Krystal and Chase: Reuinion
Part four: The grand finale
As Chase steadied his aim, the fox saw something out of the corner of his eye. Instinct took over and he moved. A split second later, a green burst of energy shot by where his head had been!
The fox saw a large, robotic creature moving into the stronghold, its guns glowing as energy built up. Chase fell to his knees, took aim, and fired a single shot. The sound of the shot echoed through the stronghold a split second later.
Startled, Fox and the team turned to find the aparoid on the ground, thrashing wildly. Its left legs were gone, blown clear off from the super sonic bullet. The energy shield that it had been hoping would protect it shorted and faded away as Chase walked up, drawing his Stinger.
When he looked down at the parasite, his golden eyes had turned cold and merciless. The fox leveled the weapon and fired a single shot, point blank. The aparoid stopped thrashing and lay still.
"Snuck in behind us." Chase said as he turned to them.
"There'll be more where it came from." Fox stated, "We'd better get this over with."
Chase nodded and followed the team into the glowing room.
Inside the room was a large, pedestal looking object with wires that climbed the walls and exited through the ceiling. Around it, splitting the room into two halves, was a glowing shield. Its violet glow lit the room around it, making everything in front and behind it look violet in color. Through it, the team could see a long tunnel that was lit by a series of lights along the edges. Nothing moved behind it.
Fox nodded and Chase pressed his hand against the shield. It felt like a wall. As the fox pushed against it, he knew they wouldn't be able to just walk right in.
"I hope one of you can disable this thing." Chase sighed, "No way we're just walking in."
Slippy looked over the device that the shield originated from. After a few minutes, the toad looked up at them, shaking his head.
"I can't make heads or tails of this." He said, "One, this thing isn't like the barriers or the reflectors I made. This is a solid wall of pure energy."
Chase looked up at the wiring that ran along the walls and into the device. As odd as it seemed, the wires were on their side of the shield, not the safe side.
"Could we just pull the plug?" Falco said, knowing what Chase was thinking.
"Well yeah, if you want to do it the easy way, we could do that." Slippy replied with a huff.
After Falco had tried to pull the wires free without any result, Chase pulled his sniper rifle up to his shoulder. With careful aim, the fox fired a single round that pierced the wires, effectively causing the shield to shut itself down.
Fox tenderly took a step into where the shield had been, fully expecting some sort of alarm to go off. But what startled him more was the fact that nothing happened. A deafening silence floated up from within the dark tunnel
Fox motioned for the others to move forward. Falco entered first, his minigun pointing down the tunnel. Slippy and Krystal followed suit, but Chase waited until Fox had gone in as well.
"Coming Ronin?" Fox asked.
"Yeah, just let me do something first." Chase replied.
Fox watched as Chase fired three bullets into the machine that had generated the shield. The supersonic bullets blew through the machine's internal systems before exploding out the back and burying themselves in the stone floor.
"And that was for?" Fox asked.
"Just in case they try to box us in." Chase replied as he walked past Fox.
* * *
"I just had a thought." Falco said suddenly as the five made their way down the dark tunnel.
"On?" Fox asked in reply.
"The FAV is, by all means, slow. If we're setting on a nuclear device down here, how are we going to escape before it goes off?" Falco asked.
"It's a remotely detonated explosive." Chase said as he checked their backs for the umpteenth time, "It won't go off until someone gives it the signal to. Think C4, but with a much bigger radius and a lot more bang for your buck. Trust me; we'll be fine."
"If I had a nickel for every time I heard that line." Falco muttered.
"Let's look on the bright side." Krystal said, "At least we're not-"
"Don't say it Krystal." Chase cut her off, "Trust me, things never go well after someone says that."
Krystal shook her head sadly.
* * *
After what seemed like an eternity, they reached the point where they were to set the bomb. Chase set the explosive down and flipped open the panel on the side. As he began to arm it, the fox stopped suddenly and looked up.
"Did anyone else hear that?" He asked.
"Hear what?" Fox asked.
Chase put up a hand for them to be silent. As the team grew confused, they all heard a soft scuttling noise, almost like footsteps. As they listened, the sound became louder and louder.
Chase drew his Stinger and pointed it down another tunnel. He watched the motion tracker on his visor out of the corner of his eye. A yellow dot had appeared on it and was moving towards them.
As they watched, a small aparoid came out from the depths of the tunnels. This one was different from others. It looked like a scorpion. Instead of a barbed stinger on the end of its upward curved tail, it ended with a small energy cannon. Its glowing red eyes examined the team for a second as the rest of its metallic body glowed with a soft violet color from the energy shield around it.
Without hesitation, Chase fired a single round at it that buried itself in the front right leg. The aparoid fell to the ground and tried to raise itself up on three legs. Chase fired again, this time damaging the left front leg.
As it struggled to get up, the fox took careful aim at the parasite. Before he could fire the final shot, the aparoid gave a loud, wailing call that echoed down the tunnel it had come from.
Chase cursed as he fired. The aparoid fell and didn't move, but its call was already being replied to. Chase's motion tracker suddenly went crazy as dot after dot appeared on it.
"Ronin?" Fox asked.
"We need to arm the bomb, and quickly." Chase replied as he dropped to his knees and reopened the panel.
"Right, you do that and we'll cover you." Fox said, pointing his minigun down the tunnel, "Hold fire until you see the glow."
"Isn't it usually 'don't fire until we see the whites of their eyes'?" Chase asked.
"They don't have whites." Fox replied.
"Point taken." The fox nodded.
The others nodded as they aimed down the tunnel as well. There was only two tunnels into the room. One they had come down, and the other now had four minigun barrels aimed down it. The aparoids had no option but to come running right into their sights.
And run into them they did. It was quiet for a short time. The team could hear the approach of tens of robotic parasites, all of them with only one goal, eliminate the intruders.
As soon as the first one had slowly walked out of the darkness of the tunnel, it was quickly thrown back down it from a hail of gunfire. Two more dodged their tumbling comrade as it fell back, its metallic body riddled with bullet holes. The parasites were still for a second, analyzing what had just happened, and then they swarmed up the tunnel.
The room was lit up from the muzzle flashes of the miniguns as parasite after parasite was mowed down. The sound of gunfire and high pitched cries echoed through the dark tunnels, shattering the silence that had set in only a minute earlier.
"Ronin, how long before that thing's set?" Fox asked as he shot two more parasites.
"Uh, about a minute, give or take." Chase said as he flipped the panel closed.
He watched as the bomb was covered in a protective layer of steel. This was to keep the parasites from being able to disarm the bomb before it received the detonation signal.
"A minute?!" Falco asked in shock, "Why the hell does it take so long?"
"It's got to send the signal that it's ready to be detonated." Chase replied as he dropped to one knee and fired a single shot from his sniper rifle.
The bullet pierced the metallic head of an aparoid. It stood up on two legs, its front legs flailing wildly. Then it fell back onto another aparoid. Together, the two tumbled back down the tunnel.
As Chase chambered a second round, a green light sped up the tunnel. A beam of concentrated energy was now speeding directly towards Krystal! Chase dropped his rifle and pushed her out of the path of the shot.
The vixen fell to her knees and watched as the energy hit Chase square in the chest. If it wasn't for the shield that covered his body, the fox would have been killed. Even so, the energy around him crackled and popped violently as it shorted out. The fox unloaded his Stinger's clip down the tunnel as Fox reloaded.
"You alright Krystal?" He asked as a green flash sped over them.
"Yes, thank you Chase." Krystal replied.
"That's two you owe me." Chase said as he pulled her to her feet.
"If you two aren't too busy, start shooting!" Falco called as he reloaded.
Krystal nodded, picked up her minigun, and began firing down the tunnel as a second wave of parasites tried to attack.
This time, they were firing back. Bursts of energy shot up from the tunnel as the team flooded it with more gunfire.
Chase heard a loud beeping sound and cried, "Fall back! It's armed!"
Krystal and Fox were the first two up the tunnel as Falco, Slippy, and Ronin held off the approaching horde. The three of them backed up into the tunnel they had come down.
* * *
Sounds of gunfire echoed up from the tunnel as Fox and Krystal reached the entrance. Behind them were Falco and Slippy. The four of them looked down the dark tunnel, waiting for Chase. The sounds of gunfire still echoed up the tunnel. Then, a cry echoed up to them.
Then, there was nothing. The gunfire had ended and now a heavy silence descended on the team. As the seconds passed, they each began to wonder why the mercenary hadn't reappeared.
"Do you think he's-?" Slippy began.
"No. He can't be." Krystal said as worry began to creep into her voice.
Fox put a comforting arm around the vixen's shoulders.
Suddenly, they heard another burst of rapid gunfire, accompanied by, "I can't believe those stupid machines fell for it!"
Chase emerged from the tunnel and shook himself off quickly. The fox placed his Stinger back into the holster on his side as the team looked to him with disbelief.
Just as suddenly as the gunshots, Krystal hugged him.
"You're still alive." Krystal sighed, "Oh thank god."
"I don't recall being otherwise." Chase replied as he hugged her back.
She released him, then said, "Don't you ever scare me like that again Chase. I thought we'd lost you a second time."
"You would have if I hadn't feigned a death." Chase said, "Once they thought I was dead, they moved right past me."
"So you shot them in the back." Falco replied, his arms crossed.
"Hey, they outnumbered me and my shield was gone." Chase said in defense, "Luckily they didn't check to be sure I was dead. Now, let's get out of here before a third wave shows up."
* * *
As the team got back into the turret guns of the FAV, Chase strapped himself down in the driver's seat and glanced over the various screens. As he glanced to a motion tracker, his eyes widened as he cursed silently.
The tracker was going crazy. Yellow dots were moving up from the temple and from behind. Their original landing zone had to have been overrun with aparoid forces.
"Heads up, we've got company." Chase called.
* * *
Hundreds Scorpion-like machines charged up the tunnels of the temple. Crossing the dark main hall, their guns began to glow as energy built up for the attack. But, once they reached the entryway, they were immediately blown back by a hail of minigun fire.
Bullet after bullet was pumped into their metallic hides as they tried to exit the temple. Parasite after parasite in the front line was blown away before they could fire a single shot. The ones farther back fired their guns, but the energy bursts didn't seem to even begin to affect the metal monster that was slowly moving away from them. They'd need something stronger than their energy to penetrate that steel hide.
An echoing screech was sent down the tunnels. Seconds later, a second screech was heard from deep within the temple. The ground shook lightly as something began burrowing slowly after the machine.
* * *
Chase read over the screens as he piloted the FAV. Something was wrong. The aparoids knew they couldn't harm the tough steel of the FAV, so why were they still firing away?
He shrugged and opened a com link to the orbital station above them.
"Mother Bird, can you read me? Over." Chase asked after a signal had been established seconds later.
"This is Mother Bird." A voice replied, "Go ahead Hatchling."
"Package is in position. I repeat, package is in position and we are moving towards LZ Beta. We are under light enemy fire."
"Roger that Hatchling. Signal obtained, and the package is armed. 'Wipe' will commence on your signal. Radio when you reach LZ Beta."
"Affirmative. Hatchling out."
Chase locked onto several targets in the advancing aparoid mass and fired off a volley of missiles.
Each one scored hits, completely obliterating anywhere between three to six aparoids, tossing more away from the explosions.
"Hey Ronin, why don't you give these guys a taste of the main gun?" Fox asked.
"We're too close to the bomb." Chase replied, "If I fire that thing off now the explosion could reach the bomb through the tunnel."
"He's got a point, Fox." Slippy chimed in.
"Alright, so what's the plan?" Falco asked, "It can't be that we just sit here until the bomb goes off."
"No, we move." Chase replied, "There's a second LZ that I'll head to for extraction. ETA fifteen minutes."
"Alright, let's go before these guys call in something big." Fox said.
* * *
Far above the fighting, a pair of black drop ships had already entered the planet's atmosphere. One was small and lightly armed with a single rocket pod up front and a minigun on the back. Its sleeker design enabled it to move a lot quicker than its partner, but it was also much more vulnerable to assault. It had less shielding and thinner hull armor than the second ship.
The other was much larger, armed with a pair of twin rocket pods, four minigun turrets, two to each side, and two 105 millimeter repeating cannons on the back of the ship. The bulkier design cut down its maneuverability and overall aerial performance, but the armoring was much thicker with a more advanced shielding system.
These were the drop ships assigned to extract the team and Chase. One for infantry, another for the FAV.
* * *
Fourteen minutes later, the FAV had rolled out to a grassy plain. The aparoid forces had retreated ten minutes before, so the trip had been smooth. The two drop ships had seen the FAV and were ready to land nearby for the extraction.
"Well that was easier than I expected." Chase said as the FAV stopped, "Mother Bird, Hatchling has reached LZ Beta."
"Roger that Hatchling. Prepare for extraction." A voice replied, "We'll see you back here soon."
"Yeah, we didn't see anything but that new version they made for themselves." Slippy replied.
"I don't know." Krystal said as she looked around, "Something still feels off."
"Yeah, I've got the same feeling." Fox replied.
"Same here." Falco agreed.
Chase looked over the screens and saw that the motion tracker had picked up something. A tiny yellow dot about fifty meters out. A single aparoid. But it wasn't trying to rush them alone. Instead, it was holding still, aiming directly up at the two drop ships that were slowly descending to land.
Chase sighed and fired a single small missile. It arced through the air, trailing smoke as it acquired the target and armed itself. Then, without a second's hesitation, the missile slammed down onto the aparoid, destroying it in a tiny detonation.
As the drop ships neared, the ground began to shake. The FAV didn't budge as the ground around it shook violently, quickly growing more and more intense. Thinking it was only an earthquake, the two ships hovered.
Krystal, however, didn't agree that it was just an earthquake. The vixen focused and suddenly felt a strong pulse flow through her. A powerful thought wave of something that was apparently huge, and moving. When the thing stopped, she knew immediately what was about to happen.
"Chase, get them out of here!" Krystal suddenly cried.
"What? Why?" Chase asked, "It was just an earth-"
The ground suddenly burst open as a golden beam of energy shot up out of it like a volcano eruption, piercing the smaller drop ship! As if in slow motion, the ship was covered in small explosions as it slowly fell. Finally, the small drop ship was destroyed in a brilliant explosion.
The second drop ship immediately bolted, just dodging a second golden beam that erupted out of the ground!
"Son of a-!" Chase cursed, then ordered, "Abort mission! I repeat, abort mission! Get the hell out of here!"
The drop ship began to run as a third beam just barely missed the tail!
With that miss, an angry roar erupted out of the ground and a giant machine broke the surface of the planet.
It glared down at the FAV as the five of them looked back up at it. It looked like a giant snake, but with five, claw-like appendages slowly rotating around a large cannon that was slung directly below a single red eye. The machine kept its main body on the ground, raising its upper sections off the ground like a giant cobra.
As it eyed the FAV, Chase ran a scan over their new foe.
"I knew things were going too well." Fox sighed.
"Ok, what the hell is that?" Chase asked.
"Aparoid." Falco replied bluntly, "A big one."
"Think it's shielded?" Fox asked.
Chase looked to a scanning screen and grinned, "Nope."
A volley of missiles launched from the launcher on top of the FAV in a rapid series of smoke plumes. Each one struck the target, pushing the giant metal serpent back.
It roared as the main cannon began to glow with a golden light. Energy swirled up into the growing ball of light, strengthening it every passing second. Even Chase could tell that beam would do some major damage. It reared back, ready to launch its main attack.
Then, out of nowhere, several small explosions ripped down the serpents back. The aparoid turned to face its second attacker, launching the beam in the direction of the shots. But the attacker had already moved out of the path of the fired attack.
It looked back to the FAV as a second burst struck its side. Looking up at where the shots had come from, the aparoid found the drop ship hovering in place. Several bright lights were already streaking towards it, all of them trailing smoke.
The aparoid moved quickly, dodging the rockets. They passed by, impacting the ground and exploding without doing any damage. The drop ship circled once more, peppering the giant metallic serpent with 105 millimeter shells before retreating just out of range.
A loud clicking sound was heard, and the serpent turned back to find that the machine it had been facing had transformed. Now a barrel equal to the size of its own stared up at it, a blue beam of energy already marking its targeted area as four minigun turrets pummeled it's metallic body, punching bullet after bullet into it's slowly weakening form. But it couldn't move! Something was holding the giant machine in place, allowing the beam to grow slowly.
* * *
"What's goodbye in aparoid?" Chase asked as a power bar nearby grew slowly into the red zone.
On another screen, Fox shrugged, "Not a clue."
"I'm sure the giant cannon gets the message across." Falco replied, "If that doesn't, the blast will."
Chase smirked as the bar turned bright red, indicating that it was ready to fire, "It's the times like this that I love my job."
* * *
The giant aparoid was a little confused. The beam looked powerful, but it wasn't doing anything except holding it in place. The miniguns continued to fire around the beam, concentrating most of their fire near where the beam was striking.
As it wondered, a pulsing ball of growing energy began to grow from the beam. The miniguns had stopped firing as the ball continued to grow. It realized that this was an attack!
Immediately, it tried to respond by firing its main gun. But the aparoids systems were frozen. Its main gun wasn't charging! But the ball of energy that was now covering its body only continued to grow. The main beam from the cannon had vanished as the machine now started to fold itself back up.
All at once, the energy exploded! The detonation of the weapon threw the aparoid back as the shockwaves flattened the area around the blast. The aparoid gave a final cry of defeat as the energy inside it was heated well past the maximum amount it could handle. Without warning, the giant metal serpent exploded, sending shrapnel flying in all directions.
As the shockwaves faded from sight, the drop ship once more descended near to the FAV. A call was sent up that the team was extracted and headed home.
* * *
Below ground, a metal sphere lay untouched where the Chase had left it. As retreating aparoids flooded down the tunnel, one of them stopped and examined the sphere. Curious, it poked the steel sphere and watched it roll down the tunnel that lead deeper into the hive.
The ball finally rolled to a stop as three aparoids gathered around it. The sphere split down the middle, and folded away to reveal an egg shaped device, wires glowing softly as a screen flipped out.
The screen had scrolling text that appeared on it, reading, "Signal acquired. Wipe command executing."
The bomb detonated!
The explosive force roared through the temple stronghold like a typhoon. The force and heat of the blast raced down the tunnels of the hive, wiping out anything in its path. Aparoid after aparoid was obliterated in the few seconds that the detonation lasted. The Hive and temple itself were completely intact, but anything inside had been completely erased from existence.
* * *
From the safety of the station far above the planet, Chase summed up the mission in a report for Hiigan. As he sent it off, Krystal walked up behind him.
"So, that's it then?" The vixen asked.
"I guess so." Chase replied as he picked up a file that was lying on the desk next to him, "The bomb took out the entire hive according to intel and I get paid once I get back."
"You will keep in contact...wont you?"
"Do you have an encrypted line?"
"Then yes, I'll try to."
"And if anything happens?"
"I'll leave a note for Hiigan to tell you the truth."
"Not a problem."
Krystal hugged the fox and laid her head on his shoulder. Chase sighed and hugged her back, knowing all too well that this could be the last time he'd ever see his former partner.
* * *
The next day, from the bridge of the Great Fox, the Star Fox team watched as a small, sleek, swept wing craft shot ahead of them. A second craft, almost identical to the one that had been destroyed, had been delivered with the bomb and the FAV.
Now, its twin engines began to glow a bright orange as the rest of the ship was slowly engulfed in a brilliant white light. With a quick roll to say goodbye, the ship vanished from sight.
"Think we'll ever run into Ronin again?" Fox asked.
"There's a distinct possibility." Slippy replied, "We do seem to have a habit of running into old friends and foes."
"That we do, Slippy." Falco smirked, "That we do."
The toad sighed, "I would have loved to get my hands on some of that tech, though. The Landmaster is due for an upgrade and that FAV cannon would have been incredible to use. Even just a tenth of that force would be great! And that warp core in his interceptor would be perfect for a new Arwing design. Then there's that shield he had. Our barriers are nothing compared to that thing's upgrades."
Fox looked over to find Krystal still looking out at where the tiny ship had been before it had warped.
"Miss him already?" Fox asked.
"Yeah." Krystal replied softly as she turned to him, "I really will miss him."
"I'm sure he'll worry about you." Fox said comfortingly.
* * *
Later, Krystal opened the door to her room and flicked on the lights. Once she had, the vixen saw something that she knew hadn't been there before they left. Lying on her bed was a steel box labeled "For R from R2."
Krystal closed the door behind her and walked over to her bed to examine the box. It looked harmless enough. A simple keypad lock kept it locked up tight.
The vixen took the note off of the box and turned it over.
On the back was written, "I figured that you guys deserve a share of the end prize. So each of you has a little something that I managed to get my CO to give you all. Your combination is simple. The date we first started training. Only you and I know it.
Krystal smiled to herself as she tapped in the date. Once she had, the box opened to reveal a small wad of credits and a silver chain and pendant with a sphere made from a sapphire and ruby mixed together. Half of it was sapphire, the other half was ruby. The two gems had been fused together to form a soft violet color where they met.
Krystal took out the credits and saw a smaller note at the bottom of the box: "Hope you like it. Reminded me of us when I saw it."
Krystal smiled and took the pendant out. Quietly, she put it around her neck, the sphere resting peacefully on the top of her breast.
"I do like it Chase." She whispered as she gently laid her hand on it, "Thank you."
* * *
When Krystal walked out, she saw Slippy excitedly holding a disk like object. The disk was painted red and was humming softly. When Slippy pressed a button on the disk he was covered in a glowing red shield that conformed to his body like a second skin. Giggling happily, he pressed it again and the energy retreated back into the device. The energy shield!
"Oh man, once I figure out this thing there'll be a lot of upgrades going on." Slippy said happily.
"So it looks like almost everyone got something out of this." Fox said as he walked up.
In his hands was the black energy rifle Chase had taken out but hadn't used. Its tanks glowed softly, casting a soft red light against the fox's white vest.
A door swished open as Falco walked in, a content smile on his face, "We got paid big time for this one."
The others nodded in agreement. Quietly, Krystal smiled with contentment. No, her old partner hadn't changed much at all.
TWO YEARS LATER:
Bullets collided with the walls as a red fox ducked behind a steel crate for cover. As he began firing around the corner, the mercenary began to pant tiredly. The blood that had been dripping down his arm was already beginning to dry, but a second wound was quickly causing him to lose more blood from the other arm. Not to mention that the bullets were getting closer and closer by the second.
The fox cursed to himself as he reloaded and began to open fire once more around the corner of the crate, panting tiredly as adrenaline flooded through his veins. All he had was his Stinger handgun, and he was only protected by the light armor on his chest and legs. The enemy was armed with the newest model assault rifle and wearing full combat gear. The fox was heavily out manned, out gunned, and out of options. He had called for reinforcements, but with the friendly signal jammer in place he wasn't sure if the transmission had even gotten out or not. All he could do now was fight to his last breath.
Ronin looked up quickly and pulled his head back down as a hail of gunfire struck where his head had been. He fired back blindly, hoping to hit any of them.
Then, everything froze. The bullets had stopped as the gunfire was silenced all within a split second.
"What the hell?" Chase asked himself as he looked up over the crate.
Everyone but him had frozen. Even the bullets that had been screaming towards where he had been hiding were frozen in mid-flight. The fox pulled the trigger of his Stinger experimentally, but nothing happened.
Chase holstered the weapon with a sigh. Either the simulator was frozen up again, or someone wanted to talk to him. Either way, he had a bad feeling about it.
* * *
Later, Chase was sitting in meeting room, his finger lightly tapping the barrel of his Stinger. At the other end of the large, wooden table was a human known only as Hiigan. His black suit, black glasses, black gloves, bald head, emotionless expression, and slight bulge from his hidden weapon kept the human from achieving any sort of warmth. He was one of those that radiated danger.
Hiigan hadn't given him any time before calling him out of the simulator, so Chase was still dressed in a black assault outfit that was usually worn under his battle gear and had his favorite Stinger handgun strapped to his hip.
"Mind telling me why I'm here?" Chase asked, "I just finished a mission last night and got my money after filing the report with your people. Plus, I'm supposed to have three days before a new mission."
"Patience Ronin. This is not about a new mission or a report." Hiigan replied as he pressed a com button on the table, "Send her in."
Chase was confused. Usually Hiigan only called him about a mission or a report.
"Ok, so what is this about?" the fox asked.
"We have a little surprise for you." Hiigan said, a ghost of a smile appearing on his face.
This alone made Chase nervous. Hiigan never smiled unless he knew something he knew Chase would either be afraid of or would do without question. Both were very rare occurrences.
The fox began to pant slowly, adrenaline beginning to flow through him as the door behind Chase opened. His ears picking up the soft click of boots against the tile floor. The fox turned around to face the new arrival. Once he had, his mind stopped from shock and his heart began racing. His eyes widened as he looked over the new arrival.
A blue furred vixen stood before him. Her tan, ribbed vest allowed him to see the pattern on her upper arm, and her short black shorts showed hints of a sun design on her upper right leg. Her tail was bound by three straps to keep her fur in line. Around her neck was a sapphire and ruby pendant necklace. The vixen's emerald eyes shone like a gemstone as they met his.
Chase was completely speechless as Krystal sat down in the chair next to him.
"Ronin, this is your new apprentice." Hiigan said as his face returning to its usually emotionless state, "I am sure I do not need to introduce you."
"N-no sir." Chase stammered, his mind still unable to grasp the concept that Krystal was back.
Krystal shook her head in reply.
"Good. Now Krystal, you have no objections to this?" Hiigan asked.
"None sir." The vixen replied.
"I would not believe that you would have any. You two are dismissed for today." Hiigan said.
As Krystal and Chase stood, Hiigan said, "Ronin, I'd like to talk to you for a minute. Alone."
Krystal looked to Chase and he nodded. The vixen was hesitant for a second, then nodded back and walked out as Chase sat back down.
"I can tell that you have your doubts about having her back." Hiigan said, "And about her possible reasoning for returning to us."
Chase didn't say anything. Hiigan was right and he knew it.
The human sighed, "Ronin, I know that bringing her back as your apprentice is against your own will, but it is for the best that she is with someone she already knows."
"I understand sir." Chase replied.
"Good. Now, the next choice is by the heads, not by me, although I do agree whole heartedly with their choice. And, of course, Krystal has been informed on it already. Krystal will live with you in your dorm. Anywhere you go, she goes. Anywhere she goes, you go. It is important that you two become closely bonded as partners once more. That way you are more effective during assignments."
"I'll treat her like a sister."
"I would not expect any less from you. You will receive a second armor for her within the next few days. The labs are working on a new, much lighter design to accommodate her physical build, reflexes, and her...ability. But it will be just as protective as your own, heavier armor."
"Sounds like a good idea." Chase said as he stood up.
"Oh, and one last thing." Hiigan said.
Chase turned back to him as he said, "Please do try to refrain from asking about her motives for coming back to us. I am sure she will not wish to go through the questioning a third time. Just trust me when I say that her reasons are not completely based on you being alive still or on a...rocky relationship."
"It's a combination of both, isn't it?"
"In a way, but she does have other reasons. So try to refrain from asking about any of them."
"Is this a direct order from you?"
"No. It is a courtesy to her. But, if it helps, consider it a direct order."
Chase nodded and walked out.
* * *
Chase sat down tiredly on a couch and shook his head. Krystal sat down beside him and slipped off her vest, revealing a white tank top underneath that not only left her midriff bare, but showed her curves off very well without being tight to her body. Chase looked her over. The vixen was as lovely as ever.
"So, did they give you anything or tell you anything before sending you to me?" the fox asked.
"If you mean a name, yes, they did." Krystal replied with a smile, "Ronin-2."
Chase smirked, "My old name, huh?"
Krystal nodded as Chase got back up.
"You hungry?" Chase asked as he took her hand.
Krystal shook her head after Chase had pulled her to her feet, "Not really. I had a good lunch."
"Alright, as long as you're sure about that." Chase replied.
The two looked to each other for a few seconds, their eyes looking into the others. Chase then began to turn away when Krystal hugged him tightly. Her arms wrapped around him as her tail did the same. Chase was a little surprised, but hugged her back as Krystal laid her head on his shoulder.
Chase was suddenly aware that Krystal was tightening her grip around him as her nose gently pushed into his neck fur. He smirked as he pet her, his hand rubbing her back gently. He couldn't deny it; it felt good to hold Krystal close again.
"So, did you ever expect this to happen?" the vixen asked softly.
"To be honest, no." Chase replied, "I never thought you'd come back to this life. But I will say I'm glad you did."
"Were you lonely Chase?"
"A little, but mostly I could have used backup like you on a lot of my assignments."
Krystal released him, a smile playing on her lips, "So you did miss me."
"Yeah." Chase smirked, "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to change out of this assault gear."
Chase walked into the bedroom and took out a pair of plain blue jeans. After a minute, he had changed into them but realized he had forgotten a shirt. He cursed silently and dug one out of the closet as Krystal walked in.
"Chase?" the vixen asked.
"Hmm?" Chase replied as he looked up to her.
She looked him over. It had been a long time since she had seen Chase, especially without a shirt. Physically, the thinly built red fox was pretty much the same. The four black slash marks on his chest, where the accident had permanently burned his flesh and changed the fur from white to black, were still there.
But what the vixen had noticed first was a first aide wrap around his upper right arm, and another wrap that was lower on his left arm. Both were covered in recently dried blood. She could easily tell these wounds were not old.
"What is it?" Chase asked as the vixen walked closer.
"What happened to your arms?" Krystal asked, concern entering her voice.
"I took a couple of bullets on my last mission." The fox replied, "But the medics patched me up pretty well, removed the bullets, and the wounds stopped bleeding last night shortly after the quick surgery. They told me to keep the wraps over them just in case they start to bleed again."
"Oh Chase." Krystal replied in a motherly tone, touching the wraps, "Were you wearing the armor?"
Chase shook his head and pulled on the shirt he was holding, "I don't wear that heavy gear on all my missions Krystal. You know that. But I really wish I had been. I hadn't been expecting their reinforcements to arrive for them because we jammed the signal. The techs are still looking into what happened."
"Well, I'll just have to watch out for you a bit more from now on." Krystal said, her hands on her hips.
"If I'm not watching you first," Chase smirked, "partner."
The two smiled and hugged, both of them knowing that the other still cared, and always would.