The Punishment

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Fox's face pressed against something warm and rock hard, sprawled on his stomach. He blinked awake. His cheek and muzzle snuggled against warm flat stone. Concrete. Fox felt it with the pads of his paws stretched out over his head. He pushed himself up onto his hands and knees and stared at the concrete in front of him. He was in the shade. Weeds grew in the cracks. He heard the rumble of a city around him: traffic, a siren in the distance.

Fox looked up to see a city street lined with five to six story buildings, brick and glass, much taller buildings reaching into the sky beyond a train bridge passing over the street. The air was hot, muggy, the day sunny and cloudless. A train rumbled over the elevated tracks.

Andross's portal had sent him somewhere, but where. Fox felt the dread well up in him—the realization. He could be anywhere in the galaxy, thousands of light years from Corneria. Cars on rubber wheels drove down the street. That much was familiar, though primitive. The tall buildings of glass and concrete provided additional familiar relief to his eyes. He looked down at himself. He had his clothes at least: a gray puffy cargo jacket, green flight pants, and red and black combat boots. He felt for a blaster in his holster and was pleased to find it.

Then Fox saw a person. At least he thought it was a person. A man stood several feet down the sidewalk, behind a cart with a yellow umbrella. He had no fur, just pale skin. A hairless ape! Fox thought to hide. He looked at his own paws, his own feral self. How he must appear.

The man noticed him. "Hey you. Hotdog. Two bucks. With chili."

Fox stared at the man. The man stared back and didn't mind his obvious alien appearance. Fox approached wearily. "I'm sorry?"

"Yeah, you deaf? Hotdog with chili." He gestured to his cart of food. "Two bucks. I'm almost out. Things been selling like crazy."

The man had gray stubble on his face and a weird fleshy flat nose like an ape. His skin looked like leather, which disturbed Fox. He wore a denim jacket, jeans, and a baseball cap with black greasy hair fanning out from under it. Two business men in suits holding briefcases walked by. One lifted his sunglasses to look at Fox.

"Two bucks?" Fox asked.

"Yeah, Two big ol' green American dollars. Pretty good value."

Fox frowned with realization. "Currency—I'm afraid I don't have any."

"You don't got any money?" the man belted. "Not even two bucks? With a costume like that, I figured you'd be bookin."

The words were gibberish to Fox. The man seemed to want to ignore him now, but instead said, "How can you not have two bucks, yet you're going to that convention dealie thing down the street?"

"Convention?"

"Yeah. Eh, what do you guys call yourselves?" The man fumbled for his words. "Uh, furries. Yeah that's it. Furries. I've sold hotdogs to cats and dogs and squirrels and even a wolf just in the past hour."

Fox brightened. "Here? There are people like me here?"

The man almost laughed. "Sheesh kid, people?" He leaned over his cart and pointed silver tongs at him. "There was a freakin' army!"

Fox turned, eagerly inspecting the busy street, but instead saw only heavy traffic: cars going by with more hairless apes behind the wheels. "Where did they go?"

The man chuckled. "Man, you really are lost. The convention center is about three blocks down." He pointed ahead.

Fox turned to walk. "Thank you sir."

"Woah wait," the vendor said. "I tell you what, take a hotdog. I gotta get rid of these things. You seem like a nice guy. And for a costume like that, I think you deserve it. It's the best I've seen."

Fox took the hotdog and took a bite.

"Holy christ!" the man said nearly jumping back. "That is unreal. I can't believe how good you guys are with these costumes. You can chew with that thing?" The man inspected Fox like a toy, from head to idly swishing tail.

"I don't really understand," Fox said between chews. He looked around at the skyscrapers. "What do you call this place?"

The man looked at where Fox was looking. "What, you on drugs or something? You're on Penn Avenue."

Fox didn't respond, still studying the tall opulent concrete and glass towers.

"…in Pittsburgh."

Fox repeated the ugly word: "Pittsburgh." He finished the hot dog and handed the man the foil wrapper and started walking away.

The man took it and shook his head, calling after him, "Have fun kid." And when Fox was out of earshot—"Damn weirdos."

+.+.+.+.+.+.+

Fox McCloud entered the concourse of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Thousands of hairless apes, in furry costumes, with furry ears, or just as their natural human selves walked around, waited in lines, posed in groups. Sunlight beamed through the massive windows. People, young and old, snapped photos of fursuiters.

Fox understood nothing. He made a slow 360 degree turn in place, taking in the dizzying sight. These weren't people like him, like the hotdog vendor had said. These were hairless apes pretending to be… something else… something animal… something like him, but only a faint approximation, a goofy approximation. Fox looked at the costumes the people wore: canines, and felines, and squirrels, and tigers of fake plush fur, big goofy eyes, tails that hung dead and limp. A massive banner was strung over the concourse from a metal beam that read: ANTHROCON 2008 with giant paw prints.

A chubby man not dressed in any costume ran up to Fox holding out a camera. The man wore khaki shorts and a shirt that said "Disney's TaleSpin" with a cartoon picture of a gray bear dressed as a pilot giving a thumbs up.

Fox blinked at the man as he aimed a camera at him. "Holy crap, this is amazing! Can I take your picture? Please please please!" The man beamed at Fox up and down and flashed a picture without waiting for a response.

A curvy teenage girl wearing baggy black clothes and white cat ears walked to the guy lazily. Her jeans had a silver chain looped between the belt and a pocket. She held several folders stuffed with drawings. Her demeanor jolted awake when she saw Fox. "Wow. Awesome Fox McCloud suit," she said in a husky voice. She brushed her neck-length blond hair out of her face.

Fox glared at her. "How do you… how did you know to call me Fox McCloud?"

"Opposable muzzle too. This must have cost a fortune."

Fox shook his head and grabbed her by the arms. "You said my name," he said sternly. "Tell me how you know my name."

The girl looked at the paws gripping her arms. "Nice claws!"

The guy was on a cell phone now. "Jason, you have to come to the entrance. You have to see this guy. It's Star Fox. Best suit I've seen. Ever." He frowned. "Your tail is in the goddamn trunk of my Civic. Get your tail on and get over here, now now now."

Fox let go of the girl and she said, "Right, I get it, you're RPing hardcore. Um, I guess I know your name because of the video games?"

Fox's eyes relaxed with disbelieving uncertainty. "Video games?"

"Yeah, by Nintendo. I mean, I never really played them, just seen tons of art for it. That's who you're trying to be right? Fox McCloud?"

Fox rubbed his head. He felt ill from confusion. "I don't understand. Yes. I'm Fox McCloud, but—"

The girl caught on with the role-playing, nodding tiredly. "Oh right right, nevermind, I never mentioned video games. Sorry. So tell me Fox, how's Lylat these days?"

There were other flashes. A small crowd had formed around him, taking pictures. Goofy fursuit eyes nodded at him with approval and waved big goofy paws at him. Fox recognized cartoonish wolves, canines, felines, a squirrel, a tiger. One Siberian Husky crossed his arms and nodded exaggeratingly.

Fox couldn't answer. He spun in place again, all the eyes, fat hairless apes, fursuits. Soon he was still, but his head still spun. The crowd grew and grew. People asked more questions. Someone touched his tail. Flashes drowned him. A fat girl with tiger face paint scritched his ears.

"This is going on my YouTube!" someone said.

"Is he on FurAffinity?" someone else said.

Another chubby guy put his arm around Fox as he posed for a picture. Fox went light-headed. His legs turned to mush. He passed out.


This is my first attempt at a multi-chapter length Star Fox story, so stay tuned. And please review!