We ride the skies. We tamed the waves. We skimmed the stars and emancipated dispirited slaves. We polish the poison of injustice and make it gleam. Indeed, we are the StarFox team. We assist the universe in its quest for peace. And we hope that the violence and unrest can cease. We ride the skies swiftly and sound, and we hope that our true purpose will be found...
But...why do we do this? Why are we this way? What is the point of justice and doing good deeds if they are repaid in such a way? Why care for others' well-being just to have them care less about yours? And when it's all said and done...what next? What happens? Where will you go? What will you do? What is there to do? Well, let us sit back and discover.
The desolate space of the Lylat System was quiet...too quiet. In the past this space rang with the rightful upbringing of justice, where a team of bounty hunters traveled the solar system to bring justice wherever they went. The skies and the space would proudly blast with fiery fury the silhouette of guns and cannons sounding off, and the eternal battle of the universe continuing. But today...today there was nothing. There was an unusual silence that echoed continuously into oblivion. To this team there was only the engine and propulsion of the Great Fox as it hovered through space. The control room of their massive vessel was a fairly large white space, fairly thin but lengthy. There was a white floor, white walls where there weren't windows, and a white ceiling. The control panels, however, were a contrasting black border to the room. At the controls were three separate figures, focused on their separate duties and keeping their eyes glued to the flashing screens before them as two other members were in the back observing. Seated at the main controls was an old hare, dressed in a red undershirt with a beige-colored parted coat on top, stroking one of his long ears as he watched the space in front of them through the air-tight glass. To his left on the radar was a toad, wearing a gold and black zipped up uniform, holding a wrench in his hand and tossing it into the air every now and then as he checked his beeping screen. On the other side of the room was a female blue fox, dressed in a black and gray tight latex uniform, checking the vital signs and condition of the ship through her screen. In the back there was a blue falcon, all dressed in a red uniform almost equivalent to some type of futuristic armor in appearance, seated in a chair with his arms behind his head and his feet resting up on the table, listening and slightly banging his head to the loud and heavy music that was playing. And standing behind the hare surveying all of this was a fox. He was dressed in a green shirt and pants with a gray vest on top, and a red bandana tied around his neck. His arms were folded and his tail swished back and forth as he looked left and right, making sure that each member of the team was doing their assigned job. Every now and then, he would turn his head back to the falcon, becoming aggravated at how he continued to raise the level of the music.
"Falco, will ya' turn that stuff down? I can't concentrate!"
The falcon, in an attempt to avoid more scolding, just switched the music player off completely. He then brought his feet down and they made a clapping sound when they collided with the floor.
"Concentrate? About what!? There's nothing to do around here. We finished that damn Dinosaur Planet mission months ago, and we haven't gotten another mission since!"
"All the more reason to be ready for when a mission does come. It's only a matter of time now."
The bird acted as if he didn't hear the fox, returning to his original position with his feet up on the table.
"Fox, you think about this stuff a little too much. Just admit it."
"If you were going to complain this much about what we do, Falco, then tell us...why did you come back?"
"Because I assumed there would be money involved. But so far, it appears I was wrong."
Fox rolled his eyes as he brought his attention back to the front.
"And to think we almost didn't take you back..."
"Fox," he heard the toad at the radar shout, "we've got an incoming transmission! It's from General Pepper!"
He turned back to Falco, snickering at him.
"See? I told you."
"Do you want me to put it on?" The toad asked.
"Of course, Slippy! Put it up!"
The rounded black table in the room's center flipped on and began to glow a luminescent light blue. A hologram rose up from the table soon after, showing a transparent light blue sculpture of the old dog's head. And as the general's voice came through, the hologram talked with it.
"Starfox team...at long last we have found you an intriguing mission."
"Finally!" Fox proclaimed. "Well, what is it?"
"We have come across a distress signal, intercepted from the Cloudlands. Whoever it was that sent it sounded as if they were in extreme danger. Here, listen for yourself."
General Pepper's hologram disappeared for a moment and was replaced by a series of waves, which moved up and down in synchronization with the horrible sounds that followed. No words could even be interpreted from the piece. It was nothing but psychotic squawking and rambling. The sounds often fluctuated, as if their source was looking in another direction away from the messenger while speaking. As if he was expecting someone...or something...to come and take him...
"Such agony and anxiety in his voice..." Krystal whispered to herself.
It then sounded as if the source was beginning to cry, then it violently squawked the first and only decipherable word of the message:
After that, there were only the sounds of the source dropping the messenger as he was being carried away. While the team was watching and listening to the distress signal, Falco stealthily retreated to the door behind him and went back to his room unsuspected. Footsteps were heard in the message, several random sounds as if another figure was picking the messenger back up off the ground, then a new voice sounded.
"To whoever receives this message...if anyone does...do not pursue this convict. He was a criminal of our Cloudlands, and he is getting only the punishment he deserves. I ask again. DO NOT PURSUE, OR ELSE YOU MAY SUFFER THE SAME FATE."
And with that the transmission was ended. All the crew members of the ship were speechless, trying to figure out exactly what to make of the message. At last, General Pepper returned and broke the silence.
"We need you to investigate this, Fox. Obviously the man was in great peril, and we need to find out what kind. And that message at the end...well that only adds to our inquiries. Now I know the Cloudland isn't the most hospitable place in the universe, so I'm sure you will find some entertainment."
"I see." Fox replied. "And what about money?"
"We will cross that bridge when we come to it. But right now we need you to see what's going on."
"Oh, alright. It may not be money, but it's a mission nonetheless."
Fox switched off the hologram and raised a fist.
"Starfox team," he proclaimed, "to the Cloudlands!"
We tried to create peace,
To bring prosperity to the Cloudlands,
We broke through impassible obstacles,
With naught but our own two hands...
After hours of flight the Great Fox had reached its destination: the edge of the universe where the Cloudland planet stood. It had been smooth sailing for the coarse white ship, until its pilots noticed an army of ships ahead of them. The ships were colored in red and gold (likely representing pride and glory), in sizes bigger and much smaller than the Great Fox, and they practically surrounded the planet.
"A blockade!" Slippy proclaimed.
"Dammit!" Fox shouted. "They were expecting us. Falco! Krystal! We'll have to give the Great Fox some Arwing support!"
Krystal abruptly rose from her seat and came to him, but Fox turned around to see that Falco was nowhere in sight.
"Peppy! Where's Falco!?"
"He left after the distress signal came on." Peppy called from his seat at the controls. "I guess he went back to his room."
"Dammit, Falco. Krystal, head to your ship and get out there. I'm going to get him."
The blue fox nodded and headed to the docking bay while Fox headed to the rooms.
When Fox came to the bird's room, he found the door was locked. He began to bang on the door, shouting for his teammate to open the door.
"Falco! Falco get out here now; we're under attack!"
The bird was seated on his bunk with his elbows on his knees, hands together, and eyes to the ground. He pretended to ignore the fox's shouting, even though he heard it loud and clear. He was only a few feet from the door; his bed was to the right of it. But he just sat there, twitting his thumbs as if in nervousness and panic. His eyes were swishing back and forth, as if deciding whether or not he should get up to open the door. As his teammate continued to shout from the other side...
"Falco! We're under attack! We need you!"
...He finally gave in. He forced himself up and to the door, pressing the button to open it. Fox, who was practically leaning on the door when it opened, naturally came falling in. He quickly got back to his feet and grabbed Falco by the collar, infuriated with the bird.
"Falco, what the hell is wrong with you!? Didn't you hear me calling!?"
Falco continued to look at the floor, off to the side to avoid eye contact.
"Uh...yeah. Yeah I did."
"Then what took you so long to open it!?"
"What's wrong with you today!?"
"I'm just thinking...maybe this mission isn't a good idea."
"What!? Why not!?"
"It just...oh, never mind."
"Whatever. Just get to the docking bay. We need you to accompany Krystal and I in the Arwings."
The three blue and grey ships flew out of the Great Fox's lower section toward the wall of vessels that blocked their path. Fox was seated in the cramped cockpit of his Arwing, tightly gripping the steering controls.
"Alright team," he told his teammates through the operating messenger, "just stay in formation and we can-."
While he was talking, the Arwing to his right rushed forward and out of formation toward the ships. Falco...
"Falco!" Fox erupted. "What the hell do you think you're doing!?"
"Fox," he heard the bird reply through the messenger, "you and Krystal get back to the ship! I'll take these guys by myself!"
"What!? Are you crazy!? They'll destroy you!!"
"Better just me than all three of us."
"We're not leaving you to do this alone, Falco!"
"I'm not asking you to go! I'm TELLING you! Now go!"
Fox's Arwing rushed forward to chase after Falco. He pulled up next to the bird's ship, then continued to speak through the messenger.
"I'm not leaving you!"
"Dammit, Fox! You don't understand!"
"Then tell me! What is it that I don't understand!?"
"I can't tell you! Do you think if I could've I would have by now!?"
Krystal remained idol through this argument. Hearing it all on her messenger, she wasn't certain of who she should obey.
"Fox, what should I do?"
"We'll compromise for Falco. Go back to the ship; help with the guns."
Krystal executed a u-turn to return to the ship, while Falco and Fox continued side by side to the armada before them. The ships began to fire their lasers and cannons, releasing long red beams of piercing light that quickly came closer to their blue and gray vessels. From this point on the two teammates remained in a formation, copying each other's movements only moving in the opposite direction. Fox barrel-rolled to the right to evade, and Falco therefore went left. They made a diamond shape, then returned to the other's side and began to return fire. The Great Fox behind them began to blast its cannons as well, slowly advancing to assist its two lone pilots. Several of the enemy ships fell, but only small ones. These ships burst into flame and began to descend, leaving a small gap for the two Arwings.
"It's going to be a tight fit." Fox told his teammate through the messenger. "You think we can do it?"
Falco didn't respond. He just looked over to his right, seeing Fox in his Arwing through his window before looking back and tightly gripping the controls. Fox realized his companion was past words, so he simply did the same.
"Right then...you know what to do. Okay, here we go..."
Continuing their formation, each Arwing tilted in a different direction. Fox tilted to the right, stopping when his left wing was directly facing upward. Falco in response did the opposite, tilting left and making his right wing face upward. The enemy ships began to fill the gap, making the two pilots start to think they wouldn't fit.
"Almost...almost...come on; we can do it..."
It was then that Fox felt a jolt run through his ship. One of the enemy vessels had misfired and hit his engine. The rear rockets of the ship were set in flames and he began to lose control, therefore swerving into Falco and making the bottoms of the two Arwings graze together. The bird's ship began to enflame and they were practically forced to stick together as they barely made it through the gap. They both had lost control now, and their ships continued to stick together as they descended onto the planet.
"Crap! Well Falco, it looks like we're going down!"
Again the bird didn't respond.
"Dammit Falco," Fox blurted out through the falcon's messenger, "will you say something!? We could die this way!"
Falco was motionless and emotionless. He blankly stared at the messenger in his ship, specifically the speaker where the fox's voice was coming out. He gripped his controls even tighter, but did not attempt to regain control. He just let the two intertwined ships fall, fall down into the Cloudlands...
The remaining crew of the Starfox team watched the two ships fall and crash onto the planet from afar. For some reason the armada of enemy ships dismissed their entry and began to fire upon the Great Fox. While it was imperative that the crew members remain at their posts, Krystal couldn't just sit and watch this. She jumped from her seat and went over to Peppy at the controls.
"Peppy, we have to go down there to make sure Fox and Falco are alright!"
"I wish we could...but I'm afraid we can't." Peppy said before the ship jumped from being hit with another blast.
"Can't!? Well why not!?!"
"The armada's bombarding us with firepower! The Great Fox can't take much more punishment, and the enemy fleet is heading this way. If this ship goes, we all go with it. I hate to say it...but it's better those two die than all of us."
"Besides, they're probably fine. They've lived through worse...heck, even I have. We'll come back for them...but for now we have to retreat. I'm turning the ship around."
The Great Fox slowly turned around and regrettably left the atmosphere.
The two Arwings landed upside down and had grazed across the ground a while before stopping completely. Fox unbuckled himself and had to bash the side window open just to get out. He was fine for the most part, leaving the crash with only a few bruises and several small cuts. He fell onto the stiff green-brown grass of the Cloudland planet, and he began to crawl on all fours toward his companion's ship.
"Falco? Falco, are you alright?"
The bird pecked the glass until it broke, and he came tumbling out as well. His injuries were just as minor as Fox's: just several cuts and bruises. He crawled over to Fox and then looked to the ground, taking deep breaths in and out as he did.
"Yeah...yeah, I think I'm okay..."
"That was my fault. Someone shot my engines, and I lost control. I'm sorry..."
"What is with you today? You've been reluctant and nearly silent! It's almost as if you've got something...to hide..."
As he spoke those last few words, a big shadow came over them. They looked behind them and above, and they found two avian soldiers in golden armor towering above them. They were carrying spears in the opposite hands, so each weapon was in the grasp of the outer hand. They remained motionless, staring down at the two pilots before the one on the right finally spoke.
"Fox McCloud and Falco Lombardi of the Starfox bounty hunters...you are under arrest by the order of the Cloudland king, Clouds Parted."
"Clouds Parted?" Fox asked. "And we're under ARREST?"
"That is correct. We ask that you come quietly, or we shall take you by force."
Falco had his head lowered throughout this conversation, but after that reply from the soldier Fox had lowered his as well. He looked to the two wrecked ships in dismay, discovering it would be useless to run. There was nowhere they could go. Each soldier grabbed one of the pilots, thrusting them to their feet and tying their arms up in ropes behind their bodies. They were turned around so the soldiers were restricting them from behind, then instead of moving forward the soldiers began to fly them up to one of the floating platforms above the planet.
When they landed on the platform, based with gold-colored faded stone bricks and round houses that matched them, the soldiers began to push Fox and Falco forward. As they were forced through the village, Fox looked around at its people...mainly their expressions. As the two captive pilots were brought to the townspeople's attention, many different responses were apparent in their faces. Among them was fear, pity ... and on a lesser note relief. Just because they were restricted by these soldiers, the bystanders immediately got the wrong impression of them. They thought of the two pilots as criminals. After all they've done, after all the good things that came from their actions ... after they saved the universe time and time again! No matter what they've done...to someone who had never seen them before until this odd occurrence...they were evil. And apparently their leader...this 'Clouds Parted'...felt the same way. Fox couldn't believe all of this. All this time he thought his team was doing the right thing for the universe...but someone accused him and his companion of being criminals? How could this have happened? He looked over to Falco, who as usual had his head lowered and his eyes to the ground.
The bird, again hearing his teammate loud and clear, didn't respond.
"Falco, can you at least say something? We've just been captured."
"Why should I say anything?" He finally replied. "You'll find out soon enough.."
"F-...find out what?"
"Alright, you two." The soldier restricting Fox cut in. "We're here...the palace of our king."
In the room of the king, sunlight streaming through high-arched stained glass,
The throne glitters, the king sits pompously surveying his servants,
Many jewels grace his arms and elegant feathers are arranged in a regal pattern,
Above the crowned head of the songbird of the heavens...
When they went into the door and came up closer to the throne, the soldiers struck Fox and Falco to bring them to their knees.
"Behold the one who holds your fate in his talons...the king of our lands...Clouds Parted."
As the soldiers let them go and returned to their posts at the door, Fox and Falco began to look around the room. It matched the rest of the city in structure, being made of the same gold-colored stone. There were two pathways on the farther side of the room, one in each corner. Where these pathways led to was uncertain, but judging by the pilot's circumstances at the moment they assumed they went to prison cells. The crimson carpet they were led upon went up and stopped to a golden throne, which behind it in the wall stood an enormous stained-glass window. The window's outline was brick-shaped fragments of golden glass that shone and glimmered in the sunlight that came through. Inside it were the layers of a golden sun, partially covered with small clouds of purple glass that fit the transition to purple below it. The purple fragment below turned brighter and brighter to pink as it descended to compliment the engraving of an avian figure at the bottom. This figure had its red glass wings spread to engulf the window from side to side, coming from its rainbow of a body that began at the top from gold and as it descended changed into red, to pink, to purple again. And below the stained-glass window in his throne sat a figure that matched it. He was dressed in a beige robe trimmed and bordered with stylish silver, and wearing a matching open crown with a glimmering crystal blue gem floating above it. His body was much of the same rainbow as the window, beginning at his head with a golden color. He had a light brown beak and many outlines around his eyes, which were a vicious and practically glowing red. The outlines were equivalent of the rainbow glass behind him, transitioning from red at his eyes to yellow as it combined with the rest of his face and then being complimented by the two purpled feathers that were placed behind his head. The gold-yellow color led down his body until it faded to orange when it reached the part outside his robe, and it seemed to fade into red at his wrists. His talons were silver, covered with golden ivory sandals on his feet and decorated with ruby-encrusted rings on his fingers. And last, but certainly not least, was his peacock tail. It was made up of different red, magenta, and violet hues that changed smoothly in procession across, and were intricate feathers with such designs as peacock tails have. The magnificent avian raised himself to his feet and slowly stepped down the several stairs before his throne, his eyes fixed on the two pilots. He stopped when his feet were inches away from their knees and just stared down at them. Fox looked up at this figure in disgust. Despite all of his intricate clothing and jewels...he was hideous. Despite how much his people seemed to glorify him...his soul emitted a deep essence of evil.
"So...this is the crook who believes what we do is wrong."
"Crook?" The avian king replied with a voice that was high, sharp, and cruel. "You, fool, are in the presence of a GOD! You are talking to the songbird of the heavens, the one and only Clouds Parted!"
The avian crouched down and brought his right hand up to grasp Fox's neck, looking straight into the hero's sharp green eyes.
"But I am not in the presence of simple peasants, am I? Behold the once mighty Fox McCloud, lead pilot and commander of the Starfox team!"
"W-...what do you want with us?"
"Hmm...how can I explain this in a way someone like you can understand?"
He removed his grip from the fox, stood back up, and slowly returned to his throne. Instead of sitting back down in it, however, he went past it to the stained-glass window and looked outside to the homes of his people.
"You see Fox...I am a bit lonely here. I am elevations above everyone else on this planet. A god among a sea of common-folk; a peacock among pigeons! You would know all about that...wouldn't you?"
He turned away from the window, returning again to his crouching position in front of Fox.
"Your father, the late great James McCloud, was killed when you were young. After that you just became the heir and took up the Starfox team. You may think you make a difference and that you are the one to end the infinite war of the universe, but you're just a little runt dancing over your father's legacy."
"That's not true! Look at all we've done since his death! We are not just second-best compared to him!"
"Oh well...at least you and James had one thing in common..."
He stood back up and walked a few steps over to the side, stopping in front of Falco and holding a sharp talon to the falcon's neck.
"...One of your own teammates brought about your demise..."
Fox looked to his companion with a face filled with worry, unsure of what the king meant.
"Falco...what is he talking about?"
The falcon remained silent as Clouds Parted held him by the neck and brought him to his feet.
"Falco Lombardi...oh, the times we've had in the past. Time and time again you have come before me, and time after time I eventually set you free. But then there was that one time where you escaped. Apparently you fled not only my kingdom but the planet as well...and you found HIM of all people!"
As Clouds Parted removed his grip and pushed Falco back, Fox got to his feet and slowly came closer as the king continued to speak.
"But I guess everything's back to normal now. Again you are in my palace...and again I hold your fate in my hands. Just the way it should be...wouldn't you agree, CONVICT?"
That word shocked Fox as he came to his teammate's side. He looked to the falcon with great concern, uncertain what to make of this.
"Falco...you're a-...why didn't you tell us?"
The bird, his head to the ground as always but his eyes looking over to Fox and acknowledging his presence, responded softly at first.
"I...I didn't want you and the rest of the team to suffer the same fate I knew I had to."
"But by not telling us you put us at risk!" Fox erupted. "We could've been prepared; we could've gotten out of this!"
It was then that Falco turned his whole body towards Fox to acknowledge him, equaling his teammate's anger in his response.
"Why do you think I left!? I was giving HIM a chance to catch me alone, so that way he wouldn't have to take you too!"
"Then why didn't you STAY away!?"
"I was gone for a while, wasn't I!?" Falco shouted back, but then began to become timid again. "I...I was stupid. I thought for a second that he had forgotten...that he had given up. I thought I was free and that you guys were safe...but now it seems I've faced my fate on the path I took to avoid it..."
Fox backed away as Clouds Parted wrapped an arm around the falcon.
"Yes, it would appear so. And now I must tell you of your fate."
Falco turned to this king, willingly giving in.
"You can do your worst to me. Just please...as a last request...don't hurt Fox."
"I'm afraid I cannot fulfill that request. You are both criminals in this sense of judgment...criminals whose only reasonable punishment is death."
"BOTH!?" Fox and Falco shouted skeptically in response. "CRIMINALS!? DEATH!?!"
"Death. And I will explain why. Falco, you have been thrown at my feet so many times that I have lost count. Such crimes that you have committed cannot simply go without punishment. Since you obviously are not going to make anything of yourself, it is only fitting to save the universe from the trouble of your presence."
He then came over to Fox and began to scrape the underside of his muzzle with a talon.
"And you, Fox. You and your team want to restore peace to this universe, yet in your own ranks there is a criminal. You contradict yourself with every action you take. And we can't have pseudo-heroes like you parading around, even if you were doing some good."
He took out a dagger that he had hidden somewhere and held it to the fox's neck, continuing to brag about his fate.
"And it is for those reasons why you two will be tortured and killed. There's no need for any more icons in this universe, so you will be put through the most unbearable form of a slow and painful death. Slow as can be, so that way you can watch each other cringe in fear and pain until you breathe your very...last...breath. Or...will it be your first? Guards!"
The two soldiers left their posts at the door and came to him.
"Yes, your highness."
"Guards, prepare these two for the Restoration Chamber."
Each of the guards grabbed and restricted one of the pilots before their king shouted again for their attention.
"Wait! I changed my mind. We will prepare them...but not yet. Let's get a few more of their friends in our grasp first..."
"Peppy!" Slippy shouted from his seat. "There's an urgent transmission coming in! It's from Fox's messenger!"
"Fox!? Put it on!"
The transmission table switched on, but the figure of the fox commander they expected to see was not the one that appeared. It was an avian figure, dressed in a long robe and wearing a gleaming open crown on his head.
"Greetings." The figure began. "In case you don't know me, I am the lord and king of the Cloudlands...the one and only Clouds Parted! And I assume that in this transmission I have reached the infamous Starfox team."
"Infamous?" Peppy replied.
"Yes...it appears I have the right signal. I assume that you are Peppy Hare, once a comrade of the deceased James McCloud."
"There's no proof that James is dead...but yes, I was his teammate."
"And by now I bet you're wondering where your two lead pilots are, hmm?"
"They crashed on your planet last time we saw them, your highness. Do you know of their condition? Are they alright!?"
"For the time being. Would you like to see them?"
The avian king looked away from the transmission for a moment and shouted.
"Guards! Bring the prisoners out!"
A moment later, two more figures came into view. One of them was a fox, the other a falcon. They were Starfox's two lead pilots...and they were covered in chains.
Through the transmission Clouds Parted began to release a laugh so sinister, making Peppy erupt with anger and slam his fists on the table.
"What do you want with our pilots!?"
"I have taken them captive you see, having placed them under arrest of course by my order. The crimes they sustain are, in Falco's case, countless offenses and felonies to this planet as well as one escape from prison and fleeing from the planet. In the case of Fox McCloud, hopes and attempts of sustaining peace while keeping a criminal in his ranks."
"What is their sentence!?"
"Their sentence, you say? My good man, there is no other reasonable punishment than death."
"DEATH!?!" The entire crew shouted simultaneously.
"Yes, I'm afraid so. Unless..."
"Unless WHAT!?!" Peppy erupted once again. "Anything; just tell us!"
"I think we could come to a compromise. Why don't you come down to my planet? I'll remove my little battalion barricade, and we'll begin negotiation."
"Of course. I'll be down there as soon as possible. Anything else?"
"Could I possibly request the presence of another one of Corneria's officials? Maybe...just off the top of my head...General Pepper?"
"Of course. He will come down with me."
"Then it's agreed. I look forward...most eagerly...to meet your acquaintance in person. Farewell."
And with that the transmission flashed off. Peppy quickly ordered the remainder of the team to turn the ship around, and the Great Fox began its return to the Cloudland planet.
So far this Clouds Parted had remained true to his own terms. When the remaining Starfox team arrived at the Cloudland planet, the armada of ships was gone and they were able to land safely on the planet. They had called General Pepper on the way to the planet, telling him what happened. He agreed to meet the Starfox team on the planet, and sure enough they found his ship there waiting.
"There's the general's ship." Peppy said softly. "Alright...I'm going out there."
He quickly sat up and grabbed his jacket, then looked to the team.
"Alright then. Slippy, Krystal... If I'm not back in half-an-hour, get out of here and save yourself. This planet is too risky; we can't afford any more of us being captured."
"Right." Slippy replied. "Stay here and wait for thirty minutes, then bail."
"Well, that's one way to put it. Wish me luck."
He walked out of the room and the automatic door closed behind him. Krystal, with a look of concern and distress in her eyes, whispered to herself.
"Good luck, Peppy. Please...bring our Fox back..."
Peppy came up to the general's ship as a platform began to descend from it. On the platform stood the old dog himself, dressed in his trademark red military uniform that was bordered with thin gold lining. He stepped off onto the grass of the planet, coming forward to the old rabbit to greet him.
They began to walk into the avian village, still conversing as they searched for the king's palace.
"Well," Peppy chuckled, "this wasn't quite how we planned to spend the day, was it? He-he..."
"As much as I would like to talk, Peppy, now's not the time for such easy-going conversation. Corneria's two most valuable pilots have been captured, and it is of utmost importance that we get them back."
"Right...that is why you're here, after all."
"I wouldn't come in person if the situation was any less serious."
"Of course; you're Corneria's most valuable official! Just imagine what would happen if something happened to you!"
"You mean to US, Peppy. We're going into this together, and for all we know it could be a trap."
"Well, there is a possibility of that. Oh look, here's the palace."
They looked up at the large building, finding that it was the biggest structure in the city by a landslide. This had to be their destination.
They swung open the large doors and walked into the palace. They were expecting an escort or some kind of welcoming committee, but instead they found the palace dark and uninhabited.
"Are we in the wrong building?"
"No, no this has to be it. He said it would be the largest one. Come on, let's look around."
Before venturing into the dark room, they turned around and noticed two statues on each side of the doors. They appeared to be statues of avian soldiers, coated with armor and holding spears that pointed to the doorway from each side. Peppy and General Pepper turned back around and proceeded on, and as they did the statues began to move. They slowly started creeping off of their pedestals and towards the two Cornerian officials. And when they got close enough...they pounced! The two Cornerian officials were grabbed by the arms from behind and restricted, and when they stopped struggling the lights came on to reveal the avian king was right in front of them.
"Well well well...what do we have here? If it isn't Peppy Hare and General Pepper of the Cornerians."
His sinister laugh burst forth another time, just as evil and loud as through the transmission.
"Is it really this EASY!? Is this all it takes to defeat the great Starfox team!? Pa-THETIC!"
"What is the meaning of this!?" Peppy blurted out. "We only came to negotiate!"
"Oh, you won't be negotiating ANYTHING."
He took out his dagger again and began to fiddle it around in his hands, continuing his mockery of the two old officials.
"In fact, you two are criminals as much as your two captive pilots! If not even more..."
He tossed up the dagger a final time and caught it by the handle, then brought it up to Peppy's neck.
"Peppy Hare, companion of the deceased James McCloud. When Pigma Dengar betrayed you both, you made almost NO attempt to rescue James."
"James was beyond help by the time I could do anything! And besides-!"
"Ah ah ah-! Let me finish. Instead, you looked to his little son Fox. You were so desperate to have a leader that you let HIM be your commanding officer! If I dare say so myself, YOU are the cause of this whole predicament! If it weren't for you, then only Falco would be standing restricted before me."
"And as for you, General Pepper." He cut in as he brought the dagger over to the old dog's neck. "It might have helped your situation if you did a little research. If only you checked Falco's records, then you would have never let him be a member of this crew and we never would have found you all. You're their general, for pete's sake! Show some intelligence and set an example!"
The old dog just looked to the avian in disgust. Clouds Parted turned away and began to walk toward the stained-glass window on the other side of the palace, gently running his talons along the blade of the dagger.
"Oh, but it's too late now. Now you're all going to die together."
"Can you at least show us Fox and Falco!?" The general shouted. "Can you at least show us that we did not come here in vain!?"
"You came in vain regardless, General. But if you want to see them, I have no problem with that. Guards! Bring them out!"
From the left pathway came the two soldiers from before, pushing Fox and Falco out in front of them. Falco looked to the two officials, raising his head to show great worry and fear.
"Oh no, not you too!"
"Yes," Clouds Parted sneered, "now everything comes full circle! All the criminals, all the ones behind this game of lies, are before me under my control!"
"Let 'em go, Clouds! I'm the one you want; quit bringin' people into this!"
"I'm the one bringing them into this? My dear boy, you brought them into this game yourself. You joined their team...and ALL of your fates were sealed."
Clouds Parted turned back to his two new captives, who were restricted by the guards standing behind them.
"Now you will die together, and you will die knowing that the convict Falco Lombardi turned you in. Take these two new prisoners to their cells! They must be prepared for torturing...and then the Restoration Chamber."
"No!" Falco shouted as he tried to struggle out of the guard's grasp.
Fox, Peppy, and the general were taken into the back room. Falco continued to shout in disdain, but to no avail. To silence him the guard clubbed him in the back, making the falcon fall on one knee as the avian king came up to him.
"You shall watch this, Lombardi." He said with a sneer. "You shall watch, and you will join them. After all that's what you wanted, wasn't it? To pay for your crimes? Oh wait...but you wanted to suffer on your own. Oh well, it's so much better to have friends...don't you think?"
"You..." Falco muttered between breaths, "you bastard..."
"Tell it to the ruler of hell," Clouds Parted replied, "because that is where you are going my friend. You will watch your friends cringe in fear and pain, and you will know that there is nothing you can do to save them...or yourself. Take him away."
The guard lifted Falco to his feet, and he struggled no longer as he was taken to the prison cells. As he watched them being taken away, the avian king chuckled to himself and spoke contently in the language of his planet.
"Ibliis dinoss hinous dem..."
Clouds Parted was approached by another guard, who saluted before speaking.
"Sir, what about the last two that are still in the ship?"
"What, those two? Slippy Toad and Krystal? What could they do!? Drive their ship away from the planet."
"Right away, Sir."
"They've been gone for an hour, Krystal." Slippy told the blue fox as he was still at his post. "Peppy said to leave him after thirty minutes!"
"I know Slippy," Krystal replied, "but we can't just leave them here. What if they're just being held up?"
They heard a thump suddenly from the side of the ship, and they ran to the doorway of the steps that lead down to the planet. At the bottom of the steps they saw a soldier dressed in golden armor holding a spear to the ship.
"What if they're not?" Slippy replied to Krystal's earlier response.
This made the guard look up and notice them, and he shouted orders to them from his position.
"You there; fox and toad! You have been ordered by the king Clouds Parted to leave this planet immediately!"
"You heard him Krystal," Slippy said as he turned back, "we gotta leave now."
Krystal descended the steps and came to the guard.
"What of our crew members?"
"They are not your concern anymore."
"Not my concern?"
"I have already said too much, fox. Now leave this planet or we will force you to."
"Force? Oh, I'll show you force."
The guard swung his spear at Krystal, but only to miss and give her an opening. And the blue fox used it well, kneeing the soldier right in the chest and making him fall to the ground. Afterwards she looked up and saw that at least a dozen more soldiers were coming from the city, making her turn around to the ship and call up to her toad companion.
"Slippy...time to go."
She raced up the steps as they closed into the ship, and when Slippy took the controls the Great Fox returned to outer space.
Falco was taken through a circular hallway of the same gold stone as everywhere else. To his right was a wall that contained a door every few feet across. To his left was the room that the hallway surrounded: a wide cylinder-shaped room with half of an egg shape resting on top. Much of the walls of this round structure were stone, but when he passed a window he saw a pale room containing several giant hourglasses inside.
The falcon was thrown into a cell next to Fox's. For some reason General Pepper and Peppy were being kept on the other side. The prison cells were barely such a thing at all. The only thing similar to a prison was the big iron bars used to block off the entrance/exit of the small room. But the room itself was so much nicer than any other kind of cell. There was a soft bed on the far edge of the room, complete with a comforter and pillow. This bed was bordered with beige wood material, and built into both side walls along with the floor. Underneath the bed was a big mass of more of the beige, containing a few built in drawers. Other than this, there was not much else in the room but a tiny open barred window that connected his cell to Fox's. This way they could talk. Falco ran to the wall and looked into the window, having to stand on his tip-toes slightly to get his head in.
"Fox. Fox, are you in there?"
"I'm here." He replied, not even bothering to get up from his seat on the bed.
"Fox I'm sorry. I...I didn't want any of this."
"I know you didn't."
"I-...I thought I could escape this! For a while I thought I was free, but...I never was. I've been an emotional prisoner of Clouds Parted...ever since the first time he locked me up in one of these cells..."
"Don't worry, Falco. We'll find a way out; we always do."
"Not this time, Fox. I've been here at least a dozen times, and every single one of those times I tried to break out of here. It took me until that very last time to make a successful escape. Now Fox...we don't have twelve tries. Clouds Parted has sentenced us to death!"
"I suppose you're right. This place does look heavily fortified...and to be captured again after an attempted breakout may only heighten our sentence. But this...I just can't see this as the end for us. It just can't be!"
"It is, Fox. Tomorrow is the end of our adventure. Well, at least I can say we had a good run."
"But what a way to die." Fox replied as he got to his feet and walked to the bars, looking out of his cell to the circular building in the center of the bigger room. "Is that the Restoration Chamber?"
"That's it alright."
"What is Restoration, anyway? Can you tell me, so that way I at least know how I'm gonna die?"
"I can't tell you; it's too horrible. I've only heard about its torture, because everyone that is sentenced to it dies within the day. But I've heard that its pain is unlike any other. And it's not just physical pain. Oh no. The worst part is the emotional pain; to watch your friends suffering most likely even greater than yourself. You just sit there and watch, helpless as your friends become so as well. You know there is no way that you can save them...or yourself."
"...That...that sounds terrible. I can't say Clouds Parted hasn't thought this through."
"He's smarter than you think...but he's also far more evil and cruel than you could ever imagine. I know; I've had to deal with him time and time again."
"Lights out!" The voice of one of the several soldiers posted around the room sounded.
Then without a warning nearly all the lights in the vicinity switched off.
"Well," Fox softly spoke, "I guess...this is it..."
"Yeah. We should get some sleep."
"Why? We're about to be silenced forever, remember?"
"Well, you've got a point there."
Fox walked back to his bed and sat down on it, then took out his messenger to see if he can contact his two remaining teammates.
"Slippy, Krystal. If you're getting this...please don't trace it. We are being held against our will under the authority of a cruel avian king. It's too dangerous here, even for us. Don't come and try to rescue us; they'll only catch and kill you too. I strongly advise...no, COMMAND you to stay away. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT pursue us alone. This is Fox McCloud, over and out...possibly...for the last time..."
Fox put his messenger away and laid down on the bed, closing his eyes soon after and falling asleep.
Falco awoke to the squawking sounds coming from the hallway of the prison room. It sounded as if someone was making a very poor attempt to sing, in fact, but it was so terrible that it could hardly be described as such. In time he heard footsteps attempting to keep in time with the pseudo-song that the voice was releasing, and then Clouds Parted came to the other side of his cell door.
Falco looked down and saw that his head was resting against the floor. He didn't even bother to get into his bed last night; he was so preoccupied with what was going to happen the next day. He got to his hands and knees to look up at the avian lord, showing an expression of anger and discontent.
"What do you want?"
"It's time for you to see your friends."
Falco jumped to his feet and went to the small window on the wall, calling for his teammate.
"Fox! Fox, are you in there!?"
"He's not." Clouds Parted told him. "Fox McCloud, along with the other two, has been in the torturing room for hours now. They're waiting on you to witness their pain."
The king pressed a button on the module outside of Falco's cell, and the barred gate of the room began to slide open.
"Don't try to run."
"Why would I? I know it's already too late for that..."
The falcon stepped forward and turned around so Clouds Parted could tie his hands behind his back.
"That's a good little falcon. Now, this way..."
Falco was brought through the hallway to a door different than all the prison cells. Clouds Parted pressed a glowing red button on the door's side module, and it slid open independently to reveal a bigger room. It had gray uneven stone walls, and inside these walls were many diverse devices of torture.
"Welcome, Falco, to the torturing room..."
As the blue avian was led further into the room, he looked at the devices. They all looked painful; each device more than the last. The materials they were made of were either brown wood, silver steel, or containing a solid plasma-type laser for constriction or striking the victim with. And as the two avians progressed through this gallery of torturing tools, Falco found the final three on the back wall. But there was something different about these three. They were being used.
The three torture devices were set up on the back wall, and each of the other three Starfox members were attached to each one.
"Yes," the avian king sneered, "your companions have been attached to these machines for hours now. But their torture is not complete...not until you watch. After all, you're the cause of their dismay. How fitting would it be if the culprit did not get to see the outcome of his work?"
"Stop it! Stop blaming things on me! Let them go; I'm the one you want!"
"Falco Falco Falco...how many times must we go over this? I'm starting to get sick of you; a convict questioning my authority."
"Just-...just torture them and get it over with."
"Very well. This way..."
Falco was brought first to the machine General Pepper was attached to. The old dog was restricted by a metal clamp that surrounded his body and the arms to his sides. All but his feet were bonded to this trap, but they wouldn't do much good for a big tank of water was resting right underneath them.
"Your general here is being dropped periodically into a tank of freezing-condition liquid. The room we are standing in is approximately eighty-seven degrees Fahrenheit, and with a man his age constantly changing from a hot to cold temperature...well...it's not good for his heart."
"No! Stop it; you'll kill him!"
"In case you don't remember, that's my intention."
Clouds Parted pulled the switch on the wall to the side of the machine and General Pepper's constricting bars dropped him into the freezing water. He was fully submerged in the tank for about ten seconds before the avian king flipped the switch back to bring him up, making the general take deep breaths and nearly gag from the sudden drop and brief lack of oxygen.
"Though...not yet. Anyway, moving forward..."
They walked a few steps onward, stopping in front of Peppy and the machine he was in. The hare was in the same bonding metal as General Pepper, but the tools used to torture him were very different. Surrounding him were an assortment of thin robotic arms, appearing as if they were meant to have something on their ends. But...there was nothing there that could be seen.
"Peppy Hare was always the one to control your ship, was he not? It was his job to coordinate the noble vessel known as the Great Fox; to have all of that technology and machinery under his control. And now technology is being used for his torture. This retired pilot is attached to a machine armed with hundreds of microscopic drills on all of these rods. They are enough to break the skin, but they won't leave any signs of it. The purpose of this is to provide just the right amount of a stinging pain to the victim without leaving much of a trace on the body. Let's test a few of them out."
Clouds Parted flipped another switch and the robotic arms began to move. Falco heard the barely audible sounds of spinning drills as they came closer to Peppy's face, and they both became uneasy. The hare's following shrieks of pain were the first sign that the drills had broken his skin. He continued to shriek and scream violently, and Falco was forced to watch with terror. Clouds Parted began to chuckle as he watched, and the falcon was considering attacking him to turn the device off. But soon after the thought entered Falco's mind, the avian king turned the machine off by his own decision.
"That should be enough for now. Come, there's one more victim to see..."
And it was then that they went to Fox. He was in the same constriction device as the others, but underneath was a rocket propulsion jet that was likely meant to shoot bursts of heat upwards to him. The vulpine's body was sweating, soaked with perspiration. Undoubtedly he had been like this for hours, subdued to the heat of the machine underneath him.
"And last...but certainly not least...the great Fox McCloud. The Red Fox, vulpes vulpes, is often seen as a symbol of trickery and wit...but in the elements it is often portrayed as the symbol of fire. And with that Fire Fox technique of his, how fitting would it be to give him a taste of his own medicine? Therefore, I have placed this rocket engine propulsion jet under him to engulf him periodically in a fiery blast. It's mostly air; he won't catch fire. Still...the heat of such a blast can be quite unbearable."
Falco looked up to his teammate again, seeing his eyes were down to the falcon in response. They were eyes of dismay and disappointment; like he was saying "why are you putting me through this?" For moments they just looked at each other, until Clouds Parted broke the silence and spoke.
"Let's give him a blast, shall we?"
Clouds Parted flipped the switch next to Fox's machine, and the fire of the engine shot up to engulf him. The vulpine screamed and yelled in pain and agony, his body surrounded by temperatures in the multiple hundreds. Sweat came from his pores and tears ran from his eyes as he continued to look down at Falco with the same eyes as before. The blue bird just looked back at him for a moment, then the fire intensified by Clouds Parted's grip of the switch.
"Had enough yet!?" He shrieked, tensing it as if talking to the both of them.
Fox continued to cry in pain, and Falco turned to the avian king.
"Stop it, Clouds! You're going to kill him!"
"Tell me you've had enough!"
He tensed the switch even further down, and the fire of the jet intensified even more.
"Okay," Falco nearly cried to the king, "okay that's enough! Stop it; he'll be burned to death!"
Clouds Parted turned the machine off and came back to Falco.
"That's all I wanted to hear."
Falco looked up at his teammate as the fire faded back into the machine. There were now black marks all over Fox's fur, having been burned by the extreme heat. He was gasping and slightly crying as he was still in a great amount of pain. They looked into each other's eyes again, showing feelings of sorrow and despair toward the other. Clouds Parted then walked past Falco a few steps, to a monitor built into the ground with another switch on it.
"And now...the grand finale!"
He flipped the switch, and in response all three of their machines activated. General Pepper was continuously taken in and out of the tank of water. Peppy was being barraged with microscopic drills to the head. And Fox was being engulfed in a rocket fire ever stronger than those before. Falco looked back and forth to each one of his teammates. Their screaming and crying from the pain was too much for him to handle. He was becoming angry; angry at this king that was responsible for his friend's torture. He ran to Clouds Parted, ready to attack him.
"That's it! I've had ENOUGH of you!"
As he approached Clouds Parted, the avian king moved out of the way and struck Falco's spine, knocking the falcon to the ground. He turned the switch off and knelt down next to Falco.
"I think it's time..."
He raised his head and looked to his three other prisoners, sneering to them before he shouted out.
"Guards! Remove the prisoners from their torture devices! It's time to prepare them for their true fate..."
The room we are held in is pale as the moon,
White and blank,
Along the floor is strewn,
Our belongings, our bearings, things that tied us to our mission...
Fox, Peppy, Falco, and the general were pushed back out into the main room by individual guards. They were each given a dark red drink that was forcefully brought to their mouths as their arms were constricted. Its taste was bitter, cold, and tacky; very much like the soul of their avian captor. Fox nearly choked himself over the beverage's horrible taste, gagging and leaning over a bit before a guard struck his back and brought him back up. Clouds Parted stepped in front of them, blocking their way to the entrance to the Restoration Chamber for he had one more command to address.
"Good. The victims have finished drinking the synchronization potion. Alright...throw them in!"
The avian king stepped to the side just in time for the guards to toss all four of the Starfox members in at once and close the door behind them. There was a loud clanking sound, enough to tell them that the door...the only way in or out...was locked. Fox and Falco got to their feet to observe the room. It was pale, nearly a blank white with straight carvings in the floor for pathways and odd lines in the walls to measure elevation of some sort as they joined together at the top. Fox and Falco's eye level was about equal to the tenth line. In the center of the ceiling there was some form of a sunroof, which was odd because there were no windows in this area and the sun didn't come in. It was not connected to the ceiling of the outer room, so all that could be seen through that sunroof was a wall of stone overhead. Peppy and the general walked over to the other side of the room, having the four most noticeable features of the room brought to their attention along with their teammates. On either side of the room, there were two enormous hourglasses made of genuine gold and glass. The top section of these objects was filled with black sand, held off from the bottom by a thin orange bar that separated the sections. On the bottom gold platform of these huge objects, there was a board where virtual numbers and letters were scrambling. Fox and Falco looked to the two hourglasses on their side, which were placed to the left side of the door, and stood next to them and see that the objects were at least twice their size. They watched the digits of the boards cycle and spin, until they eventually settled and made a name on each one. The two teammates each read a name on one of the hourglasses, shocked to find who they were.
General Pepper and Peppy went to the hourglasses on their side, observing the same features and watching the spinning letters on the boards. Eventually they made names as well, and the two teammates read them to get the same result.
"Peppy Hare...and General Pepper..."
"What's the purpose of these?" Fox questioned, still staring at his name on the hourglass board. "Is it to measure the amount of time spent in here?"
"No," Falco replied with his face pointed the same way, "it's so much worse than that..."
Fox then turned back around to the center of the room, and he saw something lying on the floor. It was a pile of blue, purple, and black clothing unfamiliar to him. He came a few steps forward to it and knelt down, picking up the garments and holding them in his hands.
"Who do these belong to? Was it the victim before-."
To interrupt his questioning, something came out of one sleeve and landed on the ground. Fox picked it up immediately, trying to figure out who these articles of clothing belonged to. It was a messenger, and it had one transmission still on it. Fox pressed the play button and the transmission began to sound soon after. What he heard shocked him, and it also made the rest of the team members turn around for the same reason. It was the familiar squawking they had heard just the other day, before all this had even occurred. It was beginning to sound like crying through the speaker, and then there was that final plea that aroused from the straining of his voice.
Fox was scared now. Scared for his life. These clothes belonged to the man they came here to save...and now they appeared to be the only thing left of him. He scrambled to his feet and rushed to the door, slamming against it and starting to bang his fists on its metal surface.
"Let me out! Let me out; there's been a mistake! We don't deserve to die this way; let us out!!!"
"It's no use, Fox." Falco replied as his head remained lowered. "It's too late for that..."
From outside Clouds Parted pulled the switch to start the chamber, and as if to clarify Falco's statement the room grew bright and hot. A buzzing sound seemed to come from the walls all around them, and then a female voice from a machine sounded inside the room.
They heard a great big clamping sound and turned to the hourglasses, seeing that the thin orange bars that blocked the sand had now been released. The black grains of rock were now flowing slowly into the lower section of the hourglasses, freeing themselves from their proverbial prison at the top. Fox then became overcome with a strange tingling sensation. He looked at himself and watched his body as it...was surprisingly healing itself. All the bruises, cuts, and injuries he had endured were disappearing and blending into his skin. First the wounds from his torturing were fully healed, and then the injuries from his crash onto the planet were going away.
"Wha-...what is it doing? Make it stop!"
"I told you Fox." Falco replied, having his wounds being removed as well along with the other two team members on the other side of the room. "It's too late."
Peppy looked back over to the two younger team members, and he gasped when he observed what was happening to them.
"Fox!" He shrieked. "Fox, you're so small! God, what's happening to you!?"
The vulpine looked down at himself again, and he noticed something even more peculiar. His clothes were becoming bulky, fitting loosely on him and becoming more so. He looked back up to Peppy, confused and frightened.
"I-...I don't know. My god Peppy, look at you! You're-...you're getting-...I don't believe it..."
"We're getting younger." Falco finally blurted out, still lowering his head and standing in the same position. "THAT's what Restoration is. THAT is how we're going to die. And it's not done until all the sand in our hourglass is at the bottom...but we won't be alive to see that happen."
"Oh god... We're-...we're going to be killed by pre-life!?"
"Yep..." Falco replied.
Fox looked away for a moment, a look of grief and panic in his eyes. He looked to the wall, seeing his eye level was now at the eighth line rather than the tenth like it was before.
"It-...it's really happening. There's no escaping it now. We're...going to die..."
He turned back to Falco, noticing the changes in his teammates' body from the regression.
"Falco...you're getting younger too. You're...if anything...a bit smaller than me!"
"I know. I knew this was my fate all along...and I knew it would be the same for you guys if you were with me. I'm sorry...all of you. The last thing I wanted was for you guys to die with me. I took all the wrong chances...made all the wrong moves...and I'm sorry..."
Fox looked past him to the wall, seeing that their eye levels were now at the seventh line. He looked back down at his body, seeing that his mature features were becoming pubescent. Fox and Falco were returning to adolescence, while Peppy and the General were heading into their mid-life stage. They were fully panicked now. The pain of such a terrible fate was beginning to come in. The four teammates felt as if their bones were crushing and collapsing themselves, just to fit inside their shrinking skin. Their minds were riddled with psychological confusion, unable to determine what to make of the situation. Should the rest of their bodies adapt to the changes, or attempt to resist? They each banged on the walls with their fists, screaming for help and for someone to let them out. And as they did so, the transmission began to repeat the same message they heard before this ordeal...the message from the second person.
"To whoever receives this message...if anyone does...do not pursue this convict. He was a criminal of our Cloudlands, and he is getting only the punishment he deserves. I ask again. DO NOT PURSUE, OR ELSE YOU MAY SUFFER THE SAME FATE."
They all continued their banging and begging, pleading for help and safety from this terrible fate. All except for Falco, that is. He just stood there the whole time, looking down at himself and watching as he grew closer and closer to the floor.
From outside of the chamber, Clouds Parted was observing their suffering through the small window that was purposefully placed over the room's outer operating module. As one of his guards was controlling the intensity, the avian king just stood there and watched with a wicked and sinister sneer on his face.
"Restoration. Being slowly reverted back to a state in which one can no longer support himself...and then death. Imagine being conscious through all of this and watching your friends and comrades waste away before your eyes, with you powerless to help and knowing the inevitability of your own demise. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Just look at them, suffering and pleading for help! Isn't it wonderful!? They're wrenching in pain, pleading for some other way to die. Sorry, Starfox team. THIS is your fate, and you will suffer only by its hands. All the things you've encountered, all your experience...it must be undone..."
The four members of the Starfox team continued to regress as they pleaded for help, their heightened voices straining as they cried out. The general and Peppy were now young adults, while Fox and Falco were approaching their childhood.
"We're so young!" Fox cried. "When will it stop!?"
"It won't." the young Falco replied. "It's just going to keep regressing us until we disappear."
Fox looked to the walls his hands were placed on. His eye level was now below the fifth line; he was a little less than half his old height. He had just hit ten years old. He felt it. The restoration was passing so quickly, it was only a matter of time now before he was reduced to nothing. He was previously relieved that he at least had a few decades of his life to be taken away before this happened...but now he was down to the last ten years. He looked to Falco, seeing that his situation was no better. Peppy and the general were in their mid-twenties by now; they still had time. But Fox and Falco didn't. Two more years he felt fade away from them, and he knew that more would soon follow. He looked over to his hourglass, finding that at least three quarters of the black sand was now at the bottom. It was continuing to pour down into the bottom section, the level of the black grains of rock at the top thinning with his age. His clothes were enormous on him now, and he had to hold them tightly with his small hands just to keep them from falling off. His bones were crushing and cramping; his mind was still in frantic indecision. He was beginning to feel new emotions that would fit the child he was now. He wanted to call for his father, although knowing that he would not come. He had the feeling that someone could hold him and keep him safe, but he knew there was no escape and no safety now. He looked forward to life, although he knew it was about to end. He looked to the wall again, his eye level now nearing the third line. He began to run over to Peppy and the general, seeing their young adult forms almost as parents now.
"Peppy! General!" He cried.
The hare responded and turned around to reach for him with an arm. He saw how shaken his old leader now was, and wanted to do everything he could for him.
"Fox!" He called back.
But before their hands touched, a large metal wall came down the center of the room. The little fox ran into the wall and fell to the ground, down into a seated position only to gaze up at the structure that kept him away from his friends. Fox and Falco were left on one side, while the two older teammates were left on the other. Fox was no more than the age of four now, tears beginning to flow from his eyes and down his cheeks at the fact that his team had been separated. As two more years faded away, his crying came out full force. His clothes grew even more, to the point where he was practically swimming in them. His speaker helmet had fallen off of his head and landed behind him, and his belt with the reflector still attached lie around him. His gray vest and metallic boots were before him, and as he continued to regress his green shirt was the only thing left covering his lower area. It was then that Falco finally came to him. He let his clothes fall as he walked over to the little fox while he still could. His boots slipped off his feet long ago and as he came closer the rest of his clothes slipped off as well. And as if to finish it, one feather removed itself from his shoulder. With the two of them in infancy now, he crawled over to Fox and embraced him from the side.
"I'm sowwy, Focks." He told his friend, tears flowing from his eyes as his speech had deteriorated. "I-...I didn't want..."
A white mass began to form on the floor under Falco as they embraced. It came up and up to his mid section, and still didn't stop. At this point Fox noticed it, and he had an idea of what it was.
"It's an egg... Fawco, you'we tuwning into an egg!"
Falco knew it very well. It was the final step of his restoration, and as it came up to his neck it neared completion.
The fledgling was raised in the air slightly as the egg completed itself around him to cut him off.
When completed the egg dropped back down, right into Fox's infantile embrace. The blue feather resting on the floor was now the only thing left of what used to be the pilot known as Falco Lombardi. The same female computerized voice as before then sounded again, just as Falco's hourglass had filled at the bottom and its glass surface shattered into pieces.
"Falco Lombardi...Restoration Complete."
Fox continued to hold the egg in his arms, his tears beginning to flow relentlessly again. Peppy, now apparently in adolescence, watched this from the small glass window in the metal wall. Fox held the big white egg ever closer and looked up to the observing hare with his big, teary infant eyes. With these eyes, he was telling Peppy that Falco was gone; this egg was all that remained. The first member of the Starfox team...had fallen...
We ride the skies,
We tamed the waves,
We skimmed the stars,
Emancipated dispirited slaves,
Is there truth in innocence, though?
Is there redemption in regression, then?
How can all be forgiven,
Upon reversion of the body to vulnerability again?
We tried to create peace
To bring prosperity to the cloudlands
We broke through impassible obstacles
With naught but our own two hands
Why then must we die?
Why then must we die this way, this terrible, terrible way?
How can you do this?
"How can you do this to us after we freed your people?"
The egg I clutch is still warm with the heat of his life,
"He can still come back," I think frantically, "He's not gone - death has not spoken,"
But how... How can I restore him? What can I do alone?
The hourglass is broken...
Black sand is filling my hourglass,
The room is growing dim,
But he will survive, he must survive,
He must... We must... Fly... Together... Me and him...
This is the piece I find the most deserving to be here, or anywhere of mine.
It was the first thing I put back after clearing my FA submission section in anger.
It's too long to go on deviantART, let's hope Weasyl can take it.
So this is a prose rendition of an idea by FurAffinity's KoopusK, which I received personal permission from him to do.
The original idea of his was merely expressed in a poem and picture of a regressed Fox McCloud holding an egg supposedly harboring his comrade, Falco Lombardi. Initially I was appalled by Koopus doing such a thing to characters I hold so dear. I've come to realize that's what [too] many people do in the furry fandom, and I generally dislike it. But what made me change my mind about Koopus's idea at least was that it was done in good taste; it wasn't simply contriving one's fetish onto otherwise respectable characters. To him, the regression was narrative, growth, character development...and I've come to befriend and greatly respect Koopus because he does this in every regression idea of his.
So this is my tribute to Koopus, one of the many signs I've given him that I love him and care so greatly about his work.
I meant to have it all as one big story, but it got so long that I had to separate it. Then, I have still not been able to finish the second half of the story. But the second portion is more-so my own solution to the crisis Koopus presented; his original idea is retained here in full.
I hope you enjoy what I was able to accomplish.
Fox McCloud, Star Fox, and characters (C) Nintendo
Clouds Parted character and original idea (C) KoopusK
Prose shown here (C) Boltro Reiodoru