A/N: Thank-you everyone for your wonderful reviews! I don't expect there to be too many chapters after this one, but I will continue to update as long as the plot doesn't get stale or way off course. Thanks again for reviewing guys!

P.S. This one's a bit shorter than I intended, but I think it works out this way.

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Chapter 11: Forgiven

All was quiet in the bridge. The seven Storm Hawks were all in deep thought. Each of them was thoroughly confused about what had just happened a few minutes ago. Aerrow sat at the table, his fingers silently tapping the air above his knee. He racked his mind for ideas, but those that came forth were utterly absurd and could not be presented. Next to him, sitting on the table, was Radarr. The small creature was having just as much difficulty as his master. He sat with his legs crossed and his head rested in both palms. As Radarr thought, his tail twitched slightly with irritation.

Near the table, Pipe leaned against the wall. Her spiky hair was flattened as she looked up at the ceiling, hoping something would spark her mind. But no matter how far her imagination took her, the girl's logic would bring her down again. There was simply, in Piper's opinion, no reasonable explanation for the behavior of the Talons. And yet, something told her to keep searching, to keep reaching for the impossible.

Like her, Finn was coming with random ideas. He sat in one of the few chairs and kept popping ridiculous ideas into his head. Most of them became small daydreams as the he waited for one of the others to come up with something. Sitting right next to the blond, Junko gently tapped his foot. He had run out of ideas a while ago and was simply, doing as Finn, and waiting for one of the others to pop out an idea.

At the controls, Stork stood silent, keeping the Condor heading for Atmosia. He was determined to arrive there in the next hour or so and would not let a small thing as the false Talon attack to stop him. However, the merb had slowed the Condor down considerably, allowing the roaring of the engines to be at a minimal. Thus keeping it quiet enough for everyone to really think. Like his fellow Storm Hawks, the pilot had his own theory on what had happened. Yet he feared falling away from his friends more than he already had. So Stork kept his accusing thoughts to himself.

Draven stood by one of the windows, he wanted a view of everyone on the bridge. He watched like a waiting predator, anticipating his prey's next move. His eyes were filled with deception and a sense of accomplishment was around him. However, seeing as everyone else was thinking of something else, no one seemed to notice. Draven couldn't help but allow a very small smile to cross his lips. He had completed half his mission already, the final steps would be taken in the next forty-eight hours.

For no reason, the older teen glanced towards his adoptive brother just in time to see the merb turn towards him. Draven hid his pleasure and stared into Stork's searching yellow eyes. Putting on a face of innocent questioning, Draven stared back at his brother. When the merb could not find what he wanted, and turned away, Draven gave a small smirk, but kept his face innocent.

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When no one was able to come up with a sensible explanation for the Talon retreat, everyone finally agreed that their attack had been a mistake. After that, none of the Storm Hawks mentioned the incident and simply carried on with normal activities. However, things seemed uncomfortable whenever someone was in the bridge. They all knew that Stork would most likely still be upset about Draven's entrance into the Storm Hawks. They all tried to avoid the bridge as much as possible (Draven kept clear all together), and when they did go in, they skirted around the pilot and finished their business quickly.

It was not hard for Stork to figure out what his teammates were doing. At first he was irritated with them. The merb felt his anger grow every time one of them moved in and out. They refused to speak with him and treated him like some loaded weapon. But as they came in less and less, Stork realized why they were doing it and started to feel foolish and guilty. All this time, ever since Draven had arrived, he had acted venomously towards his friends, even though they had done nothing wrong. No wonder they had begun to treat him with caution.

Stork felt sorry for getting angry so many times and for the way he had been acting the past few days. His friends had accepted Draven for he had turned into and not who he had once been. Maybe it was time for Stork to do the same? Then again, things hadn't felt quite right since Draven's arrival. Stork allowed the Condor to slow as he began to think of how he had felt for the past few days. Realization was slowly coming to him and his face softened as his mind went over his actions.

Nearly stopping the Condor completely, Stork felt a knot that had been twisting in his stomach suddenly disperse. Taking in a shaky breath, the merb found it hard to deal with the sudden rush of guilt. However, his mind was soon taken off his own feelings as his ears twitched and caught the sound of someone walking into the bridge.

Turning around swiftly, Stork caught a startled Piper off guard. She held a rolled up map in her hands and looked as if she had tried to snatch it off the table as quickly as possible. Trying not to make eye contact with the carrier pilot, Piper tried to rush things along. "Um… we've taken a new mission. A distress call just came in and we'll be heading off course. We won't be able to get to Atmosia until this one is completed…" Piper looked away from Stork and down at her feet. Things had been rather shaky between the two friends for a while now.

Nodding slightly, the merb turned back towards the sky before him. Slowing the Condor to a simply hover, Stork asked, "What's our new destination?" Piper looked a bit startled, but then opened up her map. Moving towards the controls, the girl held the map unraveled in her hands and stood beside her friend. "A small terra just an hour an a half from here," Piper said, pointing to a small terra on the map. The small hunk of land was basically in the middle of a sea of clouds.

Silently nodding again, Stork gripped the controls more tightly and slowly turned the Condor around. Then he pulled a small lever down and flipped a switch to allow the cool air into the engines. Gently pressing buttons on either handle, Stork allowed the large carrier ship to gain speed.

Piper stood with the map for only a few seconds more, quickly checking their coarse with the tools on the table, then folded up the map and headed for the doorway. However, Stork turned just enough to see Piper and almost whispered, "I'm sorry." Piper stopped in her tracks and waited for more. "I'm sorry for everything. I should've listened to you and just forgiven Draven. But… but I allowed the past to rule my present. I'm sorry Piper. I think I now realize I was wrong about my brother, People can change."

The teenage girl was silent for a few moments. She wasn't sure how to reply at the unexpected apology. Finally, she uttered, "Maybe you should tell Draven this. He's the one you should apologize to, not me." Regretting her words almost as soon as they had come out, Piper opened her mouth to rephrase her thoughts, but was cut off by Stork's saddened voice. "You're right…"

Turning to finally face Stork, Piper only found his back. Not finding the right words to say, and not wanting to hurt her friend anymore, the girl reluctantly turned back towards the corridors and moved on. Her conscience, however, did not lift as a knot began to form in her stomach.

-(SH)-

The trip seemed to be longer than an hour and a half. To Stork, it was more like days. The silence in the bridge allowed the merb to think, but it also kept his imagination vivid. He recalled how small the terra was and how it was placed in a very empty place. There wasn't anything but clouds surrounding the small platform of rock and Stork couldn't think of any reason to really be out where the terra was. Only large barges really flew over that route.

Stork watched as terra after terra passed them and grew smaller in size until they completely disappeared. It took only a couple of minutes before every terra was replaced with a sea of clouds. Squinting as the Condor drew near to its destination, the merb pilot was expecting a crashed barge or carrier ship. Unfortunately, his searching was brought to a most confusing end as he spotted the tiny terra.

The terra wasn't much bigger than the Condor itself and was actually barely a terra. It was flat and there was no grass or anything on it. But one could easily make out the crashed skimmer and a distressed person waving enthusiastically as the Condor came into view.

Allowing the Condor to slowly hover towards the small terra, Stork walked over to where he had hooked up an intercom system. Holding down a button and speaking into the speaker, Stork's dreary voice suffused the Condor. "We've reached the crash site. It's only a single skimmer…" Stork let go of the button and returned to the controls of the Condor. As he did so, Piper, Junko and Finn walked into the bridge. All of them stood behind Stork and watched as Aerrow and Draven flew from the Condor towards the distressed pilot.

However, as the two Storm Hawks approached the waving man, the pilot suddenly turned and ran towards his skimmer. Aerrow and Draven stopped in mid air and could only watch in surprise as the pilot ran with his skimmer and fell off the terra. "Quickly, we can still catch him!" Aerrow called over to Draven and the two teens flew towards the piece of land before them.

No sooner had the two reached the terra, when a loud roaring came over the Storm Hawks. Aerrow skidded to a stop on the surface of the terra as Draven came to a stop just a few yards behind him. There was the sudden roar of engines and then a horrible sound that pierced the mass of skimmers: a violin.

As if called upon, Ravess and about twenty other Talons soared up towards the sky. Aerrow could only watch in shock as they seemed to rise from the wastelands. Gripping the handles on his skimmer, Aerrow dug one foot into the ground and quickly turned his skimmer around. Revving up the machine, the red head hit the gas and along with Radarr, drove towards the edge of the terra. Radarr immediately opened up the wings, allowing the pair to take to the skies.

Draven did as Aerrow did and turned his bike around as quickly as possible. With a sudden rev of the engine, Draven shot off the edge of the terra and pulled his four wings open. The sun easily reflected off the silver streaks of his black skimmer and the glass shield of his helmet. Taking to the air, Draven fell beside Aerrow and the two Storm Hawks headed for the Condor. However, Ravess had predicted this move and sent about seven Talons to cut the two off.

In the bridge of the Condor, Stork stood alone (Finn, Junko, and Piper had left for the hanger as soon as Ravess had showed herself), readying the cannons to fire. A small green light flashed on the edge of the controls, indicating that the cannons were fully charged. And yet, despite the number of Talons swarming the skies, Stork hesitated. Something didn't feel right. Where were the carriers? Surely Ravess and her Talons didn't set a trap and hover at the base of the terra all day.

Shaking his head clear, Stork deemed it unimportant at the moment and aimed the first cannon blast towards a cluster of Talons. However, before he could blast the Cyclonian warriors from the sky, Finn streaked across his crosshairs, breaking apart the Talons. The blond was quickly pursued by five laughing Talons. Piper was squaring off with another six, Junko was chasing Finn's Talons, Aerrow seemed to be handling the last nine… Where was Draven?

Stork searched the skies frantically. Sure he wasn't Draven's biggest fan, but Draven was still his "brother" after all. The merb's yellow eyes stopped searching as they found a distraught Ravess firing arrow after arrow at the black rider. Draven easily pulled his skimmer out of the path of each crystallized arrow. Ravess grew frustrated and stopped for only a short moment to take in her prey. Draven saw an opening and raced towards the Cyclonian leader-

Unfortunately, the teenage merb did not get to see what happened when Draven and Ravess met. A loud alarm suddenly blared in Stork's sensitive ears. Giving a small cry of pain, the merb placed both hands over his unsuspecting ears and looked down at the controls to see what had happened. To the merb's horror, the left engine had suddenly failed. "It overheated," Stork whispered to himself as he allowed his hands to fall and looked down at the color of the flashing light.

The effects of the lost engine weren't felt immediately, but only a few seconds after the alarm had blared, the Condor began to slowly tip to one side. Stork pulled on the handles and put all the weight on the right engine, which would be enough to keep him airborne. For how long, the merb wasn't sure.

As the large carrier ship leveled out, it seemed to start to ignore Stork's urges and began to fall back to the left. "No, no, no!" Stork shouted to himself as he pulled harder on the controls. A sudden jolt of electricity raced from the controls and through the pilot. Stork gave out a surprised yelp and let go of the controls completely. He could see the electricity racing through the steering and short circuiting the entire unit.

The control box gave one last spark of life and then failed completely. As the spark came, the lights on the Condor flickered and went out just as the carrier ship gave a large moan and hung on the last engine. Realizing that the ship was tipping faster than it should, Stork raced to the controls and pried off the cover. He then looked down into the tangle of wires and held the lid high above his head in surprise.

A deep, blue beetle was tearing up the wires. Realizing it was no longer as dark as it should be, the crystal like beetle looked up and seemed startled as seeing the green being before him. Clattering its pincers, the beetle turned to face Stork and suddenly seemed angry. The blue creature leapt from the ruined control box. Stork reacted just in time and brought the lid down in a swinging motion. The beetle was successfully tossed across the room and it shattered into shards against the wall of the bridge.

For a moment, Stork simply stared at the shattered remains of the beetle. Then his memory sparked and all of it came clear. It hadn't been a real beetle but instead a crystal… the crystal Draven had stolen from the Cyclonians! Stork didn't have much more time to think, he now understood why Draven was there, he understood why Draven had acted so kind to his friends.

Pulling out a pair of pliers, Stork hastily began work on the control box as everything came into mind. Realization after realization popped into his mind and a great worry came over the merb. His friends were in great trouble and only he knew why. Pausing only for a moment, Stork's face was frozen in fear as yet another idea came into his mind. However, this idea was proven correct much too quickly for the merb's liking as there was the sudden sound of breaking metal and the Condor lurched forward.

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Aerrow pulled his skimmer down just as a blast of energy soared over his head. Pulling his skimmer back up, the red head released one of his energy swords and raced towards the Talon that had fired at him. However, the teen was cut off as another Talon cut across him and fired off a shot. This one was not so easily dodged and the shot grazed the side of Aerrow's skimmer, nearly taking out Radarr in his sidecar.

Pulling hard, Aerrow turned his skimmer to the right and dove under Finn and Junko's battle with a group of Talons. Those that were battling the red head followed in pursuit and soon found themselves heading towards the carrier ship. Aerrow looked behind him for a moment and saw the Talons willingly following, a smile spread across the teen's face. But his smile was soon wiped away when he looked towards the Condor.

Nearly stopping in mid flight, Aerrow could just hovered there, looking on in horror. The battle seemed to quiet around him as his friends most likely caught site of the lopsided Condor as well.

The clouds behind the Condor suddenly grew darker and darker. They twisted and turned like a raging storm, but no rain fell from them. Slowly, two dark maroon hulls rose from depths of the wastelands. The clouds grew light again as the massive battle ships broke the surface and came to hover behind the Condor. Their engines roared like thunder and with the sound of concentrating energy, all four cannons on both ships fired one, by one, a stream of blue plasma at the Condor.

"No!" Piper sped past Aerrow and headed for the Condor just as the first wave of cannon fire hit the carrier ship. Small explosions erupted from the back of the Condor as blast after blast crashed into the ship. Aerrow could only watch as a frantic Piper raced for the ship, but slowed as she realized she wouldn't make it in time. The Cyclonian battle ships were too much for the carrier ship, and in a matter of seconds, they had torn through the hull of the Condor, literally ripping her in half.

The Storm Hawks were silent as their hearts seemed to stop beating. The world became suddenly cold and a great hand seemed to seize their souls. Aerrow's breathing became slow and he felt the Talons take hold of his body and keep him from moving. But Aerrow didn't care, for the world seemed to fade as he watched the Condor sick to the wastelands, smoke billowing from it.

-(SH)-