Samus gritted her teeth as she tried once more to force her hands out of the restraints. A few disputes with other bounty hunters had given her the opportunity to learn a few tricks of the escape artist's trade. She pressed her fingers together, trying to squeeze her knuckles past the cuff that held her in place. She wiggled it into different positions, even pulled until she could feel the metal taking off skin beneath her undersuit. No use.

She let loose an exasperated snort of frustration and stared up at the ceiling. No way in hell was she going to go along with Adam's twisted idea. She wasn't about to become an experimental subject for the Federation, either. Samus strained against her bonds in agony. She had single-handedly destroyed whole planets, laid low the Space Pirates as a one-woman army, and yet she had been foiled by a pervert and a few strips of metal!

A skittering sound caught her ear and she froze, tense. Some creature had gotten into her prison through the little hole. She hoped it wasn't anything poisonous, or an eater of human flesh.

With a deft little hop, a furry bluish creature appeared on the gurney at her feet. Samus's eyes widened in surprise as she recognized one of the etecoons she had rescued. "How did you get out? Oh, never mind! Listen, little friend, can you help me escape?"

The little creature sniffed the air, ears up, as it turned its head back and forth. It picked its way over Samus's arms and legs, staring intently at something she couldn't see. As it reached her head, she attempted to get its attention. "Come on, now, you want to get me out of here, right? Is that why you came?"

Raising its head, the etecoon sniffed the air again, then hopped over to the machinery. Samus nodded in tense excitement. "That's right, go to the control panel. Go on, it's right over there, the release button should be easy enough to-"

The etecoon picked up the energy bar Adam had dropped and began munching happily. Samus scowled. "Oh for the love of…that's what you wanted?" She cursed at it and it paid her no mind, its little face radiant with happiness as it enjoyed its treat.

It picked over the wrapper for every crumb, then held out the wrapper to Samus with an expectant look on its face. Hope began to return as she realized that it saw her - a human - as the purveyor of this kind of food. "You want more, huh? Is that what you want?"

The etecoon stamped its feet and chattered excitedly.

"Okay, you can have a whole damn box of 'em, but you gotta get me outta these restraints." She wriggled her arms and legs for emphasis. "I can't find any more food for you if I'm tied down here, right? So go over to the control panel and…no, the control panel!" she snapped in exasperation as the etecoon leaped over to the gurney and started pulling on the restraints. "No, you idiot! Over there!" she jerked her head in the direction of the controls.

It stared at her, then in the direction of her gestures. It had managed to find a way out of her ship, so surely it understood buttons? Perhaps it had merely tripped something by accident. Samus's hope began to wane.

But the etecoon leaped over to the panel and examined it with interest. "The release button," Samus said, even though she knew it couldn't understand her. "The green one, see it?"

It scratched its head, then stretched out its hand with great purpose and pushed a red button.

Immediately the restraints slammed down hard on Samus's wrists and knuckles. "No, you stupid moron! The release button! THE RELEASE BUTTON!"

The etecoon made a sharp yip and slammed its hand down on the controls. Samus felt the gurney release her and she leaped to her feet. "Finally!" she said as she massaged her sore wrists.

Waving the energy bar wrapper, the etecoon chattered at her in an admonishing tone.

"Yes, yes, we will get you some food, but first I need to get my suit back and get out of here."

It screeched.

"No! Suit first, then food! Now be quiet or Adam'll find both of us."

Resigned, the creature followed behind as she opened the door and peered cautiously out. Apparently nobody had heard their yells, or had dismissed them as mere frustration. She stepped quickly and quietly down the corridor. Without her sidearm, she had little to no chance of winning a fight. The etecoon made little mutters of disapproval, but she silenced it with a glare.

Samus took note of the few hiding places the abandoned station offered her. So much had been scavenged, even air vents looked like yawning chasms that gave no protection. Nothing to hide behind, no abandoned weapons to pick up…"

"Ah!" In the debris of a dismantled control station, Samus found a dusty, abandoned wrench. She hefted the solid metal in one hand. Not much use against Federation troopers in full battle gear, but even without her Power Suit she was strong enough to knock someone over the head through their helmet. Not enough to kill, but certainly enough to send someone to sleep.

Footsteps. Samus doubled back to the nearest hiding place, cramming herself into a little niche. The etecoon copied her, squeezing between her legs, apparently enjoying the game. She waited, and finally Adam appeared, walking with purpose back toward her prison. In one hand he carried a stun gun. Samus held her breath.

The etecoon made a happy cry and before Samus could stop him, it leaped toward the next possible purveyor of food. She froze as he turned, staring in puzzlement at the creature clamoring at his feet.

"Get lost," he snapped, and gave it a swift kick. The etecoon retaliated by leaping up and savaging his face.

Samus took this moment to escape, Adam's yells echoing behind her. She had almost made it to the next corridor when she heard and angry shout. "ARAN!"

She heard a loud crack as the stun gun missed her and fizzled against the metal wall. She doubled her speed, taking corridors at random, until she had heard nothing for quite some time. She slowed, stopped, and caught her breath.

Sitting down, she took a few moments to assess her situation. In her favor, there were no surveillance cameras, otherwise Adam would have known immediately that she had escaped once she exited the room. On the other hand, she had no idea where her suit was - and now that Adam knew she was out, he was likely standing in front of it with that stun gun. She doubted she could throw a wrench accurately, so she had to either overpower him right there or find a way to draw him away from her suit.

Samus glanced up at the air vents. Space stations of this type used an outdated air-recycling system. Adam could get oxygen from his Federation battle suit, but it would only last for so long. She had seen no oxygen cylinders here, so he likely would have to go back to his ship to get one. Samus, on the other hand, could easily survive in oxygen-poor air. She traced her way back to the dock, then smashed the door control with her wrench. Now only someone with a Power Suit could get through the door.

Next, Samus headed for the air scrubbers. She made her way through the heavy machinery that powered the station until she reached the long, high columns that transformed carbon dioxide into pure oxygen. As she tore apart the delicate machinery with her wrench, alarms sounded throughout the station. After a few minutes - enough time for its inhabitants to realistically evacuate - the alarms went silent and in their place, the lights changed color to a dull red, bathing everything in a crimson hue. Samus took her position behind one of the generators and waited for Adam to appear.

She could have waited hours or minutes. A few times she wished she could search for something to eat - she'd had nothing since she left the planet where she rescued the etecoons. That was the equivalent of a good twenty-four hours ago, if not more. But she needed to know exactly where Adam was, so she could avoid him and find her suit. She had a good idea of where it was being kept, a room they had passed with a long hallway. Only one way in and out. He had likely chosen it because he could see her coming from a long way off. So Samus waited, tense, crouching in the blood-red light.

Finally she was rewarded with the sight of Adam entering the huge machinery room. But just after entering the door, he stopped. Samus cursed silently to herself.

"Aran, I know you're here," Adam called out through his battle suit. Samus noted with horror that he now carried a plasma rifle, not a stun gun. "This is your last chance. Come out and surrender, and I won't hand you over to the Federation."

Samus said nothing. She waited, the blood ringing in her ears.

He hefted the plasma rifle. "Samus. You need to stop running. There's no need to be afraid of me. We were always friends, and we still are. I was just…a little eager, that's all. There's a lot…I've wanted to tell you, for a long time. I won't do anything you don't want."

Samus shivered. He began walking slowly, casually, calling out to each hidden corner in turn. His voice took on that strangely out of place, calm manner, like a parent talking to a child. "I know you want this too. You're just afraid. It's all right, you don't have to be afraid anymore. I understand you, Samus. You weren't raised by humans, so you don't know how to act around them. I'm right, aren't I? But I've known you for a long time, and I know how you feel toward me. It's time to come out of the dark."

With a scowl, Samus wondered how long Adam had been hanging onto this delusion. She had respected him, certainly, and considered him a friend, but he had never fulfilled the role of potential father or lover. The thought made her ill. How many times had they clasped hands, stood back to back, fought in close quarters with him thinking this way? How long had he been plotting a way to get her out of her suit?

"Samus," he called out, a hint of impatience entering his voice, "I just want to talk to you. All right? We'll just talk." He raised his rifle over his head, then placed it on the floor and stepped away. "See, I'm unarmed. Now come out, please."

She shook her head even though he couldn't see it. She had seen him employ this tactic all too often, in hostage negotiations. It always ended the same way, with her tackling their opponent once the talk was over. Now it was she that he wanted to force to the floor. He was not far enough away from the door for her liking, but she knew that he was running out of patience. She inched back toward the door, wondering how much time she had until he started shooting.

As if he could sense that he, too, was running out of time, he called out, "Samus, I know about K2-L."

That shocked her. She had only told him that her family had been killed by Space Pirates, a common enough story among Federation recruits. Somehow he had found out the exact time and place. He knew the year of the raid, he knew how old she had been when…

"You were only three, weren't you? You know, when you first told me about the Chozo, I thought you had only been with them a few years. But they raised you, didn't they? You lost your parents so young. You probably don't even remember them."

Samus's heart burned. Why was he bringing this up? Yes, she did remember her original parents, though it was not something she liked to dwell on. She considered that role filled by the Chozo.

"It's the reason you always go after the Pirate Captain, isn't it? Even if he's not the main player in whatever they're doing, correct? He was the leader of that raid. Ridley killed your family. And you've killed him several times over, yet somehow he always comes back."

Fear gripped her. Could Adam really read her this easily? Was he just pretending that he couldn't see her? Her eyes darted to the door, to him, and back again. She raised the wrench, her heart pounding.

"You can't fight it alone, Samus. I want to help you. The both of us, we can eliminate them together. He picked the rifle back up, moved toward her. "You and I, together. That's what you really want, isn't it?"

Samus leaped out from her hiding place, wrench raised. With a shout he brought up the plasma rifle to fire, but she smashed the wrench down on his shoulder. He bellowed in pain and a string of curses followed her as she darted out the door and down the hall, all pleasantries gone. "You bitch! You fucking bitch! I'll get you for this, you godddamned cunt!"

She sped down the hallways, heading as fast as she could toward the narrow hallway. Inside the little room was one small container, and she forced it open with her wrench. With a great sigh of relief she removed her helmet and began putting on her Power Suit.

She walked with confidence back the way she came, heading toward the dock. She stopped abruptly as she heard cursing to one side, and stared as Adam placed himself in front of her. "The Federation can't have you. You're mine."

She frowned, both confused and disturbed, and raised her arm cannon. "Move aside, Adam."

"Going to kill me, Samus?" he asked softly. "You're nothing without that suit, nothing! You don't have the guts to kill me. You're just a little girl in a big suit of armor. Just a scared little girl."

"I don't want to kill you. Now move aside."

"You don't have the balls!" he shrieked, his voice rising several octaves. He spread out his uninjured arm. "Go ahead, take your best shot! No? Come on, you pussy! You toothless bitch!"

Samus's arm shot out and she shoved him aside. "I've had enough of this, Adam." She made a few steps forward and then turned back. "Maybe I did see you as a kind of second father, once. But I've outgrown you." She kept walking.

"Don't you turn your back on me!" he screeched, and ripped open the chest of his Federation armor. Samus's eyes widened as she saw the huge number of explosives strapped to his chest. "If I can't have you, no one can."

Samus had only run two steps when the explosion threw her forward. Her suit registered one alarm on top of another. Life support critical. Bomb and missile weapons inoperable. She grasped the warping walls as the hole that Adam had torn into the station ripped it apart.

As the strip of metal swung to one side, she spotted her ship. Hurtling through space, she let go of the station and tapped the controls on her cannon. Like an obedient animal, the ship followed after her and nudged up against her, waiting for her to board.

She clambered inside, taking note of numerous gouges on the outside of the back of her suit. She dimly registered the dozen or so etecoons jumping in excitement all over her and the controls, including the one that had freed her from the gurney. She shifted her ship in gear and blasted out of there as fast as she could.

She glanced back, half hoping she would be able to find Adam's body, or what was left of it. She did not know what had caused this madness of his, could not believe that he had always been this way. At the very least he deserved a proper burial, regardless of what he had done. But she could see nothing except twisted metal.

She turned away from the scene and focused on her next move. It could be that the entire story about the Federation hunting for her blood had all been a lie. Yet, she knew that Adam had never told outward lies. He might have hidden or twisted the truth, but he never outright lied. Even at the very end.

Samus shifted her controls, setting a course for Aether. There were no Chozo left, but perhaps she could get some advice by those who had known them. In any case, she felt that she wanted nothing more to do with humans for a very long time.