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  1. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
    (Bunnelby)
    Level 15
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2017
    Posts:
    2,572
    PokéPoints:
    ₽7,357.7
    Description: Samus thought she'd eliminated the threat of the X Parasites from the universe. She was wrong. She thought that Ridley would be the only old foe from her past to return. She was wrong. Now she's stranded on the uncharted planet ZDR for her toughest mission yet, alongside the most unlikely of allies, the SA-X. Sequel to Super Ridley Bros.

    There was an old chozo saying that if you stare long enough into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you. Samus practically lived in the abyss. The vast emptiness of space between inhabitable worlds was like a second home to her, in a way. Even at faster-than-light speeds, it would still take days, if not weeks, just to get from one place to the next. Most pilots chose to spend that time in an induced sleep, waking up only within hours of reaching their destination. Samus did too, for the most part, but she would often remain awake for longer parts of the voyage instead. She would generally spend that time reading stories or watching movies. Kids’ stuff, mostly. She hadn’t had much of a childhood and enjoyed the chance to connect with a part of herself that had otherwise died that day alongside her parents when the space pirates attacked her original home. The day she had witnessed the draconic bioweapon Ridley eat her mother in front of her, just to spite the little girl who naively thought she had made a new friend.

    Ridley, whom she had once considered to be the very incarnation of evil itself and who served as the representation of everything she fought against in her quest for intergalactic peace. Ridley, whom she had fought and killed countless times only for him to always come back, seemingly out of pure spite and malice. Ridley, whom she had just left back on the peaceful little planet of SMB-985, where he had somehow managed to completely flip his life around and become a local hero.

    She had done her best to hide it but that mission really messed with her head. She didn’t know what to think anymore. If the most vile and monstrous being she’d ever faced was able to redeem himself, seemingly so easily, then what did that mean for everything else that she had fought, that she had killed? Could Rundas, Gandraya and Ghor have been saved from their Phazon corruption? Could the Omega Pirate have just been a helpless pawn controlled by its creators? How would MB have turned out if it weren’t for the abuse she had received at the hands of the Federation? Apparently, Kraid had been a father and from the message she had received after dropping off her team back at Junk Quixote, it seemed Ridley was now working as a plumber.

    She had never bothered to count how many lives she had taken and rarely hesitated to pull the trigger. Now she found herself questioning every action she’d ever taken. Pondering what might have been if she had acted just a little differently.

    “We will soon be entering ZDR’s atmosphere.”

    Samus was pulled from her thoughts as the F-Zero Grand Prix that she’d been idly watching disappeared from her viewscreen, to be replaced by a camera feed of the nearby planet. A planet which she had reason to believe harbored a surviving population of X Parasites. If there was one belief that Samus Aran still held firm to, it was that some species were just too dangerous to let live for the sake of all other life in the universe. And if there were one such species, it was the X Parasites. Nothing could shake her faith that finishing the job of eliminating them was the right thing to do. With the ability to absorb the DNA of any organic host and replicate their forms, and acting solely off of the biological drive to survive and reproduce, the gelatinous parasites were without a doubt the single most destructive lifeform Samus had ever encountered, with the possible exception of Phazon. Even the Metroids themselves did not pose as much threat as the species they were created to hunt. Metroids, a species that she had already hunted to extinction. Another potential mistake.

    “Are you sure about this?” asked ADAM, the ship’s AI navigator built from the digitized personality and memories of Commander Adam Malkovich, Samus’ former CO from her days working for the Federation military.

    “Of course I am,” Samus replied, though the way she tightened her grip on the controls likely told a different story.

    “I have intercepted reports that the Galactic Federation has already sent a scout team of E.M.M.I.-class research robots designed to capture live field samples and extract their DNA. They have yet to report any signs of X Parasites on the planet.”

    “You’ve scanned the footage we were sent and determined that it was not doctored,” Samus pointed out. “You know as well as I do that there is at least one X-Parasite on that planet, and if there is one, then there will be hundreds.”

    “You could let the Federation handle it.”

    “Because that worked out oh so well the last time they got their hands on them.” The bounty hunter shook her head. “You know as well as I do that the Federation managing to capture even one specimen of X-Parasite is the worst-case scenario.”

    “I know. I just wanted to make sure we were on the same page on this,” ADAM replied. “The records indicate that seven Extraplanetary Multiform Mobile Identifiers were sent to the planet. The Federation lost contact with all of them almost as soon as their ship reached planetfall. They may still be active on the planet, and if so, then as a wanted criminal by the Federation, they will likely target you on sight. They are large, encased in armored plating made from an alloy that even your strongest weapons will be unable to pierce and each model is designed to incorporate unique hardware reverse-engineered from your old weapons and suit upgrades. If you encounter one, the only option will be to run.”

    “Of course, wouldn’t want this mission to be too easy.” Samus gave a confident smirk, though her heart wasn’t really in it.

    “Very well, then your mission is to investigate the planet ZDR while avoiding the E.M.M.I. research robots, find any X Parasites located on the planet and eliminate them. Any objections, Lady?”

    Samus replied with a thumbs down, an old in-joke from her days as a soldier working under the original Adam.

    “Entering atmosphere in 10… 9… 8…”

    Samus stared through the ship’s reinforced windshield, out at the planet in front of them as they drew closer. There was a bit of turbulence as they came in, but that was expected and a part of the routine that she had down pat. Her focus instead drew to the reflection on the transparent aluminum window. A face stared back at her, one that she still couldn’t bring herself to recognize as her own. The cheeks were higher, the nose wasn’t quite the same shape, the mole that should have been under the left corner of the mouth was gone. Countless subtle differences and little details added up to a completely different face. She absently reached to the side of her helmet, thinking of the thin scar running behind her left ear, one of several that had been left behind after the BSL scientists had tried putting her back together after having surgically removed the corrupted parts of her Power Suit. They had saved her life, in large part thanks to the Metroid vaccine they had made from the last remaining DNA sample of the hatchling, her baby, but she couldn’t help but feel that an important part of her had died that day, regardless.

    “3… 2… 1…”

    She brought the ship in and landed without incident in a rocky clearing on the outskirts of what appeared to be some sort of ancient city. The architecture looked Chozodian, though Samus had never heard of a Chozo settlement on this planet before. Things just kept getting curiouser and curiouser. More pressing than that, however, was the white Hunter-Class Gunship already parked nearby.

    “What can you tell me about that ship?” Samus asked as she jumped down from the exit hatch.

    “Not much,” ADAM replied. “It appears to have been built on the Aliehs III shipyard facility. This can’t be right, these records claim that you were the one who designed it.”

    “That’s right.” Samus walked over to the unidentified ship and had to stop herself from running a hand along the familiar hull, a sense of nostalgia washing over her. “Made by integrating both Federation and Chozo technology. I had her custom-built and used her as my main ship for a while before she was destroyed on a mission and I had to go back to my older model for a while. You know what happened to that one. The paint job is completely different, though. The red highlights are the same but mine was primarily yellow, not a white cockpit with blue pylons. But other than that, this is a near-exact replica, even though the plans were supposed to have been destroyed specifically to prevent anyone from making a copy like this.”

    “Evidentally, the federation must have lied about deleting the files, to no surprise.” ADAM paused for a moment. “The registration is filled out to one ‘Justine Bailey’ though I can’t find any information on who that is, other than a recently filed bounty hunting license under the same name.”

    “That’s a very interesting choice of name.” Samus scanned the ship with her visor, to see if she could pick up on anything else.

    “Why, does it have some significance to you?” ADAM asked.

    “Maybe?” Satisfied that she wasn’t going to learn anything else by standing around, she made her way to a nearby building that must have been where the other bounty hunter had gone. “I have a hunch but it might just be nothing. I’ll let you know if anything comes up but for now, I’m just going to keep my eyes peeled for the pilot.”

    “Very well, but I advise caution,” ADAM told her as the doors opened. “That elevator leads to the depths of an underground facility. Signal quality is likely to be low, which means that remote communication may pose a problem. Try to connect to the facility’s network as soon as you can, so that we can remain in contact. Any objections, Lady?”

    Samus held her thumb down again as the doors closed, presenting an air of confidence. As she made the long descent into the planet’s depths, however, she allowed that face to break. It had been a while since she’d been this unsure about a mission. The X Parasites alone would have been enough to make her uneasy but now things were growing downright eerie. She’d dealt with stalkers before. She was a very prominent figure, some would go so far as to call her a hero of the federation before her fall from grace and, as some had put it, ‘smoking hot’. But whoever had come here in that ship clearly knew more than a crazed fan or enemy would have.

    “Justine Bailey?” Samus allowed the name to pass her lips. It had to have been a coincidence, right? There was no way it could have been otherwise. But still, she had to wonder. “Justin…”

    * * *​

    It started as a normal summer morning on planet K-2L. The sky was dyed pink as the sun slowly rose over the horizon. For the adults of the mining colony, it wasn’t anything worth noticing as they got ready for another grueling day in the mines. But Samus was three and for her, it was still the most beautiful thing in the world. She stood on the edge of her bed, which she wasn’t supposed to do, so that she could stare in awe out the window as the painted skies shifted to violet, then blue, before settling on the bright cyan that would remain until it was time for mister sun to go to bed for the night and Samus would get to see the whole thing play out in reverse again. With her morning show complete, Samus crawled back down to the floor and got herself changed out of her pretty pink pajamas and into the white clothes that Momma had picked out for her that day, all by herself. Then her mom had to come in and fix her shirt so that it wasn’t backward. Samus hadn’t quite figured out the trick to that, but she knew that it was only a matter of time. Then they walked over to the dining room, where Daddy was waiting with breakfast on the table.

    “Good morning, Sammy!” Daddy called out as she managed to clamber into her chair. She had always hated when he called her that, thought that it made her sound like a baby. She didn’t know yet that it would be the last she heard him call her anything. “Sleep well?”

    “Mornin’ Daddy!” Samus called back, picking up her favorite spoon, the one with the handle that her parents kept insisting had flowers on it, but the pattern didn’t look like any flowers that she’d ever seen at the colony. “Are you gonna be home today?”

    “Ha, yep,” Daddy chuckled. “My vacation doesn’t end ‘til tomorrow, which means that I get to spend the whole day with yah!”

    “Yay!” Samus cheered, though her joy was about to be taken away as the transponder sitting on the counter began to ring.

    “Really, you’re supposed to be on vacation!” Momma sighed and rubbed her forehead, which Samus knew meant that she was disappointed about something. “What could be so important that they have to call you?”

    “I’m sorry,” Daddy rubbed the back of his head as he gave his ‘I’m in trouble’ smile. “I’m sure it’s just some technical issue that they need advice on. I’ll be back in a moment.”

    Samus watched her dad get up and answer the call, as she started to fiddle around with her food. Her mom told her to stop, so she slumped and started eating instead. After a few minutes, her dad yelled a naughty word before storming back to the table.

    “Rodney, language!” Momma yelled at Daddy.

    “Sorry, honey,” Daddy slumped his shoulders. “Looks like I’m going to have to cut my vacation short.”

    That made Momma very angry.

    “What could possibly be so important that they have to call you in today?” she yelled.

    “Apparently, there’s a Chozo ship requesting permission to dock,” he explained.

    The room grew quiet, except for Samus’ messy eating. She didn’t know what a ‘Chozo’ was but the adults never seemed to like talking about them for some reason. Samus decided that this required further investigation.

    “We don’t know what they want yet,” he continued. “But the fact that they’re making contact at all is cause for concern.”

    “Alright, but you better be getting paid overtime for this.”

    “Don’t worry, I will.” Daddy kissed Momma, gross, and began to walk out only for Momma to grab his arm.

    “Not yet, we still have something important first.”

    Something about the way Samus’ parents looked at each other caught her attention and she looked up from her peas. They would get to live another few minutes.

    “Oh, that’s right!” Daddy gave a big goofy grin as he wrapped his arms around Momma’s shoulders and they both smiled down at her. “We have some exciting news!”

    “What is it?” Samus demanded to know. She was not a patient child, and she only grew more curious as her parents both glanced down at Momma’s tummy for some reason. Samus noted that Momma seemed to be putting on some extra pounds and decided to ‘volunteer’ to start eating some of her food to help her slim back down again.

    “Your pa and I have some exciting news, Samus! You’re going to be a big sister!” Momma said cheerily, and Samus dropped her spoon. “You’re going to have a little brother soon!”

    “Boys are smelly!” was all Samus could say to that. “I want a little sister instead.”

    Daddy laughed at that. “I’m afraid that we don’t get to choose that part. It will only be a few more months until little Justin will be here. Well, I’ve gotta go. Have a good day!”

    Daddy left after that. It would be the last time that she ever saw her father. Samus had a busy day of exploring the old woods ahead of her, so she finished her breakfast as quickly as she could and got ready to head out and play. Momma grabbed her by the shoulder before she could head out the door and pulled her back.

    “Don’t forget to pay your respects,” she reminded her.

    “Oh, alright.” Samus pouted but stopped trying to leave. Instead, she walked over to where a pair of old framed photos were hanging on the wall. She clasped her hands as her parents had shown her and bowed before one of the photos, which showed Daddy’s parents, Gramma and Grampa Aran. Then she did the same for the photo of Mommy’s parents, Gramma and Grampa Bailey. Once she was done, she rushed out the door for an exciting day of adventure.

    She would not be prepared for just how exciting an adventure that day would be.

    * * *​

    Samus was jolted back to her senses as the elevator finally reached its destination. The doors opened in front of her and she stepped out onto a stone bridge opening out into a large, cavernous chamber. At the other end of the bridge a tall, armored figure stood waiting. Samus immediately assumed a combat stance and took a few cautious steps towards the stranger, who appeared to be a Chozo from the design of their armor. A quick scan confirmed that suspicion, which just made her more apprehensive. She was raised by the Chozo, she’d seen the last remnants of their people wiped out by the Space Pirates under Mother Brain’s command.

    She took a few more steps and the stranger fired a massive energy blast from his arm cannon, far more powerful than anything her own could manage, and she reflexively dodged to the side. As she slid along the length of the bridge, her attacker lept into the air and stomped onto the ground in front of her, his ornate red cape billowing behind him. Samus reacted quickly, coming to a stop before she could crash into him. Time seemed to stand still as she stared up into the glowing red eyes of his silver and gray Power Suit. It didn’t take long to determine that it must have been a much newer and more advanced model than her own, which had been retrieved from an ancient Zebesian temple during her first proper mission after her original armor had been lost. To say that wasn’t a good sign would be an understatement.

    The Chozo warrior kicked off from the ground with enough force to send the bridge crumbling into the abyssal chamber below and Samus used her Space Jump thrusters to follow him to stable ground. She then fired off a charged blast that merely reflected off of his armor as if it were nothing, the armor itself beginning to emit some sort of flaming aura that was likely what shielded him. She followed up with a series of rapid-fire blasts to test the effects as the unknown Chozo slowly approached. Nothing happened, other than that he rushed in for a melee strike which Samus managed to reflect. She was suddenly very glad that she’d been working on improving her close-quarters combat skills through her last few missions. There was no way she could have blocked that attack in her early years. The grace and power of this mysterious warrior’s movements was far beyond even what Gray Voice would have been capable of and he was the most skilled Chozo warrior Samus had ever met. It was only through a lifetime of mental discipline that Samus was able to keep herself from panicking as she fired a Super Missile at his head.

    She was almost surprised when the attack hit its mark, blowing a large crack out of the Chozo’s helmet, like a scar running down the side of his face. Seeing her opening, Samus readied another missile.

    In the blink of an eye, the bounty hunter was suddenly suspended in the air, the Chozo holding her by the neck in a death grip. She had forgotten how large in stature her adoptive species were, with her attacker standing at least twice her height. Samus tried to struggle free from his grip but to no avail. She was forced to watch as he charged his cannon, aimed directly at her helmeted face, as she gasped for air. Her lungs felt like they were on fire as his grip tightened, her windpipe constricting despite her armor. The world seemed to fall out of focus as the ominous red glow of the cannon grew ever brighter. She tried to struggle, but her body wouldn’t listen. Her strength failed her, and everything went white. The Hunter’s last thoughts were to the people she had left behind, and the people she was sure she was about to see again.

    * * *​

    Only a few minutes had passed by the time Samus awoke again, which was good because even with her enhanced physiology, being unconscious for any longer than that could have caused permanent damage to her brain. Her lungs still burned and her body ached, but at least she was alive. She gave herself a once-over to make sure that everything was still intact and, luckily enough, she didn’t seem to have taken any serious damage and her armor was still intact. Well, mostly intact.

    “Belgium,” Samus swore under her breath as she stared at the blue armor plating on her hand. She was so, so tired of losing her equipment on practically every major mission she went on and was seriously not in the mood for it to happen again, but here she was. “Alright, what’s still working?”

    After running a quick diagnostics check, Samus wasn’t surprised by the results. Only standard armor with the bare minimum of energy, the basic Power Beam, and a handful of missiles. Getting everything back was going to be a pain as always, but at least she seemed to be in the ruins of an ancient Chozodian settlement, which meant that she would likely find plenty of equipment modules if she searched hard enough. Her priority, though, was to find a communications access point so that she could contact ADAM. The elevator that she had taken had been destroyed, likely by her attacker’s initial charged shot, which meant that leaving that way wasn’t an option. Not that she would have considered it in the first place, Samus was never one to abandon a mission, no matter how many complications arose.

    Samus made her way through a tunnel, where she was quickly ambushed by a pair of hostile alien lifeforms. In the past, Samus would just fry them to a crisp and move on without a second thought. But now she realized that these were simply wild animals and she was the one who was invading their territory. On the other hand, the laws of survival in these kinds of worlds dictated that it was kill or be killed, and if ZDR truly was hiding X Parasites somewhere, then any lifeform she came across could be a threat. So, she did kill them as she would have, though the act weighed heavily on her, especially as their incinerated corpses revealed that they had not been infected after all. Seeing that this area was clear, she made the rest of her way avoiding combat as much as she could.

    Eventually, she made her way to a room housing some sort of network station. The design was unfamiliar to Samus but the user interface was compatible with her suit. Plugging her arm cannon into the console, Samus activated the terminal and a large, domed screen turned on in front of her.

    “So, you’ve accessed a network station,” a familiar synthetic voice said through the terminal. “Well done, Samus. I have reviewed your vital signs and video log from the data you uploaded. I’ve run a full analysis and my readings indicate dramatic physical changes in you. Whatever caused these changes seems to have stripped you of most of your abilities. You might call it physical amnesia.”

    “I might, but I won’t,” Samus muttered under her breath.

    “That brings me to your assailant,” the voice continued. “I am checking the Federation database against your video log. It appears to have been a Chozo but the attacker’s identity is not yet clear. I have determined that you are somewhere within the depths of ZDR. Your top priority should be to return to your ship on the surface. This situation is precarious but I trust your instincts as you navigate upward. This planet appears to consist of multiple areas. Shuttles, elevators and other modes of transport connect them. Keep an eye out for ways to reach the surface. One final thing. Underground interference is preventing radio transmissions. Check in with me at any network stations you find.”

    The transmission ended abruptly and Samus exited the room through a door opposite the one she had entered. As soon as she was outside the room, she ran another diagnostic check on her suit, searching for any viruses or unwanted tracking programs, and adjusted her suit’s security systems to prevent automatic data transfers both to and from the suit. She did not know who had just contacted her through the Network Station but it sure as frak wasn’t ADAM.

    Once the results were in and Samus was satisfied that she hadn’t been hacked, she continued her investigation, making sure to avoid any more Network Stations if possible. She navigated through a series of vertical shafts, ascending higher up the area that her map indicated was called Artaria.

    Eventually, she found herself walking into a room that opened out into a lower floor and decided to slide down and investigate. She dropped down onto a wide catwalk in a room filled with steam. It seemed a perfect place to set up an ambush, so Samus kept alert and with her cannon ready to fire. She could hear footsteps, and soon a tall, lanky robot shuffled into view from the next room. Her scan visor indicated that the monocular gray robot was one of the E.M.M.I.s that ADAM had warned her about earlier, designation 01P. It was just her luck that she’d encounter one so soon and while she was depowered, to boot. Though the E.M.M.I.-01P itself had clearly just come out the worse for wear from a fight as well. Sections of its armor plating were missing or damaged and it was covered in scorch marks. Its left arm had even been torn off entirely.

    The damage wasn’t enough for Samus to be able to do anything it, however, as her power beam just reflected off and even her missiles didn’t seem to phase the robot at all. E.M.M.I-01P quickly pinned Samus to the metal floor, holding her down as it brought its visual processor closer to her helmet. She managed to kick the robot off of her just as it launched a probe spike from its head, which would have punctured her armor and killed her instantly if she had acted even a split second too slow. Seeing that even the damaged E.M.M.I. was too much of a threat to properly deal with in her current state, Samus made a run for it in the direction that it had come from.

    That led her to what seemed at first to be a dead end. Thankfully, the E.M.M.I-01P was slow enough that Samus had time to kick off the wall onto a raised platform, and from there she was able to jump to the next floor. With its missing arm, the E.M.M.I. wasn’t able to climb up after her, though that didn’t stop it from trying. With nowhere else to go, Samus turned around and headed into the next room.

    She wasn’t sure what she was expecting to find, but a miniaturized Aurora Unit wasn’t it. The blue brain-like mass was partially covered in thick armor plating, yet the biological supercomputer was lying on the ground, nearly lifeless. The Unit, despite being smaller than the Federation’s older models, was still slightly taller than Samus herself and her scans indicated that it must have been networked to the E.M.M.I-01P. However, it gave no indication of what had happened to it.

    Placing her hand against the Federation computer’s biomass, the last of its energy was transferred to her arm cannon. The cannon turned red and changed to a configuration that her suit identified as an ‘Omega Cannon’. With the new upgrade, Samus returned to the previous room and charged up a shot while the E.M.M.I. was lined up in her sights, then fired a blast directly into its optical sensor. The attack completely overwhelmed the damaged research robot, blowing out its sensors as it fell, lifeless, to the ground. Unfortunately, the single blast had apparently also been enough to discharge the Omega Cannon completely and it deactivated itself, reverting back to her standard arm cannon.

    Well, at least now she knew what to do when she encountered the other E.M.M.I.s later on. And she was sure that it was going to be a matter of when, not if.

    With that taken care of, Samus went back to exploring the tunnels of Artaria, taking another route that led her further up. Eventually, she found herself approaching a strange doorway made of dark, shifting blocks. She walked up to it cautiously and, seeing that it didn’t seem dangerous, stepped through. She found herself in a dimly lit facility of unknown origin. If she had to guess, it must have been built by the local Chozo, as everything else on this planet seemed to be, apart from the recent additions brought in by the E.M.M.I. expedition.

    Something seemed off as Samus made her way through a series of labyrinthine hallways. It was quiet. Too quiet. That strange door she had walked through must have been to prevent the local wildlife from entering these ruins but she couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something else wrong. She wasn’t alone.

    As Samus walked along one corridor, she heard a faint clacking noise behind her and quickly turned around, cannon at the ready. A second E.M.M.I. was crawling along the ceiling, attempting to ambush her from behind. This one’s white plating was still in pristine condition, complete with armor over its head that would likely prevent her from finishing it off as she had the other one, even if she still had an upgraded Omega Cannon. The robot, designation E.M.M.I.-02SM, climbed down onto the floor and slowly crept up to her, triggering Samus’ fight-or-flight responses. Given her earlier encounter, Samus chose flight.

    Samus ran as fast as her legs could carry her but the E.M.M.I.-02SM was able to effortlessly keep pace. She wasn’t going to be able to get away from this thing unless she had a way to slow it down. She spotted an open air vent nearby, the kind that she would normally be able to use her Morph Ball transformation to slip through. She didn’t have access to the Morph Ball, however, but thankfully her current suit was still much slimmer than its original form and she slid through the vent without issue into the next room. She paused just long enough to see that the E.M.M.I. was too big to crawl through after her. She was safe for now but it would likely only be a brief reprieve. It was hunting her now and it likely wouldn’t be long until it found her again. She had to either get out of there or find another Central Unit to drain.

    She explored the rest of the facility cautiously, doing her best to avoid another encounter with her predator. Unfortunately, her best was not good enough. After a few minutes, Samus found herself walking into a dead end, and as she turned to find another way, the E.M.M.I.-02SM crawled out from around a corner. She was trapped. The hallway was narrow but if she timed it right, she might be able to quickly get around it like she had the other one. Although she had a feeling that a fully functioning model would likely have even faster reaction times than the damaged one, which meant that it would be risky. Still, she had no other options.

    “Hey, cyclops!”

    Samus hesitated as soon as she started to move, as an all-too-familiar voice echoed from the other end of the hallway and a blast of energy fired into the E.M.M.I.-02SM’s back. The robot leaned back to look behind it and shifted its limbs in a way that would have been impossible for any living creature, somehow having turned itself around to face its new attacker. Then, it was belted in the face, or what constituted the equivalent of one, by a stream of intense, rapid-fire blasts. The E.M.M.I. continued its approach regardless, but the constant barrage of focused attacks proved too much as its faceplate gradually overheated and eventually exploded. The robot was stunned as the attacks ceased but eventually continued its advance. Then a massive blast that Samus recognized as identical to the one she had destroyed the first E.M.M.I. with roared down the hallway, striking the E.M.M.I. straight in its eye. It collapsed to the ground, completely totaled by the attack.

    “Hah, finally! Got you!”

    Samus couldn’t believe her eyes, as her apparent rescuer approached, clad in red and orange armor that she would have recognized anywhere. Whoever or whatever it was, it casually walked up to the fallen E.M.M.I. while its shiny red arm cannon began to glow, then reverted to the standard dull green.

    “Huh? I guess that was just a one-off,” Samus’ latest doppelganger muttered, in her voice. “Shame, that upgrade would have been useful.”

    The armored figure placed its hand on the fallen E.M.M.I. and seemed to draw some form of energy from it. Shaking off her stunned confusion, Samus aimed her cannon at the stranger, ready for a fight. The other woman looked up and froze as if she had finally just noticed that Samus was there. A tense silence passed between them before the stranger finally acted.

    “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” Samus’ lookalike practically jumped back, raising both arms in a gesture to show that she meant no harm. It could have been a ruse though, and Samus didn’t drop her guard. “W-what are you doing here? Wait, no, stupid question. You probably got the same video that I did.”

    “Who are you?” Samus demanded to know. She’d fought far too many copies of herself over her career and they were always bad news. “What are you doing here and where did you get that armor?”

    “Yeah, that’s going to be a bit of a long story and I don’t think that you’re going to like it. I’ll tell you, but… please, just hear me out and don’t shoot.” The armor dissipated, leaving behind just its wearer, and Samus found herself staring into her own face. Not the face that greeted her in her reflection, but her face. From before the surgery. It was almost as if she were looking at a younger version of herself, plucked from the past and somehow brought here into the present, save for the green hair, the pink version of her normally-blue Zero Suit and, most strikingly of all, the bright yellow eyes that looked more like those of a hornoad than a human. It was those eyes that made her realize just what she was looking at.

    “That’s impossible,” Samus muttered. “You should be dead.”

    “Yes, yes, I know,” the SA-X flinched, a pained expression on her stolen face. “And I’m sure that you probably want to fix that mistake but please, just hear me out.”

    “You can talk,” the real Samus observed. “That’s new. Fine, I’ll listen but if you so much as blink in a way I don’t like, I’m vaporizing you on the spot.”

    It was a bluff, of course. If this SA-X was as strong as Samus remembered, then there was no way that she could take it on in a fight, but thankfully it didn’t seem to realize that and she was going to press that advantage as long as she could.

    “Okay, well, you already know how I came to be,” the SA-X began. “An X Parasite infected your suit, took your form and you fought it a few times on the BSL Research Station. Before you blew up the station and took our SR388 with it, that original X Parasite had split off into about a dozen copies of itself and we would have all been destroyed in that blast. But we knew that was a possibility and so we had one of us, me, evacuate the station while you were distracted fighting the original. The plan was that I was going to split off into more copies once I’d managed to get my escape pod onto another planet or ship and we’d repopulate our species from there, starting the whole thing over. But, and this is the important part, I didn’t do that. I haven’t reproduced at all since then, and I even managed to sterilize myself using Theta-Rays to stop myself from even accidentally creating more of me.”

    “And you expect me to believe that?” Samus asked. “X Parasites are ruled only by their drive to consume and spread. Why would you go against that?”

    “Very good question, with a complicated answer,” the SA-X replied. “It would be more accurate to say that we’re driven by survival instincts. Normally, we propagate our species as much as possible to ensure that even if something happens to an individual X, the species remains strong. But a big part of that is that we’re influenced by the DNA of the species we infect, which under normal conditions means a variety of wild animals and the occasional sentient race that quickly gets subdued by more animals. However, I was stuck on that escape pod for so long that I wasn’t able to absorb the DNA of any other lifeforms and thus ended up further integrating with your DNA. And not just your genetics but remnants of your mind and memory, as well. In essence, I became more like you, including your morals and your drive to protect the peace and life in the universe. So, I ended up shifting my priorities a bit with those survival instincts that I mentioned earlier. Instead of trying to propagate other X and having our species go back to the way things were before, which would either doom all life in the universe or lead to you, or someone like you, wiping us out into extinction. So, I decided that it would be better that the X live on through me, as an individual, and not as a wider species.”

    “So, you’d doom your own kind just so that you can live?” Samus cocked an eyebrow, not that it was visible under her helmet.

    “Well, it sounds bad if you say it like that,” the SA-X shrugged. “But you know what other X Parasites are like. This is a compromise. The only way the X can coexist with other lifeforms is if I am the only one. The chances of even a second X coming to this same conclusion, that we must live alongside others, is so minuscule that it’s not even worth the risk of taking. That’s why I’m here. If there’s even a chance that another of my kind is on this planet, I must make sure that they are eliminated. As paradoxical as it seems, I must destroy my species to protect my species.”

    “You certainly tell an interesting tale,” Samus admitted. “But that doesn’t mean that I believe you.”

    “Of course not, I wouldn’t expect you to. I certainly wouldn’t, and I’m just an echo of you,” the SA-X held out one of its hands, and what appeared to be some kind of memory card emerged from it. “Just give me a chance to prove myself on this mission. I’ll even give you a token of goodwill. This contains the data for every one of your suit upgrades that I have, including a new Phatnom Cloak skill that I picked up here a little while ago and the Spider Magnet I just got from that robot thing. I’m going to set it down here. You can scan it and if you determine that it’s safe, it’s yours. Then, I hope that you can return the favor by allowing me to work alongside you so that I can prove myself.”

    She slowly set the card on the ground, beside the fallen E.M.M.I., and backed away. Samus scanned it as instructed and determined that it was no more or less than what the creature claimed it to be. Hesitantly, she approached and took the memory card, inserting it into a port on her arm cannon. There was a flash of light, and when it dissipated, she found that her armor had turned purple, a sign that her Gravity Suit functionality had been restored, and the armor had even grown back a little more, though it was still sleeker and with white plating in place of the old yellow. She assumed that it must have been permanent now, not that she particularly minded the new ascetics. She opened the diagnostics menu once again to double-check the results and was startled by what she saw. She was expecting… well, she didn’t know exactly what she was expecting but assumed that the SA-X meant that it was giving her back the abilities that she had when her suit had been infected. Instead, it had restored nearly every upgrade and ability that she’d ever had with the suit.

    “How?” Samus just stood there, stunned.

    “As I said earlier, I was able to integrate more of your memories over time,” the SA-X explained. “That included your suit’s memories, and I was able to rebuild some of my… your old upgrades from them. I hope you don’t mind.”

    “Not at all,” Samus shook her head. If someone had told her before her last mission that an X Parasite of all things would turn good, she would have laughed. Now, it seemed like anything was possible. She might as well give it a chance. And if it was lying, she could end it easily now. Although, maybe not so easily if it had her memories and abilities now, too. “Well, you’ve held up your end of the bargain. I suppose that it's only fair that I keep mine. We can work together on this.”

    “Thank you.” The SA-X nodded and reformed its copy of Samus’ suit around itself. “I won’t let you down.”

    The two turned and walked side by side as they continued to explore the facility they were in.

    “I take it that the ship I found on the surface was yours,” Samus said as they walked.

    “Oh, um, yes,” the SA-X confirmed. “I reused the schematics from one of our… your old ships.”

    “Justine Bailey?”

    “... I needed something to call myself. I usually just go by Bailey, which of course was Mama’s maiden name. And Justine is a tribute to Justin, our- your little brother who never got the chance to live thanks to that petaQ Ridley.”

    Samus twitched at that. She may have made up with the former space pirate, but she didn’t think that there was anything that he could do to fully make up for taking her family away. Still, it was complicated. “I’m going to have to fill you in on a lot that’s happened.”

    “I’ve been having my own adventures as well,” the SA-X… Bailey… replied.

    “Probably not as crazy as mine.” Samus found herself smiling as they finally found an exit and made their way back into the outer tunnel system of Artaria. “By the way, were you the one that damaged that first E.M.M.I. I fought?”

    “First E.M.M.I.?” Bailey repeated, turning to face Samus. “Wait, you mean there’s more than one of those things?”

    “I’m going to take that as a no, then.” Samus shook her head. So much for that theory.

    Samus proceeded to fill in her counterpart as they explored the rest of the area, about her adventures since the BSL Station, her mission to SMB-985 where she worked alongside Ridley and his new allies on a quest to rescue a captured princess, and everything that had happened to her since landing on this planet. It was a long story and by the end of it, they’d finally managed to find an elevator leading up to the next area, Cataris.

    “So, something’s contacting you pretending to be your ship?” Bailey asked as they stepped onto the platform. “What do you think the odds are that it’s the mysterious Chozo who attacked you?”

    “Pretty high,” Samus replied as they began their ascent.

    “We should probably make sure that he doesn’t find out about me,” Bailey suggested. “That way, he’ll only be expecting one of you when you inevitably confront him again.”

    “Sounds like a plan.” Samus crossed her arms as they waited. “By the way, why the green hair?”

    Bailey just shrugged in response.
     
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  2. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
    (Bunnelby)
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    Samus made her way through an underground facility deep in the depths of Brinstar. She hadn’t seen this place the last time that she’d been sent to Zebes nor had she ever visited this location when she had grown up on the planet. Judging from how dilapidated the place was, she was guessing that it had been abandoned by the Chozo long before she had been born. But of course that wouldn’t stop the space pirates.

    There wasn’t much to explore here, and Samus quickly found herself walking out into a long hallway of faded green bricks and carbon-fiber mesh. Spikes pointed down from the ceiling like the jaws of some alien monstrosity ready to bite down on her. That didn’t phase Samus in the slightest, however. She was done being scared. She had to rescue her child from the space pirates and would take down anything that crossed her path, like the three-eyed alien marching towards her from the other end.

    It was vaguely reptilian in appearance, with a pair of horns jutting out the sides of its head, long, clawed fingers on each hand, and a trio of navel-like holes along the armored plating of its stomach. It looked like someone had taken Kraid and shrunk him down to only about twice Samus’ height. She didn’t pay that much mind, though, simply unleashing a barrage of missiles at the creature that dared stand in her way.

    The alien let out a scream as it suddenly found itself pelted by the powerful explosives, and began shooting spiky tubes of flesh at her from the holes in its stomach, almost like biological missiles. Samus jumped out of their way and continued her assault. The creature did not last long and soon its body collapsed to the ground, leaving the way forward clear. Samus didn’t even spare the Mini-Kraid a glance as she marched into the next room.

    It didn’t take her long after that to find the real Kraid, the giant of a creature was waiting for her in a large cavern, overgrown with vines and briar patches. He seemed to ignore the mighty thorns under its feet even as Samus was forced to climb up to the rocky, moss-covered outcroppings jutting out of the wall. Kraid let out a scratch of rage as Samus drew closer, and began slashing at her with his claws.

    Samus simply jumped back and fired a missile into his central eye. Kraid screamed again, this time out of pain, and Samus launched a salvo of Super Missiles into his gaping mouth, just as she had done the last time they had fought. She stopped as he closed his mouth again and she had to jump out of the way as he started firing the rocket-like projectiles from his stomach as his smaller doppelganger had done earlier, smashing the rocky outcroppings to pieces with the fleshy mounds of spiky flesh and cartilage. That didn’t even phase Samus, who had been expecting this and simply used the massive spikes as platforms as she repeated the process of firing at his eyes, then in his mouth.

    It didn’t take long before Kraid had enough and collapsed to the ground, lying in defeat. Samus had likely done a number to his internal organs with all of those explosives but it was not enough. He had somehow survived his last defeat at her hands, after all, and she was not going to make that mistake twice. She marched across his back to stand on his face and jabbed her arm canon into one of his blood-red eyes.

    Then she finished the job.

    * * *​

    The network station came to life as Samus entered, the domed interface screen activating despite Samus not interacting with the console at all. If she hadn’t already been suspicious, she would have figured out that something was wrong from that alone.

    “There you are, Samus,” whoever was pretending to be ADAM said. “You have not checked in for some time.”

    “I haven’t seen any network stations in a while,” Samus lied in response. This was simply the first that she hadn’t been able to avoid walking through.

    There was a pause, the fake ADAM remaining silent for a while before finally speaking up.

    “I cannot access your suit’s biometrics or video logs.”

    “I had to bump up my security protocols,” Samus replied. “If we’re going up against a rogue Chozo, then there is a chance that he might try to hack into my systems.”

    “That does seem like a reasonable assumption to make but I do not believe that we have to worry about that. Return your security protocols to normal so that I may access your files.”

    “No,” Samus shook her head. “Too risky.”

    “...very well.” There was a hint of annoyance masked behind the heavily filtered voice. “Then what do you have to report so far?”

    “I’ve managed to take out two of the E.M.M.I.s so far and made it to the second area,” Samus told him.

    “As to be expected, you are making good progress so far,” the voice replied. “From what I’ve been able to extract from local data, the area you are now in is a geothermal energy processing plant known as Cataris. The area will be full of superheated environments, which will be dangerous to traverse without your Varia Suit. In addition, there will likely be another E.M.M.I. patrolling this area. Just because you have been able to defeat two of them so far does not mean that this one will go down so easily, so I suggest caution as you continue to explore.”

    “Got it,” Samus nodded. “Anything else?”

    “Not at the moment. Make sure to check in again as soon as you reach the next station.”

    “I’ll see what I can do.”

    The network station powered down again, as quickly as it had been turned on, and Samus exited quickly. As soon as she was safely outside, she reactivated the abilities that she’d disabled before making contact with the imposter. In a flash of light, she was in her fully activated suit again. Beside her, the SA-X deactivated its cloak, seeming to just fade into existence.

    “Well, this thing’s sure handy,” Bailey said. “Do you think he suspected anything?”

    “Of course he did,” Samus replied as they began making their way through the tunnels again. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he has cameras everywhere and is watching us. The fact that he’s still acting like we don’t know anything suggests that he may not have any audio feed and doesn’t know that we know. Either that, or he’s just being cautious. It’s hard to say for sure at this point. We will need to be careful, though.”

    “Always,” Bailey agreed.

    The geothermal processing plant was easy for the experienced bounty hunter and her clone to navigate. While there were plenty of wild animals and sentry robots in their path, nothing stood a chance against them. This area, much like Artaria, also seemed to be free of X Parasites.

    “It feels suspicious that we haven’t encountered any X yet,” Samus mused as they explored the facility. “Based off of my experience with the BSL Station, I would have expected them to be everywhere by now if they were here.”

    “It is a bit odd,” Bailey admitted. “I’m sure we’ll find out what’s going on eventually, though. I know they’re somewhere on this planet. I can feel their presence, though the signal is weak.”

    “You can feel them?” Samus asked. “Do you have some sort of hive mind or something?”

    “Not exactly,” Bailey shook her head. “It’s more like that X constantly send out a sort of mental signal that only other X can detect. It’s how we know what other organisms around us are our own species so that we don’t end up just attacking each other on sight because we’ve mistaken each other for potential prey.”

    “I guess that makes sense,” Samus muttered as she slowed to a halt. In front of them, she could see another strange entranceway like the one that had led her into the area with the second E.M.M.I. she had encountered earlier. “Looks like we should get ready for a fight.”

    “So soon?” Bailey complained. “It feels like we just fought that last one.”

    “The sooner we fight them, the sooner we can be done with this.”

    “True.”

    Samus passed through the wall of shifting cubes first, Bailey following shortly behind. Sure enough, the area they found themselves in seemed eerily similar to the one from before. Samus could even hear the metallic clanking of an E.M.M.I. crawling nearby. They were going to have to find its corresponding Central Unit quickly.

    Samus picked the direction that seemed most likely to be the way they needed to go, signaling for Bailey to follow with a wave of her hand. They were going to have to be quiet if they didn’t want to draw the robot’s attention. Its audio sensors were likely finely tuned. There was probably a reason that the areas that E.M.M.I.s patrolled seemed to be devoid of all life.

    Naturally, it didn’t take long before the E.M.M.I.-03MB crossed their path. This one seemed nearly identical to the last save for the green color of its armor plating. Fortunately, the Phantom Cloak ability that Bailey had found earlier proved to be an effective tool for avoiding its notice and they were able to slip by without being detected.

    They had a few close calls but eventually managed to find an exit leading them back out into the volcanic caverns at Cataris. The two found themselves walking down a small flight of steps leading down to a large statue of a four-legged beast with small horns sprouting from its head. It looked like they could traverse over it but there was also a narrow passage through the statue’s mouth that looked like it could be accessed via the morph ball.

    “I go high, you go low?” Samus suggested, turning back to Bailey who was resting against a handrail.

    “Sounds fine to me,” the rogue X replied.

    Both bounty hunters had to brace themselves as a roar shook the caverns, seeming to have come from down below. Samus recognized the sound at once. It was a call that she never expected to hear again.

    “Wait, was that-” Bailey started to ask, only for Samus to cut her off.

    “Change of plans, you go high and I go low,” she ordered.

    “Wait, shouldn’t we stick together?” Bailey asked. “That was definitely Kraid we just heard. We should take him on together.”

    “No, I’m more than capable of handling him alone. You should search for the E.M.M.I.-03MB’s Central Unit.”

    “Okay, but I’m not so sure about this,” Bailey shrugged and hopped up onto the statue’s head. “Be safe down there, Princess.”

    “Only Higgs gets to call me that,” Samus replied tersely before climbing into the mouth and shifting into Morph Ball form.

    The path was winding but relatively straightforward. Pockets of magma were spread about and the heat would have killed most lifeforms but Samus’ suit protected her without issue and there were a number of local lifeforms that were adapted to the environment. It didn’t take her long to reach her destination as she slid into a small tunnel and the ground gave way under her weight so that she dropped down to a lower level.

    She found herself standing on a raised metal platform overlooking a large, open chamber partially filled with magma. The room itself was inconsequential, however, compared to its resident. The massive green alien reached forward and gave a mighty bellow as it recognized its most hated enemy but was held back by massive restraints. He was being held prisoner here, it seemed, and had been badly abused on top of that. Through his weakened screams, Samus could see the many scars that littered his armored carapace, and his throat seemed to be swollen. Peering down over the edge of the platform, she could even see that he had a nasty infection in his central navel, the flesh around it turned purple and seemed to throb with every movement.

    “What have they done to you, Junior?” Samus gasped in horror, causing the injured alien to hesitate as she stared up into his glowing red eyes.

    The two former enemies stared at each other in silence for a moment before Samus made a choice. She lowered her arm cannon and brought her hands together. In a flash of light, her Power Suit dissipated and Samus stood there in nothing but her blue under armor. She raised a hand gently to the small horn of Kraid Junior’s snout and, reluctantly, the massive alien bowed its head slightly so that she could just barely reach her fingers out to it.

    “I’m sorry,” she said quietly. “You were the smaller one I fought back on Zebes, right? My, you’ve grown as big as your father since the last time I saw you. I took him away from you and I wasn’t exactly gentle when we fought, either. I was so consumed by revenge back then that I didn’t even think about how what I was doing could affect others. Of course, even if I wasn’t I probably would have still acted the same back then. But things are different now and this doesn’t need to go how it did back then. I can understand if you hate me for what I’ve done and I don’t expect you to be able to forgive me. I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to forgive Ridley for taking my family away when I was little. But I have made peace with him, to some extent, and I hope that you can do the same for me.”

    Junior growled. Samus wasn’t sure if he could even speak basic, she’d never heard the elder Kraid talk, and even if he could that throat infection clearly would have prevented any refined vocalization anyway. For the first time in her life, Samus found herself wishing that Ridley was there, as he could probably communicate with Junior more easily. But, she was just going to have to do her best on her own.

    “I don’t know what’s happened to you since we last met but it’s clear that you’re in bad shape. Please, let me help you however I can,” Samus continued. “I don’t know if I can get you off this planet but if I can, then I can bring you to Ridley. He was a friend of your father, right?”

    Junior nodded.

    “Ridley’s turned over a new leaf. He’s left the space pirates and settled down on a small world in uncharted space. Would you want me to bring you to him?”

    Another nod.

    “Alright,” Samus nodded in return. “Getting you up to the surface will be hard, but they had to get you down here somehow, right? Let’s start by breaking you out of those restraints.”

    Kraid Junior began shaking his head wildly, making a strained grunting noise as he did so, then pointed downward with one of his clawed hands.

    “What is it?” Samus looked down to the pool of magma, which she noted went up nearly to Junior’s waist. Then she looked back up to the restraints. “Wait, how deep is that? Those things aren’t just holding you in place, are they? You’re being suspended up there to keep you from falling completely into the magma, aren’t you?”

    Junior nodded again, confirming Samus’ theory.

    “Alright, then I guess we’re just going to have to see if we can find a way to drain the magma first.” Samus rematerialized her suit. “I’ll be back soon.”

    Samus jumped down and began to wade through the magma. It wasn’t exactly an easy process as while her Gravity Suit protected her from the intense heat and allowed her easier movement, magma and lava were still just superheated rock which meant that it was much, much thicker than other liquids. Not helping matters was that she had to use her X-ray visor to see through the magma, which meant that her overall visibility was limited. Eventually, however, she found her way into a nearby control room, with access panels that seemed to control all of the magma flow units throughout Cataris. It didn’t take her long to change the settings so that most of the magma from Junior’s prison chamber would be redistributed to other facilities that should all be out of the way. Another useful note was that she was able to download the map data for the entire geothermal processing plant, which would make navigating Cataris significantly easier. Once it was done, she returned the way that she had come.

    Junior was now hanging, suspended in the air by the shackles around his neck and wrists. It would be a significant drop to get him down from there but it should be fine, especially now that the pool of magma was only high enough to go to about his ankles once he reached the floor. So, she climbed up the wall with her Spider Ball ability and jumped back to the platform that she had originally been on.

    “Alright, I think that should do it,” she told Junior as she walked up to him. “You think we can get you down, now?”

    Kraid Junior nodded and seemed to make a purring noise. She didn’t know he could do that. It was almost kind of cute, despite his outward appearance. She really needed to get him to some sort of medical facility and wondered if she would be able to find one on-planet. She added that to the list of her mission parameters, just to be safe.

    She then noted that Junior had already managed to break the shackle on his left wrist as he began pulling at the one on his right, which quickly gave way as well. That explained why his captors had held him up there like that if he was strong enough that he could have broken free at any time if he didn’t have to worry about drowning in magma. The entirety of Junior’s weight was now being held by the two support cords holding up the collar around his neck, which started to buckle and bend as he flailed around. Samus used her Space Jump to get up to the cords and managed to cut through one of them with a Screw Attack. The other soon gave way entirely and Junior was sent plummeting to the ground below, splashing magma everywhere. Samus landed softly on his head, behind the bony ridge just above his three eyes, and patted him gently with her left hand.

    “There we go, you’re free now,” Samus said reassuringly. “Now we just need to find a way for you to get out of here.”

    Junior responded with a roar and marched up to what Samus initially thought to be a wall, then bent down and dug his claws into the bottom, raising what turned out to be a massive shutter door.

    “Ah, this must be the way they got you down here,” Samus noted. “Then I assume you know how to get back to the surface from here?”

    Junior growled in response. Judging from his tone, Samus took that to be a yes.

    “Good, then I’ll meet you up there,” she said. “I’m afraid that I have some other business to attend to for now, so I won’t be able to go with you just yet. When you make it up there, see if you can find a ship large enough for you to ride in and I’ll see if I can get it running once I’m up there. Stay safe.”

    Junior purred again as Samus jumped up and made her way over to another exit. Now she just needed to meet back up with Bailey so that they could track down the one responsible for this mess, and hunt down any X-Parasites still lurking on the planet.

    * * *​

    The skies of ZDR were clouded, as always. The planet’s surface was under constant bombardment by storms and other natural disasters. That was why the Mawkin Tribe had built their civilization underground, despite being members of the avian Chozo race. To live above ground was to die. Some may wonder, then, why the Mawkin had chosen to settle on this world, a Class XIX planet by the Federation’s classifications. After all, they had countless other planets to choose from when deciding where their colony should be settled.

    The answer was that it was the same reason that the Thoha tribe had settled on the similarly inhospitable Zebes as they monitored planet SR388, or why the F’Kro tribe built their SkyTown in the deadly gas giant of Elysia before relocating to the near-desolate Tallon IV when they abandoned their way of life.

    The Chozo thrived in secrecy. There may have been a time, before the Great War tore their civilization apart, when they had been willing to share their discoveries and culture with other spacefaring species such as the Luminoth, Reptilicus and Ylla, but those days were long gone. They had discovered the hard way that to open themselves to others was to invite tragedy. That is why the Chozo built their colonies and cities within the most inhospitable and dangerous planets they could find. So that they could be alone.

    The storms of ZDR in particular were quite useful to the isolationist Mawkin. Not only did the inclement weather spread across the entire surface discourage any other potential settlers from sparing the planet a second thought but it also disrupted most forms of communication and electronic detection to the point where you could hide almost anything not just under the surface but anywhere within the planet’s atmosphere. Sure, the city of Hanubia may have been large enough that any passerby who knew what they were looking for would be able to find it when the city's extra defenses were disabled as they currently were, but that was of no concern.

    After all, the only location that truly needed to remain hidden was the mobile sky fortress Itorash, which was currently stationed high up in the sky above the city, completely hidden from all the world even without its extra cloaking systems ensuring that even someone who did know what they were looking for wouldn’t be able to find it unless he wanted them to.

    It was on the Itorash’s bridge that he sat, impatiently tapping the armored fingers of his left hand against the arm of his command chair. His name was Ashkar Behek, though translated into the Federation’s common tongue he would be known as The Beak of the Raven, or Raven Beak. He was the leader of the Mawkin Tribe and had been so since defeating their previous chief, Iron Talon, in a duel over 3,000 years ago. He had cheated in that fight, of course. Only a fool fought fair and Raven Beak was no fool. He always ensured that things would play directly according to his will, leaving no margin for error. That was why he was growing so restless.

    For the first time in a long, long time, things were not going according to plan.

    Raven Beak stared intently at the screen in front of him, which was currently displaying two live videofeeds from below the planet’s surface, in the geothermal processing plant of Cataris, specifically. He also had a few other feeds from around the colony on in the background but his focus was on those two.

    One feed displayed the Last Metroid, who had defied his expectations by freeing their captured Bryyonian Megasaur instead of slaying the beast as she was supposed to. On the other, he watched the unknown. A second Hunter of unknown origins who bore what could only have been the Sacred Armor that had been left in the Thoha’s Zebes colony long ago. But that couldn’t be, as that was the armor that the Last Metroid now wore. Their scans indicated that this unknown variable was an X copy of the Last Metroid but the scans must have been wrong. An X would not act as the Variable did, and the Last Metroid’s instincts would be to consume its natural prey, not to ally itself with it. Furthermore, the two were scheming and he needed to know what they were planning.

    Unfortunately, the hidden surveillance cameras could not provide audio. While they had developed workarounds to get past the planet’s constant radio and transmission interferences, they could only do so much. As such, he could only receive audio from the network stations and it seemed that his pawns were smart enough not to communicate within range of them. While in theory, he could order his scouts to retrieve data files from the fallen E.M.M.I., that would require them to either retrieve the files before the E.M.M.I.s and their Control Units were destroyed or have to try and salvage corrupted data files, then transfer those files to him through the network stations or by physically transporting them to him in person. Regardless of the method chosen, it would be too inefficient and time-consuming, and it would increase the risk of being caught. No, he was going to have to rely solely on what he could gather from observing the video feeds, which was disappointingly little.

    It seemed that the Variable had discovered the third Control Unit’s location and was engaging it in battle. It wouldn’t be long before it defeated the third E.M.M.I. That was the biggest wrench in Raven Beak’s plans. How was the Last Metroid supposed to trigger if it wasn’t being constantly pushed to its limits? It was missing most of the battles he had planned for it, having an easy time with the ones it didn’t avoid thanks to the unexpected upgrades that the Variable had given it, and wasn’t draining the lifeforce of anything it came across.

    Still, not all was lost. The Last Metroid would have to reach Elun eventually and unleash the quarantined X that the Mawkin had sealed there. Even if they didn’t follow his plan to the letter, things would still get back on track at that point. It was still a Metroid, after all, which meant that it would feed once given the chance.

    The plan was too far along to be stopped at this point, after all. Things had been set in motion years ago when he had first transmitted Zebes’ coordinates to the Space Pirates so long ago, so that they could wipe out the Mawkin who wouldn’t be able to corrupt his creation any more than they already had. Since he had ensured that the Last Metroid would be enlisted in the Federation’s military so that they would be able to stamp out the peaceful mindset that the Mawkin had so foolishly tried to teach the Last Metroid. Since he had given that BSL scientist the idea of injecting the Last Metroid with the DNA of the last of the old-generation Metroids so that its transformation could begin.

    Nothing could take away his Metroid from him, his Hunter, and once it was properly under his control, it would become the first of the new generation. His ultimate weapon, with which he could at last bring order and stability to the galaxy, and from there expand his reach further outward. Never again would the universe see another Alimbic Genocide or Beon Massacre.

    Peace, at all costs. His peace.

    * * *​

    Samus ended up having to take an indirect route back to where she had split up from Bailey. She’d ended up looping back around to near where she had first entered Cataris and had to retrace her earlier path to get back to the E.M.M.I. zone. She could tell immediately once she stepped through the entrance that Bailey had already finished off the E.M.M.I.-03MB, as she no longer felt that intense feeling of dread, like she was being hunted, that seemed to fill her whenever she was near one. With that knowledge in mind, she continued exploring until she finally found Bailey sitting on a rock, apparently waiting for her. To Samus’ concern, she wasn’t wearing her power armor and was holding the corpse of a large annelid creature with a hard exoskeleton, which her scan visor identified as a Sclawk, which she seemed to be eating.

    “Oh, hey.” Bailey looked up after tearing a huge chunk of raw flesh out of the dead creature with her bare teeth and she barely seemed to chew. Her bloodstained jaws appeared to have morphed into something akin to a Hornoad’s, protruding out from her face and lined with multiple rows of large fangs. “About time you got here. How’d the fight with Kraid go?”

    “W-what are you doing?” Samus had to fight back her gag reflex at the horrid sight, not helping at all was that the SA-X was otherwise still wearing Samus’ old face.

    “Well, I am still a living organism,” Bailey pointed out, wiping her jaw with the back of her arm as it shrank back to normal. “I’ve gotta get sustenance somehow, and eating’s more fun than just absorbing things. You don’t get to taste anything that way. Want some?”

    “No, no thanks.” Samus shook her head.

    “Suit yourself,” Bailey said with a shrug before tossing the remnants of the carcass aside and jumping up to her feet. “Beat the robot. Didn’t have anything good, though. Just data for the Federation’s attempt at replicating the Morph Ball, but we’ve both already got that. How about you?”

    “Kraid Junior was being held captive, though I don’t know why or by whom,” Samus explained. “I was able to free him and he’s on his way up to the surface. I promised that I’d find a way to transport him to planet SRB-985 after this is done. Ridley’s the closest thing to family that he has left, after all.”

    “Kraid… Junior?” Bailey tilted her head and made what Samus assumed must have been the confused face that her old friend Anthony always teased her about for being ‘cute’. Apparently, he hadn’t been making that up after all.

    “The smaller Kraid that I fought before killing the original back on Zebes. He was Kraid’s son and now he’s grown to be about as big as his father had been.”

    “Okay, I guess that just makes sense.” Bailey didn’t look convinced. “Is it just me, or do things just keep getting weirder and weirder.”

    “I think I’ve just stopped thinking about it too much at this point,” Samus replied.

    “Well, anyway, I found the way to the next area.” Bailey rematerialized her copied Power Suit and gestured over her shoulder. “There’s a shuttle station on the other side of that door over there. The sign said it leads to a biological research facility called Dairon.”

    “Then I guess that must be our next stop.” Samus began walking over to the door and Bailey followed.

    “Right, here we go!”

    “Also, please don’t ‘eat’ when I’m around.” Samus grimaced. “I think seeing that is going to give me nightmares.”

    Two chapters in an I’m already sick of writing E.M.M.I. encounters. They work well for gameplay but having to try and make them not end up too repetitive is probably going to be one of my biggest hurdles with this story.

    The focus of this chapter was Kraid (Junior) finally making his Ridley ’verse debut. I wanted to have him team up with Samus and Bailey throughout the rest of the story but unfortunately, he’s just too big for that to be practical. We’ll definitely be seeing more from him later on, though.

    After wrapping up the Kraid stuff, I realized that the chapter was going to end up too short and I couldn’t think of another flashback scene that would thematically fit with the rest of the chapter, so I ended up throwing in a bit with Raven Beak (I had been planning on having the scene where Samus communicates with him near the begging of the chapter from his perspective but changed my mind, so in a way that got repurposed into the new scene). Quite a bit of worldbuilding mixed in there. Some of it is obscure references to official canon, some of it is just my headcannon working its way into the story and some of it is stuff that I made up on the spot because I needed stuff to write. Here are a couple of the big things:

    The F’Kro tribe is named after the Japanese word for owl, Fukuro, similar to how Thoha and Mawkin seem to be derived from the Japanese words for dove and bird of prey, respectively. I chose this because owls are often associated with wisdom and mysticism, and the Chozo of Tallon IV were the most spiritual of the Chozo we’ve seen (at least after leaving Elysium and abandoning technology).

    Kraid’s species are referred to here as Bryyonian Megasaurs because (and this is purely stuff that I’ve made up) they were originally a prehistoric race from the planet Bryyo who went extinct long before the Reptilicus came to be, and whose fossils were the basis for their golems’ designs. An ancient race (more ancient than even the Chozo and their peers) had taken a clutch of Megasaur eggs from Bryyo and used them for experiments to try and artificially evolve them to gain sentience and sapience. A group of space pirates managed to stumble on one of this species’ ancient labs where they found two preserved eggs left over from those experiments, which hatched into Kraid and his mate who in turn produced one child before Kraid’s mate died of complications in childbirth. Junior is now the last of his kind.

    You know, while I’ve alluded to Ridley’s backstory in SRB, I don’t think that I ever explained it in detail. Ridley is a genetically bioengineered superweapon designed as part of a black ops Federation project, but the secret facility that hosted this project was raided by space pirates who stole the design. Science Team was able to create Ridley from that stolen template but he ended up killing most of them before he was pacified and joined the Space Pirates. What remained of Science Team after that was the equivalent of a bunch of unpaid interns, which is why they’ve become known for their incompetence since then. Ridley ate all of the actual scientists.
     
  3. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

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    Samus waited as the suspension monorail shuttle rocketed along. Bailey had decided to sit down on one of the many seats that lined the opposite sides of the vehicle but Samus chose to remain standing alert, grabbing a support strap with her free hand to keep herself from swaying too much as the shuttle rocked along. It took several minutes for them to finally reach their destination but eventually, they slowed to a halt and the doors slid open.

    It was obvious at a glance that something was wrong. The station outside was dark. Samus switched on her thermal visor and checked the area. Everything else seemed fine but the facility had been powered down. Perhaps it was just a broken generator but Samus knew to prepare for the worst. This could be a trap, one which she had no interest in walking into. But still, they had to proceed.

    “You know, it’s weird that this doesn’t happen more often,” Bailey commented as she walked up to the door leading into the Dairon Biologic Research Facility. “You’d think that when we’re exploring old ruins, caves and abandoned ships, not having functioning power would be the norm.”

    “Making sure that their energy reserves will last through almost anything is one of the first things that most spacefaring races learn to perfect when traveling between worlds,” Samus pointed out. “Losing power in the endless vacuum of space is quite literally a death sentence.”

    “Yeah, I know, but still.”

    “Plus, I get the feeling that it hasn’t been that long since this place was abandoned. Junior being held here shows that the Chozo who lived in this colony must have been here until just recently.”

    “I guess we’ll figure that out as we go.” Bailey held up her left hand, which a bright yellow light washed over as the armor changed to add gray plating and a few extra light panels embedded in it. “Hm, I don’t think that I’ve ever had to use this thing before, now that I think about it.”

    The X copy thrust her fist out towards the door’s control panel and a whip-like beam of purple energy shot out from it, latching onto the panel’s interface. Feeding energy through the Grapple Beam, Bailey was able to power the door so that it opened for them.

    “I’d actually forgotten about the Grapple Voltage,” Samus commented as she reactivated her own Grapple Beam and its associated upgrades while walking through the open door. She noticed that the normally gray attachment had turned white, in keeping with her suit’s new aesthetics. “It feels good to have everything back.”

    “I know, right? So useful.” Bailey followed close behind as they entered the darkened facility.

    The rest of the lab was also without power but that wasn’t much of an obstacle for either of them. Between using their Thermal Visors to see and being able to provide various doorways and other electronic devices with enough power to operate via the Grapple Voltage, they were able to move freely. They didn’t even need to worry about avoiding network stations as those were also powered down. However, actually exploring such a large network of interconnected laboratories and other facilities would be time-consuming. They had no way of gaining map information through any method other than trial and error exploration and the whole place was like a labyrinth. If they wanted to make any real progress exploring this place then it was clear that they were going to have to split up, at least until they found a way to turn the power back on.

    They made their way down an empty hallway when Samus stopped and motioned for Bailey to do so as well.

    “You keep going,” she said. “I’m going to try climbing up to see what I can find. We’ll cover more ground this way.”

    “Are you sure?” Bailey asked. “We won’t have a way to keep in contact if we split up again. We still can’t send any messages or anything through the interference.”

    “Once one of us finds a way to reactivate power, we’ll both meet up back at the shuttle station where we first arrived, then synch our map data and find the way to the next area together,” Samus explained her plan.

    Bailey shrugged. “Alright, if you say so. I just hope that I don’t run into another one of those E.M.M.I.s again. I’m already getting tired of those things.”

    “We’ll see.” Samus ascended a vertical shaft leading to the next floor via her Space Jump ability. One annoying thing about Chozo architecture, which had been a constant thorn in her side since she was a child, was that they were always built under the assumption that the people using them could fly, or at the very least climb around with ease.

    The whole place was full of security robots and other defense mechanisms designed to keep people in, or perhaps keep research specimens from getting out. Fortunately, those were all inert due to the lack of power which meant that all Samus had to worry about were the handful of wild creatures that were now calling this place home. She avoided most of those, of course, having already resolved to try and keep to a minimum of bloodshed for the time being. She did check to see if the X had breached the lab but still couldn’t find any evidence of their presence. Eventually, she found herself standing before the entrance to another E.M.M.I. zone. She wasn’t looking forward to having to deal with another one at the moment but she was going to have to pass through if she wanted to progress. So, she stepped through the gateway of shifting cubes.

    Despite moving as stealthily as she could, it only took a few minutes before she heard the distinctive metal clanking of an E.M.M.I. walking around on the metallic floor nearby. She didn’t doubt that the research robot would be able to detect her in the dark at least as well as she could, so she curled up into her Morph Ball form and rolled around slowly. Hopefully, that would make her less conspicuous. Not long after, she rounded a corner into a hallway just as the E.M.M.I. stepped in from the other end. The soft blue spotlight emanating from its cycloptic optical sensor turned red as soon as its electronic gaze moved over her and the E.M.M.I. made to pursue. Samus quickly stood up and began running as quickly as she could. She couldn’t scan this one to determine its designation as her Scan Visor wouldn’t be able to detect anything in the dark any better than her standard Combat Visor could but that wasn’t much of a concern right now. What was a concern was that this E.M.M.I. seemed to have a Speed Booster function, running down the hallway and considerably faster speeds than what the other models encountered so far were capable of. Thankfully she had her own Speed Booster that allowed her to run fast enough to avoid having it catch up to her almost instantly but trying to outmaneuver the robot was going to be an issue. She needed to find the Central Unit, fast.

    * * *​

    The need to survive, grow and reproduce. All living things are controlled by basic, instinctual drives that control their actions and behaviors. The ability that sentient beings held over other creatures was that they could set these things aside. The chozo, for example, had eliminated their own libidos for the sake of scientific progress to the point where they had condemned themselves to a slow extinction before they realized their mistake. But even then, there was one drive that surpassed everything else.

    Hunger.

    Bailey was hungry. Not necessarily in the sense that most creatures would understand it. She had just had a particularly large meal in the form of that sclawk she had been eating when Samus found her earlier, after all. If she were a normal life form that would likely have been enough to sustain her for at least a day. But she was not a normal life form. She was X. Eating, in the biological sense, was just a way for her to try and stave off her true hunger.

    Consume

    Even now, she was absently chewing on a small hunk of hornoad meat that she had materialized in her mouth from her own essence. She wasn’t getting any nutritional value from it or anything it did help push off her instincts, if only just a little bit.

    Consume

    She couldn’t give in. If she did, if she let herself absorb, dominate and become other creatures then she would lose herself. It took concentration and effort to maintain a human mind. If she were to give in to her instincts then she would lose that. She would revert into little more than an animal. She would be no different than the rest of her kind. She would be X. She had to be more than that, to be better than that.

    Consume

    No, not again. She’d already lost control that day. Before she had encountered genetic host Samus Aran, while avoiding the first E.M.M.I. she had encountered. She had wandered into the wreckage of an old ship, which had crashed into the planet long ago while transporting a creature from the southern jungles of Leaquer-12 for the Chozo warriors here to hunt. The Corpius, a powerful and dangerous predator on its homeworld. Though its lower body had been completely torn off when the Chozo had defeated it, the Corpius had managed to survive, escaping from them by using its arms and exposed ribs to walk and absorbing the abilities of the Phantom Cloak so that it could hide. It had a strong life force and a determination to live that would far surpass most creatures. It was the type of lifeform that would turn an X into what the BSL scientists had dubbed a ‘Core X’. The X themselves did not have a word for it as they did not communicate in such a manner. If she did have to translate how they thought of ‘Cores’ into a word, that would have to be apex. The highest form of being. The dominant existence.

    Consume, become Apex

    The temptation had been too much for her and she had let herself go, temporarily shedding her humanoid form to infect the Corpius, absorbing the essence of its being and adding its biological distinctiveness into herself. Coming back down from that had been hard but she had managed to remain Bailey. She wasn’t sure that she would be able to handle that a second time so soon. Fortunately, all of the other life forms she had passed by since then were small, weak creatures. The only other apex lifeform she had encountered since then was Samus, who was already gene host. The temptation was still there but she should be fine as long as she didn’t come across another-

    Apex

    It was ahead of her and she was drawing closer with every step, likely just a few rooms away. It was dead but still fresh. Still viable gene host. She could feel that it was similar to the Corpius. Perhaps a related species from the same planet? She couldn’t quite tell but that didn’t matter. What mattered was-

    Consume

    Bailey’s long, black tail swayed through the air behind her, the hardened stinger softly brushing against the walls. When had she grown that back out? She quickly retracted the tail and resumed gene host Samus Aran’s form. Gene host Samus wasn’t nearby, she couldn’t even feel her presence at the moment, but she still needed to remain safe. If gene host Samus thought that Bailey was losing control then that would be the end of her, and her quest to become more than she was would be at an end. Above all else, she needed to survive and carry X into a new age.

    Consume, become apex

    No, already apex

    Not enough, consume apex

    It was getting harder and harder to fight her instincts as she continued to approach whatever it was. She could feel herself grow three extra eyes and her toes had become webbed. She struggled to resume gene host Samus’ form. Finally, she came to the last door between herself and the potential apex gene host. She could feel it so strongly now, the body being no more than a few meters away at this point. Instead of powering the door with her Grapple Voltage she grew her arms into those of the Corpius and pulled the metal door straight out of the wall, tossing it aside. Her tongue rolled out of her mouth, her face now being what should have been her armor’s helmet, and practically reached her waist as she slowly walked up to the corpse before her.

    Consume

    It was a giant buglike creature, over twice the size that gene host Corpius had been, and sprawled out with the armored carapace of its back on the ground, its belly town open with a bunch of powered-down tools and probes stuck in the process of dissecting the creature. They must have been in the middle of the procedure when the power had been cut.

    Consume, become Apex

    No!

    Bailey fell to the ground, using all of her strength to try and maintain her form. Even keeping herself in her current, monstrous state was growing taxing on her but she couldn’t let herself go. She didn’t know what would happen if she consumed again so soon after the last one. She needed to hold onto herself. To maintain her imitated humanity. She couldn’t go back to being a mindless animal. She needed to maintain herself.

    Consume!

    No! Already apex!

    Consume!

    The hunger grew too strong. Bailey dematerialized into her true form of a floating, gelatinous blue glob of pure genetic essence, which hovered through the air and seeped into the dead creature’s corpse, overtaking it and absorbing its DNA and essence. Every memory that the creature had flooded into her mind, became hers. It had been made from gene host Corpius’s severed lower half, experimented on by Chozo scientists who had attempted to stimulate the creature's regenerative ability to see if they could regrow the missing upper half. The result was merely growing a new head from the bloody stump, and the new creature was not able to last long in that state. It was inferior to what it could have been, lacking necessary organs. That was not a problem for X.

    The hardened shell retracted into its body, and the creature's six legs shifted into arm-like limbs that gathered near the front of its elongated body, from which spikes of bone shot out. Reaching out to its generic archives, X decided that its new form would be served well by gene host Corpius’ stinger tail and gene host Hornoad’s powerful legs. From gene host Samus Aran, it would…

    From gene host Samus Aran, it would take…

    Samus Aran…

    She was not the creature. She was not a mindless X. She was Justine Bailey. She was herself.

    Struggling, Bailey managed to get herself under control and slowly morphed back into gene host Samus Aran’s copied form. It was a struggle but she managed to maintain human form. The Power Armor was more difficult, though. She kept turning it into a more organic-looking exoskeleton with the darker colors of her more recent gene hosts. After a few tries, though, she eventually managed to get it right and continued her exploration of the abandoned laboratory.

    For now, she just had to hope that consuming two apex lifeforms in one day would be enough to satiate her hunger but she couldn’t rely on that hope. She had been starving herself completely after deciding on her current course, after all. She was fighting every ingrained instinct she had and going against the very essence of what she was. But she was sentient now and the ability that sentient beings held over other creatures was that they could set those things aside.

    * * *​

    Samus rocketed down a hallway until a wall broke her path and she slammed into it at full force. It seemed that she had managed to escape from the E.M.M.I. for now but it would likely catch up to her again soon so she wasted no time in continuing her search. After a while, she finally found her way to the Central Unit’s room. The cloned biocomputer was fully encased in an armored shell, its eye staring directly at Samus as she entered. She immediately began bombarding it with Super Missiles until the armor plating broke off, then continued her assault. The Unit barely had time to begin a counter-assault before it fell limply to the ground. Samus walked over to the dead computer and pressed her hand against its bluish, glowing gray matter. The glow was absorbed into her arm cannon, which turned back into the red Omega Cannon as it had before. Now all that she had to do was hunt down the E.M.M.I.

    Naturally, it didn’t take long for the yellow-plated robot to track her down again once she had left the room and she immediately began firing once it came into view. The facial armor protecting its optical sensor began to glow white-hot before finally exploding, leaving its weak point exposed. Samus began charging her cannon but unfortunately, the E.M.M.I. still had its Speed Booster functionality, allowing it to close in far quicker than she anticipated. Samus was forced to dodge out of the way before it could catch her but that caused the Omega Cannon to lose its charge. It seemed that its extreme power was also a weakness as she couldn’t charge the beam and move at the same time, and now she wouldn’t be able to avoid the E.M.M.I. without staying on the move. This was going to be more of a challenge than she thought.

    * * *​

    Kraid scratched his belly absently as the cargo elevator slowly carried him up to the surface. He was glad to have finally been freed from his confines, though he was also deeply confused about how it had happened. He never would have expected the Hunter of all people to come to his aid, his father’s killer. Admittedly, he didn’t particularly hold that against the Hunter. Every space pirate, or at least any decent pirate, knew the risks of the job. But it was still unexpected that his people’s greatest enemy would save him instead of finishing him off. She had acted as if she were now on decent terms with Uncle Ridley, and even Kraid knew that the two considered each other mortal nemesises…nemesi? Whatever the plural of nemesis was. Language and grammar had never been Kraid’s strong suits.

    Anyway, she’d said that Uncle Ridley had left the space pirates to settle down on some planet that he’d never heard of. He didn’t know what to make of that. She could have been lying. In fact, it seemed probable that she was. But on the other hand, why would she? There was no point in trying to lure him into a trap when she could have killed him easily or even just left him there to die. He’d have to think about that more later, though. For now, he had more pressing issues on his mind.

    Everything hurt. His wrists were chaffed, his belly ached as parasites wormed their way through his flesh, his lower body was covered in deep burns and his throat had gotten so swollen that he could barely breathe. He hadn’t had any food or water in weeks. To call the treatment that he’d received torture would be an understatement. Almost any other creature would have died under those conditions, to say nothing of having been dangelled in lava the whole time.

    He let out an involuntary cough, spitting up globs of the flammable bile he produced for his fire breath and making his throat hurt even more. He needed to find water, at the very least. Even he was nearing his breaking point.

    The elevator suddenly came to a screeching halt and the lights flickered for a moment. Kraid was nearly thrown off his feet but managed to steady himself before he could fall over. Not that there was enough room for him to fall.

    Two small objects dropped down beside him. He had to strain to look down to see what they were and started to panic once he did.

    There were two of them, silver in color and with beak-like heads. Chozo combat robots, the kind that had been used to imprison him down in that lake of lava after the flesh and blood soldiers had captured him and brought him to this forsaken planet. They were armed with energy blades set into their arms and looked poised to attack. Kraid was in no condition to fight but he had no other choice.

    One of the robots charged forward and slashed across his foot, causing Kraid to let out a whimper and stumble back a step. The other started climbing up his leg. Kraid tried to shake it off but it just dug in deep with its sword to hold on, cutting into his flesh in the process. Kraid tried to spit some fireballs at him but wasn't able to ignite the spittle, sending globs of infected mucus out instead, which didn't even manage to hit either of them. The first robot continued to assault his poor toes while the second quickly reached his central navel and began hacking away at it. The flesh in that area was weak and sensitive at the moment, shooting pain throughout his entire body. Kraid let out a horrendous roar.

    One good thing did come out of that, though. The sudden attack seemed to draw the attention of the parasites that had made their home in his stomach and they surfaced, attacking the hostile machine. The robot began killing the creatures, finishing off a fair number of them before they managed to overwhelm it and send the robot falling, taking even more parasites down with it. With that, Kraid managed to find the strength to quickly turn around, smashing the other robot into the wall with his tail, then stepped on the one that had fallen, putting all of his weight into the blow. He couldn't feel it because of the nerve damage but he was sure it would be crushed by his considerable weight.

    That just left the one remaining robot, which got back up despite being visibly damaged and prepared to strike again. It dashed forward, blades slashing through the air. Kraid kicked and the combat robot was sent flying back into the wall again. It fell to the ground and started to stand up yet again before the lights of its eyes flickered off and the sword blades dissipated. It collapsed in a heap and Kraid made sure to stomp on it just to make sure it wouldn't be able to reactivate. He also did his best to kill the parasites that had fallen out from his belly, more for the satisfaction of revenge than anything else.

    That left him alone in the now inoperable cargo elevator, which clearly wasn't going to be moving again anytime soon. He knew that he couldn't just stand around and wait but there was no way that he would be able to try climbing up the rest of the shaft. So, he bent down as far as he could and pried the shutter door open with his clawed hands. He had been worried that he’d be met with just a stretch of wall but to his relief, he’d been stopped close enough to an exit that he could just barely climb out.

    He thought for a moment that he had reached the surface after all before realizing that it was an underground jungle. Light filtered in from crevasses in the cavern ceiling, allowing for the growth of massive trees, flowers and other plants packed densely together. And if there were plants here, then that must mean water and hopefully animal life that he could hunt and feed on. Kraid’s luck was finally starting to turn around.

    * * *​

    Bailey had found the deactivated generator shortly after her… incident… and had been able to turn it back on without any trouble. Getting back to the shuttle bay had been a bit more challenging, as the various sentry drones and security measures had been reactivated with the power. It still wasn't that much trouble for someone of her ability, though. The main issue was that Samus had yet to arrive. Bailey had been waiting there for a while before she finally gave up and decided to search for her gene host herself. If Samus of all people hadn't been able to make her way back already, then there must have been something wrong.

    She really wished that they had working comms, as she retraced the path they had taken earlier before splitting up, then went the way that Samus had gone, up until the point where they’d gone too far apart to sense her. Her total recall and ability to sense nearby life forces were serving her well. Eventually, though, she reached the end of the trail. That was where having Samus as gene host became useful, allowing her to think as Samus would and hopefully make the same, or at least close enough, decisions on where to go from there.

    After a while of exploring, Bailey entered what was likely the area where the local E.M.M.I was patrolling and she quickly picked up on a life force that couldn't have been anything other than Samus and she picked up her pace.

    “Stay still, you slaggin’ piece of scrap metal!”

    That was definitely her voice. Bailey was about to turn a corner when Samus suddenly bolted out in front of her at top speed, causing Bailey to fall over backward. The E.M.M.I. followed shortly after, at speeds that would have been unthinkable for the previous models she’d fought. The robot skid to a halt shortly after passing her by, though, and seemed to lock on to the X before charging her down.

    Apparently, these things considered Bailey to be a higher-profile target than Samus. She supposed that made sense since they were specifically there to track down her species, after all.

    Bailey barely had time to run before the E.M.M.I. caught up to her and it was all that Bailey could do to stay out of its reach. After turning a few corners, she found herself running alongside her gene host.

    “About time you got here,” Samus said, and Bailey noticed the red coloring of her arm cannon. “I need to shoot this thing but I can't get it to slow down long enough for me to charge a shot. Think you can keep it distracted for a few seconds before luring it into my way?”

    “If I have to!” Bailey replied.

    Samus ducked into a side hall then stepped back out once the E.M.M.I. had passed, taking a stance and charging up the Omega Cannon. Bailey kept running for a while, then jumped off a wall, combing her Spider Ball and Speed Booster to dash along the ceiling the way she had come. The E.M.M.I. crawled up behind her, maintaining its pace. Once they’d gotten close enough, Bailey dropped down just in time to avoid the massive blast of red energy fired where she had just been. The E.M.M.I. didn't have time to dodge out of the way, its head exploding as it was struck. The limp hunk of yellow metal fell to the floor as Bailey stood back up.

    “Not a big fan of that plan,” Bailey muttered, walking up to gene host Samus.

    “It worked,” Samus shrugged. “I see that you found the generator. Find anything else?”

    Bailey hesitated. “No, you?”

    “Just that thing.” Samus kicked the destroyed robot. “Guess all that's left is to find the way to the next area.”

    The two continued their exploration of the area, nothing else of note crossing their way as they ascended the lab’s many floors until eventually, they managed to find their way to an elevator room. The sign next to the doors read ‘Ferenia’ in Chozodian script.

    “Looks like this is it,” Samus said as the doors opened and they stood inside. “What do you think this place is going to be?”

    “Who knows?” Bailey shrugged. “I just hope that it’ll be less eventful than this place.”

    “I thought you said that you didn’t find anything here?” Samus reminded her.

    “Right, I, um, was talking about the E.M.M.I.,” Bailey said, though she didn’t sound very convincing. “I meant that I hope we get a break from fighting those things. Also, the power outage was a bit inconvenient.”

    “I guess.” Samus shrugged but cast a wary eye in Bailey’s direction from behind her helmet’s visor. She was starting to think that her doppelganger was hiding something and to say that was a concern would be an understatement. It seemed that she was going to have to keep her guard up, not that she had dropped it since encountering the surviving SA-X. “But I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.”

    “Actually, you could,” Bailey argued. “I don’t technically need to breathe.”

    “Not relevant.” Samus shook her head. She could tell that this was going to be a long ride.
    I went into this chapter realizing that I had no actual plans for what to do. Using a one-chapter per area format was, in retrospect, not a great idea. I kind of wish that I had stuck to my original plan of not doing that but I don’t want to go back and change what I’ve already done, so I’m sticking to it. Chapter 1 would have been called Planetfall, incidentally, but I hadn’t come up with names for any of the other chapters yet.

    Anyway, after writing the opening scene here I came up with the idea of focusing on Bailey’s POV for the chapter and everything else kind of flowed naturally from there. This ended up a lot darker than I was intending this story to get but hopefully, I didn’t go too far in that direction. I have a habit of toning myself down as I write, for example, the part where Bailey’s chewing on a piece of meat almost ended up being her biting off her own tongue to chew on (she would have instantly regrown another one, of course) but thought that might have been a bit too gross. I don’t want the tone to be too far off from Super Ridley Bros, even if this was always meant to be more serious than SRB.

    I find it interesting how I was originally going to have this whole story written from Samus’ perspective, as shown in the first chapter, but now I feel like I’m having more fun writing from everyone else’s POVs instead. It’s making for an interesting challenge for me as a writer, as every character in this story comes from a completely different background and perspective, making them much more varied than I’m used to writing. I’m hoping that the practice here will help me work on being able to branch out into different ‘voices’ when writing other works in the future, as I feel like that’s something that I’ve been having trouble with lately. I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether or not I’m doing a good job of making each character feel unique so please let me know, if you feel so inclined. I always love to hear constructive criticism of my work.
     
  4. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
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    Samus Aran was three years old and she was alone. She was still far too young to fully understand and process at the time what had just happened. She had stumbled upon a large, scary-looking dragon sitting on a cliff overlooking the mines and, trying to be brave, reached out to make friends with the creature. It led her on, made her think that it was friendly. Then the monster tried to eat her. Her mother had come to her rescue just in time, pulling her away from its jaws while losing an arm in the process. Virginia Aran had screamed for her daughter to run as the monster grabbed her and tore the woman’s head clean off with his teeth before devouring the rest of her with a smirk on his face. Samus was too stunned to move. Too scared to do anything but sit there and cry as Ridley crawled over to her.

    Then the processing plant exploded, along with the space pirate ship docked there. Samus’ father had ignited the afloraltite reserves in a last-ditch effort to destroy the space pirates before they could cause any more trouble for the rest of the galaxy. It was impossible to say for certain how much of a difference killing that specific pirate crew would make but at the very least, it inadvertently saved Samus’ life. Ridley was outraged at what he viewed as a slight against himself and stormed off, flying through the vacuum of space into the unknown.

    All Samus could do was cry and wander the wreckage of the only home that she’d ever known in the vain hope of finding her parents. That was how the chozo had found her when they returned in answer to the distress signal Rodney had sent out when the space pirates arrived. She had met their leader, Old Bird, during their brief visit earlier that day and he was the one who had taken her into his soft yet firm arms. She cried herself to sleep while burying her face in the old chozo’s chest. By the time she woke up again, they had taken her back to the planet that she would soon call home, Zebes.

    “What were you thinking, bringing the girl here?”

    Samus’ eyes flittered open at the sound of an unfamiliar voice shouting angrily in a language that she didn’t know. She found herself resting on a weathered old bench in an old, cavern-like room. Two chozo were arguing at the other end. The shorter one was Old Bird, the one he had met earlier, but she had never seen the taller of the two before.

    “Would you have preferred that we left her there to die?” Old Bird asked.

    “No, I didn’t mean it like that, but…”

    “But what, Grey Voice?” Old Bird snapped. “There was nothing else that we could do.”

    “But a human child will not be able to adapt to Zebes’ climate. The gravity here alone is over twice what she’d be used to, to say nothing of the low oxygen levels or the other extreme conditions. At best, she would have to be kept in just Brinstar and Crateria but even then it would be nearly impossible. We should contact the Federation, see if they can take her in.”

    Samus continued to lie there. She couldn’t seem to bring herself to move, so she just continued to listen to the bird people who were too caught up in their argument to notice that she was awake.

    “That will not be necessary.” Another of the birdlike aliens, even taller than the others, strolled into the room.

    “What are you doing here?” Grey Voice took a step back. Both he and Old Bird seemed startled by the newcomer’s sudden entrance.

    “I sent for him.” A small, floating metal ball with a camera sticking out of it came in behind the third Chozo.

    “Mother Brain?” Old Bird pointed at the ball. “What is the meaning of this?”

    “The child is a security risk that endangers the safety and success of Project Metroid,” a synthetic voice emitted from the orb but like the chozo, it was in that strange, alien language that Samus had yet to learn. “It should be disposed of at once.”

    Old Bird and Grey Voice were both taken aback by this.

    “How could you even suggest such a thing?” Old Bird asked.

    “We should send the child back to her kind,” Grey Voice insisted.

    “I am afraid that for once, I agree with the Thoha representatives,” the third chozo said coolly as he turned to the flying drone. “You are perhaps too hasty in your conclusions, Mother Brain. Even if the child were able to survive on this planet, I do not believe that it would present a risk to our plans. In fact, I see an opportunity.”

    “What are you scheming, Raven Beak?” Grey Voice narrowed his eyes.

    “Something that should appeal to us all.” He flicked out his hand and a hologram materialized in the air, displaying a complex helix design. “This was taken from the scans that Mother Brain took upon the child’s arrival. As I’m sure that you are aware, human DNA is much more malleable than our own, and the child is at a stage where it is still rapidly developing. If we act now, I believe that we may be able to modify its genetics by grafting our own onto it. My simulations predict that this will not only grant the child the physical durability required for life on this planet but also serve a role in Project Metroid. By using both Thoha and Mawkin DNA, the child may become an invaluable key to the success of our mission.”

    After a brief pause, the computer spoke up. “Raven Beak is correct. I have just run the calculations myself. There is a small margin for error but the probability is high that the procedure would work.”

    Old Bird and Grey Voice shared a glance, their centuries-long partnership allowing them to understand each other's opinions on the matter without a word.

    “Very well,” Grey Voice nodded. “I will provide my DNA for the procedure.”

    “Excellent.” Raven Beak dismissed the hologram. “And as the only Mawkin currently on planet, I will do the same. We shall prepare the procedure immediately.”

    “I have already given the order,” Mother Brain said. “Our scientists are readying the equipment now.”

    Raven Beak and Mother Brain left the room as quickly as they had entered. Once they were gone, Old Bird and Grey Voice looked at each other uneasily before turning to Samus. Finally realizing that the girl was awake, Old Bird rushed to her side and knelt down. Before he could say anything, however, the young girl passed out again. Zebes really was a hostile place for a human.

    * * *​

    Samus stepped out of the elevator and was immediately in awe of what she saw. Ferenia, it seemed, was an ancient Chozo temple. While Samus may have been human, it had been a long time since she’d truly felt as if she were one. The Chozo were her people and their culture was hers more than the Federation could ever be, yet she had rarely been able to experience much of it since leaving Zebes as a young woman. There were the ruins of Tallon IV and Elysia, which she had visited many times since finding them, but those had been rendered off-limits to her since she had been blacklisted by the Federation for her actions aboard the BSL station. She wasn’t going to waste this rare opportunity.

    “You go on without me,” Samus said as she gazed up at a statue depicting an armored Chozo wielding an ornate sword. “I’ll catch up.”

    “No, I’ll stick with you.” Bailey walked up to her.

    Progress was slow, as Samus took the time to scan and save recordings of nearly everything that they came across, documenting it all for later. With her history, there was a reasonable chance that the entire planet was going to be gone by the time they left, so she wanted to preserve as much as possible. Sadly, though, it only took a few rooms before they found themselves entering another E.M.M.I. Zone.

    “Well, that certainly didn’t take long,” Bailey said as they walked into it. “I’m already so tired of these things.”

    “I know but there isn’t much that we can do about it other than to just try and get this over with quickly.”

    The chamber that they entered was almost a dead end, save for a damaged section of floor that broke away into a drop-off leading to a lower chamber. Samus and Bailey made the fall, landing in another open chamber. What set this one apart from the last, however, was the far wall from the door leading to the next room. Samus’s attention was immediately drawn to the old fresco carved into it.

    The images seemed to depict some sort of conflict between the Chozo tribes. On one side, an armored Chozo resembling the one that had attacked her led an army of soldiers. On the other, Chozo in ornate blue robes resembling those of the ones she grew up around were shown falling from a great height. There was Chozodian text inscribed between the figures but it was written in a dialect that Samus didn’t recognize.

    “Well, that seems ominous,” Bailey said as she walked up beside Samus.

    “Indeed,” Samus replied, staring at the mysterious warrior as a sudden, intense surge of anger flashed through her. It was gone in an instant and Samus turned to see Bailey backed up against the wall, clearly in a panic. Before she could even question what had just happened, however, she was thrown back from the wall by a sudden blast of Wave Beam energy. She stood up again, readying her cannon as a purple E.M.M.I. smashed through the fresco, destroying it completely as it rushed towards her. Before she even had a chance to react, it had grabbed her by the torso and right arm.

    She struggled against its grip but the robot was too strong. Bailey managed to regain her senses and grabbed the E.M.M.I. from behind with a pair of large, black arms that she certainly hadn’t had a moment ago. While she managed to lift the robot up, it unfortunately wasn’t enough to get it to relinquish its grip. Just as the E.M.M.I. was about to release its probe spike, however, it inexplicably powered down and Samus dropped back to the floor.

    “Well, that was unexpected,” Bailey noted as she lifted the inactive E.M.M.I. above her head.

    “Yes, that w-”

    Samus immediately turned her attention, and her arm cannon, to the gate behind her as something walked through it. To her surprise, it was a Chozo. Alive, well and wearing an ornate golden mantle over a set of blue robes. The Chozo stood there in silence before bowing and Samus finally lowered her cannon. The unexpected visitor then made a beckoning motion as he turned and walked back out through the gate. Samus turned to Bailey.

    “I… guess you should follow him?” Bailey said, clearly unsure. “I’ll stay here and see if I can find a way to destroy this thing before it gets a chance to reactivate.”

    Samus nodded and gave a thumbs-down before rushing after the mysterious Chozo. This could have been a trap but she was willing to take that risk. She found him waiting for her in front of a large holographic terminal in a room just down the hall from where they had been.

    “I am Henki Maradis, a scientist of the Thoha hasana,” the Chozo, Quite Robe, finally introduced himself in Chozodian, a language that Samus had become as fluent in as Galactic Basic. “The Chozo who attacked you is called Ashkar Behek, the leader of the Mawkin hasana.”

    Samus nodded to show that she understood. The Thoha were the tribe that had raised her, scientists and scholars. Old Bird and Grey Voice, her surrogate fathers, were both members of that tribe and she considered herself one as well because of that connection. Considering that her Chozo DNA had been provided by Grey Voice, a fact she hadn’t learned until after she had left them, her membership may be seen as more than just honorary. And while she had not been told much about the other tribes, she had heard reference to the Mawkin as warriors who held close to the old ways, from before the Enlightenment. Supposedly they were meant as soldiers, as a precaution in case the galaxy was ever swept up into a second Great War. But from the way that the elders described them, it sounded like they were little more than violent thugs, no better than the space pirates. Finding out that her attacker, Raven Beak, was one of them did not come as much of a surprise.

    “After the Metroids of Ili Agar Nalima began to run rampant, we reached out to the Mawkin to contain them. We wished to eradicate the Metroids as they had grown more dangerous than ever before and we believed that the task of eradicating the Eris was complete. However, we had not realized just how far into madness Ashkar Behek and his followers had fallen. From the beginning, his plans for the Metroids never stopped at the Eris. He had used us, manipulated us, to create an army at his command and he was not going to let us take them away from him. He planned to take the Metroids back to Ili Tarin Nalima to use as a bioweapon, to control the galaxy. To accomplish this, he needed the Thoha, as we possess the ability to control the Metroids. For that purpose, I alone was spared.”

    Quite Robe cast his gaze aside, a pained look in his golden eyes that Samus knew all too well.

    “You’re saying that he slaughtered our hasana?” Samus couldn’t help but clench her fists at the thought.

    He nodded in confirmation as he turned around. “Ashkar Behek and the Mawkin hasana took me back here to their homeworld, Ili Tarin Nalima, in order to continue their preparations for gathering Metroids. However, they ran into unforeseen difficulties and were forced to put their plan on hold. One of the soldiers who returned from Ili Agar Nalima was actually an Eris in disguise. Ili Tarin Nalima descended into chaos. All of their soldiers on the planet’s surface were infected by the Eris. Yet somehow, Ashkar Behek narrowly managed to contain them while the survivors remained aboard his ship, the Itorash. He then turned his thoughts to resuming his plan but the Metroids on Ili Agar Nalima had already been eradicated by your hand. With the Metroids extinct, I believed that Ashkar Behek’s plans would have lain in ruin. Yes, lain in ruin… if not for you.”

    Quiet Robe turned back to Samus. “The emmai are being used by Ashkar Behek. Tamas Arlan, listen well. He has commanded them to extract the Metroid dim from within your body.”

    That explained a lot. She had assumed that the E.M.M.I. had only been after her because she was a wanted criminal by the Galactic Federation but if they were being controlled by Raven Beak to collect her Metroid DNA, then that would better explain their behavior. More importantly, she now knew who Raven Beak was and why she was going to kill him.

    “Kinu ulu turuta. Ana maril sanul. Aimar hem gal om,” Samus told him, ‘Do not worry. I will end this. Once and for all.’

    Quiet Robe nodded in satisfaction at that, a smile forming on his soft beak as she turned to the interface beside him.

    “You must proceed through the marine research facility, Burenia,” he told her as he slid his taloned finger along the controls. “I have unlocked the gate. I am counting on you, Tamas.”

    He nodded to her and she returned the gesture, glad to have another ally on her side. Especially another chozo, who she had thought to be extinct. But the moment was immediately interrupted by the sound of blaster fire and Quiet Robe fell to the ground with a shocked expression as the life quickly drained from his eyes. A robotic chozo soldier stood behind where he had just been, smoke rising from its cannon.

    “Ulu!” Samus screamed, ‘No!”

    The battle erupted at once, Samus firing at the hulking mass of metal as it tried to close in the distance to swing at her with the energy blade set into its left arm. She jumped out of the way and shot it in the back with a Super Missile. The robot turned around just in time to take an Ice Spreader blast to the face, completely freezing it before she unleashed a steady stream of her Flamethrower until the mechanical assassin was nothing more than a smoking pile of slag.

    The door opened and Samus turned, ready to keep fighting. But it was just Bailey, who quickly held her arms up to show that she meant no harm. It took a few deep breaths for Samus to calm down but she lowered her cannon.

    “What happened?” Bailey asked, taking in the scene before her.

    Samus sat down on the steps leading up to the console that Quiet Robe had used, placing her left hand against the visor of her helmet. She was tempted to take off her armor for a moment but couldn’t risk it in case of another ambush. Bailey took a seat beside her as Samus reluctantly filled her in on what had just happened.

    “That’s… a lot,” Bailey finally said after hearing the whole story. “I guess now we’ve got even more reason to take down this Raven Beak guy.”

    “Yes, we do.” Samus looked down at Quite Robe’s rapidly cooling body, a sense of hatred towards the Mawkin’s leader filling her. “Yes, I do.”

    Samus stood up again and Bailey followed suit. There was no point in just standing around when there was work to be done.

    “By the way, I managed to take out the E.M.M.I.” Bailey said as they made their way to the door leading further into the temple.

    “You did?” Samus turned to her copy, genuinely surprised. “How?”

    “Brute force.” Bailey shrugged. “I managed to rip the armor off its face and then tear the optical sensor out. It took a lot of strength, though, and there’s no way that I’d be able to do that with one that’s still active.”

    “At least now we don’t have to worry about that one,” Samus said as she reached the door. “But for now we need to find our way to Burenia.”

    “Yeah.” Bailey nodded, then paused. “But you know, if you still want to check out the rest of the temple, we should do that first. We… you might not get another chance.”

    Samus stared at her for a moment, then glanced back to where they had left Quiet Robe’s body before looking around at the rest of the temple around them.

    “Yes, I think I’d like that.”

    * * *​

    Sitting aboard his command chair in the Itorash, Raven Beak continued to monitor the video feed. The armored fingers of his left hand drummed absently along the armrest as he pondered. Quiet Robe’s death had not been part of the plan but his Thoha pet had forced his hand. That particular combat drone had been programmed to prevent Quiet Robe from leaking too much information to the Last Metroid and it fulfilled its objective perfectly before its destruction. He could not say the same for the ones he had sent to put down the megasaur, however, and the beast was now making its home in the Ghavoran jungle. That was unexpected but acceptable. Perhaps when it crossed the Last Metroid’s path again, it would not be so ‘generous’ as before.

    What was not acceptable, however, was the Variable. They had more than enough proof now that their scans were not wrong before. The thing was an X Parasite. Yet its behavior was completely antithetical to its species' known behavior patterns and priorities, and, even more concerning, it was somehow working alongside the Last Metroid instead of simply being devoured by it. They needed more information. Thankfully, he now had a way to retrieve that information.

    “Stone Wing, Falling Spear.”

    “Yes, my leader,” Stone Wing replied as the two armored warriors knelt beside him. “What is your command?”

    “The Last Metroid and the Variable were able to defeat E.M.M.I.-06WB without destroying its Central Unit. The two of you are to return to the surface and extract all of the Central Unit’s files. Make haste and do not get caught.”

    “Yes, my leader!” Falling Spear soluted as he stood up, before turning to leave. Stone Wing did the same.

    Raven Beak sat in silence as his soldiers marched to the space elevator which would bring them down to the planet’s surface. Sending any of his surviving forces planetside was always a risk but it was one that he had to take. It was too delicate of a mission to leave in the talons of mere combat robots.

    “Hadar sen olmen,” he muttered to himself as he continued to watch the video feeds, repeating the phrase that had once been his tribe’s guiding principle: ‘Power is everything.”

    * * *​

    Exploring the rest of the temple was naturally a somber experience after what had happened. Samus continued to record and document as much as she could but her heart wasn’t in it at the moment. Part of her just wanted to move on but she knew that she would regret it if she didn’t try to preserve as much information about this rare find as she could.

    As they made their way into a side tower, however, Bailey began to grow agitated. Her movements were growing erratic and her hand seemed to twitch. It even seemed like the color of her armor was subtly shifting and growing darker.

    “What’s wrong?” Samus asked, concerned and wary.

    “N-nothing,” Bailey tried to dismiss the question. “It’s just… I sense a strong lifeform nearby. Be on guard.”

    Samus distinctly heard her companion mutter something about an ‘apex’ but didn’t have time to question it before a loud rumble shook the tower. With her X-ray Visor, Samus spotted a large, insectoid alien ramming the outer wall nearby, flanked by smaller members of its kind. As the creature continued to assault the tower, the stonework began to crack and crumble around them.

    “Run!” Samus yelled as she practically jumped down a set of stairs.

    “R-right!” Bailey hesitated but followed.

    They ended up quickly running into a dead end, however. The path they had been on led into a large, open chamber with a display of five large statues of armored Chozo soldiers. It would have been fascinating under calmer circumstances but as things stood, not only were they under attack but this room itself had apparently been turned into the alien bug’s nest. Pulsating egg clusters and shed carapaces lined the walls and floor, creating an unsettling atmosphere.

    More importantly than that, however, were the large open windows that lined the far wall, through which the alien bugs flew in to confront them. The scan visor identified these creatures as quetzoa, with the larger one naturally being their queen. Now that Samus could get a better look at them, she could see that they were green and yellow, beetle-like bugs that could fly with two pairs of wings kept behind them while a third set of armored wings were held overhead as some sort of natural shield.

    “Looks like we’re fighting our way out of this one,” Samus said, expecting Bailey to make a quip about how they always ended up fighting their way out. Instead, the SA-X remained silent, her arms trembling. “Hey, are you sure that you’re okay?”

    “N-never better,” Bailey replied shakily.

    Samus opened her mouth to say something else but two of the quetzoa’s charged. Samus dove out of the way of the one that targeted her while Bailey simply smacked hers with her arm cannon, sending it off course. The two then fired their Plasma Beams at their respective bugs, melting them from the inside. The Queen Quetzoa roared, and four more of the comparatively smaller beetles flew in, ready to fight. Samus and Bailey continued to make short work of them until eventually, the queen itself decided to enter the battle while Samus was distracted. It tackled her from behind and picked her up with its forelegs, tossing her out the window before she had a chance to break free of its grip. She would have simply Space Jumped back in but was immediately attacked by a swarm of more quetzoas.

    As she tumbled through the air, she continued firing blast after blast, missing plenty of shots but also quickly thinning the swarm. She found herself overwhelmed, though, as the bugs continued to ram into her, using their armored wings as a battering ram. Eventually, she had to change tactics by activating her Screw Attack. Weaponizing her own kinetic energy, she emitted a potent charge as she somersaulted further down, which utterly annihilated any of the quetzoas foolish enough to continue trying to tackle her. The survivors quickly realized how foolish of an idea it was to try and make physical contact with Samus in her current state and backed off. That didn’t save them, however, as she pulled out of the attack and began firing at them again.

    By the time Samus reached the ground, she’d exterminated the entire swarm. She’d taken quite the beating along the way but it wasn’t anything that her suit wouldn’t be able to repair. She was about to make her way back up, when she spotted a chozo statue sitting on a small altar nearby, a glowing item sphere clutched in its hands.

    She walked up to the statue and fired at the sphere once with her cannon, destroying the outer casing to reveal the upgrade held within, before touching it with her hand. In a pulse of light, the upgrade was absorbed into her suit and a message popped up on her visor.

    ‘Missile Upgrade Acquired: Storm Missile. Lock on up to five targets and launch a barrage of standard missiles at each.’

    That would be handy. Essentially a more powerful form of her Seeker Missiles. She was looking forward to trying this out on the remaining quetzoas and their queen once she got back to Bailey.

    She didn’t get that chance, however. As she jumped back into the room she had been thrown out of, Bailey was sitting alone in front of the central statue. Splattered bug guts and fragments of exoskeleton were everywhere but there was no trace of the Queen Quetzoa. It must have been vaporized in the battle, which wasn’t all that surprising. What was surprising, however, was the way that Bailey was curled up and seemed to be rocking back and forth. She was muttering something that Samus couldn’t make out from that distance, so she tried to sneak up behind the X.

    “I’m fine!” Bailey suddenly jolted up to her feet as Samus approached, turning to face her. “I’m fine!”

    “You don’t look fine,” Samus replied skeptically. “What’s going on?”

    “Nothing!” Bailey insisted. “Let’s just get going already. I don’t feel like standing around here all day.”

    Bailey marched back out the door as Samus kept a wary eye on her. Samus noted that Bailey’s armor had changed. It was no longer an exact replica of what her Varia Suit used to look like. The metallic sheen had dulled and the colors were slightly off, plus the armored sections and plates had become rougher and more jagged. Her mind flashed back to the SA-X she had fought just before the destruction of the BSL research station, which had mutated into a horrific monstrosity of Hornoad and Power Suit, with gnarled, tumorous flesh and miscellaneous body parts growing out, seemingly at random. A wall of bulbous eyes above what could generously be called a face, a dozen arm cannons sprouting out of its arm, toes made up of smaller feet and a fractured second head growing out of its shoulder. She couldn’t help but think that the thing calling itself Bailey was now undergoing a similar transformation, on a much slower scale.

    She had honestly believed the SA-X when it had told her of its desire for change. But now, Samus prepared herself for battle. She was going to have to put ‘Bailey’ down before it could cause too much trouble. The fate of the galaxy could potentially be at stake.

    Of course, Samus remained completely unaware of how much Bailey was specifically trying to fight against that exact scenario.

    “Can’t lose control,” Bailey muttered to herself as she made her way back up the tower. “Must remain self. Can’t lose control.”
    Henki Maradis: Quite Robe

    Hasana: Tribe

    Ashkar Behek: Raven Beak

    Ili Agar Nalima: Planet SR388

    Metroid: Ultimate Warrior

    Eris: X Parasite

    Ili Tarin Nalima: Planet ZDR

    Emmai: E.M.M.I.

    Tamas Arlan: Samus Aran

    Dim: DNA

    Kinu ulu turuta: Do not worry

    Ana maril sanul: I will end this

    Aimar hem gal om: Once and for all

    Ulu: No

    Hadar sen olmen: Power is everything

    I found a guide on the Chozo language on Metroid Wiki while writing this chapter and decided to throw some in here for flavor while writing Samus’ conversation with Quiet Robe. Hopefully, what they were saying should have been clear from context but just in case, I put the translations up above so that you don’t have to look it up yourself. In case you’re wondering, the conversation in the opening flashback is also being said in Chozo, so Samus couldn’t understand it at the time, but I didn’t write it out that way for a couple of reasons. One: I figured that I’d probably mess up a lot if I tried to write full sentences in the language. Two, we don’t know all of the words that would have been necessary for the dialogue and I didn’t want to make any up. If you want, you can read that scene as Bailey accessing Samus’ memory through her total recall, being able to perfectly remember what the Chozo said and translate it herself.

    Other than that, I don’t think that I have much more to say about this chapter. It was definitely a big one, with a lot of internal reveals and set-up for what happens later. I’m curious to hear how you all think this is going to go.
     
  5. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

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    Content Warning: This chapter contains suicidal themes.
    Kraid trudged through the underground jungle of Ghavoran. He could hear the sounds of rushing water up ahead and was slowly making his way toward what must have been a river. His presence was clearly startling the local fauna but most of the animals either adapted to his presence or ran off, so it didn’t seem that he was going to have to worry about getting into another fight anytime soon. He was thankful for that as he wasn’t sure that he had another fight left in him at this point.

    After what felt like an agonizingly long time, Kraid squeezed his way under the branches of a large tree and the river finally came into view. Without hesitating, Kraid rushed the rest of the way and walked into the water. It was only deep enough to come up to his waist when he sat down but that was more than he could have hoped for. He let out a relaxed sigh as he let the cool, but not cold, flowing water ease his burns and took a drink to rehydrate himself. He could feel the parasites in his stomach struggle and squirm as the water flowed into his navels but their movements soon stopped. With luck, they had drowned and would be washed out before long.

    He was beginning to feel better already. Now, if he could just find enough meat to fill his belly before he starved. Unfortunately, most of the local wildlife seemed too small for him to be able to fill up on. However, as he considered it, a pack of large, insectoid creatures approached the river from the opposite bank. Most of them were pink, fleshy beetle-like creatures with four pale blue eyes, a small set of horns and large, likely very strong hind legs, though the one that Kraid took to be the pack leader had rocky plating covering most of its body. These creatures were called muzbies, though Kraid didn’t know that at the time. What he did know, though, was that they would make a perfect meal.

    Kraid fired one of his organic, missile-like projectiles from his upper navel, which skewered a muzby and pinned it to a tree. The others panicked, most of them fleeing while the largest, armored one turned its back to Kraid and started rearing its hind legs threateningly. Kraid responded by approaching it and picking the alien bug up. It lashed out, kicking him in the sensitive stomach but he held on as tightly as he could as he thrust his soon-to-be meal under the water’s surface. It lashed out even harder as he tried to drown it, eventually knocking itself out of his grasp. But it simply sunk in the water thanks to its heavy bulk and wasn’t able to pull itself to the surface in time. Its movements grew sluggish before finally stopping altogether. Kraid fished the dead creature out of the river and began to crack open its carapace so that he could eat the fleshy bits. He basically had to force the food down his swollen gullet but he did the best he could before setting his sights on the first one he had killed.

    Once he’d eaten, Kraid returned to the water and continued to soak. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do next but for the time being he was just going to rest. With luck, he’d cross paths with the Hunter again soon and she would continue to help him get off of this forsaken planet. It occurred to him that this was the first time that he’d ever wanted to see the Hunter. It was a funny thought.

    * * *​

    After a quick trip back through Dairon and yet another shuttle ride, Samus and Bailey finally made their way to Burenia. This area proved to be a large and spacious underwater laboratory, as befitting a marine research facility. Thanks to the map data that had been downloaded into Samus’ suit while Quiet Robe had opened the gate for them, they even knew exactly where they were going for once, without having to find their way through trial and error. It seemed like things might be going their way for once. But of course, that was never a good sign.

    “There’s something… big, waiting for us up above.” Bailey looked up at the ceiling, her hand twitching. “And I mean really big.”

    “Then I guess we’ll just have to be ready for it.” Samus marched forward, heading towards the gate, but stopped as she felt Bailey’s hand tap her shoulderplate. “What?”

    “What what?” Bailey asked, looking over from where she was still standing.

    “Didn’t you just…” Samus paused. “Wait, you’re too far away to have-”

    Something brushed up against her leg and Samus looked down just in time to see a fleshy pink and purple tentacle wrap around her ankle. Before she had time to react, it tightened its grip and pulled her down into a flooded corridor nearby. She started firing at it, the energy of her various beams unaffected by the water, and she even gave the tentacle a few good whacks but by the time it finally released its grip on her, she had already been pulled outside of the facility entirely and was now being carried off by an ocean current. Thinking fast, Samus launched her Grapple Beam at a hatch as she went by, tethering herself down before she could get carried too far away. With the aid of the underwater thruster of the Luminoth Gravity Boost she had back on Aether, she was able to pull herself over to the hatch, which was simple enough to open so that she could reenter Burenia. Now all she needed to do was figure out where she was and how to get back to where she wanted to be.

    * * *​

    Bailey stared blankly at where Samus had just been standing. She wasn’t sure if she should go after her or wait for Samus to come back. The latter seemed like a safer bet but there was no telling what could have happened to Samus after getting pulled away by that tentacle that Bailey was pretty sure was part of the creature she was sensing above.

    Consume Apex

    Now that was the one thing that she knew for certain was a bad idea. She’d already lost control yet again and consumed the quetzoa queen, or Escue as it was also known, after Samus had been thrown out of that tower. It may have been easier for her to pull back that time mentally, but she was beginning to lose her physical form and could tell that Samus was getting suspicious because of it. Her armor was growing to resemble the exoskeletons of her recent gene hosts and even her pigmentations were starting to shift. If she consumed again so soon, there was no telling what would happen to her.

    Consume, become Apex

    But the thing was so big and tantalizingly strong. Surely, she could afford just one more-

    No, do not consume

    She was already so tired of having this argument with herself. And even more tired of losing it.

    Consume

    No! What would gene host Samus Aran do?

    Kill Apex

    Well, that was slightly better, she supposed. If she could just manage to keep a hold of herself then she could slip up there and kill the Apex before it could cause any more problems. All she had to do was not lose control. Simple.

    * * *​

    Samus jumped out of a flooded tunnel, a school of carnivorous, fishlike aliens hot on her heels. Sure, she could kill them all in seconds but she was also trying not to kill anything that she didn't have to. There was a doorway in front of her and, according to her map, the room on the other side would take her up to the next floor. So, she shot it open and walked in.

    She was almost immediately greeted by a Chozo statue embedded with electric blue lights in strange geometric patterns along its surface, a small metal cube with similar white lights floating above its outstretched hand. She held her own hand out to the cube, which was absorbed into her suit like any other power-up.

    ‘Aeion Ability Acquired: Flash Shift. Consumed Aeion to perform an instantaneous short-range dash, on the ground or in the air. Can be used up to three times in succession.’

    That… was certainly a new one. Giving it a try, Samus suddenly found herself at the other end of the small room almost as soon as she thought about heading in that direction. The effects were nauseating that first try but something that she could get used to and the utility was invaluable. Even her Speed Booster didn’t let her move that quickly and it needed time to build up. With this, she could dodge out of the way of enemy attacks or close in on an opponent in less than a matter of seconds. The only drawback, of course, was the energy cost.

    Aeion. Samus didn’t know much about the strange energy other than that it was only known to naturally occur on the planet SR388, home planet of the X and, subsequently, the Metroids. It seemed almost like some sort of ‘soul energy’ all natural or artificial lifeforms from the planet generated it. Samus’ mission to exterminate the Metroid species had led to her discovering several abilities that used Aeion as a power source for various effects from charging her armor with electricity to outright slowing the flow of time in a concentrated area around her. She had needed to gather the energy externally, however, and with the planet’s destruction, she had assumed that she’d never see or hear of it again. But this was now the second new Aeion ability she’d gained on this mission after the Phantom Cloak Bailey had lent her and, more importantly, her Metroid DNA meant that she now produced it herself naturally. Unfortunately, it took a while to build up enough to use any of these abilities again after each use. Still, this was quite the boon, even more so if she could condition herself to produce Aeion faster.

    With a new tool under her belt, Samus went back to ascending the underwater laboratory. There was no telling what Bailey could be up to on her own and Samus’ trust in her doppelganger was dwindling with each passing minute.

    * * *​

    Perhaps fighting the Drogyga was not going to be as simple as Bailey thought. The massive cephalopod had managed to get itself stuck in one of the uppermost rooms of the marine lab, having grown too big to move its main body out of the proportionally small room. That didn't seem to be much of a hindrance to it, however, as its numerous tentacles formed a network that allowed it to pull prey or anything else that it wanted straight to its flower-like mouth.

    Or to stop unwanted visitors from reaching it. Bailey was still trying to reach the inner chamber so that she could fight Drogyga directly. The only reason that she even knew what it looked like was thanks to her replica of gene host Samus’ X-ray Visor.

    “Move, slag it!” Bailey grunted as she pulled a purple tentacle out of her way. She’d had to shift her arm cannon into a second hand, again, with both of her arms swelled up in an imitation of gene host Corpius. She'd also sprouted a couple extra, smaller pairs of arms from her sides to help. Using all of her strength, Bailey finally managed to rip the tentacle off in a spray of blood. Drogyga roared and retracted the bloody stump, opening up the way for Bailey to climb down into the water filtration system's central room, where the alien was waiting for her.

    Drogyga roared again as she sank to the floor, briefly exposing the sensory organ within its mouth that it used to detect vibrations in the water. She immediately pegged that as its weak point and mentally calculated how to get it to open its mouth. The scar visor indicated that its biology seemed to border between cephalopod and Droseraceae, not quite animal or plant. Regardless, it was dependent on water and conveniently trapped in a room designed to be drained at a moment’s notice.

    That gave her the advantage.

    Bailey let out a roar that didn’t quite sound like anything that any of her gene hosts would have been able to make on their own, then swam up to a large red button in one of the upper corners of the room. When she pressed it, the water level quickly subsided but not all of the way. She then flew, literally thanks to the two pairs of wings that sprouted from her back, to the other end of the room and pressed another button. This one drained the room entirely.

    Now cut off from the water it required to function, Drogyga’s flower-like head collapsed onto the floor exposing the sensitive organ within. Bailey dropped down and charged, hacking and slashing away with her claws, tearing up the vulnerable flesh. Heavily blooded, the creature let out a scream and swatted Bailey across the room with one of its tentacles. She slammed hard against the wall with enough force to break an ordinary human’s back. But Bailey was neither ordinary nor human. The room began to fill with water again as Bailey dropped to the floor and picked herself up onto all fours.

    “Is that all you’ve got?” she yelled, her growing bloodlust drowning out all other thoughts apart from the battle before her. “Bring it!”

    As the water level reached the ceiling, Drogyga rose back to its original position, gathering more tentacles to itself to fight off its attacker. Meanwhile, Bailey began to let off a dark purple aura as her replicated Power Suit’s Gravity Feature activated. The water pressure was functionally negated so that she could move around as if she were still in a 1G environment.

    One of Drogyga’s tentacles lashed out and Bailey countered by swatting it away with gene host Corpius’ thick stinger tail. Another tentacle and Bailey effortlessly jumped out of the way with gene host Hornoad’s powerful legs, flipping midair to bounce off the ceiling and slam into her prey. The force of impact split Drogyga’s petals apart enough that she could reach into them and force its ‘mouth’ open. It tried grabbing her, but she used gene host Escue’s shield-wings sprouting from her shoulders to prevent the tentacle from constricting too tightly as she grabbed the bloody sensory organ and dug her claws into it. If the plant-mollusk tried pulling her away then it would only end up hurting itself. With its senses scrambled thanks to the damage, however, it wasn’t able to realize that and tried yanking Bailey away anyway.

    The organ’s stem tore with a sickening squelch as it was ripped apart from the rest of the body. Drogyga let out a pained roar of agony as it gradually bled out from the wound. It was already dead even if it would take a while to fully die.

    Bailey stood there with the organ clenched tightly in her claws, still in a frenzy.

    Consume

    Bailey’s face split open into a vertical mouth lined with rows of razor-sharp teeth and she devoured the mass of pink flesh in her hands in a single bite before turning to the dying corpse in front of her.

    Consume

    Her body melted away back to her blue Core and she oozed into Drogyga through the bloody stump she had made, dominating its genetic structure and adding its biological distinctiveness to her own growing catalog of Apex beings. Settling into her new form, Bailey’s mind finally cleared of her battle-induced delirium and it slowly dawned on her what she had just done.

    “Not again,” Bailey muttered despondently after sprouting a copy of gene host Samus Aran’s face from where Drogyga’s sensory organ had been. Without realizing it, she started to cry. “Why? Why do I keep doing this? I just want to be me!”

    Then her eyes widened. Gene host Samus was approached, fast. Too fast. Bailey folded her excess flesh into herself and quickly tried to regain her humanoid form. No time to bother with the suit.

    * * *​

    Samus slid down a section of broken floor and dropped into the room below, the central chamber of the facility’s water filtration system, if she wasn’t mistaken. She was expecting a fight, whether with whatever creature had attacked her earlier, or the SA-X, she wasn’t sure. What she wasn’t expecting, was to find a little girl, no more than three, curled up in the fetal position in the corner, crying loudly and messily despite being underwater.

    Even without scanning the ‘girl’, Samus knew it was Bailey. The distinctive green hair and the fact that the girl’s face was clearly Samus’ from when she was that age gave it away. She was wearing a miniaturized version of the pink and purple zero suit she had worn the previous times that Samus had seen her outside her Power Suit, though everything past her elbows and knees had turned black instead.

    Her maternal side wanted to reach out and hug the crying girl, to tell her that everything was going to be alright. Her warrior side told her that the SA-X was a threat unlike anything the galaxy had ever faced and that she should shoot it before it could make a move against her. She compromised, activating the two mechanisms positioned on either side of the room that her Scan Visor told her would drain the water, then crouching to one knee while keeping her arm cannon at the ready.

    “What’s wrong?” Samus asked once the water was clear.

    Bailey rocked back and forth, continuing to blubber loudly as tears ran down her cheeks. Samus wondered if that was what she had looked like after she lost her home and family.

    “I-I-I-I l-lost c-con- I lost contr- control again,” Bailey croaked, almost literally. “I-I- *hic* I don’t- I don’t-”

    Bailey lost coherence again after that, so Samus held her hand out and tried to speak as softly as she could.

    “It’s alright. Take deep breaths.”

    “I-I don’t buh-breathe,” Bailey replied weekly, though the fact that she was hyperventilating said otherwise.

    “Just try. Here, follow my lead.”

    Samus made a show of inhaling, turning it into a full-body motion for the sake of demonstration. She held it in for a few seconds, then exhaled with the same exaggerated motion. Then she did it again, this time with Bailey mimicking her. After repeating those motions for another minute, Bailey finally calmed down enough to start talking.

    “T-thanks.” Bailey slowly stood, rapidly aging into Samus’ teenage years. “I needed that.”

    “What happened?” Samus asked again.

    “I… lost control,” Bailey repeated. “I know I gave a whole speech about how I was changed, working towards becoming a new type of X and all that but I can’t. No matter how much I try to be different, to be better, the old X always wins. I can’t fight it no matter how much I try, and, and, and-”

    She started crying again, this time falling into Samus’ chest. Samus wrapped her arm around Bailey, pulling her into a comforting embrace. It was clear now that Bailey wasn’t a threat for the moment, so she allowed her maternal instincts to guide her actions. Thought she did make sure to leave her suit on, just in case.

    “I can’t imagine what you’re going through,” Samus said.

    “No, you can’t,” Bailey agreed sadly as she pulled away. “Because you’re not an abomination like I am.”

    Bailey’s right arm morphed into a cannon, which she pointed to her head as it charged. Samus reflexively tackled her to the ground, pinning her arms down.

    “Just let me do it!” Bailey wailed, struggling against Samus' grip, though thankfully not putting any real effort into it. “Or finish me yourself, I don’t care! I just can’t do this anymore. There’s no telling what I’ll do next. I could go after you or someone else. I’m too dangerous to let live.”

    “If you had told me that before, I would have done it,” Samus admitted. “But I don’t believe it anymore.”

    “Why not?” Bailey argued. “I haven’t given you any real reason to trust me. You know better than to take a monster like me at my word and I know your doubts about me have only grown the longer we’ve been together. Just kill me already!”

    “The fact that you’re asking me to do that is all the proof that I need!” Samus shot her down. Figuratively, of course. “If you were as bad as you seem to think you are, then we wouldn’t be doing this right now.”

    “That’s not true!” A pair of tentacles shot out of Bailey’s torso, wrapping around Samus and holding her suspended in the air. “I might have moments of clarity but the moment that I’m confronted by another strong lifeform, I’m just going to snap! Again! It’s already happened at least four times since I got here and it's just going to keep happening! Every! Single! Time!”

    “Get a hold of yourself!” Samus snapped as she started firing at the tentacles to get Bailey to release her grip. It worked and Samus rolled to the side as she fell back to the ground, prepared for this to escalate into a full-fledged fight.

    “I can’t!” Bailey backflipped onto her feet and materialized a version of the Power Suit that had grown even more detached from its original design than before. It was now even more jagged and spiky than before, the red of her helmet and torso having turned black while the orange and yellow panels had turned teal and red. Both of her arms now had black versions of Samus’ arm cannon and out of her back, a long, scorpion-like tail grew out and arced overhead. “That’s the problem!”

    That was when the fight broke out in earnest. Bailey began firing with a barrage of Dark and Light Beams, but in an instant, Samus was behind her opponent. Bailey reacted quickly, lashing out with her stinger, which Samus batted aside with her arm cannon while charging up her Ice Spreader. Bailey whipped around just in time to take an explosion of coolant to the face that completely froze her solid. Samus backed away as the ice chipped and cracked, making it to the other end of the room by the time Bailey broke free. Samus then fired a Super Missile which Bailey struck with her tail so that it detonated prematurely and she avoided taking the blast head-on. Both of her arm cannons changed configuration to the Annihilator Beam and charged up a blast. Fearing what was about to happen, Samus started firing rapidly at Bailey. She merely shrugged off the damage and fired a double Sonic Boom.

    Already one of the strongest weapons in Samus’ inventory, a single blast of the Sonic Boom was enough to distort the very fabric of the spacetime continuum itself. While Samus managed to avoid the attack with the aid of her new Flash Shift, two of them at once proved too much for Burenia itself to handle and the entire water filtration system shattered like someone had thrown a hammer at a mirror. Water came flooding in from the surrounding ocean and the sudden current proved to be too much for either Samus or Bailey to resist. Both were dragged away by the sudden influx of water.

    * * *​

    Kraid leaned back against the muddy edge of the river. He’d managed to find an even deeper point and was now soaking up to his shoulders. It was calm, peaceful despite the sounds of the lively jungle around him and he found himself ready to take a nap. No sooner than he’d finally allowed himself to close his three eyes, though, a violent surge rippled from a nearby underwater geyser, one of many that seemed to feed this body of water, and something shot out of it like a cannon. Whatever it was arced through the air in a blur of purple and white before crashing into a fungus-covered tree. As Kraid focused his gaze, he finally realized that it was the Hunter.

    Then a second Hunter was also launched out of the geyser, this one black and green with a spiky tail sticking out from its back. The first Hunter, which Kraid took to be the real one, shook her head and slowly rose to her feet while the other one was skewered by a sharp rock. That barely seemed to phase it, though, and the second Hunter simply got up and looked around before training its gaze on Kraid. Its head opened up into a multifaceted mouth with a long, wriggling tongue sticking out.

    “Apex,” it hissed. “Consume!”

    “No!” The true Hunter, Samus Aran, was suddenly in front of Kraid in a flash of blue. “Bailey, stop!”

    “Consume!” was the creature’s reply before it lunged forward like a wildcat.

    Samus fired an icy blast at the bizarre alien, knocking it out of the air. The alien managed to land on its feet, though and began firing blasts of fire and purple electricity from the two cannons on its arms.

    “Run!” Samus yelled at Kraid as she shot the blasts out of the air with her own. “I don’t know how long I can hold her off!”

    Not needing to be told twice, Kraid turned and rushed as fast as he could in his weakened state. Even in top health, he was rather slow due to his immense size, but he made up for that with a long stride. Soon, he was charging through the jungle like his life depended on it, which it likely did.

    * * *​

    Things were escalating far too quickly for Samus’ taste. It seemed like the moment that Bailey had noticed Kraid Junior, all of the restraint that she’d been showing in their earlier fight had evaporated. This must have been what she had been talking about before about losing control. Before her eyes, Samus saw Bailey nearly double her own body mass as her upper torso swelled up and two extra pairs of clawed arms grew out from her sides. At this point, she hardly looked anything like her normal appearance. Whatever simulated humanity she had left was simply gone, replaced with pure instinct and a drive to consume. Samus was starting to lose hope that she’d be able to get Bailey under control. Perhaps this would have to end with Samus putting her down after all.

    Bailey roared and pounced, trying to give chase after Junior. Samus shot her down with a Plasma Beam. The SA-X tumbled into the muddy soil but rolled onto her feet, which she now had six of, and turned her focus on Samus.

    “I know you’re in there!” Samus cried desperately.

    Bailey just hissed and fired at her from the mass of arm cannons that her right arm was now comprised of. Her form seemed to be growing more unstable and chaotic by the minute.

    The conglomerate of various beam types struck where Samus had just been in a massive explosion of turbulent energies but she was already gone by the time it hit. She started jumping up from tree to tree and Bailey pursued by climbing up the largest tree like some sort of monstrous caterpillar.

    Bailey, or at least what was left of her, continued to fire randomly in Samus’ direction while she ascended higher and higher. It was clear to her by this point that any sort of direct confrontation between them was going to end badly for her so she decided that her best bet was to lure Bailey away from any other life forms in the hope that it would help calm her down. This jungle might have been teeming with life but if she could just get high enough, she could lure Bailey through one of those chasms in the cavern ceiling and onto the lifeless surface.

    It was a challenge but eventually Samus managed to Space Jump her way up there and Bailey managed to follow her. Soon it was just the two of them. One woman and one giant mass of miscellaneous body parts that shouldn’t have fit together the way that she did.

    “Samus, report!” ADAM’s voice sounded in her ear. It seemed that comms were working now that she was above ground. “What’s happening?”

    “Long story, where should I start?” Samus quipped, mostly just to try and stay focused. “Let’s just say that I made a friend and things went poorly after that. Can I get an assist?”

    “I would if you’d ever bothered to have Deisel install an autopilot in me,” ADAM replied dryly.

    “Guess I’ll do that as soon as we get home.” Samus jumped out of the way as a thing that she wasn’t sure if she could call an arm smashed down where she had just been. As she considered her options, a thought occurred to her. “Hey, can you hack into Bailey’s ship and switch its commands to my frequency?”

    “Done.”

    Samus turned on her Command Visor and set Bailey as a target. A moment later, the white gunship flew by and started pelting her with missiles. The barrage didn’t last long due to its limited compliment but it was enough to do some serious damage. Bailey started to shrink down again as she could no longer spare the energy to maintain her form. Not willing to let up, Samus switched back to the Combat Visor and set as many target locks as she could before firing off her Storm Missiles. Explosions of fiery death rained down upon her, with Samus eventually draining her entire missile reserve.

    Bailey, now in an almost recognizable form, stumbled forward, arm cannon drawn. Then she collapsed and her physical form gave out completely. Samus watched the mass of blue-ish goo hover limply in the air.

    A sudden surge of anger filled her and her free hand pulsed with red energy as she marched towards what was left of the SA-X, ready to absorb the X Parasite as she’d done to so may others before, including another SA-X. She reached her hand out to touch the X, to devour it, to…

    What was she doing?

    Samus screamed and fell to her knees, fighting against her every instinct to go through with what she was just about to do. This was wrong. She was about to fall into the same trap that Bailey had been struggling against so hard. She couldn’t do that. She had to be better. Because if she couldn’t then there was no hope for either of them.

    “Heh, not so easy is it? To fight off the hunger?”

    Samus looked up to see Bailey, in humanoid form once again though she was clearly weak and pale. Apart from her golden eyes and green hair, she was the spitting image of what Samus had looked like as a young woman, signing up for the Federation Military all those years ago.

    “Nope, not easy at all,” Samus replied weakly before falling over, her strength finally failing after that intense battle.

    “Hey now, don’t give up on me now, Big Sis!” Bailey’s voice seemed distant, like she was shouting from the other end of a tunnel. “Even you can’t survive out here for long!”

    Then everything went dark.

    * * *​

    Samus woke up with a splitting headache in the cockpit of her old gunship, the one she had designed with an old Federation engineering buddy back in the good old days. Then her gaze settled on the Blue Falcon and White Cat models hanging from the overhead Transmission console. Those weren’t hers. Neither were the various plushies and figurines propped up on the dashboard, even if she did recognize most of the series the characters were from.

    Then she remembered that her ship had been destroyed, along with so many other things from her life. This was Bailey’s replica.

    With a groan, Samus sat up and stretched. She felt like crap, probably looked like it, too. But at least she was alive and seemed to be in one piece.

    “Oh, you’re finally awake!” a familiar, cheery voice called out from behind her.

    “Well, it looks like we both survived, somehow.” Samus turned the seat around to see Bailey sitting on the floor with her legs crossed.

    “Yes, thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!” Bailey sprang to her feet and looked like she wanted to tackle Samus into a hug but somehow managed to restrain herself. “I thought… I thought for sure that I was gone. And then I thought you might be. But it looks like things’ve worked out for now.”

    “Yep, for now.” Samus worked out the kink in her neck. “But what happens next?”

    “That… is a good question.” Bailey’s cheery expression dissolved quickly. “I… still don’t trust myself. Not after everything that’s happened so far. I think that it's for the best that you go alone after this while I stay locked up in here. But on the plus side, I think I figured out where the other X are being locked up.”

    “Locked up?” Samus repeated as Bailey walked up beside her and started fiddling with the controls. Samus turned the chair back around to see that she was bringing up a map of the local area.

    “Yeah, while I was… lost… I was more in tune with my X senses, for lack of a better term,” Bailey explained as she zoomed over to a large domed structure on the other side of the abandoned city, “and I was able to sense a large concentration of other X Parasites in this facility. The only place I could sense any, in fact. I think it might be some sort of quarantine structure preventing them from overtaking the rest of the planet.”

    “That would explain why we haven’t seen any others since arriving,” Samus noted, scratching her chin. “Then I guess we just need to blow that up, then find the Itorash to confront Raven Beak.”

    “Yeah, this whole adventure is almost over at this point.” Bailey sighed. “And it will probably be my last, only big mission.”

    “Who knows what the future holds.” Samus looked around for something to change the subject to and settled on the models she had noticed earlier, holding her hand out to them.

    “Oh, you like those?” Bailey perked up immediately. “I got ‘em on sale a while back.”

    “Yeah, I guess it’d make sense you’d be an F-Zero fan, considering that I am,” Samus noted. “And of course, the best of the best is Captain Falcon-”

    “Jody Summers is just the coolest!”

    The two women stared at each other in a moment of shared confusion.

    “I mean, Summers is pretty cool, too, but-”

    “-Falcon’s good but isn’t he kind of overrated?”

    They both paused again after interrupting each other.

    “Wait, does this mean that we have different opinions on things?” Bailey wondered aloud.

    “I guess you really have grown into your own person.” Samus nodded. “Good for you.”

    Then Samus’s eyes widened as something dawned on her.

    “Wait, this ship’s paint job… you modeled it after the White Cat, didn’t you?’

    “Guilty as charged.” Bailey smiled.

    “How did I not see that earlier?” Samus shook her head, then smiled back. “You know, if we both make it back from this alive, I can probably get you Summers’ autograph.”

    “You what?” Bailey’s voice cracked.

    “Maybe even set up a meeting,” Samus added. “Wait, I never told you about me and Captain Falcon, did I?”

    “Tell me what?” Bailey leaned forward excitedly. “What are you talking about?”

    “Okay, so shortly after I got exiled from the Federation and I started taking smaller bounties to keep a low profile, I ended up bumping into the Captain on a mission and we hit it off. We actually dated for a little while.” Samus smiled fondly. “Unfortunately, our careers got in the way. Or rather, his career and my having a bounty on my head. Shame it didn’t work out, thinking back on it now he’s probably the best romantic partner I’ve had.”

    “You dated Captain Falcon?” Bailey stared at Samus like she’d grown a second head. “Man, now I wish I had those memories. How about now?”

    “Not really seeing anyone right now,” Samus admitted. “I know Armstrong has a thing for me but I don’t really see him that way. I did try asking out a doctor a while ago, Diana, but it turned out that she wasn’t interested in women. Also, I’m mentoring her son, Joey, so that might have gotten weird if it did work out.”

    Bailey smiled absently, staring off into space. “You know, a part of me wishes that I could have that. A relationship, I mean.”

    “Well, maybe someday you’ll meet the right person,” Samus reassured her.

    Bailey chuckled and replied by having her hands melt into goo. “You’re joking, right? With what I am? It would take a miracle to make it so that I can even be in the same room as another living creature beside you without risking their lives.”

    “No, I guess not.” Samus sighed. “It seems like that would take some kind of magic…”

    Samus’ eyes suddenly shot open.

    “That’s it! Magic!” Samus reached forward and grabbed the ship’s helm controls, turning on the engines and setting it on a course just outside of the planet’s atmosphere.

    “Whoah, what are you doing?” Bailey lurched to the side as the ship took off and tried to steady herself back to where she’d been leaning against the side console. “We can’t leave now, we’re in the middle of a mission!”

    “I just have to make a quick call,” Samus said as she raced up through the stormy skies.

    “Who could you possibly need to call right now?” Bailey asked.

    “Just hang on a moment.” Once they were outside of the planet’s interference, she opened the ship’s communicator and punched in the most recent number in her contact list.

    After a few rings, someone finally picked up on the other end of the call.

    “This is Super Mario Brothers Plumbing, where plumbing’s our game. We’re not like the others, who get all the game. If your sink is in trouble, you can call us on the double. We’re faster than the others, you’ll be hooked on the brothers!” a familiar voice sang, to the complete befuddlement of both Samus and Bailey. “This is Ridley speaking, how may we help you?”

    “That was… certainly something.” Samus tried but failed not to crack up at the absurdity of what she’d just heard.

    “Wait, is this the Hunt- er, Samus?” Ridley asked questioningly. “Samus, why are you calling me? We don’t do service outside of SMB-985 and Earth.”

    “I thought you were joking about the whole ‘Ridley becoming a plumber’ thing, but that’s real?” Bailey asked in utter astonishment. “Also, Earth? I thought that planet was just an old legend?”

    “A question for another time,” Samus replied, though she found herself curious about that little tidbit as well. “We have more pressing concerns right now.”

    “Wait, are there two of you?” Ridley sounded panicked. “WHY ARE THERE TWO OF YOU! PLEASE TELL ME YOU JUST FOUND A DOUBLE CHERRY OR SOMETHING!”

    “Oh, this is Bailey,” Samus explained. “She’s, um…”

    “Her younger sister,” Bailey said, prompting a glare from Samus.

    “Younger sister?” Ridley repeated. “But didn’t I… You know what, forget it. I’m just to pretend that makes sense. So what do you want? I’m kind of busy helping Luigi clean up his old house. Speaking of, where is Luigi right now?”

    “Look, I need to talk to Rosalina about something but I don’t have her number,” Samus explained.

    “And what makes you think that I would have that witch’s number?” Ridley asked defensively.

    “I don’t know, you seemed kind of close,” Samus shrugged. “But also you’re the only person on that planet whose number I did get before leaving.”

    “She’s not from this planet,” Ridley pointed out. “I think. Anyway, I don’t know how to contact her.”

    “Oh,” Samus blushed, mildly embarrassed that this whole excursion turned out to be for nothing. “Um, nevermind, then. I guess we’ll have to work something else out.”

    “Wait, actually, I want to try something out,” Ridley said before going silent for a moment. When he spoke up again, his voice was slightly muffled, as if he’d set down his communicator. “Rosalina! Rosalina! Rosalina!”

    There were a few seconds of awkward silence, which was then interrupted by a loud crash and then a woman’s voice shouting angrily on the other end of the line.

    “What do you want?”

    “Holy quiznak, I didn’t think that was actually going to work,” Ridley replied. “I just did that as a joke. Did I just summon you? Am I a wizard now?”

    “No, and never do that again. I’m leaving now.”

    “Wait, wait, wait!” Ridley shouted. “Samus wanted to talk to you about something. Here.”

    “Where did you even get a phone?” There was a muffled noise as Ridley apparently handed his communicator over to her. “Hello, this is Rosalina.”

    “Oh, hey, this is Samus,” she replied. “Sorry to bother you but I was wondering if you could do me a favor. I’ve got a problem that I think you might be able to help with.”

    “Yeah, sure, I’ll be right there,” Rosalina said, a mild hint of sarcasm in her voice. “Not like I got anything better to do right now, being a busy single mother and all.”

    There was a loud click as the call was abruptly ended, leaving Samus and Bailey alone in the ship.

    “Who was that?” Bailey asked. “What’s going on?”

    “Okay, so you remember when I was talking to you earlier about-”

    Samus’ explanation was cut short by a knock on the transparent aluminum widnshield in front of them, and she looked up to see a very tall, rather annoyed woman in a flowing blue dress floating in the vacuum of space above the ship, one eye covered by platinum blonde bangs.

    “What is it?”

    * * *​

    Rosalina the… well, Samus wasn’t quite sure what Rosalina was. Ridley called her a space witch but she had no idea if that was accurate or not. Certainly sounded right, though. Regardless, Rosalina paced back and forth in front of Samus and Bailey after they’d filled her in on the story so far back on the planet’s surface. Paced might not have been the right word though, given that she was floating six inches above the ground.

    “So, I was wondering if you could use your magic or something to help Bailey out, so that she can remain in control of herself,” Samus wrapped up.

    “Hmm…” Rosalina looked Bailey over with a discerning eye, hovering a circle around her before nodding. “That is certainly the conundrum and I can sympathize with your plight. Losing control of oneself is no laughing matter. Fortunately for you, I’ve been researching a lot of dark and arcane magics recently and I think I may have something.”

    With a wave of her wand, a large, leather-bound book with what looked like human eyes embedded in its cover and covered in old chains appeared in the air in front of Rosalina, and flipped open to the page she wanted. Because magic.

    “Ah, yes, here we go,” Rosalina nodded in satisfaction as the book floated to the side and she drew a complicated-looking magical circle in the air with her wand. “A spirit transfiguration spell. Essentially what I’m going to do is turn your soul into that of a human. Your body will remain the same, so you will remain an… X Parasite, you said? However, your mind will more-or-less be that of a normal human, which should remove these urges you were talking about.”

    “I have no idea what’s going on but I want that,” Bailey stared blankly at the witch. “I want that bad.”

    “Very well.” Rosalina nodded, and her eyes glowed brightly as she raised her wand. “Here we go!”

    Samus wasn’t able to keep up with all of the magic stuff that happened after that but after a few minutes, she seemed to be done.

    “There you go, you’re a real girl now,” Rosalina said as she lowered her wand. “How does it feel?”

    “I don’t feel any different,” Bailey said, staring at her hand. One turned into a tentacle.

    “Well, as I said, your body hasn’t changed,” Rosalina pointed out. “You might not have as much power, so to speak, but all of your shapechanging and whatever other abilities you had should still be available to you. Here, let’s try this.”

    Rosalina waved her wand again and Kraid Junior suddenly flew up from underground, landing on the ground beside them. He looked as confused as Samus felt by this point.

    “Feel anything?” Rosalina asked.

    “No,” Bailey said, staring up at Junior. “I mean, my ability to sense nearby lifeforms is still working and I can feel his presence there, but the voice in my head telling me to consume… it isn’t there.”

    “So you don’t want to eat this thing?” Rosalina raised an eyebrow.

    “No.” Bailey smiled and turned back to her. “No, I don’t! Thank you! Thank you so much! What could I possibly do to repay this?”

    “Eh, it’s nothing.” Rosalina shrugged and winked at Samus. Or blinked, it was hard to tell when she only had one visible eye. “Just a favor for a friend, though I suppose you could try babysitting for me sometime. Now that that’s done, I’m going home. It’s just about dinner time and my children can get quite cranky when they haven’t eaten.”

    With a flourish and a spin, Rosalina disappeared as suddenly as she had arrived.

    “I have… so many questions.” Bailey turned to Samus.

    “And I don’t have any answers.” Samus shook her head and looked up to Junior “How are you doing, big guy? You’re definitely looking better than last time.”

    Junior gave a soft growl in response.

    “He said that he’s feeling better,” Bailey translated.

    “That’s good to hear,” Samus said. “Let’s go see if the E.M.M.I. ship has any medical equipment that we can use to help you.”

    * * *​

    Raven Beak stared ahead. Everything seemed like it was getting back on track. The Last Metroid and the Variable were fighting, the Last Metroid was losing control and finally embracing its instincts. His plan seemed like it was finally about to come to fruition. But then they just stopped, completely. The Variable took the Last Metroid back to its ship where they remained for some time before blasting off and leaving the planet’s atmosphere entirely and then… nothing. All of his feeds, all of them, went dead. Nothing but static on every frequency, every channel, every source. Only now did he finally have a signal again, now that whatever must have just happened was already over. There was no way for him to know what it was. He had no idea what was going on. For the very first time in his very, very long life, Raven Beak was scared.
    I had very solid plans for both the Burenia and Ghavoran chapters but despite that neither really felt long enough to be their own individual chapters, so I ended up merging them together into one and things ended up flowing much better. In fact, the chapter ended up kind of getting away from me after that in a way that even I wasn’t expecting.

    I wasn’t planning on having Rosalina step in and ‘fix’ Bailey until the opening of Super Ridley Bros. 2, but the mental image popped into my head of Samus just calling Ridley, who in turn manages to accidentally summon Rosalina like a demon and the whole thing just felt too funny not to use, so I ended up incorporating that into here. What’s the point of writing in a crossover setting if you’re not going to utilize the crossover, after all?
     
  6. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
    (Bunnelby)
    Level 15
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    Hacking into the E.M.M.I. transport ship wasn’t hard. Getting Junior to climb into the cargo hold, on the other hand, proved a challenge. They did manage it, however, and Samus was able to raid the ship’s med bay, which was thankfully fully stocked despite the ship being fully automated. You never knew when your scout drones might run into someone in need of medical assistance, after all.

    With a bit of work, Samus and Bailey managed to ‘convert’ some old crates into a giant tub and brought over a hose from the med bay to fill it with a specialized microbiotic fluid designed for quickly treating injuries and infections. Junior settled into the filling tank and let out a content groan as the ‘healing juice’ did its thing.

    “That’s a good boy,” Bailey cooed as she rubbed a spot on his forehead near his upper eye. Kraid responded with an indignant huff. “Okay, fine.”

    Bailey hopped off his head and landed on the edge of the makeshift healing tank. She had been left behind to watch Kraid while Samus went out to collect their gunships.

    “You know, it’s a shame that y’all are going to have to sit out the rest of this,” Bailey said absently as she walked along the narrow edge of the tank. “It would be fun to fight alongside a giant like you for once. But the rest of my kind would go after you in a heartbeat and we can’t risk you gettin’ infected. I can’t say that I’ve been on the receiving end of that before but it can’t be pleasant. Oh, and, um, sorry again about trying to hunt you down earlier. I kind of lost control back there.”

    Kraid accepted the apology, thought with a tone that suggested that he still held some resentment over it. She couldn’t exactly blame him for that, though. He then pointed out that it was far from the worst thing that he’d experienced, even just since coming to this planet.

    “Yeah, I suppose that shouldn’t be too surprising, considering the shape that you were in,” Bailey replied. “Never would have thought that the Chozo would be into torture. Do you even have any idea why they had you down there?”

    Kraid answered in the negative. Apparently all that his captors had mentioned was something vague about him being bait for something, most likely Samus. Then he started to complain about a growing pain in his stomach.

    “I’ll take a look at that for ya, big guy.”

    Bailey dove into the medical bath and swam over to where he had indicated. Her senses were immediately assaulted by a mild tingling sensation as microscopic plants tried to take root in her flesh to patch up any injuries and purge any toxins but she did her best to ignore the feeling. She reached the spot that was agitating Kraid and quickly spotted what was wrong. A strange, metallic cube had gotten lodged deep in one of his cuts, likely while he’d been running from here, as the ‘healing juice’ had closed the wound shut over it without removing the foreign contaminant. This was why the stuff was only intended to be used post-op after any injuries and wounds had already been cleaned and dressed by a medical professional. He actually had quite a bit of debris in him now but it was mostly foliage and branches, which at his size was the equivalent of having a ton of splinters everywhere. Not ideal by any means but still preferable to his previous condition and would be worked out of his body with time. This thing, however, was going to require immediate surgical removal.

    Bailey was not even close to being a qualified surgeon but she took it upon herself to operate, anyway. By focusing her Plasma Beam into a concentrated laser, she was able to slice open a small cut just big enough for her to reach in with her other hand and pull out the unwanted cube. To her surprise, however, the unknown object turned out to be a suit upgrade that she inadvertently absorbed on contact. An Aeion ability called Pulse Radar, apparently, which would let out a localized burst of specialized soundwaves that could detect any number of various hidden items or objects of interest within a certain radius. It seemed nearly identical to the Scan Pulse that Samus had acquired on SR388 but while that one would upload the affected area to her map data, this one had a wider variety of things that it could pick up. Not the most useful tool in her repertoire but still neat. Especially by combining the two, so that it turned into a straight upgrade to the older ability.

    With that done, Bailey swam back up to the surface while the cut she’d made was already being sewn shut by tiny little vines. She climbed back onto the ledge of the tub and gave Kraid a thumbs-down, a rather confusing habit that she’d inherited from gene host Samus.

    “Alright, you should be good to go,” she told him, splashing her feet in the fluid playfully.

    Kraid complained about her impromptu surgery but grumbled a thanks before the bay doors opened. Samus’ current gunship flew in, flaky orange paint pealing off of its purple hull, followed by Bailey’s white, blue and red ship. After they both landed safely at the other end of the cargo hanger, Samus dropped from her ship’s exit hatch, clad in her zero suit and absently chewing a ration bar.

    “You know, I doubt that thing tastes half as good as that sclawk you turned down earlier,” Bailey called down to the new arrival.

    “Yeah, no, I’d take bland Federation nutrition brick over raw alien bug any day,” Samus glared up at her. “Anything happen while I was out?”

    “Yeah, one thing that I already took care of. Think fast!” Bailey flicked out her thumb at Samus and a small data card shot out. The expert bounty hunter caught it effortlessly. “New radar upgrade, got lodged in the big guy’s stomach.”

    “Okay, then.” Samus tossed the card overhead, materialized her power suit and caught it again before inserting the card into a data port in her arm cannon. “Hmm, this marks the third new Aeion ability. I’ve nearly doubled my count.”

    “Third?” Bailey questioned. “Wait, did you… Never mind, not my business. We ready to go?”

    “We should be just about.” Samus turned her attention to Kraid. “Hey, Junior! You can access that control panel next to you, right? I set it up so that you should be able to control the ship from there, in case anything goes wrong.”

    Junior reached over and fiddled around with the screen in question, briefly revving up the ship’s engines before turning them off again and opening the shutter doors. He then growled in the affirmative before turning back to the Hunter.

    “That’d be a yes,” Bailey translated unnecessarily.

    “Yeah, I got that.” Samus finished the last bite of her bar and rematerialized her Power Suit. “Then I guess we should get going.”

    Samus and Bailey both started walking towards the exit when Kraid growled something and Bailey stopped in her tracks.

    “Oh, yeah, I guess that makes sense,” she said as she turned back.

    “What?” Samus stopped as well and walked up beside her. “What makes sense?”

    “Well,” Bailey turned to her gene host. “We already know that all of the local X Parasites are holed up in the Elun facility. So, we don’t really need to investigate it right now. If they could get out of there, then they would have already. So, we can just focus our efforts right now on finding Raven Break, then work out how to destroy Elun when we’re done with everything else.”

    Samus pondered that for a moment. “I suppose that’s true enough. In fact, trying to enter the quarantine zone could potentially give the X Parasites a way to escape and infect the rest of the planet. It’s probably best that we leave that area alone for now. Thank you, Junior.”

    Kraid gave another growl, which Bailey translated as ‘You’re welcome’ and Samus walked up to an access terminal. After clicking a few buttons, a holographic display of their map of ZDR so far was projected into the room.

    “In that case, our priority so far is to locate and confront Raven Beak,” Samus said. “However, we have yet to find any signs of him so far in our exploration and we can probably rule out Elun. So, unless we’ve missed any other facilities, he must be hiding somewhere here in the Mawkin city, Hanubia.”

    “Unless it turns out that he’s actually somewhere on the other side of the planet or something,” Bailey pointed out. “But yeah, the city seems like a good start.”

    “Then it’s settled.” Samus nodded. “You and I are going to investigate the city and see what we can find. Junior? I want you to keep an eye on things from here. As long as we don’t leave the city, we should be within transmission distance. We’ll call you if we need an emergency pickup, or you call us if the ship’s sensors pick up anything. Any objections?”

    Bailey replied with a thumbs down, while Kraid grumbled and shook his head. Samus returned Bailey’s gesture.

    “Then let’s head out.”

    * * *​

    Two sets of footsteps approached as Raven Beak continued to watch the monitors. He swiveled his chair around to see Stone Wing and Falling Spear kneel before him.

    “Status report,” he ordered.

    “We have retrieved the data,” Stone Wing held up the bio-neural hard drive they had forcibly retrieved from the E.M.M.I.-06WB’s Central Unit.

    Raven Beak nodded and motioned for them to a portable interface that wasn’t connected their the rest of their systems. Once they had done so, he took the computer from them and began to look through the data himself.

    “Good work, dismissed.”

    The two soldiers saluted and walked away as Raven Beak poured over the files. There wasn’t much that he didn’t already have access to but at least the E.M.M.I.’s advanced biometric scans of the Last Metroid and the Variable would shed some light on their recent status. Now, he just needed to figure out how to use this new information to his advantage. Especially since a glance back up at the monitors told him that they were avoiding the Elun facility. Yet another wrench in his plans. It seemed that it was time to send in a distraction.

    * * *​

    Samus methodically checked every building they passed with her X-Ray Visor as she walked along the long abandoned street alongside her doppelganger. Although, calling Bailey that at this point felt like a bit of a misnomer. While the SA-X may have gained control of herself and no longer had to fend off her baser instincts, she had chosen to keep some of the changes made to her suit when she had gone berserk. The teal and red armor heavily contrasted anything that Samus had ever worn, with more pronounced edges and spikes compared to the old Varia Suit’s design. Both of her arms were now black, clawed gauntlets with the arm cannon’s cannon’s functionality integrated into her palms. The biggest change, though, was that she had kept the scorpion-like tail protruding from her upper back, which was currently wagging back and forth behind her as she skipped down the street.

    “You seem oddly happy right now,” Samus remarked, more to keep herself occupied while she searched for clues than anything else.

    “Why wouldn’t I be?” Bailey asked in reply, twirling around. “I have a brand new lease on life! For the first time ever, I actually am me!”

    “Fair enough.” Samus moved on to checking the next building. Still no signs of anything worth noting. “Is it just me or does this city feel too empty?”

    “It is kind of eerie, now that you mention it.” Bailey stopped skipping and looked around hesitantly. “You know, normally this would mean that we’re about to get ambushed. I’d say… right about… now!”

    Samus turned, cannon at the ready. There was nothing there.

    “Or not.” Bailey shrugged. “Still doesn’t seem quite right, though. Maybe the rain’s driving everything below the surface?”

    “Possible,” Samus looked up at the constant downpour. It seemed to have been raining nonstop in this area since she’d first arrived on this planet, though it seemed to be coming down heavier now than it had been before. What had been a moderate shower before had turned into a heavy deluge of sulfuric acid. A bolt of lightning flashed in the distance but it was too far away to be of concern and the rain itself seemed to be mostly harmless for the time being. “But something still feels off.”

    “Eh, it’s probably just our imaginations,” Bailey said, then pointed up at the cloudy sky. “Wait, no here it comes.”

    Samus looked up and spotted some sort of meteorite falling from the heavens, calculating its course and determining that the unidentified object would be making impact close enough to them that they’d have to brace themselves from the shockwave. She did so but was still nearly sent flying back as a cloud of dust and dirt blew past. Bailey had to brace herself with her tail to stay up straight.

    “What was that?” Samus wondered aloud as she turned on her Scan Visor and cautiously took a few steps toward the impact crater that had formed in front of them.

    “I don’t know but I don’t like the way that it's looking at us.”

    Four drill-like appendages reached out one at a time and slammed into the warped metal of the abandoned plaza, raising a rounded, central body from which a menacing, cycloptic red eye stared down at them like a bloody spotlight through the rain.

    “Is that a Diggernaut?” Bailey asked, referencing the massive mining robot that Samus had inadvertently aggravated and been forced to fight back on her SR388 expedition. The robot before them was certainly similar in design, right down to the gold and brown coloration of its armored plating, though that was hard to make out in the dark.

    “No, it's way too big,” Samus pointed out. “And Diggernauts only have two of those arms. This thing almost feels more like Quadraxis, that giant security drone from Aether. It’s like someone took the two robots and mashed them together.”

    The colossal robot took a steady step forward, followed by another. As it slowly approached, Samus was finally able to get a scan lock on it and a layout of all of the information that her sensors could draw from it popped up on her visor display.

    ‘Mechanism: Autnaut

    Advanced War Machine

    A heavily armored Chozo mechanoid, the Autnaut was designed by the Mawkin Tribe as a siege weapon for use during the Diamont War, modified from ancient mining equipment. While primarily designed to directly assault fortified structures with the powerful drills built into its four legs, the Autnaut is also armed with lasers built into its primary optical unit. Due to a design flaw shared with its smaller mining counterparts, explosive detonations within the drills’ cores will send a damaging energy surge to the unit’s central core. Enough of these energy surges will damage the unit’s armor, leaving it vulnerable to further attack.’

    “Blow up the legs, then attack the head,” Samus summarized. “Seems simple enough.”

    “I don’t know, perhaps we ought not to do that,” Bailey joked, earning a glare from the older bounty hunter.

    “Let’s just get this over with,” Samus shook her head and focused on the battle. The Autnaut gradually marched towards them, smashing down buildings as it went.

    Samus ran towards the mechanical titan, quickly closing the distance while Bailey climbed up a tower to strike from above. As Samus approached the Autnaut, however, it projected a targeting reticule at her. Before it could launch its attack, however, Samus Flash Shifted out of the way and the searing energy beam launched from its glowing red eye burned a hole into the ground behind where she had been.

    Bailey hopped from rooftop to rooftop while the robot’s attention was focused on Samus, before finally leaping down onto the Autnaut’s chassis. It shifted its focus onto her and tried to shake her off but Bailey held firm. Samus, meanwhile, took the opportunity to try rolling up the side of one of its legs. However, the Autnaut noticed her and activated its drill, throwing her into the side of a ruined building as the segments of its limb spun rapidly.

    Determining that Bailey was not an active threat to it, the Autnaut turned its full focus back to Samus and raised the drill leg she had tried scaling up, preparing to send it crashing down on her before she could get out of the way. This proved to be to Bailey’s advantage, however, as she was able to slip through an opening at the top of one of its other legs and slide down the hollow shaft at its center, landing atop the core and quickly curling into Morph Ball form to lay several Power Bombs.

    As the Autnaut smashed its drill down onto Samus, she managed to activate her Lightning Armor ability to shield herself from any damage, instead sending a pulsating electrical shock through the drill that shorted out its mechanisms briefly. Before it could correct the problem, however, Bailey’s Power Bombs went off, destroying its front right leg.

    The robot stumbled back, down a limb while its left leg was still nonfunctioning for the moment A smaller explosion went off underneath the armor in its central body, thanks to the energy feedback that Samus and Bailey’s scan visors had alerted them to. The Autnaut fell over where its missing leg should have supported it, crashing onto the metal road.

    “Well, this might be easier than I thought,” Bailey said as she rushed over to Samus and gave her a helping hand back onto her feet.

    “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Samus replied.

    The Autnaut suddenly fired its laser at Bailey without warning, throwing her through a wall and nearly burning a hole through her shoulder. Samus jumped back, arm cannon at the ready as the massive robot steadied itself on its remaining three legs.

    There was an old Federation saying that the cornered rat will bite the cat. It seemed that the two bounty hunters now had this ‘rat’ cornered and the Autnaut wasn’t going down without a proper fight.

    Samus ran over to the leg she had damaged earlier, which now seemed to be functioning properly. As she approached, however, the Autnaut shifted the rotating segments of its drill to close off the opening at the top that Bailey had used to enter the other one. She considered using her Lightning Armor to short out the drill again and see if that would expose the entrance but she’d used too much Aeion already and it would take a few minutes for her to recover her reserves. For now, she was limited to her more conventional weapons.

    She noticed a spot between two of the gear-like sections of the drill that stuck out slightly and fired her Grapple Beam at it from her left wrist, intending to drain the energy from the drill directly. The Autnaut responded by activating the drill and she was sent spinning through the air around the leg. She managed not to lose her grip, though, and continued draining the energy until at last the drill came to an abrupt halt and its segments fell back into their original positions.

    Samus didn’t hesitate in climbing into the drill and planting another Power Bomb. The leg was destroyed as the bomb went off, followed by another smaller explosion in the central body. The Autnaut collapsed onto the ground, its armored hull cracked and starting to fall apart.

    As Bailey climbed back out to rejoin the fight, the Autnaut lifted itself up with a new set of smaller legs that lowered from the bottom of its main body. These legs didn’t seem to be mobile, which meant that the robot was now functionally rooted to the spot. That didn’t seem to bother the automized weapon, however, as it laid its remaining drill flat on the ground in opposite directions, spread as far out as it could reach, and activated them at once. The robot’s whole body spun along the ground.

    Samus was knocked into the air and crashed down on top of one of the few surviving buildings in the vicinity, while Bailey was far enough away to avoid taking the hit directly and managed to stand her ground. Once the Autnaut’s assault slowed to a halt, she hopped up onto its head and thrust her claws into one of the open gaps that had been torn out of its armored plating. The Autnaut flailed around, trying to knock her off, while she began firing Wave Beams from her open palm. The excessive electric charge overloaded its primary systems and the robot was momentarily stunned long enough for Bailey to take out the third drill.

    Now down to only one functioning limb, the Autnaut became even more aggressive once its systems rebooted. A pair of raised segments sticking out of its back, which seemed like an innocuous part of its design before, rose up and revealed themselves to be a pair of missile launchers that the Scan Visor had failed to pick up earlier. A barrage of homing missiles were fired at Bailey, who was sent flying and buried in a pile of rubble.

    Samus tried scanning the Autnaut again while hiding behind what was left of a wall but wasn’t finding a way to get past those missiles unharmed. Especially since the Autnaut was now being very defensive with its lone remaining drill, raising it high above its head where they wouldn’t be able to reach. Taking out the last drill so that they could defeat the Autnaut seemed like it was going to be a challenge. At least until Bailey’s gunship swooped in behind the robot and carpet-bombed the Autnaut with high-powered missiles.

    “Take that!” Bailey yelled as she pulled herself out of the rubble and dusted herself off. “Let’s see how you like it!”

    The Autnaut turned to face Bailey, who quickly dove back into the pile of slagged metal that she’d just climbed out of before it could fire at her again with its laser or missiles. The robot shuddered, however, and the light of its optical processor began to flicker for a moment before finally dimming away completely. After a few seconds, the massive robot toppled over in a heap, completely destroyed.

    Once she was sure that it had perminantly deactivated, Samus walked out from behind her cover and made her way to where Bailey was still hiding.

    “Good job, kid, you managed to take it down,” Samus said as she pulled Bailey up onto her feet.

    “Are you sure?” Bailey glanced over to the heap of yellow and brown scrap metal. “It’s not faking, is it?”

    “I’m sure,” Samus replied. “But the more pressing issue right now is that I’m not sure that there’s enough left of the city to search for clues right now and we still haven’t found any sign of Raven Beak.”

    “I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Bailey said, looking back up at the rainy clouds above.

    “What do you mean?” Samus followed her gaze and realized it just before her copy replied.

    “Giant killer robots don’t just fall out of nowhere,” Bailey pointed out. “It was either launched out of some kind of giant cannon or something, which would be downright impractical for so many reasons, or…”

    “Or dropped from somewhere,” Samus finished. “Quite Robe said that Raven Beak had retreated from the X Parasites aboard his ship, the Itorash.”

    “And now we have a pretty good idea where that ship must be,” Bailey said. “It's just a simple matter of flying up there and finding it.”

    “Easier said than done, though,” Samus pointed out. “The Itorash is likely a massive, well-armed battle ship.”

    “Then it's a good thing that we’ve got two of the best pilot in the galaxy and a ship that can run circles around anything that they’ve got,” Bailey said as the white gunship in question landed in front of them. “You ready for this?”

    “Looks like its time to storm the castle,” Samus nodded. “You know, I got to do that literally on my last adventure.”

    “No fair, you have all the fun.”

    * * *​

    Up in his flying fortress, Raven Beak got up from his seat and turned with a flourish of his cape. The Autnaut may not have bought him as much time as he would have preferred but it had been enough. It was time, now, for his final showdown with the Last Metroid and his final preparations were already underway. Now, all he had left to do was wait and his prize would come to him, unprepared for what it was about to face.

    Soon, his plans would be realized and the Ultimate Warrior would be his. As it was always meant to be.

    This chapter was originally going to be about Samus and Bailey exploring Elun and fighting the other X Parasites. I had a scene in my head where they approach the gate and while it scans Samus, Bailey suddenly breaks into a panic as she realizes what’s inside and that they’re about to free all of the captured X. But then I realized that they actually have no reason to go there since Bailey realized in the last chapter that that’s where the X were being held. So, instead, I decided to skip that for now and have this chapter be the exploration of Hanubia. But, I didn’t really have anything planned for them to do there and the only thing of note would be the final E.M.M.I. confrontation, which would have been rather anticlimactic at this point and kind of boring, and there’s no way that I would have been able to get a full chapter out of that without just rehashing the previous E.M.M.I. fights. So, I decided to through in a fight with a Chozo robot. My first thought was the Diggernaut from Samus Returns but I thought that might still be a bit too underwhelming. Then I came up with the idea of a reverse-engineered Quadraxis from Prime 2 made with Chozo tech but I felt that might be a bit too out of nowhere. Then I decided to combine those two ideas with an upgraded Diggernaut with a Quadraxis-like design.

    It’s a good thing that I’m nearing the end of this story (and its sister series, Symphony of Luigi, which I really recommend also reading) because I can feel writing burnout starting to settle in. I’ve managed to upload at least one chapter per week (split across three different stories) since the start of the year but I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be able to keep up with that. I might have to go on a brief hiatus before starting up Super Ridley Bros 2 but we’ll see. Hopefully, I’ll have made my decision by the next chapter and will let you know.
     
  7. BZRich64

    BZRich64 The Mustachiod Machamp

    Late For A Date
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    Mission Log 07: Itorash

    Diving Hawk endlessly paced the length of the Itorash’s hanger bay, waiting for his shift to end. He had never really seen the point of guard duty on a ship that was never at any risk of being attacked or boarded but it was in any position to question orders. Raven Beak wasn’t the type to kill his followers for insubordination. A corpse couldn’t learn from their mistakes, after all. But there were plenty of other ways to punish a disrespectful soldier and Diving Hawk had no intention of getting reassigned to guano harvesting duty. The very thought sent a shiver down his spine.

    He finished another lap and checked the time on his armor’s internal HUD. It wouldn’t be long now before he would finally be dismissed and get some well-needed downtime. All he needed was for nothing to happen and he’d be home free, and of course, the chances of anything happening there of all places was next to nothing. Next to nothing was not the same as nothing, however.

    The proximity alarm suddenly went off and Diving Hawk braced himself. It was probably just a false alarm but he still had to act busy. Readying his spear, the Mawkin warrior turned towards the hangar doors. Then the doors were blasted open and Diving Hawk had to dig his talons into the floor to keep himself from getting blown back by the galeforce winds that escaped into the bay. A white ship gunship with red and blue markings flew in through the new opening and turned its guns on him. He somehow managed to survive the initial missile barrage thanks to his sturdy armor but the blast sent him flying and before he knew what had happened he was flying out of the ship, caught in the wild storm outside.

    So much for another quiet shift.

    * * *​

    Samus and Bailey disembarked the gunship and secured the area. It seemed that there had only been the one guard but with the intruder alarm blaring it was only a matter of time before more of Raven Beak’s soldiers closed in on them. They needed to move quickly if they wanted to avoid an ambush.

    Bailey used her immense strength to pry the doors out into the hallway open and they made their way through the rest of the ship. With no map data to guide them, the two bounty hunters navigated the Itorash the old-fashioned way: trial and error. Fortunately, the ship was actually fairly well-designed and not as much of a maze as they might have expected. It took a bit of work to avoid the guard patrols on high alert but they progressed through the ship fairly quickly. Soon, they stepped into a Network Station, the same design as those found back under the planet’s surface. The domed screen activated and a familiar synthesized voice spoke up.

    “Aren’t you getting ahead of yourself, Samus?” the imposter ADAM asked. “You still have another facility left to explore.”

    “Can it, Raven Beak!” Samus pointed her arm cannon at the screen, her Storm Missiles charged and ready to fire. “No more games.”

    “Hm… it seems that there is no fooling you.” Raven Beak dropped the disguise, replying to her in a deep, echoed voice. The rounded cubes that made up the dome screen clustered back together and his image appeared, still glad in his silver and grew Power Armor. A crack left from his earlier confrontation with Samus ran over his right eye. “Then I will jump straight to the point. Submit and offer up your power. My plan is the only way to bring order back to the galaxy. Fulfill your destiny. This is an order. Disobedience will not be tolerated.”

    “And why would I do that?” Samus asked, more for the sake of banter than any actual interest in the answer.

    “Because, it is your destiny.” Raven Break raised his left hand and a hologram of a DNA sequence was emitted. “You are the last Metroid. You were always meant to be my final weapon to control the galaxy. That is all that you are and all that you will ever be. Now, to prove your loyalty, kill the X Parasite and awaken your Metroid DNA.”

    Samus shook her head while Bailey let out a laugh.

    “So, you’re just crazy, then,” Samus said.

    “That was not a request.”

    The lights suddenly turned red and Samus let out a scream of agony, falling to the ground and writhing in pain. Bailey jumped and rushed to her side but couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

    “What did you do?” Bailey asked, looking up at the image of Raven Beak on the screen.

    “By retrieving the data left over from the Federation Central Unit that you so foolishly failed to destroy, I was able to obtain a detailed genetic analysis of the Last Metroid’s current DNA profile. By combining this with the information and projections that I already had, I was able to determine the exact resonance needed to trigger the dormant Metroid DNA and force the transformation.

    The lights on Samus’ suit dimmed and she stopped moving. For a moment, Bailey thought that she had passed out. Then Samus screamed again, but this time in anger rather than pain. She climbed back to her feet, her movements heavy and labored, as an intense red glow pulsed out from her armor. Bailey took an instinctive step back as Samus stood up, her armor morphing into a green carapace that resembled that of a matured Metroid.

    “What’s happening?” Bailey asked her gene host, terrified of what she was seeing. “Samus, snap out of it!”

    “It cannot hear you now, X,” Raven Beak said. “Its natural instincts have kicked in which means that it no longer has any choice but to devour you. Accept this and welcome your end, abomination.”

    Samus took a shaky step, pointing her arm cannon directly at Bailey. The reformed SA-X stepped to the side but the cannon stayed on its mark.

    “Samus, now, don’t do this!” Bailey cried out. “You’re stronger than this!”

    Samus fired an Omega Beam. It didn’t hit Bailey, however. At the last second, Samus had forced her aim to the left so that she attacked the communications dome instead. The entire room seemed to dissolve away. Bailey and Samus suddenly found themselves standing in an ornate throne room surrounded by a transparent dome that kept out the storm outside. Two giant chozo statues stood to either side where Raven Beak was seated, watching the two of them as the planet’s sun rose behind him.

    “I… will… not… follow… you!” Samus audibly had to force the words out. “I… am… not… a Metroid!”

    “Struggle all you want but it will serve you no good in the end.” Raven Beak rose from his throne and unclipped the long red cape from his armor, which fell to the ground. “Submit now or you will only cause yourself more pain, my daughter.”

    “What?” Samus asked, still struggling against herself.

    “Where do you think that your Chozo DNA came from, child? You are my daughter!” Raven Beak turned to Bailey. “You have the Metroid’s memories, do you not? Tell her.”

    Bailey stared at the ground, trying not to bring up those long-dormant memories of when Samus was first taken in by the Chozo. But, there was nothing that she could do to stop herself.

    “That fool Gray Voice may have provided you with your Thoha genes,” Raven Beak explained. “But your physical prowess, your fighter’s instincts, those are not Thoha traits. Those come from your Mawkin genes, from my genes.”

    “That…” Samus struggled to say, “can’t be…”

    “It’s true,” Bailey said apologetically. “I can see it in your memories. He… he was the one to suggest the DNA graft in the first place. He… he’s…”

    “No…” Samus dropped to her knees, still shaving violently.

    “He’s… not your father,” Bailey got out at last.

    “What?’

    “Silence!” Raven Beak demanded.

    “You may share his DNA but that does not make him your father or you, his daughter,” Bailey explained, a rising determination in your voice. “He’s just a genetic host, no more your father than a hornoad is mine. Rodney and Virginia were your parents by birth, Old Bird and Gray Voice were the fathers that raised you. Even Adam was more a father to you than Raven Beak could ever be. He’s just full of himself.”

    Raven Beak stomped down the steps from his throne, clenching his fist. “Believe what you will, these semantics mean nothing. You are mine and I will have you. Your Thoha genes may allow you to resist your Metroid DNA more than you should but you will submit to me in time. You are the ultimate weapon in my plans to bring order to the galaxy and there is nothing that you can do to change that.

    “No, you’re wrong.” Samus rose back to her feet and pointed her cannon at the advancing Raven Beak. “I am myself and you can’t take that away from me.”

    “Very well.” Raven Beak called up a holographic interface and pressed a button before dismissing it again. “But let’s see how long you can resist while fighting for your life.”

    Dozens of Chozo soldiers marched into the room from all sides, surrounding Samus and Bailey. The two of them glanced around, sweeping their arm cannons across the encroaching crowd of armored fighters.

    “Attack.”

    The elite Mawkin guard charged, spears at the ready as the battle broke out. Samus pelted them with a sustained barrage of her Omega Beam’s rapid-fire while Bailey fired Super Missile after Super Missile from her hands. Many of the soldiers fell quickly but waves of Chozo robots swarmed in to fill their numbers. Samus and Bailey were soon overwhelmed by the sheer number of opponents that they had to face.

    “Give in, Last Metroid!” Raven Beak declared, watching the carnage in front of him as a shadow was cast over the room. “Awaken to your destiny!”

    “Never!” Samus roared as a group of soldiers and robots pounced on her, pulling her to the ground. They were sent flying as her Lightning Shield activated, the Aeion cost no longer an issue as her awakened Metroid genes allowed her to regenerate as much as she spent.

    Several robot soldiers tackled Bailey to the ground. As she struggled against them, lashing out with her tail, he charged up and fired a Sonic Boom. Over a dozen enemies seemed to pop out of existence in the area around where the blast hit, their atoms scattering across different dimensions. In the confusion that followed, she managed to fling her attackers off of her and roll back to her feet.

    A flurry of rabid movements and attacks followed, the battle raging until at last, only three sentients still stood. Samus and Bailey stood side by side, cannons aimed directly at Raven Beak who in turn assumed a combat stance.

    “You put up much more of a fight than I expected,” Raven Beak mused. “It seems that I was right to choose you as my enforcer. But you’ve played your little game for long enough. You will be mine, now!”

    “I don’t think so!” Samus pointed her finger directly at him. “Even if you’ve got another trick up your sleeve, you seemed to have missed something during that fight. Look behind you.”

    “You honestly can’t expect me to fall for such a-”

    The transparent dome around them shattered as the stolen E.M.M.I. transport ship rammed into it. Gale force winds rushed into the now open chamber, threatening to violently toss anything inside out into the stormy skies of ZDR’s middle atmosphere. Raven Beak had to dig his armored talons into the metal floor while Bailey did the same with her claws and Samus curled into her Morph Ball form so that she could magnetize herself to it.

    “This doesn’t even constitute a setback!” Raven Beak yelled furiously as Bailey suddenly let go and allowed herself to be flung out of the ship. This Raven Beak noticed the Power Bomb that Samus had just planted. “Fool, you can’t harm me with that! My armor is designed to deflect the energy!”

    “I figured as much since mine does that, too,” Samus said through her suit’s speakers. “But can you say the same for your ship?”

    The bomb went off, drowning the area in a sea of superheated light. The ship’s hull began to crackle and warp, and a section of floor that had been weakened by Bailey’s earlier attack dissolved completely before the effect dissipated.

    Samus quickly rolled down the new hole and planted another Power Bomb. Ths ship lurched and began to fall out of the sky. A few more strategically placed bombs were planted as Samus managed to navigate through the Itorash’s internal structure, completely annihilating its engines and other essential components. Raven Beak growled in frustration and jumped off the ship, spreading his wings so that he could glide along the intense winds. He spotted Samus jump out a window below and dove, grabbing her in his left hand.

    “You will pay for this!” He screamed and pointed his cannon to her head, charging a blast.

    “No, I’m pretty sure this is getting charged to your account.” Samus smiled under her helmet before Flash Shifting out of his grip.

    Raven Beak whipped around in the air, just in time to see Samus land on top of Bailey’s gunship, the X visible behind the windshield. She fired everything that the ship had left in its armory at him. Even with his advanced armor and the energy shields built into it, the force was too much. Raven Beak was sent flying uncontrolled back into the Itorash’s hull, his armor cracked and falling apart while his exposed wings had been entirely vaporized.

    The Itorash crashed directly into the Elun facility, both of them being completely destroyed by the impact and a resulting chain of explosions leveled the entire area into a giant crater.

    “I think that more or less takes care of that,” Samus said, looking down at the carnage. “Mission complete. Now, let’s dock on the ship and get out of here.”

    “Roger,” Bailey replied, turning her ship around. “I’ve had more than enough of this place.”

    * * *​

    Power… was everything.

    Raven Beak clawed his way out of the wreckage of what had once been the flagship of his grand armada, so long ago. His stamina reserves were nearly spent and even using his entire Aeion supply to power his shields hadn’t been enough to get through that unscathed. But he was alive which meant that he wasn’t done yet.

    He fiddled with the controls of what remained of his armor, almost completely slagged and melted onto his burnt flesh. It didn’t seem that any components were left working. Not ideal but he had several backups stored in Cataris if needed along with the prototype for one of his other projects. He simply had to make his way there and…

    Raven Beak froze as he stumbled his way through the wreckage, a familiar yellow blob drifting in the air in front of him. He tried firing his arm cannon at the surviving X Parasite but of course, it was no longer working. The X drifted towards him and he tried to run. He tripped immediately, his legs not having the strength left to carry him far, and he dragged himself along the ground but it was too late. The X plopped onto his back and he could feel it ooze into his body. It felt like he was on fire, freezing to death and drowning all at once for a moment before everything went black.

    A new pair of wings sprouted from Raven Beak’s back and his silver armor regrew itself around his body as a form of exoskeleton.

    Raven Beak was no more. The RB-X rose to its feet and let out an experimental caw. Then it looked up, where the targets of its newly acquired rage remained unaware of its existence. Slowly, it raised the cannon that was its right arm.

    * * *​

    Samus shuffled over to the driver’s seat and leaned in behind Bailey as they flew in towards the E.M.M.I. ship, where ADAM and Junior were waiting. It was time for them all to finally leave this forsaken planet and get back to their lives. Not that any of their lives would be the same after this adventure.

    Suddenly, the ship’s light turned red and an alarm blared but it was too late. The left ‘wing’ of the ship was torn off by massive energy blast that seemed to have come from the planet’s surface. They were sent tumbling out of the air, Samus and her clone bracing themselves as they crashed.

    “Are you alright?” Samus asked as she looked up from the ceiling, in a bit of a daze.

    “I’m fine.” Bailey unbuckled her seatbelt and dropped down. “What about you?”

    “I’ve been better but I’ll live. But what was that?”

    Samus crawled around to the back of the ship and pulled an emergency release lever. An exit hatch should have been forced open but the mechanisms must have been too heavily damaged in the crash. Bailey ended up having to rip the panel off with brute strength so that they could climb out of the upside-down vehicle.

    Looking at it from the outside, it was clear that the gunship wasn’t in any salvageable shape. Not even the auto-repair functions were in working order.

    “Hey, over there!” Bailey pointed at something in the distance and Samus turned to see what it was. She felt like her heart stopped for a moment as she spotted the imposing silver figure marching towards them.

    “That can’t be,” she muttered. “How could he have survived that?”

    “I… don’t think he did,” Bailey replied. “That feels like an X. One must have survived and infected him.”

    “Raven Beak X,” Samus shook her head. “Well, we already beat the real one. I doubt an RB-X will put up much more of a fight.”

    A parasite in question suddenly broke out into a run, moving impossibly fast toward them before ducking into a crouch as his armor was enveloped in a red glow. Samus ducked, recognizing a Shinepark when she saw one, before the RB-X flew towards them like a rocket.

    “Or, we didn’t engage in a proper fight before but now we don’t really have a choice on the matter,” Bailey said as the RB-X canceled its momentum after passing them by. “And we have no idea what skills he does and doesn’t have.”

    The RB-X raised its arm and what looked like a miniaturized black hole emerged, floating slowly through the air towards them. Samus and Bailey ran to either side of it and Samus noted that it started to drag her in when she got close to it. She then had to dodge out of the way of a giant laser blast, likely the same as the one that brought down Bailey’s ship, that the RB-X fired straight at her.

    Bailey lunged forward, slashing at the RB-X with her clawed hands. It ducked to the side and swiped at her with its own claws but she jumped back and struck with her stinger tail. The RB-X grabbed it and kicked with one of its taloned feet, hitting Bailey in the stomach. As she stumbled back, the RB-X ignited a beam from its cannon and used it like a giant energy sword, slashing it through the air. Bailey barely managed to slide out of the way before flipping over the RB-X’s head and slashing her claws against its chest. The RB-X went for an ax kick after that but Bailey rolled out of the way.

    While it was distracted by the brawl, Samus launched a volley of Storm Missiles. All fifteen of them struck the RB-X in the back, causing it to lurch forward while she ran up to it and lassoed her Grapple Beam around its neck. Bailey took the opportunity to shoot him in the chest with a double shot of charged Annihilator Beams. The RB-X let out a distorted howl that was quickly silenced as Samus pelted him with a volley of rapid-fire blasts thanks to her Beam Burst ability.

    The RB-X apparently decided that it had enough and activated its own version of the Lightning Shield, knocking both Samus and Bailey back while negating their continued attacks. It then charged Samus, punching her hard in the stomach and sending her flying back. Samus Flash Shifted back into position and smacked the RB-X across the head with her cannon before it grabbed her by the neck like the real Raven Beak had done when she had first arrived on this planet. It charged its cannon but before it could fire, Bailey pounced on the RB-X’s back and tore its wings off. The RB-X let out another wild screech and released its grip on Samus.

    The RB-X’s body began to twist and warp, and effect that Samus had seen before. It was in the process of turning into a monstrous amalgamation of parts like Bailey had done before and the original SA-X before her. She didn’t give it the chance, though.

    Instinctively, Samus grabbed the RB-X’s chest, her green, chitinous claws crushing the replicated metal as she started to absorb his life energy. In seconds, the RB-X was gone, completely consumed.

    Bailey stumbled back as Samus stared at her open hand, which continued to glow an ominous red. Samus turned her gaze to her X copy and Bailey ran.

    * * *​

    While Bailey may have been a genetic copy of the Hunter, at the moment she felt like the hunted. In an instant, Samus had lost control and been overcome by her newfound Metroid instincts and with the fake Raven Beak already gone that left Bailey as the closest prey. She would have preferred not to have to fight her gene host again at all, let alone so soon after the last time, but it wasn’t as if she had a choice in the matter.

    Bailey regrew gene host Escue’s insectoid wings and took off, attempting to fly away from the humanoid Metroid chasing her. Unfortunately, Samus could essentially fly herself, using her Space Jump and Screw Ball abilities to essentially become a ball of instant death chasing her through the sky. Even without that, however, it would only take one touch from Samus for her to completely absorb Bailey near-instantaneously. Bailey didn’t even have time to think about how to snap Samus back to her senses as she was too preoccupied on simply avoiding getting caught.

    If only she hadn’t sterilized herself. She could at least distract Samus by creating a clone or two through fission reproduction. But she was no longer biologically capable of splitting herself off like that. She could only regenerate from a single source or create something small like a data card. She couldn’t… wait…

    Bailey ripped off her left arm and tossed it to the side. Samus grabbed it out of the air and drained it instantly. That was barely a distraction but she hadn’t intended it to be one. She just needed to know that Samus would go for it. A new arm erupted from the bloodless stump, slender and covered in dark feathers. Trying to replicate the limb from such a limited DNA record was difficult but she managed it. She briefly flexed her new Chozo limb, making sure that she’d made it right before tearing the new arm off as well.

    Samus grabbed this arm as well, momentarily stopping her Screw Attack to drain it. The plan worked and Samus froze up, falling to the ground. By the time she hit the rocky surface of the planet, her armor had shifted to its regular purple-and-white design, with no trace of Metroid influence left. Bailey dropped down beside her, concerned about the fate of her ‘big sister’.

    “Ow, my head.” Samus clutched at her helmet as she slowly sat up. “What… what did you do? Thank you for snapping me out of that, but how? Was that Raven Beak’s arm? When did you get his DNA.”

    “It's part of yours,” Bailey regrew the Chozo limb to show it off. “But now, this isn’t his. That probably would have just made things worse.”

    “Right, the feathers are the wrong color,” Samus noted, then her eyes widened. “Wait, I know that arm. That’s-”

    “Gray Voice,” Bailey confirmed.

    “But why? How?”

    “Well, I remembered what you told me about what Quiet Robe had said during your encounter with him. That Raven Beak needed him because the Thoha could control Metroid. And since you had Thoha genes thanks to Gray Voice, I figured that getting you to feed off of some of his flesh might retrigger that part of your DNA so that you could control your Metroid genes again. I really went out on a limb with that one but I was kind of desperate. I don’t think I was well-armed enough to try anything else so I just had to wing it. I’m just glad that I could lend you a hand before, um…”

    Samus stood up as Bailey trailed off in thought before pulling her hand on Bailey face and pushing her away.

    “I am not in the mood for puns right now,” she said.

    “Yeah, I was running out of them, anyway.” Bailey shook her head as their ride finally landed nearby. “There’s no invisible hand guiding my thoughts right now. If I try anymore, I’ll just be going on a limb.”

    “You already did that one,” Samus pointed out as she started walking for the ship.

    “Oh, right.” Bailey shifted her arm back to normal and ran after her. “Well, I guess it's time to say bye-cep to this planet.”

    “Please, stop.”

    * * *​

    Samus leaned back in the pilot’s seat of their hijacked E.M.M.I. transport ship and let out a sigh as she dematerialized her Power Suit before stretching her soar muscles. She was more than ready for a good hyperspace nap as she steered the ship out of ZDR’s atmosphere. She’d had Bailey patrol the remains of the destroyed city while she prepared for takeoff, confirming that there were no other surviving X Parasites. For once, she got to end a mission without destroying a planet. It was weird how often she ended up doing that.

    She heard the door slid open behind her and didn’t bother turning around to see who had entered. Junior was far too big to get to this part of the ship and ADAM was a ship in his own right, so it could only have been Bailey.

    “I’ve set a course for Quijano Station,” Samus said, opening up a star chart on the viewing screen that displayed their current heading. “I’ve got a buddy who runs a junk shop there but he’s also a crackshot engineer. I don’t know if he’ll be able to fix up your ship but he’ll at least get you a good deal for the scrap if you can’t, and I’m also going to see if I can get him to finally install an autopilot in ADAM. After that, I’m dropping Junior off on Planet SMB-985.”

    “Sounds good,” Bailey voice came from behind her. “By the way, I made a new friend on the way up here.”

    Samus let out an exasperated sigh and swiveled her chair around, expecting to find Bailey with some alien creature that had managed to sneak aboard the ship at some point. Her eyes widened and she reflexively pulled out her emergency pistol as she stared at the E.M.M.I. standing beside Bailey.

    “Where did that thing come from?” Samus demanded.

    “I just told you, I made her,” Bailey explained as if were obvious. “I found the repair bay where they kept all the spare parts and I decided to mess around a bit with them. I named her Emmy and I programmed her myself, so you don’t have to worry about her being hostile.”

    “That would explain why the parts don’t match.” Samus sighed and put away her gun, massaging her temples. She could already tell that her new ‘sister’ was going to be one headache after another.

    Bailey hopped into the first officer’s chair while ‘Emmy’ sat down beside her like some kind of patchwork robot dog. Samus turned her own chair back around and saw that they were now safely out of the planet’s atmosphere.

    “This has certainly been an experience that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon,” Samus said as the ship made the jump into hyperspace.

    “Neither will I,” Bailey agreed, though her tone was much more excited than Samus’. “There’s a whole universe out there just waiting to be explored and for the first time I feel like I actually have a place in it.”

    Samus chuckled at that before looking down at herself. Bailey may have found a new lease on life but she hadn’t. If anything, she now felt even more lost and alone than ever before. Was she really just a weapon, groomed since childhood to serve as Raven Beak’s key to galactic control? She wasn’t even sure that she felt like there was a place for her anywhere, now. She was already an outlaw living on the edge of charted space just to get by. She was a shadow of her old self, nearly unrecognizable.

    Who was Samus Aran?

    That was a question that she was going to need to answer and she knew the perfect place to try and figure that out.

    “Hey, do you have a place to stay?” Samus asked.

    “Huh?” Bailey turned to her. “Oh, um, not really. I’ve just kind of been living out of my ship.”

    “Well, I’ve got a small apartment on the Quijano but it's pretty small and rundown,” she started to say. “Barely enough space for the etecoons and dachoras I’ve been taking care of since Zebes. It’s probably past time that I find a new place somewhere… greener. Want to come along?”

    Bailey staired at her blankly before breaking out into a smile. “Are you asking me to be your new roommate?”

    “Something like that,” Samus replied.

    “Yes!” Bailey answered in a shrill squeak. “But, where would be staying?”

    “Well,” Samus leaned back in her seat before answering, “there’s this place called the Mushroom Kingdom…”

    * * *​

    SEE YOU NEXT MISSION

    Samus will return in Super Ridley Bros. 2: Subcon Nightmare

    Kraid will return

    Bailey will return

    * * *​

    And so another story draws to a close. It feel weird finishing something only a few months after I started. I feel fairly satisfied with how this one turned out, though I’ve discovered that I actually don’t like writing ‘direct’ adaptations like this. While I may have strayed pretty far from Dread’s plot by the end, I still felt myself rather constrained by limiting myself to mostly following the game. While a few of the stories that I have planned for the Ridley ‘verse will also be loose adaptations of games, I don’t expect that any of them will follow the source material as closely as this did and most future entries will likely be entirely original stories.

    I do kind of wish that Kraid could have played a role in the final battle. I came up with the idea of having him jump out the ship and perform a high-velocity ground pound on the RB-X, completely squashing it. Unfortunately, that would have just led to Kraid getting infected but I wanted to make sure that he lived. Plus, I needed a way to de-Metroid Samus. I also don’t really have any specific plans for the character other than having him reunite with ‘Uncle Ridley’ at the beginning of SRB2. Same with Bailey, who’s probably just going to be a recurring comic relief character unless I decide to give her a solo storyline or something. And Emmy was literally just a last-minute joke I came up with while writing the last scene so who knows if she’ll ever be back for more than a cameo.
     

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