Meanwhile, back on the Enterprise…
"Sir, sensors have picked up a small craft at the edge of the Lylat system," said the Ensign who had taken over Ops while Data was with Katina.
"On screen," Picard ordered.
The viewscreen switched to show a small starfighter adrift in space, its engines dead.
"Any lifeforms on board?" Picard asked.
"Yes sir, one, but I can't tell what species," replied the Ensign.
"That must be the pilot. Hail them," Picard said.
"As a matter of fact, they are hailing US. I'm putting them on the viewscreen now."
The picture on the viewscreen changed again to reveal the face of a humanoid bird with purple feathers and a yellow beak.
"Whoever's out there, I'm glad you're here," said the birdman, "I am Colonel Peter Klopford of the Noznian Armed Forces."
Picard stared at him in disbelief. "General Klopford's son?!"
"Yes," replied the birdman, "I understand if you're skeptical, and I would be happy to explain what happened, but first I would appreciate it if you could bring my ship into your shuttlebay. My engines are dead and there are Venomian fighters trying to hunt me down."
"I sense no deception from him, Captain," Troi commented, "He is who he says he is."
"Very well. Ensign, lock on with a tractor beam and bring the ship into the shuttlebay. I will meet him there," Picard stood up and straightened his shirt. "Number One you have the bridge. Counselor Troi, you're with me."
Picard and Troi headed for the turbolift and Riker took Picard's seat. The Ensign at Ops proceeded with his orders and locked on to the small craft.
When Picard and Troi arrived in the shuttlebay, the starfighter had just been brought in. The cockpit opened and Peter jumped out. His arms resembled wings more than arms, but he had what appeared to be normal shaped hands, except they were covered by the same kind of purple feathers that covered the rest of his body. His legs were covered with feathers down to where his knees should be, and the rest of his legs were a typical scaly yellow bird's leg. He even had a set of tail feathers.
"Thanks," he said to Picard, offering a handshake. "Life support can only last me so long."
Picard shook the birdman's hand briefly. "I would greatly appreciate an explanation as to what has happened here."
"Certainly," Peter replied, "I was out here training two new pilots in these starfighters, Falco Lombardi and Katt Monroe. We ended up passing a little too close to Venom, the giant green planet at the edge of the system. An evil scientist named Andross is currently exiled there. He captured us and turned us into… animals, I guess. Falco became a bird like myself, only his feathers were blue, and Katt was turned into… well… a pink cat."
"And where are your students now?" Picard asked.
"We all managed to escape Venom and sought refuge on Corneria. There we found a large population of other humanoid animals like ourselves, only they had always been that way. Falco and Katt decided to stay there and eventually help Corneria fight against Andross. I left because I have a duty to my homeworld. You are familiar with the prophecy about my family, right?"
"Yes, General Klopford briefed us on that before we went to go pick up Katina," Picard acknowledged.
"You have Katina here?" Peter asked.
"She is not on board at the moment," Picard explained, "Your father contacted us recently with a mission for her. She is currently on a planet nearby that used to have a Noznian colony. My second officer, Lt. Commander Data, is accompanying her."
"Good, good…" Peter sighed, "I'm sure there was a good reason for my father to send her on a mission so soon when she hasn't yet joined our military. As a matter of fact, I am concerned as to whether or not I still possess the powers I once had as a human. Without those abilities, I wouldn't be a very successful General. But if Katina had them, she could take my father's place instead."
"You seem so quick to doubt yourself, Colonel," Troi pointed out.
"It's obvious that I'm already lacking tactical prowess," Peter said, pointing to the damage on his ship, "I've NEVER had that much trouble against a small squad of fighters before!"
"Your father thought you may have been killed, which is why we are taking Katina with us to Noz," Picard explained, "He wanted to inform her that she would most likely be his successor. We've been instructed to not tell her about this, but if she were to see you and discover you are lacking your special powers, she would probably figure it out."
"Well dad never told ME not to say anything," Peter replied with a smirk. "She will need to know anyway. Now's not the time for secrets or surprises or childish games. If Katina's going to be the new General then she needs to know soon and she'll have to do a lot of growing up rather quickly. I'll need to speak to her the moment she gets back."
"Which should be soon, in fact," Picard remembered. "We are supposed to be rendezvousing with their shuttle soon. In the meantime, you will stay with us. I suggest you go to sickbay so Dr. Crusher can examine you and determine what kind of damage may have been done by your transformation, and then you will be shown to your quarters. Counselor Troi will escort you."
"Awesome, thanks," Peter replied in a manner that suggested he was smiling, though it was hard to tell with his beak.
"If you'll follow me, Colonel," Troi said, indicating the door.
"Please, call me Peter," he said as he approached Troi. He offered his feathery arm, and the two of them left for sickbay, followed by Picard who headed back to the bridge.
Chapter Notes: I guess you could kinda call this Chapter 6.5... and HERE is where the Starfox references make their main appearance!
Chapter End Notes: Aaaaaand... we have now reached the point where I left off! I have alot of the next chapter written, but it's in desperate need of some work.