly three hours running himself out in Luprani, had a long shower behind him as well and was now dressed, groomed and ready to hit the clubs in search of Wolf O'Donnell and a few more answers.

He shook himself out and headed out. It'd be a very pleasant run to the area in Luprani, which would save him having to feel Tony's reaction to Wolf.

As he ran, he found that a lot of people were looking at him. He'd shown the authorities, but they'd probably still get reports about him. Hopefully they'd figure it out and not send anybody out after him.

When he made it into the proper part of town, he found an alley and shifted back, smoothing his fur out a bit before going to get into the Event Horizon. The same bouncer was at the door, and he smiled at the body-builder Panther.

Fortunately, he recognized him, and didn't seem to have any trouble letting him in on his own.

"The Boss'd like you to have a word with the manager," he told him on the way in and motioned to a door in a back corner by the bar.

"All right," he nodded and headed the way while he checked out the patrons.

Wolf was there, at a table in one of the back corners, talking to a much younger woman, probably only barely legal to be in the bar on her own. SunWind reached the back door at just about the same time somebody whispered something to her and she did her best to make a quick, relatively polite exit.

SunWind barely needed his empathy to know why. Someone had told her his name. He sighed and worked his way over to the table before Wolf could disappear.

"Hey Throttle," Wolf said, noticing the Mouse and brightening up. "Here on your own tonight?"

"Yap." He nodded, leaning against the edge of the table. "Looking for you, actually. I need to chat with the manager, if you'd stick around."

"Sure," Wolf said with a smile and a bit of a shrug. "If I'm lucky there might be somebody else at the table when you get back, but I wouldn't bet on it."

"Oh, I've decided to go by SunWind. My name from better times."

"Fair enough," Wolf said easily, remembering it.

"I'll be back, then." SunWind smiled at him and headed back towards the manager's door. He knocked when he reached it, waiting a moment before the door opened, revealing a much shorter Pomeranian on the other side. The powder-puffed tan canine looked up at SunWind, blinking his beady black eyes.

"Wow, you really are as big as they said," was all he could say. "You Throttle?"

"Yes," he nodded. "I also go by SunWind."

"Heard you were involved in a bit of a scrap last night," the Pomeranian said, ushering him in. "Some rowdies giving a lady a hard time?"

"Yes," he nodded again and sat down when motioned to. "He wouldn't leave her alone when she made it very clear she didn't want to be near him."

"That's about what I heard," the Pom nodded, sitting down in his own chair, tall enough that he could look into SunWind's face without too much trouble. "From what they said, you held your own pretty well. Know how to fight, and how to do it without breaking anybody's neck. And to look at you, I don't think you're from around here; most of our Mice don't have antennae," he chuckled. "So, I was wondering; are you planning on sticking around long enough to be looking for work?"

"I don't know for how long, but yes." He nodded. "I'm probably going to go to Zoness to help with the reclamation. At least eventually. They want a lot of proficiency testing first."

"Heh - you don't strike me as the scientist type," the Pom chuckled. "Well, if you're interested, I could use an extra bouncer, part-time, while you're on Corneria. When you're ready to move on, you can, no problem."

"Sounds good so far," SunWind agreed. "What is the pay and duties?"

"Come in on your shift, keep an eye out for trouble or shady characters at the door. If somebody comes in your don't recognize, either check that they're a member or that they pay the cover charge, unless it's a member bringing 'em along. If any of the customers get surly, one of the bartenders'll give you a call to come in and make sure they get surly somewhere else. As for pay, fifteen cred's an hour, at least to start."

It was good pay, SunWind recognized already. Even at part time, he could live on his own if he was reasonably careful about it. "When do you want me here?"

"Come in day after tomorrow at three in the afternoon for paperwork and training, we'll get you on next week's shifts," the Pom offered. "Already have everything scheduled for the rest of this week, so that'd be the soonest you could get started."

"It works for me." He agreed easily. It would give him some time to hunt up a place to stay and work out how to eat off the base.

Fortunately, he had a feeling Casey'd be willing to help him with that.

"Great; I'll see you then, along with the owner. He wanted to see you himself," the Pom chuckled. "Have a good night; if you want to hang around, feel free, don't worry about the cover."

"Thank you," they shook hands before SunWind stood to head back out to the club floor and Wolf.

"So, how'd it go?" Wolf asked him, waiting at the table along with an extra beer for SunWind.

"I got offered a bouncer job." He chuckled and sat down. "Thanks." He lifted the beer. "I hope you don't mind talking tonight."

"Not at all," Wolf said, taking a drink of his own. "Glad you came back."

"I ended up hearing Fox's side of your story today. I was hoping you'd tell me your side ... more than just that you made a mistake. Like why you are trying to contact him still."

"Because of Fara," Wolf said, closing his eyes for a moment. "I'm going to guess that Fox told you I stole his girlfriend during the last war, when I was back here because nobody wanted me near the front?"

"I heard it from Krystal, actually, and that was kind of said." SunWind took a moment to organize what she'd said before repeating it. "She said that you and Fox were best friends in the Academy, but you went with Andross in the first wars, along with Pigma from the old Star Fox team. She did acknowledge that you decided it was a mistake and were cleared. I think there is a lot more anger towards Pigma than you, honestly, though you're number two on the grudge list. Fox's former girlfriend going with you was part of it, and the timing with other issues. Including that you keep trying to contact him."

"Well, they're right about Pigma - when I went that way, I didn't know what he'd done. He and Andross said that the accident that had killed James McCloud was rigged by the Cornerians, to get rid of Star Fox. Made a lot more sense than Pigma doing it himself, he'd have stood a good chance of dying along with the rest of them. That was before I knew just what that waste of flesh would do for a credit.

"What happened with Fara was more complicated. You want the short version, I'm guessing?"

"Probably," he nodded. "I'm not looking to pry secrets here, just get your side of things."

"I understand," Wolf nodded. "First off, I didn't know that Fara was with Fox, not until just before he got back. Hell, I barely knew who she was at first. She was working as a test pilot and would have painted herself all over the walls of Rykert's Run if I hadn't saved her. We went out for dinner, I told her who I was ... she didn't seem to really mind all that much. I was still officially not supposed to be on Corneria at the time, so that meant more to me then than it does now."

SunWind could feel that he was telling the truth about that; at the time, he had a feeling Wolf would have gone to the ends of the system for somebody willing to look past his background. There was a time when he would have too.

"The two of us started going out," Wolf continued, "and a few months later they decided that I could be cleared publicly. I only found out she was involved with Fox the day he got back from the front. We had an argument about it and I left ... she had a bigger one with Fox when he caught me about to leave, and she came looking for me when it was done."

"And after that?" SunWind asked softly.

"We left," Wolf said, looking into his drink. "Her father disowned her, but we really did love each other. It was good at first; I wasn't made to be a lone Wolf for all my life. Then, a few years back, Fara started getting sick. She finally told me what was going on when I threatened to drag her into a hospital in restraining cuffs.

"She'd been exposed to some sort of toxin during the Battle of Corneria, she said. Everybody thought she'd gotten away from it, but she was diagnosed with some... interesting types of cancer a few years later. Nothing that would respond to the traditional treatments. She was the only person at the scene of the final confrontation who was outside a controlled environment, so nobody else knew about the various consequences of exposure. Since her father had disowned her, she'd been ignoring her treatment, and it was finally catching up with her.

"The reason I started trying to contact Fox was because... she just wanted to apologize to him, before it was over," Wolf sighed, closing his eyes. "Fox wouldn't respond to any of our messages, and any time either of us tried to get in touch with him in person he stormed off before we could say anything. He actually told me once, to my face, that Fara and I were lying about her being sick to just try and get some sympathy. I guess she never told him about it. She died about a year ago."

SunWind could feel Wolf's grief, old but still painful. He was still trying to carry out his mate's last wishes, which explained the continued attempts to get in touch with him.

Did Fox and Krystal even know what had happened? Did they care if they did?

"Krystal might listen to me," SunWind offered. "At least long enough to hear the basics. She's got the best odds of getting Fox to hear it."

"It wouldn't be fair of me to drag you into this, Throttle," Wolf said, shaking his head. "Thanks for the offer though."

"Have you tried to talk to her, without Fox around?"

"Not easy to do," Wolf chuckled. "Haven't tried too hard, but most of the time I see her, it's with Fox there too. I might give it a shot if I get the opening though," he conceded. "Gods know she's the only one on the team who might listen. Her and Falco, and that depends on the mood he's in."

"She also has the advantage of being his girlfriend. He'll listen to her, if he knows what's good for him." SunWind chuckled slightly. "Care to dance?"

"Long as you don't mind that I haven't really danced in a couple of years," Wolf chuckled.

"Since last night was my first in over a decade, I definitely don't." SunWind smiled and stood to offer his hand to the big Wolf.

Wolf finished his drink and took it, standing with a smile as he squeezed SunWind's hand lightly and allowed himself to be drawn onto the dance floor by this person who knew his past and not only accepted him with it, but was interested in hearing his side of things. It wasn't as intense as that first time Fara accepted him, but it felt damn good.

And there was the added bonus that he was pretty sure the Mouse understood him a lot better than most anybody else, even Fara, ever had. There was something about his scent and body language, about the way he moved, that reminded Wolf more of one of his kin than of any Mouse.

Somebody like Tony didn't need company. Even Foxes were a species that got along fine on their own. Most Wolves needed a pack, and Wolf had been without a real one for the better part of a decade now ... if you could say Star Wolf had even qualified as a real pack. He wondered why his partner was alone ... maybe he'd have to ask him about that, some time.

His thoughts were soon distracted by the brush of SunWind's body against his own. It was a light contact, but thrilling all the same when combined with the clear, canine body language of interest.

It was surprising as all Hell, to Wolf. He'd known he was interested, but assumed it was just friendly. And he wasn't entirely sure he wanted to turn him down out of hand. It had been a long time since Wolf had thought about guys like that, but he still could, if he tried to.

And SunWind wasn't the sort of guy you'd turn down if you had a pulse. The tawny-furred Mouse might not have danced for years, but it was clear he knew how, that he'd been good at it once. He still had the grace, and decades of combat training and experience that perfected his knowledge of his body and how to move it. He was muscular and well-built too; probably any of a half-dozen different guys here would jump at the chance, and more of the girls.

Wolf returned the gesture, a little tentatively, but trying to get into it. It would be so good not to be alone again. It earned him a smile and serpentine tail around his waist. A tail that was decidedly playful, but not too bold.

Wolf smiled back, brushing up against SunWind and brushing his tail against the Mouse's thigh. He was making an effort to relax, but it was working.

Before he'd even realized it, Wolf was being guided off the floor and towards the bar. Several songs had passed as he enjoyed being accepted and the subject of a bit of flirting.

"Beer, or something stronger?" SunWind asked as he drew Wolf as close to him as he felt he could.

"Who's driving, if this goes beyond the club?" Wolf asked seriously, but quietly.

"You, if we have to drive." He matched the low tone. "I don't have a local license yet, or vehicle."

"Beer then," Wolf said. "Still legal after another one," he chuckled.

"Beer and a dark ale." SunWind ordered when the bartender looked his way.

"So, take a cab to get here?" Wolf asked him while they waited. "Or you have another date I didn't hear about yet," he teased lightly, though SunWind could tell he was really hoping that it was just teasing.

"I ran." He chuckled. "It's a nice night and not that far."

"You're not staying on base then?" Wolf asked him curiously, taking a seat as their drinks arrived.

"I am for now," he sipped his ale. "I'll explain better somewhere more private."

"Okay," Wolf shrugged, sipping his own drink. "You must have a weird definition of 'not far'," he chuckled.

"Most likely. Running fast helps," he grinned over the rim of his mug. "So do you have to work tomorrow?"

"Nah," Wolf chuckled. "Still a merc; got back from a job night before last, so it'll probably be a while before I'm out again."

"Care to spent the night together?" He asked softly.

"I'd like to," Wolf said honestly. "Just... not sure what I can promise you, for tonight. Been a while since I've thought about guys like that," he explained apologetically.

It was met with an understanding look and a gentle touch along his jaw.

"I'm not looking for just a quick roll in the hay," SunWind murmured. "I think we're both looking for a pack to belong to again. That takes time."

"You're right," Wolf nodded slightly. "Just wanted to make sure you knew what page I was on," he smiled a little shyly, a look that was at odds with the one-eyed veteran's usual demeanor. "If you're interested in just spending the night though... I think I'm up for that."

"I am," he slid his fingers along Wolf's jaw again before putting a little more space between them so it didn't feel like he was pushing. "Don't get me wrong, I think you're an attractive Wolf. But right now, a warm body to sleep next to is worth a lot more than a little pleasure."

"That sounds good to me too," Wolf smiled, reaching up to take SunWind's hand lightly. "Been way too long since I've had that, and for you too, I think."

"Far too long," he nodded. "Feel like another dance before we leave?"

"Sounds good to me," Wolf grinned a bit, following SunWind back onto the dance floor, the two of them starting to move to the music again. He wasn't past noticing how SunWind kept glancing at others, females. Particularly a Dalmatian bitch that was making it fairly obvious that she was interested in the unusual Mouse.

"What do you think of her?" SunWind asked quietly as they danced.

"Attractive," Wolf decided after a moment to reflect on her. "Certainly wouldn't blame you if you wanted to go with her tonight instead," he winked.

"I was thinking of getting her between us," he winked back. "If you're amiable to that."

"Oh I think I could live with that in a few ways," Wolf rumbled deeply, grinning a bit at the thought. "Want to find out if she's interested? Pretty clear she's interested in you."

"Back in a bit, then." SunWind dropped a quick kiss on Wolf's cheek before walking over to the Dalmatian with a bit of a swagger intended to make a good showing of his hard body for them both.

"Hey handsome," she rumbled, looking SunWind over as he made his way to her side.

"Hello yourself," he grinned at her. "What's your name?"

"Friends call me Perry," she offered. "Yours?"

"SunWind." He grinned and leaned against the counter. "Interested in a private party tonight?"

"Mmm ... just how private?" She grinned back at him, edging a bit closer, her long, thin tail brushing his furless one as he slid his tail up her leg to cup her firm ass.

"Just the three of us." He nodded towards Wolf slightly.

"Ooh, the rugged type," she giggled, looking Wolf over from a distance. "Thought he was with you. Your friend have a name?"

"Wolf," he answered simply, quite intentionally leaving off his last name.

"You two planning on heading out soon?" She asked with a canine grin, leaning over to lick SunWind's cheek lightly and found him turn into it for a kiss.

"Fairly soon, if you care to join us." He nodded and brushed his hand along her shoulder and arm. He knew it was normal for her breed, but spots were exotic to him.

"Gladly," Perry rumbled and pressed a little closer. "Now why don't you introduce me to your friend before I go home with him," she teased, winking at Wolf as he took in her body, a pair of jeans and short top the only things concealing her dark spots and bright white fur.

"Sure thing," SunWind chuckled and slid an arm around her back to guide her where Wolf was on the edge of the dance floor. "Perry, this is Wolf."

"Good to meet you," the Dalmatian grinned, leaning over to lick Wolf's cheek, to his clear surprise. "Hear you two are looking for somebody for a little private party?"

"If you're interested," Wolf grinned back. "SunWind's got good taste," he added with a rumble as he got a better look at her.

"Yes he does." She grinned and ran a hand down SunWind's ass. "I'm definitely interested in you two."

"Mmm ... so, back to my place?" Wolf suggested. "Bed's sized for company," he winked.

"Sounds like a good plan," she grinned at the pair.

"Let's go then," Wolf grinned back. "Good thing I drove the car tonight instead of the bike," he chuckled as they started out.

"Very good." SunWind agreed, delighted by this little pack for the night.

The three of them made their way out to Wolf's car; it was a couple years old, not a particularly fancy model, but it'd do the job. Even better, it had a wide enough front seat that three could sit together, Perry sandwiched between the two males while they drove into one of the mid-scale neighborhoods of Corneria.

Wolf didn't take any real chances driving, but it was clear that he enjoyed having company to try and impress by pushing the limits of legality. SunWind could only imagine what it'd be like in a fighter, where the lupine was more at home. They pulled up into a parking structure on the third level, near the entrance.

"Here we are," Wolf rumbled, climbing out and offering Perry a hand out the driver's side while SunWind got out the passenger side.

SunWind had to admit, merc work must still pay well even when you were more careful. This was nicer than anywhere he'd ever lived, and most places he'd seen that weren't owned by Plutarkian top brass.

They quickly got close again and let Wolf lead the way to his apartment. It was about half-way down the hall, near the elevator from the ground floor - easy access to the flight structure above the parking garage, SunWind realized.

He paused by the door, the built-in lock scanning Wolf quickly before clicking to admit him.

"Come on in," he said, making room for Perry and SunWind to follow him in. SunWind noticed that he was setting a picture near the door back behind a counter as they came in, but didn't ask about it. It wasn't hard to guess that it was probably a picture of Fara he hadn't thought about before they'd gotten back.

"Nice place," Perry smiled as Wolf closed the door behind the three of them.

"I make a decent living." Wolf cracked a grin and continued into the apartment, passing through the living room quickly and into the large master bedroom.

"Somebody's interested in getting to the point," Perry giggled, following him on in. The room wasn't heavily decorated, but it was hardly spartan; more along the lines of military comfort. The room of somebody who knew he might have to leave for a long time fast. Still, the bed was large enough for the three of them, comfortably at that.

"It's a good point to be getting to," he pointed out, moving behind her and kissing the back of her neck, inhaling her scent. "Agreed?"

"Oh, definitely." She shivered as SunWind slipped in front of her to press her between their hard bodies, his slender tail finding it's own amusement between their legs.

"You're good with that," she rumbled, kissing SunWind, licking his muzzle lightly. She raised her arms as Wolf slid her top off, reaching around both male's bodies to rub their asses lightly as they pressed against her. She tilted her head back, exposing her throat to SunWind as Wolf nuzzled her shoulder, his powerful hands wrapping around her to knead and massage her breasts.

"It knows other tricks too." He chuckled and slid his tail up the leg of her jeans to brush along her sex while he kissed her and worked her jeans open and to pool at her feet, his tail quickly returning to her naked sex.

"Somebody's a naughty girl," Wolf rumbled deeply, his sheath bulging beneath his own pants as he rubbed it against Perry's ass.

"You two have no idea," she rumbled lustily, her breath catching as Throttle's tail-tip teased her clit. "You guys are... ooh... wearing way the fuck too much."

"Why don't you get on the bed, while we fix that." SunWind winked at them both. "Before Wolf ruins his jeans."

"Like you're in any better shape," Wolf smirked as Perry moved to the bed, laying on her belly to watch the two of them.

"Not a bad pose for her," Wolf rumbled quietly to SunWind, slipping his vest off of him. "Which end you want first?"

SunWind chuckled and unbuttoned Wolf's shirt to push it off, kneeling to lick at his nipples while his hands ran down the Wolf's powerful body. "I was thinking you could take her pussy while I got her ass, but it's all good." He chuckled.

"Mmm ... we'll see what we get around to," Wolf rumbled deeply. SunWind pulled his belt loose, slipping his pants and underwear down, Wolf's thick, musky, tapered shaft springing free.

"Don't I get any say in this?" Perry teased, reaching off the bed to trace the backs of her fingers up Wolf's shaft, earning a shudder of pleasure from the powerfully built lupine.

"Of course," SunWind grinned and her and left Wolf to her attentions while he got his own boots and jeans off before getting on the bed with Perry to run his hands along her sides as he kissed her neck, his weight over her and hard cock rubbing against her ass.

"Got any lube around here, handsome?" The Dalmatian asked Wolf, drawing him closer and taking his shaft in her palm.

"Mmm ... should be some in the top drawer of the nightstand," Wolf rumbled, nodding towards it for SunWind's reference. He groaned as Perry slipped her hand down towards his base, licking his tapered tip with a broad grin.

SunWind quickly retrieved the dusty jar and opened it, pleased to find that the lube was still good and got a good amount on his fingers to stretch her ass and ease the passage for them both.

"Then how 'bout SunWind plugs me from behind, and you make sure nobody hears the howling?" She suggested, her eyes twinkling up at him.

"Sounds good to me," Wolf rumbled deeply, reaching down to stroke her long, dark ears.

She moaned and kept her long thick tail up for SunWind as he stretched her out with his fingers. Wolf rumbled, pressing his cock up into her mouth to be swallowed eagerly. Perry clearly wasn't a virgin in back, but she was still plenty tight for SunWind's tastes. He stretched her out, adding a third finger once two were moving inside of her fairly easily.

The Dalmatian closed her eyes, squeezing down around the Mouse's fingers in her ass happily, bobbing her head up and down Wolf's cock as he fondled her velvety ears.

It wasn't long before SunWind was content with her readiness and added a layer of lube to his cock before pressing inside her slowly as much to savor the feeling of it as for her comfort. Even after a night with Tony, the sensations of being inside a willing body were exquisitely fresh.

Perry wasn't as tight as Tony had been, mostly because she was significantly bigger, but she was good at this, milking his cock with her hot ass as he adjusted to how she felt.

"Mmm ... we've got someone who really likes it up the tail here," Wolf groaned as the Dalmatian's broad, velvety tongue caressed his length. He started thrusting lightly as his knot started to swell, letting his lover control the speed for the most part, bobbing her head up and down his length with a grin.

"All the better," SunWind groaned deeply, his balls tightening as his breath sharpened. "Good at it too."

The smell of the trio's arousal filled the room as Perry's tail flicked along SunWind's chest, taken at both ends by the males she'd come home with. Her pussy slowly dribbled juices down her thighs, tingling hotly, feeling achingly empty as she redoubled her efforts, moving a hand up to squeeze Wolf's knot as she pulled back, focusing her attention on the most sensitive flesh at his tip, lapping at his cock like her favorite candy.

"Good at more than that," Wolf panted, his own balls twitching as he came close. "Won't be... nnngh... long!"

SunWind shuddered and leaned forward to grab her scruff in his teeth, careful not to puncture the skin with the long front ones as he let go of holding back and slammed into her ass with the last few thrusts before he came.

He could hear that Wolf's cock really was keeping her from howling - but it didn't stop Wolf from doing just that as the vibrations around his shaft drove him right over the edge, spraying his seed into Perry's mouth, pleasure streaming through his body after far too long. The Dalmatian let his shaft fall from her mouth, smiling as she nuzzled it lightly, licking him and her lips clean.

"Oooh... I love the way that feels," she groaned, squeezing down around SunWind's shaft while he panted above her "And tastes," she winked up at Wolf.

"So what sends you over the edge?" SunWind rumbled, shifting his weight to one side to free his other hand to play along her body and breasts.

"How kinky you two want to get?" She asked with a grin, groaning as she pulled off of SunWind and rolled onto her back, spreading her legs.

"Depends on how kinky you want us," Wolf chuckled, climbing onto the bed.

"Both of you, eating me out at the same time?" She suggested hopefully, blushing beneath her white fur. "Think you two can figure out how to pull it off," she winked.

SunWind grinned. "I think we can accommodate that." He slid down between her legs and gave her a long lick from ass to clit.

Perry groaned, then cooed as Wolf moved down next to SunWind, licking the Mouse's muzzle lightly before turning his attention to the enticingly fragrant pussy that was attracting him. He spread her labia with his tongue, SunWind taking one and she taking the other, finding a rhythm that left one of them licking her clit at the same time the other was teasing the entrance to her sex with his tongue.

SunWind chuckled deep in his throat and caught her clit in his teeth, nipping lightly as he lavished it with his tongue and Wolf pressed his tongue deep into her sex.

Perry whimpered for a moment, then clutched the sheets, her body arching up into their mouths as Wolf's broad tongue flicked up against her g-spot, cumming hard, flooding both their senses with the smell of her arousal and filling Wolf's mouth with a flood of her pussy-juices, sweet and making his cock surge with desire to be inside of her.

"Want her ass or pussy?" SunWind asked as he continued to tease her clit lightly.

"Pussy," Wolf rumbled without hesitation, tilting his head up to kiss SunWind lightly on the lips. "Maybe you can join me after you've filled her tail again," he winked.

"Well now let's see how full I am... mmm... after you've tied me, hunk," Perry panted, reaching down to fondle each of their ears lightly.

"That can always be in the morning," SunWind grinned at Wolf and shifted away so Wolf could settle under Perry and fill her pussy. "That is a delicious view." He commented as Wolf fondled her breasts, both of them holding still with a bit of difficulty while SunWind rubbed against her back and then sank into her ass again. "Oh yeah."

"So hot," Perry groaned, squeezing down around the two males as they started to thrust slowly, Wolf quieting her as he kissed her deeply, probing her long mouth with his tongue, tangling it with hers as his knot started to swell slowly, popping in and out of her with each thrust.

For SunWind's part, between the tightness around cock, the heat of her body and the incredible feel of another male to rub against inside her body, he was well past words. All he could manage were whimpering groans as he fucked her, his hands squeezing her breasts and her scruff in his mouth. Not long ago, he could have sworn he'd never get to experience something like this ever again. Now, with a lover between him and a potential packmate, he was about ready to burst.

Wolf wrapped his arms around them both, Perry and Sunwind, shifting his thrusts to rub his shaft more against SunWind's, his tip grazing the Dalmatian's g-spot as she yipped in pleasure. She licked at Wolf's muzzle hungrily, her tail wagging madly, thumping against SunWind's powerful chest as the males worked as much contact with each other as with her.

SunWind was panting, right on the edge, when he finally figured her body out and shifted just a bit to rub her g-spot from both sides as Wolf's knot squeezed into her body and refused to come out.

It was an incredible rush to feel the two canine's pleasure at being tied. Maybe sometime, he'd remember to shift to a canine cock before his pants came off.

For now, it was intense enough as it was. Perry and Wolf's muzzles locked in a heated kiss, Throttle getting enough of a look beneath his new pack-mate's eyepatch to see that the lid beneath was stitched shut. He filtered it out for now; maybe he'd ask about it later on, or maybe just leave it be.

There were more important, and much more pleasant, things to deal with now.


Perry rumbled softly as she woke up the next morning, spotting the clock on the dresser and groaning inwardly. At least she didn't have to work this morning, but she would definitely need to get home soon if she was going to be ready in time for the evening shift.

Which meant getting out from between the two very attractive, very welcome, bodies pressed against her. She gave Wolf's muzzle a light lick, disentangling herself from their limbs and slipping out of bed, smiling softly as SunWind moved closer, snuggling up against Wolf directly.

They were definitely cute like that ... she wondered if they really thought she wouldn't guess they had only been a pack for a night before she'd met them, if that. They clearly hadn't been together long. Wolf was a little too timid around SunWind, despite being an obvious alpha by demeanor. Then again, so was SunWind, and the strange Mouse seemed a little more comfortable being in charge. He acted like he'd done it most of his life, not just that it was his nature like Wolf.

She wondered if that would be a problem for them, in the future... hopefully not. They were a good couple, she thought. Something about them both that said they were alike, that they understood each other in a way that not many others would. She took the sheets and pulled them up over the Wolf and Mouse, then headed off towards Wolf's shower, hoping he wouldn't mind - quite frankly, there was no way she was going to take a cab home reeking of sex.

If she wasn't raped by the cabbie, then her roommate would certainly do it for him... and, while it might be fun, if she wanted to get fucked again she'd just stick around with the two guys here for a little morning fun.

The Dalmatian quickly climbed into the shower, before she talked herself into doing just that, and calling in late for work later. As fun as it would be, she needed the hours and she suspected that SunWind had only picked her up to make Wolf more comfortable. Not that she was complaining, they were both hunks, but she'd caught the little things all night that looked for all the world like the strange Mouse was trying to gently seduce a virgin.

She smiled softly in the shower as hot water cascaded over her body. She wished him luck; they'd be a cute couple, and one she'd be happy to see again in the future. Her fingers slipped between her legs as she let some particularly pleasant mental images make up for the lack of time to play around with the two of them, and started to moan softly as she fantasized about the two males together.

Meanwhile, Wolf realized that there was something distantly different about the body in his arms. Not unpleasant by any means, but he was damned sure that Perry's breasts were larger. He opened his good eye, noticed SunWind and heard the shower running in the other room, and quickly put things together.

"Mmm ... you up yet?" He asked SunWind quietly.

"If I need to be," he murmured, more than content to stay where he was. "You smell good after a night playing."

"Thanks," Wolf rumbled, nuzzling SunWind lightly. "You do too," he added, rubbing his back. "Mmm ... and while we don't need to be awake, there is the distinct possibility of breakfast for three," he offered.

"Okay, you know how to get me up." SunWind laughed easily and leaned forward to kiss Wolf lightly, asking no more than had already been given the previous night. Wolf returned the kiss, lingering for a moment before crawling out of bed.

"Not many folks I'd sleep with it doesn't help," Wolf chuckled, stretching out languidly, making an unconscious display of his attractive, powerfully built body, his tail swaying as he pulled on a single layer of clothes quickly. "And don't worry, the 'bachelors can't cook' bit doesn't apply here. I've learned from some of the best, thankfully."

"Good, because while I can field cook, it barely passes for food." He cracked a grin and pulled his jeans up and boots on, but left the rest on the floor where it hand landed. "I'm almost grateful for your bad luck, or I would never have gotten a chance with you." He murmured in Wolf's ear while he embraced the powerful canine from behind, relishing the feel of another hard body under his hand and against his chest before letting go.

"Never know," Wolf shrugged slightly, not particularly wanting to think about most of it just now. "Except for one of the bits, you might be surprised; you're a heck of a guy," he smiled back at SunWind.

"Thanks," he smiled almost shyly and claimed another chaste kiss.

"Very cute." Perry grinned at the pair from the bathroom door, her fur clean and dry but completely uncovered.

"Just like you," Wolf smirked back. "I'm guessing the early shower means an appetizer's out of the question?" He asked with a chuckle.

"Sorry," Perry laughed, shaking her head. "Mmm ... much as I'd like it, I've got work tonight."

"Well, I hope you can at least stick around for breakfast?"

"If it's good enough, I'll promise to come back for a repeat next time I've got the morning and night both off," she winked.

"I think that's a challenge," SunWind grinned at Wolf.

"One I can meet, unless you're used to gourmet food," Wolf smirked back at both of them and heading into the kitchen. "I learned from the best, and then practiced for one of the pickiest eaters in the system," he short at them from the kitchen, starting to pull out what he needed for breakfast.

"Mmm... want to grab a shower while he cooks?" Perry asked SunWind. "Should be plenty of hot water left, and I can take care of teasing him while you're busy," she winked.

"Good, he needs to be teased," he winked back and headed for the bathroom. "Back in a few."

"Right," Perry smiled, heading out into the kitchen as Wolf cracked some eggs into a bowl, starting to scramble them up as thick slices of bacon fried.

"So, enjoy your shower?" He asked her, sure he'd picked up on her arousal when she'd opened the door earlier.

"Yes," she ducked her head a blushed lightly. "It would have been better with you guys in it. Just didn't think I had the time."

"Hey, I understand," he said easily, turning the bacon and heading over to his fridge to pull out some fresh mushrooms, chopping them up quickly. "What do you like in your omelets?"

"Meat, cheese and anything else." She grinned, sniffing the air. "It all smells good."

"Good," Wolf chuckled. "Won't have to split up the mix then." He pulled the bacon out as it was finished, starting to sauté the mushrooms in the leftover grease. "So, did the two of us live up to your expectations?" He asked, raising an eyebrow as he looked over at her.

"And then some." She shivered in memory of the previous night. "It's been a while since it's been that good."

"Tell me about it," Wolf grinned. "Mmm ... one hell of a way to start getting back into sex," he rumbled, leaning over to give her a light lick on the muzzle as some of the sizzling grease popped and landed on her naked fur, causing her to yelp and jump back.

"I'd say so." She nodded and carefully wiped the grease off her fur with a cold, wet towel Wolf handed her. "That would have hurt if my fur was any shorter than it is."

"Sorry," he said apologetically. "It goes against every one of my instincts, but you might want to grab some clothes, or at least one of the big towels from the closet there," he said, indicating the door in question.

"Considering I need to actually leave within an hour, dressing will be a good idea," she nodded and disappeared into the bedroom for the clothes she'd worn the night before.

Wolf turned back to cooking, only to look up a minute later to SunWind coming out with Perry to lean on the breakfast bar between the kitchen and dinning room.

"Smells really good, Wolf." SunWind rumbled.

"Thanks," Wolf smiled, sliding the mushrooms off onto a separate plate and pouring a thin layer of eggs, starting them cooking for a moment before he added the meat, mushrooms, and cheese appropriate for the omelet. "There's milk and juice in the fridge, if one of you wants to grab that, and some bread for toast in the cupboard," he told them.

"I'll grab them." SunWind nodded and went to fetch the bread. "What do you want to drink?" He called back to them both, finding that there was also soda and beer in the door of the fridge next to various ingredients that most people wouldn't bother using when they were cooking; fresh herbs and spices, things that SunWind couldn't identify but knew were probably for higher-end cooking.

Apparently Wolf hadn't been kidding.

"I'll take milk," Wolf told him, sliding the first omelet off onto a plate and handing it to Perry.

"Juice here," she called in.

"Got it," he pulled out the milk and a rich reddish-orange juice, one in each hand.

"Glasses are to your left." Wolf added and watched in fascination as SunWind fetched three of them with his tail and came over to the counter to set them down and poured one glass of milk and two juices.

"Y'know, that's just not natural," he said, shaking his head in mild disbelief as he started SunWind's omelet.

"And very handy in the bedroom," Perry giggled, winking at the Mouse who'd put that tail to good use the night before.

"Yes it is, to both." He chuckled and handed Perry's juice to her. "Everyone's tail was like this where I'm from, even the wolves."

"That hurts just to think about," Wolf chuckled. "Unless they had tails that were longer and didn't have fur either."

"Longer yes, and not nearly as much fur." SunWind explained and poured a glass of juice for himself and milk for Wolf. "Of course, they also had horns and antenna too. You'd never mistake a RazorWolf for a wolf, even before you realized they were sentient and could pick you up with their mind."

"You've got some strange critters back home," Perry chuckled, starting to eat. "Mmm, this is good!" She added as Wolf gave SunWind his food.

"I think you have strange critters." SunWind pointed out and happily dug in. "Very good." He added after a couple bites.

"Thanks," Wolf chuckled, quickly putting his own together and sitting down to eat. "And that's fair enough, I guess. Different chunks of space and all that."

"And plenty of sentient interference in mine." SunWind nodded. "You get all sorts of interesting things when life is designed and shepherded into a desired form."

"That'd do it," Perry said, shaking her head a bit. "Though I've gotta say; if they designed people like you, they've got good taste at least."

"I like to think so," he replied softly.

"Mmm ... as much as I'd love to make you blush more," Perry smiled, leaning over to lick his cheek as she finished breakfast, "I've got to get going. See you guys some time next week, maybe?" She asked. "I left my number on a note in the bathroom," she explained.

"I'd like that," SunWind grinned at her.

"I'll let you two fight over who gets to call me," she winked, giving Wolf a quick kiss on the cheek before grabbing her purse and heading out the door, calling for a cab already.

"That's the best I've had a date go in over a year," Wolf rumbled, watching her head out.

"It helps to get out of public before someone can snitch on you." SunWind nodded. "It helps that you have a common first name too."

"Yeah," he chuckled. "Thanks for last night," he smiled. "You want me to drop you off somewhere?"

"I did promise I'd explain a few things last night." He offered. "But it'll require space, preferably out of town."

"What sort of space?" Wolf asked him. "Just more than the apartment, or lots of open space? I know some good places in the canyons."

"Somewhere with at least twelve feet of headroom." SunWind explained. "Canyons sound good."

"Plenty of space in Rykert's then," Wolf nodded. "So, want to fly out, instead of drive?" He suggested with a grin.

"Absolutely," He grinned back.

"Great, I'll get to show you my baby," Wolf chuckled, finishing his breakfast. "She's not an Arwing, but she'll still clear a battlefield just by showing up."

"I bet that's as much because of her pilot as her." SunWind grinned and wrapped an arm around Wolf's waist on the way out of the apartment.

"Heh - I like to think so," Wolf chuckled. "Only good thing that came out of working for Andross; when I booked, I took her with me, and I've made a few tweaks to her myself over the years."

"Sounds like my bike, back when I still had her. Lady was something else, even for a cyberbike."

"What's a cyberbike?" Wolf asked as they got on the elevator, heading up towards the top levels.

"A cybernetic motorcycle. They have a partial artificial intelligence computer on board, along with a load of weapons and jet thrusters."

"Sounds like quite a piece of work," Wolf mused as they stepped out into the fairly well-stocked hangar above the parking structure.

"They were," he nodded and took in the place. "You do all your own maintenance?"

"Don't trust anybody else with my Wolfen," Wolf chuckled. "At least not who's still alive."

"I know the feeling," SunWind nodded seriously and followed as Wolf led to way to a gleaming, perfectly kept ship, broader and larger than an Arwing, built more like a saucer than a dart.

Wolf whistled three notes in sequence, the cockpit opening in response. "Climb on in," he said, a set of stairs folding out of the ship. "Should be plenty of room for you."

"Definitely more room than an Arwing." He grinned and settled in the back seat.

"Usually keep a second seat in here, instead of loading the bomb bay," Wolf chuckled, "Don't know what the inside of an Arwing's like, but it's a lot more cramped when I'm expecting a heavy firefight. As is, I can afford space."

As SunWind looked around, he saw that it was clearly a warship. The pilot's instruments were set up to be reached easily, and the control sticks had probably three different triggers on them for various weapons.

"I'm glad for it." SunWind grinned, delighted to be out and about with a companion again. "Maybe later this week you can meet Obi-Wan. He's another alien that showed up when I did. He's a good guy. Came by and talked to me every day for hours while I was in quarantine."

"No fur?" Wolf asked, raising his eyebrow slightly as he climbed in.

"That's him." He chuckled. "It's called a human."

"Think I already saw him," Wolf chuckled. "'Bout a week or so ago, causing a bit of a ruckus on the streets that he didn't notice."

"Dressed in cream and brown robes, young adult, really short pale hair, pinkish skin? Definite warrior material."

"Yep, that's him," Wolf nodded, closing the cockpit and starting to key in the launch sequence. "Good to know somebody picked him up; figured somebody had, or I would've heard about it, but good to know all the same."

"Yeah, Fox brought him in, Falco brought me in. I'm half surprised it wasn't the same thing that brought us here, but his was an accident and I used a Plutarkian teleporter."

"You know if the fish-faces had any way to track your teleport?" Wolf asked SunWind, glancing back over his shoulder before he took off.

"Not a chance." He shook his head. "That ship was turned into dust about twenty seconds later."

"Good," Wolf rumbled. "I don't know much about them, but what I know says I don't want a damned thing to do with 'em that doesn't involve them dyin' hard."

"You and me both." SunWind growled deep in his chest. "I was taught that everything has a purpose and everyone has some good in it. It's not true."

"Oh they have a purpose," Wolf muttered. "Giving the rest of the galaxy a bad example of how to live. Overheard Andross talking about them a couple of times; sounded like they were about the one thing that scared him."

"Might be because they have no real opponents." SunWind sighed. "I've been jumping from ship to ship for a decade now, gathering intelligence and blowing things up, and there is nothing in this galaxy that can actually challenge their full forces. Only reason they haven't taken over is because they are as divided and unorganized as they are greedy."

"Well, let's just hope they don't show up here," Wolf said softly. "They wouldn't win, but I don't know that we would either."

"That's what's so bad about them. All they are after is resources; water, minerals, food, materials. They start by legally buying as much of a planet as they can, then just obliterate the rest and strip it to the core and take that too. If you manage to destroy one fleet, they send three for the next wave and an even more ruthless, and higher ranking, commander to do the job right."

"Have to admit, the tactic works," Wolf admitted. SunWind noted that most of the other ships were staying some distance away, giving them room. "Self-feeding system. They feed to get bigger to conquer more so they can feed."

"And they'll be here eventually." He added softly. "Maybe with enough advanced warning, this system can make it not worth the investment to strip. I gave the government pretty much everything I know about them and their methods. You'll at least be in better shape than Ramilz when it comes."

"Did your people have the same sort of tech we did?" Wolf asked him.

"Overall, fairly comparable. We had better blasters and combat computers, but not as much space technology." He decided. "Your real advantage, beside forewarning, is that you have a united government. My world had a united government of sorts, but it was ineffective at best and didn't acknowledge two of the three races as existing, except for the bounties on our hides. Enderonth was in even worse shape with more than a hundred governments, most at war with someone else on the planet. Itassa wasn't much on combat, for all that they were well organized."

"Well, that's something," Wolf murmured, shaking his head. "Come on, let's worry about the here and now, for now. The fish-faces are light-centuries off, last time I heard."

"True," he nodded and pushed it away as best he could. "Sorry for being a downer. It's what I've lived most of my life."

"Maybe we can talk about it some other time... the parts that don't hurt as much," Wolf suggested. "We've both had rough lives, yours rougher than mine, but we're both still alive - can't have all been losses."

"Part of me wants to talk about it, all of it." He shifted between looking out the cockpit and looking at Wolf from behind. "It's been years since I've even seen someone I wasn't about to kill. We weren't meant for that kind of life, being that alone." He blinked and brushed his fingers over his eyes in memory of everything they represented ... his heritage, his losses, the kindness of strangers. They felt so real. "I've had some really good times too. Just not so recently."

"How long have you been fighting?" Wolf asked him softly. "And how much of it on your own?"

"My first real fight was before I could really walk. A couple hunters found our den when the pack was away. I was lucky they didn't know what they'd found until after I'd torn one's throat out. Then mom and the den-guard were on them." He repeated the brief memory, his first taste of blood and fear and victory and the rush of the war-form. "The last ten or eleven years has been alone."

"What sort of hunters would be looking for you and your kin?" Wolf asked with a growl.

"The ones in charge," he sighed. "The Maru, the Mice, took over a few thousand years ago and have been doing their best to exterminate the other sentient races on Haloeth since. There's been a bounty on every canine race for a very long time."

"But you're a Mouse," Wolf pointed out as they left the city, heading into a deep canyon.

"That is what I want to show you. I'm Loup Maru. A Wolf-Mouse. A shapeshifter." He managed to say almost smoothly.

"Yeah, I can see why you'd want to do that out of town," Wolf said seriously. "Your people were unofficially at war with the regular Mice?"

"Something like that." He nodded. "We went from their teachers and caretakers to the enemy shortly after they achieved sentience. Our children began to hunt us ... a lot of packs didn't know how to deal with it. Then they had the weapons and numbers on us and we were pressed just to survive, much less protect our other charges. I've pretended to be Maru since my teens, when my mother's pack was wiped out trying to barter a peace treaty."

"And then, when they thought they'd finished taking out your people, the fish hit and they didn't know what to do," Wolf guessed, setting down in a secluded portion of the canyon. "Shit."

"Yeah," he whispered, shocked to feel tears running down his face. How long had it been since he'd cried? Since he even could?

The cockpit opened, and he felt Wolf climb around behind him, wrapping his arms around him from behind.

"I'm sorry," Wolf said softly, meaning the words for all that SunWind could tell he didn't think they could help.

It broke something deep inside the Loup Maru and he turned into the comfort for the first time since Modo had died so many years ago. He let himself slip outside thought and simply let go, trusting the person holding him to deal with a sobbing warrior until it finally passed.

"Feeling better?" Wolf asked him softly, once he had gotten most of it out of his system and started to relax a bit.

"I think so," he murmured, grateful for the arms around him. "Been a while."

"Had a hunch," Wolf smiled softly, brushing SunWind's fur back into place a bit where the tears had matted it down. "You seemed to need it, badly."

"Yeah," SunWind sighed and relaxed a bit more. "I think I'll be okay for a while." He added, though he made no attempt to move.

"Want to stay here for a bit, maybe head back?" He suggested. "If you still want to show me, that's fine too, but you don't have to if you don't feel like it right now. Believe me, I'd understand."

"Honestly, some time to run and just move free would be nice right now." He stood as Wolf let him go and jumped to the ground to look around. He looked up at Wolf, a few feet above him, and drew a deep breath as his body rippled and flowed into the huge Lumari form.

"Whoa," Wolf blinked, looking up slightly into SunWind's eyes, about a foot above him now. "That's still you in there, right?" He asked, not even consciously realizing that his hand was resting on the butt of his blaster.

"Yes, it's still me. All the forms are just that; forms." SunWind confirmed, his voice much deeper and rougher, but distinctly his. "This form is how I survived as a pup. The hunter grabbed me and I shifted. Even that young, it's big enough to cause real damage if you can latch on, and I did."

"I can imagine," Wolf nodded, hopping down to the ground, his eyes never leaving SunWind's monstrous form as the Loup Maru dropped to all fours to keep them roughly on eye level. "Probably just about made him shit himself too, when it happened."

"His friends did, just before Mom charged into the den area and turned them into a smear of green." He nodded and slipped into the small, sleek, four-legged canine with the same horns, antenna, and whip-like tail with a feathering of fur on it.

"That's the razor-wolf?" Wolf guessed.

The medium-sized canine nodded and flowed back into SunWind's base form. "The big one, Lumari, is why I didn't want to do this in town." He stepped closer to Wolf, half expecting the rejection Wolf was used to in the clubs. "I also like the wilderness."

"Yeah, I don't think my ceilings are tall enough to fit that one," Wolf chuckled slightly. "And I don't blame you; sounds like you grew up in it. Does anybody else know about your other forms?"

"Obi-Wan, Krystal, Slippy and Casey have seen them. They're in my records here." He nodded.

"Okay, so it's not a huge secret you're keeping from everybody, just not making it a matter of overly-public knowledge," Wolf nodded. "Well, the big one's more than a little intimidating, but that's the whole point of it I guess. If you ask me," he chuckled slightly, "the razor-wolf's actually kinda cute."

"Right," he ducked his head slightly at being called 'cute'. "I make enough of a stir walking around, I don't need to be going around like that. Besides," he smiled weakly and stepped a little closer, "your world is so not built for a ten-foot frame."

"No, not really," Wolf chuckled, closing the distance between he and SunWind to give him a bit of a hug, realizing that he needed the reassurance. The way the other male all but melted into his arms was more confirmation than he really wanted. As easily as SunWind had shown him this secret, there was a lifetime of danger behind him about showing it and Wolf understood the cost of that kind of revelation.

"Thank you." SunWind whispered against Wolf's thick fur.

"Don't mention it," Wolf murmured, rubbing his back. "Shouldn't have to be scared to let people know who you are."

"Strange idea, but it's why I told it for the record." He straightened a bit and slid his arms around Wolf to pull him close, nuzzling his neck. "I can survive hunted, but I want to live free."

"I can sympathize," Wolf nodded, returning the nuzzle. "Want to stay out here for a while yet?"

"Yeah, I'd like to get a nice workout in. Run off the stress. If you want to head back, I can get back to the base easily enough."

"Nah," Wolf chuckled. "I'll stay out here," he offered, pulling a communicator out of his vest pocket. "Take this with you, in case you get lost or need some help? I'll make a canyon run."

"I will," he promised and slipped it into a pocket before shifting into Lumari and dropping to all fours to tear down the canyon, and along it's walls.

Wolf shook his head, watching SunWind disappear. It was one hell of a sight, he had to say that much.

He climbed into his Wolfen, taking off and peeling back to the start of the canyon, ready to make a run through it against his records. As long as SunWind was having fun on the ground, no reason he shouldn't in the air.


"Ready to head home?" Wolf asked well past noon when SunWind had finally burned off enough energy to come padding back to their starting point.

"I guess," he stretched upwards in Maru form. "Do you have any suggestions for a place to live now that I have a job?"

"You don't have a place already?" Wolf asked him, getting his ship ready to head home.

"I've got quarters on the base, they aren't going to kick me out, but I'd rather be somewhere else." He ducked his head a bit. "It's way too medical there for me."

"Well, if you don't mind putting up with somebody who can have a schedule straight out of Hell, I've got space," Wolf offered, trying to stay neutral, despite his clear hope that he'd accept.

"Serious?" SunWind didn't bother to hide just how hopeful he was that Wolf wasn't just being nice or something.

"Yeah," Wolf nodded. "I mean... we can at least see how it works out, right? If it doesn't work out, we can try to find another place for you nearby."

"Oh yeah," he reached around the pilot's seat to hug him as best he could. "If you don't mind waiting near the base, I can put my thing together and let them know where I'm going pretty quick. I don't have much more than what I'm wearing."

"No problem, especially if you don't mind a bit of a walk if they don't want me too close," Wolf smiled. "And you might want to just give them an address, not your roommate's name."

"I don't mind, and I will." He nodded. "Anyone who cares can find out, I expect."

"Yeah, they can," Wolf nodded. "Just might be easier for you to get out without having to get an earful from somebody if you don't tell them," he chuckled, starting to take off. "SunWind? Thanks."

"Thank you," he leaned forward to nuzzle the Wolf. "It means a lot to me too."




Obi-Wan stretched as he stood from his morning mediations. He had a minimum of three months left in this area, and the next portal was on Zoness if he was translating everything correctly. It was long enough that he should do something besides taking advantage of the local hospitality.

Right now, however, it was time for breakfast for the Star Fox team. It should be interesting to see them all in the same room. They'd invited him to join them, and it was about time to get going.

Just as he finished dressing, he heard a knock on the door and went to answer it. While he was still not completely comfortable in the local clothing, it was far from the strangest thing he'd worn.

"Good morning, Fox." He greeted the notably smaller warrior.

"Morning," Fox said cheerfully. "Ready to go?" He asked him.

"Yes," he nodded and stepped out of his quarters to join the Fox.

"Great," Fox said easily. "Hope you don't mind taking the car; air traffic's pretty heavy, and I don't think you'd want to try and fit into my second seat," he chuckled.

"Not at all. Where are we going?" He asked as they began the walk to the parking lot.

"Well, I thought you might like something other than cafeteria food," Fox explained. "So we're going to grab breakfast at Grey's Cafe. Bill's an old friend of mine from the Academy, food's great."

"Sounds good," Obi-Wan nodded agreeably, though he wasn't at all tired of the cafeteria.

"Glad to hear it," Fox smiled. "Krystal's waiting with the car - we've got a bit of a proposition for you."

"All right." He accepted that and didn't press about what.

The two of them left the base, Fox's car waiting outside with Krystal in the passenger's seat. This one was a bit larger, not nearly as bright and sporty as the one Obi-Wan had first met him in. Fox opened one of the rear doors for Obi-Wan, climbing in the front himself.

"Load up," he said easily and closed the door after the Jedi had gotten in.

"How's it going?" Krystal asked Obi-Wan as they pulled away.

"Quite well," he decided. "I've finish the testing for the position on Zoness. I'm just waiting on the schedulers to sort their end out."

"So you're going for that option?" Fox asked him. "Guess we got to you a little too late then," he chuckled.

"It's the best that's been presented." Obi-Wan looked at him curiously. "Too late for what?"

"Krystal was telling us about what you can do," Fox explained. "We'd talked it over last night, and were going to offer you a chance to try out for the team, if you were interested. Don't know how well you fly, but what she told us about is impressive enough on its own."

"The fact that Casey had records to prove I wasn't exaggerating helped," Krystal chuckled.

"So what would be involved being on the team?" Obi-Wan asked, clearly interested. "I am a reasonably good pilot."

"In order to qualify, you'd have to demonstrate your piloting skills and meet our standards," Fox explained. "They're set pretty high, just so you know ahead of time."

"I barely qualified at first," Krystal chuckled.

"Once you're in, most of our work these days is pirate-chasing, handling problems on various planets - not that heavy a workload, honestly, but it's always good to have another good pilot around, especially one with special talents."

"Zoness will always be there," Obi-Wan decided with a smile for the pair. "I will need a quick briefing on the controls and performance specs of whatever craft you wish me to fly as I don't know any of them."

"Understood," Fox nodded. "We can take a few days to give you the crash course."

"I wish you wouldn't call it that," Krystal said, rolling her eyes.

"At any rate, it won't be a problem," Fox chuckled. "Give you a little time to meet the crew today at breakfast."

"That sounds good." He nodded easily and relaxed in the seat. It would be good to see some action.

"Oh you'll see it," Krystal chuckled as they approached a small restaurant not too far from the base.

"My Master would be so displeased I thought that." Obi-Wan chuckled and shook his head as they drove into the parking lot, pulling up next to a sleek motorcycle. "And even more than I let it slip."

"The money's pretty good too, for the amount of work it usually is." She added. "And sorry, I didn't realize you were just thinking it," she chuckled.

"You're very strong." Obi-Wan inclined his head in respect to her. "The pay is a plus, now that I have to pay my way."

"Yeah, though I have the feeling you'll be saving most of it up," Fox chuckled and got out of the car. "And a request? If you guys start doing the telepath thing, just let the rest of us know?"

"I will." Obi-Wan nodded seriously as he and Krystal followed him into the restaurant.

It wasn't hard to spot the rest of the crew; Peppy, Slippy, and Falco were all sitting at a table, a pink-furred Cat next to Falco while they all talked and joked with each other.

"Obi-Wan, this is Katt Monroe," Fox said, introducing him to the feline quickly before pulling out a chair for Krystal, the Vixen sitting down.

"A pleasure to meet you," he bowed politely to her before sitting in the only empty place left.

"Good to meet you too," Katt smiled. "So, now that the whole gang's here, can we finally order?" She asked with a grin and a twinkle in her eye.

"Somebody's been looking forward to coming here for a while now," Falco chuckled.

"Hey, I was out bl... uhm, working for the last month, except for that night you had to go pick somebody up," Katt said defensively, glancing at Fox out of the corner of her eyes.

"I don't want to know," Fox said, shaking his head as a grey-furred Dog of mixed breed came out and Obi-Wan hid a small smirk of his own.

They were definitely quite a group.

"Hey Bill," Fox grinned.

"About time you guys paid me a visit," the Dog smirked.

"No kidding." Katt grinned at him. "I'll have the seafood medley."

"You always have that." Falco rolled his eyes. "Roast rabbit."

"And you always have that," Katt pointed out with a smirk. "We're both predictable about our meals, let's just make sure it doesn't leave the dinner-table, hmm?"

Falco blushed slightly, trying to hide the gesture as he took a drink of water.

"You manage to get your supplier to double-check what sort of eggs he gets in?" Krystal asked Bill.

"Oh yeah," the Dog said, shuddering a bit. "Only that one time, and I just about rearranged his face for that one. Then I changed suppliers."

"I'll go for the Saurian skillet then," the blue-furred Vixen said easily.

"Same here, vegetarian," Peppy said, the Rabbit's age showing as he looked up at Bill with a friendly expression.

"Aquan beetle bake," Slippy said.

"And if you need me to tell you, then we need to have words," Fox chuckled. "Obi-Wan?"

"House specialty?" He glanced between Fox and Bill.

"Closest I've got would be the Kantina skillet," Bill said easily. "I know the food there a bit better than other places."

"I'll try that, then." He nodded.

"All righty, I'll get those cooked and out here soon as I can," Bill said easily. "Obi-Wan, what is it you'd like to drink?" He asked. "I know these deadbeats by heart already," he smirked.

"Tea, please." He hoped it was available.

"No problem," Bill nodded. "Fruity, mild, or just strong?"

"Mild, please."

"Can do," the Dog nodded, turning to head off, coming back a few minutes later with a pot of hot water and a few tea bags, bringing back coffee, milk, or juice for the various others at the table.

"The scary thing? We're not the only group Bill knows this well," Fox chuckled. "Went from being one of the flight commanders on Katina to running a restaurant after the war was over, and he's made a point of knowing what to get anybody he's ever flown with."

"And that's a hell of a lot of pilots," Falco chuckled.

"Good business sense," Obi-Wan added. "What happened with the eggs?"

"His supplier didn't bother to check what a batch of eggs he found on Sauria came from," Krystal shuddered. "If Fox and I hadn't been there to warn him, he would've found out what happened when you tried to cook an Earthwalker omelet. They hadn't been fertilized, but the thought that there were more out there that might have been...."

"Not a good thing," he gathered from the tone.

"Earthwalkers are sentient," Fox explained, drawing a shiver from Obi-Wan. "They don't look it, but they are. Ruling tribe on Sauria. Nobody's really sure how they didn't know what had happened, but Bill was pissed as all Hell."

"Good for him." He nodded sharply. "That's just wrong."

"Tell me about it," Krystal muttered. "At any rate, that got fixed up. There are plenty of non-sentient species on Sauria with perfectly edible eggs and meat, I should know. It's just a little hard to tell sometimes, if you can't talk to them yourself."

"Isn't there a field guide to cover that kind of thing?" Obi-Wan asked her.

"The planet was only discovered a few years ago," she pointed out. "There are field guides, but the information in them is spotty sometimes, particularly if you're not going by the official references. The fact that it's only happened once that we're aware of says how uncommon it is, but that once was creepy enough."

"I can imagine," he nodded seriously. "So," he glanced between Fox and Falco, "what does the next mission look like?"

"Assuming the rumors are true, probably heading out to take care of some raiders hassling a dig out on Titania," Fox said easily. "We haven't been officially hired for it yet, but it's a good chance. Hopefully we'll be able to get you up to speed first."

"I'm a very quick study, particularly as a pilot, and for languages. I haven't met the craft I couldn't get from point A to B, with or without training." Obi-Wan assured him without bragging.

"The big thing isn't getting from A to B," Fox chuckled. "It's being able to handle an Arwing. They're a little tricky for most people to handle, and take very skilled pilots to handle them well. After breakfast we'll take you through the simulator, show you what I mean."

"Should be interesting." He nodded in acceptance.

"It would be good to have somebody new on the team without having to lose somebody from the field teams," Peppy chuckled slightly. "Actually make the team bigger for once."

"Have you considered SunWind?" Obi-Wan suggested. "He seems likely to have the skills as well."

"Sounded like he wanted to avoid fighting for a living, if he could manage it," Falco explained. "We thought about it, but unless he has trouble getting a job doing something else, we're not planning on it."

"And from the sound of it, he's got a good shot at the mechanical job, if nothing else," Krystal added. "So we're going to give him a chance to get out of the line of fire."

"And he pulled that bouncer job at the Event horizon for now," Krystal added, "so it looks like he's got prospects that he's happier about. Already moving out," she chuckled.

"And a new packmate," Obi-Wan added. "He wasn't nearly as lonely when I saw him."

"Any idea who it is?" Fox asked him curiously. "He just said he was moving in with a new friend for a while."

"Well, I know it's not Tony," Slippy offered.

"Guy named Wolf." Obi-Wan supplied. "I don't know much more, but he's happy about it."

"Well, that makes it any one of about a thousand guys in the city," Peppy chuckled. "Hope it works out for him; I didn't meet him for long, but it sounds like he's the sort of guy who gets along best when he's not alone."

"I would agree." Obi-Wan nodded. "I believe it is genetic as well as upbringing. Few telepathic races do well alone, and he's been alone a long time."

"It's a good thing he found somebody then," Fox nodded as their meals started to arrive. "Not everybody handles being alone well."

"Not at all," Falco nodded between bites of rabbit. "Glad he's doing better. Guy was a real TS mess when I picked him up."

"Not to mention a physical one." Fox nodded.

"At least his fur's grown back in quickly. It makes a world of difference." Krystal added with a smile and sip of coffee.

"I'll bet it does," Slippy nodded. "And having better eyes in; he really seemed glad that those worked out."

"I don't blame him," Krystal murmured. "Obi-Wan; you said you've been on a few missions, back home?" She asked, changing the subject.

"Yes," he nodded. "I've been doing field work with my Master since I was twelve."

"You got started young, didn't you?" Peppy chuckled. "Any particular missions you feel like talking about?"

"Older than most Padawans, actually." Obi-Wan sort of chuckled. "What kind of things are interesting to you guys? We've done a lot of things."

"How did you meet your Master?" Falco asked him, deciding to start with what was probably an easy one.

"When I was about to turn thirteen, I was sent to Bandomeer; a world well out on the Galactic Rim, where as the government is centered in the Galactic Core. I was to join the Agri Crops instead of becoming a Jedi. A mission brought Qui-Gon to the same transport that was taking me there. It wasn't easy, but I convinced him to take me as his Padawan before he left Bandomeer." He did his best to summarize the events that had nearly broken him once.

"They have an age limit you're supposed to be a Padawan by?" Krystal guessed.

"Yes. Both acceptance as an Initiate and as a Padawan have age limits on them. Becoming a Jedi is a very difficult path, and many with the strength in the Force do not have the temperament or ability for it."

"And you squeaked in under the wire," Peppy nodded. "Well, at least you got through. You don't strike me as the farming type," the old Rabbit chuckled.

"Not particularly," he nodded. "I do have some skill at it, but it is not what I was meant to be."

"So are you going to run into any trouble when you get back home, if it takes too long?" Slippy asked him.

"I shouldn't," he shook his head. "If Qui-Gon dies before I get back, I may have to finish my training under another Master, but once you are a Padawan, you are not sent away." He carefully controlled the pain at the thought.

"~He is more than just your Master, isn't he?~" Krystal asked him mentally.

"~Yes,~" he answered very quietly, a hint of the forbidden nature of the relationship in the admission. "~We plan to be bonded knights when I'm knighted and can make such a choice.~"

"~I hope you get the chance,~" she told him silently. "So," she asked, switching back to verbal communication, "what happened that brought you here?"

"I was being given a tour of Agodina's pride, a project for teleporting material through space. A power surge caused it to explode and I woke up here."

"Transporters seem prone to problems like that," Krystal chuckled, shaking her head. "Particularly the technological ones."

"I don't know," Fox chuckled. "The Warp Stone was a nice enough guy. But yeah, there is a track record of those things going wrong, if they're meant to work over any significant distance."

"It makes many groups all the more determined to build a stable one." Obi-Wan chuckled lightly and began to eat, having been distracted by the conversation. "It's a nice idea, but I prefer to stick to ships. Bill is a good cook." He added in appreciation.

"That he is," Fox agreed, the group settling into a comfortable quiet while they ate.


Obi-Wan took his seat in the simulator an hour or so later. They'd offered him the chance to get started early, and he couldn't see any reason not to take it.

"Okay Obi-Wan - this is the Arwing VR simulator," Slippy explained, his voice coming clearly over the intercom. "You should be getting a computer readout of the launch checks and procedures; run through them one at a time. You don't have to announce each step, the computer will tell us if you miss one."

"Understood," he easily slipped into pilot mode and began the rundown.

It wasn't much of anything he wasn't used to; the big difference was that the controls were in different places. Even using one of the larger Arwings, they were placed closer together than he was used to, and he occasionally had to pause to find a control that used a different name than he was used to. All the same, he was ready to take off fairly soon, and confident that he could do much better with a little practice.

"All right," Slippy said, the viewscreens coming to life, a black sky and featureless terrain stretching out ahead of him. "Take off, and come up to combat cruising speed."

"Roger." Obi-Wan confirmed and began with a smooth, fast takeoff, designed in his mind to emulate the reaction needed when a world was under assault. Before long, he was moving along rapidly, small 'mountains' appearing to create a virtual canyon.

"Okay, your Arwing is currently in assault mode," Slippy explained. "You can change direction, for steering or maneuvers, but you're moving fast enough that trying to turn about is usually risky. Try steering through the rings ahead of you," he said, a number of gleaming silver rings appearing in the sky, marking out a clear path for him.

He relaxed into the intimately familiar type of practice and zoomed threw the easy path. He wasn't nearly as good as he would be in a real craft with the Force at work, but he'd been in enough sims to be comfortable in them too and able to judge what both he and his craft would be like for real.

"Okay, now find your boost and brake controls," Slippy told him. "Once you do, let me know, and I'll start the next part of the sim. You'll have a limited amount of time to make it through each ring, and some of them will require sharper turns that you'll need the brakes for."

"Understood." He focused on maintaining the craft's level while he found the air brakes and boosters. "Have them."

"Okay - start out with the boost, and I'll let you figure out the rest," Slippy said, a ring appearing in the distance with a faint number above it indicating how much time he had left.

Obi-Wan had to keep from slipping completely into the Force to maintain contact with the sim, but this was easy. His reactions were far faster than anyone on this world, just by virtue of being Jedi. Being a natural pilot made this all the easier as he darted through the course at the Arwing's limits.

He heard a grumbling in the background; Falco he thought. He had a feeling that he was breaking somebody's record for the first run through.

"Okay, now things are gonna get interesting," Slippy warned him. The next rings appeared, directly above each other. "The control switch next to your brake and boost will toggle you out of assault long enough to go into a loop. You'll have to use that to hit each of the rings. You can also use a barrel roll with the Arwing to deflect blaster shots, but you'll have to be careful; the ship's controls are a little off for a fraction of a second afterwards while things readjust from the spin."

Something very easy in a real craft was about to become very interesting in a sim.

"Roger." Obi-Wan agreed and flipped the craft up into a spin to block the bolts while he weaved through the circles.

Once he'd cleared the rings, he saw the turrets that were firing at him, a targeting reticle appearing on the screen.

"Okay, now it's time for the combat part of things," Slippy told him. "Think you can figure this out for yourself; take out as many of the turrets as possible. You can hold down the trigger to charge a homing blast, but that's recommended for distant or fast-moving targets."

"Understood." Obi-Wan let the rush of combat run its course as he took out the first two targets. By the time the fifth had been blown up, he was absolutely calm.

Blaster bolts streaked by him as a formation of enemy ships approached from 'behind,' surprising him without his Force senses to warn him, or active radar to warn him in this mode.

He really hoped that was just an artifact from the trainer, rather than the Arwing itself.

He didn't even think as he flipped the ship over in turning it around to rush through the formation, it's own blasters taking target after target as he jinked and rolled -- normal maneuvers from a space-based fighter, but not so normal in the atmosphere.

For what it was worth, the Arwing seemed to handle them just fine, as though the atmosphere surrounding it and the pull of gravity wasn't a problem at all. A number of enemies approached at once, dropping into clear formations and moving into reverse as they fired on Obi-Wan's ship.

"Try taking these next formations out all at once," Slippy told him. "You can use your charged blast for the close clusters by targeting the middle ship, or your nova bombs to clear everything in the area. Just be careful; you've got a limited supply of nova bombs, and they do a lot of collateral damage."

"Roger." Obi-Wan acknowledged and kept to the charged blasts and a few single blasts to deal with his targets while he darted about the battle, comfortable in being out numbered. This close to a world, he wasn't about to use anything that did 'a lot of collateral damage' unless he had no choice.

"Okay, think you're comfortable with the assault mode now?" Slippy asked him, the canyon starting to open up.

"Yes," he nodded fractionally.

"Okay, shift into all-range mode," Slippy told him. "You'll be able to pull a sharp U-turn using the controls for the barrel roll, and maneuver in any direction on the battlefield. Practice those a bit, then I'll give you some bogeys to deal with."

He did as he was told and began a routine he'd developed for testing the controls and handling of several advanced space fighters he'd worked with. Again he could hear mutters and mumbles from outside, along with a mixture of shock, surprise and displeasure from various watchers.

"I'm ready." He told Slippy after he had relaxed again.

"Okay - here they come. Just try to take out as many as you can without dying or crashing in the next minute." Literally dozens of bogeys registered on the radar that Obi-Wan finally found, a small display in the corner of the 'screen' that hadn't been there before. "Fox's record was a hundred and fifty," Slippy added, a hint of a smirk in his voice.

While Obi-Wan was sure that he could top that in a familiar craft, he pushed all thoughts of a contest out of his mind and simply focused on hitting everything targeted as hostile while not getting hit himself.

The fact that just about everything was hostile made it pretty easy. From what he'd seen so far, Obi-Wan could only imagine that the vast majority of bystanders around here had gotten damned good at getting under cover.

A minute later, he'd just broken a hundred, the simulator shutting down.

"Not bad," Falco observed.

"'Not bad' is a bit of an understatement, buddy," Fox chuckled. "You blew away Slippy and Peppy's first run records, and most of Falco's. So, think you're ready for the real thing?"

"Definitely." The Jedi's relief at being able to use his full senses while fighting apparent.

"Come on then," Fox said easily. "You'll be flying against Falco, but we're going to get your Arwing set up properly first."

"Sounds good," Obi-Wan nodded and followed the Fox out to be measured and for the fighter's setup.




"You are definitely going for the look." Wolf chuckled as he watched SunWind settle his square green shades in place and regard himself in the full-length mirror. "You've got the intimidation thing down pat."

"That is the basic idea." He chuckled and moved into the bathroom to apply black fur dye to his face in two cat-eye slashes that ran from his hairline to his jaw line and covered his eyes.

"That's new," Wolf observed. "The dye mean anything?"

"Just a reminder that I'm in civilization again." SunWind shrugged despite how deeply the markings affected him. It was something he couldn't name as he checked out his appearance in the big mirror again, but it touched him to his soul. "It used to mean something, but I wasn't old enough to be taught the details when things fell apart."

"Understood," Wolf nodded. "You want me to stick around for a bit after you get there? Just in case something goes off and you need a little help?"

"If you want to, I'm not about to object," he smiled at his new packmate.

He could tell that Wolf did ... but could also tell that Wolf knew full well that it probably wouldn't be that good an idea.

"Ah, you can handle yourself," Wolf chuckled. "You won't be needing me, and it'll keep us from being tempted to forget you're working."

"It's a hell of a temptation," SunWind acknowledged. "Maybe when I'm more settled in you can come by."

"Works for me," Wolf smiled. "Just wouldn't be good to get caught talkin' to a friend your first night. Think I can give you a ride though, unless you want to go in on your own."

"I'd appreciate a ride," SunWind came over to Wolf and kissed him softly. "I'll miss you."

"I'll miss you too," Wolf smiled, returning the kiss. "When you think you'll be back?"

"Shift ends when the club closes, so three AM." He explained. "If you aren't there, it'll be a ten minute run here."

"Just make sure you have your key-card," Wolf chuckled. "Want me to wait up for you?"

"No, I can find the bed." He rumbled suggestively before catching himself and schooling that reaction safely away until Wolf was ready. "I like seeing you sleep."

"Just make sure I wake up with you in there with me," Wolf chuckled. "Though if I'm not here when you get back, it probably means I got called out on a job and had to move fast to get there on time. Come on, let's get you to work."

"All right," he claimed a second, quick kiss, then focused on his job. It made an almost visible alteration in him, something that made even Wolf hesitate to challenge him as they headed out to the car.


Obi-Wan relaxed in the real Arwing he'd been assigned. It had been modified for his size and preferences to an extent. It would be a joy to fly. Fast, maneuverable and deadly, very much like he was on the ground.

He ran through the pre-flight check and nodded in satisfaction.

"Obi-Wan to tower, ready for takeoff."

"Go ahead, Obi-Wan. Blue Bird's ready to follow," Peppy told him. "We've got a standard flight test set up; it's a lot like the sim. And Falco! This isn't a race!" He warned the Falcon. Obi-Wan could feel Falco's irritation at the reminder; maybe it wasn't officially, but the hot-headed avian was more than a little interested in showing that he was the better pilot.

It also was simply not true, especially not out here where Obi-Wan could use his senses and training to its full effect. He had to wonder just how the rest of the team managed to put up with Falco most of the time, if he was this irritable.

He put all such thoughts out of his mind and focused on doing the best he could, regardless of any other factors. When his mind was clear, he pushed the Arwing down the runway at top speed. It may not be a race, but he was to show them his full abilities and competency at speed was one of them.

He was peripherally aware of Falco following him up, and the irritation the Falcon had at his start. He wasn't far behind Obi-Wan; he wasn't a sensitive, but he was far more familiar with his craft and its few limitations.

As they started down the flight course, Obi-Wan noticed that there actually were functioning sensors on the ship in assault mode. Most objects they picked up were gone in a few seconds, but it was there. Good to know.

"The course is laid out on your HUD," Peppy told them. "Falco, just keep an eye on things and make sure there's no trouble. Obi-Wan, take the Arwing through its paces a bit; there are some maneuvering challenges for you on the course."

"Roger." Obi-Wan acknowledged and began the test pattern he had used in the sim, only pushing it much further now that he could use his full abilities. It was a good fighter, he had to admit. Not the best he'd ever flown, but up there. It'd easily stand up to an A-Wing for maneuverability, and it had stronger armor and shields on top of that.

Falco was staying a bit behind him, as he'd been ordered to, but as they made their way along the course, Obi-Wan could feel that he was thinking of something else.

His comm beeped on a private channel; a message from the other Arwing.

"Want to try a real test?" Falco asked him once he'd flipped over to it.

"Yes," he decided. If things got out of control, he'd simply back off whatever they were doing.

"Then follow me," Falco told him, peeling off towards a canyon well off the marked course, "and try to keep up."

He didn't respond to the taunt and simply followed the Falcon's Arwing across the canyon terrain.

As they flew into it, Obi-Wan realized why it was a 'real test,' as Falco had put it. The canyon was fairly narrow at flight heights, and crowded with rock formations. With the Arwing in all-range mode, it wouldn't be difficult. In its assault configuration, however, it became a matter of split-second reactions at any speed. Nothing he couldn't handle, but the occasional crater in the canyon walls said that less skilled pilots had thought the same thing, and been wrong.

"Why did you two leave the course?" Peppy asked, something in his tone saying that he knew full well whose fault it was.

"C'mon Peppy," Falco answered. "You know that training course is nothing. I figure we'll give Obi-Wan a real test, since we might be needing him in the field soon." Despite speaking, it was clear that the Falcon had flown this course several times. He was taking it at break-neck speeds, reacting almost instinctively to the various twists and turns, pulling his Arwing into maneuvers that pushed it to the limit while he showed off.

Obi-Wan kept things a little more sane, but he flew to the best of his ability without being reckless in an unfamiliar craft on an unfamiliar course. A week of practice and he'd have taken it much faster.

Before long, the two of them were pulling out of it at about the same time, turning back towards the base.

"Not bad," Falco admitted to Obi-Wan. "I'd figured you'd have to cut out about half-way through."

"It's not that bad." Obi-Wan chuckled. "Though it'll be a while before I take it blindfolded."

"If you know what's good for you, you'll wait to do that until after Peppy's retired for good," Falco warned him. "I'm probably in for a lecture when we get back as it is. Rabbit's way too cautious."

"He is a Rabbit." Obi-Wan pointed out. "They seem more cautious than most."

"He's old too," Falco chuckled as they returned to base. "That just makes it worse." Just as he'd suggested, Peppy was there with the rest of them, ready to greet the two pilots - and visibly frustrated.

"At least he's not likely to order you to cut the grass with nail clippers for this." Obi-Wan had to chuckle.

"I'm not sure I want to know," Falco chuckled as they touched down. "Why don't you get out first, maybe you can distract him," he suggested.

"Why do I suspect you can repeat this lecture almost verbatim?" Obi-Wan chuckled lightly before the cockpit opened.

Most of the group came forward to greet him, sounding generally pleased with his performance.

"I can't believe you actually followed Falco into Rykert's Run," Krystal chuckled. "Let alone out of it. I'm still not sure about flying through there myself."

Peppy hung back for a moment, just long enough for Falco to pop open his cockpit, before he was headed over to chew the Falcon out, the two of them walking out even as the Rabbit did just that.

"It will be a while before I'm willing to do it blindfolded in an Arwing, but it's not that difficult a run for a Jedi pilot." Obi-Wan said simply.

"Don't suppose that's something you can teach the rest of us?" Slippy asked him.

"Fox and possibly Krystal, but no one else on the team has the Force-sensitivity to even start." He explained evenly. "It is not an easy thing to learn and usually takes many years to master." He looked over at Fox. "You have the best odds of learning, and are the most likely to do well."

"Huh?" Fox asked, blinking. Clearly he hadn't been expecting something like that.

"I told you there was a reason you could use the staff," Krystal chuckled.

"It is why you are such an exceptional pilot naturally." Obi-Wan added. "You do not use it consciously, but I can teach you how to. Such a specific Force-talent is well known in the Republic, and I know enough to teach you how to use it to full effect."

"We'll have to see about it then," Fox nodded. "Never hurts to have an extra edge."

Obi-Wan nodded. "Don't worry, this is far more focused on the practical than my training is."

"That's good," Fox chuckled. "I'm not up for becoming some sort of priest or something, no offense."

"I'd be surprised if they'd even take you, dear," Krystal smirked.

"You are not that kind of sensitive." Obi-Wan nodded. "Is any one else hungry for dinner?"

"Let's go rescue Falco and then go grab some food," Fox chuckled. "We could all use a good meal probably."




SunWind nodded and let a Red Fox and Silver Vixen enter. It was rather dull duty, but it had some very nice features. He got respect, and even more, he got a sense of pride in defending something. Less than a week on the job and he was already sure that he'd eventually take up with Wolf on his missions. This was nice for now, but there wasn't enough action to keep him from getting restless.

It just wasn't in him any more to be this ... civilized.

What hit him the hardest was that the realization didn't really bother him. It was just what he was, now that he had a choice.

But then... he had a choice, and he could make it, either way. He didn't have to be a fighter, it was up to him, and that made a world of difference.

"Hey, long time no see!" Tony grinned as he walked up to the larger Mouse by the door. "Heard you were working here."

"Yeah, that scuffle we got into ended with a job offer." SunWind grinned. "Maybe we can come by when I'm not working sometime?"

"Just have to find some night we both have off," Tony chuckled. "Heard you moved off base pretty fast - who's the lucky guy?"

"Wolf." He answered simply, an eye open for anyone coming up.

"Well, seems to be working out for you," Tony shrugged slightly. "I'll see you around, okay?" He asked, stepping back a bit to head into the club.

"I intend to," he nodded and turned his attention to the Chameleon walking up and stopped to look SunWind over from head to toe.

"Are you SunWind?" He asked the larger Mouse, something in his voice suggesting that he was more interested in his answer than in the club.

"Yes," he nodded, more focused that usual as he judged this one's intent. There was something about him that made the Loup Maru's skin crawl. Something that made SunWind think he'd have been right at home working with the Plutarkians, given the chance.

"I believe you are staying with Wolf O'Donnell. Is it just a living arrangement, or are the two of you... close?"

SunWind dropped all pretence of civilized manners, his body language speaking clearly that the Chameleon was quickly falling under the designation of 'snack food'. To the Chameleon's credit, while he recognized that SunWind was a threat, he didn't seem particularly intimidated.

"What's it to you?" He actually growled, a sound that was distinctly canine despite his appearance.

"I just want to know if you're going to end up ruining him like his last lover did," the Chameleon said bluntly. "He's spent the last few years like a lost puppy, not nearly the warrior he used to be. If you are, I'd suggest finding new arrangements shortly. He might not like to think of his old friends often, but some of us still think of him."

SunWind actually had to pause. This creature was actually trying to help a friend in his own mind, but was sick enough to be a Plutarkian flunky. It wasn't a combination he really had any idea what to do with.

"If you don't like his new pack, you'll have to take it up with both of us." He decided on something between a warning and threat, not sure how else to respond to this. Wolf would need to explain who this person was in the morning.

"I just might," the Chameleon observed. "Though it didn't do much good last time. Just make sure that you don't do anything to hurt Wolf; if you do, we'll be meeting again, and you won't be enjoying the occasion very much."

"Take your own advice," SunWind warned him in turn. "I will not tolerate him being hurt."

"Then we're on the same page," the Chameleon said, turning to leave, his whip-like tail snapping behind him.

It was a reminder to SunWind, along with an uneasy look a Panther couple gave him, to pull the strongest of the killer instincts back into check and still himself. Intimidation was good. Scaring customers away was not.

Of course, he was pretty sure the Chameleon wasn't a customer.

Just then, the communicator at his belt beeped.

"Hey SunWind! We've got a rowdy in here; could ya oust him for us?"

"On my way." He motioned to the Panther backing him up out front to take over and headed inside to deal with another rowdy drunk. The staff had learned quick that he was good at this part, and that he found it amusing to see people try to fight him.

As he got down to the bar, he quickly saw who it was he was supposed to take care of - an obviously drunk Bear, trying to get more to drink when it was painfully clear that he was over his limit. The bartender gave him a painfully grateful look as he came on down; the Bear was probably three times his size, almost as tall as SunWind's Lumari.

Almost.

"Come on, buddy. It's time to go." He began the routine of removing someone, completely unphased by one of the few local creatures bigger than he was.

"Aye already told thish guy, Ah'll deshide when ish... well, guesh they're makin' you guys big now, aren' they?" The drunk Bear said, turning towards SunWind with a blink.

"Yes, now come with me." He insisted, though he didn't put a hand on the Bear yet.

"Make me, Shorty," the Bear growled, standing up and looking down at SunWind from his full height.

SunWind glanced around to make sure there was room and flicked his tail forward to wrap around the Bear's ankle before yanking sideways.

With the Bear's drunkenness, it wasn't hard for him to send him crashing to the ground. What came next was something SunWind hadn't been expecting - a massive hand closed around his tail and yanked him back. It nearly sent the Loup Maru to the ground himself, but he managed to keep his footing.

"Bad idea." SunWind muttered and pulled hard, lifting the Bear up in the air by his ankle. He didn't manage to get him completely off the ground, like he did with most, but enough that it got even to the drunk's mind that he might be out-classed.

Unfortunately, if it did get there, it didn't seem to stay there for long. The Bear growled, releasing SunWind's tail and grabbing his ankle, yanking it out from under him and sending SunWind to the floor. Yanking his foot free from the startled Loup Maru's tail, he grabbed the scruff of his neck, lifting him up roughly and grabbing the base of his tail, preparing to hurl the Loup Maru to the other side of the bar.

That was just not going to happen.

SunWind growled and relaxed his body into a shift to his largest form; one that even the Bear had to look up at. He got one foot on the ground as the sudden increase in weight startled the Bear, then his other, and grabbed the Bear's scruff to lift him off the ground completely.

"You do not want to piss me off, fella." He barred his saber-fangs and a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth in the Bears' face.

"What the..." The Bear's eyes were wide as he stared in disbelief at the ... thing that had just picked up three feet in height and eight hundred pounds of tightly packed muscle.

The rest of the bar had gone dead quiet. It was always entertaining to watch a drunk get kicked out, but this was well beyond that now.

"Now. Are you going to cooperate?" SunWind growled deeply, his voice rough and less than smooth in the local language even with the translator that had somehow shifted with him, along with his clothes.

"Yessir," the Bear nodded slightly, frantically, and was put on his feet.

"Good." SunWind put a hand on his back and guided him to the door.

Once the Bear was out, he shifted back to his normal form, everybody clearly surprised by what they'd seen.

"Handy trick," the Panther who'd been backing him up said. "I ah... guess he was trouble?"

"Yeah. He tried to throw me over the bar." SunWind nodded and shook himself out before taking his place at the door again.

"Don't think he'll try that again," the Panther chuckled, shaking his head a bit and heading back down into the bar to make sure everything was okay down there.


SunWind rolled his shoulders and shook himself out again as he closed the door to the apartment he shared with Wolf. Between the Bear and the run home, he was pretty wound up. Still, the smell of Wolf and sleep and home went right to the core of his brain and calmed his down significantly.

He couldn't help but smile when he slipped into the bedroom and saw Wolf sleeping. It was a comforting sight as he stripped his clothes off, put them away out of respect for Wolf's housekeeping and eased into bed.

"Mmm... how'd it go tonight?" Wolf murmured, waking up a bit as SunWind snuggled up next to him.

"A Bear caused trouble, and this Chameleon came by and threatened me if I 'ruined' you like your last lover. Any idea who that is?" SunWind asked and wrapped his arms around Wolf.

"About my size, little smaller?" Wolf asked, turning over in SunWind's arms, tension shooting through his body.

"Yeah," he nodded, instantly as tense as his packmate.

"That was probably Leon," Wolf sighed. "My old second in command from the Star Wolf squad. I didn't even know he was on Corneria."

"Why would he threaten me?" SunWind asked softly, nuzzling his packmate for reassurance for both of them.

"Probably because he's a borderline psychopath who thinks that I was at my best when I was working with Andross. He was pretty convinced that Fara 'broke' me somehow, made me go soft or something."

"Yes," he nodded, holding Wolf close. "But why would he care? You left a long time ago."

"I'm honestly not sure," Wolf admitted. "It's not usually his style to care about anybody else. Guess he's just fond of me," he chuckled slightly, rubbing SunWind's back. "Watch out for him, okay? I don't think he'll try anything, but if he does... he's damned good."

"So am I," SunWind reminded him seriously, gently fingering his jaw before kissing him even while he tried to ignore the hunger of his own body for the Wolf so close to him. "I've survived much worse than him."

"I know, but I also know just what he's capable of," Wolf murmured, returning the kiss. "Might not see him coming."

"I'll be careful." He promised gently.

"Mmm ... interested in a little help winding down before bed tonight?" Wolf asked him with a bit of a rumble.

"Yes," SunWind drew in a sharp breath and kissed him more solidly. "Very much."

"Mmm ... if you're willing to stop if things go too far, I'm willing to see how far we can go," Wolf told him.

"I'm willing," he nodded and ran his hands down Wolf's sides, pausing at his boxers.

"Go ahead," Wolf murmured, lifting his hips a bit as he worked his own hands down to the firm planes of SunWind's tawny-furred ass, kissing his neck.

He moaned deeply when SunWind's tail snaked around his hips and wrapped around his half-hard sheath to caress it even as his boxers were slid off. He kissed the Mouse's collarbone, adjusting to the difference in how the very male body felt compared to a female one. The tip of his tail slipped into Wolf's sheath, meeting the tip of his cock as it slid out, and Wolf reached down to stroke his sheath in return.

"Oh yeah." SunWind moaned and arched his body to give Wolf full access to him, more than willing to let him lead. He kept his hands to Wolf's chest while his tail worked the canine's balls and sheath.

"Mmm ... you bottom?" Wolf asked him between kisses, stroking SunWind's sheath and balls, coaxing him the rest of the way to full hardness.

"Yes," he nodded and claimed another kiss. "Not yet."

"We'll leave the lube then," Wolf murmured, shifting his hand up to take SunWind's cock in it, stroking him lightly. "What's good for tonight?" He asked, groaning as the Mouse's tail worked his full, heavy balls.

"This," he breathed heavily, his eyes closing in the pleasure as he began to thrust up into Wolf's hand.

"Works for me," Wolf rurred, closing his own eyes for a moment as SunWind's fingers found his swelling knot, squeezing and caressing it. Wolf started stroking the Mouse faster on sheer instinct, thrusting into his hand as his tail thumped the bed behind him.

"Ohhh, yes." SunWind shuddered and wound his tail around the base of Wolf's knot to provide a constant pressure to it's base while his hand worked to stroke the tapered cock.

Wolf panted, reaching a hand behind SunWind's head to pull him close for a hungry kiss as the two males tried to work each other to orgasm. It was like SunWind knew every one of his triggers and how to pull them best. He let his hand come up to rest on the top of the Loup Maru's skull, reaching with his thumb to lightly brush one of his translucent red antennae.

The cry that erupted from SunWind at the touch was a surprise to them both, preceding his orgasm by only a moment.

Wolf came just a moment later, the Mouse's tail tightening around his knot and pushing him over, his thin seed spraying between them, mingling with SunWind's.

"Mmm, good." SunWind murmured as his tail relaxed and he kissed his lover lightly.

"Very good," Wolf murmured back. "These are sensitive, aren't they?" He asked, brushing furry fingers along SunWind's antennae again and causing the Loup Maru to shudder in pleasure.

"Yes," he breathed sharply. "In more ways than just that."

"I'll have to keep that in mind," Wolf chuckled, kissing him softly. "Mmm ... that was good."

"Yes, it was." SunWind smiled softly. "Thank you."

"Mmm ... no problem," Wolf chuckled. "Thank you. Just about forgotten what it was like to be with a guy."

"I can be very good." He smiled softly. "We both need a shower and clean sheets now, though."

"Fortunately, the shower's big enough for two," Wolf chuckled. "You go get started, I'll change the sheets and join you?"

"Sounds good," SunWind chuckled and claimed a last kiss before getting out of bed and heading for the shower.

Wolf smiled, relaxing for a moment before getting up to change the sheets. He had a feeling he was going to get to like this again real fast. SunWind was a lot different from Tom; bigger, older and more sure of himself. But the things that mattered were the same.

He was a packmate ... and he cared.

As Wolf pulled the sheets off the bed, he wondered if SunWind was thinking about his own Bros just now. One of these days, he'd have to ask about them.

Putting the clean sheets down, he headed in to join his new lover in the shower; there'd enough time for that in the days to come.

Sliding Time 1: No Clash of Cultures (old)

NC-17 for M/F/M and M/M sex
Het Level is LowHet Smut Level is Low
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Low
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is None

244 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written January 15, 2006 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: Biker Mice from Mars, Star Fox, Star Wars Episode 1, World of Darkness (generic)

Primary Races: Avian, Feline, Fox, Human, Loup Maru, Mice, Wolf

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). Alternate Universe

Pairings: Obi-Wan Kenobi/Qui-Gon Jinn, SunWind/ Tony Musculi, SunWind/Wolf O'Donnell, Falco Lombardi/Katt Monroe, Fox McCloud/Krystal

Notes: This is the old version of chapter one. 15 pages got cut, 40 added and significant changes happened to the introduction of Throttle in the new one. So many changes that I'm leaving this version up.

Setting: Star Fox (Post-Adventures, Pre-Assault)
Main Characters: Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars), Throttle (BMFM), Fox McCloud, Krystal, Wolf O'Donnell (Star Fox).

Fandom notes: Biker Mice from Mars (post series +20 years and merged with World of Darkness). Throttle is SunWind.
Star Fox (Post-Adventures, Pre-Assault)

Blurb: An exploding experiment sets in motion an adventure that will turn Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi into a fine young Knight and change the lives of hundreds along the way, one at a time.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

Page Hit Count from January 21, 2006    1420