Author's Note and Disclaimer: I do not own StarFox or any of its characters, settings, and the like, as they are all owned by Nintendo, Rare, and Namco. The only thing I own is this fanfic and plot... well, at least my adaptation of it.
Just so you'd know, this is a one-shot story of Peppy retelling his experience in Venom and the fates of James and Pigma through his point of view. After playing StarFox Assault (which I rented and STILL will buy ), my love and respect for Peppy as an old member of the Team grew very much, still heroic and strong despite his years. I just felt inspired to do a short story about him and the first StarFox Team.
This short story is rated PG-13 for violence. Its complete genre is Tragedy/Angst/Drama.
Please review after reading. Reviews are welcome and loved!
I Cry Rivers
Characters by Nintendo
Story by ImagenAshyun
You are looking at me like I'm just some old man. Well... I am not getting any younger. I'm well advance in my years, as you can see... I've grown a white beard over my crème fur under my nose and over my mouth, and my once auburn patterns turn grey with age. Add the spectacles under my eyes to assist my blurry vision and my increasing absent-mindedness, and you wouldn't expect me to do much with my age. Well, I am 50. Over the hill. A dinosaur. Prehistoric. Blah blah blah... I'm quite used to the age jokes by now. And you know what? I don't mind them at all. I can accept I'm growing old. In fact, I'm looking forward to retirement as a mercenary; not because I'm getting sick of the job, but mostly because I feel it's time I leave the legacy of the StarFox Team to my junior members, who I know and trust will carry on with honor and greatness.
But I tell you, young one, with utmost candidness and honesty that only my body is growing old; yet my heart and spirit is as young as any teenager in the galaxy. Yet as young as it is, it is very worn—and very torn and broken. Age comes with experience, and believe me, young one, I've experienced a lot. I've had my share of tragedies, of warm and lovey-dovey feelings, of good times and bad... and it would be fair to say I had more good times than bad. But there was one bad experience... so horrendous, so traumatizing, so catastrophic, so... so... you know, words cannot express my sorrow over such an experience. If you have encountered something similar to this, then you know of my grief. Up to this day, I still mourn... over the loss of my two very best friends. One died a tragic and horrific death. The other betrayed all of my trust and stabbed us in the back.
I know you young ones have short attention spans; I was your age at one time too, and believe me, I was quite inattentive. All I ask of you is but a short moment- probably five minutes or so. I'll try to keep it short, although I know details will come superfluously. Can you blame me? It's not that I'm trying to bore you... it's just that there are some things- tiny details, short moments- that stick to your mind no matter how much you forget. It's not like the small speck of dust you find on your nose the morning you wake up, brush off while facing the mirror, then continue on with your day; it's nothing like that. That's something you'd forget the next five minutes. What happened to me over ten years ago- maybe even longer, I don't know- is something that will permanently scar me for life.
Now, if you ask me, which of my fellow teammates was I like the most during my day? Well... that would have to go to both Falco and Slippy. Why them? Well, with Slippy, what can I say? I was quite the mechanical genius, although not as intelligent as Slippy. Slippy has talent for these things; I had to learn them. Yet I had the energy and enthusiasm that Slippy still has today. And Falco? Pfft! Hahahah! Oh, yes, Falco. I really was like him when I was younger... I often boasted my piloting skills by flying in circles around James and Pigma. I was a dead-shot, and I hardly missed a target. Now? You can blame age for my degrading skills. I'm obviously not as energetic as Slippy now, and I had to give up the cockpit for Krystal as I cannot be cramped in that small space for a long time at a time. I can still fly an Arwing; just not for a very long time. And I still put up a pretty good battle on foot... but I leave those missions up for Fox.
So, yeah, that's me, as Slippy and Falco at once. Leaving me out and counting in Fox, that pretty much summed up the first StarFox Team. And Pigma? Pigma's a character all his own. The portly fella loves money more than adventure. Quite the moocher. Sigh... he often asked me to loan him money, in which I do either out of the goodness of my heart or foolishness in my head. And you know what? He hardly ever pays me back. But I didn't mind... unless he owes me thousands of credits. THEN that's when I go after his tail. Heheh.
And James... oh, I can a lot of James in Fox. Father and son, a chip off the old block... it's a wonderful thing. Fox inherited James's charisma, his leadership skills as well as piloting skills. Okay, a bit of a moneygrubber as well, as I recall his constant complaining about his pay while trying to save Sauria (Dinosaur Planet). And I sometimes see him bicker with Falco unnecessarily over issues like money, respect, food, the girl, etc. Young people. But despite his shortcomings, Fox is a wonderful fellow, as well as James. I often see Fox as a younger version of James, in fact. The only difference would be that Fox is more forward, wild, and youthful in body and in mind. With James, I see tenderness, calmness, and serenity, giving me confidence that I have a leader who knows what he's doing.
Oh, wait, wait, don't go yet! I'm sorry... I must have been babbling. I'm really sorry... I have a tendency to do that. If I'm trailing off, please remind me. I didn't mean to bore you with pointless ramblings... but as I'm remembering my experience in Venom, I couldn't help it.
It was about a little over ten years ago, somewhere in my late thirties... I was still very able-bodied in the Arwing's cockpit. James was still leader, and Pigma was still my very close friend. We were all close friends. Fox and Slippy were still little whippersnappers at the Cornerian Flight Academy at a tender young age as adolescents, and Falco... I don't recall if we've met him yet. Maybe not. But it was back then when it happened. Not too long before, about five years prior to our mission to Venom, a genius-turned-maniac technology and engineering scientist Dr. Andross unleashed his madness for quite some time before he was banished to that deserted planet all the way across the galaxy. I'm not sure why he did not just execute him; the crimes he committed were, I suppose, beyond forgiveness. But he was executed; five years later, strange events began happening. General Pepper was not sure what happened or how it did; Venom is very barren and deserted, with hardly anything living there, with no clean air or good soil to survive on (then again, now I see that the banishment is also an execution). But it still happened; and the General hired us to go there and check it out.
It sounded like a simple mission; James and I guessed it would only take about a few days, since Venom was a bit far away from Corneria. Even Fox didn't even worry about the mission. In fact, I could recall how Fox was before we left. He was nonchalantly challenging his classmate Bill in a simulation dogfight, beating him relentlessly. James told him casually that he was about to leave for Venom. Did Fox care? No. He didn't even say goodbye. Then again, he saying goodbye to his incredibly skilled pilot father to go on a simple mission of investigating Venom would be like a little boy saying goodbye to his father after the father was leaving the house just for a brief moment to water the lawn. That was it. Fox knew he would be coming back. It's just a simple mission, right?
Wrong. Dead wrong.
We left Corneria, thinking we'd come back. To pass the time, James, Pigma, and I played various card games like Poker and Speed or board games like chess and checkers. That's how calm we were, totally unaware of the danger that waited for us. During our trip to Venom, however, James was already missing his son. I wouldn't blame him... James loved his son very, very much. At night, I would pass by his room in our mothership and catch him looking through baby pictures of Fox, reminiscing with himself. One night (Corneria's time, of course), I caught him looking through a couple of pictures of me, Fox, and James at a winter retreat at the mountains. Fox's mother, Vixy, was still alive, so she was in the picture as well. Seeing the cheerless look on Jimmy's face, I decided to walk in and have a chat with him.
"Hey," I murmured to James.
James only murmured back in a disheartened manner, "Hey..."
"What's the matter?"
"What do you think? I miss my son already..."
"Oh, James," I chuckled. "It's only a short mission. It's hardly anything; we'll see Fox again soon."
The vulpine was silent. He just continued to stare at our pictures when he turned to me with moist eyes beneath his glasses. I rose by eyebrows at the sight, wondering if I have said anything wrong.
James continued as his soft voice trembled while speaking. "Do you remember when we had a vacation at the Cornerian Mountains when Fox was about... oh, five years old?"
I smiled. "Of course I do! Fox and I were making snow angels together there, and you and Vixy joined us. Vixy showed Fox how to build a snowman, you and I had a snowball fight as if we were ten year old children, and you and Fox helped me struggle to pull Pigma off of the ski-lift after he got his tongue stuck on the frozen pole to lick the icing."
"I HEARD THAT!" we heard Pigma shout out in the hall. James and I laughed.
"Oh, yes," James said as his laugh calmed to a slight chuckle. "Good times... good times..."
My long ears dropped as I noticed the fox's smile turn back to the saddened frown. "James..."
"Did you see Fox when we left?"
"Of course I did. He was fighting against Bill in a simulation dogfight."
"He didn't even care... he didn't say goodbye..."
I was silent.
James turned to me and sighed. "My boy... he's growing up. He's not a little pup anymore, Peppy... look at him. He's almost my height, and definitely taller than you and Pigma. He's got crushes at the Academy, and he almost no longer needs me to do anything for him. And when we left... he just ignored me... as if he didn't care-"
"All young boys go through that kind of stage," I reassured him. "Even you and I were like that." I sighed as I placed my arms akimbo and looked around my leader's room. Pictures of his son in various ages and his late wife were plastered all over his walls. There were a few of us and Pigma here and there, but there were more pictures of his family than there are we. I can really tell how much James loves his family. However, looking at all these pictures gave me a sinking feeling... maybe that of jealousy- jealousy that James cares way more about his family than his Team, or jealousy that he has a family all his own and I don't. Well, Pigma and I don't; we're both single. Yet I always feel that this Team- and James's family- was my family.
"Peppy?" my leader noticed my silence.
I turned back to him and smiled then reassured him, "Don't worry, James. We'll get back home soon enough and see Fox again. I'm sure that by the time he comes back, he'll show us some new tricks he learned with a Cornerian Air Fighter."
James smiled, "I hope you're right... it's just... I have this bad feeling that this may be more dangerous than we thought-"
"Dangerous!" I interrupted. "C'mon... it's just an investigation mission. We go look around Venom, find out what's going on, report to the General, then go back. Who knows? Maybe once we're done, he'll make a new mission for someone else... although we do need the money..."
The red-furred vulpine looked at me with worried eyes then looked out the window. Our mothership has already reached Venom. "We're here..."
I looked outside. "And nothing yet..."
"Tell Pigma to get into his Arwing. You get ready too. I'll... be right with you."
"James," I said with a confident tone as I slapped him gently on the back. "It's going to be okay. We'll get home before you can say 'Oh, no! Danger!'"
At last, a smile returned to my colleague's face. "Oh, Peppy... what am I going to do without you?"
We soon left our ship in our Arwings and flew into Venom atmosphere. Nothing seemed suspicious; we flew around for hours and found nothing. For that while, I smiled that nothing was wrong, but I was also feeling bored. General Pepper sent us here for a reason, and I was really hoping to find that reason. After another few hours of flying, James and I were about to fly back to our mothership when Pigma screamed to us through his comlink.
"HEY!" he shouted. "I found something!"
"What is it" James replied.
I watched as Pigma's ship headed towards a different direction we were going; something was probably picked up on his radar. We followed him closely, keeping a short distance away from each other as we lined up side to side. Pretty soon, a dome-shaped building came into view, with pillars erected all around it.
"What the..." I murmured. "What... is this"
"It looks like the General's suspicions were right" James spoke to us. "Something was going on here on Venom." We began flying around over the dome and realized there was an opening on the top. "... I'm going inside, and I want you two to stay behind and watch out for anything else."
"WHAT" I exclaimed.
"You heard me. I'm going in alone, and I want you and Pigma to stay behind and watch out for anything else."
"James" it was Pigma's turn to speak. "It might be dangerous inside. VERY dangerous... this could be where Andross was exiled."
Our commander's tone changed. "Do you really think so"
"Of course! How else could this have been built? No one has lived here for centuries; this land became barren and inhabitable."
"Then how was Andross able to build such a place"
"That's why we're going in to find out. However, Andross could be building new machines down there like he has back home. I say it's best that Peppy stays out here and keeps watch while I go down with you and find out what's going on down there."
It sounded like a good idea, although I honestly dislike being left out. But I agreed with Pigma; it's best that someone accompanies James while he goes down in the dome while one of us stays out to keep watch. Besides, what's the worse that could happen?
James spoke to me"What do you think, Peppy"
"I think it's a good idea" I replied. "I'll stay here and keep watch. You and Pigma go down and check this out."
"All right. Pigma, let's go."
I continued to fly in circles as I watched James and Pigma's Arwings dive into the dome, James going in first then Pigma following. After the last of Pigma's jets faded into view, I concentrated on my flying around the area. I continued flying until I realized that my fuel was two-thirds empty. Drat! I knew I should have refueled before leaving our mothership! Deciding to save on fuel, I landed my ship by the dome and sat back, folding my arms behind my head and propping my legs up on my cockpit. Everything seemed fine here; nothing was really happening. It was quiet... too quiet. I was starting to worry about James and Pigma; it has been already two hours since both dived into the dome. I began to recall our conversation back in the mothership; what if James was right? What if this was all more than just a simple investigation? Something might have waited in store for us... something terrible and horrific.
I was about to doze myself off to sleep when I noticed our mothership flying in. In case you haven't noticed, our ship wasn't the Great Fox; the Great Fox belongs to my new Team. This one was different; it was smaller, but still a great ship. We placed it on Autopilot, so the mothership was just casually orbiting Venom while my Team and I were searching around. I smiled to myself and thought about flying back up there just to refuel, so I started my Arwing and began flying towards it. However, no sooner than when I left the Venomian earth, one of the mothership's wings exploded.
It soon hit me that we were under attack. Ships I have never seen before surrounded our mothership, deteriorating its shields as it relentlessly fired upon its hull. I immediately hit the boost and sped up faster to our mothership as two of its other wings were destroyed. Once I reached it, I was too late; the last wing was destroyed, and the mothership began its quick descent into the ground. My mind was filled with panic; what am I going to tell James and Pigma! That I let a bunch of flying machines destroy our mothership! I guess I should be honest... but I still had to act. I shot at the smaller ships, some of them surrounding me and attacking back. I thought about landing my Arwing inside the mothership and trying to direct its crash landing, but to no avail; as many as fifteen ships surrounded me while five more destroyed the main bridge then the docking bay. It was too late; way too late. There was nothing I could then to save the mothership; I watched in horror as it crashed headfirst onto the ground, a great blast emitting from its collision. I was caught in the blast, fire and smoke surrounding me as my Arwing was blown away by the explosion. My right side was heavily damaged; my wing was broken, and the G-diffuser that supported it was burnt and bent. Some of the other ships, having such a weak shield, were destroyed completely by the blast, but there were still plenty that flew after me. My heart thumped as I struggled to break free from the enemy ships, but it was all to no avail. Too many have surrounded me, and with my wing broken I was terribly handicapped. It didn't take too long for them to shoot my other wing away and for my shields to be deteriorated completely. I began my descent towards a pillar when survival was all that was left to my mind. I couldn't redirect my fall, and all that I had left to survive this crash was to eject myself out of my Arwing. Without thinking, I hit that eject button, and my top was blown away at an instant, hot and dry air blowing against my face. My seat was ejected out of the ship just moments before my Arwing hit the pillar, and I floated down to the Venomian surface in a parachute as I watched my ship explode onto the pillar. The pillar remained standing, to my surprise; it must have been made with very strong materials.
The enemies didn't stop attacking me just because I was in the open air. With only one shot, my parachute burned in the air, and I fell several feet onto the ground. I screamed as I dropped like a stone, my arms and legs flailing until I landed face down onto the earth. I didn't keep consciousness.
I woke up in what seemed like a few minutes after my fall. My body was aching all over; I must have broken a few bones. My sight was blurry, and there was a ringing in my ears. I was lying on my stomach, and I could smell the ground I laid upon; it smelled damp and filthy. I struggled to push myself up, feeling sharp pains in both my arms. I stopped, my arms feeling too weak to push myself up. It was not until I felt a warm hand upon my shoulder, then another. I looked back as James helped me sit up, my leader, also injured, wrapped in bandages. He looked like a terrible mess, as there were wraps around his head, his wrists, and his tail.
"Peppy... are you all right"
"Yes..." I muttered softly, a pain shooting to my throat as I spoke. "What... happened"
"We... were under attack."
James shook his head and took out the first aid kit he kept in his jacket; he must have been the one who wrapped himself up. "Tell me... where does it hurt"
"Nevermind that" I was able to shout. "What happened! Who did this to you! Where's Pigma"
"I'll tell you in a moment, but for now, we have to tend to your injuries. You fell from a great height, and you've probably broken some bones."
I had no energy left to argue with James, so I nodded. I was lying down next to a wall, so James, after helping me up, set me back to lean on it. He began with my legs, taking off my white boots and rolling up my red pants; not surprisingly, both my shins were swelling. He then turned to my arms, both my lower arms fractured. I told James that my chest hurt as well; he only shook his head.
"Ribs, I cannot do. With that, we'll have to take you to a hospital."
"Well, then" I sighed"I might as well try to refrain from movement."
"You do that" my friend said as he scooted up beside me on the wall, sighing as well. His tail twitched painfully, and I saw that some of his fur strands were burnt. Looking around, I could see two cots set up against the other wall, and looking to my left were bars. Bars... we were in a cell!
I really wanted to know what in Lylat happened, so I questioned him"Now, James, what DID happen"
James's mouth opened, but no words came out. That was only because Pigma's voice boomed out before James could speak. "I could tell you that"
I turned to the side. Pigma stood on the other side of the bars, gloating over us and twirling a ring holding keys around his finger. James's worried eyes turned to bitter hatred and fury. "You... TRAITOR!"
Pigma laughed as he stopped swirling the keys and threw them up in the air and caught them before they could fall. "All in good fun, Jimmy-boy! Who knows? Maybe Andross will let you live."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "What.. has gotten into you" I screamed at him.
"Ohhh, nothing much" he chuckled. "I was just... given a different offer. More money than the General could ever give us! Hey! Ya know what? Andross ain't that all bad. In fact, I think he's saner than any other ruler of Lylat! He'd make a great Emperor, don't you think"
My ears were ringing again. I held my head in disbelief, looking down onto the damp ground and trembling. "No... Pigma... you don't know what you're saying"
"Oh, I know what I'm saying all right, Peppy! I'm saying that the future seems brighter with Andross ruling over Lylat! Well, at least my future... a future rolling in cash! HAH"
"Pigma... you betrayer..." James snarled through clenched teeth. "You will PAY for this..."
"Oh, well, I will be paid... millions and millions of dollars! Of course, that's not until after Andross has invaded Lylat. And guess what? I got the plan written down right here" Pigma taunted as he held up a small disk containing lots of information. Tears welled up from eyes as I watched Pigma smirk condescendingly.
James shot up from the wall and ran to the cell bars, his hands reaching out for the disk. Pigma laughed as he held the disk back, having his distance carefully calculated from the cell, as James's hands were only inches away from the hog's face.
I was crying; I couldn't hold back the tears. One of my best friends have traded sides... this was all to much for me to grasp. Pigma was one the best friends I have ever had in my entire life; we knew each other since childhood. We attended the same schools, from elementary as a piglet and kit pair, to high school as teenagers going after the girls, to the Cornerian Flight Academy maturing as excellent pilots side by side. He like a brother to me... a brother I knew I could trust everything with. We shared secrets... we shared plans for the future. My mind was fill with flashbacks, ranging from Pigma and I playing on a seesaw as kindergartners to fighting each other in a simulation dogfight as young men. This was all too much for me... I couldn't believe it. I could not grasp reality... my head was filled with disbelief. James obviously kept in touch with reality... he was still growling at Pigma as I wallowed in despair.
Pigma noticed the sorrowful look on my face. "Awwww..." he taunted while cooing as if talking to a baby. "Poor, poor Peppy... is da widdle wabbit cwying? Is da widdle bunny wabbit saaaaaad"
"Leave him alone, Pigma" James snapped at him. "Don't you realized what you have done! You not only betrayed Lylat... you've betrayed the two people who have given their lives and trust to you! Your best friends... me... Peppy! How could you"
"Ya know what" Pigma smirked as he began stepping back, flipping the disk in the air like he did with the keys earlier. "I never liked you two. You, James... always hogging the spotlight. It's all about YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU! Either you or your little brat! It was never about the Team! All of the focus is either you or your little of a brat"
"How DARE you" James barked.
"And you, Peppy..." Pigma continued, ignoring the fox. "You little piece of ! I never liked you... I've always pretended to be your friend. You're always the smarter, handsomer, faster, more adept of a pilot. And how do you piss me off? You rub it in by showing off your flying skills, flying in between narrow shafts with your eyes closed! WELL! Who's the better pilot now! Huh! HUH! It has always been like this ever since we were kids... you always had better grades, more dates, more popularity... well, I guess NOW I have the better end of the shtick"
"Come a little closer and let me strangle you" James roared.
"As if you could" Pigma laughed as he turned around and left, his silhouette fading in the darkness. I could still hear the keys clinking as he continued on down the hall.
James was still growling as he held on to the cell bars. I stared blankly across the cell, tears soaking up the fur under my eyes and falling onto my shirt. My ears drooped to the sides of my head; if I was to look at a mirror, I'd probably look like a sad puppy rather than a rabbit. My leader stopped his growling, and his ears also drooped when he looked at me. I only watched him from the corner of my eye; I was still staring at the other side of the cell.
"Peppy" he muttered softly as he slowly placed a hand on my shoulder. As soon as he touched my shoulder, my hands shot up to my eyes, and I held back my head as I cried out a cry that rang out all over Lylat if it could, a cry filled with grief and sorrow mixed with brotherly love turning into bitter, seething hatred towards my former best friend.
"CURSE... YOU... PIGMAAAAAA"
I don't know how much time passed ever since James and I were imprisoned in our cell. It felt like eternity; I didn't know how many days passed as James and I waited around in our cells. None of us had working technology with us; we didn't have watches to tell us Cornerian time, nor did either of us have any means of communication towards the Cornerian Army. We were stranded... stranded in Hell. James paced around inside the cell as I laid on my cot, our jackets rolled up into a pillow for my legs to be elevated as they healed. My arms took longer to heal than my legs; we've must have stayed in Venom long enough for us to heal. In that while, James's head, wrists, and tail healed completely, and during that time we were trapped he was pacing around, as if planning. We were fed food as we slept; we never saw whoever gave us food. Our food consisted of bread and water. Neither James nor I knew how in the world did they gain access to water or the ingredients to make bread. We concluded Andross found a way to make food through cultivation in this barren land. After all, how else were we able to have oxygen inside this dome? If we knew Andross, he must have artificially drawn whatever oxygen was in this land and used it to make food from himself by finding good soil; and to make machines like he did. Either that, or the ape had connections kept with him, and followers of his imported food and other essentials as he lived here.
When my legs healed, James assisted me in my walking, helping me regain balance and my ability to stand. I was so glad to have James for my companion; even during these harsh times he remained the same good ol' James I've always known. I didn't know James as well as I knew Pigma; we met at the Cornerian Flight Academy, and James was the top student in his class. I was comforted that I wasn't alone; at least James remained loyal to me. With Pigma gone, our Team was now only consisted of two. Two people who still trust each other and love each other like brothers.
One night in Venom, as I lay on my cot after my bandages over my arms were replaced, I watched James as he was staring at a small photo. The lights were dim, but it was enough for him to see clearly, I suppose. James's cot was set right next to mine, so I leaned by head to the side to look at what kind of photo he was looking at. In his hand was a picture of Fox in his thirteenth birthday. He was standing behind his cake, frosted with white cream and sprinkled with candies. The boy's father was standing behind him, and Pigma and I were standing by his side. I recalled the moment this picture was taken; Beltino Toad and plenty of others came for Fox's birthday, and it was that frog who held the camera and took the picture. Tears welled up in my eyes again as I gazed on the picture; all of us, including Pigma, were smiling as if we were having the time of our lives.
James didn't even turn to me, yet he knew I was looking at the picture. "He must be worried..."
"Of course..." he muttered softly. "We've been gone a long time. At this time, Fox would have noticed our absence. He must be very worried." Silence hit us hard as soon as James said those words, and I turned by head back to the ceiling, letting the tears fall. I nearly jumped when my leader's chuckles broke the silence.
"James" I looked at him oddly.
"You know... I really did think this was going to be a simple mission. A simple mission..."
"Hey" I assumed James was beating himself up for bringing us to this mess. "It's my fault. I'm sorry."
"Sorry for what"
"For not being aware of the dangers that lurked here on Venom. I was so stupid... I really did think it was going to be a simple mission, and I told you over and over again that it was. But you had the feeling it wasn't... yet... I..."
"Oh, Peppy... we both thought this was going to be simple. The bad feelings I had may have been right, but I dismissed them. You did too. We're both at fault... you didn't force me into this mission. I went on as well. And now... I only regret ignoring such feelings. I regret leaving home and leaving my son..." he looked back up to the picture and smiled sorrowfully. "And now... I only wish... to see my son's smile again... He's going to be a great pilot, Peppy, I tell you... and I want to be there the day Fox flies the skies as one of the greatest pilots in Lylat."
It was quiet again. A tear fell from James's eye before he wiped it then turned to his side, his back facing me as he tried to go to sleep. I thought about what James had said... how much he just wants to go back home. I lifted my head as I heard voices speak from a distance; it must be feeding time again. We were fed only once a day, so we must have lost a lot of weight. We were about to see who's coming, so I waited. I waited a long time, laying my head on the pillow and staring at James's back. It was there and then when it hit me.
We had to go home... not only for Fox, but for Lylat. Andross was obviously planning something... something sinister. We don't know how much damage he has done, if he made any yet. I knew, though, that if we don't act fast, then Lylat will fall into his hands. We had to go home... but how? I raised my head again, only to see no one on the other side of the bars. I took this opportunity of solitude to wake up James. "Psst! James! Jimmy" I whispered as I nudged my foot on my leader's lower back.
James groaned. "What is it, Peppy"
"I have an idea... but I need your help."
"What is it" he yawned as he turned to his other side and faced me.
"What" he squinted through his shades. "How"
"Listen to me, and listen to me well. If we don't act soon, Andross will begin his attack on Lylat. We have to back home not only so we can see Fox, but so we can warn General Pepper about all this."
"But..." James muttered as he rubbed his eyes. I knew he has been trying to plan our escape for the longest time, but he hadn't come up with anything and was then listening with ears wide open. "How are we going to get out? I've tried everything... filing the bars with a claw filer only to find out how resistant the bars were. We've tried keeping watch for anyone to come, but the only one we've seen was Pigma a long time ago."
"I know, I know... but... just listen to me, James. I have a plan... and you have to play along."
We waited another few hours until someone finally came. We heard footsteps, but we kept our eyes shut as if sleeping. I feigned snoring as the footsteps came closer, then a soft clink as a metal plate full of food was placed on the ground. Time for our plan to be executed. Without bothering to open my eyes, I began to groan. Grimacing in my "sleep", I rolled around on my cot, flinching and wrapping my arms (which were still healing) around my stomach, kicking in the air as if I was in pain. Meanwhile, James remained calm, still "sleeping" as I rolled about and pretending to be in pain. It worked. Whoever gave us food opened our cell and walked in, shaking my shoulders in attempt to wake me up. I "weakly" opened my eyes and looked up at the stranger. To my surprise, it wasn't Pigma who was standing by me, but a youthful Japanese Macaque no older than Fox. I immediately recognized the monkey's face as Andrew Oikonny, Andross's whiny nephew. "What's the matter with you" the monkey groaned in annoyance rather than concern.
I smirked as James stood up quietly behind him. "Nothing much" I said with a chuckle. "What's the matter with you" Before Andrew could make a move, James wrapped his fingers around the boy's pressure points in between his neck and shoulders, causing him to fade out and collapse unconsciously. I shot up to my feet as James quickly picked up the keys from the monkey's pants, twirling the ring that held them around his finger.
"Now... why didn't I think of that" James laughed triumphantly as I placed on my jacket and tossed him his.
I answered him sarcastically but jokingly"Well... there's a reason why a rabbit's foot brings good luck. And ya know, if ya can't get the foot, bring the whole rabbit"
James laughed again and began heading out the cell. "C'mon, let's get outta here."
We carefully made our way through the many halls in the building. We were surprised how big this whole thing was; I believe we got lost several times. It was like a maze inside; one hall lead to another, and these halls lead to corners where had no choice but to turn left or right. We were running the whole time, and we were quickly getting exhausted. The small cell cramped us in and kept us from exercising, plus our food was hardly nutritious. We were out of shape and running out of energy, but we knew we had to keep going.
"Okay..." James wheezed as he slumped against a wall right beside me while I sat on the ground to catch my breath. "Any other ideas"
"Well... what happened to your Arwing"
"Pigma and I docked ours somewhere here. It was there when he held a stickup by pulling a blaster onto my head."
"Then how did you receive injuries"
"I quickly attacked him before he would attack me, but I didn't know the pig had company."
"Great..." I looked left and right down the halls, seeing if there was anyone who followed us. Nothing. Nada. I leaned back on the wall and sighed and turned to my leader and patted his back. "Take a breather, Jimmy. We'll be outta here in no time."
James looked back at me and smiled, but it quickly faded when he looked directly above me. "I don't think we have time to breathe... take a look"
I looked above me... Darn! I must have missed that security camera that has been watching us the entire time! Sirens blared in our ears, and red lights flashed from the corners to light up the halls.
"INTRUDER ALERT! INTRUDER ALERT"
"Intruders! We're trying to get outta here" I yelled back at the sirens for no apparent reason as James and I stepped back. Both of us were unarmed; if we had our blasters, we could have destroyed that camera before anyone would come. But we didn't, so we had no choice but to run. We just ran nonstop down the halls, ignoring the pains that grew in our chests. It didn't take too long until foot soldiers appeared right before us and opened fire. I pulled back James behind a wall, seeing how we've ran into a standoff.
"Okay..." James gasped for air. "NOW what"
"We go the other way" I pointed to another hallway.
"Are you crazy"
"We have no other choice"
James nodded then quickly ran ahead. I ran after him, despite my feeling exhausted. We continued running until only two soldiers crossed our path, aiming their blasters at us. Two soldiers were no problem for James, as he quickly ran up to them and dodged their shots, leaping over their heads and kicking them down from behind. He grabbed one of the soldier's blasters and used its butt to knock them both unconscious. During this time, however, I did not know that I was shot; probably because I was so focused on James that I didn't even notice my shirt bleeding.
"Peppy! You're wounded"
"I am" I looked down to my shirt. It was until then pain returned to my body, and I collapsed onto my rear. James ran to me and helped me up. "Moron! Why didn't you dodge the shots"
"I don't know... I didn't even know I was shot"
"How could you not know"
"Maybe the shots weren't heavy... I'm still alive, aren't I"
James sighed, shaking his head. "Can you stand"
I stepped back away from James and stood by myself. I was wobbly, but otherwise I feel fine. "Yeah... I can..."
"Good." James reached for the other soldier's blaster and handed it to me rather than tossing it, as my arms were still healing. "I hope your hands are well enough to shoot."
"Pfft! I can still down a good number of men with my eyes closed"
"Well, don't. We still have a lot to face."
We continued on down the halls, meeting a number of soldiers on the way. Those men were quite incompetent; they couldn't shoot us even if they had the most accurate aiming in the universe. James stepped about and rolled out of the way as he shot down the men one by one, leaving me a few soldiers to shoot while standing still (I didn't want to roll). As James shot down the last of the men, more laser fire shot through the air towards our direction, hitting me several times on the legs and torso and James the same way. Turning around, ships were flying in and opening heavy fire on us, not afraid to kill us on the spot.
"Hey! No fair" James yelled back as he dodged the shots and ran to me, helping me up as we both ran down the halls and hid behind a wall. The ships flew over our heads, thinking we continued down the hall. At this time, while the sirens were still blaring and red lights flashing, James and I leaned on the walls to rest, this time not from just exhaustion, but from our wounds.
"Heh... I can still run..." I choked as I coughed up blood. I was shot really good... my torso, legs, and arms were bleeding terribly, and much of me and my clothes were burned. James was also bleeding and burnt, his shades cracked and clothes singed. Blood poured from his mouth as well as his trunk and back; both of us knew we don't have much time left.
"James" I muttered"we... have to keep going. They're waiting for us... General Pepper... Fox... Lylat... we have to go back. And we're going to make it... both of us."
James shook his head as he bent forward on his knees. I leaned forward and caught him, leaning him back on the wall. "I... really don't think I can keep going"
"Yes you can! James..." I shook him gently as I gripped his shoulders. "Listen to me! We ARE going home! Everyone will be there waiting for us, and we'll warn them about Andross. And Fox... you'll go back home to him. And you'll see him take the skies..."
"Remember our motto" I coughed up more blood, feeling more of it dripping through my fur. "Never give up... never give up..."
"Trust your instincts..." he continued... "Trust... your senses..."
More of the ships flew over us, not realizing their targets were right below us. As the ships flew off, I staggered to my feet and helped James up, who was already losing consciousness. I was too; my vision was becoming very blurry and fuzzy. But I knew we shouldn't give up; we couldn't. Lylat is waiting for us, and we must return. I repeated all of this to myself in my head as I dragged James along, my leader hardly able to make steps for himself. I continued to talk to him, making sure he was still alive as we made our way down the halls. Right ahead of us, I could see, was a door, and it was wide open. Hopefully... hopefully this would be the place where James and Pigma docked their Arwings.
"Talk to me, James"
"I can't, Peppy..."
"Tell me... what's the first thing you're going to do as soon as we reach Corneria"
"I don't know..." James coughed up blood on my shirt.
"Let's say Fox is waiting at the door... he sees you. What are you going to do"
"I don't know..."
"You're going to run to him and hug him."
"And you'll be taken to the infirmary... and you'll heal. You're going to be okay, James... we're going home. We're going home... and you'll be able to play around with Fox like the good ol' days."
"You'll see his smile again..."
"And you'll watch him conquer the skies in his own Arwing."
"Oh, Fox... Fox... my little boy..."
"And one day... you two will fly side by side."
"Oh, Peppy..." James murmured as we finally reached the door. "What if... what if I don't make it..."
"Of course" I staggered in my steps, losing the feeling in my legs. "We'll both make it! We'll both fly by Fox's side in our Arwings."
"Peppy..." James turned to me as his shades dropped from his eyes, showing his dying eyes. "If... by any chance I don't make it... will you... promise me... will you"
"James! You will make it"
"Will you... watch after Fox for me? He's such a reckless boy... I love him so much... but... even if we do make it, I won't always be there for him..."
"You WILL! You WILL, James! You will make it... and you'll see how Fox has grown so strong..."
I nearly collapsed when two Arwings came into view. We've made it... we've made it into the docking bay. There was a narrow shaft above the Arwings that led to Venom's atmosphere, the red and green sky looming over us. We were almost there... tears fell again, this time with joy, as I looked up to the sky. "The Sky..."
"See? I told you we'll make it! Just put your Arwing on Autopilot and we'll fly outta here"
I struggled to keep my balance as I dragged James to his Arwing, pressing a button on his glove (much to my surprise, it remained intact) to open the cockpit. I fell back, collapsing onto my back and James falling down with me. I was still conscious, but I was already beginning to fade away.
"Heheh..." I chuckled softly. "Can you stand, James"
"I can try..."
"Then get in. I'll get in Pigma's Arwing, and we'll both fly outta here."
I watched as James nodded and pulled himself towards his Arwing, leaving a trail of blood behind. I was so relieved... we're going to make it. We're going to make it out alive. I was so confident that we're going to live to warn General Pepper of Andross and his plans to invade Lylat. At the same time, though, I was scared; what if James died while we were flying back to Corneria? What if I died? What if neither of us make it out alive? I tried to dismiss such thoughts in my head as I too struggled to my feet to get into my Arwing. I pressed on the button on my glove, opening the cockpit. I gripped the ship's wing as I turned back to see James crawling into his space fighter. Whew. I was so relieved to see James sitting down, ready to fly. With one last look, James turned to and smiled, giving me a new hope and renewed courage that we're going to make it. We're going to make it... we're going to make it...
Such words faded as I watched James's Arwing explode in a great blast.
It all happened so quickly, yet all at once, time stood still. I lost grip of the wing and fell down onto the ground, my tears of joy turning into tears of dismay. I just... I just laid there. I laid there, watching the fire burn and the smoke rise out of the building's exit above us. And there he was... James McCloud. Lying in a pile of burnt metal and ashes. I couldn't make out his body... I could smell burning flesh and the trail of blood that he left behind, but that was it. His body was mangled and burned up beyond recognition; I didn't see a fox, but rather, a burning corpse. That corpse... it burned into my mind, my heart, my soul. I watched the fire dance as smoke continued to rise, my hands trembling as disbelief returned to my head.
James... dead... no... it can't be. I slowly crawled up closer to the wreck, the smoke from the debris causing redness in my eyes. I choked, I cried, and I sobbed as I crawled closer and closer to James... there he was. Dead. Deceased. Lifeless. My hand trembled as I collapsed one more time, crying a river as I watched the corpse burn.
"James..." I murmured. "James... JAAAAAAAAAAAAAMES!"
A sinister laugh echoed in the halls. I wept bitterly as I turned my head down the hall. Looming away from us like an eerie shadow ready to stalk was a giant robot, shaped like that of an ape's head. It was incomplete; the eyes were that of lenses and wires, and bulks of metal and screws made up the anatomy of the skinless face. Giant hands floated beside the head, also incomplete, as metal beams made up what would be bones of real hands. From the index fingertip of the right hand (the robot's right, my left) were sparks of electricity, as if the monstrosity had just summoned lightning to strike James's ship. It was this... it was this atrocity that killed James... that took away Pigma... that destroyed everything... EVERYthing that I loved and cherished! I glared at the grotesque monster as I staggered back up to my feet, that eerie laugh resonating from its gaping mouth.
"Andross..." I whispered softly. I knew that laugh... I heard it many times.
"Do you like it" the robot spoke with the maniacal ape's voice. "I made it myself... my greatest invention. And I was more than happy to test it on your precious leader."
"Why... WHY!" I screamed at the monster. "Why did you take him! Why didn't you take me"
"Why not? I despise James McCloud more than I despise you. But still..." More sparks flew out of the fingertip as if he was getting ready to shoot. "You're part of StarFox. And I will not stop until I have eliminated every... one... of... you..."
"And then I'll begin annihilating Lylat, from here aaaaaaaaall the way to Corneria. And I guarantee you, Peppy Hare, that I will make sure all will bow to Emperor Andross or die"
I acted quickly. As if forgetting my injuries, I quickly ran to the Arwing, staggering and tripping here and there. Lightning struck near me, chunks of metal and rock flying and pounding me as smoke impaired my sight. I kept running; I knew all I had to run forward. I reached the Arwing faster than I thought, as I literally ran into it like it was another wall. Before Andross would strike again (as the lightning seemed to need to charge before striking again), I scrambled into my ship, slipping in headfirst and, without bothering to sit upright, tampered into the controls and get it to start flying. As soon as I scooted to my rear and the ship lifted into the air, Andross struck again, but rather than hitting the ship as a whole, I managed to move the Arwing far enough that it only hit the tip of the wing. I immediately began shooting upward to the exit, it being too small for that monster to fit through. I heard Andross scream in fury as I heard more ships coming in my way. Great. Just when I thought I made it out, that monkey set more of his ships after me.
As I began leaving the Venomian atmosphere, as many as thirty small ships flying after me. Just as before, they began shooting relentlessly, damaging the ship's shields. I tried barrel rolling and looping, but each maneuver I made has made me dizzier and dizzier. I was starting to pass out... I was beginning to doubt I would make it out of Venom alive. The ships continued to open fire on me, firing on me until, once again, both wings were destroyed. Yet... Yet...
As I hit space, the ships began to slow down. In fact, they started to burn. I realized that these ships also were incomplete, and that space was not fit for them. I was lucky... so, so lucky. I looked back. I was quickly leaving Venom behind, seeing nothing more than a green ball with sickening gases as clouds. I was relieved to make it out alive... alive... I made it. I made it.
But... James didn't.
You know, young one, my world fell apart right then and there. I sat in my cockpit, crying. I have just lost two of my best friends, one leaving with Death by his side and the other with Andross by his. And me... I was alone. I was very alone. I was still wounded terribly, and Pigma's ship was close to being destroyed. He, though, still had a lot of fuel. I thought about it as I was beginning to fade away; I had to get home quickly. I didn't know how much time I had left, but I knew I had to get there alive and tell everyone of what happened. There was enough fuel in the ship for me to boost all the way to Corneria and cut my trip short, but I knew that the ship was in no condition to do that. Still...
I risked it. I placed the jets on boost and held on to it, hoping to cut my trip from a few days to maybe just one. Corneria was still too far away, but I just had to make it. Please, Arwing... just a little further. I had to make it there before anything happens to me.
But... heheh, you pretty much guessed it, young one. I didn't make it. The fuel ran out before I even made it halfway. It was a good thing Pigma had an emergency tank, but I could not waste it on the boost. Beside, the shaking of the ship was aggravating my wounds. I was still bleeding; I did not stop until a good while. I faded in and out of consciousness from time to time, and each time I regained my senses, I was only a bit closer to Corneria. But I had to continue... for James. For Fox. For Lylat. It was not easy, and it did take a long time. I tried to keep myself alive the whole time as I neared that blue planet. And I made it. Young one... I made it.
I'm not sure what happened, but as soon as I hit the Cornerian atmosphere, the Arwing was on fire. I was flying over the city; people must have seen me and probably screamed. I directed the Arwing to the Army base as best as I could, and I plan to eject myself out of the ship like I did before in Venom before I would make a crash landing, since I knew I could not make a smooth landing. But, you know... I didn't eject. I did crash, although not as horribly. I managed to slow the Arwing down before it hit the earth with its nose then tumble several times before exploding. Or, I think that's how it happened, but according to some witnesses, that's how it happened. Yet I survived. I was probably a burnt up mess, but I lived. I lived to tell the tale. I lived to tell you of my sorrow.
And I did tell Fox of what happened. Oh, God... I can remember Fox's face when I told him the news. I don't know how long I was out, but I must have been out for a long time. When I woke up, I was in the hospital, lying on a bed and covered with bandages. General Pepper, Beltino, Fox, Bill, and Slippy were by my side, probably worrying themselves sick. Fox was the first to see me; a relieved smile lit up on his face as he ran to my side and hugged me, gently enough that it wouldn't aggravate my injuries and wounds. "Peppy" Fox cried out as he wept; I could feel his tears fall on my shoulder. "Oh, Peppy... you're all right! You're all right"
"We were so worried" Slippy choked as he too blubbered. Bill merely sighed, while Beltino blew his nose whereas General Pepper just shook his head. I smiled at them all, feeling much better. I was glad to see everyone around me at this time.
"Peppy..." General Pepper went straight to his questioning, a worried look in his eyes. "Why were you the only one who came back? Where's James? Where Pigma"
Oh, great. How was I suppose to tell them? I already began envisioning their reactions of the news in my head. My lips trembled, but I remained silent. I was afraid... very afraid. I didn't know how to tell them. I didn't know if I could. But I did not come all the way home to remain quiet.
James... help me... I summoned up all the courage I had while trying my best to hold back the tears. "Andross..."
"Andross" Beltino repeated.
"Andross... is planning an attack... towards Lylat. He's going to invade it... he already has an army waiting in Venom."
"How could this be" Slippy exclaimed as he held out his palms. "How is he able to summon up an army while in Venom"
I continued"Somehow, he kept communications intact. And he.. he already has invented monsters ten times worse than the once he unleashed when he first attacked Corneria."
"This can't be..." the General muttered.
"And my father! And Pigma" Fox blurted out, leaning closer to me as his hands slapped my mattress.
This part of the news was much harder to let out, but I managed to do it with my heart breaking along with every single word that escaped my lips. "Pigma... betrayed us."
"He betrayed us, Fox... for money... for a reward if he assists Andross in his domination over Lylat."
"And James... your father... he... he..." I could not finish it. I tried to cover my eyes with my hands, but both were elevated as they were broken from the crash.
"He... what" Fox mouthed. "He... what, Peppy! He what"
I was completely silent sans the sobbing.
Without thinking, Fox grabbed my collar and shook me, screaming out to me as he cried, "TELL ME, PEPPY! WHAT HAPPENED TO MY FATHER"
"Fox" Bill screamed as nurses suddenly ran in and restrained the vulpine, but Fox fought them off.
I blurted out"He died, Fox! He's dead"
Fox became still as the nurses held on to him. "No..."
"He... we were just about to leave... but Andross, using one of his machines, destroyed his Arwing..."
"And he went down with it... Oh, Fox..."
"I'm so sorry... I wish I had"
"Get him out of here" the General commanded the nurses. The nurses immediately obeyed, dragging Fox back as much as they could. But Fox kept on screaming.
"YOU LIAR, PEPPY! YOU'RE A ING LIAR! HOW COULD YOU! HOW COULD YOU! YOU LIE! LIAR"
You're looking at me like I'm just some old man. And I am... I'm getting old. My spirit, my mind, my heart... it's aging. But not because of the years passing by... it is wearing down from sorrow. Young one... I still blame myself for James's death. I still blame myself for getting us to Venom. Pigma? I still hate him... I hate him with all of my heart. But still... he was my best friend. With him betraying me and James dying, I'd might as well die with them. In reality, James died. Figuratively, Pigma died as well. Me? I'm dying as well. But maybe not until another ten or twenty years; I still hope to live on. Why?
Because I've moved on. I've moved on, young. I've... moved on.
I now fly with Fox as leader and Slippy and Falco as our teammates. Krystal just recently joined our Team, so now, what started out as a Team of three now turned to a Team of five. Slippy got us a new mothership, the Great Fox, and when we're all out in battle, Slippy's robot ROB, or NUS64 as some know it, would take over it, so I guess that makes it a Team of six. Wow... times really have passed.
I did keep that promise I made to James, although I didn't make it when he was alive. I made it as soon as Fox was calling me a liar... I knew that with what Fox had to go through, I had to look after him. I had to be his new father figure. The poor boy... he still regrets not saying goodbye to James before we left. And I still blame myself for losing him back in Venom.
But, you know, I feel he still flies with us. I promised him that he WILL see the day Fox flies as a master of the skies... and you know, Fox did become the master of the skies. He saved Lylat from Andross's clutches; he defeated him while he flew inside that doom dome we flew in. Although I was not there, nor was Slippy nor Falco, when he battled him, he won. He won, young one. He saved us all... and I'm pretty sure James saw it all. And if Arwings did have souls and become ghosts, then James would use his to fly by Fox's side as he saved Lylat.
I still see James within Fox. I still myself in Slippy and Falco... or what was me. I used to be energetic and wild... now, I'm nothing more than a tired old man. Heh... I still have a youthful heart, and I will keep it that way as long as I still fly as a mercenary. Even though it is worn and broken.
I look at you, and I see you're smiling. Your eyes are moist, and you hope to hug me. You can. I'm open for hugs. After all, I'm just a cuddly rabbit... even though I'm an old and tattered cuddly rabbit. You can hug me... in fact, I'd like one. Telling you all this took a lot out of me. I could use the comfort.
Oh. Was I crying?
I'm sorry. I... tend to cry rivers.
((Please forgive me if I'm not the best grammar person in the entire world. I was sorta crying as I wrote this, maybe because I'm putting myself in Peppy's shoes as I wrote this. Please review. I'd love it.))