Disclaimer: Still don't own Metroid. First, I'd like to take a moment to apologize for the long wait and assure you that this fic ain't dying anytime soon. Second, I would like to apologize that this is kinda a filler chapter. But more meat will be on the way I promise! Third I'd like to take this opportunity to celebrate! WHOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOO! I this was my first fanfic that hit double digits in reviews! YES BABY! YES! Speaking of reviews I'd like to thank everybody for all the awesome reviews everybody has given me. I'd also like to thank Wraith 5 who's been enjoying this fic since day one and has been giving me lots of great reviews. . Thanks a lot man. : ) I'll be sure to keep cranking out the best chapters that I can manage. After all, this whole adventure has only just begun. So as always, please read, review and enjoy!

Exodus

In an instant and with a rush of adrenaline, Zade woke up as he always did, at what would be considered 5:45 a.m. planet side, expecting a gun in his face or a knife at his throat. And his body always reacted as if immanent death was standing right over him. His adrenaline fueled eyes scanned everything around him as quickly as they could, scanning the environment for anything that was a threat, instinctual fear heightening every sense.

And as was often the case, after finding no threat, he allowed himself to relax and take deep breaths until the adrenaline rush wore off.

Makes me wonder how normal people wake up. He wondered enviously. It was never really a good start of a day expecting to die as you just woke up. And it didn't help that despite all of his training, how getting up at the buttcrack of dawn was pretty much hardwired and beat into him since he was in the cradle, he was still not really a morning person.

Granted, it was useful in enemy territory, but in a starliner? Even he had to admit it was a bit much.

With an inaudible groan, he lifted himself from the bed and made his way toward the bathroom. Consoling himself that at least he hadn't had any more dreams of her last night…

Samus by contrast, simply opened her eyes, took a brief look around and gracefully rolled out of the bed and calmly walked toward the bathroom.

Both Samus and Zade arrived at the rather spacious bathroom at the same time. And they were both mildly surprised to see the other one there.

"You always get up this early?" Zade half groaned half mumbled.

"What about you?" Samus asked preferring not to answer any questions.

"I haven't been able to sleep past 6:00 a.m. since I was born. It really sucks."

"One more thing," Samus said haltingly. "You do intend to put some pants on soon?" It somehow sounded more like an order than a question.

Zade groaned out loud and decided that it was too early in the morning to try to argue or annoy Samus. Begrudgingly, he went to one of his bags and threw on a fresh set of pants before returning to see Samus just finish washing her face.

"So are we almost at the jump point?" she asked.

"If I recall correctly, yes we should be there in a few hours. I'll have to check my armor's computer to get a more accurate idea. But we're still good."

Samus gave a noncommittal "hmmm" before going starting to brush her teeth.

After they both finished, Zade put the rest of his clothes on and Samus finished putting something on over her zero suit.

After that, the assassin quickly checked their position to the rendezvous point by using the gauntlet of his armor.

"Huh, we must be going a little faster than I thought. We've got about five hours before the rendezvous. So if you want to hit the gift shop or the pool I suggest you get crackin."

The bounty huntress regarded Zade. "Do you have any plans before we leave?"

" I was thinking about finding some hot, rich red head and charming her out of either her wallet, or out of as many pieces of clothing as I could manage."

Samus' expression couldn't have gotten more disdainful. "You'd do that before a mission?"

"Hell yeah! Best way to relax there is. Or is that purity along with naiveté I smell on you?"

She cocked an eyebrow at that. "Naiveté?"

The assassin waved her off. "We'll get to that some other time. For now, do what you want but meet up at the rear obs deck in five hours. Have fun!"

Before Zade could leave though, Samus put a hand firmly on his shoulder.

"Actually," she said coolly. " My plan for the day was to ask you some more questions."

Zade's face broke into that annoying smirk. "So you wanna play 20 questions huh? Last time I played that game with a girl, neither one of us could walk straight for a week."

Samus ignored him. " I have some more questions about these 12. The info you gave me was interesting. Projects that get money from proxy sources and shell companies. Payments that didn't add up, things like that. But I need to know more."

"So much for the redhead," Zade sighed in defeat as he went over to the bed and sat crossed legged on it.

"What do you wanna know?"

"Everything. Everything that you know about them."

Zade's face actually lost its smirk and turned a bit somber.

"I'm afraid you're gonna be a bit disappointed…"

"Don't…"

"Because I don't know for sure," Zade finished grimly. "I was a homegrown assassin for these guys not a club member. The only thing I really knew about them were their targets. And it took a lot of ingenuity and outright luck to get that picture file that you saw. So I have faces, but no names. And trust me, I've tried pretty hard to get names. Closest I've gotten is just one first name. One of the humans in the group goes by the name of Leonard. Hehehe, gave him a lot of grief about a year ago. Almost ruined all of his finances. Good times."

"What do you know then?"

Zade cracked his knuckles and stretched out his neck before settling into storytelling mode.

"I've got very few concrete things and a lot of theories ranging from plausible to stupid. The concrete things I have is that they are organized, rich, never ever touch things directly if they can help it. And their agenda seems to be control of the galaxy as they see fit. To that end, they employ a variety of secret projects through the Federation military. Such as the metroid warriors project and the study of the X parasite. As for how they managed to get their money and influence…" Zade shrugged.

"Well, that's where I go into theories. One theory I have is that they managed to steal a lot from trillion dollar industries and somehow make those industries keep quiet. Another is that they had ties to those industries like in their founding or something. Oh and my favorite theory is that they have their origins in the old Earth Illuminati."

"What are the Illuminati?" Samus asked.

"I don't know the exact historical details," Adam jumped in. "But by and large they were a favorite topic of conspiracy theorists. They were said to have ruled Earth from the shadows."
"See why that's my favorite theory?" Zade added half jokingly. "Regardless, these 12 don't go by any fancy names like Free Masons or anything like that. And all I really know about them for sure is that they need to be taken down a notch. Preferably a notch that's six feet under. And that's all I really got on their origins and motives."

Samus wasn't completely convinced. "That's all?"

"One of the rules of being an assassin, babe. You don't give a crap for people's motivations. You just kill them, end of story."

A glare was rapidly becoming Samus' most used facial expression when talking with Zade.

"You can stop with the death glare you know. You don't like me, I get it. But you're just gonna give yourself wrinkles."

Evidently thinking that story time was over, Zade got up and poured himself a drink from the mini bar. "But like I told you before, they have power, money and influence and they think because they have those things, they have the right to control everything. And like all men and women with power, they want more of it and whatever plans they come up with probably have a way of reaching that goal."

Zade downed his drink in a single gulp. Wincing lightly as the liquid burned his throat. "What I said before about motives aside though, I did try to do some digging on that front in order to figure out how to find them. And lately, they've been devoting a lot of resources to what seem to be various sorts of super soldier projects. Why? Again, no clue. Nothing definite anyway. But it might help us find them."

Samus analyzed Zade in an attempt to find any trace that he was holding something back. Of course it was in vain, she just couldn't read the assassin, she was a warrior not an interrogation specialist.

So for now all she could do was nod and keep alert for anything suspicious. And continue to assume he was hiding something.

"We done yet? Because charming someone is not something that should be rushed. And what comes after the charming is definitely something that shouldn't be rushed. Well…most of the time at least," he finished with a slightly lewd smirk.

Quietly breathing a disgusted sigh, Samus got up and began going through her stuff again.

"Very well then. So where exactly are we meeting in five hours?"

Still wearing that smirk, Zade finished his glass and moved toward the door. "We'll meet in observational lounge 7 in about four and a half hours. Don't be late cause this bus waits for no one. See you then."

After he was gone, Samus did one final check of all the items in the room (even finding micro tracers in some of her clothing much to her annoyance) then decided to enjoy the bed for a little longer as she pondered recent events.

The extermination of the X Parasite, the discovery of cloned Metroids on the BSL station, her trial and now these recent revelations. A group of people pulling the strings of some of the most dangerous experiments the Federation has conducted. A group powerful enough to manipulate events on a galactic scale.

What were they thinking supporting such experiments? Trying to control Metroids or study the X was tantamount to suicide. Metroids were near invincible hunters capable of wiping out entire civilizations. And the X Parasite was an almost perfect predator with the ability to unleash untold horrors on people.

What good could come of such creatures? Did these 12 share the same ambitions that the Space Pirates did? Invincible super soldiers that they alone controlled? The only enemy that the Federation could conceivably be at war with in the near future was the Kriken Empire. But to her knowledge the Federation already had a superior military so who would these creatures be used on? The Federation's own people? But that didn't make sense if these 12 already for all intents and purposes ruled them.

There wasn't enough information to draw any solid conclusion. Perhaps as this mission got underway she would discover what motivated this group to such dangerous measures.

But she supposed in the end it didn't matter too much why they were doing this. They've crossed too many lines, endangered too many people too many times. They were a threat to the people of the galaxy and must be eliminated. That was all there really was to it.

Satisfied with at least that conclusion, she thought about the other recent developments. The warrant for her own arrest, something she never thought would happen in a million years. Actually being hunted by the Federation, the very people she had hunted for. It was times like this that she really despised cheap irony.

Dodging standard Federation forces wouldn't be a problem. But if the Federation decided to hire hunters to go after her, that could complicate things. And she knew several hunters who would gladly give their right arms for the chance to hunt her.

She ran down the list of possible hunters she could encounter.

Trace: a member of the Kriken race. Would love to bring her power suit back to his people. Specialized in long range combat.

Noxus:? A firm if not zealous believer in justice. She respected him a lot and vice versa. She might be able to avoid fighting him.

Sylux: There was no way in hell she could reason or avoid fighting him. Not that she would want to, he was very, very dangerous, some profiles suggested psychotic and obsessed with destroying the Federation.

She spent some time on the list, remembering other hunters she had encountered and their fighting methods. When she was sure she had finished with the list she still had almost four hours to burn.

"You've been quiet for awhile now Samus."

Startled out of her pondering, she quickly brought her mind back to the here and now.

"Just thinking about potential complications to this current mission. Hunters that the Federation may send after me."

"Hmmm," Adam grunted. "To be honest I'm more interested in the conspirators. I have a feeling Zade knows more than he's willing to tell us at this point, but short of waterboarding him I don't think he'll reveal anything else unless he deems us necessary for us to know."

Irritation flashed through Samus. "So we just let him string us along!?"

"For now, but we keep an eye out. Remember that. And if he tries to double cross us, then you take him down hard Samus."

She closed her eyes and nodded. Why did the man always have to be right? It irritated the hell out of her. "I'm going out for a bit Adam."

"Where to?"

"I think I'll actually go for a swim. Be alright by yourself for awhile?"

"Don't worry I'm pretty sure I can't make your Zero suit move around," a normal person wouldn't be able to tell from Adam's tone of voice but he was actually trying to be humorous.

"I'll be back in a bit Adam."

After striping her zero suit and hiding it in the room, she headed out to go for a swim and maybe grab some lunch.

Forgoing the rather ridiculously revealing bathing suit Zade had brought along for her luggage. She decided to buy one from the cruise liner's store.

The pool was rather large and downright opulent but for the moment it was mostly empty of people. A small boutique just outside of the room with a rather bored looking young woman attending it and Samus decided to give it a look. The young woman there was only too happy to have something to do and practically waited hand and foot for Samus, who wound up buying just a simple one-piece swimsuit that was almost as blue as an Earth Sky. Almost like her zero suit.

After being directed to the nearest changing room into the new suit, she made her way back to the pool, ignoring the stares that came her way and gracefully dived into the pool.

Samus was rather fond of swimming, so much so that it was a shame it wasn't something she got to do more often so she did her best to savor this occasion. Doing only a half a dozen laps before simply floating there with her face to the clear ceiling above her.

Looking out at the stars like that, it was almost like being suspended in zero gravity just her and the stars, no earthly bounds to trap her. Alone with the universe.

Of course, moments of tranquility are often brief and fleeting. And this moment's interruption came in the form of a young man performing a dive rather too close to her.

"Woo!" A sandy blonde youth shouted out as he shook the water from his eyes.

"Sorry 'bout that, didn't see you there."

Samus merely abandoned her relaxed pose and began to swim calmly back toward the edge of the pool.

"Hey wait up let me get you a drink or something…"

"Not interested," Samus said icily as she stepped out of the pool.

The youth for his part seemed rather put out that a hottie like that turned out to be an ice queen. With a grunt that sounded like some sort of "whatever" he went back to the bar to dry off and wait for another girl to do his no doubt patented "oops I didn't see you there," approach.

Her moment of relaxation ruined, Samus decided to change and see if she could track down Zade. Knowing him, a good place to start would be the casinos. A place to pick up women who were easily attracted to cash.

An hour later, she had to admit that Zade may have had a better way of blending in than she thought. You couldn't look anywhere without seeing some cocky hotshot schmoozing up with some ditz.

Abruptly, someone in back of her rudely slammed into her.

She was about to give him a piece of her mind when a familiar voice whispered "stuff's packed, we're leaving now."

And just like that the offender vanished into the crowd. Although she saw a rather angry looking red headed woman all but charge right past her as well. Coincidence? Perhaps, but it was fun to think that Zade had bit off more than he could chew and was now running because of it.

Without further ado, she made her way to the rendezvous point. Obs lounge 7.

When she arrived, Zade discreetly signaled her to follow him. He led her through a maintenance corridor with access to airlocks. Normally those were protected by high security, but Zade had already planned ahead for that and had hacked the security.

Several space-tight bags no doubt containing their luggage laid strewn about the floor.

"What kept you?"

Samus resisted the urge to whip around and strike Zade who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere.

Instead she turned around calmly and regarded the assassin. Who was once again clad in his black armor albeit, this time with her zero suit draped around his arm.

"You gonna be needing this?" he asked holding out her suit.

She shook her head. "I can use my power suit without it."

"Thought so," he then put the suit into one of the bags.

"So why are we leaving right now? I thought we still had two hours to wait."

Zade didn't answer immediately as though wrestling with how much he should tell her.

"I'm waiting."

Finally he relented.

"My ship engaged an emergency autopilot protocol. A protocol that activates only when it's detected another ship. When that happens, the ship is programmed to immediately make its way closer to the starliner. So basically we're just going to be getting off of here sooner in order to make sure we avoid detection."

Samus frowned. Something didn't seem right, another ship out here? Directly in the path of a luxury starliner?

"What kind of ship is it?"

"Pardon?"

She narrowed her eyes. "What kind of ship did your sensors detect?"

"Can't say for certain, but from the configuration it's most likely they're just smugglers in the wrong place. Perhaps a hyperspace jump gone wrong or something."

Had Zade been someone she trusted, she would probably have left it at that. But she trusted her instincts above all else and they screamed at her that he was hiding something important.

"I want details on this ship."

Even in his armor, Zade seemed to give off an air of frustrated irritation as he tried to figure out how to get out of this latest mess.

Had he had more time he could have thrown Samus' suspicions off, but he didn't have time and doubtless, this was going to be unavoidable.

With a grunt of frustration, Zade altered the holographical display on his arm to show only a partial of the scan, he couldn't have his partner shooting him where he stood now could he?

Once the adjustments were made, he held out his hand and had his suit show a partial hologram of the vessel his ship had spotted.

Samus' eyes widened at the familiar if only partial picture of the vessel.

"My ship's computer says that there is a 22.5 percent chance that it's a space pirate ship. They may be coming for the starliner."

Without a word Samus willed her powersuit into existence, feeling the familiar embrace of metal and artificial muscle envelop her.

The transformation complete, she let her visor go opaque and then Zade was gazing into the impassive face of the legendary hunter…