Star Fox: Regime – a fan fiction by Wolf Reynolds
"Star Fox" and all related characters and trademarks are © Nintendo, Inc.
Story © 2009 Wolf Reynolds
Greyson Defense Force Base – Area Six, the "Battle Base Meteor" – 0842 hours, local time.
Fox awoke slowly in the dark; even though the clock said it was morning, the sun around which the Lylat System orbited was so far away from this far-flung station that it looked like little more than a large, bright star. Fox sat up, rubbed his eyes, and shook the drowsiness from his head. He got back into his flight suit and went out into the hall. No one else was out yet, but Fox didn't want to wake them; they had earned a nice, long rest, and Fox knew they would have to wait for Bill to arrive before they could do anything, anyway. The Arwings needed to be checked, and Fox thought that would be as good a place as any to begin the day. He knew he might run into Fara again, but if he did, he'd at least be alone this time.
As he walked down the harshly-lit hall, Fox tied on his red ascot. Over the years since his father's death, Fox's red kerchief had become his most precious possession; it had belonged to James McCloud. With the Great Fox destroyed, it was even more important to Fox. It brought back memories of riding on his dad's shoulders, taking his first Arwing ride, going with his dad into Corneria City to the antique speeder shows… sometimes the bandana felt like Dad's hands on Fox's shoulders. It gave him brief moments of solace when it was almost as if James McCloud was still with him.
The tang of ozone filled the air as the hydraulic hangar door slid open. Fox went out into the hangar and over to his Arwing. He put his hand on it and rested his head on the "flying fox" emblem emblazoned on the blue stabilizer. This collection of metal and bolts might have been the only friend he had who was as loyal as his team mates. Even during the Sauria Incident, when the Star Fox team was falling apart in disrepair, this devoted partner hadn't let him down. It had helped him destroy Andross, it had helped him avenge his father, it had outmaneuvered the dreaded Wolfen fighters, and it had been with him through the coldest, loneliest parts of deep space.
"Should I leave you two alone?" Fara's voice startled Fox out of his reflections. He turned around suddenly. Fara stood behind the used escape pod with a slight grin. It was obvious from her mood, however, that she had no plans of toying with him this morning. She came closer, earnestly saying, "Look, I'd like to apologize for last night. I was out of line by several miles."
Taken slightly aback by her act of contrition, Fox was somewhat ashamed of himself. "I wasn't exactly a shining example of good manners, myself," he replied graciously, "You were right. I wasn't always there when you needed me. Maybe that's why I got so upset last night – after Andross died, I met Krystal, but I did start thinking about you again from time to time. I let one of the best things I ever had slip right out of my hands; that was bad enough, but I was never able to forgive myself for the pain that must have caused you. Forget, occasionally – but never forgive."
"And Krystal?" Fara asked, "You love her?"
"With every fiber of my existence," Fox replied without hesitation.
Fara let out a long, audible sigh as she looked out the hangar onto the runway and into the starry sky. Finally, she averted her eyes and said, "It doesn't matter now. After I left, I convinced myself that it was all your fault. I wanted to hurt you as much as I could," she paused for a long moment and then looked Fox in the eyes. She continued, "Fox, whatever might have happened between you and me, you have to believe that Bill still loves you like a brother. He wanted so badly to reconcile the rift between us, but I kept getting in the way." Fox was relieved – that was one tension that might be a little easier to alleviate. Fara sighed again and went on, "In time, I realized that we just weren't compatible. I stopped blaming you after that, but it didn't make things any easier for me. The hate eventually went away… I suppose the love never did."
"I couldn't live with myself after what happened," Fox admitted, "Then I realized that I just had to let you go. I was angry last night, but maybe more at the circumstances than at you. I tried to put you out of my mind. Finally… finally, I thought I had put you in my past, then I run into you here. It was just too much, especially after having just come from…" Fox trailed off.
"I'm sorry about your ship, Fox," Fara said, "She was a beautiful ship. I know how much she meant to you."
Waving her off, Fox said, "Enough about that. You know Bill's on his way here, right?"
"Yeah," her smile returned, "And he used his connections to have me reassigned as chief engineer aboard his ship. A few more hours, and I'll be able to ditch this dump for good."
"That's great…" Fox said. Neither he nor Fara could think of anything else to say. They just looked at each other for a long moment, then both suddenly burst out in peals of laughter. Both of them were so happy – so ready to put their rocky relationship in the past and get back to being friends. Neither of them quite knew where to go; they realized that since they were finally able to live their separate lives, anything was possible. Fox sighed as he came out of his laughter and asked, "So, what do you think of Slippy's redesign of the Arwings?"
"I have to give him credit," she allowed, "That toad may be a complete drip, but he sure knows his way around the toolbox."
"He certainly does," Fox answered with a chuckle. For all of his faults, Slippy was all right. Fox knew the team would be in a bad way if not for Slippy's mechanical skills. Fox felt bad for having snapped at Slippy the last night; he hadn't done anything to deserve bearing the brunt of Fox's temper. In many ways, Slippy remained the "little boy next door" that Fox knew so well in his youth – he followed Fox around everywhere. Slippy had always felt that as long as he was with Star Fox, he was somebody; his life meant something. Slippy's father, Beltino Toad, was the head of the Cornerian Defense Force's branch of Research and Development, which Fox supposed had led to Slippy's passion for inventing and tinkering. It had also led to Slippy's isolated childhood; his father was always busy with the top-secret work of the military – in the two decades of his life, Slippy was only now beginning to understand many things about his father.
At least Slippy still had a father; that was one of the few things for which Fox envied Slippy. The unfairness was as bitter as gall for Fox. He had heard the voice of his father – had seen his father's face so clearly in his mind's eye. There's no need for you to hurt anymore. Fox couldn't help but wonder what it would have been like if he had succumb to the temptation of the Aparoid Queen. Would he have been somehow reunited with his father's memory, or would the individuality of his consciousness have simply ceased to exist? He knew something about her beckoning wasn't right, but the sound of her voice still echoed in his memory – All for us. We are the ultimate existence. Over the years, Fox had fought on hundreds of battlefields across distant worlds, but she had taken the battle to a field he had never faced before – his own mind. She had forced him to reckon with the darkest parts of himself. The Krazoa had made him stand before his deepest fears, but she had made him face something even more terrifying: his deepest regrets. She must have been wrong. Fox had friends; he couldn't abandon Peppy, Krystal, or Bill.
Fox smiled again at the thought of Bill having his own command. He had wanted his own starship so badly he could taste it – Bill always seemed so laid back, but Fox had always suspected that deep down, Bill Grey lived for the pomp and circumstance of military honors, and having his own captaincy would present him with numerous opportunities for that. He asked Fara, "Which ship does Bill command?"
"He was just assigned," she said, "It's a brand new warship – the L.F.S. Pleiades."
"They finished the Pleiades already?" Fox asked in surprise, "General Pepper and the research director had a technical consultation with the Star Fox team about those plans about two months ago. I thought it would take them years to build it."
"They finished it quite recently," Fara answered, "I'm surprised you didn't know about it."
"No, that's news to me," Fox said. The plans to the Armada's new battleship had impressed Fox when General Pepper showed him, but they must have expedited its construction quite significantly. Knowing that, Fox was definitely looking forward to seeing what had only been blueprints and pre-visualizations only two months ago. That, and he was ready to get home. At least it seemed that Fara had taken good care of the Arwings. Fox turned to go back inside and said, "I think I'd better go and make sure the others are getting ready to leave. If Bill is scheduled to be in today, we don't want to hold him up."
"Go ahead," said Fara, "I'll take care of everything here."
Turning to leave, Fox looked back and nodded slightly at Fara, as if bidding farewell to all the bitterness of the past. Fox went back inside. Falco was already standing just inside the door.
"Thought I might find you down here," Falco said.
"I was just checking the Arwings," Fox answered noncommittally.
"Uh-huh," Falco gave a knowledgeable smile.
"Are the others up yet?"
"Yeah," Falco said, "We're all ready to make tracks. This place sucks."
"I can't argue with you on that one," Fox nodded, "Where's everyone else?"
"They went to the commissary to grab some breakfast before we shove off," Falco answered, "I went to your room to tell you, but you were already gone, so I came to check out where you had gone. Why don't we go get something, too?"
"That's not a bad idea, Falco," Fox said, "I haven't had anything since we left Corneria."
The two of them headed to the base's small cafeteria to join the others. Even after a full night's sleep, they were all weary and disheveled. With no other gear or clothing available, they all still wore their dirty flight suits. Krystal's face lit up as she saw Fox walk into the room. Falco winked as Fox glanced in his direction. Krystal got up from the table, and she and Fox practically ran to each other. They held each other for a long time before finally going back to the table. The others remained silent, even Slippy. They just sat and ate. After awhile, Fox finally spoke.
"This may not be the best time for me to tell you all this," Fox began, "But I wanted to say that I'm proud of all of you. I'm the luckiest person in the world to have such loyal friends. I wanted to tell you that, because I think the coming days may stretch us to the absolute limit. We've beaten Oikonny and the Aparoids, but the damage they've done isn't going to just go away. There will be rebels and skirmishes everywhere, and it will most likely fall to us to mop them up. No matter what may happen in the future, I love you all. You are my family."
None of them quite knew what to say. Peppy opened his mouth as if to speak, but he couldn't find the right words. They all just looked at Fox for a long time. Right as Peppy was finally about to speak, he was interrupted as two synthesized bell tones sounded and the base's P.A. system relayed a message.
"Attention, all personnel. Attention, all personnel," came the voice over the loudspeaker, "Inbound cruiser. All landing crews to stations. Repeat, all landing crews to stations. All safety and emergency teams, stand by. Star Fox team and mechanical detail, stand by. That is all."
"That must be the Pleiades," said Fox, "I have to say, they're here sooner than I expected."
"The Pleiades?" Peppy asked, "That's Bill's ship? I'm impressed that they finished it so quickly. But then, I guess underestimating the Engineering Corps has become a full-time job for me."
Fox smiled as he stood up, saying, "Nothing should surprise us by now. Come on, let's get to the hangar." The five of them rushed down to the hangar where their Arwings were being kept. Fara was still there, looking out of the hangar to catch a glimpse of the incoming battleship. The enormous landing pad off to the right side of the runway was still unoccupied, but it was the only place for the Pleiades to land, so Fox knew they would all see it soon. They all stood just inside the hangar door and looked out into the darkness in complete silence. Although the Pleiades was still not visible, alarms began to sound, warning everyone to clear the landing pad or suffer fiery consequences. As the oxygen envelope was opened, transparent force-fields activated in the doors right in front of those standing there. Soon the ground began to rumble; there was no air to carry the roar of the ship's powerful plasma engines, but Fox felt the roar in the ground beneath his feet. Fox and the others shielded their eyes as the darkness was suddenly pierced by the brilliant light of the Pleiades's plasma thrusters. At that short of a distance, the light was so bright that the Pleiades wasn't even visible.
As the oxygen envelope was resealed, the door force-fields shut off, and a deafening roar filled the hangar. The roar faded; the white light of the thrusters diminished as the ship's throttle closed, and the team was finally able to see the completed Pleiades for the first time. It was a beautiful ship – nothing could fill the hole in the team's spirit which the Great Fox once inhabited, but the Pleiades was a fine-looking vessel. The ship nimbly maneuvered into landing position, and a loud roar was briefly heard once again as the Pleiades fired its VTOL rockets and gently came to rest upon the landing pad.
Landing crews scurried to the site to assist with checks on the ship. They were quickly busy spraying the glowing heat shield with coolant, releasing pressurized hydraulics from their prisons, and tending to the myriad other tasks necessary to safely land a starship. Once the all-clear was sounded, Fox and his team made their way over to the landing pad to meet Bill. Fara followed closely, but soon she broke into a run and rushed ahead of them as Bill came down the gangplank.
Even when they were in a relationship, Fox couldn't recall seeing this tender side of Fara. Inwardly, he was glad that Fara had found happiness away from him. She and Bill belonged to each other, finally bringing closure to that chapter of Fox's life. Fox set a slow pace as he walked forward with his team, wanting to give Bill and Fara at least a few moments together. Before too long, they were all standing at the bottom of the gangplank as Bill and Fara came down. Bill and Fox exchanged long looks, leaving unsaid what both of them wanted to say. Finally, Bill found himself in Fox's brotherly embrace. Bill smiled, relieved.
"I got Aldrin's message," Fox's old friend said, "What're you guys doing here?"
"Well, it was in the neighborhood," Fox joked, "Besides, our ship sort of… um, blew up."
"Lucky I was passing through, then, eh?" Bill's smile faded as he paused for a minute. He went on, "Listen, Fox. I'm sorry about… I wanted to tell you…"
"Forget it," Fox said, then put an arm around Krystal, who was standing beside him. "We're both better off." Fara and Krystal smiled. Fox looked back at Bill and the magnificent starship behind him. "Look at you," he commented, "The Captain of the L.F.S. Pleiades. I always knew you were after a command."
"Well, General Pepper used some of his pull with the mucky-mucks in the War Bureau," Bill admitted, "Seems he told 'em about my little bit on Katina during the rebellion."
"Well, you earned it," Fox assured him, "That has to be the pluckiest bit of flying I've ever seen."
"Maybe," Bill said, "But there's talk of making the Pleiades the Armada's flagship."
"Oh?" Fox raised an eyebrow, "Soon to be Admiral Grey?"
"It's a wild thought, but I've had good fitness reports so far," Bill said hopefully, "Hey, listen. I've got to go check in with the base commander," he glanced in the direction of the hangar, saw the ground crews working, and continued, "Looks like they're getting your fighters into the docking bay. You guys go ahead and get aboard. I'll be back soon, and then we'll get out of here."
Fox nodded and ushered his team up the gangplank. Bill kept going, and Fara followed him. It was obvious to Fox that Bill didn't want to stay any longer than he, so he knew the meeting with the base commander would be as brief as Bill could possibly make it. So much the better – this was the second time Fox had had to endure the Battle Base Meteor, and hopefully the last.