Fox's day had been... something, alright. Peppy, in his infinite wisdom had kicked Fox off to some low-end high school on earth since Fox had never finished his second-degree education. He did this despite Fox taking care of the Aparoids only a few months ago. On the same day he arrived, he had to end his relationship with Wolf O'Donnell, joined up with a group of other questionably-aged students to kill some asshole in a suit of armour that wouldn't be out of place on a stereotypical metal album cover. Not too long after that, he was approached by some people saying they were working for an organisation called Cerberus, whoever they were. He'd been taken out behind the gym he and his team had recently destroyed. Slightly worried about being attacked, Fox kept his pistol (A gift from Wolf, REMEMBER?) at his side.
"So are you going to fill me in on why you want me, or are you just going to shoot me? Because if that's the case, just go ahead now." said Fox, leaning back against a dumpster.
"Attitude problems. At least that was mentioned in your dossier." said the Australian woman, unsurprised.
"Attitude problems? Did you even read up on me?" responded Fox, rolling his eyes upwards.
"I wasn't the one who wrote up the dossiers, arsehole." snapped the Australian, crossing her arms.
"Miranda, back off. We're trying to get him on our side." said Cassie, the squad's defacto leader. "Yeah, sorry about that. It was either her or Jacob and he's pretty devoted to his workout routine." Miranda grunted at this and turned to monitor the area.
"Um, Cage. There were other people you could've chosen." Said the scarred Turian to her left.
"I'll put it this way: Mordin's spent the last day working on the counter-measure, I don't want to know what Grunt's been doing since he's locked off the cargo bay more often and I'm pretty sure Jack wants to kill all of us. Miranda was the best option."
"Counter-measure? So are you going to tell me what the hell's going on?" asked Fox, his posture becoming more rigid.
"Right, that." started Cassie, clearing her throat dramatically. "Long story short, these... things called Collectors have been abducting human colonies across the galaxy. Some asshole who I'll refer to as Name Redacted is putting together a team to deal with them because nobody else is bothering to. Your name came up on that list. What I'm saying is, we need you."
"Me? Why would you want me over pretty much everyone else in the galaxy?"
"I had a look at your service record, McCloud. Shit's impressive. Led a four man fighter squadron and ended a system-wide war, liberated a planet full of DINOSAURS by yourself, wiped out an alien assault on your system and... This." Cassie looked over to the half-destroyed gym, her speech becoming more slow. "And that last thing, you did most of that ON FOOT, hell yeah you're qualified for this.
Fox took a bit to consider his options. He could turn down their offer, or join their team. But there was one factor he was still curious about.
"How much am I being payed?" Asked Fox, finally getting off the wall.
"Two-hundred thousand Credits. Or we can convert that into whatever currency you want when the job's done." Said Cassie, turning her head to a still disgruntled Miranda.
"Don't exactly have much going on right now, when I think about it. Fine. I'm in."
"Well. That went much better then I was expecting. You're gonna be a huge asset to the team, McCloud." Said Cassie, stretching out her hand for a handshake, which was warmly accepted by the furry trash.
"Yknow, I've got a team. I can try convince some of them to sign on, if that's okay with you guys." Said Fox, stopping the Cerberus group before they walked off.
"Huh... I know we're supposed to only recruit from the dossiers, but if people are willing to join I'm not going to stop them."
"Agreed. Looking through who you've already got we could really use a tech expert of some kind." Said Miranda, rubbing her chin in a stereotypical thinking manner.
"And if someone can get us some better guns, that would be amazing. Using what we find lying around isn't exactly getting us decent stuff." Said the Turian.
"Aw, that hurt my feelings, Garrus. Besides, we got the Vindicators from your place on Omega, so don't complain about that." Replied Cassie, nudging her fist against Garrus' arm playfully.
"Oh, those were from the Blue Suns mercs, didn't want them making the place a mess." Responded Garrus.
"Well, luckily for you, I think I know some people." Said Fox, ushering them towards the car park.
"Seriously, you left without me? What the actual fuck, Rocket?" Groaned Fox, hand resting on the top of his muzzle and covering his eyes.
"Well if you hadn't taken your sweet time hanging out behind that gym while the cops started showing up, maybe we wouldn't have left." Responded Rocket, who was standing on a trash can. "So who're these losers?"
"Well. I can already tell this will be a productive meeting." Said Miranda, shrugging her shoulders.
Fox, after being abandoned by his team heading out to get wasted at a bar, had to walk there. As expected, late night British streets were filled with raucous teens drunk out of their minds or angry football fans throwing punches outside of bars. Possibly both. Fox dragged Rocket and Sombra out of the bar, using 'we need to talk in private' as his reasoning.
"Alright McCloud. Out with it. Why do you want us here. I could be exposing some powerful people right now but I'm here instead." Said Sombra, keeping her hacking hand busy by moving her fingers ever so slightly.
"Human colonies are being attacked by the Collectors. We're putting together a team to deal with the problem and Fox recommended you two. The trash panda for helping us out with our weaponry and you for being the best damn hacker on earth, probably in the galaxy." Said Cassie, speaking for Fox before he got a chance to open his mouth.
"Uh huh. So, how dangerous is this?" Said Rocket, his interest peaked.
"Well given how missions like this usually turn out, probably a one-way trip for some of us." Replied Cassie, her tone now more subdued.
"Oh I am SO in. This is the kind of shit I live for."
"If he's in, I'm in. Besides, it's better then working for Talon... Fuck you Gabe..." Muttered Sombra, giving Rocket a fist bump.
"Holy shit, I thought picking people up today was going to be a pain, but it's actually worked out great." Said Cassie, relieved.
"I'll send you three the co-ordinates to our ship. If you can get there by tomorrow morning, that would be great. Name Redacted would probably want to be informed of this, Commander." Said Miranda, opening up her Omni-Tool and pushing some buttons.
"See you tomorrow, McCloud. We'll get you more up to speed then." Said Cassie, patting Fox on the back as she started to walk away.
"Wait a sec" Said Rocket, causing the Cerberus group to stop and turn around. "How much are we getting paid?"
"Two-hundred grand in Credits or whatever currency you want, same as everyone else." Replied Cassie, looking over her shoulder.
"Two-fifty for both of us, or the deal's off." Said Rocket with a devilish grin.
"We're being extorted for money by a talking raccoon... For fucks sake." Muttered Miranda.
"I'm sure we can cover those." Said Cassie confidently.
Rocket and Sombra looked towards each other, grinning. "We're in."
Driving through the British countryside was oddly relaxing for Fox. Wolf agreed to lend him his car under the conditions he brought it back once he got home. In the case he didn't, Fox sent the co-ordinates to his one-eyed friend. The skies were dark, but no rain was forecast. It had been like this for a few hours now. but Fox was still worried about the chance of rain. He just knew that he would have to walk outside for a bit and the last thing he wanted to happen was to show up drenched. Convincing Wolf that he was working outside of the system was surprisingly easy. Given Wolf's mercenary background, he probably didn't worry about anything Fox would eventually come up against. Probably lousy mercs. Fox had made sure to pack accordingly, mostly just spare clothes, some armour and Wolf's gift for him. All of it was dumped in a carry-on bag with the usual Starfox insignia plastered on the front. Yeah, Fox wore his own merch.
Honestly, he was just driving for a while. Nothing but farmers for a solid twenty minutes. Can't exactly make that interesting.
Fox eventually arrived at his destination, a surprisingly large hangar. There were a few smaller ships outside, but obviously the one Fox would be boarding required the full thing. Fox couldn't help but get a little excited at the thought of working on a ship that was decently sized. With actual people! Closest thing he ever had was the Great Fox, but he could acknowledge that the ship was far too big for just five people and a robot. Fox could've sworn he never had to use half of the rooms on that thing, anyways. After parking across two spaces like a dick, Fox wandered over to the nearest back door he could find, where he met Rocket and Sombra hanging out, both with their backs to the wall. Sombra was still in her usual getup, which meant she probably had six pairs of the same outfit. Only thing different about her was that the lights on her shaven side of her head were glowing white. Rocket was in the same outfit as yesterday, but just wine red instead of navy. That probably meant he just had palette swaps of the same clothes. Fox assumed that's how they hit it off. Both of them had suitcases to their right, the smaller one probably for the raccoon.
"Well look who decided to show up." muttered Sombra, looking at her fingernails intently.
"Dissapointed?" asked Fox, deciding not to stand next to them, as it would come off as a bit awkward.
"Well everyone else I've worked with has been incompetant, so you're automatically an improvement." replied Sombra, opening up a purple screen, probably her own way of using the internet, Fox certainly didn't put it past her.
"And 90% off all the people I've ever worked with have been douchebags." Said Rocket in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Can't you just find better people to work with, Rocket?" asked Fox, keeping an eye out for anyone who had Cerberus branding, or one of the three the recognized from last night.
"Well I have, and it hasn't worked." groaned back Rocket, almost surprised that Fox asked him that.
"Oh gee, thanks. So Sombra, I suppose you've looked into these guys?"
"That I have. From what I've been able to find out on the car ride here, they're a pro-human group with a presence basically everywhere but here. They're 'humans are the best!' kind of people, so they're automatically assholes. There's also some shady stuff they've done in the past but nothing too surprising if you've spent enough time in my line of work." explained Sombra, scrolling through pages she had saved on... herself.
"Pro-human? Then why are they picking up guys like me? And the turian from last night?" asked Fox, a bit of concern in his voice.
"If they're doing that then obviously these Collectors are serious pains in the ass." responded Sombra, swiping away her screen.
"One thing's for certain. That turian's voice is something else..." said Rocket, almost completely ignoring the conversation.
Fox tried opening the door, but walked into it instead, stunned that it wasn't opened.
"Doors locked." Said Sombra, dryly.
"I can see that" moaned a disgruntled Fox
"Like, his voice is fucken' perfect..." Droned on Rocket.
"I can already tell we might need seperate rooms..." muttered Sombra, looking to her right and seeing a figure walking towards them. And as if it could have been anyone else, it was the turian from last night. Luckily for the group, it didn't seem like he heard Rocket's fawning.
"I see you've arrived in one piece." said the turian. Fox could see Rocket's point. The guy's voice purred in just the right way.
"That we have. Garrus, right?" asked Fox, considering offering him a handshake, but neglecting it due to not being sure it would work due to turians having three fingers.
"Well you've already got the name down perfectly. Already looking like this'll turn out okay." said Garrus, still wearing the same blue armour as the night before.
'What is with these people and wearing the same outfit all the time...' thought Fox to himself. Then he remembered he was in his usual flight uniform and proceeded to scold himself in his head.
"C'mon, the Commander wants to see you on the ship." The crew did as they were told and followed Garrus, Fox opting to walk beside the turian as they went into the hangar.
"So, what's a turian doing on a Cerberus mission?" asked Fox, having to properly look upwards at someone for the first time in a while.
"Cage and I have some history. I worked with her a couple years back dealing with a guy called Saren. It was me, her and a krogan who took him down. Despite the stereotype of all krogan being 'shoot first, ask questions later', he was probably the nicest guy on the old ship. But anyways, Cage picked me up by accident. I was basically I vigilante on Omega and got noticed by Cerberus. Cage picked me up when I came up on her list. Ten minutes later I took a rocket to the skull, thus the scars. We're still friends though, but I've brought up how everything was fine before she showed up a good few times. She's been taking it well though." Explained Garrus, pushing a few buttons at the hangar.
"Tough sonuvabitch, eh?" Said Fox, eagerly awaiting the door opening.
"Y'know, that's the same thing Jacob said to me. Nice guy, you'd probably like him."
Before Fox could hammer out a sentence, the doors to the hangar opened, and Fox went dead silent in awe. The Cerberus vessel wasn't as big as he imagined, but the damn thing was gorgeous. Wide at the back, tight at the front with two cannons tucked neatly underneath the nose. Painted light grey and black with small strokes of yellow, the ship flew the flag of Cerberus with pride. Only minor issue Fox had with the design was that the wings were almost hilariously large, but the vulpine knew it was for good reason.
"Well McCloud, welcome to the Normandy." Remarked Garrus, tapping Fox on the shoulder after a couple seconds of him just staring, before ushering them over to a nearby elevator.
Walking into the Normandy, Fox was greeted by a corridor full of crewmen in chairs probably operating some systems. Beyond that was a hologram of the ship followed by two doors, the one on the left having a makeshift sign saying 'Mordin's Lab: CURRENTLY WORKING. PLEASE COME BACK LATER :)' on it.
"Ship's nice and all, but do we have any drinks?" Asked Rocket, looking around the corridor, just waiting for one of the crewmen to give him a dirty look.
"Closest thing we have is the food down a level, but I'd just say stash your own stuff. The food's ass. Plus our head chef doesn't do dextro stuff so that's bullshit." Complained Garrus, emphasising ass dramatically.
"I'm sure we can work something out between us." Bargained the raccoon, his intentions clear to his team.
"Well, if you're sure we can then why the hell not?"
Garrus and the team took the door to the right before taking a left and being met by a guy standing next to a locked door.
"So uh... You're just standing here, Jacob?" Asked Garrus, double checking to make sure the door was locked.
"Uh-huh. Commander's having a bit of a meeting with the Illusive Man." Replied Jacob, nonchalantly.
Then Sombra burst into uncontrollable laughter, leaning on Fox's shoulder and punching the wall.
"Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Your boss is called the Illusive Man!? BAHAHAHAH" hollered the hacker.
"Literally the same reaction I had when I got the job!" chuckled Jacob. "Oh crap, forgot the introduction. Jacob Taylor, I do weapons here."
"Oh, so you're the one I'm supposed to replace." Said Rocket, arms folded.
"Wait, what?" Questioned Jacob, confused.
"Oh Cage said that she wanted me onboard because I'm good with putting together weapons and yours suck."
Jacob didn't say anything, but he was visually miffed. The door next to the crew opened, with Cassie walking through the door. She was in an N7 hoodie over a black t-shirt and some jeans.
"So uh... Commander. How'd it go?" Asked Jacob, taking it slow just in case some shit happened in there.
"Well. It was productive, to say the least." Muttered Cassie, rubbing the back of her neck.
"I'm guessing he wants us to head somewhere now?"
"Yeah. The Horizon colony, NOT THE MOON ONE, got attacked. Almost defiantly the Collectors and we're being sent to check it out."
"I'll tag along." Volunteered Rocket.
"Got it. Jacob, you're friends with Grunt, right?" Asked the commander. Jacob nodded slightly, but was visually somewhat worried. "Yeah, tell him he's coming along. He'd be fun to have around. And go tell Joker to prep for launch, will ya?"
"You got it, Commander." Replied Jacob, saluting.
"You don't have to keep doing that, Y'know?"
Fox raised his hand like he was back in school. His first one, not the last one that went to shit.
"Yeah, so where am I staying?" Asked McCloud.
"Observation room's free. It's yours." Rushed out Cassie.
"And us?" Said Sombra, irritated.
"There's a room down in the Engineering deck that's free. Take a right when you come out of the elevator, it'd be perfect for you and Rocket." Butted in Garrus
"Yeah I'll get us set up down there." Sombra took Rocket's bag and made a beeline for the elevator.
"Alright, people. Mini-meeting's finished." Joked Cassie as the group broke up.
About fifteen minutes later, the Normandy was given the all green to depart from nowhere, England. It slowly crept out of the hangar, giving itself a hundred meters or so to point upward towards the sky. The engine began to roar, and the Normandy shot up into the air, hurtling upwards to space in a matter of seconds. Fox looked outside the lone window of the observation desk as the moon quickly came out of view. Unpacking his bag and whipping out his Predator, the closest thing he had to remind him of Wolf.
Shit. He was fawning over him again.