Star Fox: Inertia - Ch. 12 of 14 by Tempo (critique requested)

Star Fox: Inertia - Ch. 12 of 14 (critique requested)

Tempo

11 June 2017 at 15:20:16 MDT

Star Fox: Inertia
Chapter 12
by Tempo

The team heads to Sauria and watches erotic dinosaur dancing. Krystal wears clothes, however briefly.

~ ~ ~

Krystal stepped onto the bridge, lit green by old control stations and blue by the streak of starlight out the main viewer. Her three teammates worked at various controls, though none immediately looked up.

She tugged one of the gloves of the brand-new flight suit straight, then propped her hands on her hips. "Well, boys, what do you think?"

The avian looked up from his handheld game, then fell back laughing against a console. "Ya lose a bet or somethin'? Thought yer species needed fur exposed ta breath."

"Sheesh, Falco, it's the same basic uniform we all wear." The mechanic wiggled his way back out of an access panel to look. "I think it looks good."

"Thank you, Slippy." She smiled down at the frog and ignored the cackling bird bro.

Wordless, Fox McCloud stepped across the rattling deck plates and to her side. His paw closed around hers. Even through both their gloves, she could feel his love radiating out. Even without telepathy, she could see the fondness in his bright green eyes, muzzle tipped shyly down, even as he stood with excellent posture.

She raised her ears to him. "You approve then?"

Blushing, he shrugged. "I'm proud to see you wear it. You look like you belong in it."

"Aww." She'd never had a serious boyfriend before, but he buoyed her mental health in ways she never knew possible. She brushed her tail along his. "I feel like I do."

"Booooo!" The avian ace shouted from the other side of the bridge, wings cupped to his beak. "Get a grove, maple trees! We're drownin' in yer sap."

With a defiant coo, she scratched gentle claws under her lover's muzzle. "Oh Foxy-fluff, you are my everything. Won't you be my precious pilot poppet for ever and ever?"

Fox's ears dipped under the weight of an even brighter blush, but he smiled wider. "Y-yeah."

The bird stuck a primary feather toward his open beak, then made the loudest possible retching sound.

"Um, guys?" Slippy stood and dusted bits of plastic wire casing off his round stomach, then pointed at the FTL display. "We're here."

On the viewer, a blur of stars snapped to focus as the Great Fox II jumped out of warp. The deck plates shuddered under Krystal's feet. She watched Fox's ears rise at an unexpected metallic rattle.

With a flare of concern, he turned to her. "Have the jump engines always made that noise?"

The vixen's ears popped up as well, even though the sound was long gone. "I think so."

Her lover sighed, stretching his arms one at a time over his head. "Sorry, I just don't want the thing to explode before we switch to the new ship."

"Quite alright." She patted his arm. "I want that too." She watched as the planet Sauria came into view. The combined emotional aura of thousands of sentient creatures tingled at the edge of her perceptions. "I always forget how cheerful Sauria feels overall. The dinosaurs really have life figured out."

"Perfect." Fox crossed his arms. "We'll just find some worry and follow it to Tricky."

"I don't know." Propping her hands on her hips, she glanced at him through her beaded bangs. "He already called us, so he might think the problem's solved."

"Heh." Falco sat peeling the fake leather off his chair. "And they say Sauria's not part of the Lylat System."

The foxes turned to him. After a brief moment of consideration, Krystal extended her fist to him.

After a longer moment of hesitation, the bird bumped it with his own.

~ ~ ~

Fox led a flight of the most advanced starfighters ever constructed into the atmo of the least advanced planet in the system. Or possibly the most advanced? Tough to tell with magic dinosaurs.

"Sauria Control, this is Star Fox One." McCloud checked his engines were ready to switch over to atmospheric flight. "Requesting permission to enter Saurian airspace."

"I read ya loud and clear, Star Fox!" Tricky's giant smile appeared on the comm. "Permission to enter sovereign airspace granted!" He chuckled at his own mastery of the terminology. "You are cleared to land."

After a couple seconds of silence, Falco butted in. "Anywhere in particular? Or should we just guess?"

"The landing pad by the EarthWalker palace, of course!" Giddy with excitement, he stamped his feet in place. "You can't miss it!"

"Copy that, Sauria Control."

"Tricky out!" He turned and stomped off from the still-active comm. The camera showed only an empty throne room, though eventually a theropod wandered in to sweep the floor.

Krystal's face appeared on the comm screen. "Was that blue medal on his crest a Star Fox emblem?"

One paw rubbing the scruff of his neck, Fox tried to think of how to explain that without sounding silly. "It belonged to my father. I kept it as a good luck charm for years, but after he helped me save the planet I made him an honorary member of the team." He shrugged. "Wearing it as part of his crown is new, though."

The blue vulpine tilted her head. "That's sweet."

Slippy blinked as he joined the call. "So there are five members of Star Fox?"

"Technically, yes." The red fox stretched his fingers, then settled them around the familiar flight controls of his Arwing. "To comply with Cornerian tax law, we list Tricky as a pilot."

Falco crowed: "Yeah, kinda like how we list Slippy as one."

The frog's normally cheery face soured with dismay. "Hey! I heard that."

The bird snickered. "Once we're done here, we could hold auditions for someone to replace Slip."

Krystal replied with a vulpine purr. "We could recruit Katt. Then every mission would be a double-date."

Falco's plumage rose. His beak clacked shut.

The vixen smirked at his reaction. "Cat got your tongue?"

"Do you copy, Star Fox Two?" Fox chuckled. "Dip your wing at me if your mic is down."

The bird looked away from his cockpit camera. "...It might be nice to have a lovely little kitty waiting for me after our missions."

The lead pilot rolled his eyes as Krystal suppressed a snicker. "We're coming up on the EarthWalker capital now."

A ring of levitating gemstones, each about the size of a shuttlepod, floated around the perimeter of a landing pad. It wouldn't have been out of place in Corneria City, had it not been perched atop an ancient stone pyramid in the middle of a city scaled for dinosaurs.

The quartet of Arwings landed adroitly atop a moss-draped stone ziggurat. Fox popped his canopy. A rush of fresh air, the first he'd breathed in months, surged inside with a lush complexity of scents. He climbed down extending metal steps to the massive carved blocks that composed the pyramid. Standing at the edge of the platform, he looked out over Sauria's walled capital city. Around him in all directions, the city gleamed golden and blazed with vibrant banners. Beyond, the jungle swayed on the wind and shimmered every shade of green. From this vantage, he could see the citizens shuffling about their daily lives in markets and by-streets. CloudRunners flapped overhead, the membranes of their wings aglow in the clear sunlight. Wind tossed his tail fur.

Beside him, Slippy hopped down from his own cockpit and tilted his wide face to the sky. "You think the Great Fox'll be okay in orbit without us?"

"Better than it would be down here." Fox offered his paw to Krystal as she climbed from her fighter, which she graciously accepted. "It doesn't even have landing gear."

Falco swooped down from his cockpit with a cynical glance at paradise.

McCloud looked up at him. "You double-check your G-diffuser turned off? Sauria has lower grav. I don't want your Arwing blowing away again."

"Yeah, yeah..." The bird rolled his eyes and hopped down to the stone surface.

A triceratops thundered up the ramp to the landing pad and toward them. "Fox! Krystal! I knew you'd come!" His massive muzzle battered the red fox back against his Arwing. "Thank you so much!"

Regaining his footing, McCloud patted him on the snout. "Hey, old pal. What's all this about?"

"I'll tell you later, just play along." Breathless, he winked. Then he twirled his massive form around to stand at the team's side. His tail whacked the front strut of Falco's landing gear, sending the ship rocking precariously.

Falco dove to a control panel on his fighter's hull and hit a few buttons. The craft settled with a heavy clank. Only then did he breathe a sigh of relief and glare at Tricky.

The king of Sauria glanced back at the sound, oblivious to the avian outrage. "Wow, these Arwings are smaller than I remember…"

With a blast of trumpets, dozens of dinosaurs paraded up the ramp of the pyramid. Festooned with ribbons, the citizens of Sauria cheered as they crested the ramp and saw the team. Various species gathered around them, sparkling in their finery. More than one young dinosaur hooted with excitement even as they chewed on their flowery garlands. Pterodactyls landed at the edge of the platform, and on the occasional sauropod. Ankylosaurs waddled their way into the crowd between triceratops. Here and there, raptors peered between the gaps with unsettling interest.

The triceratops king strutted around to face his people. "On behalf of the tribes of Sauria, I want to welcome the Star Fox team."

The dinosaurs hooted, stomped, and clacked claws and horns together. Falco and Slippy looked to each other with discomfort.

"C'mon!" He bounced in place, shaking dust from the ancient stones. "We've got a whole party waiting for you."

Fox rubbed the scruff of his neck. "Uhh, I appreciate that, old pal, but—"

A troupe of BoneHead dinos blasted a tune on their trumpets. The crowd of Saurians swept them up and hurried them down the massive stone ramp. A line of bejeweled raptors led the way, twirling colorful flags.

A young sauropod leaned down to squint at the avian. After studying him up and down, she ventured: "Are you a fox?"

Falco's crest shot up in offense. "What? No!"

Slippy raised a flipper helpfully. "I'm also not a fox."

An older sauropod with similar coloration craned down to help. "They must be lesser spirits."

Stomping beside them, a ThornTail nodded sagely. "Servants of the fox spirits."

McCloud patted the tree-trunk-like leg of the youngster. "He's a bird. His name is Falco. My name—"

"Oh, I know who you are!" The hatchling turned to look down at the vulpine. "You're Fox McCloud. Tricky summons you when he needs a helper on his adventures."

Still being jostled along by dinos, Krystal threw her muzzle back in a laugh.

The young HighTop studied. "And that makes you Fox Krystal, right?"

Her blue ears popped straight up as she stifled another snicker. "That wasn't the half of his name I was planning on taking."

Fox sputtered.

She smiled up at the smaller sauropod. "Just calling me Krystal will do."

The youngster nodded.

Ushered to an amphitheater, Fox found his team deposited in the best seats. Tricky settled in beside them. The stands around them seated hundreds of dinosaurs, a rainbow of scale colors and a curious admixture of shapes. The tallest sauropods stood outside, resting their chins on the top rim of the theater between chattering pterodactyls.

A pair of pterodactyls fluttered in to deliver trays of roasted yams in an assortment of hues. Tricky thanked them and immediately began chowing down on the steaming delicacies.

Fox leaned in around Slippy, who was already gumming at a yam. "Can you please tell me what's going on?"

"Hmm?" The king looked up at his friend, a sweet potato pinched in his beak. After a moment of clearly considering putting it back on the plate, he tilted his head back and chomped it as quickly as possible. "Oh, the kids wanted to put on a play in your honor."

The vulpine "No, I mean what you called me—"

The curtain rose on an elaborate pageant. Barely waiting for his musical cue, a small pink-and-purple triceratops sang enthusiastically about being king someday. Eventually, one of the parent sauropods lowered a papier-mâché Arwing on a rope. The SharpClaw playing Fox wore a good approximation of his flight suit and a bucket of coppery body paint. The top half of a powder-blue sauropod played Krystal, while her bottom half played variously trees, a palace, or other scenery. The kid playing Tricky, of course, got the best lines.

McCloud tried to extract more information from the EarthWalker, but found his attention inextricably pulled toward the spectacle of one of the more surreal chapters of his life reenacted by preadolescent dinosaurs. Especially since they found every excuse to release clouds of fireflies.

On the stage, Tricky The Amazing and his helpful sidekick Fox Who Has Thumbs gallivanted through another musical number, this one about teaching Fox to dig up delicious plants in the wilderness. Drums, flutes, and a backup chorus accompanied them as they bounced around the stage. They chased Krazoa spirits made of yarn through a mass of dancing dinos dressed as rocks and trees, flung into the air here and there by glitter-covered trampolines.

Back in the seats, Falco leaned on the railing of the box seats, disgusted. Slippy watched in rapt attention, head bobbing from side to side. Krystal, clad in a flight suit and beads, took it all in with a cultured air.

An especially short hatchling dressed as General Scales howled and snarled his way through whipping his fellow SharpClaws into a frenzy, literally chewing on the scenery at one point. He had a good evil laugh, Fox had to admit, even if his fake sword-hand fell off halfway through the solo. The fight scene between him and Krystal mostly consisted of him tumbling around while the sauropod twisted her neck back and forth, sending blue limbs flailing like empty pajama sleeves. Whole sections of the stage shifted on wheeled tracks, showing the different parts of the planet threatening to drift off into space.

The climax saw the foxes united and helping Tricky to battle mini-Scales, a magical T-rex, and a ten-meter papier-mâché monkey head. All at once, with full choral accompaniment. Fox watched in shock as his doppelganger crashed his fighter into the giant Andross head. The bed-sheet T-rex started on fire mid-battle, though he had no idea if that was intentional, since adult dinosaurs hurried onstage and stomped the flames out. Tricky and Krystal knocked Scales into his own gemstone-imprisoning machine, which tumbled out of caught in a net of blue yarn and then pretended to be frozen.

At the end, the young dinosaurs all trampled on stage for one more massive musical number. The foxes bid them farewell and stood atop the slightly-crumpled Arwing, which was lifted out on a rope by the same adult HighTop. The sections of the stage all slid back together, showing the planet was no longer breaking apart. Hatchlings representing each tribe of Sauria gathered onstage to sing about friendship and cooperation, complete with jazz-hands and more stomping than the stage was likely designed for.

The crowd cheered with wild enthusiasm. Howls and whistles he didn't know dinosaurs were capable of reverberated through the space. The CloudRunners perched on the rim of the theater crowed with approval. Slippy slapped damp hands together, stopping only to snap up a passing glow bug. Even Falco slowly clapped his wings together, even as he did his best to look bored.

Fox's muzzle hung open long after the final curtain fell. Only when he felt a gentle finger close it for him did he look over at Krystal. Around them, adult dinosaurs chatted about how it'd all gone much better than the rehearsals.

She grinned. "Not quite how I remember it."

"They took some creative license." Tricky rocked back and forth in a massive shrug. "Your character needed more to do."

"I'd wager." She smirked. "Now, Tricky, is there somewhere we can go talk—"

A blast of horns drew the dinosaurs' attention. The whole crowd shuffled to their feet and chattered with excitement as they exited the amphitheater. Several of the smaller dinos hopped offstage to bounce out beside their parents.

The red fox looked around the passing crowd. "Now what?"

King Tricky lifted his head to let a cluster of small raptors past. "Oh, we prepared a feast in your honor too."

McCloud pinched the bridge of his muzzle. "That's great, Trick, but we need—"

One of the CloudRunners who'd delivered the yams tottered up on toes and wingtips. "I must ask, Star Foxes: have you ever tried pukpuk nuggets? My tribe has been perfecting the recipe for thousands of years. I've prepared all 14 traditional dipping sauces."

Slippy spun on a heel and waddled toward the door, glowing internally from the fireflies. Falco slouched after him.

The team leader lashed his tail. "Hey! Where are you two going?"

With a quick spin, the frog walked backwards without slowing. "We have to respect their culture, Fox!"

"And I'm hungry." Falco didn't even bother turning around, popping the collar of his flight jacket.

A solid wave of EarthWalkers entered the box seats and swept Tricky along with amorous nuzzles. Blushing, Fox recognized two of them. And at least one of the others appeared to be male. The purple-pink triceratops flashed the vulpines an apologetic smile before he surrendered to being dragged from the structure by his harem.

As the last of the crowd exited, the massive space stood empty. The perfect acoustics allowed him to hear his own breathing. His ears perked at the sound of other quiet breaths behind him. He didn't even need to turn to hear his mate's amusement, making him feel a little like an empath himself. He turned to see her pretty green eyes, though.

With a smooth step closer, Krystal took his paw in hers. She pressed her forehead to his for a moment, as if to transfer him some calm. Then she straightened and inclined her head at the door. "Shall we?"

He sighed, hearing it echo through the silent space. "Why not?"

~ ~ ~

After a feast, another parade on the way to the feast, poetry reading during the feast, and accepting various tokens of esteem, Fox and Krystal managed to sneak away from the crowd. The blue vixen took her lover by the paw and led him through the massive stone streets of the ancient city to the EarthWalker palace. Opulent tapestries of dinosaurs lined the walls, each as intricate and colorful as the emotions pulsing through the city around her.

"You know your way around here pretty well." McCloud followed her around the tenth or eleventh corner. "Did you spend a lot of time at the palace?"

Her slim muzzle turned back and forth down a hallway before she charged onward. "Actually, I've never been. CloudRunner Fortress was always my base of operations."

His ears sprung up, along with one of his eyebrows. "So how do you know where we're going?"

With a roll of her eyes, she tapped her temple.

"Right." He nodded. "I forget about that."

"I know you do." She nodded politely to a velociraptor maid changing some linens, then sauntered onward with a fluid sway of her hips and tail. "It's the only time you let yourself fully appreciate my appearance."

His ears dipped, suddenly warm. "...Good point." He took a deep breath as they continued on. "Why'd the Queen CloudRunner give us a flute anyway?" His eyes flicked to the purple instrument looped on her belt. "Isn't that for playing lullabies to hatchlings?"

The vixen smirked back at him. "Exactly."

"Aw jeez." He ran a paw over the white streak of fur atop his head. "Is this whole planet preoccupied with us having sex?"

"Difficult to say." She squeezed his paw as she brushed her smile along his muzzle. Her eyes lingered a moment on his, transmitting her emotions as best she could. "Empaths have trouble sensing preoccupations they share."

The todd straightened and sputtered, emitting a field of flustered titillation.

Before she could finish gloating and kiss him, a familiar voice echoed down the corridor: "Alright Star Fox, full speed ahead!"

The foxes exchanged a glance of mutual questioning. That had sounded quite a bit like Tricky. They crept down the hall, Krystal in near-silence, Fox in as much as flight boots allowed. Together, they peeked around the corner.

The king of the entire planet lay on his back, thick legs stuck straight up in the air. "A planet that knows only fear—" He balanced two carved wooden Arwings on his feet and swooped them at each other. "—needs a hero who has none!"

Fox turned to her in disbelief, mouth hanging open.

"Who am I?" The dinosaur lifted one front leg for a dramatic pose, bouncing the toy adroitly. "I'm Fox, Fox McCloud—and don't forget it! Pew-pew-pew!"

Deciding it would be best not to be caught eavesdropping, Krystal strode into the room and towed her lover along with her.

"Oh, hi Fox. Hey Krystal." The massive dinosaur rolled to his feet and set down the toys. The gems on his crest lit up, causing the wooden starfighters to zip over to a box atop a varnished dresser. "You guys like the party?"

"Yeah, it was great." The red fox cut through the small talk with a swipe of his paw. "Tricky, would you please tell us why you called us here?"

"Okay, okay…" The gems on Tricky's crown glowed again, this time to shut the door behind them. "So we may have lost General Scales."

"He died?" Krystal's ears rose. "How?"

"No." The ruler shook his massive head. "I mean I don't know where we put him. My mom and dad stuck him in a giant gemstone. They had the LightFoots hide him, but they say they don't remember where."

The blue vixen's eyes narrowed. "They don't remember?"

The red fox crossed his arms. "Is this just one of their terrible tests? They had the worst test."

"For maximum security, they were moving him from place to place on a need-to-know basis." The triceratops rocked back and forth. "And then I guess nobody needed to know."

Groaning, McCloud pressed a paw to his eyes.

Krystal looked perplexed. "Why didn't you just tell us that?"

"Security, guys! It might have been…intercepted." The triceratops winked at the use of the exotic word.

Fox closed his eyes and began to radiate a sense of unfairness at life in general and Sauria in particular.

Krystal tried to think of a nice way to tell the dinosaur no one in Lylat knows or cares about Saurian intrigue. Which was part of why she took such a personal interest: a little space-age tech went a long way to stabilize a planet full of dinosaurs using gemstone-based psychic power.

At their non-reaction, the dinosaur king stamped his feet a little as anxiety bubbled up in his voice. "Didn't you guys notice me winking?"

His old vulpine pal threw his arms in the air. "You wink about lots of things. For all I knew, you had something in your eye."

"Wow." The triceratops stared off into the introspective distance. "It's finally happened: I've become too tricky for my own good."

"So now you need our help to find him?" Fox indulged in a resigned smirk. "Because we're the only ones who can?"

"Yeah!" His scaled eyebrows sprung up. "How'd you know?"

The todd patted him on a massively muscled front shoulder. "I've solved every planetary-scale problem in this system since I was 18."

"Man!" The triceratops laughed in sudden mirth. "Why haven't they made you king?"

The vixen's laugh rang through the bed chamber. "I guess not everywhere's as enlightened as Sauria."

"Huh. Yeah." The dino-king nodded. "Well, the LightFoots say they put him somewhere in a series of caverns by ThornTail Hollow." He glanced at the large stone sundial on his balcony. "Oh right. Guys, I have a meeting. Let's walk and talk."

Glancing down a corridor, Fox noticed a team of theropods pushing laundry carts and chattering in snm arled tones. He continued walking at the EarthWalker's flank. "I can't help but notice you have a lot of SharpClaws working for you. Is that something you…know about?"

"Oh yeah. People have been suspicious of them since they made the planet break up that one time, so I'm showing them that there is nothing to fear. And having so many of them here means I can listen for anything they might be plotting. And trusting them means they'll fight on my side next time."

"Wow." McCloud's head tilted back a bit as the reasoning hit him. "That's actually pretty wise."

"They're also really good at picking up things!" Tricky bounced, shaking the rafters. "So I'd rather have them working for me than enemies."

"Ah yes." The blue fox smoothed the coat of her uniform. "Thumbs could be quite dangerous in the wrong hands."

The todd raised a finger. "I have more questions about the Scales situation."

"As do I." Krystal brushed a beaded lock of hair from her face. "For example: why aren't we looking for him right now?"

"Oh! A couple reasons, actually." His massive head bobbed in assurance. "I didn't want to cause a panic, since he's probably still stuck in that gemstone. And we don't have enough fireflies after the play, so I have some of my best people catching more. A few days from now, we should be able to search the caves!" His beaked smile shone with gormless hope. "Just like the old days, huh Fox?"

Krystal extended a graceful paw palm-up, offering a suggestion. "We could use torches."

"I don't think we should carry burning sticks into the caves. Lots of things down there might start on fire." His tail rocked side to side as he listed them. "Coal, old tree roots, fire weeds, natural gas, giant spiderwebs, bomb spore plants..."

"She means flashlights, Trick." Fox drew his blaster and flicked on the small light under the barrel. A pool of white light glinted on the rich carpet before them.

"Wow, cool!" He waved a front foot into the path of the light. "Space magic!"

"Or you could just have the gems on your devices glow bright enough to see by." Krystal drew her collapsed staff from her belt and clicked a button with her thumb. Either end of it cast enough light to illuminate the hallway for twenty meters.

"Yeah, yeah! That's a great idea." He beamed at their sources of illumination. "See? This is why I called you here."

Without a word, Fox shook his head and holstered his zapper pistol.

Krystal put away her staff. "Why don't you have your subjects help look for him?"

"Like I said, they'd probably panic. Everyone's still really scared of Scales. We had to really tone him down for the play." Tricky inclined his horns at a window in the direction of the amphitheater. "They don't thrive on danger like we do." He rocked his head at either of them in turn, winking.

"Ugh!" The red fox used both paws to flatten back his whiskers. "Buddy, I don't have time to teach you about how winking works right now..."

"Okay, Fox." The crowned triceratops shrugged. "We're here anyway." He pushed open the heavy doors to a sprawling throne room.

Half a dozen EarthWalkers and a CloudRunner twirled around the room. Each danced, clad in nothing more than bangles, spangles, and silk.

The team's avian ace stood in one corner, watching as he sipped a frozen toxic-green slush. He'd changed out of his flight suit and into a fully-unbuttoned flower print shirt, a shell necklace, and sandals. "I told 'em to get some practice in beforehand." His beak jerked up in the direction of the dancers. "I'm starting to see the appeal."

The lead pilot rolled his eyes. "Falco, they're 10-ton quadrupeds."

He tilted the drink toward his fearless leader. "You underestimate how long I've been on that ship."

Krystal glanced about the room. "Where's Slippy?"

He crossed his wings with a derisive caw. "Ditched him at the bug kebab stands. Probably in a mud bath by now. He said somethin' about this planet havin' interesting mud." The bird sneered. "And tasty bugs."

Noticing Tricky, the concubines organized themselves for the actual performance. Off to one side, a band of drummers and flute players started up a sensual rhythm. The delicate wail of an exotic stringed instrument counterpointed the massive stomping that shook Fox's rib cage.

"Could I get some context here?" The red fox found himself having trouble pulling his gaze away from the swaying dinosaurs.

The triceratops king leaned in, but kept watching the proceedings. "By EarthWalker tradition, they're supposed to be competing to see who gets to be queen…" He glanced out over the harem of dinosaurs dancing quite collaboratively, twirling and grinding against one another. "…but I think maybe they've heard my 'Everything is Better when We Cooperate' speech too many times."

"So…" He cut the air with a wing. "…all these dinosaurs wanna have sex with you?"

"I know, right? You save the world one time and suddenly everyone thinks you're a genius and wants you to sire their hatchlings."

The avian stood staring at Tricky, his expression darkening like a storm cloud.

"I can only actually do that for female EarthWalkers, but that doesn't stop everybody else from trying." The dino shrugged.

The ace's beak dropped slowly open, like a hangar bay ready to launch insults.

Tricky babbled on, unaware of the impending attack. "I sometimes get jealous of you other members of Star Fox." His massive frame gave a wistful sigh. "You don't have to deal with managing treasure or everyone asking for advice all the time or keeping a harem happy. It's so complicated. I wish I could just go to space. And just fly around with Fox. That must be really fun!"

Falco emitted a noise of ultimate disgust. With a death-grip on his slushy, he took a breath to reply.

With the timing of a bodyguard, Krystal stepped between him and the ruler. She took him by the wing. "Let's step out into the hallway for a moment." Her calm gaze flashed to her lover. "Fox?"

The team leader shook his head with a slight smile. "On your six."

The king of Sauria watched them leave with a doe-eyed look of concern, though a coordinated flourish of sequined motion soon stole his attention back.

Once they'd dragged the avian into the corridor, they shut the huge wooden doors. The music seeped through, if muted. It did little, however, to stop the reverberations of the stomping.

"Jeez laweez! How's that purple hornball get all the breaks?" He cawed with outrage, jabbing a primary feather at the closed door. "Ladies are throwing themselves at him. Guys too! Everybody think he's a genius, but he's dumber than a smart bomb!" He shook his slushy at them, scattering a string of lime-green blobs on his wingman's flight suit.

"He's our friend, Falco." Krystal folded her arms with a stern tone. "You should be happy for him."

"Or at least not insult him so much that he stops hosting feasts in our honor." After wiping off the beverage as best he could, Fox mirrored his lover's body language. He tried to keep his voice on a steady flight path; no sense in ruffling feathers further. "You know the last time someone had a parade for us?"

The ace counted on his primary feathers. "Less work. Better food. Lives in a palace while we've been stuck on a third-rate deathtrap for the past year!" The bird cawed at the ceiling with disgust, revealing a pointy, green-stained tongue. "There's no justice in the Universe."

"Falco, listen—" Fox reached one paw toward his friend's shoulder.

"No!" A swift wing batted the paw away. "I've had enough of how freakin' fantastic Tricky has everything!" He popped the collar of his flight suit and turned away with a dramatic scowl. "I'm gonna go score dino tail."

The blue fox rolled her eyes and raised a slender finger. "One, we both know that's a lie." A second digit rose to join the first. "Two, I already told Katt to meet us here." She pulled a comm out of her pocket and showed him a screen of text. "Three, she sent me this message saying she's somewhere on the outskirts of Cape Claw, wants you to come find her…" She paused for breath and dramatic effect. "...and may or may not be still wearing her skirt."

His feathery crest shot up like a paper fan snapped open. "You guys couldn't even tell her to come straight here?"

She launched a sly look down her muzzle. "I don't think anyone has ever succeeded in telling Katt to go anywhere."

"Holy smokes. How much time have we wasted talking about stupid dino junk?" He snatched his own communicator off his belt. "You jerks got no idea how long it takes to preen! I didn't even bring my beak polish down here!"

"Oh?" The vixen's mouth arched into a smile. "You're going then?"

"I'm so outta here!" Already hustling away, he tossed one wing in the air. "You guys can sit around and help Tricky with his perfect sexy life without me."

Watching his wingmate go, McCloud shook his muzzle.

Down the hallway, Falco turned right, then dashed left a moment later, unknowingly sloshing some partly-frozen fruit juice on the rug as he departed.

A pair of SharpClaw butlers arrived to see what all the commotion was about, but found only a neon-green stain on the carpet. As one of them bent to use a handkerchief on the goop, the other watched the Star Fox member fleeing down the corridor. "The bird one seems to be a spirit of lewdness and profanity." His companion nodded up at him in agreement.

The lead pilot glanced to his girlfriend. "You didn't tell him about the teleporters?"

She shook her head as the clamor of sexy dinosaur dancing rattled the walls behind them. Her paw closed around his. "Then he might come back."

Fox nodded pleasantly, though it only drew Krystal's attention.

She turned to face him. "Something on your mind?"

"Yeah..." With a deep sigh, he leaned back against the wall. It shook against his shoulders. "I've been thinking about what Wolf said..."

"Oh?" Amusement sparkled in her gaze. "It's a bit late, but I'm sure we could get you fitted for a collar somewhere."

"Ha ha." He rocked his head from side to side, missing the familiar weight of his targeting visor. "About needing to manage our public image. I thought being heroes would be enough, that people would see the value in that, but what if he's right?"

The empath swept to face him, booted paws still graceful, moving to the beat of muted drums. "He's psychotic."

"Oh totally." He waved a paw in the air, yielding the point. "Doesn't mean he's wrong. Is my pride making it harder to protect people? Should I be selling out harder? Movie royalties could've rebuilt our ship sooner."

"Doing what's right is rarely glamorous or practical. In spite of evidence to the contrary, you can't save the Lylat System from everything by yourself. And you don't." Her palm landed on the wall near his head as she leaned in to deliver a reassuring nose-bump. "You're a fine pilot, Inari McCloud, but you're not a god."

He smirked at the use of the kami spirit he'd almost been named after.

"I know this is hard for you non-empaths to notice, but millions of other people on the planets we visit want life to be peaceful, fair, and safe. They work for it every day. Many of them get less credit for it than you do." She gave him a wink Tricky could learn from.

His ears drooped a little. He rested a paw on her hip. "Do you ever get tired of being right?"

"I'll let you know if it happens." Her long and supple tail swished playfully. "You're not worried about Wolf showing up?"

Fox shrugged. "If morality and common sense never got him to leave me alone, maybe shame will do the trick." He looked up into her loving green eyes. "We're really going to crawl through caves looking for Scales, aren't we?"

"Of course we are." Her smile slowly spreading, she toyed with the fluff of his ear.

His expression straightened to a sardonic line. "Guess I'm just a sucker for dinos in need."

"It's why I love you." She intercepted his muzzle for a quick kiss. "It'll be something we do as a couple. Like a date."

"Ah yes." He rolled his eyes. "What could be more romantic than looking for a dinosaur warlord trapped in a gemstone?"

Leaning in closer, she cupped his cheek ruff with her other paw. "At least this time I won't be inside the gemstone."

"That is a plus." His paw slipped up under the hem of her coat and squeezed her flank through the clingy fabric. He was really starting to like her new uniform.

"Really, love." She pressed her muzzle to his as a flute solo rose to a sensual climax in the next room. "What's the worst that could happen?"

~ ~ ~

I didn't really think about it until writing this game, but Sauria is probably the planet we know the most about in the entire Star Fox setting.

Edits: Slate, SillyNeko345, Eljot001, CarlMinez, KohakuNightfang
Art: JecBrush (Used with permission.) http://jecbrush.deviantart.com/

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