Episode 7: Zero Containment Center
Several stony Arume soldiers, one Lirael and one Samus Aran had gathered around the containment cell carrying Bowser. Thanks to their destination being on the opposite side of the colony, their cargo had to be loaded on a special freight train devoid of ordinary citizens. Even through the small windows the train was equipped with, the beginning of the colony's light cycle shined bright, even imitating the heat of a nearby sun.
Up until now, Samus never understood the reason that this colony had actual day/night cycles instead of schedules, but research done earlier had pulled up that a few divisions in the colony relied on such a cycle to maximize growth of several varieties of food. The designers of this colony apparently thought of EVERYTHING.
And now EVERYTHING included a cold containment center to keep guys like Bowser in check. Despite being here for two weeks now, Samus still had much to learn, and the Chozo blood within her was craving that learning experience. Luckily for her, Lieutenant Zael had not only given her the day to spend with Lirael's top force, but a week before she had to report back on duty. This gave her plenty of time to investigate the colony further and see what the Arume could hope to accomplish.
But perhaps most of all, she wanted proof that not every Arume in the universe were but heartless creatures that lusted after women. Tifael couldn't be the only one.
"Suraiel, Samus," the voice snapped her out of her thoughts, and she turned to face Lirael. The commander was gazing out the window of the freight train they were traveling on. This 'Suraiel' lady, who was talking rather animatedly to a few subordinates, stopped the conversation and turned to Lirael. She rivaled Samus in height, and unlike the other Arume soldiers wore black. Lirael gazed at the two of them. "Keep your eyes peeled. There are those who would like to free Bowser from his prison, more to strike us down than the care about his actual freedom."
"Huh?" This Suraiel raised an eyebrow. "Why go to such great lengths just to spite us, ze?"
Might have something to do with Arume galactic domination and no regard for other species, Samus quipped mentally, but instead offered, "It might be that Bowser actually has a lot of connections."
"Perhaps, we'll look into it once he's contained," Lirael answered before going back to gazing out the window. The train continued on in silence.
Samus noticed a rather sad look to Lirael, but it was Suraiel that actually commented on it—probably something to do with being higher on the food chain. "Yo Master Commander! Why the long face?"
"Ah!" Lirael's face contorted into surprise before smiling lightly. She went back to gazing as she simply answered, "Memories..." The train returned to awkward silence.
The train ride stayed relatively uneventful until Samus's eyes caught something. "Who's that?" She noted somebody perched on a tower, his keen eyes observing them as they moved into the large base. Holy wings fluttered on his back—he resembled an angel.
"He says his name is Pit," Lirael explained. "He serves Lady Palutena, someone who has recently taken residence here." There was a touch of amusement in her voice.
"That sounds like she came here uninvited," Samus remarked. "Did she... Master Commander?"
"Of course she did!" Suraiel complained, throwing up her arms in exasperation. "Some upstart horime moving in, thinking they own the place and killing everybody in sight..." Lirael stifled a giggle as she noticed the woman's nose was bleeding.
Samus mentally grimaced, but then decided to counter. "So Commander, if this 'upstart horime' killed everybody, then how are you still here?"
"Simple: I'm good at dodgin', ze." Suraiel proudly boasted, wiping away that blood. Samus decided to ignore that and turn back to Lirael.
However, it seemed that Lirael was already going to answer Samus's earlier question. "Rumor has it she is a former goddess. Perhaps it would be foolish of us to doubt that... I saw her power for myself. As for Pit, he is her most loyal servant, dedicated and strong for her cause." Lirael rose up as the train slowed to a stop. "I believe she gave him to us as an envoy perhaps. But enough about that," She swirled her cape dramatically. "We're at our destination. Let's move Bowser to his prison."
"Understood!" Samus barked with the other soldiers. As she moved to secure the King of Koopas, she thought back to their earlier conversation and realized that her questions about Pit weren't really answered—they spent all their time talking about Palutena!
"You should be honored, Aran," Suraiel patted Samus on the back, making her wince slightly. "We don't show this place to too many people, Arume or no." The prison they were carting Bowser to was just one part of a military complex. There were several weapons of all types including guns, missile launchers and even energy swords.
Samus had to strain to keep the wonder out of her features. "What's this place for?"
"Aran, you do know that this colony is largely military, right?" Suraiel raised an eyebrow.
"Had an idea, yes."
"Indeed, we're kinda new to this galaxy, and policing the earth and all that isn't an easy job. So we got this!" The taller Arume pointed her hand at the base. "Even though we're still outnumbered with common Arume citizens, our force is still pretty large so we can respond to all sorts of things."
Samus had a question about that, but yet again Lirael was faster on the draw. "We're building up strength to look further into the galaxy. As our prison cell will show you, Bowser is just one of many threats we came across."
"Huh..." Samus mused as they all moved into an elevator. Lirael touched the button to the basement, and they began their quick and silent descent to lock Bowser away.
"Amazin', huh?" Suraiel boasted.
As far as high tech prisons go, this one took the cake. It was a large, circular place arranged in a cylindrical style for about three floors, with a shorter floor at the very bottom. Separate prisons made to contain different types of troublemakers—like for instance, this cell right in front of her. It was bigger than those around it, and she could feel the cold air as it blasted out from the cell. "Amazing indeed."
"Bowser's a reptile, or at least has close enough anatomy to one, so he can't pull any fast ones on us in this cold room!"
It's not like he was fast in the first place, Samus thought back to their fight last week. Her wandering eyes spotted two other doors other than the ones they arrived from, and one was strangely at the bottom floor. She furrowed her brow at this, but Lirael interrupted those thoughts.
"That's correct," Lirael added to Suraiel's proclamation. The group of soldiers shoved him in before tapping some keys on the outside lock, sealing him in. "Many of these rooms are designed to adjust temperature an moisture to make prisoners to lethargic to escape." Seeing as Bowser was safely inside the cell and everyone else was accounted for, Lirael said. "Nice work. Thank you everyone for all of your work, it seems everything went without any problems. You can rest easy now and head back at your leisure."
Samus and the others saluted.
A while later, Samus found herself walking slowly out towards the end of the base. Remembering her week off, Samus decided a bit of small time investigation was in order.
...that was, if she could evade these lustful Arume long enough.
"Hey there, sweet thang!" One called out. "You single?"
"What a tragedy!" Another shouted. "It looks like she's got free time, and we don't!"
Samus raised her eyebrow, remembering what Tifael said about Arume nature. Now all of their stares and catcalls made sense. "I'm kinda honored you all think so highly of me," She wasn't exactly sure if this next trick would work, but it had to be worth a shot. "...but I'm already taken."
"Is that so?" They asked. "Depending on who they are, we might have to show you why we're better." Samus spotted one of them winking. This could possibly go in a very wrong direction.
So she thought of the first name that was on her mind, much to her chagrin. "Yeah. Her name's Tifael."
There was a shocked silence. This led to some meek murmuring and worried whispering, but by that time, Suraiel had come back. "Oh ho, you never told me about Tifael," the woman laughed. "I guess you managed to get past her new pet and into her heart. Best of luck to ya, ze. And as for you ladies," Suraiel turned back to the group of girls hitting on Samus. "The workplace is not your local date shop. Get back to work, ze!"
"Yes ma'am!" They all shouted, scurrying back to their posts as Suraiel barked more orders.
Samus silently thanked Suraiel before sprinting off, her mind nagging her about those doors in the prison...
Deep within the heart of the installation, Samus returned in her suited form. Stepping cautiously into a door, she began looking around, trying to find what exactly this research lab had compared to the last one.
The dark halls and glowing machinery almost felt like a familiar sight to Samus, but did little to assuage her natural apprehension. Then again, she didn't want that—it was how she kept on top of the game for so long. Her scanner was on full drive, assessing the technology around her.
She already knew this was an Arume military installation, the question was why. They didn't tell her during the tour, but the information Tifael gave last night pretty much proved that this was a base of operations for their attacks. The prisoners, the peoples from other worlds, kept separate from the Arume divisions of the base.
But there was just one thing.
The most curious thing... why was there a nigh hidden room buried deep within the prison? This was what Samus was going to investigate. She'd be just fine sneaking around without the suit, but experience said she'd be meeting Lirael again, so she decided to tackle it in a different fashion.
She dropped down into the bottom circular area where the door in question was. Luckily, she had not riled the mostly silent prisoners... up until now.
Just opposite of that door, something appeared in the only prison cell there. Despite her better judgment, Samus saw herself drawn to it.
Inside that cell was a small creature that reminded the bounty hunter of Kirby, except with dark gray skin. With its jester-like cap and big eyes, it looked cute... in a demented sort of way. "Huh..." Samus breathed as it gazed at her with pleading eyes. However, she was weary of wolves in sheeps' clothing, so she took a scan.
'Unknown creature likely from the same world as Kirby. DNA suggests it's hiding immense power and brain waves suggest it may be hiding a malignant nature. Heavier scan is recommended. Be weary when approaching this creature.'
"Umm no thanks," Samus turned around to leave. But the strange creature wasn't about to let Samus go just yet!
With a childish grin, it produced a pocket watch and began to swing it in a hypnotic fashion. "You will free me... you will freeeee meeee..." It spoke.
Samus looked at it for a moment, eyebrow raised, before she turned away. "Not fooling me." She walked in the door, ignoring the pout from the creature.
Inside the rather vast room, Samus found herself looking in complete darkness. To amend that, she switched on a visor light and began to look around. What she spotted, however, gave her flashbacks her first lab visit.
This time there were Arume sealed in those tubes. As a matter of fact, there were Arume everywhere. All of them appearing to be synthetically produced in a systematic fashion.
There was no horror this time, however, just confusion. Were the Arume ALL synthetic, or was this just a special case? Samus thought back to Tifael's explanation that they went galaxy hunting to widen their gene pool, yet there were those who decided galactic conquest was the only way to accomplish this. Perhaps this was...
Instinct suddenly kicked in, and Samus whirled around, arm cannon ready. She saw nothing. However, it was only a few moments before that changed.
A single, young Arume flew in. Unlike the military outside, she seemed more pale, feathery, and strangely enough... beautiful. She lacked the common boots she saw, or any footwear at all, making her look something like a forlorn ghost. She spotted Samus, and with an usually sad smile, began to glide right towards her.
That apprehension Samus always felt intensified. She immediately began to try and scan the Arume before her as it drew closer. But even so, there was something about it...
Her sad eyes beckoned Samus so much that she didn't even read the results of her scan. It was all she could do but reach out and touch this sad soul as it reached for her...
The blast was so sudden it knocked Samus off her feet and away towards another wall. The woman took a moment to recover. "What... the HELL... was that?!" She said, the shock slowly leaving her system. Where that woman once was, there was nothing more than dissipating energy and ashes.
"I see you found the gosuta," a familiar voice echoed. Samus shot up and aimed her gun at the direction of that voice.
It was Lirael.
"They are some of our most beautiful soldiers," Lirael leapt down to Samus's level. She stood up, and with a serious swirl to the cloak she was wearing, continued. "The gosuta are synthetic Arume designed for self-sacrifice."
"Self-sacrifice?" Samus asked. "Suicide bombers?!"
"Such a harsh choice of words," Lirael answered modestly. "But yes."
Last time Samus checked, not even the Space Pirates used too many suicide tactics unless facing inevitable death. Samus asked. "They're living... Do they not have a conscience?"
"One develops over time. If we're not at war, they have the capability of living with ordinary citizens..." There was a bit of a wistful look in her eyes. "Alas, if necessary, they can be called back to serve their original purpose."
"That's lunacy, isn't it?" Samus refocused her aim on Lirael.
"That's not insanity, dear Hunter..." Lirael took a fighting stance. "Perhaps you do not understand our culture." The Arume commander charged.
"Maybe I don't then!" Samus countered with a Thunder missile, but Lirael swatted it out of the way. At least Samus was expecting it this time, as she readied herself for the Arume's assault. Lirael let a one-two punch fly, but Samus weaved between both attacks. "HA!" Samus shoved her arm cannon forward.
Lirael caught it yet again.
"Dammit, not again!" Samus yelled as Lirael happily slung her over and into another wall.
"Not a very fast learner, are you?" Lirael asked as she walked towards the fallen bounty hunter.
"That's not true," Samus waited until Lirael was close, then caught the girl by surprise with a well aimed flip kick to her face. "I came a bit more prepared this time."
Lirael staggered back. "You..."
"Heh, catch this," Samus fired two Thunder missiles this time, Lirael swatted the first, but the second clipped her, leaving a nasty shock. She crumpled to the ground as Samus advanced; the bounty hunter smashed her with a sweep kick for good measure. Lirael crashed unceremoniously into the ground again. "So..." Samus aimed her gun at Lirael. "Going to tell me why you're dashing all over the galaxy and kidnapping random people?"
"We are not kidnapping people," Lirael hissed in response, grabbing her cloak. Samus reacted and shot a super missile...
...which turned out to be a bad move.
Lirael slung her cloak around the missile, whipped around, and sent the missile directly back at Samus. The resulting surprise hit from Samus sent her careening across the air and right back to where she entered the room, where she landed with a resounding -CRASH-.
"Good god," Samus flipped back on to her feet. "Hits like an Omega Pirate no matter what position she's in!"
"Save your tired lines!" Lirael shot towards where Samus was, briefly defying the gravity of the colony. She gracefully landed in front of Samus. "Cease this rebellious madness..."
"Hmm, I wonder where I heard that line before," Samus muttered before aiming at her again. "Not quite yet." Samus deftly activated the door and let it slide open as she aimed a kick for Lirael. The Arume evaded the strike and lunged for one of her own. Samus crossed her arms to guard against the powerful running punch Lirael landed, but the hit was still strong enough to send her skidding backwards a bit. Samus aimed another missile at Lirael, but at the last second changed direction and shot it towards her feet. Lirael nearly shrieked as the blast forced her to jump up.
"Getting better already?!" Lirael shouted, her face flush with that pale thing called Arume embarrassment.
"I'm just getting warmed up," Samus smirked under her mask as she said that old cliché... that was until she noticed Lirael's face. Bad memories of Tifael and endless innuendo flooded her mind. "Ah, crap."
Lirael's eyes lit up when she spotted opportunity in the form of Samus's guard dropping. She sailed down and smashed Samus with a mighty kick...
...right onto the button that deactivated the only holding cell level with them.
Samus, still recovering from the attack, leaned her head back...
...and found herself staring into a growing blast of power. "Oh hell I just didn't..." She scrambled out of harm's way just in time to see a nightmarish blast of white energy tear through the base and blast a giant hole on the other side, narrowly missing Lirael.
Lirael's face contorted to horrified shock before she exchanged looks with an equally horrified Samus.
"Hehehehehehehe! I told you you would free me!"
(Finally baX in action. Please don't tell me ffnet is doing the h8.8 again on double punctuation...
Also apology to the guy who dislikes cliffhangers in a middle of a fight, but uhh... this guy I'm introducing demands it.)