"Thrusters activated. Destination: Planet SR-3-88. Five minutes to impact."Samus allowed herself one firm nod before turning and making tracks for the hanger bay. For the umpteenth time, she found herself questioning why every other job she took ended in something exploding. This time was particularly ironic, since she'd averted a similar explosion just hours before when the X had apparently decided that it would be fun to shut off the reactor's cooling systems. "I'm probably not going to paid for this one," she muttered as she rode the elevator back down to the Main Deck, "Still, it's better to be broke than let the X loose on the rest of the galaxy…" She checked her suit's chronometer- one of the few systems that had survived the surgical alteration of her Power Suit – as the elevator came to a stop. Four minutes she thought, running down the hall, this is almost too easy. She worked her way through the rooms of the Main Deck and in less than a minute was Speed Boosting her way down the hall to the Hanger. She skid to a stop as she entered he hanger and saw nothing but vacuum where her ship should have been. Actually, there was something… As she stepped closer, she saw it was the remains of a Metroid cocoon, and very big one at that. Super, there's an Omega Metroid on board now, the station's about to hit the planet, there are still tons of hostile X, and I have no ship! So, which way do I want to- her thoughts were interrupted as the Omega Metroid bashed through the wall and landed in front of her with a roar. "Not this way!" Samus shouted, unloading several missiles at the monster's chest. They bounced off harmlessly and the Metroid retaliated, throwing Samus halfway across the hanger as its claws tore her shielding to shreds. She landed hard and grimaced as she her HUD informed her that several suit systems were now critical. "Ok… I guess it… will be this way," she gasped, watching as the Omega Metroid slowly advanced toward her, saliva dripping from its disgusting mouth. Suddenly, a blue gelatinous blob floated into the hanger and approached the Metroid. It writhed and shrank in on itself slightly as it transformed into a copy of Samus's full Power Suit. The SA-X pointed its arm cannon at the Metroid and fired its Ice Beam. Screeching in pain, the Metroid backed away, trying to escape the cold. The SA-X followed it, continuing its assault until the Metroid rallied itself and tore into the X, shattering its borrowed form. The SA-X returned to its core form and tried to escape while the Metroid caught its breath. Not this time Samus said, forcing herself to stand. She dove forward and slammed into the parasite, which her body quickly absorbed and metabolized into enough energy to repair her suit and alter it to a new orange color scheme. She checked herself as she landed on the floor, smiling when she saw a new beam upgrade on the list of systems: Ice. Her chronometer gave her two minutes until collision with SR388; more than enough to take down the Metroid. She had nothing better to do, so she stepped forward and engaged the monster.


Six months later

Samus raised her hand to brush her hair out of her face as the breeze played with it. She was standing on an open-air balcony on the top floor of the Higgins Aeronautics and Spacecraft office, idly waiting for word of her new ship. Her hand went to her pocket and tapped the square bulge of the disk cases inside. She trusted H.A.S. to meet her specifications, but there were some finishing touches she needed to add personally. She turned at the sound of the elevator opening and went to join the worker inside when he nodded at her. The doors closed and the elevator began to take the pair down to the shipyard on the ground floor. "Sorry to make you wait Ms. Aran," the worker said, "We had a little trouble convincing the techs to leave the computer unformatted like you requested. But, may I ask why you made that request?"

"I have my reasons," Samus said simply, tapping her pocket again. The worker just nodded and the rest of the ride was accomplished in silence. The doors slid open and the H.A.S. employee led Samus into the hanger that contained her new Hunter ship. Like all those that had come before it, it had been designed based upon her iconic Power Suit, even though said Power Suit technically didn't exist anymore. The worker showed her around the ship, pointing out the weapons, shielding system, the living quarters, and the micro-factories for the missiles and other things she commonly burned through in the course of a job. The tour ended in the cockpit, where Samus settled into the pilot seat and made some final adjustments to allow her to comfortably reach everything. "Excellent work," she said approvingly, "H.A.S. has outdone themselves again."

"Thank you," the worker said, "but you do know we can't release it into your control without a proper computer system."

"Don't worry about that," Samus said, pulling one of the cases out of her pocket, "I have what I need right here." She stood up and walked to the engine room, which also contained the central server for the ship's computer. The worker watched as she switched on the server and a monitor. Text appeared on the monitor, the same line repeated over and over: no operating system detected. Please install operating system. Samus opened the case and inserted the disk it contained into the slot on the server. The monitor cleared as the computer read the disk and began moving the files it contained into the main drive.

Initializing operating system…

Syncing system…

Installing user interface…

Booting…

Lights came on across the ship as the engine started up. Next to a camera eye installed above the monitor, a red light turned on and the camera began to turn and focus until it gazed upon Samus's face. The ship's intercom beeped, and then a computerized male voice said, "Good morning Samus."

"Good afternoon Adam," Samus said, "welcome to your new home."

"Is it afternoon?" the camera shifted slightly, "Sorry, it seems I still need to synchronize the chronometer…"

"What is that?" the H.A.S. employee asked in surprise.

"Adam Malkovich," Samus explained, "an old friend and CO. He died in the line of duty and the Federation uploaded his mind into the ship I was given for the B.S.L. mission."

"You're uploading GF property into your computer?"

"I am nobody's property," Adam replied, "not anymore at least. My being here was part of the conditions Samus had for staying silent about certain… aspects of the B.S.L. incident. My job is to maintain this ship and provide Samus with assistance on any future jobs."

"I… see," the worker said, "Well… I should go clear you, er, the ship, for release then?" He ran out without waiting for an answer.

"Do you require anything at the moment Samus?" Adam asked, "Or should I just make myself busy tweaking things?"

"There is one thing," Samus said. She ejected and broke the first disk and inserted a second one. "This disk contains the schematics you'll need to have the ship reconstruct my Power Suit."

"You're not satisfied with the Fusion Suit?" Adam asked, devoting some cycles to reading the disk, "I think it suits you very well."

"I need the original," Samus said, heading back to the cockpit. Cameras situated along the corridor turned on so Adam could keep an eye on her as she went. She settled into the pilot's chair and turned her gaze toward the camera above the viewport. "Not only do people expect the famous Samus Aran to wear it, it's the legacy given to me by the Chozo. I don't want to insult their memory by wearing something as heavily altered as the Fusion Suit."

"It will take some time," Adam said, "This ship's micro-factories are meant to repair your suit, not build it from scratch. You'll be without most of your latent abilities for several months beyond what it will take to construct the basic frame."

"Adam," Samus said, "If there's one thing I've learned in all my years as a bounty hunter, it's how to survive a job with nothing but my suit, a basic laser, and the Morph Ball to start out with. The sooner you get started, the sooner it'll be done."

"Yes," Adam said, processing, "Estimated time to base-line completion… two weeks once the micro-factories are supplied. I do hope you have money left over to pay for those materials." A beeping sound overrode the speakers for a second and then Adam's voice returned saying, "I have just received notice that the ship has been cleared for release. Congratulations Samus, you now have a ship with a built-in butler." Samus hid a smile as she began transferring power from the engines to each of the ship's systems: thrust and maneuvering jets, life-support, shields, and finally weapons. Sitting back in the pilot's chair and turning on manual control, she lifted the ship off the ground and flew out into the sky.


Log Entry 76392.2593

The Excavation Team dispatched to planet SR388, thought lost, crash-landed in our hanger today. When the security troops opened the hatch, they found several corpses throughout the craft. Initial scans revealed they had died from neural damage of some sort. A search of the ship discovered two living units who spoke of flying blob creatures that infected and killed everyone else. They survived by sealing themselves inside a storage compartment after setting the ship on auto-pilot. They have been quarantined for further study.

Log Entry 76392.2844

Those corpses aren't corpses anymore. When Medical arrived to perform detailed autopsies, they discovered most of the bodies in were either partially or entirely dissolved, and one unit was intact and mobile. He has been quarantined for further study.

Log Entry 76393.8641

The survivors are clean- no foreign agents were found in their systems and they have been re-assigned to other areas so that their fear regarding the Returned does not infect the minds of others.

All those who died have reconstituted and appear to be alive, but altered. Tests revealed the gelatinous organisms that attacked them have copied the DNA of their hosts and rebuilt them in new and better ways. For one thing, they appear to be un-killable. Sufficient damage causes them to revert to their gelatinous state for short time, after which they reconstruct themselves again. Command has discovered information on these life-forms in GF databases. They are called X, and Command has determined that they are as potentially useful as the Metroids were before the Hunter exterminated them. We are to try to breed the X and use them to create an invincible army of soldiers which can be used to reclaim our place in the galaxy.

Log Entry 76405.8640

The X do not listen to orders! They are nothing but parasites, and we cannot stop message corrupted


Adam had to revise his estimate on the Power Suit's restoration after Samus broke up the Fusion Suit and added it to the other materials in the micro-factory's supply containers. Within a day the micro-factory had completed the Zero flight-suit, which Samus quickly took to wearing around the ship, along with the Suit's arm cannon – which had only needed cosmetic changes – and 90% of the helmet. "I'd give it a week and a half now," he concluded, "slightly less if you're not too concerned about performance."

"There's no reason not to do it right," Samus said, checking the fit of the arm cannon. It wouldn't work without being connected to the full suit's power supply, but she was able to test the more mechanical aspects like the trigger and the buttons to switch it into missile-firing mode and alternate beam configurations. "The main trigger's a bit loose," she noted, removing the cannon and placing it back into the suit compartment, "That means it could go off accidently. Everything else feels like it's in order." She returned to the cockpit and took her seat, staring out at the stars. The ship was currently in orbit around a planet near the edge of Federation space, right in the line of sight of a communications relay satellite. She wasn't expecting any big jobs to come her way for a long while, not after defying those who had ordered her to leave the B.S.L. to the X, but it never hurt to remain easy to contact. She listened to the chatter of signals going through the relay and filtering out of her comm in the hopes of hearing some rumor worth investigating if nothing came her way for a while.

After several minutes, Samus began to drift off as the comm chatter began to sound like white noise to her. "Incoming message," Adam said suddenly, snapping Samus back to full attention, "It's text only, and judging by the encryption it's from the Federation."

"Send acknowledgement of receipt," Samus instructed. The computer beeped as it sent out the response.

"Decryption key received," Adam said a few minutes later, "Would you like me display the message or read it to you?"

"Display it please," Samus said. A translucent screen rose out of the console, displaying lines of text in a green font. "Samus Aran," she read aloud, even though she knew Adam could probably read it himself, "The Galactic Federation requests your participation in an unprecedented peaceful dialogue with the Space Pirates. Are they serious?"

"Keep reading Lady," Adam said, "it gets better." Samus could've sworn she detected a hint of sarcasm in the computerized tones.

"You will rendezvous with Admiral Dane's fleet near Elysia to receive further information and link in to the discussion, which will take place over sub-space communication. While we can't tell you everything now, you should know these talks concern the X Parasites. The X?" she exclaimed, "How?"

"I recommend setting a course for Elysian," Adam said.

"Do it," Samus said, "If those parasites are still an issue, they're going to need me. And unless their story's a good one, it's going to cost them heavily." Adam looked upon Samus's hard expression in silence as he calculated the route and prepared the hyperspace engine.