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Race Against Time

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It was late at night in the streets of Corneria. Most of its citizens have long since returned home, eager to go to bed, especially with how long some have been out.

However, while not everyone had followed the lead of most of the city, there was one still walking the streets who really stood out amongst the crowd.

Along the outskirts of town (where most of the lower-class citizens lived) stood the infamous mercenary Fox McCloud, the vulpine tugging his jacket collar closer as another breeze ruffled his fur.

You see, Fox was never one to normally spend cold nights outside. Like most people, he preferred to get whatever he had planned done and get back home, especially since he was never one for socializing, and getting recognized was just asking for trouble.

Tonight was a definite exception, though.

With no Star Fox related missions on the horizon for them, Fox and his teammates decided to spend a few days in the city, considering none of them really wanted to waste time hanging around the Great Fox. It was almost like a vacation for them.

However, things didn’t exactly go as smoothly as Fox would have liked, though. During their last day before having to return to the ship, Fox invited Peppy, Slippy, Falco and Krystal to his apartment on the outskirts, mostly just to drink and commemorate their final day on dry land before they were back to work.

Unfortunately, involving alcohol proved to be a bit of a bad idea, as while things were going well at first, the conversation soon devolved into an argument about which out of a pair of new G-diffuser systems were better between Falco and Slippy.

Fox frankly didn’t care which was better, as he would have been happy with either as long as it worked. However, having to listen to Falco and Slippy’s increasingly louder voices was giving him a headache, and Krystal and Peppy had long given up on breaking them apart, both of them deciding to let them wear themselves out.

Having had enough, Fox stood up, a paw pressed against his forehead as he told Krystal he was going to go outside to get some air.

“Be careful, Fox.”

Fox nodded before grabbing his coat and heading outside, which is where we find him now.

With a heavy sigh, Fox began walking, deciding that he was going to take a lap around the neighborhood to work off the excess alcohol in his system.

As he passed by a supposedly inconspicuous alleyway, though, Fox caught a glint of something out of the corner of his eye.

Looking towards said alleyway, Fox focused on the area where he saw the glint coming from and noticed a watch just sitting on the ground, the moon no doubt having glinted off of the glass watch face.

“Huh, that’s strange.” said Fox to himself. “Who leaves a watch out in the middle of the street?”

Fox turned towards the alleyway, intending to grab the watch and turn it in to the Cornerian police in the morning.

However, just as he lifted his foot to take the first step, he froze, his foot returning to the ground as a weird feeling went through his gut.

“This can’t be right.” thought Fox, shaking his head. “I feel like this is some sort of trap. I mean, who leaves their watch out in plain view? They’re just asking for it to be stolen!”

Fox briefly stood at the mouth of the alleyway, his heroic instincts battling with his self-preservation instincts.

Eventually, the smarter instinct won out, and Fox turned away, deciding that it was probably best to head home before anything else went wrong.

However, just as he started walking off, Fox froze once more, his ears flicking towards the alleyway as he caught the sound of feet pounding against the pavement.

Spinning around, Fox aimed a spinning back fist towards what he assumed was his supposed attacker. His fist met air, though, and while he stumbled forwards, the attacker grabbed Fox by the waist and tossed him bodily into the alleyway.

Thankfully, Fox was able to roll through, quickly jumping to his feet and putting his paws up to block the attacker’s next strike.

Fist soon met palm, and Fox finally got a good look at his attacker as he held it at bay, only to be caught off guard when he realized that it was a chameleon that looked eerily familiar.

“Leon?”

Fox was convinced at first that Star Wolf was coming after him again, especially with how easily they were taken down during a recent mission back on Aquas.

However, as he spun around his attacker to avoid letting him slip his fist through, the attacker stepped into a patch of light, and he soon realized that it wasn’t in fact Leon, but another similar-looking chameleon with a darker skin color than his rival’s teammate.

Fox’s concentration was slightly compromised by the revelation of this new chameleon attacking him, but thankfully he was able to pull through just as the chameleon hopped backwards before quickly rushing forwards with another punch.

Fox parried the blow and lashed out with an elbow, only for the chameleon to duck under the appendage and land a palm strike into Fox’s side, winding the mercenary as he stumbled a few steps back.

Unfortunately for the chameleon, Fox wasn’t as winded as he thought.

As the attacker jumped forwards, planting one foot on the ground as he attempted to roundhouse kick him in the head, Fox’s head shot up, catching the chameleon’s foot with his paw inches from his head before judo flipping the attacker over his shoulder, his head hitting the ground with a thunk.

Breathing heavily, Fox kept his guard up, watching the chameleon to see if he was going to get up again.

At first, it seemed like he wasn’t going to, as Fox could clearly see that his eyes were closed, the chameleon looking for all the world like he was knocked out. He had been through way too much, though, to let this fool him.

Instead of just simply leaving, Fox walked forwards, roughly kicking the chameleon in the side before stepping over him, giving Fox the advantage if the chameleon decided to make a run for it.

“Alright, how about we make this easy on the both of us? Tell me who you’re working for and why they’re still coming after me and my team. Is it Andross again?”

Fox knew as well as anyone that Andross was as good as dead. Heck, he’d even done the deed himself way back during the Lylat Wars. However, even through all of the time he’d spent leading Star Fox, he could never get a feeling out of his gut that back then wasn’t the last time he was going to see the mad scientist.

“Oh please.” said the chameleon, sneering as he spit some blood in Fox’s face. “Like I’m going to tell you.”

This earned him another kick in the side, as Fox thrust the back of his foot inwards as hard as he could manage before reaching down and grabbing the chameleon by the collar.

“You want to maybe try that again?” he said threateningly, lifting the chameleon up so that they were face to face.

Instead of answering immediately, the chameleon simply smirked, his eyes focused past Fox’s head.

Fox quickly realized that something was up, but he barely had time to drop the chameleon before another arm wrapped around his shoulders, a paw carrying a large rag pressing up against his muzzle as he was lifted into the air.

In a panic, Fox let in a deep breath, which was a huge mistake on his part, as his nose caught the scent of chloroform staining said rag.

The second attacker kept the rag pressed up against Fox’s mouth, and as the Star Fox captain slowly blacked out, the last thing he saw was the evil grin on the chameleon’s face as he watched Fox drift off.

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Back in Fox’s apartment, the rest of the Star Fox team were still hanging around in the living room. Peppy had fallen asleep not too long ago, the long night no doubt having gotten to him, especially after having to endure Falco’s drunken ranting and Slippy’s long-winded defenses.

Speaking of those two, they were also dozing off as well. Just as predicted, their extended argument combined with the alcohol had worn the two of them out. Slippy also had his head resting against Falco’s chest as he slept, which certainly wasn’t a position that one would have expected them to be in considering what they were doing not too long ago.

The only one not sleeping, though, was Krystal. Once the arguing died down, and Peppy decided it was as good of a time as any to head back in, Krystal did so as well, taking her original seat in a chair to the right of the couch where Slippy and Falco were asleep.

This positioning gave the vixen a clear view of the front door, and she’d spent the last ten minutes after the other three had gone to sleep staring at said door, worried as she realized that Fox had yet to return from outside.

Now, while Krystal had known Fox enough to know that he was more than capable of taking care of himself, he’s been gone for way longer than he should for something as simple as getting some air.

Over the past half an hour, Krystal had repeatedly considered just going out after Fox and try to find him herself. Maybe she could have even used her powers, even if being psychic wouldn’t have helped as much as being empathetic.

However, as much as she wanted to do so, the others were in no condition to look after themselves, and Fox would definitely not be happy if she left his apartment unlocked and the guys vulnerable to practically anyone.

So, reluctantly, she remained seated, finally managing to tear her eyes away from the door to keep an eye on her counterparts on the team.

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The next morning, Krystal was woken up by the sun peeking through the blinds on one of the windows, the vixen having evidently fallen asleep herself in the chair after so long waiting.

Puzzled, she looked around and soon realized that no one else was around, but after a few seconds, she caught the sound of a toaster going off in the kitchen, realizing that she most likely wasn’t alone.

After peeling herself off of the chair, Krystal stretched herself out, pressing her paws against her back as she bent backwards to relieve some of the soreness that had come from the uncomfortable position she was in over the night.

Satisfied, Krystal finally stepped into the kitchen to find Peppy, Slippy and Falco inside.

Both Slippy and Falco had ice bags against their heads, no doubt coming from the nasty hangovers they were now going through. Krystal could also see two cups of coffee in each of their hands, and at least with Falco, a surly look on his face.

As for Peppy, he was busy spreading something on a bagel with his back turned towards the doorway, but Krystal could definitely feel the annoyance radiating from him thanks to his tense posture.

Peppy turned around with said bagel on a plate, only to stop and nearly drop the plate when he noticed Krystal standing nearby.

“Oh, you’re awake!” he said. “I decided to let you sleep in so you didn’t have to deal with these two numbskulls this early in the morning. Sorry for not having something ready for you.”

Peppy’s offhanded comment earned him a dark look from Falco, but the bird remained silent as the look caused his headache to flare up once more.

“Oh, it’s quite alright.” said Krystal. “I can make something real quick myself.”

“Well, if it’ll help, I think there’s still some coffee left in the pot over there.”

Peppy pointed towards a nearby counter, where there was indeed a full-on coffee maker with just enough coffee left for a full cup.

Krystal walked over and poured herself a cup before sitting down at the table, deciding to wait a bit before getting something to eat.

As she took the first sip, though, a thought crossed her mind as she turned towards the others.

“Have any of you guys seen Fox? I haven’t seen him since he left last night to get some air.”

Krystal looked at the others, hoping that they had at least some idea of where the vulpine went, but her hopes were soon dashed when Slippy spoke up first.

“Sorry, Krys. I haven’t seen him, either.”

Krystal then looked at Falco and Peppy, the former shrugging while the later shook his head.

“Hey, look on the bright side.” said Peppy, attempting to cheer her up. “Maybe he just needed more alone time than you would think, and he’ll meet us back at the hangar.”

“Peppy, that was terrible.” said Falco. “No one needs that much alone time if they weren’t going to leave forever.
Besides, it was freezing out there last night.”

Peppy gave Falco an annoyed look, but he didn’t say anything more to him, not wanting things to devolve into an argument.

“I appreciate the sentiment, Peppy, but I really think we should go out and look for Fox. There’s no telling where he could be at this time of day.”

“She does have a point.” said Slippy. “We can’t exactly leave without our leader.”

“Hey, I’m not saying we shouldn’t.” said Peppy, holding his paws up in surrender. “I’m just saying we should at least wait until you two are able-bodied before we go running around the city.”

Peppy specifically was talking to Falco and Slippy as he spoke, but thankfully neither of them took any offense to it.

As for Krystal, while she wasn’t entirely thrilled with the prospect of having to wait to find Fox, she knew quite well of the advantages of having multiple people on a search at once, so she reluctantly conceded his point.

However, their conversation was soon interrupted when the door bell rang, catching the attention of all four of them.

“Is that Fox?”

Krystal attempted to get up to make her way to the door, but before she could do so, she was stopped by Peppy, placing a paw on her shoulder as he lightly pushed her back into her chair.

“Fox wouldn’t ring the doorbell to his own apartment. It’s gotta be something else. I’ll go check it out.”

Without waiting for someone else to speak, Peppy disappeared into the living room before coming back about a minute later with a letter in his paw, his face pale as he read over it for what felt like the tenth time.

“Peppy, what’s wrong?” asked Slippy, his attention fully captured now that he saw the look on the hare’s face.

Peppy didn’t answer immediately, as the three of them saw the note fall from Peppy’s paw and hit the floor before he finally spoke.

“Fox has been kidnapped.”