Setting and premise:
Planet Fennecia – 4.5 billion Light Years away from the Milky Way, located in the Sigma Quadrant with a large star named Orion positioned in the center of the quadrant, and two astronomical bodies, Luna (the largest) and Asimov (the smallest), orbiting around the planet, serving as its Sun and Moons and providing the planet with a day and night cycle.
While bearing a striking resemblance to Earth with its vast oceans, landforms, climate and forested areas spreading across the continents, the diverse, extraterrestrial-like fauna and wildlife makes it stand out from its counterpart.
The dominant species on the planet are called Lycalopians - resembling foxes with the difference being their anthropomorphic traits like being able to stand and walk on two legs, front paws shaped like human hands and possessing the intelligence to create a thriving civilization, establishing their reign over the planet.
Nomadic, peaceful and altruistic, the Lycalopians formed strong, spiritual bonds with the fauna on Fennecia a long time ago, striving to preserve the balance of nature at the behest of Galatea, a deity that they believe was the creator of all life on Fennecia. It wasn't long before settlements and villages across the planet began to be constructed, the Lycalopians taking extra care to not disturb the creations of their deity or to interrupt the circle of life – if trees had to be cut down, others would be planted and if they needed to hunt for food, species were being held and bred in captivity before being released into the wild.
Given the numerous type of Lycalopians, some of the settlements could only be occupied by a specific breed, like the Arctic Lycalopians leaning more towards colder environments while the Tibetan Sand Lycalopians inhabited the desert areas. The biggest of their settlements would soon convert into a castle and become the main, major kingdom of Fennecia and was named after the first ancestor and father of the Lycalopians, Canide.
As time went on, Lycalopians discovered that their deity had left them samples of her power in the form of blue crystals which contained a mysterious liquid with magical properties. Applying the respective liquid on their bodies or drinking it, granted the Lycalopians with magical abilities like creating fire with a snap of their fingers, becoming invisible or even floating in the air. This discovery led to the expansion of settlements, no longer looking like constructions made of wood but more like ancient temples one would see on a tour guide or a traveling pamphlet.
For a long period of time, there was peace and harmony on the planet, but all changed when inhabitants from the other planets in the Sigma Quadrant had learned about the existence of Fennecia. In addition to the blue crystals, the planet contained a lot of very rare and very valuable resources, native only to Fennecia, thus making it a target for space pirates and thieves. As such, the Lycalopians had to adapt in order to fend off the invaders and protect their planet.
Realizing that their magical abilities would not be enough, the Lycalopians resorted in confiscating and even stealing weapons and tech left behind by the invaders once they discovered the efficiency of the expression "fight fire with fire" – it got to the point that magic was seen as obsolete and was practiced less and less by the Lycalopians. As time went on, it was, slowly, being replaced with technology in terms of weaponry, devices and gadgets, leading to the creation of better fortifications for the settlements and the castle, home-made appliances, vehicles like cars and spaceships, as well as other inventions such as television, computers, phones and even a world-wide network of information.
It goes without saying that Fennecia has entered a new era, whether or not for the better is up for debate and it is uncertain if using the tools of the enemy will lead to the salvation or destruction of Lycalopian civilization. Nowadays, only a handful of Lycalopians still practice the mystic arts, refusing to embrace technology and accepting it as their savior like most of their brethren did, earning them the nickname of "Luddites".
Despite their best efforts, the planet is in a constant state of threat and it has taken its toll on the Lycalopians, making them very untrustworthy towards outsiders. Some have, even, succumbed to malicious desires, forever breaking the long-established harmony and leading to inner turmoil among the Lycalopians.
Princess Natalie, the daughter of King Montgomery and Queen Philomena of the Canide Kingdom, takes it upon herself to form her own group of fighters known as the Foxtrot Unit in an attempt to re-establish order and rid Fennecia of invaders once and for all. The Princess then went on to commandeer The Vox Andromeda, a royal, interplanetary flagship that was gifted to her by her parents when she reached the age of sixteen, to serve as both the main headquarters for the Foxtrot Unit and as means of transportation across the planet.
1) Time is measured as following:
- a solar cycle represents a day (meaning about twelve hours during daytime).
- a lunar cycle represents a night (meaning about twelve hours during nighttime).
- an orbital cycle represents a month (meaning about fifteen solar cycles and fifteen lunar cycles).
- a stellar cycle represents a year (meaning about one hundred orbital cycles) followed by a decade stellar cycle (meaning about ten years), a century stellar cycle (meaning about one hundred years) and a millennia cycle (meaning about a thousand years).
- in terms of determining the time during the day or night, the Lycalopians use the position in the sky of either Orion or Luna – examples such as "half of an Orion" or "a quarter of Luna".
2)Population on Fennecia is about 4.287.615 Lycalopians currently living on the planet.
3)Despite being untrustworthy and suspicious towards outsiders, some species from other planets or galaxies were allowed to live on the planet, only after earning the trust of the Lycalopians and proving that they're not driven by greed and have no intention in harming the planet and its inhabitants.
4) Galatea is believed to be an invisible, celestial entity that has created all life on planet, a being greater than life in terms of size and power. Yet, there have been claims of Lycalopians encountering a vixen fitting her physical description, that was provided in ancient books, across several villages and towns, but none could confirm if it really was her as the vixen would always vanish whenever someone were to get close to her.
5)When cataclysms occur, some Lycalopians believe that Galatea is upset by the shifts in the Natural Balance and is expressing her anger and disappointed in her children.
6)The planet is believed to hold many undiscovered secrets but, in the case of some, some secrets are best left buried and forgotten.
7) The native language on Fennecia is called Ren'Yia – very few speak it to this day as the Lycalopians had no choice but to learn various languages after numerous invasion attempts. In order to achieve victory, one must learn the language of the enemy.
8) Over time, in order to differentiate themselves, have their own identities and given the fact that multiple regions, towns and villages were created, Lycalopians have adopted names that would represent their nation as well as their race like Red Foxes, Arctic Foxes, Tundra Foxes or Desert Foxes and elected representatives in the Council of Far Sight, the second governing power on the planet. The Red Foxes are, currently, the dominant race of Lycalopians.
9) The Council of Far Sight represents the voice of the people and has its own position and authority – when it comes to legislation, taxes as well as any other political businesses, the Council holds meetings in order to discuss potential changes or new implementations to the current laws. The Royal Family either accepts the changes to legislation or denies them.
10) The local fauna had to endure the changes that came with the arrival of invaders, some Elders believing that, one day, the old, magical bond that Lycalopians once had with nature would be lost for eternity.
More information about the lore, planet and characters will be revealed in future chapters.
Species: Red Fox, Age: 21 Stellar Cycles
Self-appointed leader of the Foxtrot Unit and future, royal ruler of the planet Fennecia. Unlike most princesses portrayed in the media and other forms of fiction, Natalie is among the few who breaks the stereotype of a damsel in distress and is more than eager to get her hands dirty.
Resourceful, brave and with a strong dedication to her duties as a princess, Natalie is willing to put her own life at risk if it means granting the Lycalopians, the residents of Planet Fennecia and her subjects, a bright and prosperous future.
Despite having the heart of a lion, she can be a bit stubborn at times, leading to disagreements between her and General Sionnach, second in command of the Foxtrot Unit, when it comes to strategies and battle plans. Other times, she would jump in without thinking and only realize her mistake when it's too late.
Even she doesn't show it, the responsibilities of being a princess weigh heavily upon her, often times having to make difficult decisions that could affect the way others perceive her.
Species: Tibetan Sand Fox, Age: 43 Stellar Cycles
Second in command of the Foxtrot Unit. A battle-scarred, retired, war veteran who led countless battles against the enemies of Fennecia, earning the respect of any fox and vixen under his command and lots of medals.
When forming the Foxtrot Unit, Sionnach was Natalie's first choice, given his military expertise. Despite being very strict, by the book, stern and almost never cracking a smile, underneath that tough exterior, Sionnach cares for Natalie and the other members of the Unit greatly, in a similar manner to the princess.
Being an old timer, Sionnach struggles with accepting the fact that times have changed and that his strategies might be outdated, resulting in a lot of argues with Princess Natalie. There are times when the general, deep down, ponders if coming out of retirement was a good idea or not.
Species: Arctic Fox, Age: 20 Stellar Cycles
Youngest member of the Foxtrot Unit. Unlike the others, Vulpin possesses magical abilities, skilled in the arts of Nature Magic, a branch dedicated to commune with Mother Nature which includes elemental spells such as fire, wind, water and air. Despite being the magic caster of the group, Vulpin's spells are limited and have not reached their full potential for, otherwise, Vulpin can just snap his fingers and send a massive tidal wave over an army.
Growing up with the philosophy that technology would bring an end to all life on Fenencia, Vulpin discovered that Lycalopians with magical abilities were seen as outcasts and, as such, was forced to keep his abilities hidden, the hatred for the Royal Family for allowing technology into the lives of the Lycalopians growing with each passing solar cycle. Seeing as how it seemed like an impossible task to blend in with society, Vulpin resorted to using his abilities in order to become a thief, stealing valuables from the riches but, unlike Robin Hood, would keep the currency for himself.
One day, while attempting to steal some war memorabilia from Sionnach, Vulpin got caught by both the former general and Princess Natalie, who had paid a visit to Sionnach in order to recruit him for her cause. Natalie saw a lot of potential in Vulpin and assigned him a position in the Foxtrot Unit, despite Sionnach's protests. Despite some inner turmoil, Vulpin, slowly, started to adjusted and accepted his position with his view on Princess Natalie changing from trust to friendship and, eventually, a crush on her.
Species: Silver Fox, Age: 312 Stellar Cycles
An ancient Lycalopian spirit that Natalie, Sionnach, Vulpin and Rena woken up by accident when investigating an abandoned manor, rumored to be the hiding spot of rebel Lycalopians, deserters who refuse to accept Natalie's family as rulers and are more than willing to sell their own planet and brethren if it meant filling up their pockets.
The cause of his demise is a mystery but, although losing his life, death has not taken away his vast knowledge in terms of history as Notch used to be a history teacher.
Despite being more of a nuisance to them with his ghostly shenanigans like popping out of objects, walking through walls or even shape-shifting into terrifying monsters to scare them just for laughs, Notch is a valuable asset to the Unit, providing the team with the necessary information when traveling into the uncharted territories of Fennecia.
In the words of Sionnach - "All I can say about Notch is that he's the biggest pain in the neck on this side of the galaxy. Even more than Vulpin and that is saying a lot! Still, despite me wishing he was alive so that I can kick his butt, I will admit that his knowledge about the past is invaluable."
Species: Fennec Fox, Age: 22 Stellar Cycles
The smallest member of the Unit in terms of height. If there is one thing that lights up Rena's fuse more than anything is for someone to comment on her short stature. When that happens, she goes into a frenzy and, like a raging bull upon seeing red, charges towards the respective individual, obliterating everything in her path and wanting nothing more but to beat the pulp out of them and grind their bones into dust.
Even if she is not a fan of her height, she can squeeze through very tight places and can get the team out of some serious predicaments. Rena doesn't like to talk about her past so her origins remain a mystery just like Notch's. Despite the "shortcoming", Rena is a skilled ninja, capable of concealing herself easily and striking enemies down from the shadows.
Her main passion is cooking and she really enjoys baking goods for her teammates, even if there are times when she and kitchen appliances don't see eye-to-eye, all because of her hard-to-control temper. Despite not admitting it, she has a big crush on Vulpin. Although she knows that he likes Natalie, she still hopes that, one day, Vulpin will notice her.
6) Queen Philomena and King Montgomery
Species: Red Foxes, Ages: 43 and 48 Stellar Cycles
The monarchical rulers of Planet Fennecia and the parents of Princess Natalie who reside in the Canide Castle. It goes without saying that ruling over a kingdom during a period of war, fear and uncertainty is no easy feat and both Philomena and Montgomery couldn't have agreed more with that statement.
Even if it wasn't easy to juggle between their royal duties and raising Natalie after she was born was no easy task, the King and Queen were still able to maintain their composure when addressing their subjects.
Despite being very grateful to her parents, Natalie would often go into conflicts with them, most notably her mother, arguing against with her beliefs on what the role of a princess should be, Natalie stood her ground and told her parents that, if there was ever going to be hope for their planet, she needed to take matters into her own hands.
When Philomena ordered the guards to stop her, Montgomery interfered and told his wife to let her daughter go, realizing that Natalie was not a child anymore and was ready to take on life's challenges.
7) Lord Zaramordar and The Razorbeaks
Species: Canary, Age: 32 Stellar Cycles
Species: The Razorbeaks are comprised of cassowaries, secretary birds and all other types of birds known for their hunting skills – ages for each Razorbeak vary.
The ruthless, tyrannical leader of the Ibonians, a race of intergalactic birds originating from the planet Cordatia, several million Light Years away from Fennecia. While space pirates and thieves might have not been much of a challenge for the Lycalopians, Lord Zaramordar and his army of Ibonians are a different story. Like a plague of locusts, the Ibonians travel to different planets with the full intent of subjugating them and draining them of their resources and it wasn't long before they set their eyes on Fennecia, the Quadrant's "largest piggy bank".
Despite being shorter than his own troops, Zaramordar is not to be taken lightly and whenever his massive and imposing interstellar battle ship, The Maverick, shows up, legends say that even asteroids turn tail and launch themselves as far away as possible from it. Even if met with numerous defeats, Zaramordar will not give up till planet Fennecia will be under his rule.
If there is one thing that Zaramordar despises more than anything is incompetence from his troops and often goes into rage fits whenever missions and assignments end in failure, shouting and berating his underlings to the point that their morale goes so low that it reaches the center of a planet.
Under his command are the Razorbeaks Troopers, equipped with heavy but flexible armor, product of the latest and advanced technology galactic credits can buy and armed with deadly blaster rifles – in large numbers, the Razorbeaks are an effective force to be reckoned with, but there are times when their overconfidence and arrogance become weaknesses for the Lycalopians to exploit.
8) Commander Vardos
Species: Secretary Bird, Age: 39 Stellar Cycles
Lord Zaramordar's second in command and personal advisor. One would find it difficult to describe Commander Vardos as the bird rarely, if ever, shows any emotions. Nobody has ever seen him joyful, angry, disappointed or sad, leading to a possible rumor that the commander might actually be an advanced robot. Not even when Zaramordar's upset and goes into one of his rage fits is enough to shake the Commander.
The stoic, almost lifeless expression is always present and the bird would often comment in a sly, almost sarcastic tone about the failure of a mission, attributing them to his lord's childlike behavior or the canary's lack of understanding when it comes to strategies on the battlefield.
Unbeknownst to everyone, even Zaramordar, Commander Vardos has only one aspiration – to usurp his lord and seize control of the Ibonian Army, believing himself to be a much more efficient leader than the canary.
END OF SUPPLEMENT
Rise of The Foxtrot Unit
Onboard the Maverick, within the confines of the main deck, surrounded by consoles, computers and navigational systems was the current leader of the Ibonians, Lord Zaramordar, sitting comfortably in the captain's seat, observing the Planet Fennecia through the large, stainless windows. If one were to traverse the halls of this warship, they would be greeted with an atmosphere of an uncertainty and paranoia. The crew members were all carrying out their duties diligently, operating at full capacity just like the warship – the only difference was that, while the Maverick was running on a type of fuel native to Cordatia, the Ibonian's homeworld, the Ibonian crew was running on fear, knowing that even the tiniest mistake could set off Zaramordar – the canary might have been small, but his inner rage was greater than the cosmos.
If one were to take a first glance, one would make the assumption that the canary looked like a stereotypical villain from a cartoon series – shrouded in a black cloak from head to claw over a red, sleek jumpsuit looking a bit like the red shirts or uniforms that were worn by various officers on Star Trek. Completing the image were a pair of white gloves like the ones worn by cartoon characters during the rubber-hose era of animation, a belt with multiple pouches and a weapon holster attach to it that had a blaster pistol in it.
Standing by his side was Commander Vardos, Zaramordar's second in command. To impose authority over the crew, the secretary bird's choice of clothing was a white officer uniform, with log sleeves to cover his wings, a long string of black buttons sewn in the middle of the uniform and a couple of medals stood proudly on the right side of his chest. His knowledge of war strategies along with a cunning mind made him very versatile on the battlefield, and was not afraid to join the troops on the ground if needed be – one had to wonder if the whole universe would have been dominated by the Ibonians had Vardos been in charge.
"Fennecia. So close, and yet so far way. The crème de la crème of space rocks, the jewel of the Sigma Quadrant. Nothing would bring me more joy than to see it subjugated and all of its resources drained! If I can conquer the richest planet in this Quadrant, I will no longer be seen as a failure by my father! My victory here would be enough for him to re-include me in his will and accept me as his son! My dream would've become a reality HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR THE NATIVES PUTTING UP SO MUCH RESISTANCE! OOOH, I HATE THEM, I HATE THEM, I HATE THEM!" the frustrated canary started shouting, bouncing up and down angrily in his seat while Commander Vardos, sighed and shook his head, disapproving of his lord's childish outburst.
Several orbital cycles had passed since Zaramordar's flagship, The Maverick, docked on Asimov, Fennecia's smallest natural asteroid, establishing a small command station on the asteroid's surface. The mission was simple and straightforward – invade the planet, subjugate the population and collect its valuable resources – easy as pie.
One thing that Zaramordar hadn't anticipated was for the mission to encounter complications and obstacles, with every attempt to dominate the planet ending in defeat. No matter the number of troops or attacks, the Lycalopians would always triumph, forcing the Razorbeaks to retreat in shame. Still, some victories did not come without casualties and it was undetermined for how long would the Lycalopians be able to hold the line.
"TELL ME, COMMANDER!" Zaramordar cried with a demanding tone, turning his seat to face the secretary bird. "WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO DEFEAT THOSE MEDDLING LYCALOPIANS!?"
"If I may, My Lord, the reason why every attempt has been met with failure after failure, is because, instead of listening to the strategies I bring to the table, you decide to send in the troops blindly without a plan of attack. Every. Single. Time." Vardos responded with a calm, indifferent tone, putting emphasis on the last three words.
"That's because your strategies are so boring with them diagrams and pie charts! We are here to conquer a planet, not go back to school!" Zaramordar spat, slamming his wing on the seat's arm cover.
"In your case, that might be needed, considering that, one time, you mistook the ship's radar with a video game console." the secretary bird muttered under his breath.
"What was that!?" the canary snapped.
"Nothing, Sir. Must have had something stuck in my throat." Vardos lied, coughing a bit to validate his false claim.
"Anyway, I'm tired of losing and I'm tired of those foxes to make a mockery out of me!" Zaramordar fluttered his wings violently before taking in a deep breath and exhaling, calming himself down. "Maybe you're right, Commander, and I should take a different approach. Well, I'll think about it over lunch – my pizza should be arriving soon."
"You ordered pizza, My Lord?" Vardos raised an eyebrow.
"Hey! An evil, tyrannical ruler can indulge himself from to time to time. Besides, I can't think of any plans on an empty stomach." Zaramordar rubbed his belly and licked his beak, thinking about the warm, scrumptious pizza with bird seeds.
"I suppose there's some truth to that statement, Sir."
Meanwhile, on the planet Fennecia, within the interior walls of the Canide Castle, Princess Natalie sat on her throne, looking at the long line of subjects who had brought her gifts and offerings with great disinterest, chin resting on her fist. It wasn't that she didn't love her people and that she didn't take her royal responsibilities seriously – she was just tired of her status as a princess. As a child, she had been pampered and spoiled by her parents, with numerous servants to grant all of her wishes at her disposal along with receiving the most expensive of gifts.
One would assume that she would grow up to become a spoiled, bratty princess who would throw a fit whenever things wouldn't go her way, but that wasn't the case with Natalie. While her parents were away on diplomatic missions, Natalie was left in the care of the palace's housekeeper named Midna. Coming from a humble home and family, Midna was very kind towards Natalie and it wasn't long before a strong friendship was formed between the two.
Natalie had learned a lot of things from Midna, most notably that she shouldn't let materialism and power get in her head along with being independent and not rely on others to make decisions for her. For a leader to be beloved by their people, they needed to put the well-being of a nation before theirs, make difficult decisions and listen to the people's voice.
Knowing that her parents wouldn't approve of her teachings, given that they were traditionalists when it came to royal etiquette, Midna had made Natalie promise to not speak to anyone about it, a little secret between them and assuring her that she would become a great queen one solar cycle.
For orbital cycles, Natalie had to put up with her parents' demands, putting on a fake persona and acting like someone she wasn't – snotty, talking down on her subjects, arrogant and selfish. If she could take a look at herself in a mirror and see that persona being reflected, she would pick up a bucket and gag in it.
The fact that her birthday was coming up soon didn't help the situation either as her parents had already made early preparations like hanging Christmas decorations during November.
The vixen still had nightmares when her mother had gifted her with a very expensive dress last stellar cycle. Pain and misery filled her blue eyes as she stared back at her reflection – the velvet garment was complimenting her natural, red fur and cascading, scarlet hair and it made her mother jump with excitement with tears in her eyes.
Seeing her mother act like that only made Natalie hate her life even more, and nothing would bring her more joy than to burn that dress with a flamethrower.
Add the fact that her parents had arranged for the castle to be decorated with flowers along with ordering five ice sculptures representing their daughter, hiring a singing quartet, organizing a huge feast as well as a potential rumor that they might have found a possible suitor for her, and Natalie was this close to jump into a rocket and leave the planet.
However, things were about to change – for too long she had to endure sitting on the throne, being showered with admiration and gifts from her subjects, even if she felt that she hadn't done anything to earn them, and being overindulged by her parents. With the threat of Lord Zaramordar and his army of Razorbeaks over the horizon, it was time for her to break the status quo and fend off the invaders.
Just when she was about to be presented with a new, royal scepter, the princess stood up from her throne and yelled as loudly as her lungs allowed.
The throne room fell in complete silence – it was so quiet that one could hear a pin drop. Even the long row of portraits depicting former rulers of Fennecia hanging on the walls looked as if they were all staring at Natalie with shock and disbelief and the same could be said about Natalie's parents, King Montgomery and Queen Philomena.
"I say, my dear daughter." Montgomery broke the silence. "What seems to be the problem?"
"What seems to be the problem, Father?" Natalie spoke in a rather mocking tone, turning to face the king. "I'll tell you what's the problem! Fennecia is, constantly, under threat and we're doing nothing to boost our defenses! Or, even better, coming up with a plan to crush our enemies so hard that they would have no choice but to leave the planet and never return! At this point, we're practically leaving the door wide open for anyone to conquer us and, in case you didn't notice, there's an army of space birds that have taken over Asimov and set up a base there, Father!"
"You watch your tone when you speak to your father, young lady!" Philomena said sharply, disapproving of her daughter's behavior.
Natalie then glanced at her mother – the princess was an almost spitting image of her mother with the only differences being the choice of clothing, eye color and the hairstyle. One would say that Philomena looked more like an older sister to Natalie and was not her actual mother, a compliment that Philomena enjoyed greatly, fully grateful for being blessed with such a young appearance.
As for her father, she had his eyes, blue as the sky above. Apart from sharing the same regal, red fur, Montgomery's most distinguishing feature was his thick, walrus type mustache.
When Natalie was little, she would often play with his mustache, tugging it as hard as she could. Even if it was painful, Montgomery's heart was filled with joy upon seeing his daughter having so much fun. Deep down, Philomena felt like Natalie seem to prefer her husband over her as, throughout most of her childhood, her daughter had gravitated more towards her father, hurting the queen on the inside, a pain she had been trying her hardest to suppress.
"Apologies, Mother, but it had to be said." Natalie said, trying her best to not let her temper take complete control. "Something needs to be done for, otherwise, we're all doomed. And if nobody feels like they are up to task, I will do it."
"Natalie, be reasonable." Philomena chimed in. "It's your duty to remain within the safety of these walls, attend royal gatherings and meetings. You're a princess, not a general. What would you know about formulating battle strategies, coordinate attacks or organize an army?"
"Mother, I'm not a princess from a fairy tale." Natalie stated, ignoring to address the questions. "I'm not going to sit idly by and wait for some dashing knight in shining armor to rescue me. I've made my decision - I aim to take action and neither you or Father can convince me otherwise."
And without even waiting for her parents to respond, Natalie left the throne room, the subjects and guards still unable to comprehend what had happened, staring with bewilderment at the hallway leading outside and then at Natalie's parents.
"Wait, Natalie!" Philomena called her out. "Guards! Stop her! She's going to get herself hurt! Guards!"
"Let her go, my love." Montgomery intervened, placing a hand on his wife's shoulder. "I know what you're going to say, but you heard her – nothing we say or do is going to stop her. I hate to admit it, but we may have grown softer over the stellar cycles. Heh, she almost reminded me of when I joined the army the first time – the apple doesn't fall far from the tree at all."
"But what is she going to do? I mean, did she plan this for a long time? I'm just... I'm worried about her, hubby." the queen said with a panicked, shaken tone.
"I know you are, honey, but you have to realize that our little girl has grown up. Only time will tell if she made the right decision. One thing is for certain, though – she's resourceful and she can take care of herself. Let's see what will happen and, if needed be, we will interfere. Look, if it makes you feel better, I'll arrange for some of my best incognito agents to keep an eye on her and they will report to us on a daily basis." Montgomery assured her, holding her hand softly.
"It... does make me feel better a bit." Philomena replied, a faint smile stretching on her lips.
Back on the Maverick, Zaramordar was starting to lose his patience, his belly rumbling and yearning for food, sounding almost like the roar of a predatory beast.
"Argh! Where is that Steve!? He was supposed to pick up that pizza ages ago!"
"Patience is a virtue, Sir. An exemplary trait that a leader should have." Vardos said with a sarcastic tone.
"Tell that to my stomach! If that bumbling idiot is not here with my pizza when I finish counting to ten, I'll order this ship to blow up a nearby planet! One! Two! Three! Five, six, seven, eight-"
"You forgot to count the four, My Lord." Vardos cut in.
"The four?" the canary asked, sounding confused.
"Yes – you didn't say four." the secretary bird tried to explain.
"Now is not the time to play golf, Commander!" Zaramordar barked.
"Ugh. Forget it, Sir." Vardos facepalmed.
Just then, the main doors slid open and there stood Steve, the respective Razorbeak Trooper instructed by Zaramordar to pick up the delivery, holding a pizza box.
It was near impossible to distinguish each individual trooper's name, mostly because they all wore the same black and red, armored suits made from the most state of the art technology on Cordatia, capable of withstanding harsh, environmental conditions and having a high resistance rate towards fires or blasts from weapons. One small design flaw was that movement was a bit restricted and it was a real pain if one had a case of the itches.
The only reason why Zaramordar even bothered to memorize the soldier's name was because of the assignment, even if the canary got his name wrong, calling him Larry instead of Steve. It was long rumored that Zaramordar didn't give two intergalactic credits about the well-being of his troops, often sending them on suicide missions which resulted in many Ibonians ending up in the medical wing.
Add in the long and stressful time when performing duties, the quality of food being mediocre and the leader's poor skills in leadership, and it was no wonder that many resigned from their positions with the only ones who had no other options remaining.
"Ah, perfect! My pizza is here!" Zaramordar said with an excited tone. "See? What I tell you, Commander? Patience is a virtue."
"Quite the words of wisdom there, My Lord." Vardos nodded, wishing deep down for the opportunity to strangle the canary.
"Apologies for the delay, Lord Zaramordar." Steve took a bow. "I got stuck in traffic."
"Never mind that, Trooper. Hand over the pizza." Zaramordar extended his wings towards Steve.
"Sir, I should inform you that the pizza is very hot and it would be wise to place it on a table-" Steve began but was cut off by Zaramordar.
"I'm not going to ask again, Trooper. Do as you are told OR I'LL TOSS YOU OUTSIDE THROUGH THE AIRLOCK!" the canary ordered with a threatening tone.
"A-A-As you wish, My Lord." Steve gulped, approaching the canary and handing him the pizza box.
And then the inevitable happened for the pizza's crust was so hot that it melted the bottom part of the box, the pie falling on the canary's lap with a loud splat. If one were to tell someone that in space, nobody could hear someone scream, Zaramordar was quick to prove that statement wrong as his screams were heard across the entire Maverick, some crew members getting startled and jumping out of their seats.
"WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME THAT THE PIZZA WAS HOT, YOU IDIOT!" the canary screamed after shoving the pizza away from his lap, the pie landing on the cold, steel floor and staining it with cheese, tomatoes and bird seeds.
"A thousand apologies, sir! I did try to tell you!" Steve defended himself, waving his wings frantically.
At that point, Zaramordar's anger reached a boiling point that he pulled out his laser blaster from its holster and aimed it at Steve, the soldier's heart skipping a beat and his blood ran cold.
"No! No, please! Forgive me, Lord Zaramordar!" the terrified Razorbeak got on his knees, begging for mercy.
"Don't you think that this is a bit too drastic, Sir?" Vardos interfered, placing his wing on the blaster.
"YOU KNOW THAT I DO NOT TOLERATE INCOMPETENCE! AND THIS BUFFON NOT ONLY MADE ME LOSE MY LUNCH, BUT ALSO GOT MY BEST CLOTHES COVERED IN CHEESE! I CANNOT LET THIS GO UNPUNISHED!"
Just before Zaramordar could pull the trigger, the ship's computer announced that Dr. Steinberg, the ship's head scientist and current leader of the Research and Armament Division wished to speak with Zaramordar.
"Shall I put him on hold, Sir?" Vardos asked, reaching out towards the console.
The canary took a deep breath and exhaled, lowering his blaster and calming himself down. Dr. Steinberg was one of the few members onboard the Maverick who had earned Zaramordar's respect from the moment of setting foot on the ship. A brilliant mind and a graduate with numerous degrees, Steinberg had made a big impression on the canary, impressing him with his ideas and schematics related to weaponry for troops, the ship as well as any vehicles deployed on the battlefield.
Zaramordar knew that whenever Steinberg called, it meant that something big had happened, a milestone had been reached, progress had been made or a project had been completed and, as such, decided to spare Steve – for now.
"No. Patch him through."
Vardos nodded and pressed a button on the console to accept the call.
"Lord Zaramordar." Steinberg spoke. "I have great news - Project War Machine is ready to begin testing. The only setback is that I wasn't able to find any volunteers at the time of this calling and, as such, I'm afraid that it will have to be delayed until further notice."
The canary then turned to face Steve and a sinister, almost demonic smile formed on his beak.
"No need for further delays, Dr. Steinberg. I think I've found the... perfect test subject." Zaramordar said before laughing maniacally, causing Steve's knees to tremble with panic as anxiety gripped his heart tightly, fearing of what was to come.
"Huh – no guards to stop me? Looks like I got through to them." Natalie said in her thoughts while traversing a long hallway illuminated by torches mounted on the walls, and decorated with a long row of suits of armor. Unlike the paintings in the throne room, the suits of armor did not appear as judgmental and were not looking down at the princess, maintaining their gaze upwards as if they were supporting the vixen's decision in a silent manner.
"It wasn't easy but I had to it! I'll show them that there's more to this princess than meets the eye! I'LL SAVE THIS PLANET AND SET MYSELF AS AN EXAMPLE FOR FUTURE PRINCESSES AND PRINCES TO FOLLOW AND I... got no idea how to do it..."
All that determination, spirit and excitement just evaporated upon realizing that she hadn't planned ahead on how to achieve her goal. She had assumed that her parents were going to make a big fuss out of it that she had been more focused on counter-arguing with them and not on the main, important aspect.
"Okay, Natalie, there's no need to panic." the vixen tried to calm herself down. "Remember what Midna told you – great accomplishments can come from even the smallest of things. Wasn't there like a movie in which a bunch of small resistance forces took down a malevolent, intergalactic federation with the help of space wizards?"
After pondering for a bit, a light bulb popped up above her head.
"That's it! A small group can take down a larger one! I don't need an army to defeat the invaders – I need a good crew! A team, a squad, a unit! But who should I recruit?"
And then an old, almost forgotten memory filled her mind – when she was young, her family had always been visited by General Sionnach, a close friend of her father since childhood. Montgomery had always held Sionnach in high regard and the general's triumphs had awarded him with many medals, earning him a spot in Lycalopian history as one of the greatest generals in the Royal Army.
"Yeah!" Natalie snapped her fingers. "Sionnach would be a great addition! Thing is, how am I gonna convince him to come out of retirement? Eh, I'll worry about that after I find him. Time is of the essence and the future of Fennecia is at stake!
The princess then struck a victory pose, fist thrusting into the air, hand on her waist and standing on her tippy toes before crying proudly.
"Off saving the world! I gotta get myself a better catchphrase..."
After she left, one of the suits of armor turned its helmet to face the other one beside it.
"Don't you think it's a bit concerning that the princess is exhibiting early signs of madness by talking to herself?"
"You're a suit of armor, not a psychologist, Derek. Stick to your duty." the other suit of armor responded in a cold, sharply demeanor.
"Sometimes, I don't know why I even bother talking to you..." Derek sighted with disappointment.
Back on the Maverick, the loud whirring of machinery could be heard from within an operating room as all sorts of contraptions and robotic arms equipped with syringes, saws and other surgical tools were performing surgery on a shadowy figure strapped to a metal table with leather belts while Zaramordar and Vardos were observing from a small distance away.
The room was cold and there were not that many lights brightening it, giving it a rather unsettling, creepy atmosphere – the smell of antiseptic and disinfectant filled the room, impregnating itself on the walls and making both Zaramordar and Vardos cough a couple of times.
"Just a few more adjustments and the operation is finished, Lord Zaramordar." Dr. Steinberg was heard from a speaker placed on the ceiling of the room.
"Excellent!" the canary rubbed his wings with anticipation. "This is going to be delicious! Like a veggie burger!"
"Not even I could've come up with a better comparison, Sir." Vardos remarked in a dry tone.
Just then, the main computer announced the latest updates via the same speaker that Steinberg had used.
"Status: The battle program has been uploaded into the CPU. All systems are functioning at a nominal capacity. Defensive and weapons systems - online. Optical sensors - online. Targeting system - online. Directives uploaded. System efficiency – 100%. Operation – successful."
The straps were then removed and the shadowy figure was released from the table, falling on its knees and supporting itself on its wings. There was silence, safe from the low breathing coming from the figure – it sounded heavy as if they had problems inhaling and exhaling.
"Steve? How are you feeling, Trooper? Steve? You there?" Vardos reached out.
"Yes." a robotic voice answered, the figure slowly rising up with a pair of red eyes glowing in the dark. "But I'm no longer what I once was. Call me..."
And from the shadows, "Steve" emerged – the former Razorbeak was gone. In his place, stood a machine in the shape of a cassowary, a shell of its inhabitant former self comprised of wires, screws and coated with a resistant titanium plate with an advanced weapon system incorporated within.
TO BE CONTINUED
Disclaimer: The character of Princess Natalie belongs to ReverieRiver and the respective character was used with permission.