"…I believe the source of the problem is the vegetation you saw earlier choking the Reactor Core components. Is your objective clear?"

"Yes," I reply in an irritated tone. The repetitious conversations with my ship's computer always get boring fast, and this time it's not different.

"We'll have to find the source of those roots to proceed. Now, get going."

I watch as the screen shuts down as I turn towards the hatch and start walking, full of bitter thoughts. "We"? That machine can't even fathom how difficult it is to complete these objectives, let alone survive in this X-infested laboratory.

I ready my arm cannon as I step into the open shaft, and I spot several KiHunters flying around. I've spotted them before, such as my last trip to Zebes, or on the Federation's Bottle Ship, but they're not too much of a threat, really.

Manoeuvring carefully, I space Jump across to the other side, attracting little attention (hopefully). Above me's a heavy cloud of roots (even moreso than other areas), which would lead me to the source (hopefully). Having commanders is stupid, because you have to do things that you're unsure of. And end up getting very frustrated (hopefully not).

Catching a shriek, I turn around instantly, and I see a KiHunter assuming an aggressive stance. As if my muscles were prepared, I fire a few ice missiles, freezing it on the spot. I charge my beam quickly and finished it off in a heartbeat, leaving two X in the wake of the blast.

Unfortunately, the brief clash between us seems to have attracted the attention of other KiHunters in the room. I curse inwardly as I charge up my beam again, and shoot at another KiHunter. By the time it's finished off, two more KiHunters start to close in, and my only option's to roll into my morph ball to dodge their pointed spears. I promptly lay a power bomb, as it's currently the most convenient option then; but I feel a jolt of pain at the last second before detonation. I uncurl with a grunt as the power bomb exploded, taking most of the enemies and roots with it. I checked my energy – good, I still have 7 full tanks, so I won't need to hunt for yellow X for energy replenishment. I still don't get how exactly they do that, but it's not really my biggest worry right now.

These fights are so common I'm starting to not take them seriously. Whatever. Not like they hurt me, did they?

I glance up at where the roots used to be and find a narrow tunnel that somewhat resembled a pipe. Obviously, it will help me find the source roots, so I Space Jumped up and enter the tunnel with my morph ball to fit in the space.

As I traverse the long tunnel, my mind wandered to the SA-X. She is – no, it is a perfect copy of me, just like that Dark Samus whom I faced so many years ago. Only this time, it's striving in natural territory, full of the same kind as itself: the X. To aggravate the condition, I'm not even working at full capacity – I have recently recovered the Power Bomb, which is a valuable asset, but my doppelgänger still has many advantages over me – namely the Ice Beam, which due to my modified genes, would deal a lot of damage. I haven't actually been damaged by it, but I don't want to test my luck.

After using bombs to clear some scattered roots inside the tunnel, I arrive at the other side and revert back into my usual upright state.

Judging by the colour of the walls, it seems to be TRO, or in other words, Sector 2. That makes sense, since the tropical area would be the most likely to house a plant that had roots as firm and plentiful as the cluster standing before me. I walk up to examine it, only to realise that the ground was unstable as I tumbled downwards into the room below with a mild curse.

Right in front of the SA-X.

I blink at it.

It blinks back.

Then I scream and fired an Ice Missile right in its face, freezing it as I abruptly turn around and run into the next room in a heartbeat.

The SA-X is here. The SA-X is here.

I swear violently as I recognise a dead end. Examining the wall as quickly as possible, I realise it can only be destroyed by a Power Bomb. Struggling to remain calm, I roll into the Morph Ball again, setting a Power Bomb. And that's when I heard footsteps coming from behind.

It's coming… It's coming to get me.

I de-morph immediately, as it would give me my vision back, and thus help me avoid the SA-X; but as the Ice Beam flies right in front of me, I cry out in alarm and tumble over.

Oh crap, I need to get away!

It seemed like I was going to get hit by the Ice Beam, but the timely explosion of the Power Bomb makes me spring back up and promptly fire another Ice Missile at the SA-X, who simultaneously fires a last Ice Beam before getting frozen by the Missile again.

Dodge it and run!

I attempt to dodge the Ice Beam, but I wasn't fast enough. I feel the Ice Beam's impact against the back of my shoulder, causing an intense pain I have never felt before. I clutch the area as I continued sprinting. Is this… how the Metroids feel when I shot them?

What am I thinking about? I have no time!

I check my energy. The Ice Beam took out two entire tanks of it. I swear again. Passing through another hatch, I findd myself behind some one-way gates. I try and hit them as fast as I can but my taut muscles slows me down, but I manage to do it quick enough, thanks to adrenaline or whatever that's acting in my body.

It's still behind me…

As I blast open the final gate, I hear more noise behind me. I get prepared and jump to side as the Ice Beam sails past my body harmlessly into the wall. I fire another Ice Missile, but it's as if the SA-X also learnt its lesson – it jumps over the missile and continues to rush towards me, its figure becoming larger and more daunting with every passing second.

Do something, Samus. Do something!

Tumbling backwards, I fire at least half a dozen Missiles as the SA-X shields its body using its arms and froze once more. I dash to the next hatch, only to encounter an empty room. I do a quick scan of the room, and find that no hidden passages are present.

I'm… I'm trapped, and I'm going to die.

Shaking my head to clear the dispiriting thoughts, I glance around urgently. There's a ledge on top of the opposing wall! I quickly make my way over the ledge and hide in a dark corner beneath a pile of litter, curled in my Morph Ball once more.

Stay quiet, don't move, stay quiet, don't move, stay quiet, and DON'T. MOVE.

I can feel the sweat dripping off of my forehead, even in the compact Morph Ball position. My muscles tensed once more as I hear the steady yet somehow delicate footsteps of the SA-X. It's as if my heart stopped when I heard it jump, probably reaching for the ledge.

No. It doesn't have the intelligence. It won't bother to check carefully. It doesn't. It just doesn't.

I hear the SA-X drop to the ground not on my side, but the side it came from.

The footsteps slowly fades from my hearing.

I stay, fearing it would still be wondering around. Half an hour passes, and I felt just confident enough to get out of the tight Morph Ball temporarily.

Ever since, I've been moving as carefully as possible. I do not want to bump into that thing again. If I were to, I would definitely skedaddle in a heartbeat.

Will I keep this promise I made to myself? Only time will tell…

Author's Notes: Well, yes, I just felt like writing this.

Yay, first published fic! Anyway, I'll get on with stuff I want to say about it.

It touches upon Samus's personality, which many people will probably disagree with (as evidenced by the reception of Metroid: Other M). However, this fanfiction depicts Samus more realistically (at least in my opinion), so if you are preparing to review saying "this fic sucks because Samus is scared of the SA-X", kindly do both of us a favor and don't click the review button.

Getting onto stuff more about the actual writing: I think (and hope) I did pretty well with the fragmented thoughts between each paragraph, and that the text flows smoothly when I was describing Samus's thoughts on the SA-X. I didn't especially like the title/motif of the story (i.e. 'In a Heartbeat'), but it was acceptable.

(Heh heh, I was originally going to make Samus die and respawn in the Save Point, but decided against it.)

Latest Revision as of March 20, 2012 (changed to present tense and some tweaks). Added more author notes on April 8, 2012.