Author's Notes: Welcome to the strange lovechild of my storytelling and my dear friend AceAssassin's writing talents. We one day decided that we should try to tackle a Metroid fanfiction, and try to do something a little different with it.
The first thing to note is that this is a post-Metroid Fusion fiction, a timeline that my friend has noted (so far as he's seen) is covered in very few fanfics if at all. Therefore, there are a lot of loose ends left to us, and we decided to play with them accordingly.
Another thing to note is that this is an OC fanfic. As writers, the both of us understand that the balance between playing this right and making a Sue is a delicate one. However, we have been taking great care to avoid that sort of situation--both of us are firmly Anti-Sue.
We hope that you as the readers will enjoy this strange little lovechild, despite all of the dark overshadowing in this fic and the grim outlook it appears to begin with. We can promise you that things will eventually begin to look up--just not yet!
This fan-fic is a test in "stockpiling" of chapters, which means that you, as the readers, will always be about 5 or 6 chapters behind what is written. This is so the story can update on a regular basis. Therefore, the update schedule for this fic will be every Tuesday and Thursday, US East Coast time. That said, on to business!
Phaaze 01: Slow Burn
Pain twists a maze through my right arm and I tighten my fist as a temporary remedy. It's a common annoyance now, this pain—I've learned how to live with it, and, for the most part, how to ignore it.
Sometimes, though, the pain is too much, and I need to eat something. I need to eat something or I feel like my legs will give out from under me and I'll turn into a functionless shell of my former self. I know that these monstrous urges are not mine: they're the potent, primal desires of a Metroid. They are so much in contrast to my own personal morals that I'm sick and disgusted with myself at every feeding. I hate this new part of me: this so-called "cure" that purged my body of the X, only to present a fresh problem in its place that has threatened to consume me every day of my life since the serum was administered.
But it is a "necessary evil", as they say; so I can only complain so much.
When the pain finds no place for itself in my arm, it manifests as a terrible pang of light and hypersensitivity to sound. My head gives a sharp throb and I take two large white pills from a prescription bottle in one belt pack. I drop them on my tongue and chase them down with a long swish of Kaon-brewed amber ale. It is a bitter, frothy liquid whose taste is second only to motor oil; it is also the only drink I can stand to afford at this cheap slum-level bar that is strong enough to numb my body, and allow me not to think about the corrosive Metroid lust spinning its way into my daily habits.
My name is Samus Aran. I used to be one of the greatest Bounty Hunters for the Galactic Federation.
These days, I'm just a freelance for-hire slumming it through the lower areas of known space; away from the ever-watchful eyes of the Federation. I stick to the shadows of civilization, where their influence hasn't yet pierced a system's inhabitants. This is actually not as difficult as one might think: as long as the Federation is convinced they have a foothold in a single important corner of a system, they tend to leave the rest of that area to itself, interfering with the work of things only when something is down there that could potentially throw a wrench in their gears. Or sometimes they just like to show up and remind everyone that they exist. Many of the citizens down here couldn't give a rat's ass, however.
Kaon IV is a perfect hidey-hole for an on-the-run ex-Hunter such as me. It's a sizable colony stationed on the edges of the Dasha System, composed of layers of buildings steadily being constructed on top of one another. If you started at the core of the colony and worked your way up, you could see for yourself as the buildings slowly began to grow stronger, sturdier, bigger; taller. At its barest point, there are so many new Upper Levels that the only real light is given off by brightly-colored signs and crude advertisements for various businesses; some are more dishonest than others. On the Upper Levels, where spires and skyscrapers of varying alien origin stretch to the stars above, people of a more "respectable" commerce cheat their customers in ways significantly more subtle than picking the change out of their pockets. Down here, in the East District of Base Level 4, business managers are a lot more forward. It's the last place any employ of the Galactic Federation would like to stick their noses in, and I like it that way.
Obviously, the Federation and I don't get along very well anymore. After the SR388 Incident, its highest commanding officers decided to take a personal interest in my existence and re-think my business relations. I was taken to a high court to defend my case. I tried to explain to the Judges the reasoning for my actions; the danger that lay behind the existence of that place and the measures I had to go through to ensure the safety of the galaxy. I reminded them that I had been specifically sent there on their orders to complete a mission for the better good. Back then, I firmly believed in the foolish notion that the Federation could still save face and see the moral right in what I'd done, despite some of their darker projects which I had not personally agreed with.
Not surprisingly, this notion turned out to be a false one.
The Federation placed blame on me for the destruction of their Restricted Labs, evidently refuting all tangible truth in my case. Their Metroid pet project had been more important to them than the immediate danger at hand. The only thing that saved me from losing my job was my prestigious fame as one of their better Bounty Hunters.
Turns out, though, that I lost it anyway.
I was blatantly offered an under-the-table salary. The Federation specifically entailed that, although they would not revoke my Hunting status, they would no longer assign me onto any missions. No matter how crucial. But they were willing to continue supporting me on a "paid vacation" on an "indefinite leave of absence." They were bribing me. I had seen too much, and they wanted me to keep my mouth shut.
Fuck that! I'm nobody's baggage. If they didn't want the risk of someone discovering their private little work station, they shouldn't have cleaved a path for one of their best Hunters to pick through the area. The only reason I haven't told anyone about the Federation's darker underbelly is because it's simply no longer my problem. The Restricted Labs—and SR388—have been destroyed for seven years and counting now. And I am glad for that. I can't imagine what the world would be like today if that ghastly place still existed.
So, at any rate, I guess I'm still technically a Bounty Hunter. But it's just a title now, and as I sit here slowly downing my frothy pint of cheapened motor oil, I'm a little ashamed to continue carrying it. It's just one more extra tag to remind me of my former life, which I now want no part of. I get bitter when I think of the memories, and I don't like to stay that way. I like to think there's at least some hope left for this life; that I can still make a difference; just using another method that I haven't tried before.
It's not a life of luxury; I'll give you that much. Way I operate now, my jobs are few and far between, and they're mostly just Fetchers—my coined term for missions where I'm just sent to pick something up and bring it back. I fetch things. Like a dog. But it pays. And every once in a while, hey, who knows? I might get an exciting piece of bounty to go and catch. Those jobs get grabbed from the board pretty quickly, and I have to have a fast hand in order to beat the competition to the big money. Sometimes I get lucky. Other times I turn around and sink in front of the bar and order another round of Kaon ale. Paychecks are unsteady and barely enough to keep a damned leaky roof over my head, let alone fix my ship. My poor ship…that baby's seen a lot of abuse over the years. Don't know why she hasn't broken down yet. Sturdy old bitch, that one is.
Sometimes, when I'm alone, I meditate and reflect on the way things are now. I'm in a pretty pathetic state, compared to where I used to be. People who sign me up for Fetchers still (somehow) manage to admire me because of my fame; because of my past. They don't bother to look at me and tell me how I should be better than scraping at the bottom of the barrel.
But when I think about the guilt I'd have to live with if I'd taken that "paid vacation," I realize it's not so bad.
Arm hurts again.
Damn! I didn't even get to finish my motor oil.
I can't deny it for very long this time. It's been a good while since I've fed on anything, and my arm gets greedy. I'm good at suppressing it, but I'm not that good. In the face of raw, primal need, morality loses out.
I wear a pair of black opera-length gloves to hide what I hate about myself. My fingers twitch as I reach for a few chips of Federation currency and throw them on the countertop next to my empty pint and half-finished second round. The bartender really hates when I use Federation currency, even though it rightly pays about three times more than that shitty brew is worth. What can I say? I'm a woman of two things: honesty, and generosity. I'm being generous by giving the bartender that money, and I'm being honest when I say that brew is the worst mug of paste-thin fuel gel I've ever tasted.
As I leave the tiny bar, the thick smell of too many sweaty bodies crammed into one space leaves my nose and is replaced by the putrid scent of industrial Lower Level air: so drenched with harmful fumes and cloudy smoke that I'm shocked I can still take a breath without ripping my lungs out of my chest. I guess it doesn't matter, anyway, since I've been in Kaon long enough to get used to it. The smell doesn't bother me anymore, really.
Navigating the streets of the Base Levels can be either cut-and-dry or unnecessarily complicated, depending on how well you know the area. For me, it's pretty cut-and-dry. The streets are sliced in neat little plaid rows, like squares on a waffle iron; the only way it could be difficult is if anyone couldn't read the jumbled multi-language signs marking every corner of every block. Depending on the dominant species living in a district, the signs display in different languages. Sometimes they're blacked out or painted over by mischievous little twats whose great idea of fun is to deface every bare wall and post they come into contact with. Nobody said it was an efficient system; still, actually having a system is better than having none at all.
Arm's getting worse. It pulsates with every swing, jerks with every little movement I make. It's starving. I'm starving.
I keep my eyes open, breaking out in a nervous sheet of sweat. Sometimes I wonder if I'm crazy; then I take off the gloves, and remember I'm as sane as I've ever been.
I see a rat skittering into an offshoot from the street I'm walking on and my eyes immediately dart over to it. It's a big one, almost the size of a small dog. It's ducked into one of the alley-like spaces between complexes that litter the Base Levels like toothpicks dropped on a flat surface. He'll do just fine.
Entering a primal stalking mode that overtakes me only when I cannot deny my body this voracious hunger, I creep into the alleyway, my steps light and careful as the rat climbs into a toppled garbage can to sift through the filthy, rotten contents. My arm twinges in time with the slow beat of my heart as I reach for the glove on my right arm, gently peeling it off as I crouch low on the ground. An onion-thin layer of gelatinous goo sticks to the inside of the glove as I pull it off from the fingers. The rat doesn't even notice my presence until it's too late.
Sorry, little guy.
He gives a frantic squeak and fights like mad when I pick him up; gel-like, blue-green arm snapping out with inhuman reflexes, grayed claw-like fingertips sinking into his flesh. The twitching veins underneath the jelly surface of my skin thicken as the energy crawls through them, and I can't help but roll my eyes and sigh, sharing this disgusting pleasure that my arm takes in draining the life out of this poor creature in my hand. Drifting, bubbly red nuclei float freely through the spaces between the veins. The sticky flesh of my forearm glows bright and my veins light up blood-red. The rat eventually stops struggling, but I'm not done yet. I squeeze and squeeze until I can feel bones crunching. I squeeze until the energy ends and my alien veins shrink, replacing the flow of life with the flow of memories as I close my eyes.
Panic reigns over me. I touch my skin and watch as a thick glob of it comes off on my fingers like lubricant, the remaining dent filled in quickly as the goo re-spawns itself to maintain an even surface. There are no words to describe my heartfelt terror as my mouth drops open and I rip out a scream. "Adam! What's happening to me?!"
No response. Is he as frightened as I am?
"Adam!" I try again. Still only silence replies. I shake my head and bang my fists, my right hand leaving splatters of green Metroid jelly on the controls. This can't be real. This can't be real! It's just a dream; I'm just asleep, and I'll wake up soon, and it'll all be a horrible nightmare. I'll be where I'm supposed to be and Adam will reassure me that everything will be alright. But if that's true, then why can't I see the stars of space through the slew of salty tears streaking down my cheeks?
"Adam! Please! Tell me what the hell is going on! Adam! ADAM!!"
Reality rebounds and I open my eyes, staring at the monstrous arm in front of me that has caused me so much trouble.
I've dropped the poor rat on the ground. I look down and, morbidly, swish my still-gloved hand against its fur. It crumbles into dust that immediately evaporates into the air.
I stand and put the glove back onto my right hand, the hunger satisfied.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.