Starfox: Phoenix from the Ashes

   This story was written and posted for entertainment purposes only. Fox McCloud, Falco Lombardi, Peppy Hare, Slippy Toad, Fara Phoenix, General Pepper, Andross, Corneria and all other characters and places created by Nintendo are copyright and TM Nintendo Power and/or Nintendo of America Inc. Used without permission.
    All other characters not part of the standard Starfox cast and crew are part of the author’s imagination, and may not be used without the author’s permission. Odds are you won’t get it, even though they are bit characters for the most part, so don’t ask.
    The title of this story has been graciously suggested by Falcon McCooper of OTG, so wherever you might be right now – thanks.

    Chapter 1: It All Starts Here
    Home is where the heart is. I just wish it wasn’t such a mess all the time. – Fox

   The desert planet of Papetoon, located relatively close to the sun of the Lylat system, was normally a quiet, peaceful place to live. Golden sands stretched as far as the eye could see, and occasionally rocky plateaus could be found, allowing a building location for the many habitants on the planet. While it was warm nearly year round, the general populace had grown used to it. They mainly liked the peace and quiet, allowing them to live their lives without interference.
    Today was not to be one of those quiet days however.
    A small Imperial Transport had just lifted off the warm sands, its engine rumbling as it brought itself to full power. A successful launch was not to happen however as the craft suddenly shook from an internal explosion. Inside the cockpit two lizards were arguing with each other over the cause. “We are under attack!” yelled the first one. “I thought this planet was under our control!”
    “It is!” roared the second, trying to stabilize the craft. “Only one pirate could be so desperate – Fox McCloud!”
    The ship shook again as a gaping hole erupted on the outside of the transport, showering the ground below with warped steel and debris. Four people on single manned hoverbikes flew out of the gap, seemingly pleased with their handiwork. The leader of the group was the aforementioned Fox McCloud, an average height vulpine covered with fine light brown fur. His simple clothing and a tattered red cloak flapped in the wind as he looked back upon the rest of his crew.
    Falco Lombardi was the first person Fox saw as he shouldered a small hand cannon onto his back. Falco was of an avian species, dark blue feathers ruffling in the wind. He put away his own hand cannon as he looked over to the third member of their group, Peppy Hare. “What’s the haul, Peppy?” he asked, wondering if they had found anything useful this time around.
    Peppy was the oldest member of Fox’s team, the aging hare looking around, making sure they weren't being followed. He ignored the wind that swirled through his coarse dark brown fur as he quickly went through the haul in his mind, responding after a moment. “Slim pickings – a couple of fuel packets, food rations, and a bunch of assorted electronic components.”
    Fox spoke to his group as they sped along. “Another Imperial Transport down. At least Andross won’t be adding that to his collection.” He thought for a moment before turning to his final group member, Slippy Toad. “Slippy, deliver those food rations over to the local village right away.”
    Slippy was a rather short amphibian, and had a greenish hue to his body. He checked to make sure the goods were secured on his hoverbike, and then responded to Fox, “I’m on it boss.” With that he turned and sped away.
    The threesome continued their path over the desert planet, which turned from sand to rock as they traveled along. The group had a hideout that they had stumbled upon a little over a year ago as they searched for a good hiding spot during a previous Imperial raid. It was nothing more than a few caves connected together, but with a few modifications it became a nice comfortable home, and the entrance was completely hidden in the cliff face. Pulling a small remote from his pocket, he pushed the lone button, watching as a small opening appeared on the side, allowing access to his group.
    They flew in, the only light coming from the opening behind them. Falco turned to Fox as they slowed down, his face a strange silhouette in the light, and said, “Fox, we can’t go on like this. No one ever got rich raiding Imperial scows.” He paused for a moment, continuing to speak his mind. “I say we move on to a rich planet with lots of fat commercial freighters for the taking.”
    Having now landed, Fox leaped off his bike stalking over to Falco. He was clearly not pleased with what was just said. Looking up at his taller teammate, he growled, “Feathers-for-brains! For the last time, we are not thieves! We’re sort of a people’s appropriation committee. That’s why we only raid only Imperial ships!” He turned and stomped off to his room, slamming the door behind him.
    Peppy flipped on an overhead light, illuminating the main room to their hideout. The place was basically an organized mess, but it had a well-lived feeling to it. He scratched the white fur that covered most of his face as he sadly spoke to Falco. “Falco, my good avian, have you forgotten the golden rule?”
    He hated the so-called golden rule, even though it provided more excitement than he ever wanted, and he was tired of someone fifteen years his senior reminding him about it. “Yeah, I know. But…”
    The hare interrupted, trying once more to see if he could knock some sense into him. “Make the guy with the gold pay. We’re like Robin Hood - friends of the poor, heroes of the downtrodden species, snappy dressers. What we’re doing is helping everyone on this planet, not ourselves.”
    Falco muttered something unintelligible under his breath, looking over at Fox's room, having a good guess at what he was doing inside. Peppy interrupted his thoughts a few seconds later, saying, “Come on, let's get these bikes out of the way and recharged.”

   Meanwhile, Fox sat back on an armless chair in his room, an overhead light glowing dimly, thinking about his current position. In his paw he held an old photograph, one showing him as a child with his father, James McCloud, standing behind him. His father looked much like he did now, except in this shot he was wearing a military flight jacket. His father was a respected member of the Cornerian Military at the time of the photo. He had planned to join him when he got older.
    But his father was dead. As was his mother. Both were killed under rather suspicious circumstances about 10 years apart, with his father vanishing only two years ago, leaving him with an empty void in his family life.
    Fox replaced the photograph on the dresser next to him, trying his best at blocking off the painful memories it always invoked. With a quiet sigh he leaned back, closing his eyes. His mind wandered back to recent years, when he and his friends were all part of the Cornerian Academy. He had passed his courses with flying colors, as had his friends. Peppy was an instructor at the school. They were all planning to join the military upon graduation.
    But then Andross attacked. Armed with a huge armada of ships, and an equally large force of lizards manning them, the maniacal ape swept his way through the Lylat system, taking all that he wanted. Corneria was a peaceful world however, as was the rest of the system, and never had much of a military. They were also terrified of Andross’ power, going as far as exiling those who thought of fighting back.
    That was how Fox and his companions had ended up on Papetoon. As far as they knew from what little news they got of the other worlds, only Corneria itself was out of Andross’ grasp. He sighed, almost wishing that there was something he could do about it.
    His train of thought was suddenly cut off as he heard Slippy yelling to him from the other side of his door. “Fox! There was a holo-telegram for you in the village.”
    His curiosity was instantly piqued, as they rarely got any kind of messages, short of the ones describing their next mission. “Really? Come on in.”
    Slippy pushed open the door to his room and continued with what he knew, almost out of breath from his excitement. “It’s from Director General Pepper of Corneria’s Planetary Defense Council.”
    Now he really was interested in the contents of the message. Never had he ever received a message from someone in the military, especially from another planet. “General Pepper, eh? I thought he was only a sergeant.”
    “Maybe he needs a band of ruthless mercenaries who know no fear.”
    Fox laughed, knowing how unlikely that was. “Yeah, sure.” With that said, the two walked out and into the main room of their hideout, dodging around half-completed piles of junk that the toad had worked on in the weeks past. Falco and Peppy, interested in what was going on, moved over as Slippy made room on a messy table and hooked up an old holo-receiver they had acquired a few raids back. After inserting the disk they had received, the device sprang to life.
    “Ahem. Greetings Fox.” Appearing from the receiver was a spitting image of General Pepper from the waist up, surrounded by bursts of static as the device struggled to work. He looked to be a tall canine, smartly dressed in a military uniform, cap, and a dark pair of shades. He continued speaking. “You’re one difficult guy to reach. Did you know that the communications cartel had you excommunicated for lack of payment?”
    “Yeah, go figure.” Fox just grinned at the hologram, his white-tipped tail swishing behind him, knowing that Pepper couldn’t hear a word he was saying.
    “Here’s the deal, Fox,” Pepper continued. “I need the best pilots in the Lylat system for a plan we have, and I’ve run out of options. From your scores back in the Academy, you’re the best out there.”
    At this point Pepper faded from view and was replaced by an odd looking double-winged single manned fighter. “Our engineers have developed the most sophisticated star fighter in the galaxy – the SFX Arwing – and equipped it with state of the art weaponry. Only a squadron of Arwing fighters can combat the ever-growing menace of Andross’ troops.”
    “We’ve attempted to find other pilots on Corneria to make up the squad, but we’ve had no luck.” The image changed again to moving footage of pilots failing miserably in simulator tests. It was not a pretty sight as half the pilots looked to be one step short of losing their lunch as they climbed out of the craft. “You're our last hope. However, you will be well rewarded if you accept my offer and come to Corneria.”
    The image changed back to the General, dissolving into static for a moment. Slippy grumbled as he smacked the machine on the side, restoring the playback. “Even as I record this message, our sensors have detected Andross gathering his fleet for a final attack on Corneria. If he succeeds… We need all the help we can get, even from mangy outlaws like you.”
    Fox crossed his arms in mocking disgust, looking over his relatively well-groomed crew. “Who is he calling mangy?”
    The General took off his shades, a pleading look in his eyes. “There isn’t much time left McCloud. Now is the time to prove that you stand for honor, decency, and the freedom of the species. As I record this, we have plans on bringing a transport over to Papetoon to not only sneak in some supplies, but to pick you and a few others up as well. I hope that the week’s advance notice I am giving you as I make this will give you plenty of time to get aboard. It will launch the 18th, early in the morning, and hopefully there won’t be any lizard interference due to the secrecy. I’ll be waiting…” With that, the holo-message ended.
    Fox glanced over his group, trying to judge their thoughts. “Well, isn’t that interesting. He sounds desperate.”
    Peppy agreed with his statement. “Can you blame him? Only one small problem.”
    “The 18th is tomorrow.”
    Fox sighed. Nothing was ever easy. “Lovely. Well crew, this is up to you. Shall we go?”
    “I’d love to take down the Imperial scum!” said Falco, smacking his paws together with glee, eager to do something on a grander scale.
    “I’m with you all the way, Fox,” replied Peppy. While the hare was starting to get a tad old for yet another adventure, it was the least he could do to help.
    “I want to take a look at those new Arwings,” Slippy commented. The budding engineer in him wanted to see what made these craft tick, as well as actually fly them.
    Fox grinned, glad to see that his team was enthusiastic as he was. “I’ll take that as a yes from all of you.” He took a good look around the cave, their home for the last year. While it was what most would consider a total mess to anyone who looked upon it, it had been a very nice place to stay for them. “I guess it’s time to leave this place then for a much more entertaining life. Let's get packing crew. We have a flight to catch in the morning.”
    With everything said the four split off to their respective sleeping quarters to gather what little they had for the adventures ahead.

   Considering that the Papetoon Spaceport had an outgoing ship shortly, everything seemed to be rather quiet. Then again it was an hour before sunrise, and this ship wasn't exactly a scheduled arrival either. On top of that, most people had no reason to land at an occupied planet either, unless it was another shipment of Andross’ troops. The only thing that could be seen were a few staff of the craft loading up the final empty containers of cargo into the transport’s hold.
    Inside one of those containers were three people – Fox, Falco, and Peppy. Unable to find a way of sneaking aboard, they proceeded with the only option they could find, which was to stow away as a piece of cargo.
    Falco protested from inside the confines of the arid-smelling cargo pod. “I can’t believe this! Us, stowaways!”
    “Stop complaining,” muttered Fox as he wondered just what was inside this container before them. It really didn’t smell too healthy.
    “Pepper should have sent us Starliner tickets first class.”
    “We may be leaving without a cent, but one day we’ll be back and have fame and fortune on our side.”
    Falco continued to complain as the transport’s engines powered up for takeoff. The craft rumbled as the twin engines came to life, pushing them off the ground. “Get set for acceleration shock as we break through the atmosphere,” said Fox, finally quieting the avian down, at least for the moment.
    “Wait a sec,” questioned Falco. “How the heck did Slippy get his own pod?”
    “He didn’t,” said Peppy, thinking back to when he suddenly ran off earlier. “He said he found out where they stored the extra water tanks. He’ll be fine in there.”
    “Yuck. I wouldn’t want to drink that afterward.”
    Peppy laughed. “The filtration systems are more than good enough. Besides, he said he needed a bath anyway.”
    At that point the ship shuddered again, putting full power to the engines to break through the planet’s atmosphere. While the passengers and crew were unaffected by the sudden acceleration, the cargo bays weren’t designed to carry lifeforms. There was enough protection from the shock for cargo and not much more. The three in the cargo bays were put through multiple Gs of force for a few seconds before the ship finally got up to speed.
    Shaken up, the three groaned as they moved themselves back to a more comfortable position. Fox was the first one to comment not too long afterward. “Only 22 or so hours until we reach Corneria.” He groaned, tired of his life inside a cargo pod already, especially with this stench assaulting his senses. “Forget this, we can’t stay in this saltshaker forever. I’m taking a look around.”
    “Impatient like your dad was,” said Peppy, sniffing the air around him. “In this case though, I agree.”
    With that a quiet clicking sound could be heard in the cargo bay as the lid popped off the container the three were hiding out in. Fox took a quick look around to make sure nobody was watching, and then opened the lid fully. The area was littered with at least a dozen more of the same containers, each having the possibility of holding some useful materials, or worse, stowaways like the three of them.
    Falco was back to complaining again, interrupting the vulpine’s thoughts. “Nobody ever shipped out like this back home. No champagne, no dancing squirrels. How low the mighty have fallen.”
    Peppy just shook his head. “Very moving, Falco, but quiet down for a moment.” The hare, having always had the best hearing of the group, had caught an unusual sound nearby. “It sounds like a battle onboard!” He concentrated on the sounds coming from above him for a moment before he realized what he was hearing. “Imperial Lizards! Sounds like only a squad though.”
    Falco and Fox turned to each other. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” asked Falco with a smile.
    The vulpine grinned in return. “I’m thinking it’s our sacred duty to relieve these lizards of the burden of command.”
    Peppy just groaned as he lifted himself out of the pod. “Here we go again.”

   The transport was a relatively small one as far as transports go. Only four decks in height, its original design was to only convey cargo from one planet to another. The bottom deck was used for non-breakable cargo; the next one up was for more fragile cargo, or in this instance evacuees; the next was limited crew and expensive passenger quarters; and the top deck was for command and control.
    There were 50 or so passengers currently on the third deck, doing their best to entertain themselves during the trip to Corneria. Nobody was quite sure where the lizards came from, but in the end it didn’t matter much as there was no one ready or available to defend them.
    That was until Fox McCloud and his band arrived on the scene from the deck below via a small emergency hatch, allowing a silent entrance.
    The third deck was another large open deck like the previous one, covered with the same basic silver paintjob, but due to the more sensitive cargo, large drums and other assorted pieces of cargo were stashed along the sides of the room, giving plenty of hiding space for the threesome.
    Fox counted a dozen lizards, all keeping watch on their prisoners instead of keeping better track of their surroundings. Whispering to his group, he told them to spread out and attack when they were all ready.
    The vulpine stealthily approached his chosen target, tapping the lizard once on his shoulder to get him to turn around to accept a swift punch to the face. The creature dropped like a rock from the blow. Peppy took the height advantage by jumping upon one of the barrels, then launching off and landing on his opponent. Falco on the other hand took the more abrupt method of taking them all on at once.
    From that the battle was joined. Fox rolled on the ground, claiming the gun off his stunned attacker, shooting a lizard that was attempting to do the same to Falco. Peppy flattened another one with a well placed kick while the avian decided to throw his next opponent into a third, taking both of them down.
    Within a few more moments, the battle was won. Making a swift check for further combatants, Fox remarked, “Well, that was too easy. I wonder why?”
    “I guess they weren't expecting such hazardous cargo,” replied Falco, smiling at his own joke.
    Fox laughed as Peppy chimed in, “But why send Imperial troops on a freighter?”
    Their question was answered moments later as a commotion was heard over by the escapees, the crowd shuffling away from something. The threesome turned, instantly noticing what seemed to be the trooper's leader holding a female fennec fox in a headlock and at gunpoint.
    The lizard noticed the attention and spoke in a low grumble, “Stand still scum bait, or the girl gets it. Some hero you turned out to be you tattered fool.”
    Fox whispered over to Peppy, trying to figure out what was going on. “Is he bluffing? Who's the hostage?”
    Peppy shook his head as he replied, “It's no bluff! That's Fara Phoenix, daughter of the spaceship magistrate on Corneria!”
    The lizard moved himself away from the crowd and closer to Fox and crew, having heard the conversation. “Yes, how clever of you. Father Phoenix over there is dying to see what you'll do.”
    Fara struggled to get away as the lizard continued to move closer, but was rewarded with getting the gun jammed against her brown furred throat, her ears drooping back in response. “I'd stop that if I were you precious.” He glared at Fox, knowing he had the upper hand. “Now drop your weapons! I've got what I want, it's time for me to leave!”
    Fox debated if he could get a shot off before the other fired, but he decided that it wasn’t worth risking a life to make the attempt. Left with no other option, dropped his acquired weapon to the floor with a clang. The lizard smiled upon seeing him comply. “Smart move, poorly dressed one. Now get out of my way.”
    With that the lizard continued to drag Fara along the deck. The vixen’s green eyes met Fox's own as they passed. His was the look of sadness, knowing there was little he could do. Hers showed nothing but fear, knowing that there wasn't anyone else there who could save her, that she was on her own.
    Or was there?
    Fox thought he saw movement at the top of the barrel that the lizard was just now moving under. He stared for a second and saw it again. Hoping it was what he thought it was, Fox decided to take a chance.
    “Uh, Mr. Lizard sir? Hold on a second.”
    The lizard stopped moving and stared at Fox. “What?” he hissed, taking the bait.
    “I just wanted to say, that, uh, it was nice meeting you. And, uh, look out!”
    The lizard's face registered nothing but confusion for just a second from the utter nonsense that he had just heard. But that was all the time Slippy needed.
    The toad had been enjoying a simple soak in one of the water barrels right next to the exit of the upper deck. With it being so out of the way he easily got in without anyone noticing. When the fight started, he kept watch from his location, noticing that his help wasn’t needed. While the battle was entertaining, in the end he was glad he’d stayed put, as this was his chance to do something.
    He used the barrel top as a weapon, swinging it with all his might at the lizard's head. With a resounding thwack it connected, dropping the creature to the ground before he had a chance to react. Slippy waved from his position as he surveyed the damage. “Hey ya, Fox!”
    Fox laughed. “Nice timing there, Slippy.” He turned to make sure that Fara was okay, but she was already up and running back to her father, giving him little more than a large smile as she sped off.
    Falco was back to his usual complaining. “We could have used your help earlier, frog-face!”
    Slippy cowered. “Sorry guys, I was taking a bath! You didn’t need me anyway.”
    “Take it easy on him, Falco, he really cleaned up!” commented Peppy with a smile, the team groaning at the joke.
    At that point, the transport’s commander, a dark furred lupine, walked over to the group. Assuming that Fox was the leader, he spoke to him. “Very nice work there. What’s your name?”
    “Fox McCloud,” he said, looking proud of his team’s rescue.
    “Well, Fox McCloud, Mr. Phoenix is extremely grateful for your efforts.”
    The group looked at their commander, images of small fortunes in their eyes. “How grateful I wonder…” Fox said to himself. He thought for a moment, then replied, “First class accommodations would be nice.”
    Images of fame and fortune were quickly erased as the captain led the group to their new room. Falco let his feelings known quickly upon being settled. “You could of asked for a moon you fool!”
    Fox, currently lying back on a couch, disregarded the remark. “Moons aren’t nearly as comfortable. Besides, I have other things on my mind…” He grew silent mid-sentence, which was rather unlike him.
    “Like testing those new Arwing fighters?” asked Peppy, taking a comfortable seat nearby, looking over their far nicer travel arrangements than before.
    Fox completely ignored the question, his green eyes almost twinkling for some reason, saying little short of, “Fara Phoenix… Nice name…”
    That brought nothing but confusion from everyone else in the room.