The next door slid open with a hiss. I stepped through and glanced around. I could see another panel, but this looked to be a lift control mechanism, not a computer. Further inspection revealed the lift.

"SAAR, where does this go?"

"The life will take you down to the reactor core, Samus Aran. There is a recharge station nearby. Your suit shields are operating at 88% capacity. Suggestion: recharge suit. Large life signs detected in the reactor core."

SAAR had a point. This was a Space Pirate ship. I had no idea who their distress call was meant for, but dollars to donuts it was not me. "The Hunter" would be the last person a group of Space Pirates already terrified for their lives would want to see. And honestly, they had a good reason for that.. I had stopped planning to rescue anybody after seeing the dead hyper-parasite floating around in its tube. I activated the lift controls and stepped inside. There was a low beep, the door slid shut, and I began going down the shaft. There were two doors on this lift, the one I stepped through and another one in front of me. When it opened, I emerged with my weapon leveled.

"Erm…SAAR?"

"No life signs in this room, Samus Aran."

"No kidding." The room was full of mutilated bodies that vaguely resembled Space Pirates. "Analysis."

"One moment, please."

I walked forward and gave a body a kick. The body rolled over, revealing the mandible jaws of the dead Space Pirate. Judging from the size of the torso, the Pirate in question was male, but he was missing everything from the chest down. Jagged pieces of exoskeleton extended over an empty husk. I nudged him again with my foot, noticing how light the corpse felt. The Pirate's organs were missing.

"Analysis complete. Fourteen deceased lifeforms. Two died in this room, the others were deposited from elsewhere. Subjects are showing abnormal levels of mass and appear to have been drained of all bodily fluids. These are signs of behavior consistent among predators gathering sources of nourishment. Caution is advised."

Translation: They were all killed and eaten. Super-predators and monsters were nothing new to me, but I still wanted to avoid meeting up with whatever creature those bodies belonged to. It was not bothering me yet, so I was not going to mess with it. At this point, fighting the thing was an unnecessary risk. More than likely, though, this was a food cache belonging to the dead hyper-parasite I saw earlier.

Then again, SAAR was still picking up some serious movement down here. That fact did not sit well with me. "Where is that recharge station again?"

"To your left, Samus Aran."

The recharge station was a standard-issue pod meant to be sat in. A device was lowered over the occupant and connected to their suit, using a universal male port that was compatible for virtually every space and combat suit produced in the galaxy. You could find these stations pretty much anywhere legally, and they were pretty cheap.

I relaxed and watched my user interface as the suit shields slowly recharged. Ninety percent….ninety-two percent…when it finally reached full charge the device retracted and I was able to step out.

For some reason, there was a large blast door between me and the reactor core. Also, it was dented. I did a quick material scan, one of the few things my suit could do without relying on SAAR.

Denzium. I frowned. Pretty fancy door for a reactor core. Maybe it was for emergency situations. It was also dented.

"SAAR, give me a list of things that can damage a denzium door."

"Samus Aran, the following things can damage a denzium door: A Power Bomb, a rapid and/or heavy kinetic impact, chemicals possessing higher-than-normal acidity."

"Heavy kinetic impact?"

"Translation: Something very, very big hitting the door very, very hard."

The dents were large. Very large.

Fuck me.

I took a breath, and released it, letting go of sometension and trying to relax. It was almost comical. Samus Aran, former Galactic Federation infantry and now a famous bounty hunter and Chozo-trained warrior, was getting jittery over a giant bug that may already be dead. Only the ignorant would get a laugh out of that, though. The veterans, those that have experienced combat and survived, they'd understand. Fear never truly goes away.

My fear was a tool. It was my body warning me of danger. Fear kept me cautious, kept me from rushing jobs and situations, and that kept me alive more than any weapon or armored suit I'd ever have. That's what my drill instructors in the GF told me. That's what the Chozo told me. And that's what I told people.

Still, it was a little embarrassing. I readied my arm cannon. "SAAR, pull up a door hacking program."

"Unnecessary. The automatic opening mechanism to this door was damaged, but the manual controls are still usable. A large spherical object inserted into the gear at your feet will open this door."

I looked down. Kicked aside another Space Pirate body. And there it was. A small pit set into a very-old-looking gear that had cables attached to it. They were leading towards the door. Now, I just needed something to open it with –

Wait.

I smiled and looked into my left hand. In the center of my palm was a small, green-lit button. I stared at the button a moment, then made a fist to hit it and ducked my head. My armor began moving on its own, forcing my torso to bend forward and my knees to rise up towards my face. My chin went between my legs and stopped just below my knees as additional armor plates rose into existences around me. A hidden panel flipped open in front of me and present a small screen linked to exterior armor cameras and a simple, two-joystick control system. The entire process took less than a second.

"Morph Ball sequence completed."

The Morph Ball feature on my Power Suit was one of my favorites, added by some Chozo technology I found during my mission on Zebes. The ball was a little over a meter wide, but allowed me to access tunnels, ventilation shafts, and to escape or reposition when I became surrounded by enemies. It also had a weapon system that dropped time-activated mines I liked to call Morph Ball Bombs, and a magazine containing seven Power Bombs, the most powerful weapons I had.

Movement worked through manipulation of pressure pads located throughout the interior of the Morph Ball module. I pushed with my hands to move forward and my feet to move back. To move to the side, there were additional pads above my shoulders I could lean into. Weapons systems were activated by pushing my knees into the final two pads; right knee for Morph Ball Bombs and the left knee for Power Bombs. The Morph Ball was the most convenient module on my suit and I secretly enjoyed it. A visually detailed HUD inside my visor let me see my surroundings with perfect seven-hundred-twenty-degree vision.

I maneuvered myself into the appropriate position and smiled as the door unlocked. I rolled through the door and went back into my Varia Suit.

Wow. Even more bodies.

"Life signs found. Movement above this room."

I looked up. Nothing. "SAAR, run life diagnostic again."

"One moment, please."

I was on a ledge overlooking a large, transparent cylinder. Inside the cylinder was a device unfamiliar to me but I could only assume it was the ship's main reactor. My suit immediately pulled up a radiation reading, but a short survey told me there was nothing lethal enough to penetrate the Varia Suit. I gingerly jumped down the ledge and moved towards the reactor.

Above and below me, the cylinder curved upwards into multiple vents and shafts. It was in this way that the reactor was able to provide power to the ship. My mechanical knowledge was limited, barely extending past expertise with my own ship, but it was still impressive. I rarely got to see this kind of technology up close. Maybe once I was done surveying the ship I could –

Impact.

Pain.

Weightlessness.

Another impact.

More pain.

I rolled to my feet and raised my arm cannon, charging up a Charge Beam as I did so. I saw movement, aimed, and fired.

A screech filled the suits audio receptors enough to make me wince. I activated my Morph Ball and rolled to my right, barely avoiding some kind of green projectile that proceded to melt the spot I was previously standing in. I deactivated my Morph Ball and fired a three-round burst into the first piece of flesh I saw. The creature screeched again and moved back, letting me get a full look at it.

"Diagnostic complete. Life signs detected."

I readied my weapon again. "No shit."

It was a third hyper-parasite. Bigger than the other ones I had already seen. Obviously, this one had gorged itself on the crew members that were unfortunate enough to not get an escape pod. It had made the reactor core its den, probably for the warmth, and I had wandered right into its claws.

"SAAR, scan."

"One moment, please."

I launched another Charge Beam at the parasite. It rolled into a ball to protect itself. I watched the beam bounce right off its hide and into the far wall. "Now, SAAR!"

"One moment, please."

The parasite charge me. This thing was way faster than its size should have allowed for. One quick snap of its jaws and suddenly I was halfway down its throat. I immediately stretched my arms out and stopped it from swallowing, screaming as my arms were nearly pulled from their sockets. Two sets of mandibles crunched down on my waist. It hurt. A lot. But the Varia Suit held.

Would have been nice to just sit there and let it choke itself to death, but even if the suit prevented me from being bitten in half, it wouldn't stop my hips from snapping. I went into my Morph Ball again and dropped a Power Bomb –

NO! I hit the wrong button and instead dropped a Morph Ball Bomb. It went off, and launched me out of the creature's throat and past the mandible. The parasite screeched again, louder this time, and retreated back a few meters. I immediately raised my cannon again and aimed for its head. But the parasite saw the motion and immediately tucked its head in.

Great. Big, mean, hungry, and smart.

"Scan completed. Subject is a female pregnant hyper-parasite. Weak spots detected in the mouth and belly. Adjusting targeting systems to lock onto these spots."

My HUD screen swapped to a shade of green and displayed the weak spots in red circles. I held my fire. "You said pregnant."

"Parasite shows biology similar to a typical Tallon IV parasite queen. Subject has three eggs inside her womb."

"Reclassify target as Parasite Queen."

"Done."

"Escape options."

"Parasite Queen is currently blocking your previous entry. This is the only door in and out."

I groaned. Queen charged me again, I leaped to the side and fired a Missile into her abdomen. She shrieked and backed away. Blood gushed from the wound. I landed and fired another burst of rounds into the wound. She retreated around the reactor and stayed there, alternating between glaring at me and inspecting her belly.

She wasn't going to bother me anymore. And frankly, even if she was a mutated freak of nature, I was trying to avoid killing her. I powered down my cannon and targeting system and went towards the door. "SAAR, run a complete ship scan for any more life forms sharing 30% or more similarity with Parasite Queen. Show any subjects found on my HUD and map as red dots."

"One moment, please."

BOOMBOOMBOOMBOOM-

I went Morph Ball. Too late. The Parasite Queen had me in her jaws and tossed me into the air, like a bird getting ready to gulp down a fish. I looked down, saw the open mouth, and sighed to myself.

Sorry, Queen.

She closed her jaws around me and I released my Power Bomb.

The explosion shook the whole room. I bounced away from it and watched as the now-headless Parasite Queen was flung towards the reactor core. She hit with a heavy thud and slid down the cylinder, leaving a trail of blue blood along it.

The newly cracked and glowing cylinder. My suit began showing a severe radiation spike as I exited Morph Ball. I stared as the cylinder shattered around the reactor core.

Ah, hell.

I did a 360 turn and bolted for the door. One quick jump got me onto the ledge and out of the room as alarms blared around my head.

"SAAR, EXIT PLAN!"

"You can leave through the route you took, Samus Aran."

"Show source of radiation."

"The reactor core has been damaged by a heavy kinetic impact. It is now extremely unstable and will detonate within seven minutes"

The lift was right where I left it. I ran into it and literally punched the arrow pointing up. The door close and the lift rose. Way, way to slow for my liking.

"SAAR, estimated run time from my location to ship."

"Eight minutes, thirteen seconds."

The lift stopped, the door open, and down the hall I went.