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Duel of the Decade (excerpt, dogfight scene)


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Dogfighting in Meteo always sucked ass. Fox loved it.

The 'sky' was a sea of gray-brown asteroids and his movements were fluid and seamless, darting around rock after rock. Some were as small as a meter; others were as large as a kilometer. No pilot who'd spent more than a month in the sky would ever hit one of the rocks–no, that wasn't the problem.

The problem was that the rocks constrained you. You had to move this way here, this way there. Every move had to be planned in advance, and the good pilots could use the rocks to their advantage.

A plasma bolt grazed his wing and his shields monitor flashed red. Like that. Wolf had hidden behind an asteroid, used it to block Fox's sensors, and lined up a damn good shot. His shield could take about three hits and needed a good five minutes to recharge, so even though he suffered no damage from the bolt, it was still a considerable victory.

He pulled a quick one-eighty, but a huge mass of asteroids blocked his line of sight to Wolf. Fox was fighting blind. Just a couple of shots more like that, and...

Oh, shit.

He turned again and kicked on the boost when he saw the green ball tracking him. Wolf had prepped a lock on him from his little hidey-hole, and now it was only a matter of time before the blazing ball caught up. Fox gripped the stick firmly, but before he could do anything, his radar flashed and he had no choice but to slam on the boost, the thrill of adrenaline ringing out in his chest.

Wolf had flown out from behind one of the asteroids behind him, afterburners blazing, and Fox could picture the bloodthirsty snarl on his rival's face when bolts of blue plasma fired Fox's way, raining down from above. It was like a scene straight out of a nightmare, one Fox had seen before many times in the middle of the night.

What Wolf did was a ruthless combination attack. If Fox flew in a straight line, he'd be easy pickings for Wolf's blasters. On the other hand, if he dodged all the blaster shots, the homing one would catch up. Fox grit his teeth, adrenaline surging. By now he could feel his pads sweating, but he didn't break under the pressure: with one hand on the booster and one on the rudder, he worked himself into a rhythm, alternating between rolling, swerving, and boosting with as close to zero downtime as he could manage.

A lesser pilot would have already been fried. Wolf was smart—he'd never get a free lock on Fox like that without using the asteroids as cover—but Fox was just so good that it didn't matter. Shot after shot he dodged and deflected, and he could feel himself grinning despite the sweat and aching fingers from gripping the damn stick too hard. He loved the rush of pushing himself to the absolute limit, and he could only imagine Wolf's frustration when such a good move didn't so much as land a single shot on Fox. It'd only be a matter of time until the charged shot fizzled, and if Wolf stopped his suppressing fire for long enough to charge another one, Fox would be able to turn and land fire of his own. Plus, those plasma guns had to be close to overheating by now.

Then Fox saw the gigantic boulder lumbering into view, right in his path.

He faltered for just long enough for one of Wolf's plasma shots to slam into his fuselage. Fortunately, the shield absorbed most of the impact, but tremors still shook his ship. Shields at one third. Two more hits and you're toast. Fox managed by pure necessity to work himself back into the evasive rhythm, while the boulder crept ever closer.

Wolf was smarter than he'd thought. He wasn't just forcing Fox on the defensive; he'd been shepherding him with those blaster shots, forcing him to dodge towards that enormous asteroid's path. It was so hard to think, when he had to constantly twist and turn to avoid fire. Normally, he'd make a U-turn and retaliate, but the charged shot would hit him if he did.

His eyes glanced at his radar to note Wolf's position. Then he turned his ship sharply to the side and slammed on the boost as hard as he could.

If he'd done it perfectly, the charged shot would have collided with the asteroid, and the resulting explosion would obscure Fox enough to let him boost away and reset the fight. But under the pressure of Wolf's fire, it was nearly impossible to execute that flawlessly.

The green plasma ball swerved, just barely grazed the asteroid, and soon was hot on his tail again. Still, Fox smirked. He hadn't gotten rid of it, but now the ball was directly between him and Wolf. Wolf had to stop firing, lest he fire into his own track-shot and destroy it.

If he were Wolf, he'd be charging another right now. By this point, Fox would be surprised if Wolf's plasma guns weren't screaming for rest and recovery. Now was his chance.

He boosted away, that same green ball still tailing him. Fox swerved at the last second before the next lock-on fired, trying to control the angle of attack. Eyes glanced down to his radar, and he smiled.


Both balls were coming at him from opposite sides. He guessed the midpoint between them and boosted in the orthogonal direction. If Fox were Wolf, he'd—

Right on cue, a little blue dot popped up on his radar. A bomb, designed to keep him from retaliating, no doubt. A smart move, but bombs were risky, and Fox was bold.

As the twin homing bolts neared, Fox jerked the stick down as hard as he could, and his ship bucked upwards in a fast one-eighty. Both green balls slammed into one another and dissipated in an explosion of plasma that rocked his ship. Any sane person would have boosted the other way to avoid Wolf's bomb, but Fox knew what he had to do: he slammed down on the boost, and before the bomb was able to explode, he punched on his barrier. Power diverted from boost, engines, and weapons to reinforce his shield. His windshield shimmered blue, and Wolf's bomb collided with Fox's ship... just to get deflected away, still intact.

The moment the bomb deflected, Fox dropped the barrier and boosted away. Moments later, the bomb detonated; a blue blaze engulfed him, the incredible intensity of which made Fox's eyes nearly clench shut. The heat melted his shields, and every alarm in the handbook screamed. All he could see from his squinting eyes was searing blue, so bright that he couldn't make out a single damn control on his ship. All he had was muscle memory, but that was all he needed.

Despite his ship's protests, he darted in blindly towards Wolf's former position, and the moment the cloud of blue plasma dissipated enough for him to make out his rival, he fired. The bomb put out so much heat and energy that there's no way any sort of sensor could have pinpointed Fox's position, or even see his shots coming. And as far as Wolf was concerned, Fox's ship ought to have been destroyed in that blast.

The element of surprise worked in his favor: three shots scored hits in the confusion before Wolf could dodge, but that wasn't enough to penetrate shields. Once Wolf knew where he was, his rival was quick to boost away, but Fox was hot on his tail. The red blaze of Wolf's booster made his ship hard to make out; again, Fox was reduced to squinting and gritting his teeth.

He dumped as many shots as he could. This close, Wolf couldn't boost to dodge; he could only roll and hope for the momentum of his shielded wingtips to deflect every shot. Ten shots Fox fired before one finally hit the mark. Wolf's wing blazed and Fox boosted out of the pursuit to keep the ensuing black smoke from blinding him. The two of them flew away from each other, both seeking downtime to let shields recharge and blasters cool.


It'd been just one exchange, and it'd only lasted a couple of minutes, but this was already the most intense duel he'd had in a long time. The memories went back ten years, and he could feel the fire in his chest now just as then, the pinpricks of excitement and anxiety alike dancing down his body. He'd done it. He'd fucking done it. He'd taken that near perfect setup from Wolf, flew out of his mind, and deflected it right back at him. And it felt so good.

This—this was what Wolf's scent reminded him of. It's why it fired him up when Wolf got in his face, and it's why Wolf made his blood boil. His rival was the only person alive who gave him this kind of addictive thrill in the sky, who put him this much on edge. It was like Wolf had given him that precious first fix after an interminable dry spell and yanked him out of a withdrawal he hadn't even been aware of.

This was what Fox McCloud lived for.

Wolf's holographic mug appeared in front of him, and Fox's eyes locked on. His rival looked about as exerted as Fox felt; he had that same intense stare like he had when Fox had jammed the bayonet up against his nose. "What the hell was that? Boosting into a bomb?"

Fox was bubbling with a confidence he hadn't felt in far too long. They both knew if Wolf had landed a single shot while Fox's shields were completely fried, it would have been over: it was such a bold, over-the-top move when compared to Wolf's clever, calculated trap. "Me beating you."

Wolf flashed his teeth. "You haven't won yet. I'm going to skin you alive, pup, wing or no wing."

"I'd like to see you try."

With that, the link terminated, and Fox twisted into a U-turn, boosting back towards his rival. He saw the gleaming red of the Wolfen before the chime on his radar. Fox swerved to the side, charging a shot—and the duel continued.

Wolf was good. No. Falco was good. Wolf was fantastic. Watching Wolf soar through virtual space was a hell of a sight, and every rock in the sky felt so much more imposing when he knew that, for once, he was flying against someone who really understood how to abuse them. Fox might have won the first skirmish, but the fight was far from over.

There was a certain arrogance to the way Wolf flew. Most pilots tried to confuse and disrupt, attempting jerky, flashy maneuvers in attempt to throw off their enemy. Falco, for instance, used to somersault, turn, and zip unpredictably across the sky, but Wolf could do with a single second of a well-timed brake what would take his old partner ten seconds of aerial acrobatics to execute. It didn't seem to matter if Wolf was predictable, because even if you see the perfect move coming, there's nothing you can do to stop it. And though Wolf might have been controlled and patient on defense, the moment Fox made a mistake Wolf was nothing but aggressive and ruthless. Fox could not allow himself to be sloppy.

If nothing else, Wolf had reaffirmed Fox's respect.

Ten minutes later, Fox was gritting his teeth. His ship was too damaged to hold up another hit, and he wagered Wolf's was, too, gauging from the smoldering ruin that used to be his right wing. Most simduels lasted less than five minutes, but this had gone on for fifteen long, torturous ones. Fox cut a somersault, diving towards Wolf. A quick roll deflected two of the three shots that Wolf sent towards him. He dove out of the way, his targeting system still getting a lock on Wolf.

Wolf knew if he tried charging a lock-on now, he would lose to Fox's before he could get it off. All he could do was fire madly and hope to connect a finishing shot before Fox got his homing shot off.

Eyeing the shower of plasma bolts firing his way, Fox wagered he could hold up through just three more shots, and he knew Wolf's gun was soon to overheat. The adrenaline pumping in his veins spurred him on: a dodge to the left avoided one shot, and a roll deflected the next two. His charge was almost finished. He could roll again now, but they were so close that it wasn't a guaranteed dodge, and there was always the possibility the erratic movements would make him lose his lock.

Fox braced himself and took the next two shots straight to his hull to guarantee his sensors could hone in on Wolf, then he slammed down on the trigger, angling the shot down to avoid the last of Wolf's oncoming shots. Fox cut into a hard roll: four more bolts were screaming his way, and if he could deflect every one of them, he'd survive long enough for his charged shot to take Wolf out. His hands jerked on the control, adjusting his nose for each individual bolt so that they struck as close to the tip of his wings as he could get them. One-by-one, they smoked against his wings and deflected off into the sky. Only then was Fox able to boost away, just in time to see the searing green from his own shot's detonation.

A few seconds later, the display blanked, breaking the illusion and revealing the sim lab's wall. Panting slightly, Fox relaxed in his seat to get ahold of himself.

Damn, but that was a workout. Jerking on the controls so much had worn out his wrists and fingers, and he'd been so tense that he had a dull ache in his legs just from clenching. For a while, he just sat there, eyes closed, recovering.


The above is an excerpt from my larger story, Black and White.  As it features a Fox/wolf pairing, the story is probably not to everyone's tastes, but I figured this scene had universal appeal.

I very rarely write action, because I only feel like I can make it interesting when the stakes are high and personal.  When I have the chance, it's always a joy.

Nothing further will be posted here, but feel free to leave any comments you might have, and consider checking out the rest of the story if you've enjoyed this little tidbit.

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Intense and otherwise well-described imagery aside, that establishment of a mutual need for one another in order to build adrenaline and feel truly alive is an interesting way of steering your story.  For not writing action often, this wasn't bad at all!

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Thank you!

This is before any sort of romance between them happens, but yes, that competitive drive is sort of how I've thought their relationship would work. My Fox and Wolf both sort of have that "lonely at the top" feeling, and they're a lot better at flashing blasters than being remotely sweet.  Probably not the most healthy relationship, but lately I've been a really big fan of exploring relationships that aren't all sweet and flowery.  I love the uncertainty, the high stakes, the bittersweet moments, and so on, and here I think it fits:  Fox and Wolf are both around their thirties, they love piloting over everything else, and they've always been out to get one another.

I think my action is passable, in that I'm usually quite satisfied with the result when I get to do it.  Here it could have perhaps been snappier, but that's a balancing act because I worry that the scene is long enough that stylizing too much would be distracting.

But yes, thanks for your comments!

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