This was an idea I had a while back, but I never really acted on it til now. Sorry for the rather short Chapter 1 - they should be longer in the future. Please note that this story does NOT revolve around Samus, although we may see our favorite heroine later in the story...

Disclaimer: I don't own Metroid. But I do own my original characters.

In Absentia Luci

Chapter 1

The darkness of the alley sheltered the white-haired man as he breathed in and out, winded by the long run down several blocks of city streets. Eyes closed, he rested his head against the wall and tried to catch his breath when soft clicking sounds caught his attention. He opened his eyes and blinked several times, trying to peer into the darkness, but nothing caught his attention. Convinced that the noise had been an animal of some sort, he slumped to the ground, listening to the blare of police sirens slowly fade into the distant. He grinned; he'd finally thrown the police off his trail. Grasping the metallic briefcase he'd dropped beside him, the man stood and headed for the exit of the alley when he heard the hum of an arm cannon coming to life. He froze.

"Don't move," came a gruff voice from behind him. In response the man dropped the briefcase, his hand flying to the pistol in his overcoat pocket. A dark purple substance shot out of the blackness of the alley, giving the man barely any time to react. A split second before he realized what the strange substance was, it hit him square in the chest. The frighteningly cold matter seemed to snake its way around his entire body in a matter of seconds. He felt the liquid harden, sealing him in a stiff, revolting cuccoon. Fear gripped him as a white visor flared to life.

"Ben Hildrat?" inquired the voice again, the boredom in his voice all too apparent.

"Whaddaya want?" growled the man, taking small sips of air. The smell of the purple goo was disgusting; he fought every urge to wretch and looked down the alleyway again. "I've done nothin'."

What sounded like a laugh came from the darkness. "Really?"

The soft noise of network access through a visor reached his ears and Ben grit his teeth. "Whatever it says I've done, it's a lie!" he shouted. If he had been able to wave his arms around, he would have.

"Four counts of drug trafficking, two counts of murder; it's a wonder you're still walking around." One metallic hand reached out the shadows and picked up the briefcase.

"Bounty hunter," snarled Ben. "And Aran, no less!"

Silence reigned for a few brief seconds. "And what makes you think I'm her?" asked the voice at last, curious.

"You're wearing the suit, ain't ya? That makes you Aran. " Honestly, insulting a man of my intelligence, he thought, and rolled his eyes in exasperation. "So what's the deal? You takin' me in or what?"

There was a pause as a short, soft musical tone came from the alley. "It says here... 'alive, 1000 credits.'"

"Hey, I'm worth more than that!" protested Ben. The nerve of these idiots! he fumed silently. Thinkin' I'm worth nothin'!

"I wasn't finished," said the bounty hunter, interrupting the criminal's thoughts. "'Dead, worth 5,000 credits'."

If the man could have dropped to his knees, he would have done so. "C-come on, cut m-me some s-slack," he stammered as the bounty hunter stepped out of the shadows, white visor casting an eerie glow on the metal walls of the alley. The pearlescent power suit he wore seemed to glow in the light of the twin moons, a huge contrast to the shadows that had fallen as night settled in for its visit. The suit was very smooth in nature, its frame snugly fitting the hunter's average build. Two small spikes jutted outward from the knee and elbow joints, while a small, unwavering circle of light gave off a steady glow on the back of his left hand. The visor itself was almost seamless with the helmet; it was nearly impossible to tell where the one ended and the other began. The entire suit seemed to pulse in rhythm with the hunter's breathing, as if it were alive. This all added together for a very ominous effect. A shiver jumped down the hardened criminal's spine, and he was certain it was not from the dark material surrounding him. Ben's eyes widened as particles of energy began to gather at the tip of the cannon's barrel. He was charging his beam for another shot, and this time it would be lethal.

"Y-y-you're j-oking! D-don't k-k-ill me, plleeeaassseee!" whimpered the criminal, and thrashed against his bindings in a futile attempt to break free. There was now a bright shimmering nimbus of white light around the bounty hunter's gun as he lifted it to Ben's eye level. Then, quicker than Ben could follow, the arm cannon swiveled around and fired several simultaneous bursts of light at the briefcase, turning it into a few pieces of smoldering scrap metal.

"Dreck like you don't deserve to die so easily," growled the hunter behind the visor, and kicked the man's cocoon down onto the ground. Ben began to roll, aided by the hunter's occasional kick, toward the entrance to the alleyway. Ben whimpered again and said nothing, too shocked about his near-death encounter to speak. He said nothing as a pair of hands picked him up and hauled him into the back of a floating van and closed the door, leaving him in complete darkness.

"He was worth more dead, Rydas," said the man who had picked Ben up and placed him in the vehicle, giving the bounty hunter a meaningful look.

"I don't kill scum when they deserve to rot in jail for the rest of their sorry lives, Kiel," retorted Rydas. Now that his mark was safely contained, the suit around Rydas shimmered and vanished in a flash of light to reveal a black-haired man in a gray t-shirt and blue jeans who leveled an angry gaze at the man. Kiel promptly held up both hands and backed a few feet away.

"Hey, I was just saying what I thought," he said hurriedly. "But if you're not going to kill them, why not go after a better paying bounty? The GF have put out a lot of -"

"No," replied Rydas vehemently. He reached into one pocket and placed a small wad of credits onto Kiel's hand. "There's your payment. I'll expect my money in my account in two days. If not..." The bounty hunter let his unspoken threat hang idly in the air. He knew Kiel's imagination would do the work for him and turned to leave, raising a single hand in farewell.

"I just don't understand why you don't want to work for the Federation. It's good money, and with your skills..." the man let his comment fade into nothingness when he caught sight of Rydas' glare.

"Let's get a few things straight." His voice seemed to chill the pavement under Kiel's feet faster than a Metroid on an icy planet. "Your job is to take the marks I hunt to the client and collect my money. It's not your job to know why I refuse to work for the Federation. Got it?" Without another word Rydas walked off, not once looking back as Kiel let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding.

"Now I know why people refuse to work with you," he muttered as his boss rounded the corner and vanished from view. Rydas was the newest addition to the group of freelance bounty hunters that scoured the galaxy in search of marks to hunt. Kiel shook his head and got into the van, keying in a sequence of numbers that started the engine. As he drove down the streets of the megalopolis, he glanced at the notes he'd been given from the Federation after he'd taken the position of Rydas' mark collector.

Name: Rydas Lumoth

Hunter Rank: Class A2 - Dangerous

Background: Unknown

Origin: Unknown. Appears to be human.

Suit: Origins unknown. Carries various armaments.

He let out a dusty sigh as he brought the van to a halt in front of a red light while the pedestrians by the van's front crossed the street. Rydas was a wildcard - though he'd already proven himself to be skilled in his last few hunts, no one - not even the Galactic Federation - seemed to know who he was or where he was from. This fact, coupled with the hunter's chilly demeanor, had driven away the last seven mark collectors that had been assigned to him. But Kiel had stayed on - something about the man had aroused his curiosity, and despite the possibility that Rydas was a danger to him, he wanted to learn just who the man was. After all, thought Kiel as he eyed two men who pointed two guns each other, what's life without a little danger?

---------------------

Rydas sat in a bar, sipping a small glass of ale and ignoring the admiring and sometimes seductive looks that the women around him threw his way. While women seemed to classify him as handsome, he had no idea what they saw in him - with fair skin and olive green eyes, he blended in with everyone else. He blinked and checked over the latest list of bounties on the terminal: every one of them appeared to be from the Galactic Federation. He shut down the terminal in disgust and took another swig of his ale, staring off into space. Two burly men on the far side of the bar had gotten into a fight over whether or not one of their darts had hit the center of the dart board, but he paid no attention, instead thinking over the scene in front of the alley. He hadn't meant to be so harsh to Kiel - the man was very good at his job, perhaps the best mark collector he'd encountered so far. Quick, intelligent, prompt, and alert at all times, Kiel had been reliable. But the man was undeniably nosy; he'd been pestering Rydas for weeks for an answer to his seemingly simple question: why not take a job from the Federation?

The answer to that question was, of course, more complex than it seemed. In his mind's eye he saw that darkened, ravaged corridor that had haunted him for the last 16 years of his life, feeling the heat from the flames on his skin as if he was standing right next to them. Again, the cold voice that he would never forget spoke from just beyond the raging inferno. "Leave him or kill him?" There came a grunt, two yellow eyes glancing over him before turning away. "What's the difference -"

"Rydas Lumoth?"

Rydas blinked, brought back to reality by a hoarse voice from behind him. He swiveled his chair around and was treated to the image of a tall, muscled man in a Galactic Federation uniform. "That'd be me. What do you want?"

The man grunted and ignored the venom in the hunter's voice. "I'm here to offer you a job on behalf of the Federation -"

"Not interested." Rydas stood from his chair and made for the door when the officer stepped in his path.

"You haven't even heard the proposition yet."

"I don't care. I don't accept jobs from the Federation," replied Rydas forcefully, and shoved his way past the man toward the exit.

"How long do you think you can go on like this?" When the hunter stopped but did not turn around, the man continued. "I've seen your records. You haven't taken a single job from the GF. You've only taken jobs from private contractors despite the fact that there are better paying bounties out there. Why is that, Rydas?"

"That," said Rydas coldly, "is none of your business. Now kindly leave me be."

The officer didn't move. "500,000 credits. 250,000 in advance, and another 250,000 when you complete the mission."

Rydas took a deep breath. The offer was surprising tempting, but he had more than enough money to last for a couple of months. Other jobs would appear - ones that didn't involve the Federation and whatever shady dealings they had going on behind their impeccable facade.

Before Rydas could open his mouth to answer the man added, "It's more than you'll make in the next six months. I guarantee it."

The bounty hunter did not miss the smug tone that lay beneath his statement. "Is that a threat?" he asked, voice quiet. The man shrugged.

"It might be. One mission, Rydas, and you'll never hear from us again." The officer prodeced a slip of paper from one pocket and offered it out to Rydas. He took it reluctantly, jamming it into his pocket without looking at it.

"That's my contact information. Think over our proposition and call me if you want to take the job. I hope to hear from you within a week." And with that, the man slipped past the hunter into the cool night air. Rydas hesitated - the option to simply blast the man down with a well-placed missile from his arm cannon was very inviting, but he restrained the urge to do so and exited the bar instead, heading for his apartment. Anger wouldn't get him anywhere right now, but neither would sitting and thinking everything over; he needed advice. A small smile graced his lips as he found he knew exactly who to call.

His brother.