Chapter Seventeen: The Krikis

After wondering how she would exterminate this monster, she noted that its legs were flatter in design than the rest of its enormous body. She inferred that she could, perhaps, wall-jump her way up one leg, and try to grapple from there. If that does not work, then she'd have to hope to make contact with the other leg to wall-jump even higher, and try again. This method could work, provided the creature moves slowly. But it was also one of the more risky ways to get up to the grappling features, as it could easily crush Samus with little effort.

Samus dashed at the monster, and quickly hopped upward onto the side of its leg. She began to slide down at a steady rate, but before she slid down too far, she jumped gracefully to slide on the other leg. She would successfully jump between the two legs for about another ten seconds, before the creature bent its neck in the most uncomfortable-looking way possible, and snapped at her. Luckily, its mouth did not ensnare Samus; the creature's large snout pushed her away. Samus hit the dusty, tan ground, and quickly stood back up.

"Clearly that will not work," Adam pointed out. The creature roared loudly again, and Samus felt the push of the strong wind that accompanied the roar almost knock her over. Samus saw a large, green glob of fluid launch at her, which she dodged just in the nick of time. The armless creature lunged at Samus, stomping its feet just a few meters away from Samus. This move managed to knock Samus down.

"I don't know, Adam," Samus spoke. Adam could hear the doubt in her voice. "I think I'm going to lose this one."

"Don't say that, Samus," Adam asserted, almost in a harsh tone. "You are Samus Aran. You are the Hunter. You can defeat this monster as you can defeat anything else."

Though Samus heeded Adam's words, she could not help but notice a bit of angry assertion in his voice. He also could never be caught while calling Samus "The Hunter" before now. But these observations pointed out mostly harmless things, so Samus simply shrugged them off.

"I know, Adam," Samus said. "I'm told that all the time."

Immediately after, Samus, who was still sitting on the ground, was caught off guard as the enormous creature kicked her square in the torso. Given the immense girth of the beast, Samus expectedly flew in the direction she was hit from at a ridiculous velocity, ultimately hitting the stone wall that was originally yards behind her. As Samus's body hit the stone at full force, she heard and felt a spine-chilling crack! Suddenly, her visor began to display a warning, stating that her suit and body have taken immense damage. Though dizzied, Samus watched as her visor began to blank out. Her suit had shut down. It was over.

Yet even still, a split second before her suit shut down, Samus heard one last word: "Go!"

As Samus's suit shut down, so did her body. She wasn't necessarily dead; she was merely in a deep coma, nearing her death as each second passed by. Only, to her, seconds felt like milliseconds. Almost immediately after she had blacked out, Samus felt herself wake up.

I'm not in the same place, Samus observed. Indeed, she wasn't. She woke to a few Space Pirate doctors applying medicine to her wounds. Surrounding her was not a large arena with an open roof overhead; she was in a cave. Listening carefully, Samus could hear the pounding of gunfire in the distance: war has begun. Samus sat up.

"How long was I out?" Samus asked aloud.

"Approximately four hours," one of the doctors replied. "Between your blackout and now, Ridley has given the signal. We are waging war on the Krikens, and we're already winning the first marginal battle thereof."

"Where am I?" Samus wondered.

"I cannot provide a name for this location, as neither my colleagues nor I have any idea of such matters," the doctor responded. "But I can tell you that you're not too far from the arena which you were found in."

"I was… found?"

"Yes. You were very lucky. When Ridley gave the signal, the Space Pirates stormed the infrastructure, including the arena. A few of our more agile troops found and picked you up, before they were devoured by the Krikis themselves," the doctor clarified.

"And what of the Krikis? Has it been killed?" Samus queried. The doctor was hesitant to respond, but did so after about five seconds.

"Well… it pursued the agile troops that carried you to safety. It tore a hole through the arena's walls, and is currently reigning terror on both the Krikens as well as our army."

"And now the Kriken citizens are screaming in terror, claiming that the apocalypse has come," another doctor added, with a slightly happier tone than the other doctor's. "It's actually quite hilarious."

"I have to kill that thing… it has to be my top priority. The Krikis will destroy everything if nobody steps in to kill it," Samus claimed. She stood up, and left the cave.

As soon as she stepped out of the cave, a large explosion set off directly in front of Samus. It wasn't a large explosion, but if a fragile body was caught smack in the middle of it, said fragile body would explode as well. Samus pulled out her Scan Visor and examined the battlefield ahead of her. Then, it became clear: the battlefield was rigged with various Kriken mines. Samus heard the obnoxious screech of a single Kriken soldier get louder as the soldier grew closer, but Samus stabbed the soldier before it could do anything lethal.

Samus observed her surroundings to find the Krikis. It took about sixty seconds for her to realize its location: directly across from the battlefield. Before Samus took action in storming across the battlefield, she received a radio transmission.

"Samus! Where have you been?" the voice of Ridley yelled over the transmission. "We started the war four hours ago!"

"I was knocked out," Samus responded. "Ridley, you are familiar with the Kriken myths of the Krikis, correct?"

"Of course."

"Well, they're true. And the thing is right across the battlefield from me. Should I engage?" Samus requested.

"Of course… not. Samus, I don't care if some hulking behemoth kills an entire species off, especially when said species is the enemy," Ridley barked. "Focus all of your firepower on the Emperor. If the Emperor dies, we win this war. The Krikens cannot survive without a ruler, and they're far too stupid to set up a succession line for in case the Emperor is killed. We rid of him, and then the whole Kriken civilization descends into complete chaos. When that is achieved, the objective is complete."

"Why is our objective to destroy the order of a civilization?" Samus wondered.

"Let's just say that sacrifices have to be made to save an even larger civilization from such a fate," Ridley growled. "But now is most certainly not the time to question my motives, Samus! I have offered you some freedom from the Pirates' creed, but as you are a Space Pirate, when I give you an order, you follow it!"

Ridley sounded enraged. It sounded as if things were not going as according to plan. But he was right; this was not a good time to question any ulterior motives. Without debriefing Samus any further, Ridley hacked into her helmet's map system to point to an objective.

"I can tell that you are uncomfortable with me doing that," Ridley spoke, a bit more calmly this time. "But I suggest you get used to it. All I am doing is pointing you to an objective. Now follow it!"

The transmission ended. "So much for the supposed 'generous hospitality' Ridley promised you, eh, Samus?" Adam said. Samus did not respond, but she knew very well that Ridley is known, and even notorious, for acting that way. Yet, despite her moderate loyalty to her former arch-nemesis in the past few days, Samus felt it difficult to take orders from Ridley right then. Perhaps it was because of his angry tone.

She took a minute to look at the map in her visor, and noted that the objective pointed directly to the Emperor's tower. For some reason, Samus felt a déjà vu moment; as though fighting the emperor would mirror a past event.

Samus mentally matched the location of the emperor's tower to the pointer on her map, relative to her own location. She then took off past the battlefield, dodging landmines when required, and arched her running path to head for the tower. As she ran, her Speed Booster kicked on.

Samus tore through several enemies, and since her Speed Booster kicked on, landmines lacked the ability to explode in time to hit Samus. She had little trouble getting to the tower. Once she got to the base of it, she shinesparked straight upward. The tower stood extremely tall, so the shinespark didn't cover the vertical distance of it entirely; instead, Samus hit somewhere in the middle of the tower. She grabbed onto a ledge, and entered the building.

Immediately upon entering the building, Samus was met with a Kriken guard patrol. It responded by shooting at Samus on sight, but Samus dodged and stabbed the guard with her Plasma Sword. She quickly ascended the nearby stairs, with her Speed Booster kicking on again. As she sped her way up the staircase, several guards attempted to snipe her or otherwise stop her—to no avail. Samus eventually hit a large door, which was sturdy enough to end her Speed Boost. Immediately behind Samus, she could hear several clicking footsteps. The guards were coming. Samus tried to open the door by cutting it apart using her Plasma Sword, but a split second after attempting, the door opened. Right behind it was the Galactic Federation patrol who sat with the emperor as Samus fought the Krikis earlier. The emperor was also present in the very large room, sitting on his throne.

"Samus Aran!" the commander of the troop yelled. "You are under federal arrest by the orders of Galactic Federation!"

Samus pointed her cannon at the commander. "I'm not going with you," she spoke calmly.

"Lower your weapons," a familiar voice demanded. The troops did so, and moved to the side as Admiral Dane walked up to Samus. "Samus," he started. "Why are you giving us such resistance? What more do you have to… well, live for?"

"The good of the galaxy," Samus kept her cannon pointed at Dane. "I know the truth now. The Galactic Federation is no 'good guy'."

"Really?" Dane sounded amused. "Well, if we aren't the good guys, then who are?"

Samus hesitated a bit, then eventually came out with her answer. "The Space Pirates."

Dane looked extremely surprised—he did not expect to hear this sort of answer from someone of Samus's stature.

"You're fighting for him now?" Dane said, disgusted. "The man—the thing that is responsible for so many innocent deaths, including your own parents?"

It was clear to Samus that Dane was trying to get her to give in by hitting a nerve. However, she did not listen.

"Over the last few years, and even the last few days, I have learned many dark secrets about the Federation. In many ways, they are not any better than the Space Pirates. The only differences between the Federation and the Pirates is that the Federation has political power, and is highly concerned with public image—largely the reason you all haven't 'intercepted' several galactic settlements."

"You're being ridiculous, Samus," Dane asserted.

"No, she's not," Emperor Gyrion spoke. He stood up, and walked over to Dane. "Everything she mentions is true, at least to some extent, no? Ever since we became your allies, I brushed up on Galactic Federation intelligence."

Dane looked surprised and annoyed simultaneously. "How the hell did you get your hands on such classified intel?"

Gyrion chuckled. "I have my sources."

"You committed a crime to our government by reading top secret information! Dane shouted at Gyrion. "Open fire!"

The troops began to shoot at Gyrion, but their bullets always bounced off a strange forcefield protecting him. Gyrion sent out a wave at the troopers, and they all fell off the tower (made possible by its overhead roof). Dane reacted to this by pulling out a shotgun and shooting Gyrion in the stomach, which seemed to damage Gyrion slightly, but not substantially.

"Since I have Samus here and ripe for killing, I don't need your assistance anymore," Gyrion spoke grimly. He pointed his arm at Dane's head and fired, with a red stream exiting the barrel. Dane fell over, lifeless. The red stream missed Samus's head. "Well, here we are, Samus. Just you and me… and a few guards I will prevent from intervening. I figure there is no better way to end the life of an enemy other than to kill her in a duel. What do you say?"

"Of course," Samus replied.

"Alright, then…" Gyrion paused. "I suppose I'll just move to the center of the room so that this duel can be done formally—"

He shot at Samus immediately at the response. Expecting this form of deception, Samus dodged the red stream. She immediately shot her Acid Beam at Gyrion. The acid pelted Gyrion's carapace and clothing, eating away at the many jewels and other fine metals that constituted his outfit.

"Damn!" Gyrion swore, observing his disintegrating jewelry. "I can't allow you to have an advantage!"

Gyrion enveloped himself in the forcefield that protected him from the Federation's shots. He then charged his Imperialist, and unleashed an enormous stream of red that nearly blew a hole into the wall. Samus was clipped by this attack, but did not sustain any major injuries.

"So Gyrion can charge the Imperialist," Adam noted. "I did not know that was possible. This may be obvious already, but I wouldn't let it hit you, Samus."

Samus dashed at Gyrion with her Ice Scythe out, but bounced off his forcefield. Gyrion laughed.

"An impressive arsenal you have," he admitted. "Too bad it will serve you no good against my forcefield."

Gyrion shot a charged Imperialist blast at a downed Samus, causing massive damage to her. Samus started to breathe heavily as her suit began to fade away—a sign that it was failing.

"The Hunter does not seem very powerful now, does she?"

Gyrion heard heavy stomping below, and laughed out loud. "I suppose you'll make a fine meal for the Krikis!"

The large Gyrion lifted the helpless Samus up, and began to walk slowly towards the edge of his throne room. He looked down, and sure enough, the Krikis was ravaging the base of the tower. A strangled Samus looked into Gyrion's eye, which was filled with a fiery image—perhaps a Kriken's method to indicate enjoyment in the face of vengeful closure.

"Any final words, Samus?" Gyrion asked, holding Samus over the edge. Suddenly, a scream sounded off, and Gyrion was pushed off the edge. Samus was subsequently caught in the claw of Ridley.

"I apologize for being late," Ridley told Samus. He and Samus looked down to see Gyrion falling, shouting curses along the way down. The Krikis held its mouth open, ready to devour Gyrion as its offering. Before Gyrion could be seen getting torn asunder by the large beast, Ridley went to the throne room.

"Why couldn't you do that before?" Samus asked Ridley.

"I was preoccupied with the battle," Ridley claimed. Samus saw Ridley punch a code into his arm, and the Space Pirate Mothership flew in and crashed into the tower. "…I was also busy extracting the mothership from the Krikens' possession."

The tower began to collapse due to the sheer force of the impact from the mothership. The tower fell forward (Ridley and Samus were safe, as they were in the air), and crushed the Krikis, which elicited a painful whimper in response.

"And now the Krikens are left without an ally and a leader," Ridley noted. "Mission complete."

Ridley flew Samus back to the mothership. She had a short conversation with him in the control room.

"Where to now?" Samus asked.

Ridley looked down, as if ashamed. "I've decided we should head directly for Daiban at this point," Ridley responded. "I understand that this decision makes what we have done over the past few days pointless, but it seems like the best option as of now."

"I suspect there will be a massive outcry across the planet," Samus pointed out. "Are you certain we have the firepower to handle an attack on Daiban?"

"Of course," Ridley asserted, but not in the most assuring tone. "We will be going all-out. I'll be there, you'll be there, a majority of my troops will be there, Kraid will assist as well as Draygon (the lattermost from a distance mind you)… if we split up forces, the Federation will have to divide their attention to handle all of us, so that they can protect as many civilian lives as possible. With them being largely distracted, you and I will have the chance to confront Vogl—and, more than likely… kill him."

Ridley hesitated on that last remark because he was afraid it may hit a nerve within Samus. It did not appear to; however Ridley could hear Adam sighing.

"Samus," Adam spoke. "I want you to take one last moment to think about this. Do you really want to put the galaxy in disarray? As bad as the Federation is, Samus, they are protecting the lives of civilians, and lives would be both lost and ruined as a long-term effect of the Federation's destruction."

"We will have to replace them immediately after destroying them. Innocent lives will be lost…" Ridley admitted. "But there are sacrifices we all have to make."

"I suppose Ridley is right," Adam said. Samus was now completely surprised; that was another thing Adam would never be caught saying, especially not in this context. "We all do have to make some terrible sacrifices… surely you understand. After all, you were there when I chose to sacrifice Ian as well as when I sacrificed my own life."

Adam's near-immediate justification to his agreement with Ridley did soften the blow of this oddity, but it did not assuage Samus from being concerned.

"Are you all right, Adam?" Samus asked. "You seem… different. You're starting to be less rash with Ridley and my affiliation with the Space Pirates."

"I am fine, Samus. Nothing is wrong with me. I simply agreed with Ridley this one time—I've learned that he is not an entirely unreasonable man," Adam responded. This, too, did not sound like something Adam would say.

"He is an AI that was once a sentient organism, correct?" Ridley added. "It isn't unusual for organisms to eventually adapt to their surroundings, including constant situations they find themselves in. Since an AI is meant to mimic this trait of life (and more specifically, sentience), it comes as little surprise to me that Adam here has gotten used to your new affiliations. I'm sure he is fine."

Samus decided to drop the subject. "So, my objective will be to go for Vogl?" she changed the subject. Ridley nodded.

"Correct," he accompanied the word with his nod. "But we won't be there at least for another thirty-six hours. I suggest you go get some rest—aside from your blackout, you haven't slept in days, am I correct?"

Samus nodded in agreement, and left for her quarters to sleep. She hoped all of this would begin to make sense soon enough—there was much behind Ridley's motivations that she did not completely understand.

Author's Note: I got really lazy with this chapter, and as a result, it's one of my least favorites. I sure hope I can recover from my hiatus completely soon enough, maybe by the next chapter.