Here's my foray into the Star Fox universe. Chronologically, it's set after Star Fox64 but before Star Fox Assault (based mainly on Star Fox64, but written to bridge the two).

Reviews are greatly appreciated, please let me know what you like/dislike about the plot/characterization/speech patterns/writing style/spamming metaphors/my pestering skills/the increasing degradation of this list. Hopefully smashing together sci-fi, western, and my meager physics knowledge will make this an enjoyable trip. But I'll let you decide that for yourself. :)

8/20/09: The gorgeous Rachel's acute eye and wise insights helped me tweak this chapter, so enjoy the improved ride. (I'm hoping enough flattery will encourage her and others to continue prodding my plot and writing with vigorous glee).

Disclaimer: Star Fox is owned by Nintendo, the plot is my own production. In an unholy, non-profitable union, I create thee!

Chapter One

Titania

A constant stream of black smoke spewed from the plane, like an extended invitation to death. "Dammit, baby, just a little more," the pilot begged, alternately caressing and hitting the metal dashboard. A loathing glance at his radar told him he hadn't shaken off his tail. He paid dearly for that split second of fear and distraction; his head whipped up when he heard and felt his hull give a groaning shudder. "Shit," he muttered as he steadied the plane with a shaking hand, flying a little higher to avoid crumbling stone structures and life-ending rock formations.

The room has a hollow feel to it, like a scraped out insect husk. With strategic indifference, a thin gray cot is shoved against the wall facing the doorway, and from the adjacent walls a stainless steel table and chair square off against a black dresser. Pressing into the center of their respective walls, the furniture sulk in isolation and let emptiness swallow the expansive steel floor and sharp corners. The door hunches in the corner of the wall containing, precisely in its center, the only hint of personality: a red framed mirror reflects the stark room and a figure hunched over the table.

The crippled plane made one last desperate maneuver, banking around a stone temple so sharply that the wing's tip scraped against stone and crumpled with a shriek. On the ground below, four shadows followed in a tight V-formation, sliding over dirt and ruins.

The figure, a poison-green chameleon, weaves a long, thin finger through a maze of razor edges set on the table. A tiny, private smile curdles the edges of his mouth as his hand stills.

There were no heroic last stands, no divine interventions or brilliant tactics. Only a single, well-aimed laser, and then the scream of metal and wind. His ears bled from the steep pressure change and as the world smeared into an ugly spiral of colors, he passed out from pain. Later on when he gained consciousness, a cold voice told him over the tinny ringing in his ears, "You will die. Your active participation will make this easier."

He picks up a knife, duller than the rest, and scratches flakes of rusty red off the blade. After licking his obsidian nail clean, he sets himself to the methodical task of polishing the blade to a sterile sheen.

Long after all his secrets had been peeled away like strips of skin and his screams had dwindled to raspy, wet breathing, the pain still continued unabated. Hatred blackening his sluggish heart; that lying sadist's empty promises mocked him with every cut, and he felt his dignity break alongside his body.

Leon Powalski enjoys these quiet moments of reflection almost as much as the reason for their occurrence.

The discarded ruins of failed civilizations watched dispassionately, and the dusty earth eagerly lapped up the falling blood.

STAR FOX: The Mad Descent of Leon Powalski
(The Many Colors of a Chameleon)

Star Wolf Command Ship – The Fierce Wolf

Leon slipped out into the hallway, the metal door closing behind him to lock out of sight his room's too pristine condition. Despite wearing iron-capped leather boots—spring blade in the right, poison capsule in the left heel—and his black and purple pilot suit, he hardly made a sound as he walked to breakfast in full combat gear. The thrum and groan of working machinery swallowed the few noises his boots made as they alternately struck metal and the thick plastic of emergency floor lights.

The overhead bar lights interrogated Leon's features harshly, harrowing his already sharp angles to more miserable extremes. The chameleon's pyramidal head absorbed the phosphorescent lights and glowed an unhealthy green, like neon toxic, and his bulging eyes, spaced widely on his face, smeared long shadows down his sallow cheeks. He fought to stand straight against the natural hunch of his shoulders, shrugging off the unflattering attention.

Wires and pipes snaked the hallway ceiling in front and behind him, like never-ending entrails clinging to the beast's underbelly. The ship's structure had the feel of a starving wolf, lean and powerful and hungry. It proudly displayed its muscles and bones under a thin layer of skin, scorning adornments in favor of bristling firepower. Leon appreciated its practical, clean aesthetics, and thought of it as both the embodiment of home and ambition.

Although less comprehending of "home," Leon knew the keen feeling of ambition. It starved a man, made him eat his own stomach and yet made him feel more alive the closer it drove him to death.

Residing himself to slake the lesser of his hungers, the chameleon slunk into the kitchen, dark except for the faint illumination of Wolf O'Donnell's handheld computer. The display screen's blue light set the frowning wolf's face in stark relief, reflecting off his metallic eye patch and the long line of polished blades hanging above and behind him. He nodded in Leon's general direction and shoveled another spoonful of cereal into his mouth without looking away from the screen.

The history behind Wolf's lost left eye remained an unopened tomb, buried deep under his metal eye patch and aggressive face. Far as anyone knew, Wolf's creation of the mercenary team Star Wolf marked his first breath, and he stepped out of the womb a fully developed man with one eye and too much jaded shrewdness. Whenever he brutally rebuffed questions of his past with such sarcastic statements, the crew nearly believed him, he seemed so suited to the life of a mercenary and nothing else. The liquid movement of his lean, powerful muscles and the rows of razor-sharp canines in his elongated muzzle screamed of a bred killer.

Leon nodded respectfully in return, fully aware of the futility of his action, and quickly fixed himself two slices of toast. He disliked eating in front of others, finding it to be a sordid and ungainly display, but he had quickly learned that no matter how early he got up, he could never compete with Wolf. His commander was practically an insomniac, which Leon regarded as a sign of a true leader. Wolf spent many sleepless nights plotting careful courses through Cornerian army-infested sectors, checking and repairing the Fierce Wolf and the Wolfens, and sniffing out jobs of acceptable profit and reliability.

His tongue flicked out to taste the air, the scent of burning tickling his senses, seconds before the toaster spat out his bread. He ate the blackened pieces plain, enjoying the crunch. The slight resistance before the give reminded him of snapping bones.

Finished with his meal, he drawled out, "Any jobs worthy of consideration, sir?"

Wolf grunted an affirmative and said gruffly, "Got contacted this morning by an organization calling themselves 'The Hand.' I did a routine background scan, and couldn't find anything. Either they're fledging or they have a serious reason why they're flying so far under the radar."

Tapping a gloved claw on the table, Leon replied after a moment of thought, "Either way, they don't sound like a reliable source of payment. I have no qualms with illegality"—a slight quirk of his lips underlined the statement—"but I'd rather not get entangled with a shadow organization that finds killing off dispensable members more efficient than paying them off."

"Pay's good enough to say otherwise." Wolf's face furrowed more as his eye darted over his screen's maintenance report. Sneaking a glance at the report, Leon couldn't find anything troubling on the screen (a relief, considering his life depended on the Fierce Wolf's smooth running).

Leon waited a moment, but when Wolf refused to say more he settled into his seat with the patience of a cold-blooded creature. His bulbous eyes roved in unseemly directions to take in every twitch of his surroundings.

Taking their sweet time, the two lesser members of Star Wolf finally stumbled into the kitchen. Disgustingly fat Pigma Dengar beelined for the fridge and pulled out five sandwiches to "snack on," while Andrew Oikonny complained of the cereal selection. Compared to Leon and Wolf's combat-ready, professional appearance, Dengar and Oikonny's sloppy display of sleepwear and slovenly attitudes disgraced the Star Wolf name.

Leon's eyes stopped their flitting, black pupils dilating and contracting uncontrollably as he stared at Dengar's piggy mouth. Snout snuffling wildly, the fat pig smashed half a sandwich into his mouth. His jutting low brow and small pug eyes gave his face a stupidly blank look as he chewed with atrocious manners. His open mouth chewing revealed tiny baby teeth sunk into graying gums, and every time he smackingly opened his thin lips, spit and chunks of soggy bread spewed from his mouth like a geyser. Forcing himself to remain absolutely still, Leon's only reaction was to blink his eyes slowly, letting the lids slide over and then settle around his bulging eyes. Mentally, he jerked one of the knives hanging over Wolf's head off its hook and stabbed the blade deep into that black pit until he hit brain—or more bone, considering Dengar's outstanding lack of IQ.

Oikonny, a wreck of nervous twitches disguised as a scrawny snow monkey, continued his whining. His nasally harping, voice pushed through his flat nose, reached intolerable proportions and Leon could hear Wolf grinding his sharp canines. Leon said with no small amount of politeness, "Oikonny. Do try to grow a spine, so that I can rip it out of you." His eyes still remained fixated on Dengar, whose little piggy pupils could only take in the sight of the dwindling sandwich pile.

At Oikonny's sputtering, Dengar gwuaffed hard enough to spit out a huge chunk of sandwich onto the table. With a casualness than made Leon burn in disgust, the pig scooped up the soggy piece and swallowed it like a delicate morsel.

"That's enough, playtime's over," Wolf growled out, demanding their full attention. Wolf's lip curled up, baring white teeth in a threatening snarl, but Leon swore a faint smile hid in the edges. Wolf might keep the peace because cohesive teamwork translated into money, but Leon took solace in the belief that in all likelihood, Wolf hated Dengar and Oikonny as much as he did.

"We've got a mission. Group called 'The Hand' hired us to combat a resistance force pestering them. Routine chase 'n' kill. Bag the leader and we call it a day."

"How skilled is the enemy?" Oikonny stuttered out with worry written all over his furless face.

Wolf stared at him until Oikonny starting squirming in his seat, and then stated slowly, "I didn't ask."

Leon sneered. Letting fear control him like that, he would never, never amount to the heavy legacy left by his dear old "Uncle Andross," which only made his struggles that much more pathetic. Oikonny was a child playing in puddles, desperately trying to ignore the ocean in front of him. Leon hoped when Oikonny's nerves snapped on a mission, the only one to get killed would be Dengar.

"Suit up and board your Wolfens, we're heading out now." Without any further ado Wolf got up and left, clipping his beloved handheld computer next to his blaster on his belt. Like a sinister shadow, Leon followed a pace behind and matched his near-silent footsteps to the rhythm of his leader's. A smug feeling wormed its way into his chest; he was the only member to walk alongside his commander. Honestly, if the other two had an iota of professionalism they would come to breakfast prepared. No matter if they didn't always get a morning mission, or that the suits became uncomfortable over longer periods—especially for that fat pig, trying to squeeze into his like a sausage into its skin—a true soldier would sacrifice comfort for security.

Entering the docking station, the wolf and chameleon entered their respective Wolfens. The fierce spacefighters were a point of pride for Star Wolf: their sleek bodies narrowed to numerous sharp spikes and their red paintjobs gave them an aggressive, war-like appearance. The sharp steering, fast speeds and powerful dual laser cannons made appearance fact.

The bumbling duo rushed in a minute later, scampering into their Wolfens. As the four spacefighters took off, Wolf said over the shared intercom, "I'm sending you the route and coordinates to Sector Z right now."

"Sector Z?" Oikonny asked nervously. "We're heading to that creepy graveyard of warships? Who'd risk flying a large command ship in all that rubble?"

"Obviously someone not wanting to be found," Leon supplied dryly. Focusing his next comment to his commander, he said, "Coordinates received, status is green. Awaiting your command, sir."

"Follow in tight formation to reduce the blip we'll cause on any unwanted radars." A pause on the radio, letting the crackles and wheezes of static take over, and then: "Keep a sharp eye out when flying through the debris in Sector Z. I don't want to have to haul anyone's ass out of a tight scrap."

"Yessir." And for the most part, they travelled the course without a hitch. They ran into a wandering Cornerian fighter and viciously gunned him down before he could radio for help. Sector Z provided its own slew of problems, but steady piloting and good radars kept them one step ahead of the shifting hulks of metal. Some of the graveyard's wreckage had fresher paintjobs, and it was anyone's guess what kind of sorry sunnovabitchs had played chicken with dead soldiers and lost.

Between the behemoth carcasses of old Cornerian warships and smashed space pirate hulls, a huge obsidian shark lurked like a ravenous scavenger chewing on old bones—sucking out marrow and soldier souls from the broken ships, just waiting to swallow something more substantial. Only the faint sheen of its barrier and the background of tumbling steel kept the black ship from melting completely into the surrounding darkness. The front half of what looked like an Arwing prototype slowly tumbled into the ship fortress, and with a flash of light the barrier decimated the ship into minute particles.

It was said that if a pilot stared too long into the emptiness between stars in space, the black and cold would seep right in and drive him mad, like looking in a mirror and finding nothing.

Staring at that black hole of a ship, Leon started to believe.

"Pay better be damn good," the torturer muttered to himself as he doubled checked his lasers' status.