"This is quite possibly the most important moment for our species, Fox," Pepper said sternly as the elevator slowly ascended to the top of the Citadel Tower. "I don't want you doing anything that might jeopardise our bid for Council membership, or your application for Spectre status."
Fox just rolled his eyes. "You worry too much, general. I'm sure this hearing is just a rubber-stamp deal. We go in, say a few nice words, and that's it."
His lack of concern irritated the general. "Listen, Fox, becoming a member of the Citadel Council means that we, the people of Corneria and the Lylat System, are finally ready to become part of the greater galactic community. For too long we've been content to putter around our corner of the galaxy, ignorant of what lay beyond our system. That might all change, but not if you say something stupid! Just keep your mouth shut unless the Council asks you something specifically. Understood?"
"Yes, general," Fox said with the annoyance obvious in his voice.
The elevator came to a stop and the two of them strolled out into the Council Chambers, which for Pepper was a magnificent sight. Fox, however, was rather unimpressed.
"How decadent. Give me the Beltino Space Hub over this over-engineered shopping mall any day."
He turned to Fox and glared at him. "The Space Hub is a rusting hulk compared to this place. We should be honoured that we were even invited here! Maybe you haven't noticed, Fox, but there's a lot of a prejudice against our kind!"
"Whatever. I just want to get Spectre status so I can shoot up the place with no consequences."
Pepper struggled to calm his nerves as he ascended the steps leading up to where the Council met. There were three councillors – asari, turian, and salarian – and it was all too easy to imagine them looking down at him with contempt. For months General Pepper had been petitioning the Council to hear their application to make Corneria a member of the Council. In the back of his mind Pepper was worried that this meeting was little more than an attempt by the Council to placate him, with whispers of "damn dirty furries" between the three councillors.
Pepper never understood the hatred directed towards the Cornerian people. They had only been dwelling on the Citadel for just over a year and already they had quickly become the most disliked species on the station, so much so that even the quarians seemed to have it in for them. It had gotten to the point where Cornerians were advised to travel in groups, lest they be assaulted or worse.
The asari councillor spoke first. "Against our better judgement, we now convene this meeting of the Council in order to decide the admittance of the Leyland System to the Council, as well as the granting of Spectre to status to Fox McDonald."
Pepper cleared his throat. "Excuse me, but it's 'Lylat System' and 'McCloud. The spelling mistakes are the fault of my secretary, you see. He's an idiot and he buggered it all up when I had him type up the report. A busy man like me can't be arsed to do it myself."
The turian councillor spoke next, a man Pepper had heard to be a rather stiff-necked fellow. "Becoming a member of the Council is a great responsibility. Members are expected to provide both military and economic aid to the galactic community when it is needed, and must have proven that they have earned the right to make decisions that affect trillions of lives. Judging by what I've seen, general, your people are nowhere near this point. According to the information we've gathered on your planet, you are the sole head of the military and the Cornerian government. Are you aware, general, that the Council takes a rather dim view of military dictatorships?"
Pepper recoiled from this accusation. "That's not true! I may be the head of our government and the head of our military, but we are not a military dictatorship. The only reason I don't hold elections is because people might elect someone who's not as responsible as I am. And even though I had my political opponents jailed, trust me, it was for their own good!"
The councillors looked at each other, and Pepper thought he could see them shaking their heads. "Your planet recently experienced a major military conflict," said the salarian. "Perhaps you could elaborate on this for us?"
Now Pepper could speak with pride, for what greater moment was there in Cornerian history was there than their defeat of the Venomian Army? "Some time ago," he began, "one our best scientists, a man named Andross, was exiled from Corneria for his dangerous experiments. We sent him to the planet Venom, where we thought the toxic atmosphere would kill him, but somehow he survived and began building up an army. A few years later he invaded, and were it not for the brave and heroic actions of Fox McCloud and his Star Fox team, we would have been utterly destroyed."
The councillors talked amongst themselves for a moment. "So what you are saying, general," said the asari, "is that your entire military was defeated by one man, who in turn could be stopped by four mercenaries?"
Pepper was taken aback, unprepared for this sudden reversal. Now it seemed as if the Cornerian military were totally inept, something he knew to be entirely untrue. "Yes, well...Andross...he...he was really strong you see, and he had this...this really big army. Look, I'm sure Fox can explain it to you better; he's the one who actually faced him."
Fox's eyes went wide, having come here believing he would have to do only a minimum of speaking. Nevertheless he quickly comported himself. "My battle with Andross is really the only thing you should be looking at if your considering my application for Spectre status."
"Please describe it, then."
"Well, first I flew my Arwing into his underground base, blasting through his defences until I reached Andross himself, but by that time he had transformed into this, uh, giant head that tried to eat my ship. Luckily I avoided that, blasting away his head to reveal his true form, which was some sort of..um...giant...brain...thing...and after I destroyed that the whole place started going up. Fortunately I was guided out of there by the ghost of my father, after which everything started exploding. And it was awesome!"
The council chambers stood eerily silent for several seconds. "I...see..." said the turian councillor. "Moving on, I seriously question the quality of your military, general. During a military exercise with the Citadel Fleet one of your ships went off course and flew into a sun! How, exactly, does one manage such a thing?"
He grimaced, having hoped that no one would bring up that incident. "Well, um..." he said, starting to sweat, "Suns are rather...tricky...things, you see. They sneak up on you."
"There is another matter I wish to bring to the attention of the Council," said the asari. "Perhaps you could explain to us, general, why your people took the mass relay within your system, built a rather flimsy façade over it, then renamed it the 'Beltino Orbital Gate' in a rather transparent attempt to convince us that you were the ones who built it?"
"I had nothing to do with that!" he cried, feeling his anger surging within him. "Besides, it didn't harm anyone. I'm sure we could have built our own mass relay if we wanted to, but we already got one, so why bother?"
By now General Pepper was getting the feeling that this meeting was not going quite as well as he had hoped. Yet he remained confidant that the Council would see just how much Corneria had to offer the galaxy.
"Furthermore, we have reviewed several of your ship and fighter designs, and come across several baffling engineering decisions."
Pepper bristled at the suggestion that Cornerian ships were anything less masterpieces of warship design and construction. "Like what?" he said, crossing his arms in defiance.
"Your ships' kinetic barriers, for no apparent reason, only activate when performing a barrel roll. Perhaps you could explain the rationale behind this?"
"Bah!" Pepper exclaimed, waving his hand in dismissal. "They're activated by an aileron roll, not a barrel roll! It's a completely different manoeuvre! And if the barriers were always active, then pilots would become too dependent on them and start going soft. Makes perfect sense, really."
Unfortunately the humiliation did not let up, as the salarian councillor had yet another issue. "I also must point out the rather weak economy of your system and the dearth of valuable resources therein" he said. "According to our scans, the Lylat System is utterly lacking in mineral wealth."
Pepper clenched his fists. "That's because your Commander Shepard strip mined the whole place on his way through! Bastard just came into our system, and without asking anyone starts hauling away five hundred metric tonnes of palladium. 'What the hell do you need with five hundred metric tonnes of bloody palladium for?' says I, and all he says 'it's my palladium now!' I should've told him where he could stick his goddamn palladium!"
"You overstep your bounds," said the turian councillor. "Commander Shepard is a hero of the Citadel and the galaxy. Who are you to question his need for palladium and other transition metals?"
"Well it's not right," he protested. "And as for your comment about our economy, I assure you that it is strong. Why, last year our debt increased by only three hundred and a half billion credits, as opposed to six hundred and half billion in the previous year. And I read somewhere that inflation is a sign that your economy is growing, so our 500% per month inflation rate means our economy must be really growing!"
By now Fox was becoming quite concerned, and quietly spoke to the general. "Face it, general, these bureaucrats aren't going to give us anything. Why are we wasting our time with them?"
"Don't worry, they'll see reason soon enough. The Citadel Council is anything but unobstructive, or so I've heard."
Unfortunately the Council had yet more fire to fling at the hapless general, with the turian once again leading the charge. "And your request to have Fox McCloud granted Spectre status is outrageous. Perhaps you are unaware, general, but Fox and his 'team' have quite a reputation in Citadel Space. Three weeks ago he was in the Alpha Orionis system, ostensibly on a mission against pirates, and somehow during the course of his assignment he blew up the sun! Perhaps, Mr. McCloud, you could explain yourself?"
Pepper's eyes went wide as this was all news to him. "What? Why didn't you tell me this, Fox? How in the hell do you manage to blow up a sun?"
He immediately went on the defensive. "Like you said, general, suns sneak up on you. I must have backed over it as I was pulling out of the spaceport."
This was clearly too much for the turian. "Enough! The reports of the 'Star Fox' team's activities is a litany of misadventures and criminality. The one you call 'Falco Lombardi' was recently convicted on charges of hijacking shipments of Fornax magazine, and Peppy Hare was brought in for causing a public disturbance. Apparently he was standing in the middle of a crowded street and shouting 'Reapers gonna reap' repeatedly, and if that were not bad enough, another one of your team members – named 'Slippy Toad' I believe – is spending the night in a C-Sec drunk tank!"
"Oh, that sounds like Slippy," Fox said with a chuckle. "Nicest guy you'll ever meet, but get one drink into him and he turns into a wild man!"
Pepper stiffened his shoulders, in the sort of the way that suggested an epic speech was forthcoming. "I've had enough, councillors! Tearing down the hero of the Lylat System is going too far! We came here expecting to be given an honest hearing, but all we got was insults and more anti-furry bullshit! If any of you paper-pushing bureaucrats ever bothered to set foot on Corneria, you'd see it was a wonderful, vibrant world filled with brilliant and compassionate people who are ready to give their all to be part of the galactic community. But they aren't going to get that opportunity because of your goddamn prejudice! How dare you not recognise our greatness! We Cornerians are the greatest race in the galaxy, perhaps even the universe, or at least we would be if weren't for people like you! People who want to keep the furry down. People who promote fursecution."
Fox looked over at the general in horror, knowing full well that the general's ability to give a speech was questionable at best, yet the general showed no signs of stopping. "This man, Fox McCloud, represents the best of us. Why? Not because he's the bravest, not because he is the most honourable, but because he has killed more people than anyone else! And that is the true meaning of being a Spectre – being able to kill as many people as possible before being killed yourself. He is like a rising star in the galaxy, a star that burns brighter than any other, then explodes in a catastrophic supernova that annihilates everything within hundreds of light years with deadly gamma radiation, and afterwards becomes an all-devouring swirling black hole of death! You say Commander Shepard is a hero to the galaxy, but Fox is five times the hero he is! He's killed five times as many people, destroyed five times as many worlds, slept with five times as many alien women, but most of all...his ship can carry five times as much palladium as the Normandy! And if that isn't a reason to make Fox McCloud a Spectre, I don't know what is!"
Pepper made a broad grin, as if expecting everyone around him to erupt in applause. But all he got instead was deafening silence as the Council members just stared at each other and shook their heads.
The turian, naturally, had the last word. "General Pepper, that is quite possibly the most unintelligible and incompetent speech I have ever heard within these chambers. Any activity imaginable, no matter how trivial or pointless, is infinitely preferable to standing here and speaking with you, The minutes of this meeting shall be locked inside Citadel archives and never made public, for if they were every single man, woman, and child of every species in Citadel space would have their lives cheapened by the very knowledge of your existence. As for your petition, not only do we not grant your Council membership or Spectre status, we hereby forbid your species from ever setting foot in Citadel Space; likewise we forbid any species under Citadal jurisdiction from every travelling to the Lylat System under pain of torture! You are not worthy of being members of the Council. You are not worthy of being allowed to remain on the Citadel. You are not even worthy of scrubbing the decks of a batarian garbage scow! This meeting is over!"
As the councillors filed out of the chamber Pepper turned to Fox, steaming with rage. "This is all your fault, Fox! You've doomed us to all to being little more than an interstellar backwater!"
"My fault?" he exclaimed. "What did I do?"
"You're too...too...furry! You played right into their prejudices! I knew we should have put Slippy's name forward instead of yours." He then sighed, realising that this had been his big chance and he had utterly blown it. "Let's just get Slippy out of the drunk tank and then we can get off this miserable goddammned space station and into some Serrice Ice Brandy. I'm going to need a lot of it before the day is done."
And so from that day forth, no species ever visited the Lylat System, and the location of it was never marked on any navigational charts. Not that this was any loss to the galaxy, of course, because there was no good reason to go there. No planets worthy of consideration, no interesting women to get into the sack, and worst all, a total dearth of transition metals. Quite a dull place, really.