Wow, so this is taking me a lot longer to write than I thought it would. It's also turning out much, much longer. So much for wanting to write a short little one-shot. Then again, when is anything ever short with me? I've somehow lost my ability to write anything less than like... twenty pages.
So anyway, due to its length and the time it's taking me to finish, I'll be posting up parts to this as soon as I finish them. Not sure how long the next one will be... 'll probably just go until I feel like I've hit a really good part-ender. Or the end of the fic. Who knows!
Standard disclaimers apply in that I don't own Star Fox or any of its characters.
Fox had been drifting in the space between reality and dreams when the alarm went off. It wasn't all that loud, but the repetitive, monotonous pitch was highly grating, forcing his eyes open as he gave a small groan.
He'd been sprawled back in one of the chairs on the bridge, feet up on the controls. Peppy hated when he did that, but the old hare wasn't here right now, was he?
With a small huff, he shrugged his shoulders forward until he was seated upright in the chair, albeit a bit slumped over. He wiped the sleep out of his eyes as he tried to register exactly which alarm it was that had woken him from his nap. He'd just begun to let his eyes wander lazily over the blinking lights when he heard the whoosh of a door open behind him.
"Fox, could you actually check the goddamned alerts once in a while?" Falco idled up beside him, hands on his hips. "That thing's been goin' off for five minutes now."
"I'm checking it, I'm checking it..." This was said with a yawn, which didn't help ease Falco's annoyance.
Another whoosh and soon Peppy had entered the room as well. "Is that what I think it is? Why hasn't anyone checked it yet?"
Fox's eyebrows furrowed a bit as he grimaced, knowing what was to come.
"Genius here's been sleeping at the console right next to the damn thing. I'm beginning to think he could sleep through a friggin' raid!"
Fox grumbled something under his breath but didn't say anything. His eyes focused on the blinking blue light on the far left corner of the console. Indeed, Peppy had been right. It was the distress signal.
He gave it a small tap with his finger. "Looks like it's the distress signal."
Falco rolled his eyes. "Thanks for stating what we already know."
Peppy had made his way over to the console by now as well, bringing up the keyboard from its spot underneath the main flight controls. He began typing away, one of the nearby monitors changing to bring up a black screen as the commands he was inputting appeared in green lettering. Fox took this opportunity to slap Falco's shoulder with the back of his hand.
"Looks like..." Peppy was glancing towards another set of monitors now. A series of windows were popping up, targeting in on various bits of information. One was locating points as it whizzed through a line diagram of the Lylat system. "Here. Here we go." He tapped one of the screens.
"Dammit, not the asteroid field." Fox scratched his head as he let out a sigh. "That's gotta be the most annoying place to look for someone ever."
Falco cocked his hip to the side, tilting his head. "Is there anyone else in the vicinity?"
More furious typing by Peppy, and soon a number of other windows popped up. He bit his lip. "There's a small Cornerian force stationed just outside the Solar atmosphere, and Macbeth's got some folks on Titania... that's just a mining operation though."
Another sigh came from Fox. "Why is it that when there's some sort of call in a place like the asteroid field, Corneria's light-years away, but a call comes from a resort on Aquas and they're more than happy to check it out?"
"It's the government. What can ya do?"
Peppy was still typing, the screen zeroing in closer as large objects appeared on the diagram. A few labels showed up outside one of the windows, blinking. "It's coming from the far end... not a lot of traffic out there."
At this, Falco raised an eyebrow. "Kinda strange... what's somebody doing way out there?"
"Might have gotten hit by something and drifted off course..." Peppy's eyes were reading some of the information on screen.
"So, not only do we have to go to the asteroid field, but we have to friggin' head out to the boonies? This keeps getting better and better!" Fox had a hand up over his eyes, letting himself slump back into his chair.
"I'm charting a course there now. We'll have to switch over to manual once we hit the field itself, though." One or two more commands into the keyboard were followed by a few sharp raps of the enter key before Fox felt the engine kick to life below him. He could feel the chair vibrate slightly as a small hum spread across the room. "Should only take about an hour if we take Alpha speed to the border... lucky for us that we decided to stick around the Fortuna airspace that extra day, huh?"
Fox scoffed. "Yeah. Lucky."
An all-too familiar whoosh came from behind them once again, this time both Slippy and Krystal appearing in the doorway. "Where we going? I was working on ROB down in the engine room, and it practically scared me half to death!"
Falco ran a hand through the feathers on his head. "Distress signal."
"Distress signal?" Krystal's eyebrows furrowed in worry. "Where from?"
"Over in the asteroid field." Peppy finally turned away from the computer monitors he'd been staring at so intently. "Far east quarter."
"Well, crap. You don't see that very often!" Slippy's eyes widened.
"Tell me about it." Fox swung around in his chair, coming to face the two new arrivals. "By the way, how is ROB?"
Slippy brought a hand up to lift his hat, scratching his head underneath. "S'going ok, I guess. I think the new update just overloaded him. I'm having to go through and reset all the connections on the mainframe to manual... switching around a few plugs..."
"We should just be glad we don't need him for anything too important at the moment. We could be in a lot worse shape." Peppy gave a small chuckle.
Slippy laughed as well. "I guess you're right, there. Still, it'll be nice to get him up and running again."
The hum of the engine grew louder for a second before the entire bridge gave a small kick. Fox looked towards the view-window to see that they had, indeed, taken off for the asteroid field. Once the ship hit its calculated speed, the engine noise died down once again.
There was an almost awkward silence as the five of them simply stood around facing each other. Fox was idly shuffling his feet back and forth under his chair, letting his eyes travel upward to look at the ceiling. On the way back down, he caught Krystal's gaze and flashed her a smile. The vixen blushed a bit, looking away.
"Well, I suppose I'll stay here to watch for our entry into the field. With ROB not at the controls, we'll have to be careful and watch our time." Peppy shuffled over to one of the nearby chairs and plopped down, settling into it with a small sigh.
The rest of the team watched him for a moment, Slippy finally breaking the silence as he began walking for the door. "I guess I'll head back down to work on ROB some more. Call me when we get there."
Fox pushed himself out of his chair, walking after the frog. "Hey, I'll come help you. I'd like to see how he's coming along."
Slippy turned to give him a grin. "Thanks, Fox!"
With another whoosh, both of them had left the bridge, silence settling over the room once more. Krystal stood with her arms crossed across her chest, looking down at the floor. Falco tapped his foot a bit, nodding his head.
Krystal looked up at him, inquisitive.
"I have to go take a shit."
Down in the engine room, Slippy got right to work once more on ROB. The robot in question sat on a table near the back, in the area Slippy had labeled as his 'workshop'. This only meant, however, that he had a small tool rack in the corner and a number of stools to sit on, but it made the frog happy to have a place to himself.
Fox rolled up his sleeves, which had started to fall down a bit, and moved in to help. Slippy had him holding wires in place, tying off clumps of cords, and even snipping a few. He, himself, had connected ROB up to a portable data monitor and was frantically typing away at the tiny keypad. He would have Fox tie off a new wire, then enter a new set of data into the device.
Just as Fox felt a few beads of sweat roll down his forehead at the fourth pair of wires he had to hold perfectly still, he heard Peppy's booming voice call out over the loudspeaker. "We're coming up to the asteroid field. I'm switching to manual controls."
The engine was once again grinding around them as it brought the ship out of Alpha speed, the hum causing Fox's head to whir a bit as it lowered in pitch. Finally, with a slight shake, their flight became smooth once more. There were a few clicks as some gears turned, which meant Peppy had just turned off the auto-pilot.
Unfortunately, during all this, Fox had forgotten that he was trying to hold some wire still, so when he turned his head back to face ROB, he found Slippy glaring at him.
"Fox, I can't do anything if you're movin' the wires all over the place!"
"Sorry, sorry!" He quickly got the wires back in the right configuration, biting his lip a bit as he watched Slippy approach with the wire clippers.
Once they'd finished that task, Fox took his leave from Slippy's services and made his way back to the elevator that would take him to the bridge. When he arrived just a minute later, he found both Falco and Krystal watching as Peppy was handling the controls. Outside the view-window, he could see large asteroids looming around them as the ship slowly lumbered its way through.
"Everything ok so far?" He walked briskly towards the three of them, crossing his arms.
Peppy glanced back at him. "So far, so good."
"We came in on the east side, so it hopefully won't take too long to get the source of the signal." Falco scratched below his beak, his eyes fixated on the view of space in front of him.
Fox remained silent for a few minutes, joining Falco in watching the sight of the asteroids. "I don't remember the East Quarter being so cluttered..." There were definitely more asteroids roaming about than he remembered. Then again, it had been almost three years since he'd even been in these parts. Most work that even required them to come to the asteroid field took place in the West Quarter, since that was a much higher traffic area.
"The asteroids wouldn't shift that much, would they?" Krystal turned her eyes towards him, questioning.
Fox bit his lip in response, not really that sure himself.
"I almost wonder if they haven't been blasted apart by something. Don't they seem a bit smaller to you?" Falco gestured towards the window.
Once again, however, Fox was silent. To tell the truth, he hadn't actually found anything about their size unusual.
The three of them continued to watch their progress as they maneuvered through the field, Peppy handling the controls like he'd done it every day of his life. One of the nearby monitors was flashing a point on the diagram it had formed earlier, signaling that they were close to their destination.
"We should be... about... there..." Peppy was squinting his eyes as he scanned the window, then lowering his eyes to check their position on the diagram. "Fox, do you see anything?"
Fox began squinting his eyes as Peppy had done, trying to make out anything against the black of space. It was a bit hard to see anything, though, with the slew of asteroids that were drifting slowly about them. As they continued moving forward, Fox caught a small flash of silver in his eye.
"Wait, wait..." He leaned forward, resting his hands on the back of Peppy's chair. The silver flash became more prominent, and now Fox could even see what looked like two others surrounding it. "There! Right there!" He raised his hand to point towards what he was seeing.
Both Falco and Krystal instinctively leaned forward at this, following the direction of Fox's finger.
"Looks like three ships," Falco bemused.
"Yeah..." Something was bugging him, but he didn't know what. He continued watching the newly sighted ships intently. It wasn't until he could make out flashes of red along with the silver, though, that he felt his stomach drop. "Oh no..."
As if on cue, one of the nearby monitors suddenly lit up, a familiar face appearing on the screen.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't Star Fox!"
Fox's eyes narrowed. "Hello, Wolf."
"Now, what kind of attitude is that? We haven't seen each other in so long, I'd have thought you'd be a bit happier to see me!" The mock sadness in his voice did nothing to ease the disgruntled vulpine.
With another small flash, the monitor next to the one Wolf's face had already appeared on came to life as well. "Star Fox, eh? Not exactly the company we were expecting to see."
This time it was Falco's turn to grit his teeth. "Looks like he brought the fucking circus with him as usual."
The chameleon's expression didn't change much, but there was something about his glare that made him seem that much more sadistic. "I'd watch your mouth, bird."
"Yeah, well, you're not exactly in a position to be giving orders now, are you?"
Leon simply scowled.
"Am I missing out on the party?" Now it was Panther who showed up on another monitor.
"You're not missing anything, Panther, unless you wanna hear the annoying, whining voice of a certain fox."
Fox was at the monitor, face inches away from the screen. "You wanna say that again, doggie?"
"I don't know if you'd be able to take it, kitty."
Fox practically pounced onto the monitor, only stopped in time by Peppy's arm as the old hare darted forward to hold him back. "Gentlemen, gentlemen. This is the last thing we need to be doing right now."
At this, Fox slunk back, rubbing the side of his arm in aggravation. He didn't say anything else, though. On the screen, Wolf chewed the inside of his cheek incredulously.
"Alright now, that's better." Peppy glanced back and forth between the two canines. "What we need to do now, is figure out exactly what's going on. Wolf, why'd you have to send out the distress signal?"
Wolf's eye looked to the ceiling of his ship. "Leon lost a part of his engine. There was no way he was going to be able to make it out of here without it. The damn thing barely moves."
Fox continued to stare at the monitor with his eyebrows furrowed. He couldn't help but notice that both Leon and Panther stayed strangely silent.
"Well, that's simple enough. In any other situation, I might be a bit more wary to do this..." Peppy sent a stern glance towards all three screens. "...but all things considered, we don't have much choice. We'll have you three dock with us and we'll take you to the nearest spaceport. From here, I believe heading back to Fortuna would be quickest."
"I do not want them docking with us, Peppy..." This time the comment came from Falco, who stood next to him, a grimace on his face.
"Falco, I don't need this from you, too. Were it anyone else in need, we'd be more than happy to assist them."
"Yeah, but anyone else isn't our sworn enemy."
Fox scoffed at this. "That's for sure..."
"Peppy's right." Krystal had a touch of anger in her voice. "You two need to grow up a bit. Just because we don't always get along doesn't mean we can just leave them for dead."
A small growl came from one of the monitors. "Is that Krystal I hear? To think I'm being saved by such a beautiful vixen, it truly makes me feel like the luckiest cat in the world."
"On second thought, leaving them for dead doesn't sound like such a bad idea." Krystal crossed her arms, slumping her shoulders.
"Can we please not let this turn into an insult war?" Peppy was now glaring back towards the other Star Fox members. "I know none of you are too happy, but it's not that long to Fortuna. One or two hours is not going to kill you."
"Yeah, listen to the old man, Fox." Wolf was sneering from his monitor.
Peppy immediately turned back. "And that goes for you too, or we really will just leave you here."
That shut the lupine up. He sat back in his cockpit, pouting.
Peppy began inputting more commands into the keyboard, this time bringing up a diagram of the Great Fox. "I'll go ahead and open the hatch. Will Leon have any trouble getting his ship onboard?"
There was a slight static noise and the monitor with Leon's face blinked a few times before returning to normal. "Wait, what did he say?"
"He asked if you'd have any trouble getting your ship onboard..."
Leon blinked a few times. "Oh... right. Er, no, I should be fine. It's not that... far."
The clicking of keys was heard once more and soon Fox felt the Great Fox move a bit under his feet as the hatches unhooked themselves. He watched through the window as the three ships began moving slowly towards them, soon disappearing from view as they traveled under the bulk of the ship.
The three monitors displaying the members of Star Wolf fizzed into nothing as they cut off their connections. The awkward silence from earlier returned as the four on the bridge just stood, waiting. With a small whistle through his teeth, Peppy typed something else onto the keyboard before hitting the enter key with a touch of finality.
"Someone needs to go meet them in the docking bay."
Fox had his hands on his hips, jaw jutting out a bit in a pout. "Well, I'm not doing it."
"Heh, that's our leader." Falco shot him a glare.
Fox growled. "Well, I don't see you rushing out to greet them!"
"Why don't we all go?"
Both pilots turned at the sound of Krystal's voice from behind them. Neither one said anything, not wanting to commit themselves to the trip.
It was Peppy who finally spoke up, not even turning around to face them.
"Listen to the woman, boys."
Fox's foot was tapping in annoyance as he waited for the three members of Star Wolf to finish shutting down their ships, the low hum that was reverberating throughout the bay softening until it was completely gone. Next to him, Falco had his arms crossed, staring with increased interest at the wall near them. On the other side, Krystal was smoothing back a part of her bangs that had fallen in front of her eyes.
With a slight hiss, the cockpit of the first Wolfen opened. A grayish shape emerged, doing a series of flips before landing gracefully on the ground below. The lupine flashed the trio a grin before mimicking his hand like a gun, clicking his tongue against his teeth.
Fox simply raised an eyebrow. "Nice, Wolf. I'm not at all impressed."
Raising his arms above his head in a stretch, Wolf began making his way towards them. "Yeah, I know you'd never admit it. Too much pride for your own good."
Two more hisses came from behind him, and soon he was joined on the ground by the other two members of his team, albeit minus the flashy entrances. Leon was hunched forward as he walked, his tail curled almost completely up. Panther idly scratched behind one of his ears as he sauntered his way over.
"So we finally get to see the inside of the infamous Great Fox." Wolf's good eye was glancing around, following the walls encompassing the entire docking bay.
"Yeah, well, don't get too cozy. The sooner you guys are off, the better." With that, Fox turned his back and began walking grumpily to the elevator.
The remaining five simply watched him for a few seconds. Wolf hooked his thumbs around his belt loops and turned to Falco, who had finally acknowledged their arrival. "I always love a warm welcome." He began following after Fox, tail twitching back and forth a bit erratically.
The departure of the two canines from the group worked as a signal for everyone to begin walking, and soon all six of them were in the elevator, riding back up to the bridge. No one said anything, most standing with their heads tilted slightly downward so they wouldn't have to make eye-contact with anyone.
When the door to the bridge opened, Peppy turned around to greet everyone. The indignant group of pilots slowly filed their way in, Fox in the lead. The vulpine instinctively walked as far away from the others as he could, walking over towards the main controls.
"Good to see you all made it on ok." Peppy clasped his hands together, smiling.
Wolf scratched his neck in an over-exaggerated motion. "Yeah, well, you're about the only one." He shot a glare at Fox, who merely grumbled.
Panther had idled his way up to Krystal rather nonchalantly, and was now slowly preening himself. Once sure all his fur was in its proper place, he turned his head in a dashing manner towards the vixen. "It's so nice to see you again, Krystal. It's been so long since we've been able to talk."
"It's so nice to see you... too..." She forced a smile, not wanting to appear rude. She was about to take a small step to her left but had to stop when a quick glance told her that Leon was standing on her other side, staring down at the ground and mumbling something incoherent under his breath.
"Your beauty grows by leaps and bounds each day. Why, just taking in the sight of you practically makes my heart stop in my chest."
She gave a strained laugh. "Thank you... Panther. You've also grown even more..." The black cat ran a hand across his muzzle before flashing her a charismatic smile. "...narcissistic."
Falco was brushing off his jacket stiffly, obviously a bit miffed. He was eying Leon, one eyebrow raised. "Well, since we're already helping you and all, we might as well do what else we can to help. We'll have Slippy take a look at your ship... see what he can do."
Leon's eyes opened a bit wider in surprise, but it was Wolf who stepped forward, interjecting with a rather contrived laugh. "Oh really, we don't want to be that much of a bother. There's no need to check on the shi-"
He was quickly muffled as a tail slipped over his mouth, cutting off his voice as it coiled tightly around the entire lower half of his face and neck.
"What our eloquent leader is trying to say is that we have special mechanics back at our base that do all the work on our ships. There are certain techniques and procedures that are required that we don't trust anyone else to do. They're a bit delicate, you see..." Leon chuckled a bit under his breath.
Falco, however, wasn't buying it. "We can at least get you a new engine thruster. If you install it to the outer cutlet, you won't even have to open up the main power console. Slippy'll just have to look at it to see what size you'd need."
Leon was starting to appear worried. His eyes shifted to glance towards Wolf, whom he still held captive in his tail. Wolf simply looked back, one eyebrow raised.
"Really, really... we're fine. We'll just..." Leon bit his lip. "We'll attach it to... one of the other ships..."
Fox took a step forward. "Why couldn't you have done that to begin with?"
They were cornered now.
"Well, you see..."
"Oh, just shut up and admit it. This was all a set-up, wasn't it?" Falco moved forward until he was right in front of the lizard, using his height to his advantage as he looked down on him.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Wolf had finally managed to free himself from his co-pilot's grip, wiping off the side of his face. Fox took this opportunity grab the taller canine's collar and pull him down to his level.
"So the mighty Star Wolf has resorted itself to petty crimes now, is that it? Who were you waiting for? 'Cuz I'm sure it wasn't us."
Wolf tried to pull himself away but the awkward position of his back wasn't helping him much. "Well... well maybe if we were as lucky as Star Fox in having all our fucking needs taken care of all the time... and if we weren't unjustly charged with every goddamned crime in this entire system..." He continued pulling, his voice catching every time his collar pulled on his throat.
"We were waiting for the Cornerian embassy that was supposed to be making its way to Katina today." Panther stepped forward, becoming a bit fed up with the back-and-forth bickering on the bridge.
Fox looked up in surprise, letting go of Wolf's collar. "Senator Kalray's entourage?"
Panther nodded. "It was the perfect opportunity. They would be the only ones within range to come and aid us... and everyone knows the senator isn't fond of bringing Cornerian fighters with him. It would have been too easy."
Wolf rubbed his neck, grimacing. "But we weren't expecting you jerkasses to show up."
Peppy had remained silent this whole time, idly rubbing his chin with narrowed eyes. "Well, this certainly does reveal a lot..."
"What do ya say, Peppy? We take this bunch to Corneria instead? Turn 'em in?" Falco rubbed his hands together a bit gleefully, an evil grin on his face.
Leon shot him a look of hatred, tensing his entire body. "You would do that, bird."
"Now, wait, wait, wait..." Peppy waved his arms to separate the two pilots. "No one said we were going to be doing that, Falco. Technically, they haven't even done anything yet, and they did just confess. Why don't we consider that a sort of plea-bargain? We'll take them back to Fortuna like we had planned, but before they can go, we'll install tracking devices into their ships."
Wolf almost exploded. "Tracking devices?! What the hell?"
"Hey, I wouldn't say anything if I were you! Peppy's doing a lot for you good-for-nothing bastards by not turning you in right now. I'd be thankful if I were you." Fox gave the other canine a small shove.
The realization dawned on the three Star Wolf pilots, which quickly silenced them. As much as they didn't like it, not only could they not doing anything about it, but it could be a lot worse. Leon and Wolf stood scowling with their arms crossed while Panther simply shined up the collar of his suit.
"Alright, it seems that we've reached an agreement then." Peppy nodded with a smile, almost as if everyone was actually pleased with the situation. "We should probably be heading off then. While we're on our way, we can get Slippy up here to install the devices in your ships." The old hare then turned around to slip back into his chair, bringing the keyboard back out so he could start the main engines of the ship up again.
Krystal, who'd backed out of the conversation for good reason, wasn't quite sure what to do. She could feel the tension in the room. Actually, she could see it, because both Leon and Wolf were glaring daggers at the other two Star Fox members. "Well... isn't this just a wonderful reunion!" It was said more as an exclamation than a question.
"It would seem that our teammates are not exactly pleased with each other."
Krystal looked to Panther and couldn't help but nod.
There was a slight groan as the Great Fox began moving again, slowly turning around from its original position. Despite their annoyance, most members of the two teams turned towards the window to watch as they began moving through the asteroids, gliding past them like fish in the ocean.
A familiar whoosh came from behind them quite suddenly, followed by a short cry of surprise. "What's Star Wolf doing here?"
Fox glanced back, not bothering to move. "Heeey, Slippy." Nobody else even responded.
The frog made his way over to Fox's side, eyes still wide open as they never left the three extraneous pilots. He was absent-mindedly twiddling a wrench in his hands.
Fox jerked his thumb towards the aforementioned newcomers. "They were the distress call. Now we have to take them back to Fortuna."
"Well, that sounds like fun." Slippy rolled his eyes. "Who knows what kind of trouble they'll cause."
At this, Wolf turned to glare at him. "You know, I used to eat frogs all the time when I was younger. Quite delicious, actually. I've been thinking about taking it up again." He leaned forward menacingly.
Slippy gulped, taking a step back and practically running into Fox.
"S'ok, Slip. He can't do anything." Fox reached over to take hold of the back of the lupine's collar again, this time lifting him up and away from the frog. "'Sides, you get the fun job of installing tracking devices in their ships... and they're ever so grateful." He gave Wolf a rather evil sneer.
Wolf brought his hands up to his neck to try and separate the collar from his throat, but to no avail. "I really... wish you'd... stop doing that!"
A sudden impact rocked through the Great Fox, sending a vibration through the floor and causing all those standing to sway a bit precariously. Fox immediately let go of Wolf and looked up towards the window.
"Peppy, what the hell was that?"
Peppy was frantically searching the monitors with his eyes, while still trying to maneuver his way through the asteroids in front of him. "I'm not... I'm not sure. There's nothing on the radar."
"Did an asteroid hit us?" Falco was now at Peppy's side, trying to ascertain where they'd been hit.
"The scanner didn't detect any near the ship, and there haven't been any that close in front of us." Peppy's voice was filled with worry.
There was another shudder, this time coming from the left. A horrific creaking noise resounded throughout the interior of the Great Fox.
"Shit, that sounded like the wing." Fox's entire body had gone tense, his heart beginning to beat rapidly in his chest.
"That had to have been an asteroid!" Slippy was clenching the wrench tightly in his hands.
Peppy appeared to be having trouble piloting now. He was pulling on the wheel hard, trying to swing the ship to the right. As could be seen through the window, however, they continued veering off to the left.
"Peppy, did you lose the steering?" Falco was staring down at the controls in fear.
"I'm... I'm trying to get it..." The old hare was groaning from the strain of the wheel.
"I don't know if anyone's seeing this, but there's a fucking huge asteroid headed right for us!" Wolf was pointing out the window, panic quickly overtaking him.
"Move the ship, old man!" Leon was shaking Peppy's shoulders now. Falco was frantically pulling switches on the main console to try and get the ship to auto-right itself.
"I'm... I'm trying... it won't..."
The giant asteroid loomed right in front of them, barreling towards them as the ship continued to veer left. Just as the it was close enough to see the details on its rocky surface, everyone on the bridge began panicking. Slippy darted under a chair. Falco got to his knees behind the console, covering his head. Panther tried running to the back of the bridge, but tripped, falling onto his knees. Krystal brought her hands to her face in fear. Leon curled up into a ball on the floor. Fox turned quickly to run and ended up smashing into Wolf, both of them falling to the floor.
And Peppy continued pulling on the wheel.
There was a horrific crunch as the asteroid flew just low enough to miss the bridge, scraping into the bottom of the ship and tilting the entire thing upwards as it ground its way along the underside. The entire bridge suffered a tremendous shock, knocking everyone still standing onto the floor. Krystal felt her side connect with the hard, metal ground, knocking the wind out of her.
The groaning below them continued, the lights now flashing on and off erratically before finally shutting completely off, blanketing the entire bridge in darkness. As the noise began dying down, a small red light near the bridge entrance began slowly blinking. Each time it came on, an eerie red light would wash over everything, dark shadows forming in the corners of the room.
It took Fox a second to realize why it was suddenly so deathly quiet as he began to reorient himself. The engine... no... everything on the ship had stopped. They were floating powerlessly in space. He felt a pit form in his stomach as he pushed himself up onto his knees.
He looked around the bridge, trying to locate the others he knew were there. He only had about five seconds to look while the red light shone across everything before it was off again.
Five seconds in light, five seconds in dark. Five seconds in light, five seconds in dark.
"...h...hey, is everyone ok?" His voice trembled slightly.
It was silent for a few moments before he heard a groan from below him. "Would you please get off... my fucking... tail?"
Fox instinctively backed up in surprise, feeling the fur from the appendage below him as Wolf brought his tail in closer to him.
"...I'm alright, Fox..." He heard Slippy's voice come from not too far off. He looked to where he thought Slippy was, trying to make him out through the red light. The frog brought his hand up to wave weakly from underneath the chair he was still hiding under.
"I'm alright too..." Krystal gave a groan as she pushed herself to a sitting position. Her shoulder ached horribly, making it difficult to move her left arm. "Just a bit worse for the wear."
Sensing a shift next to him, Fox could make out Wolf sitting up as well in the darkness. "Leon? Panther?"
"Here, boss." This time the voice came from the other side of the room. Fox couldn't see anything over in that corner, even with the light. The cat whom the voice belonged to, however, sounded fine, which was a relief.
After a few more moments of silence, Wolf called out again. "Leon?" Still no response. "Dammit, where is that idiot?"
Wolf slowly pushed himself to his feet, staggering a little bit as he tried to keep his balance. He began making his way precariously toward the front of the bridge, where he assumed his co-pilot still was. "Leon, you better be unconscious or dead, ya hear me?"
Fox cringed. Why did Wolf have to say things like that?
With a small cry, Wolf felt himself practically trip over the small step leading to the main console area. He was barely able to keep himself from toppling over as he held his hands out in front of him. Fortunately, his left foot moved forward on instinct to catch his fall.
He glanced around, trying to peer through the darkness. "Leon?"
As he took another step forward, he felt his foot come in contact with something much softer than the step had been. He quickly knelt down, reaching his hands out to feel what was in front of him.
From the other end of the room, Fox heard Wolf call out a bit worriedly. "I found Leon." There was a short pause. "He's still... he's still breathing and everything. In fact, he seems just fine. I think the idiot's just shut himself down... he does that sometimes."
"Probably wet his pants in fear and was so ashamed that he retreated inside his head." Panther's voice came once again from the far side of the room.
At this, both Panther and Wolf started laughing, their voices sounding eerie and strange against the complete silence of the bridge. Fox felt himself getting a bit irritated. How could they laugh at a time like this?
It was then that he realized he hadn't heard from either Falco or Peppy. Those two had been up at the main console, hadn't they? But did they run back during the impact?
Following Wolf's example, he slowly got himself to his feet, feeling a bit shaky at first. "Falco? Peppy?" He began walking in the same direction that Wolf had, being careful to let one foot slide in front of the other and keep from hitting anything. As he got closer to the front of the bridge, he strained his eyes forward, trying to make out anything in the darkness. When the light flashed on once more, he saw Wolf kneeling not too far away. The other canine was now looking back at him.
"Wolf, do you see either Falco or Peppy up there?"
Wolf glanced around. "I could barely see Leon up here. That emergency light doesn't reach back here that well, especially on the floor..."
"They've gotta be up there somewhere..." He took another step forward and suddenly felt himself falling forward, having completely forgotten about the step. He swung his arms frantically in an effort to right himself but to no avail. He fell to the floor with a resounding thud, cringing as pain wracked through his entire shoulder and arm. "Shit, shit, shit, shit..."
"Watch out for that step there, Fox."
Fox let himself simply breathe for a few moments, holding his shoulder. Finally, he was able to push himself to a kneeling position, grabbing his knees with his hands. "Jerk-off."
He continued sitting there for a while longer, just catching his breath, before he felt a small tap on his shoulder. He looked up but could only make out an amorphous black shadow standing over him. When the red light flashed back on, he saw Wolf looking down at him, his hand held out.
Grasping it without a second thought, he felt the older canine help pull him to his feet. A bit begrudgingly, he let out a small "thanks" before he was off once more, searching for his two co-pilots. "Falco? Peppy? Are either of you two over here?"
He made his way to the nearby wall, using it to guide him to the main console. On the way, however, he ran into an object with his feet, and quickly knelt down. "Falco?"
There was no answer. The bird was leaning up against the wall, his head hung forward. Fox took a hold of the other's shoulder and lightly shook him. "Falco, buddy... you ok?"
After a few more shakes, he felt movement from under his hands, and made out the dark blob that was Falco's head moving into an upright position. "Fox...?"
"Oh, thank God you're alright." He leaned forward, wrapping his arms around the bird's neck in an embrace.
"I'm fine, I'm fine..." After only a few seconds, Falco was pushing him away. "What... what happened?"
Fox tilted back on his heels, chewing on a finger. "I'm not sure what all the asteroid hit... it missed the main bridge, thankfully. I... I think we've lost all power. Who knows what it looks like downstairs."
"Christ, I can't believe this is happening. How's everyone else? Are they all ok?"
"I... think so? I don't know where Peppy is, but so far, everyone else seems fine, though a little bit bruised."
"Peppy was still in his chair when it hit..."
The two pilots got to their feet, Falco looking around him as he took in the sight of the darkness surrounding them. A flash of the light and he could start to see the shapes of the others. They made their way along the wall a bit further until they reached the monitors, closely followed by the main control.
Fox reached blindly out until his hands came in contact with the chair. Following it forward, his hand came to rest on Peppy's back. The old hare appeared to be slumped over on the console, unmoving.
"Peppy... oh God..." He knelt forward, trying to take in the rabbit's condition. He tried shaking his shoulder as he'd done with Falco, but there was still no movement. "Falco, c'mere."
He felt a shift of movement to his side, and he knew that Falco was now next to him. "I'm not sure... he's not moving..."
Falco raised a hand up to Peppy's back, attempting to shake him. "Hey, old man." Again, no movement.
"Fox, what's wrong with Peppy?" Slippy's scared voice came from a short ways away.
"I..." His voice caught in his throat. "I don't know. I'm still trying to see."
By now, Falco had leaned forward, placing an ear against Peppy's back as he held his breath. Fox looked at him questioningly.
"He's still breathing!"
Fox felt relief wash through him as he sat back on his haunches. He let out a long sigh, closing his eyes. "Oh, thank you..." It was said to no one in particular.
Falco gently pulled Peppy's body off the console, leaning him back in the chair. He could barely see anything besides the dark blob he was pretty sure was his body. "Fox, why don't we get him over into the light?"
The vulpine nodded, quickly getting to his feet. With both of them grasping one of the rabbit's arms, they were able to move fairly quickly back into the center of the room. They made their way as close as they could to the bridge entrance, where the light continued flashing on and off.
With a slight grunt, the two of them placed Peppy down underneath the light. As it turned on once more, Fox took the opportunity to examine his mentor's state.
The old hare's face was covered in blood. His nose an unsightly mess as it appeared to be a bit mangled from impacting the controls. Fox felt his breath hitch, giving a little moan as he sank to his knees.
"He looks awful..."
"Oh God, Peppy..." A bit surprised, he turned his head to find Krystal behind him now, her hand covering her mouth. Her blue fur appeared almost purple under the red light.
Falco was down on his knees now as well. "We've got to get him to the infirmary or somethin'. Else he probably won't make it."
"We'll need to stop the bleeding... and check to see that he doesn't have a concussion. I'm fairly sure his nose is broken." Krystal was learning forward, trying to sound more confident than she felt.
The sound of footsteps slowly making their way towards them brought Fox's head up again. He saw Wolf as the light flashed once more.
"We also need to figure out if we can get the lights back on."
At this, Slippy piped up, still off by his chair. "We might be able to if we can jump-start the power source. I'd have to hardwire the main utility couplet to accept joint signals, though."
"Well, I think that's the best plan we have. We'll need two groups then – one to take care of Peppy, and one to head down to the engine room to see if we can fix the electricity."
"I can take care of Peppy. I'll just need someone to help me get him to the infirmary." Krystal let her eyes travel past everyone in their small circle.
"I could be of assistance, there."
All of them turned around as Panther stepped forward.
Krystal bit her lip, eyes narrowing a bit. "Panther, I don't think-"
"Alright, it's settled then." Falco cut in. "Krystal and Panther will take Peppy to the infirmary, and then rest of us are off to the engine room.
Krystal couldn't help the frown that crossed her face as her eyes traveled down to the floor. "...right."
With the electricity gone, the elevators were out of commission, so the four heading down to the engine room had to take the stairs. Fox couldn't help but feel thankful that the asteroid hadn't nullified that option as well. He wasn't sure he wanted to see exactly how much damage had been done to the different parts of the ship.
The stairwell itself was pitch black. They had to hold onto the guardrail tightly, moving along at an exceedingly slow pace, to make sure none of them fell. The last thing they needed now was for someone else to get injured.
Upon making it down the three flights, Slippy walked cautiously into the open area of the engine room.
"Alright... if we can make it to my tool rack, I have a few flashlights. We'll definitely need those if we're going to get anything done." He began heading slowly towards the back of the room, hands held out in front of him.
"Yeow! That's my foot you just stepped on." Falco's voice came from behind him.
"Sorry, sorry. It's not like I can see anything." And that was Wolf. He almost looked back to see if they were alright before realizing what a fruitless effort that would be.
"Can you guys make out where I'm going?"
There were a few moments of silence. "Not really."
Slippy rolled his eyes. "Just keep following the sound of my voice, ok?"
There was another thump from behind him.
"And that was my foot, dumbass!"
"Guys, stop it!"
As Slippy took another step, his hands came in contact with the wall in front of him. "Alright! I found the wall." There was a sarcastic whoop from the three behind him. "Now we just... go..." He started walking to the left. "...over here a little bit."
He finally felt the shape of his tool rack under his hand. "Yes!" Once he was here, he didn't even need a light. He knew the configuration of his tools like the back of his hand.
Unfortunately, he hadn't taken into account the fact that they were all strewn about from the impact of the asteroid.
"Crap, I can't find anything." His hand was searching through drawers and on pegs. Half of what he thought should be there wasn't there, and the rest of the time he found things that weren't in the right place. Just as he was about to give up hope, his hand closed around a familiar-feeling cylinder. "Oh, oh, never mind! I found it."
He pulled it out, giving a joyful cheer as he clicked it on. A small beam of light came out from the end, illuminating the tool rack in front of him. "Alright, now I just need to find the other one."
It didn't take him nearly as long now that he had one flashlight, and soon they were on their way to the other side of the room, flashlights in tow. They stopped at a small yellow box with a number of tubes and wires extending from the top.
"Here's the control box. I'll need to have someone here putting the right wires together while I handle the more complicated stuff over at the power board." He shone his flashlight towards the three of their faces. "Fox, you can do it, right?"
"Sure, I think so." He gave a little nod before giving Falco his flashlight. "Hold it for me, will ya?"
Slippy took his leave from the group, disappearing around a nearby corner. Fox kneeled down in front of the control box and opened the latch. Inside, a mess of wires greeted him, half of them smoldering and flayed. "Cripes, this is a mess..."
"Do you know what you're doing, Fox?"
Fox narrowed his eyes. "Slippy's gone over this a few times with me... I'm pretty sure I know what to do. It's just... it's a little different when they're all screwed up like this."
Fox began messing with the wires, looking at the different colors and trying to detangle them from each other. He sorted out what he thought would be right, having to wrack his brain to remember some of the various combinations.
After about ten minutes of messing around with the wires, Slippy's voice called out from a short ways beyond them. "Ok, Fox, you ready?"
"Ready for what?" Fox's voice came out a bit panicked.
"Do you have all the wires attached right?"
"I... uh... I think so."
"Good, 'cuz I'm gonna flick the switch and see if I got it."
"Be my guest, oh master mechanic." Fox leaned back a bit, away from the control box.
"Here goes nothin'!"
The three of them heard a click come from where Slippy's voice was located. A gentle hum began echoing throughout the engine room.
Along with what sounded like nails scratching across a chalkboard.
"Gah, Fox! Did you not get the wires right?"
Fox's eyes opened wide, his heart beating faster. "I... I thought so. I mean... I don't know!"
"Fix them! It's gonna burn itself out, and then we won't have any hope of starting it back up!"
In a flurry, Fox was back in the wires. The blue one... did the blue one really go with that green one? He couldn't remember anymore. Maybe it actually went with the black one. A bead of sweat ran down his forehead, falling into his eyes and making it more difficult to see.
The noise was getting louder.
Blue... red? Maybe it was red? But didn't red go with orange?
"For cryin' out loud, Fox, let me do it!" Wolf was down on his knees now, pushing Fox away. He reached into the box and found the two wires Fox had been looking at. He quickly reworked the combination, putting the blue and black together, before pulling apart two other wires Fox had thought were correct. As he brought the last two together, the noise sputtered to a stop, sounding like a choked lawnmower.
The hum, though, got louder, and suddenly, bright light enveloped the entire engine room. The electricity was back. The engine was slowly coming to life, renewed with power. Slippy started cheering from his position by the power board.
"Wolf, you did it." Fox was staring at him, wide-eyed.
Wolf was about to respond back when suddenly he was stopped short. A strange feeling started in his fingers, which were still holding onto where the wires were connecting. It suddenly rushed up through his entire body, followed by the worst pain he'd ever felt in his life.
A crisp, zapping noise echoed throughout the room, followed by a shower of sparks from the control box. With a horrifying jolt, the electricity ran through Wolf's whole body before blasting him backwards, sending him flying into the wall a short ways away. There was a dull thud, and then he fell crumpled to the floor.
"Holy SHIT!" Falco stared wide-eyed back towards where Wolf had flown. Mere seconds later, the lights in the engine room flashed intensely before once more blanketing them in darkness. The hum of the engine disappeared, deathly quiet settling over everything.
"...F... Fox? Fox, what happened?" Slippy's worried voice came from somewhere in the darkness.
"Oh... oh God. Wolf... he..." Fox was on his feet. He staggered over in the direction Wolf flew, trying to find his way. The short stint of light they'd been offered had caused his eyes to refocus, and now they had to get used to the darkness all over again.
A beam of light cut suddenly cut through towards him, and for a second he felt fear begin rising in his chest. He then realized that it was just Falco and the flashlight. The two of them raced over to the wall, the avian using the flashlight to locate Wolf on the ground.
He was surprisingly easy to find as there were still small wisps of smoke floating upwards from his body. Fox darted forward, grabbing the other's shoulders and rolling him onto his back.
Wolf's hair was sticking up erratically, bits and pieces of it splayed out in a random manner. Parts of his clothes looked blackened and charred, his fur much the same way, looking horrendously splotchy. His tail looked like a torn-up pipe cleaner while his ears had become bloody messes.
"Wolf!" Trying to lift his upper body in order to see better, Fox gave a out an anguished cry as his body fell limply in his arms.
"Is he breathing?" Falco was right next to him now.
Fox looked up at him, his eyes appearing lost. "I... I..."
"Give 'im here." He practically tore the older canine out of Fox's arms, setting him back down on the floor. He knelt down to place his ear against Wolf's chest. After a few moments, he moved his head up to listen near the other's muzzle. Still no results.
"Shit, shit, shit..."
This only upset Fox even more. "He's dead...!"
"Shut up, shut up for a second!" Falco was clenching and unclenching his hands. A bead of sweat fell down from his forehead. "Ok... umm... yeah..." He didn't know what to do. He had no idea what to do.
Falco clenched his eyes shut. He had to... wait, that? He'd never done it before. What if he did it wrong?
But it didn't matter.
He leaned his body over Wolf's with his hands on top of each other. Shakily, he positioned them over the other's chest. Barely breathing himself, he began pushing down with small jerks. After a few seconds of that, he bent down until he was level with the other's head, breathing deeply into his mouth.
Fox watched all of this with teary eyes, his own breath still caught in his throat. "Falco, do you know what you're-"
"Shut up! I... I don't know, ok." He was up again, pushing down on Wolf's chest.
Fox was quiet after that, not wanting to distract him. Falco continued to alternate between the two methods, hoping, dearGod hoping that he was doing this right. And that it would even make a difference.
He was just ready to bend down once more to give him a breath when Wolf suddenly gave out a horrific sounding cough. He whole body curled slightly inward, his good eye clenched shut even tighter.
And then he took a breath of much needed air.
"You did it, Falco! You did it, he's alive!"
Falco sat back on his haunches, heart still racing. It took him a second just to calm down enough to really register the fact that the lupine was now breathing normally, albeit still a bit raspy.
A bright beam of light was suddenly in Fox's eyes, causing him to instantly close them, bringing a hand up to his face.
"Fox, what in the world is going on?"
It was Slippy.
"Stop pointing that at my face!" The light was quickly refocused on the wall, still letting them see, but not blinding them. "Wolf... Wolf got electrocuted."
"How did Wolf get electrocuted?"
"He... pushed me out of the way when I couldn't get the wires right." Fox couldn't help but start to feel guilty about the whole predicament. He lowered his head a bit, looking at the ground.
"Oh..." The light on the wall lowered slightly, as if mimicking the movements of Slippy's head.
All three of them blinked a few moments before realizing where the voice was coming from. Slippy pointed his flashlight down towards Wolf as Fox leaned forward.
"I'm fucking thirsty."
Fox grinned, a few stray tears still welling up in his eyes. "We'll get you something to drink, Wolf."
Falco, who'd been silent for sometime now, finally shifted forward a little bit. He brought his hands up to rub idly between his eyes. "Well, now what are we gonna do? We didn't fix the electricity, and now we have another person who could be fatally wounded."
"Don't say that!" Fox looked at him sharply.
"Ok, ok, just wounded."
Fox's glare dissipated, leaving him looking simply tired and forlorn.
"I'll be... I'll be just... fine..." Wolf was struggling to sit up now. He put his hands out behind him but gave a small hiss, immediately bringing them back and falling back to the floor. He had grisly-looking red and black streaks across his hands, the skin actually curling away in a few places.
"Don't move, Wolf. Just stay there for a sec..."
"We need to get him up to the infirmary, now. We've gotta patch up those burns."
"How are we gonna carry him up three flights of stairs?"
"We might be able to... both... carry him..."
"In the dark? It'd be hard enough with all the lights on."
"I can walk myse-"
"Shut up, Wolf."
"We might just have to bring stuff down here. Have an expedition or something."
"That's not a bad idea. We can gather up a number of things in case anything else happens as well. Maybe get some water, too."
Wolf was struggling to sit up again.
"Wolf, lie down." Fox pressed a hand to his chest, pushing him back to the ground.
Falco got to his feet, dusting off his pants as he did so. "Alright, then. Fox, come with me – I'll need some extra hands to carry stuff down."
Fox nodded, standing up himself. He started to take a step towards his co-pilot when he was abruptly stopped by a tug on his jacket. He looked down to find Wolf staring up at him with pleading eyes, a small whimper escaping his throat. The vulpine's eyebrows furrowed a bit in worry before he glanced over at Falco helplessly.
Falco cocked an eyebrow, then gave a small sigh. "Fine, alright. Slippy, come with me. Fox, take this flashlight so we can each have one." He reached forward to hand the light source over to his friend.
Fox once more gave a little nod. Both Falco and Slippy then started back for the stairwell, Slippy in the lead since he was now in charge of the light.
Once he saw them both disappear up past the ceiling, he pointed his light back to the ground towards Wolf, who was still clutching onto the bottom of his jacket as if he never wanted to let go.
"Wolf... you can let go, now."
He felt the pull lessen, and soon Wolf's hand left, returning to its original position at his side. The lupine, however, didn't say anything.
Fox gave a sigh, scratching the top of his head, and then lowered himself to the ground, crossing his legs as he did so. He set the flashlight on the ground a short ways away, pointing it towards them so they could see.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, Wolf's eye half-closed as he simply stared off into space and Fox just looking down at him.
"How do you feel?"
Fox couldn't help but chuckle. "Well, that's certainly to be expected."
It took a few moments for the other to respond. "...I can't hear very well..."
Fox's expression filled with worry once more. "What do you mean?"
"...everything's kinda muted..."
At this, Fox didn't say anything, simply biting his lip as he looked down at his companion.
"My head's killing me too."
Fox continued to just sit for a few more minutes. Finally, a bit nervously at first, he reached over to grip Wolf under the armpits, dragging him gently towards him.
"Wh... what are you doing?"
He kept pulling him until he had the other canine's head in his lap, extending his own legs out in front of him to make it more comfortable for both of them.
"...oh..." Wolf gave a rather embarrassed smile, eye focused downward.
Fox bit down on his lip with a small chuckle. Saying nothing, he brought his hand to his mouth, licking the side of his thumb before lowering it and beginning to rub at the charred smudges on Wolf's face.
"Do I look that bad...?"
This was met with a grin. "Nah, you look great."
Wolf's body actually looked even worse now that he was seeing it up-close. Bits of his clothes had simply burned right off or gotten melted into his skin, especially around his knees which he'd been kneeling on. His skin itself was etched with gray and black burn marks. The blood that had come from his ears had started to become dry and crusty, making his fur stick out in small clumps, and the one eye looking up at him had a red tinge to it.
"Somehow I'm not believing that."
"Hey, trust me on this." But he couldn't keep the slight tremble out of his voice. He wet his thumb again, this time bringing it down just over Wolf's eye, trying to wash away a particularly charred spot.
"H-hey!" Wolf had to close his eye, instinctively pushing his head back into Fox's legs.
"Sorry, just let me..." Fox gave it a few more swipes before bringing his hand back. It really wasn't doing much. In fact, it almost seemed like it was making it worse – just moving the smudges around. He let out a sigh.
Finally, he let himself sit back a bit, leaning against the wall behind him. He kept looking down at Wolf, who was now peering up at him with an inquisitive eye. The sight actually made him chuckle again, and he brought his hand up this time to try and pat down some of the hair on his head.
"Your hair's sticking up."
He was having about as much luck with the hair as he'd had with the smudges, so he soon gave that up as well.
"I'm sure that's just wonderful."
Fox grinned. "Don't worry about it... it's cute."
Wolf's head turned down in embarrassment once more.
When the electricity had come on for a moment in the infirmary, it had scared the living daylights out of both Panther and Krystal. Krystal had just finished up cleaning Peppy's nose and had started applying the antiseptic, Panther having found an emergency lantern underneath one of the cupboards. Both just stood staring at each other, marveling at the re-emergence of the light.
Unfortunately, it hadn't lasted long. Almost as soon as it had come, it was gone again. The welling up of hope Krystal had felt upon seeing the light was quickly squandered, making her feel even worse than before if it was even possible.
"Well, that was certainly strange. Were they not able to keep the power going once they got it on?"
Krystal looked up from where she had returned to treating Peppy. "I'm... not sure. It really does seem strange, doesn't it? I was sure for a moment that everything was going to work again."
Panther was staring off in the direction of the door.
"I do hope they're alright..."
She paused for a moment, wondering exactly what the others were doing, but was soon back to Peppy. The old hare's nose was definitely broken. She had done her best to clean it up to avoid infection, but she wasn't sure how much blood he'd injested while unconscious. He also had started to develop a rather nasty-looking bruise across the entirety of his forehead, which particularly worried Krystal. She hoped that he hadn't incurred any cranial damage.
They'd gotten him to the infirmary without much trouble. Panther was definitely stronger than she'd first thought, and he was able to carry the rabbit in his arms easily. From there, it was just trying to wrack her brain to remember the exact way to the infirmary, as most of the trip had been done in total darkness. She was certainly glad she remembered that they kept an emergency lantern under the cupboard, though, since she wasn't even sure how she would have been able to treat Peppy without any light.
She looked down at Peppy's scarred face, her own face falling a bit as she felt the smallest of tears forming at the corners of her eyes.
"The old rabbit's a resilient fellow. I'm sure he'll pull through."
She glanced up in slight surprise, looking over at Panther who was now seated on the other patient chair. She gave a slight sigh, shifting her eyes to look down at the floor.
"I... I know... it's just... seeing him like this..."
Panther was about to make a comment concerning his thoughts on how Krystal's expertise and beauty could help heal anyone, but decided it wasn't entirely appropriate.
Turning to face Peppy, she ran a hand along the fur atop his head, smoothing his ears out that were now bent at a rather odd angle due to gravity. The dim light from the lantern was casting shadows across his face, and further back in the room it left a pale glow over the counters and shelves.
"Panther, do you think we'll get out of here?"
Panther looked a bit taken back by the question. "Why do you ask that?"
"If... if the electricity doesn't come back, there's no way for us to send out any kind of signal that we're here. Who's going to find us?"
He brought a hand up to scratch idly at the scar on his face. "I suppose you do have a point there... but you're certainly not ill-prepared to spend ample amounts of time here. I assume you've got plenty of food supplies."
Krystal pursed her lips. "Yes, yes, we do. We always keep everything stockpiled to last at least two weeks at a time. Although, that's just for the five of us. We do have three extra people now..."
"The East Quarter is less-trafficked, but it's not a ne're-used highway. Given the time we have, I'm sure that someone will come within range to detect the ship."
This eased Krystal's heart a little, but she still couldn't help but worry.
"She's not exactly a small ship. She'll show up on radar by anyone within the eastern half of the asteroid field."
"Yes... this is true."
Panther straightened out his gloves, smoothing down the back ends. "So you needn't worry at all. It's just a matter of waiting. Think of it as a vacation or something."
At this, Krystal gave a small chuckle. "Well, I wouldn't go that far."
A fairly comfortable silence followed, both just pondering the whole state of events they'd gotten themselves into. After a few minutes, Krystal walked to the other sid of the room to grab one of the rolling chairs that had probably been jolted to the side during the asteroid impact. She gently pushed it back over to the patient chair Peppy was located in, sitting down in it.
"Is there anything else we need to do for him?"
Krystal glanced over at Peppy. "Well, I'm... not really sure what else I should do." She smoothed a lock of hair behind one of her ears. "I mean, if we had electricity, I might hook him up to a cathader or something... we'd be able to monitor him and have constant assurance on his vitals. As it is, we can't do much else besides watch over him for any changes."
Panther simply nodded, folding his hands across his stomach while leaning back in his chair.
"Are you sure we're going the right way?"
The voice came from outside. Krystal looked over at Panther in confusion.
"Of course I'm sure. I know this ship like the back of my hand!"
"This is the bathroom, you idiot!"
"Well... I do really have to go..."
"For Chrissake, give me that flashlight! I'll find it."
Krystal couldn't help but bring a hand to her mouth in a chuckle.
"Look, I can see a light coming from right up there."
Panther shot Krystal a rather knowing grin. "I have a feeling we'll be receiving some company soon."
As if on cue, a beam of light was suddenly coming in from the door. Krystal had to shield her eyes as it swept across the room. "Turn it off! You're going to blind us all!"
"Gah, sorry." The light was extinguished, and once both Panther and Krystal's eyes became adjusted to the dimmer light, they could make out Falco standing in the doorway.
"How are things coming along up here?"
Krystal stood up from her chair. "Not too bad... Peppy's been cleaned up, and I've treated what I can of his nose. There's not a whole lot else that I can do for him, though..."
Falco had walked further in the room while she was talking, allowing Slippy to enter behind him.
"What was that surge of electricity earlier? It scared us out of our skins!" Panther was leaning forward now, holding up his head with his hand.
Falco and Slippy glanced at each other for a second. "That's, er... the main reason we're here. We need bandages, uh... antiseptic, burn ointment..."
Krystal immediately developed a pit in her stomach. "Who's hurt? What happened?"
Falco had to turn his eyes downward. "It's Wolf... he was electrocuted."
"Electrocuted? How?" Panther was sitting completely tense in his chair now. "Is he alright?"
Falco shuffled his feet. "Well, he's alive... not exactly in the best of conditions, though."
"We had some trouble getting the power back on... I should have looked at those wires before I had either of them look at it, I know. There... there must have been something wrong..." Slippy had his hands to his head, grimacing.
Krystal had moved from her place to stand by Falco. "Is he conscious? Up and talking?"
"He is now. Wasn't after he first got thrown against the wall..."
"Thrown against the wall?!" Panther was now on his feet. Falco took a step back instinctively at the intensity of the cat.
"You'll need to check for broken bones, fractures... who knows what could have been crushed. Have you done that?" Krystal was trying to keep the conversation on the right track.
"Well, not yet..." Falco looked around a bit sheepishly. "We haven't really checked him over at all yet... that's why we came up here: to get supplies. We didn't wanna move him."
"That was probably a good idea..." Krystal brought a hand to her chin. "I can get you plenty of things you might need." She glanced over towards the shelves. "I'll just need something... to put them in..."
Slippy's eyes lit up. "Here, use my hat." He plucked said object off of his head, offering it to the vixen.
"Oh, that should work fine." Krystal took it from him and made her way over to the shelves, starting to gather up anything she thought would be useful for them to have. The remaining three watched her as she moved from cupboard to cupboard.
Finally, Falco turned back to face Panther. "We need to get some water too... I'm trying to remember where we kept those big, seven-gallon jugs we've always had in case of emergencies..."
"Second-floor storage closet, third shelf." Krystal didn't even turn around from what she was doing.
Falco and Slippy turned to her in amazement.
"Wow... nice, Krystal." Falco chuckled.
Krystal deposited two sets of bandages into Slippy's hat. "Well, I figured that someone has to remember things like that. Even while we were still hauling them in there, I knew that none of you would remember their location even the very next day!"
"Ehhh, you do have a point." Falco ruffled the feathers on his head a bit sheepishly.
While Krystal continued to pack Slippy's hat, the other three went back to waiting in silence. The glow from the lamp was making their faces appear dark and shadowed, giving them slightly more forlorn looks than they already had.
Slippy was idly poking his two index fingers together as he waited, shifting his weight from his heels to his toes and back again. He let his eyes wander to trace the outer edges of where the light hit the wall, sometimes traveling all the way down to the floor and other times encompassing the entire part of the ceiling. After his eyes passed over the light-switch, he couldn't help but suddenly notice the second rectangular shape next to it.
It wasn't something he hadn't seen before, no. In fact, he checked it fairly regularly. It was the pressure gauge. They had one in most of the rooms. It really wasn't necessary to check it that often, as the Great Fox was a sturdy ship and wasn't one to spring random leaks out of nowhere. But being the rather anal person that he was about things like this, he enjoyed making sure that everything on the ship was in ship-shape.
That was probably the reason why he noticed something a bit different about it now, even in the low light. He tried to ignore it at first, focusing instead on the way Panther's tail kept flicking back and forth against the chair behind him. His eyes, however, tended to betray him, and soon he was looking at it again... and still, there seemed something off about it.
He walked away from his position by Falco until he'd made it to the wall, wanting to get closer to the gauge. Unfortunately, his position in front of it blocked the light from the lantern, so he had to move a bit to the side to let the light hit it.
And that was when he felt his heart sink into his stomach.
"Guys... uh... I think you all should see this."
Both Falco and Panther immediately turned their heads to the frog. Even Krystal, sensing the urgency in his voice, looked away from the shelves.
"What is it, Slip?" Falco scratched the side of his neck.
Slippy turned around to face them, eyes wide-open as if he'd seen a ghost. "It's the pressure gauge."
"Pressure gauge?" Panther seemed slightly confused.
Falco's body had gone completely rigid, his eyes boring holes through Slippy's head. "What's wrong the pressure gauge?" The intensity in his voice was almost frightening.
"It's... half-way down."
"Half-way down?! What the hell?" Falco was over by Slippy in an instant, checking the gauge for himself. "We... do we have a leak?"
Slippy's voice was trembling now. "I-I don't know. That's the only thing I can think of if the pressure's gone down this much... I..." His mouth continued moving but no sounds came out.
"What exactly does it mean if the pressure's that low?" Krystal had her hand gripped tightly around the arm of Peppy's chair, having walked closer to where her teammates stood.
"It means we're losing air, that's what." Falco was massaging his temples. "About half the supply, too."
"I... I can't tell how fast it's going down. We could, I mean... maybe we're lucky and we simply lost that when the asteroid hit, so now it's stuck there."
"Slippy, you don't lose half a ship's supply of air that fast."
Slippy was practically crying now. "I-I know, I just thought... I just..."
"Alright, alright, everyone just calm down for a second. Breathe, Slippy." Krystal had her hands out in front of her, looking back and forth towards each person in the room.
Slippy gave a long, shaky breath, attempting to stifle his sobs. A small hiccup escaped his mouth.
"Is there anyway we can find out exactly why the pressure is so low?"
Falco was leaning over a bit, his hands hooked around his belt. "We'd have to search the ship. The only thing I can think of for it to be is a leak... and a fairly large one at that."
"Ok... is there anything we can do to fix a leak?"
Falco and Slippy glanced at each other once more. "Well, it depends on the size. Normally if we were to get a leak like this, we'd simply pull into to the nearest space dock... get it fixed up."
"S'not really possible now, though..." Slippy gave a small sniff.
"It's not exactly recommended practice to fix a leak while flying in space."
Krystal was rubbing the sides of her arms absent-mindedly. "I understand that, but we don't really have a choice. We're going to have to do what we can."
Falco scratched the side of his head. "We haven't even checked out what the lower levels of the ship look like yet. Who knows what it's like down there."
By now, Krystal had started pacing. Her small steps sounded surprisingly loud against the blanket of total silence surrounding them. "We'll need to check that out then. My guess is that's where the leak is, and if we're going to have any hope of getting out of here, that's got to be our first priority."
Falco nodded slowly, Slippy bringing a hand up to wipe under his nose.
"Slippy, you know this ship better than anyone else here besides ROB, but he's not exactly in commission right now. If there's anyone who can find the leak, I know you can."
Falco reached over to squeeze the frog's shoulder. "Don't worry, Slip. I'll go with ya."
Slippy smiled up at him through tearful eyes. "Thanks, Falco."
Krystal bit her lip, still deep in thought. With a start, she suddenly popped her head up. "Oh, we have another flashlight." She began making her way towards one of the far cupboards. "We just needed the lantern, so we didn't even bother getting out the other flashlight we found. I'm sure it will help you two."
"That's great! It's kinda hard getting around with just one light, let alone try to search for something."
Opening the door, Krystal pulled out the yellow flashlight, then walking over to place it in Slippy's hand.
"I know you can do it, Slippy."
Slippy gave a small sigh, but was able to form a smile on his face, even if it was a rather sad one. "Thanks, Krystal."
"Alright then, let's go. Who knows how fast that pressure gauge is falling." Falco turned his flashlight on, walking back towards the door.
"W-wait up!" Slippy ran at a quick jog to catch up, soon falling into stride behind the bird. A moment later, he'd turned on his own flashlight.
Krystal watched after them for a few minutes until she saw their lights disappear around a corner. Once they were completely gone, she let her eyes fall to the ground, bringing her hands up to rub at her temples. She clenched her eyes shut.
Panther, who hadn't said much of anything during the entire conversation, looked back towards the vixen now. He chewed silently on his lower lip, all of a sudden feeling a bit awkward.
A small hitch could be heard in her breath, but she didn't answer. Her body was hunched forward a bit, shoulders tensed. She seemed like a completely different person from the confident pilot he'd seen earlier.
He extended a hand towards her, about to take a step. "Krystal, are yo-"
"I'm fine. Just... fine... thank you, Panther."
He stopped his movement, still just looking at her.
"I... I think I need to get something to eat."
After having waited for a little over an hour, Fox was beginning to question whether his teammates were coming back. He kept looking towards the stairs, hoping to hear the clanging that would denote someone's descent, or hear their voices echoing down from above.
But no one was coming.
What the hell were those two doing? Sure, it was dark, but it still shouldn't take that long to get to the infirmary and back. Especially since both Panther and Krystal were there.
His eyes narrowed a bit. He wasn't really sure whether to be concerned or angry.
Wolf had fallen asleep in his lap about half an hour ago. The lupine looked particularly serene like that, even with his fur all in disarray. Fox had almost fallen asleep a few times as well, his head sinking downwards a few times before he popped it back up quickly. He hadn't thought he was all that tired before, but after turning the flashlight off to save the batteries, it was all he could do to keep his eyes open.
He was beginning to wonder whether he should try to go find his teammates or not, but he couldn't just leave Wolf here. And yet, carrying him up three flights of steps would be almost impossible by himself...
He brought a hand up to scratch behind one of his ears.
Boy, what he wouldn't do for a nice steak right now. He practically started salivating at the thought. In fact, just about anything would have been pretty nice right now. He was starting to realize how hungry he was. Plus, Wolf still needed medical attention. He really needed to do something.
Giving a little sigh, he raised his hand to gently trace a finger across Wolf's forehead.
The lupine showed no signs of waking.
"Wolf, wake up."
He slowly moved his hand up to begin scratching behind the other's ear. Wolf's nose started twitching, and pretty soon his tongue was lolling out, tiny whimpers escaping his throat.
"Come oooon... wake up..."
Wolf was practically panting now. "Only if you... keep doing that..."
Fox couldn't help but grin, biting down on his bottom lip. He continued the scratching for a few more minutes, highly amused at the pleasure his companion was getting from it. Finally, he let his hand start moving away, now simply rubbing softly along the side of his chin.
Wolf opened his eye to look up at him through the darkness, a soft smile spread across his face.
"I don't think our expedition team is coming back."
Wolf's face fell slightly. "What happened?"
Looking up towards the stairwell again, Fox furrowed his eyebrows. "I'm not sure... it's been over an hour now, though."
Wolf brought his arm up to scratch his nose with the back of his hand, making sure to be careful and avoid the section where the skin had been burned off. "That's kinda weird..."
"I mean, they know that we're waiting down here." Fox was now chewing on the inside of his cheek. Finally, he huffed out a sigh. "At this rate, I'm beginning to think we should just go up there ourselves."
There was no reply.
"I don't know if I can carry you that whole way, though."
"I can walk myself."
Fox frowned slightly. "I don't thi-"
"I'm fine, really. I can... do it myself..." He was struggling to sit up now. He got himself to an upright position, grimacing a bit. "Piece of... cake..."
"Wolf, don't push yourself so hard." Fox reached forward, about to rest his hands on the older canine's shoulders, but he'd already begun trying to stand up.
Wolf gave a little grunt as he lifted himself onto his feet. Almost immediately, though, his right leg gave out and he fell back onto his knees with a thud. He let out a strangled cry as tears sprang to his eyes.
"Wolf!" Fox darted forward, bringing an arm around the other's shoulders.
Wolf now had his teeth clenched together, trying his absolute best not to let the tears fall. "My... my leg..." He squeezed his eyes shut.
"Is it broken?"
"I don't... know..."
Fox began pushing Wolf's upper body backwards, holding him up with his arm. With the other, he ever so gently worked at getting Wolf's leg out from under him. He winced everytime he heard Wolf let out a small yip.
"Alright, that's obviously not gonna work, Wolf."
Again, there was no reply, this time Wolf simply looking down at his leg, his face still strained from the pain.
"I'm gonna have to carry you."
It took a few moments, but Wolf finally gave a small nod.
"You'll need to hold the light, though."
Fox reached over, stretching his arm so that he could reach the flashlight without letting go of Wolf. Once his fingers closed around it, he clicked it on, enjoying the feeling of being able to see more clearly again. He handed it to Wolf, who took it, albeit reluctantly.
"Mmkay, I'll need you to grab around my neck, that way I can lift you up off the floor." He moved over until he was kneeling in front of Wolf. He waited until he felt the other's arms grip him tightly, and then he began to stand up, swinging his arms back to grab a hold of Wolf's legs as he made his way up.
"That wasn't too hard now, was it?"
He shifted a bit, trying to get a better hold of Wolf so he wouldn't drop him. The other canine wasn't as heavy as he thought he'd be, but he definitely wasn't light.
"I'm not hurting anything, am I?"
He felt Wolf begin to relax, resting his head against his back.
"Remember, you're in charge of the light."
The beam of the light moved up with a start, focusing in front of them. Fox could see the wall a short distance away, a mess of tubing connected to one side.
"Point it more towards the right – the stairs are in that direction."
The light moved along the wall quickly, missing the stairs at first. With a slight stop, it began moving backwards until it the stairwell was right in the middle of it.
And with that, Fox was off. It was rather slow-going, neither one could lie about that, but at least they were getting somewhere. He had to adjust his grip around Wolf's legs a number of times as he would slip lower, and each time he did, he would worry he'd knock his leg or something. Wolf never made a peep though, so he couldn't ever be sure.
Despite the obstacles, it didn't take them too long to reach the stairs. Of course, Fox had to remind himself that this was the part that was the real challenge.
"Can you point that light up the stairs for me?"
The stairs lit up as the beam danced across it.
"Are you sure you can do this, Fox?"
"Hey, I'm not the leader of Star Fox for nothin'."
"What does that have to do with carrying someone up three flights of stairs?"
"Just work with me, Wolf."
Gritting his teeth, he began the arduous task of climbing the stairs. He actually made it up the first half-flight without too much trouble. They'd reached the platform where the stairs began in the other direction, so Fox stopped to catch his breath. He let his head fall down almost to his chest, feeling his lungs working overtime to take in the much-needed air.
"...you doin' alright?"
"Psh, yeah. I've got this licked."
Upon reaching the next platform, he was definitely starting to feel it in his legs. His upper thighs were already burning, his knees not able to hold himself quite as high anymore. His heart felt like it was beating right through his chest.
"You're sure about this?"
"No... problem..." This was said between large intakes of air.
"We've only gone up one flight."
"Stop focusing on the... negative..."
It took them considerably longer to get up to the next platform. Fox was feeling it through his whole body now. He leaned forward slightly, eyes clenched shut. He focused solely on breathing. In and out. In and out.
"Fox, maybe we should stop an-"
"No." Fox shifted Wolf's weight in his arms once more. "I'll never... be able to get back up again... if I don't do it now..."
He began up the next staircase, his legs shaking horribly with each step. He gave a little grunt, pushing himself up, one after the other. Sweat was falling down into his eyes, and he couldn't do anything about it. One step after another. One step after another.
His foot caught on one of the steps.
Falling forward with a clang, he felt the stairs come at him with a horrifying crunch. His right shoulder took the brunt of the fall, his body instantly curling up as the pain wracked through his side. Wolf let out a surprised cry, followed by a rather anguished groan, next to him. He was clutching his right leg, eye clenched shut.
Fox tried to move over to help him, but his body wasn't responding very well. The pain coupled with his already aching muscles had practically rendered him motionless, and all he could do was grit his teeth, trying to right himself with the world once more. He mentally began cursing just about everything he could, ranging from the creator of this staircase to even himself, for not having known they were going to get hit by an asteroid. Why did he feel so helpless?
All he wanted to do was close his eyes and cry.
A sudden light flashed into both of their faces, causing Fox to cry out with a start.
"Well, isn't this a sorry sight to see the two leading mercenaries in the Lylat system in."
Fox opened his eyes wide in surprise, straining against the light. "Leon?!"
The chameleon simply gave a little smirk, cocking his head to the side in amusement.