Chapter 2 – A Decade of Andross
The pair had managed to escape Andross’ fleet and had used the Awesome Black Hole to ensure they weren’t followed. Fox however didn’t feel wholly comfortable with how readily Slippy chose such a dangerous route.
“Andross hasn’t discovered this place yet so it’s safer than any other way.” This didn’t bring Fox much confidence, the thought of what happened to his father laid strongly on his mind. But he needed to focus; more pressing matters were at hand. Matter such as where Falco and Peppy were, and how Andross’ army had got so strong that they were forced through a black hole to escape it. And he could swear that the chunks of debris here were trying to form those two words that hadn’t left his head this whole time. Those words were beginning to fill him with dread, they made him want to give in altogether and add his ship to the chunks of debris floating around in this horrible place.
Nevertheless, Slippy guided them through the passage and they were spat out on the outskirts of Sector Y. “Come on Fox,” Slippy called. “Everyone will be waiting for us; I really can’t believe we have you back! Finally something good has happened for a change.”
“What are you talking about Slippy? Did something happen out on that Asteroid Belt? You’re not making any sense to me.”
Slippy curbed his enthusiasm. “Sorry Fox, I got a little carried away there. General Pepper will be able to explain things better than me. Anyway we’re almost there.”
Just ahead of them now was a cluster of Manta-Ray like creatures in all shapes of sizes. Fox was worried they were hostile as they began to approach them, but they simply began to fly around his ship in playful arches. The creatures began to guide them through Sector Y as all of a sudden a great whale could be seen in the distance. As they approached, Fox noticed a carrier ship latched onto the bottom of this friendly creature, one sporting the Cornerian emblem. As the whale got closer the manta-ray creatures began to disperse and it was clear what their destination was to be. “Space is sure full of surprises,” Fox thought to himself.
General Pepper awaited them in the conference room. He like Slippy, had aged greatly to Fox, both were paler, worn down, their spirits just seemed to have disappeared. Slippy had scars running up his arms. But how’d this happen so quickly, they’d only just set out from Corneria? Slippy was conscious Fox was looking at him and tried to perk up a little and Fox, too pained by the drastic change upon his friend resisted the desire to comfort him.
“It’s good to see you Fox, you look just as well as you did when you set out from Corneria.” Pepper seemed drained, his natural authority had dwindled over time and it was now awkward for him somewhat to keep up the official front. And thus, reliving all the pain of the last decade, General Pepper began to brief Fox.
Fox had believed he’d simply been separated from the team momentarily when that huge Phoenix had jumped out at him on their mission. After fighting off a horde of enemy ships, Fox re-united with Slippy and this is where they were now. Somehow so much had changed between that time, but Fox hadn’t for one moment couldn’t have guessed the truth of the matter.
“I don’t know how to begin really Fox but I must for the sake of everyone. What I have to say will cause you much pain but I need you to understand now, nobody blames you or anybody else for what has happened to us. When you made contact with that Phoenix Fox, you disappeared without a trace. We searched that Asteroid Belt high and low for any sign of your Arwing but there was none. With a heavy heart you team continued their mission to Venom. That was ten years ago now. We lost that war and we lost Corneria. Andross took complete control of the Lylat System; he invaded its planets and set up blockades on all its pathways. We were lucky to escape Corneria alive. We destroyed all our secrets, including the designs for the Arwing and escaped on this carrier with the help of Falco and Slippy. Luckily we managed to destroy the information about the black hole too, allowing us at least one safe route of travel, dangerous as it may be. We weren’t sure we’d make it out the other side alive. But now ten years have passed. This whale seems to be a special creature, and has offered us its protection all this time. We occasionally run expeditions to gather food and supplies for the Arwings when needed. We don’t use to excess. It’s been a difficult decade, but at least we’ve accomplished something with it. Thanks to Slippy here, you have returned Fox.”
Fox was aghast. This was far too much to take in for him, and he looked between Pepper and Slippy in disbelief. Slippy, anxious that Fox hadn’t said anything chimed in. “I did some research into that bird, phoenix thing using data I managed to salvage on Corneria during the escape. One report existed, one where a fighter disappeared without a trace, seemingly into another dimension. Since then I’ve been making a machine and gathering the energy to use it in order to break into that dimension and save you. Needless to say it took a while; it’s hard to gather resources when the system is no longer free.” He trailed off here as a deep set reverie overcame Fox.
After a long silence Fox could only ask, “What happened to Falco and Peppy?” An uneasy glance shared between Pepper and Slippy signalled this wasn’t good news.
“Falco has become a mercenary. He occasionally drops supplies off for us but otherwise we don’t see him much. For him the war with Andross is still ongoing, he continues to fight him wherever possible. He flies his own ship these days, believing the Arwing to be dead, just like he believed Star Fox was.” Pepper then hesitated, uncertain how to proceed with news on Peppy. Slippy had to continue.
“We did make it to Venom Fox. We had to try and beat him even with such a loss on our minds. But it got messy and… Peppy was hurt real badly.” Anxiety took over Fox as he feared the worst for his friend. This couldn’t be the future, how could he not have saved them!
“I was taken down Fox and it hurt I tell you now.” Fox turned towards the door at the sound of the familiar voice. Peppy Hare, who had fought with his father before him, was before him alive! But he did not stand, a wheelchair carried him now. His right side was almost unrecognisable. His leg a shrivelled mess, loss of his hand and his ear had distorted the rabbit horribly. Looking into his eyes now, Fox was certain he was also blind in one eye. “It’s good to see you Fox, although I imagine you can’t say the same for me. I thought you were a goner, I was convinced we’d never see you again just like your father. Slippy is a real genius.”
Fox couldn’t take it all in. Up until now this new reality seemed like a story, and only small hints and whisperings suggested it to be real. But now seeing Peppy in this condition, he was struck with the horror of a decade of fear and uncertainty he had left his friends with. Feeling light-headed now he stumbled; his concerned friends offered him their support but he had to decline.
“This is too much to take in, to accept. How could this happen?!”
“Take all the time you need Fox,” Pepper said. “We’re here for you, we’re just happy to see you again.” But all Fox could feel from this was anger, because he hadn’t been there to stop all this from happening.
“Why are you here for me? I let you down, I left you all behind,” he snapped. “Why’d you bother trying to bring me back, why don’t you hate me?”
“Nobody blames you for this Fox…” Peppy tried to intervene.
“Well I do Peppy! I should have been more careful, stopped that Phoenix from taking me away and then maybe things wouldn’t have ended this way.” Those two words began to press heavily against his mind, his breathing become short and sparse. “The End Fox, this is The End,” chimed around his head, taunting him.
“Fox you need to understand…”
“I do understand. I failed you and now I have to live with the guilt forever.” At this Fox left the room, the chaos in his mind becoming too much for him to burden his friends with. Their concerned faces angered him; he didn’t deserve their compassion, not anymore.
So engrossed with thoughts of his new reality he had marched straight back to the hangar and, despite protestations to the contrary, climbed inside his Arwing and took out into the comfort of space. For a just a moment out here, he needed to feel free to clear his head. He performed dives and barrel rolls and huge arcs to change direction. The Manta-Rays noticed him playing and began to swirl around his ship trying to keep up and taking laps around the giant whale. For all that had changed his love of flying certainly hadn’t. A little lighter and that raging feeling of guilt now tucked away, he returned to the carrier.
Peppy was waiting for him.
“Your father used to go flying too when he needed to clear his head. It helps being out where we feel most comfortable.” Fox climbed out of his Arwing and made his way over to the rabbit. “You haven’t changed a day Fox; at least on the outside.” Peppy smiled up at him. “I don’t know what happened to you in that dimension Fox, but you can’t blame everything that’s happened since on yourself. We’ll cross those hurdles when we have to but for now, I’m just really happy you’re alive.”
Fox couldn’t bring himself to look at him still. “This isn’t the end we deserved Peppy.”
“If it was the end Fox, we wouldn’t be here together now. Everyone’s story may be fraught with hard times, but that doesn’t mean they have to end that way. Whatever happens from here on in we make the best of it.” Fox lifted his head to look at the rabbit here. He saw that old vigour briefly flood his old friend’s face and realised that despite what had happened to him, he hadn’t given up for one second.
“Thanks Peppy, it’s really good to see you too.”