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>>enemy mine — chapter two: one step closer::

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The Great Fox eased out of warp, space blurring and swaying around the ship, then becoming clear, the planet snapping into focus. ROB automatically sent signals out, questing for satellites, anything to give him information, and got no contacts except for the battered cruiser owned by Star Wolf. ROB moaned, shaking his metal head. He was flying in the dark.

"Venomian cruiser, this is Lylatian cruiser Great Fox. Please disable your guns and allow us to come alongside."

Leon was half-asleep when Wolf practically kicked his door in, leaning through the gaping edifice, panting. Leon looked at him, putting his feet down and crossing his arms, not bothering to get stressed. "What's the rush? We spring an air leak?" He asked in his usual smooth-operator tone.

"Star Fox is here." Wolf replied. "They're demanding we let ourselves be boarded."

"And the rush is?" He again asked, standing. "Shall I open the door?" Seeing Wolf's 'I will slap you' look, he shrugged. "You aren't seriously about to have us fight them with prototypes, are you? Those guns aren't what I'd call stable."

"I am NOT turning myself over to Star Fox willingly!" Wolf spat.

"Of course not, that'd mean you'd have to admit your crush on Fox, right?" Leon saw the strike coming and leaned backwards, watching it pass an inch over his nose. "Oh, stop the stress vibes, you'll mess up my aura for the rest of the damn day. Let's go kick their asses already." He stood, collecting his flight jacket, not looking at Wolf, at least until Wolf grabbed him and pinned him against the wall, taking advantage of the fact that Leon was smaller and slimmer.

"What the hell are you insinuating, Powalski?" Wolf growled, canines showing and eyes borderline maniacal. "You know I am straight."

"I know nothing." Leon replied, smile smug and oily. "And you give me no reason to suppose that. Now, we do not have time for this. If we do not respond to their hails, they'll either come alongside or just open fire." He sighed, looking at the tarot cards scattered across his desk. The Tower, the Hanged Man, and the Lovers had come up this morning, and he had yet to fathom why. "Let us go meet our destiny with open arms, hmm?" He ducked out of Wolf's hold and walked over to his desk, sweeping his cards back into a deck and tucking them in his pocket, then left the room, Wolf trailing in his wake.

Fox was rattling his fingers impatiently when the radio clicked, and Wolf's voice came on. "Well, hello Star Fox. How long has your government known about us?"

"About forty-eight hours. We were contacted almost immediately." Fox replied dryly. "So, are you going to power down your guns?"

"No chance in Hell of that happening, sorry." Wolf pulled on his flight gloves, buckling in and flipping switches, the fighter coming to life around him. "That said, are you going to back off and leave?"

"You know we can't do that, O’Donnell. We're under contract." Fox gestured at the others through the cockpit glass of his fighter, who nodded, and the fighters started coming to life, engines warming up and guns being prepared.

"Ah, Commander McCloud, always sticking to the rules. You always were a wuss." Pigma laughed. If they hadn't been in their fighters, Wolf would have backhanded him hard enough to knock out a few teeth.

Fox snarled. "How many times do I have to shoot you down before you finally die?!"

"Nancy boy. Come and get us." Pigma laughed gleefully, grinning.

Wolf switched all the fighters to a private channel. "God dammit, Pigma! When this is over, I'm locking you in the Brig for two weeks! At least!"

"Assuming we survive this…" Andrew mumbled.

"These fighters have four times the armor and twice as powerful guns, when compared to a basic-model Arwing." Pigma said in a matter-of-fact voice.

"And those guns tend to blow up when fired." Andrew practically shrieked. "Didn't you see any of the tests?!"

Leon sighed, listening to the fight rage over the radio, Wolf thundering at the top of his lungs to try to gain control before their cruiser was blown to bits. Idiots. He pulled his deck out of his pocket, shuffling, and pulled a card. Devil, upside down. The card he always associated with Pigma Dengar, a backstabbing traitor, living for money. The greedy bastard was lucky Leon hadn't poisoned him yet. "Shut UP." He finally declared irritably, shuffling the card back in. "Calm down, all of you. In case you haven't noticed, Star Fox just launched and they are coming toward this cruiser with clear intent."

Wolf growled. "Thank you, Leon. Got a card for us?"

A long pause. "Chariot and Temperance, both neutral. Victory possible, but also defeat. Arrogance may lead to trouble."

Andrew mumbled something about Voodoo mumbo-jumbo, and then, the fighters launched.

"Well, well. Look who got new birds again." Falco remarked, the Star Fox team falling into a formation and circling, watching as Star Wolf launched and charged, breaking their formation almost immediately. Teamwork wasn't high on Star Wolf's priority list. "They must have a bigger debt with a ship company then we do…"

"No kidding. ROB scan their fighters. Stay tight guys, cover formation." Fox commanded, and the formation changed, the fighters' wings shifting position to allow the thrusters different angles.

"Prototype Wolfen Five fast-attack fighters." ROB announced after a few minutes watching the skirmish. The fight was barely started. "Guns and engines are predicted weak areas, but any other point is too well armored. Permission to open fire on cruiser requested."

"Granted. Break formation."

Wolf saw the Star Fox team break up, and almost immediately the chases began, Wolf diving after Fox, the others choosing their perspective targets. Fights with Star Fox were always fast-paced, a millisecond costing you shield energy as the enemy's shots caught you. Fox had always been good at evading.

In a sudden move, Star Fox suddenly broke off and led them away from the cruisers, away from the large guns, and they followed, taking advantage of the straighter flight paths. Wolf tried to line up his sights, teeth bared in frustration as Fox dodged again, fighter rolling, glistening in the harsh bluish-yellow sunlight from the not-to-distant star. For a split second, he wondered if the light had caught Fox's eyes, made them light up, and shook it off. He wasn't gay. He wasn't. But he had a deep admiration of Fox McCloud.

His fighter was jostled by shots, and he turned the fighter in a tight double u-turn, catching a glance of Lombardi, having broke away from his fight with Powalski long enough to take a potshot at his fighter. Even as he glanced, he saw the two start fighting again, chasing each other back the way they had came, back toward the planet, away from their respective groups.

He grabbed his radio. "Leon! What are you doing?"

"Taking care of business." Was the growled reply, the fighters distant now, dodging between the warring cruisers, weaving through the deadly maze of powerful shots. The Great Fox was ripping apart Star Wolf's cruiser, and Wolf wasn't sure he even cared anymore.

"You're too far away! If you get into trouble, we won't be able to help."

"Good." Leon turned off his radio, shaking his head. Wolf didn't understand and never had. His fight with Lombardi was supposed to be one-on-one. It had been on the streets, when they had fought with knives and chains, struggling hand to hand, neither winning, both bleeding, both somehow grinning when cops broke up the fight, silent promises it would be continued later, burning hate unresolved, but temporarily satisfied.

"God damn it…" Wolf hissed, turning back to the fight at hand. His distraction had put Fox in a better position, and now Wolf was the one running, the pair doing endless circles and loops, never able to land shots that did damage. He knew this fight was going to take a while, and when he saw the distant flash of light that meant his cruiser had gone up in a brilliant explosion, he knew it was probably to the death.

Falco dove into the cloudy atmosphere, chasing Leon or being chased, the pair disappearing in and out of clouds, catching lightning from a vicious storm, finally finding each other and locking into combat, doing turns so tight their hulls scraped more then once, a chaotic dance over a mile above the surface. More then once their eyes locked as they passed each other, engines strained, guns overheating and steaming, finally relieved when they went lower and were caught in a rainstorm.

"About time this fight was how it should be, Lombardi." Leon's voice remarked over the radio, the point of his fighter's longest wing drawing a thin scratch over Falco's hull, Falco turning his fighter to follow, inches between the fighters at most, shots missing by luck or something else.

"It isn't my fault your team tends to gang up three-on-one." Falco growled, shields crying out when his fighter took a hit, diving into a u-turn to return it. Adrenaline made everything seem bright and sharp, it always did in a fight, more so when he and Leon butted heads. It had been like this for years, it would never stop. That was something he was sure of.

"And that is why I led you away. So we can finish this on our terms. The terms we always had." Leon's voice took on an oily quality. "One on one, no assistance."

The fight led them lower, darting back and forth through the rainstorm, guns flashing, still in a close-combat fight that would have shocked most expert pilots, fighters pressed to their limits.

Falco jerked on the controls, and the wings of their fighters clanged harshly, nearly sheering both off, both spinning momentarily out of control, flying even lower. "You always were an honorable ass, you know that?"

Leon laughed.

That was the moment when something else moved in the rainstorm, and a huge flying form struck them, tentacles wrapping around both fighters. Both yelled in surprise when they saw the huge flying predator, which had somehow hidden in the cloud and rain, watching the smaller forms for a moment of distraction or weakness. Their reaction was the same, guns tearing into the creature, which shrieked at them in surprise, and threw their fighters down, disappearing back into the rain.

Falco yanked on the controls of his arwing, trying to regain control as the world spun around him, damaged fighter plunging to the ground. The ET had damaged the structural integrity of his ship, crushing the wings. He had no ability to fly within an atmospheric environment. Swallowing his heart and keying up emergency eject maneuvers, he caught a glance of Leon's Wolfen, also falling, and saw the cockpit fly off his enemy's plane, Leon also ejecting. One last button pushed, and he as well as his emergency cargo hold was sent into the rain.

An alarm went off in Fox's cockpit and he tore his eyes from his enemy's fighter, looking at his copilot display. A red X was flashing over Falco's insignia. He was down. Fox nearly went into a homicidal rage right there, until he noticed the small heart insignia at the bottom of the picture was still bright. Falco was alive.

He broke off from the fight and called for a fall back into formation, mind racing. Down but still alive. That meant he had been shot out of the sky while in an atmospheric environment. He was on the planet. They'd have to try to find him, maybe even call in a search team from Corneria…

"Falco's down." He said shortly to his two remaining wing mates. "But alive. I believe he has crashed on the planet."

"Oh, lord." Peppy said, drawing a hand down his face. "Leon got him?"

"They got each other." Wolf's voice said, apparently he had been listening in. "Leon is down as well. They're both alive."

"Leave'im." Pigma said dismissively. "We don't need a bored torturer on our hands."

There was a prolonged radio silence, the three members of Star Fox gathered by their cruiser, watching where the three remaining members of Star Wolf had gathered, hovering in a loose formation.

Finally, Wolf said in a cold, clear voice, "Hopefully, my ears are mistaken, and you did not just suggest leaving a fallen comrade, Dengar." He brought up the command screen of his fighter, tapping in the code from memory, not sure if it was right. If he wasn't, he might send the command to the wrong fighter, but he didn't see a problem with it. No loss.

"Comrade?!" Pigma laughed. "We're talking about a gay lizard that got joy in hurting people, boss. Not only that, the little bastard took double-pay, more then any of us, from Andross because he claimed to pull two jobs. I wouldn't care if he was dead right now."

"Gay?" Slippy asked no one in particular, and was ignored.

"You know what, Pigma?" Wolf said, finger hovering over a button. "You've just made the biggest mistake in your life." His voice was hard and cold. "And now you're going to pay for it." He pressed the button down, not hesitating. He had been wanting to do this practically since he had joined Star Wolf.

Pigma yelled in surprise when the engine of his fighter blew, the reactor going unstable and melting down within five seconds, drifting out of formation as life support was activated within his cockpit. "How did you…"

"The commander always has self destruct keys to every fighter in the pack. It's to prevent backstabbing." Wolf replied, voice chill. "Go ahead and pick him up, Fox. Get him out of my sight before I kill him."

"You got it. Thank you for saving us the trouble." Fox replied in an odd voice.

"Wolf! You can't do this! You're turning him over to the enemy!" Andrew shouted, turning his fighter to look at Wolf's, who had drifted back at the same speed the Great Fox moved forward.

"I am aware of this, Andrew. That's the point. Dengar is loyal only to money. We have none. We haven't had any for a while, and when that happens, Dengar starts backstabbing. Ask James McCloud about that."

"James McCloud is dead."

"Exactly. And we could have been."

Andrew frowned. "He is our wing mate, has been for over a year, and you take out his engines and turn him over without caring? Why the hell do I fly with you?!"

"Simple. Your uncle told you to."

Andrew screamed and charged, and Wolf brought his finger down on the button again, watching the damaged plane hurtle by him because of inertia, eventually slowing down and listing, engine blown like Pigma's had been.

"Damn." Peppy said, gaping.

"It's so hard to find good help these days." Wolf said with a bitter smile, flying farther away. "Pick him up as well. Sniveling brat…"

"And what about you?" Fox asked, boosting his engines to fly past Andrew's crippled plane, toward Wolf.

"I really don't know." Wolf said, fingering the controls, looking at the command now on his screen, set to blow his own plane. Death or dishonor? He let Fox get close and circle him, crossing his arms and staring at his controls so he wouldn't watch Fox's arwing and accidentally look him in the eye. "This ship isn't capable of warp, and my cruiser is blown. That planet is an incarnation of Hell. And I… don't particularly want to die, which is what will happen if I turn myself over to you."

"Not necessarily." Fox replied, though not too certain of this.

"I'm a traitor. I'll be given the death penalty." He paused. "Which, considering I am a mercenary in some forms, isn't very fair."

There was a long pause, then Fox changed to Star Fox's private channel. "What do you guys think?"

"He's a little nuts from stress is what I think." Slippy said. "And taking him on board would be a big mistake."

"That's about our only option, besides leaving him here to run out of air." Peppy said slowly. "Do you think he'd negotiate…?"

Fox swapped radio channels back. "Wolf, listen, give us your word you won't try anything, and we'll let you dock with the Great Fox under white flag for negotiations. All right?"

There was a long pause as Wolf repeated this in his head. White flag? Why the hell would Fox offer him a white flag? After a long moment, he managed a weak, stressed smile. "All right, McCloud. All right."

Falco released his parachute straps and snapped into a dive, plunging deep into the lake below him, surfacing moments later and looking around for shore. Lucky for him, it was only a short swim away, the water was rough, the storm still raging around him. He made it to the sandy beach as fast as he could, staggering and coughing a bit of water out of his lungs, wringing out his jacket in spite of the rain. After all the jacket was both rip-proof and waterproof, it'd help somehow.

Once that was done he walked away from the beach and ducked under a tree branch, digging in his pockets and coming up with the transponder, which would show him the location of his crashed plane and cargo bay. He switched it on, and lifted an eyebrow when he saw extra blips on it. Leon?

Well, that made this much more interesting then simply waiting to be picked up. He smiled grimly and started hiking, heading in the direction of his cargo bay. First off, supplies. Then, perhaps, the fight would continue.