Chaos and the Aftermath

by J. Rolande, aka Moonlight Sonata

Mess is too great an understatement. Disorder and disarray do not seem to describe it in enough detail. Perhaps only the word "chaos" can truly do it justice.

A glance around the room reveals that the metal plates on the wall have buckled under some great force. Blood drips from their edges. Shards of broken bottles glitter in the artificial glare of the overhead lighting. Papers are scattered underfoot: contracts, spattered in blood, outline the terms of payment. Most of these have been fulfilled; now it is only a matter of collecting the bounty which is due. This is her life. This is what she knows, what she does; she always has, and figures she always will. There have never been any doubts in her mind about it, and she has never wasted time being dishonest and trying to kid herself that there is any other way of life for her, other than this.

Until now.

Her discovery weighs upon her heart.

Suddenly, in that one awful moment contracts and payments and bounties are no longer a priority. In one agonizing second of emotional upheaval, cashing in on the one hundred thousand credits from her last mission is just not important. Standing in the aftermath, she is dazed; this is chaos she created, a maelstrom that reflects the tumult raging inside of her. Again, mechanically, she pulls back and smashes her fist into the metal wall; the plates crunch, then buckle with a groan and another finishing rivet pops out, clattering to the metal floor.

Breathing hard, she finally sinks to the floor, clutching her hand. She takes a moment away from her inner pain to survey the outward, self-inflicted wounds. There's no doubt her hand is broken from repeatedly smashing it against the wall. Her fingers curl, clawlike, and the flesh across her knuckles has been torn to meat. She imagines for an instant she can see the raw white bones beneath; it would not be out of the realm of possibility. Violet and green bruising dyes her hand and wrist. Swelling distorts the appendage. The final, oddly satisfied appraisal is that she has done a very thorough job. For a moment the pain is all she can feel.

She closes her eyes, focusing on it: I caused this pain. This is pain of my making, she tells herself She allows it to stab through her, and her whole arm screams. The shattered fingers are splinters, stuck in the delicate muscles that have nothing to support anymore. Breathing in, flexing the muscles around the splintered fingers, she savors this pain, even as lightening shoots up her arm and stars prick her vision. Slowly opening her eyes, she stares at the chaos around her again, taking it in fully.

Blood. The red, gleaming in the artificial light, catches her eyes first. Drops of it roll down the crunched and buckled wall plates. Smears of it remind her of graffiti. Her footprints are etched in blood on the floor. This isn't quite what shocks her; blood is nothing new in her world. She has seen blood before on many occasions, and for many reasons. She has spilled it in defense, and she has spilled it for pay, watching as it pooled beneath corpses. She has seen her own blood, tasting it when internal injuries made her cough up thick red clots of it, watching it spill from gashes. No, she and blood are well acquainted.

Bloodshed and pain are the basis of her existence, but never before have they collided within her so violently, and that is what shocks her now. She gazes around at the chaos and the blood and for the first time questions her existence. She questions who she is, and what she does. Morality has never been her strong suit, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and this time is nothing if not desperate.

She lies back on the floor, staring up at the harsh light above her. It glares down upon her, reminding her eerily of the harsh lights in an interrogation room, forcing her to look hard at her life and be honest with herself about what she sees. She grits her teeth and holds her damaged hand close against her body, trying to block out that pain. Unconsciously her other hand drifts down to rest on her stomach. As of now her stomach is rock-hard, flattened and toned from years spent training and honing her physique into a deadly weapon. Anyone who thinks Samus Aran's body is a work of beauty has obviously not seen it in action, and those who have are either dead, or light years away from her, never to see her again. Her body is first her weapon, but it is also distinctly human, and even more, distinctly female. There are only certain things she can force it to ignore, to go without. She is not above denying her body's sexual needs and urges.

To some, it is making love; to others, sexual intercourse, and to those who crave it like a drug, screwing. To Samus, always just a bit different from your average human, it's little more than taking care of her urges on a systematic basis. Sometimes she's able to satisfy herself, but other times she just needs more. These are the times when there are other partners involved, but they're rarely important, usually just tools to assist her. She doesn't think about them much, either before... during... or even after the encounters. She's had some decent lovers, some downright awful ones, too. Just because she is the top bounty hunter in the galaxy doesn't mean she can be choosy when the need overcomes her. As a result she has bedded rich men, powerful men, handsome men, not so handsome men, co-workers, rivals, employers, targets. Things never last beyond their one night together, and she rarely remembers names. Some she has felt affection for, others she disliked, and only one has she ever loved.

She tries now to remember her most recent encounter. What planet was she on? Why was she there? And the man... Though he is faceless and anonymous now, she suddenly wonders about him. She has never been one for small talk, in or out of the bed, but now she is desperately curious to recall any snatches of conversation that will tell her about who he was and what he did for a living, what brought him there at the same time as herself. The curiosity overwhelms the brutal throbbing in her hand, and she tries to envision his face: was he handsome? Were his eyes dark, or light? And his hair, what was it like?

The answers elude her.

What she does recall is his physicality, and remembers that it wasn't altogether unpleasant to have him in bed with her. She tries to remember if he held her close afterward, or screwed her and called it a night. She knows he probably had a name, but for the life of her, she can't remember it. His face is shadowed, hidden from her mind. He will always be a mystery to her, a faceless romp in the sack who needed to let off some steam as much as she did.

She sighs and unconsciously her healthy hand gently caresses her stomach, feeling beyond the hard, rippling muscles, feeling a slight sensation below that surface that only she can sense. She knows something is there within her, growing and changing by the day. Right now her toned abdomen can conceal it, but the more it grows, not even her musculature will not be able to hide it.

And maybe her last partner will not be faceless to her forever.

Closing her eyes she becomes aware of physical feeling, her surroundings seeping into her. She feels the hard, cool floor under her shoulders and buttocks. She feels the pain throbbing away, creeping from her hand to her shoulder. She feels the sticky blood caking her shattered fingers. She feels the sharpness of dry, filtered air slicing up her nostrils with each inhalation. She tries to go beyond the physical act of feeling and touch her emotions, but they are intangible. Frustrated, she opens her eyes and happens to spy a bloodied contract she has fulfilled.

She frowns ever so slightly.

Samus Aran has never let her mind be infiltrated and nagged by the faces and voices of her victims; she takes the same attitude toward them as she does toward her sexual partners. They don't really have names or features. They are numbers to her, numbers preceded by dollar signs. They are not human bodies, but paper contracts with her signature on them, waiting to be fulfilled so she can collect her bounty. She has never allowed morals or ethics to infringe upon her livelihood, for when a bounty hunter goes soft, she can wave goodbye to her income. And this is more than a livelihood for Samus. It is the only life she knows how to live.

However, she now finds the need to pause and seriously ponder her life from all aspects, moral and ethical included. She considers her life from an outsider's perspective, drawing on the rumors and whispers she has heard about herself when people did not realize she walked among them. She knows she is not revered out of respect. People simply fear the armored personification of her, pictures of which grace intergalactic news feeds. She has recently destroyed the planet of Zebes, and with it, the mainstays of the Space Pirate forces that have threatened the galaxy for so long. For all intents and purposes she has saved the galaxy. Yet she is not viewed as a hero (or heroine; few know the lithe, muscled blonde who skulks among them is actually the feared bounty hunter). Crowds still part when she, in full armor, stalks the streets looking for her quarry. Her presence has the ability to make anyone in proximity to her feel like a potential target. Adults seek shelter from her wrath, and parents with children protectively shield them from the terror she represents.

She may have saved the galaxy, but she is still a bounty hunter first class, and one does not attain that ranking by being choosy about targets. She supposes that, in all fairness, she has earned the fear.

This is her life.

It is fact to her, plain and simple, and she has never before cared about the public reactions to her acts. Humans are fickle creatures anyway; one moment they want to canonize, the next, burn at the stake. She finds it best to not form attachments anyway. Anyone she becomes attached to could wind up a target. Simply put, to attach to Samus Aran is to risk one's life. It does not matter if one is friend or foe, male or female, young or old. Once the terms of a hunt are agreed upon and the contract signed, the target is no longer a person—he or she is just that, a living, breathing target that has numbered days until it stops living and breathing.

She smirks, bemused. No wonder parents hide their children when she passes. They would rather sacrifice themselves than leave their flesh and blood to fall at the Hunter's feet.

This sheer irony makes her want to laugh and cry at the same time. She winds up in a fit of giggles and hiccups while tears stream from her eyes. It is just too much: she, whose wrath is terrible, whose ethics are nonexistent, she, whom parents fear, is to be a parent herself. She, Samus Aran, a mother. Already the cells within her uterus are undergoing mitosis. Her nameless partner's sperm has fertilized the egg and conception has occurred. Soon a tiny, perfect heart will begin to beat, and tiny hands and feet, with miniature fingers and toes, will reach out in the amniotic fluid. Within months she will feel tiny legs kicking at her from the inside out, and in the ninth month, she will deliver the child.

No... not the child. Her child.

Will it be a boy or a girl? She imagines pink one-piece outfits, or blue miniature t-shirts, pacifiers and bottles, gallons of formula, and an infinite amount of diapers. She opens her eyes and looks around again, assessing her surroundings. Can all the endless supplies of baby paraphernalia fit on her sparsely furnished hunter-class gunship? Try as she might she can not picture any space for a bassinet or crib in her already cramped habitation quarters. Her eyes take in the bloody chaos again, and a pain worse than that in her hand begins to well up in her heart.

There is simply no way she can raise a child under these conditions. Her gunship was built for speed and stealth and matters of sheer necessity. Comfort is a luxury, not a necessary need. She could make due with this for the nine months of gestation, but what about after the baby is born? The ship was built for need, after all, and for a bounty hunter such as herself, children simply aren't a necessity.

A lump swells in her throat, choking her. She sits up, still clutching her broken hand to her chest, and stares at the sheer amount of paperwork strewn about the floor. Even though she has the files safely in her ship's computer, she likes to have hard copies in the event of a system crash, a virus, or a hacker. While her technology is always up to date, one can never be too prepared for a worst-case scenario. The paper that now surrounds her, crumpled, bloody, in some cases torn, represents lives she has taken. Not only that, it represents lives she has taken payment for taking! The enormity of what she does for a living is slowly becoming a reality. Yes, it is fine for her, but could she in good conscience raise a child in these conditions, with this career?

For the first time in... well, she does not know how long, Samus Aran allows her conscience to become an integral part of her psychology. The fact she remains detached from a conscience allows her to be lethal, and her lethality in turn is what allows her to be such an effective, and hence well-paid, bounty hunter. She has never considered herself as needing a conscience, let alone a good one. But now a tiny, innocent life grows slowly but steadily within her womb. This life has never seen evil. This life has never felt the pangs of moral quandaries. This life has not seen the ill that plagues the galaxies. This life is new and fresh and filled with hope, everything Samus Aran's life is not. She hunts the corrupt, but is not above corruption herself. She is aging and disintegrating as slowly, but as surely as the embryo within her grows. She also, until now, held no hope for her redemption.

This throws a further irony into sharp relief: the taker of life will soon bring one into existence.

Samus is beyond laughing now, and fresh tears spill over and roll down her cheeks. Her shoulders shake as she tries to hold back her sobs. The shaking causes fresh waves of pain in her wounded hand, but even the sharpness in the appendage can no longer distract her from the ache in her heart. No, there is no way in heaven or hell or any and all of the cosmos that she can bring this child into existence. She would do nothing but bring pain and uncertainty and abnormalcy to this infant. This child, her own flesh and blood, would grow up with a mother who made her living off of premeditated murder. And of course, the child will be her child; there are genetic traits to think of, characteristics that can or will be inherited. It would be a kindness to the galaxy to not bring her own child into being.

But she remembers very quickly that it takes more for a baby to be conceived. She was not alone in this endeavor initially, even if she will be alone in the future. This child may very well resemble his or her father in looks and characteristics. Maybe the galaxy is not doomed, after all. The thought gives her a bit of hope. Maybe, just maybe, she can do this. Very few people know the Samus outside of the suit of armor—what she acts like, let alone what she looks like. And she has several bounties to collect, on which she could live quite comfortably and easily support her child.

Even as optimism begins to give her vestiges of peace, reality rears its head again. She has never had any experience with children; she did not have family growing up. She did not have friends early in life, and does not have any now. She has no reference points for caring for a helpless baby. She is alone now, and will be alone then. From what she's seen on rare occasions, single-
motherhood is difficult enough for women with somewhat normal upbringings. And her upbringing is nothing if not abnormal. Deep-rooted fears she never thought she could feel begin to twine around her thoughts like strangling vines. She has only known about her pregnancy for a couple of hours now, and already she fears forgetting to feed or bathe the as-yet-unborn infant. She pictures the baby screaming, refusing to be comforted by anything she does to calm it. She imagines forgetting the baby somewhere. And worst of all, she imagines her temper flaring against the helpless creature.

She crawls over to a wall and leans up against it. She is unfit for human existence—how in the hell does she even think she may be fit for motherhood?

Again her eyes survey the surroundings. The chaos is gone, the mess that remains only a shadow of what it was earlier. For some reason she feels a little more calm now. She has come to terms with the fact that there is no way she can raise her own child. It is a mental and emotional impossibility. Using her one good hand she begins to shuffle the papers into a haphazard pile. Normally she keeps her paper contracts organized by date, but with one good hand and a heavy heart, one must settle for just having them off the floor. She leaves the broken glass for the clean up crew she intends to employ when she makes landing at a city platform on the edges of the Galactic Federation's territories. They will be paid handsomely for repairing and cleaning the inside of her ship, and besides, if she has a broom or dustpan aboard, she has yet to see or use it.

Leaning on the wall for support, she struggles to her feet, pressing her forehead against the coolness of the metal interior for a moment, waiting for the stars to subside. She has come to the very logical conclusion that she cannot raise her child: now she must consider her options. She staggers to the cockpit, her hand paralyzed with pain. She must get to a physician soon. The bones in her hand need to be set and mended, and she has options to discuss, as well as decisions to make.

With a sigh she enters coordinates of the nearest platform system, and commences a scan of the medical resources offered upon it. There are several practicing physicians with varying specialties. She is able to locate a hand surgeon and set up a consultation within the standard day period. It will be a relief, as well as worth the extra credits she'd used to buy her way into an appointment, to get her hand taken care of quickly. While she has not broken her gun hand, she still needs to be at 100% capacity should any worthwhile bounties come up.

And then she searches for the hardest physician of all: the one specializing in gynecological matters. There are three practitioners on the platform, and all are accredited by the Federation Medical Standard. Only one, however, is licensed to perform gynecological surgery.

Inhaling a shaking breath, she laboriously enters her information. Apparently the waiting list to see this doctor is quite long, but she figures it's nothing some well-placed credits can't fix. It's also nothing reputation can't fix, either. All it would take is convincing the office personnel that if she does not have this appointment now, it may jeopardize the future of the galaxy.

And indeed, it may. She realizes if she carries her baby full-term she may break one of her cardinal rules of existence: never attach to anything. But already the idea of motherhood, while more frightening than any criminal she has hunted down, is starting to feel... natural. It is dangerous for her and threatens her very survival. She knows she should never grow attached to anything physical or incorporeal, and yet she slowly grows attached to the mere idea of being a mother.

She also wonders again about the father... where he is, and if he thinks of their one-night-stand. It was efficient, and effective, and it managed to have completely unexpected results. She tries again, to no avail, to remember his face, and wonders which parent the baby will favor, but without recalling what the father looks like, she supposes she'll never know. She also supposes the father will never know. He was most likely a transient like herself, stopped over on Name-the-Platform-Or-Planet for a brief respite from space travel. Like Samus, he never expected anything more than a good night out of their union, and he has now probably gone onto bigger ports and better lovers, or home to a wife and family.

He has no idea his genes are carrying on in the womb of a bounty hunter. He probably didn't realize she was a bounty hunter when he agreed to screw her. Her body was a thing of beauty to him, and he did not see the lethality below the surface. He is light years away by now, remembering her only as a one night stand. Producing a child was not in his thoughts then, and having fathered one is probably not in his thoughts now.

So would he care about the decisions that now weigh upon Samus Aran's newly exposed conscience? Would he want a say in her final choice? What would he say if he knew? This new barrage of questions batters at Samus's exhausted mind, and she closes her eyes in defeat. Since when has the top bounty hunter in the Federation cared what anyone thinks about her? The question is asked in righteous anger, but the answer is very simple and instantly humbling: a baby changes everything.

She shakes her head furiously, and continues filling in the data form, then attaches a money transfer file to ensure that she will receive consideration when appointments are made for the future. The only thing that should be attached to anything is that monetary transfer file; the more she thinks about this, the more attached she gets to the cluster of dividing cells in her uterus.

The files are sent, and still she feels no peace. The only thing she can do is stop thinking about it, but how?

She stumbles from the cockpit, back to the only slightly neatened mess of her habitation quarter. The blood on the buckled plating has dried. The plating itself is crumpled and bent, sharp corners bent upward and outward where rivets popped under the force of her angry, frustrated punching.

Slowly she pulls her hand away from her body, and fresh waves of pain begin their assault. She surveys the purple, swollen thing, observes how it is caked in sticky dried blood. She eyes the wall again, and takes a moment to savor how it feels to be relatively pain-free, reminding herself subconsciously of her appointment with the hand surgeon in the very near future. The damage is done, she tells herself. The damage is undoable. Even if the surgeon can repair her hand, and she's certain he can, she will still remember smashing it into this wall over and over again. Even if the other surgeon can repair the other problem she will still remember having had this problem, having been in a quandary over it. She is not certain which is worse, having the quandary now, or being rid of it and remembering having it.

But now she is tired of thinking about it, and she needs to forget. Drinking would be her first instinct, but something stays her good hand from reaching for the bottle. "Dammit," she whispers softly. She clenches her damaged hand, nearly screaming out at the blinding sheets of pain that slice through her. She focuses on the damaged wall, pulls her throbbing arm back, and smashes her hand into the panels, yet again.

There is no word for the physical and emotional pain that overwhelms her. Perhaps only "chaos" can truly do it justice.