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The entire family was crammed onto the couch, staring absentmindedly at the television. It was a relatively old set; the holographic screen required actual interaction, unlike the voice-commanded sets that were the standard nowadays. The family was watching a documentary about human life before interstellar travel was possible, an extremely educational experience. One of the primary people who had contributed to the documentary, Homer Simpson, was now on-screen.


“I had no idea that humans had yellow skin before space travel,” the father of the family mused. “It’s amazing what you learn from these things.”


Just as Homer was about to strangle Bart, the television switched to the news.


“We interrupt this program to bring you a special news report. Bounty hunter Samus Aran, famed for stopping the Space Pirates time and time again, has turned on the Galactic Federation. We’re here live with Federation President Martin Rodriguez for an exclusive interview.”


The camera panned to Rodriguez. The Federation president, a grim-faced human, waved slightly.


“President Rodriguez, what are the details of Aran’s betrayal?”


His face was devoid of any emotion, and he replied in a way that implied that he had rehearsed it. “As I’m sure you know, the Biologic Space Laboratories were focused on discovering ways to help the galaxy. We were directly on the verge of an important discovery when Aran infiltrated the station, bent on destroying all that we had created. She jettisoned the section containing the experiments, and then, ensuring that we couldn’t replicate it, crashed the BSL into the surface of SR388, obliterating both the station and the planet.”


The camera panned back to the reporter, a Wred. Wreds, being the third species to join the Galactic Federation (the first being humans, and the second being the Chozo), were highly respected across the galaxy…however, they were extremely nosy, which was why most of them sought jobs as reporters. They were a humanoid species, with red skin, eyes located high on their foreheads, and a downy hair covering most of their torso. They had no sense of smell, and their hearing was less than ideal. They made up for this, however, with their extremely accurate eyes.


“I see,” he said. “Could you possibly tell us a bit about Aran’s past?”


Rodriguez nodded. “Certainly.”


He cleared his throat. “Aran’s home planet was K-2L, which, as you may recall, was attacked by the Space Pirates twenty-five years ago. Aran was four years old at the time. Her parents were murdered by the Space Pirates, but what became of her after that is unclear.


“Ten years later, she reappeared, donning a Chozo battle suit. While she claims that the Chozo found and raised her, the fact that the Space Pirates conducted a raid on the Chozo colony of Zebes several days earlier lent credence to the theory that she may have been raised by the Pirates themselves.”


The Wred’s eyes lit up. “So, you think she was raised as a Space Pirate? But hasn’t she been your trump card in defeating the Space Pirates for years now?”


Rodriguez nodded. “Yes, she has. We believe, however, that this was merely an act to gain our trust. Aran could act as a spy from the inside, feeding the Space Pirates information about our operations. Now, if I may continue…”


The Wred nodded. “Of course.”


“Thank you. Anyway, Aran reappeared in a Chozo battle suit. She first enlisted in the Galactic Federation Marine Corps. She was quite effective, but she resigned when her CO, Adam Malkovich, was killed.”


“Adam Malkovich? Could you possibly tell us more about this?”


“Classified info,” Rodriguez responded dryly.


“Of course. Continue.”


“As I’m sure many of you know, seven years ago, the Galactic Federation discovered a species on SR388, which we named Metroids. They could suck the life energy out of any living creature, leaving them a lifeless husk. Obviously, such a creature was incredibly dangerous, so we prepared to transfer them to a secure facility. On the way, however, we were attacked by Space Pirates. They took the Metroids, and began mass-breeding them on planet Zebes. We sent Aran, who, at that time, was the most proficient bounty hunter there was. She successfully wiped out the Pirates’ Metroids, and disabled the Mother Brain.”


“There are some rumors that the Aurora Units that Galactic Federation society is based around are based on Mother Brain,” the Wred said. “Can you confirm this?”


“No comment,” replied Rodriguez.


“After this came the Phazon incident, which I’m certain none of us need to remember. After this, we realized that Metroids needed to be wiped out. We sent a Federation squadron to execute the task, but they weren’t up to it. Aran once again was needed to finish the job.”


“However, she didn’t finish it entirely. She allowed one infant Metroid to live – most likely because of her Pirate alliance. She handed it over to Federation authorities, but she most likely contacted the Space Pirates beforehand. Not three minutes passed after Aran had left before the colony was attacked and the Metroid stolen. She once again presumably ended Pirate operations, but this time, she also ended up blowing up planet Zebes.”


“Later, she reappeared aboard the BSL, but this time there was something different about her: she had infused herself with Metroid DNA. Her reasoning for this is uncertain, and -”


“Ah,” the Wred said suddenly, “but an insider report says that Aran was infused with the Metroid DNA by the Federation themselves, in order to eradicate a parasite from her system.”


Rodriguez remained expressionless. “I can assure you, this ‘insider’ has no idea what they’re talking about. Anyway, due to evidence of Pirate DNA found in the wreckage, we believe that Aran also let Space Pirates aboard, in order to capture the only remaining DNA specimen of one of their commanding officers, Ridley.”


The Wred turned back toward the camera. “Aran is very dangerous. Should you see her anywhere, do not attempt to confront her; instead, call Federation authorities and -”


Click.


Thousands and thousands of miles away, in the vast regions of space, Samus Aran glared at the now blank holographic display, seething. How dare they…suggesting that she was allied with those…monsters…


“Calm down,” Adam said. “There’s nothing we can do about it.”


Samus sat back in the cockpit of her ship. “Right,” she replied. “The most we can do right now is evade capture and try to find any remaining evidence. The BSL couldn’t have been the Federation’s only Metroid breeding facility.”


The ship’s computer was Adam Malkovich himself, his mind having been uploaded to a computer before death.


“We should probably focus on evacuating Federation space, first,” Adam said. “While we’re here, we’re constantly in danger.”




“I guess you’re right,” Adam conceded. “But be sure to maintain a low profile.”


Samus nodded. “Of course. I’m not that stupid.”


“Right. Anyway, the nearest Federation vessel is the G.F.S. Empyrean, stationed near the planet Lycas. I doubt that they’re storing Metroids on a military vessel, though.”


“What about the planet itself?”


Adam contemplated this for a bit. “Well, Lycas is a rather cold planet…it would be ideal for keeping Metroids without the risk of them attacking. I’m not sure if it’s such a good idea to head there, though. We’d have to pass right by the Empyrean, and you’ve seen Federation ships before…they’re capable of utterly destroying us without any effort whatsoever.”


Samus frowned. “You’re right…” Sighing, she slumped down and stared out the window.


Suddenly, she snapped her fingers. “That’s it!”


“What’s it?” asked Adam.


“We use a Federation ship to get by!”


If Adam still had a body, he would have been staring at Samus in disbelief.


“There’s just one problem, Samus…we don’t have a Federation ship.”


There was a broad grin on Samus’ face. “Yes we do.”


-=-=-


Rodriguez collapsed into his seat, exhausted. It had been quite a day…every reporter in the galaxy, it seemed, was hard-pressed on getting him to divulge his plans to deal with Samus. Of course, he couldn’t do that; not with the television network available from literally every location in the galaxy, anyway…


He wondered why Aran’s ship computer hadn’t contacted him yet. Yes, it WAS the mind of Adam Malkovich, but it shouldn’t have retained any memories during the transfer process. It was completely loyal to the Federation. Could Aran have hacked it? No, that was impossible. They used the highest encryption possible to protect the Federation computers. She must have befriended him again, then. He’d have to make a note of erasing emotion from the rest of uploaded minds.


He glanced down at his desk. Hidden in that desk were the papers detailing every experiment they were working on in the Federation…he smiled sardonically. If only Aran knew exactly what they were researching, she would have tried to crash the BSL into the Galactic Federation capital itself, not SR388.


He picked up his phone and dialed a number into it. “This is Galactic Federation president Martin Rodriguez. Requesting General Arvo of the G.F.S. Scheria. Repeat, requesting General Arvo.”


There was a pause, and then a soft voice reached his ears. “Greetings, President.”


“Arvo,” he greeted. “You’re currently near the Klar nebula, correct?”


There was another pause. “I am.”


“You may recall that, several years ago, the G.F.S. Valhalla went missing there, but was later rediscovered. We recently sent a team there to conduct some experiments…but Samus Aran knows where it is. It’s still able to fly, so she might decide to head there to take command of it so she can deceive other vessels. The team there is top-secret, so she doesn’t know that they’re there…I doubt that she’ll spare them once she finds out, though. The Valhalla’s weapons systems no longer work, so I want you to protect it. Make sure she doesn’t board the Valhalla, and, if possible, kill her. Is that clear?”


“Yes, it is. Aran won’t get by me, President. Good day.”


Arvo hung up.


-=-=-


“The G.F.S. Valhalla,” Samus read aloud, “went missing four years ago while in a training mission in the Klar nebula. The ships logs revealed that it had been attacked by Space Pirates. The ship’s Aurora Unit, 313, was stolen. Five months later, the Valhalla was rediscovered. Samus Aran investigated the Valhalla, discovering a code that helped the Federation – oh, HELPED them? More like did all the work…anyway, helped the Federation resolve the Phazon crisis. After this, the Klar nebula became off-limits to everyone without a proper license. The G.F.S. Valhalla still stays there, empty, a monument to those the Federation has lost in its struggle against the Space Pirates.”


“So, we’re going to use the Valhalla to disguise ourselves? Won’t people know that it’s supposed to be off floating in space without a crew?”


Samus shrugged. “The Federation keeps plenty of secrets. We can just say that they decided to reinstate the Valhalla.”


“Fair enough,” Adam replied. “First, though, what should we do with them?”


Samus glanced at the back of the ship, where the Etecoons and Dachoras, the small monkey-like and ostrich-like creatures, respectively, that had helped her out several times now, were sleeping. She frowned, lines creasing her forehead. As long as they were with her, they were in constant danger…but there was no place that she could let them go where she wouldn’t be captured. “Adam,” she said. “We’re going to have to keep them with us. Keep their safety your number one priority. If, at any point, it looks as if we’re going to be killed or captured, get them into the escape pod and launch it. That’s the best I can do.”


She still felt slightly guilty, though. She wished she could do something more for them.


“Right, then. I’ll give you the coordinates,” she said. She punched the numbers in and activated the thrusters. “Autopilot is on…all systems stable…let’s go.”


The ship flew into the distance.


“Engage the hyperdrive…”


She pressed a button, and, suddenly, everything around them was filled with neon colors, a sign that they had entered hyperspace.


The galaxy was enormous, obviously, so it wasn’t conventional to fly around normally. Luckily, when Contact was first made, the people of Aliehs III, the Eyfin, known for their ship-making technology, had already devised a solution: a way to create rifts in the fabric of space, making shortcuts to every place in the galaxy.


They exited hyperspace within a few minutes, the Valhalla visible in the distance, just a short distance away.


The problem was, there was another ship there, as well.




“Activate ship cloaking!” Samus ordered immediately. Within seconds, her ship had disappeared off any radar. “Did they see us?” she asked.


“Not on the radar, I’d wager, but pray that all of their troopers are nearsighted,” Adam replied grimly. Unfortunately for them, this didn’t seem to be the case; the ship was slowly, but deliberately, moving in their direction.


Samus swore and pressed a button to her right. A blast shield enclosed the ship. While it wouldn’t provide sufficient protection against a Federation ship, it was better than nothing. The downside was that she would have to rely entirely on her radar to navigate.


“Incoming transmission,” Adam said suddenly.


With a crackle of static, the radio controls went online. “Aran,” a soft, cold voice greeted. “This is General Arvo aboard the G.F.S. Scheria. As I’m sure you know, this ship can annihilate yours in a single blast. I do not wish to kill you, but if you do not surrender this instant, you leave me with no other option. If you do surrender, you will be given a fair trial in Galactic Federation court.”


Samus snorted. “A fair trial, you say? Could you possibly give me more details?” As she said this, she maneuvered her ship to face the Valhalla, and, for a brief instant, started her thrusters, then turned them off again. This caused her to begin drifting slowly towards the Valhalla.


“Stalling us will gain you nothing.”


“Let me ask you something, General: are you aware of the experiments the Federation was conducting aboard the B.S.L.?”


“Stalling will gain you nothing,” repeated Arvo.


“They were -”


She didn’t have a chance to finish her sentence, as the transmission abruptly ended. Briefly opening the blast shield, she saw the Scheria charging its weapons. “Adam! Reroute all energy to shield and fuel systems!” Samus ordered.


“Right away, lady,” said Adam, quickly complying. Samus reactivated the thrusters and headed in the direction of the Valhalla.


Suddenly, her ship was knocked off course. The Etecoons and Dachoras awoke with a yelp. “What in the name of…?” A quick glance at her radar revealed that she was being flanked by two smaller Federation fighters. One of them had rammed into her ship. “No hull damage,” reported Adam.


Samus gritted her teeth and continued on her path, trying her best to outmaneuver the Federation fighters. The Scheria hadn’t fired yet; it must’ve been waiting for a clear shot.


“Adam,” she said suddenly. “About how long could I survive in space at the current oxygen levels in my suit?”


“Around three minutes,” he replied, “possibly four. Why?”


She ignored his question. “The ship’s databanks can be transferred from one vessel to another, can’t they?”


“Yes,” he answered. “What are you planning?”


Samus stood up, putting the ship on autopilot. “Depending on how you look at this, it could be either incredibly smart or completely idiotic. Your choice.”


She walked over to the hatch of the ship. “When I give the signal, transfer the databanks to the Federation fighter on the right, and get the Etecoons and Dachoras into the escape pod. You’ll know what the signal is.”


With that, she ejected herself from the ship.


-=-=-


Out in space, Samus was aware of just how vulnerable she was. One push in the wrong direction, and she would be sent careening into the depths of space with almost no hope of return. With this unpleasant thought in mind, she pushed off toward the nearest Federation fighter.


They really were idiots, she observed. They were so focused on the ship itself that they had failed to notice that she wasn’t in it anymore. There was a hatch on the underside of each fighter, which was convenient enough; it could be manually activated. Indeed, with relatively little trouble, she was able to gain access to the fighter.


When the trooper piloting the fighter finally heard the hiss of the hatch opening, it was too late; Samus already had her arm cannon pointed directly at his head. “If you don’t follow my instructions exactly, you are going to die,” she stated calmly. “First, establish contact with my ship.”


Shakily, the trooper opened a communication with it, Samus observing his actions like a hawk.


“Adam,” Samus said. “I’ve hijacked this Federation fighter. End autopilot and prepare to eject the Etecoons and Dachoras.”


“Right away,” came the reply, and the com link closed.


“Now, contact your buddy over there and the Scheria and tell them that my ship has run out of fuel, but I refuse to come quietly.”


The trooper opened a link. “W-Wesley here. Aran’s ship has run out of fuel. Repeat, A-Aran’s ship has run out of fuel. She refuses to come quietly.”


General Arvo’s voice responded. “Affirmative. We’ll just dispatch of her, then. Evacuate the area.”


Knowing that she had precious little time before her ship was blown to bits, Samus reopened the com link with Adam. “Transfer the databanks and eject the escape pod immediately!” she ordered. She didn’t wait for a response, and turned to the trooper again.


“Do you believe me to be guilty?” she asked, recalling Adam’s words to her a few days earlier.


Slowly, the trooper nodded. Sighing, Samus turned away.


Moments later, her ship exploded in a fiery display.


“Adam, are you there?” she asked. There was a tense moment of silence.


“Affirmative, lady. We lost a bit of information, but nothing too important.”


“Good. Disable all com links.”


She turned back to the Federation trooper. “You,” she said. “What’s your name?”


“T-Tarus W-Wesley,” the trooper responded.


“Well, Tarus Wesley,” Samus said, “whether you think I’m guilty or not – and I’m going to prove that I’m not, by the way – you’re going to help me.”


“H-help…you?”


Samus pressed her arm cannon against his head again. “Yes, because if you don’t, you’re going to die. It’s your call.”


“…All right. I don’t really have a choice, do I?”


Samus smirked. “Smart,” she said.


Extra #1 : Sphere Keys

Sphere keys have become the standard in locking mechanisms in recent years. Originally created by the Yaafgols of Arista VII, the keys, each encoded with a lengthy combination of letters, numbers, and textures, react only with their respective locks. The Space Pirates have adapted this technology, as well, and one of their chief projects is creating a universal sphere key. These endeavors, so far, have been unsuccessful.


The Chozo, realizing that their warriors might be required to break into various facilities, were the only ones to figure out how to create such a universal key. This key, known as the "Morph Ball" (Maru Mari in their language), actually changes one who uses the Chozo Battlesuit into a ball. They are then capable of detonating special bombs, which can circumvent any sphere key lock. The Morph Ball technology is an enigma to all but the Chozo, and baffles even Samus Aran herself.


The Space Pirates base their attempts at creating a universal sphere key on the Morph Ball; however, since they have been unable to capture Samus, it is currently impossible for them to research it thoroughly.


“Enable the communication links again,” Samus told Adam.


“…Wesley? Wesley, do you read?”


Tarus Wesley quickly moved over to the communications device, still uncomfortably aware of Aran’s arm cannon. “Wesley here. I read you loud and clear, General.”


“What happened? We lost communication with you for a minute there.”


“Just some minor technical difficulties,” Wesley replied. “Everything’s fine.”


“Good,” said General Arvo. “Return to the ship. You’ll be well-rewarded for your help.”


Samus froze.


She hadn’t thought of that. If she was discovered…


“Quick,” she whispered. “Is there a cargo hold here?”


Silently, Wesley pointed to the back wall. There was an indent for a key there. Wesley was about to hand Samus the key, but she had disappeared.


Confused, he looked around for her before hearing something rolling around on the ground. He gave a start when he saw an orange sphere, slightly less than a meter tall, roll over to the lock, jump up into it, and detonate an explosive. The explosive circumvented the lock, and the cargo hold doors opened.


“…That works,” muttered Wesley, shutting the cargo hold door after Samus had wedged herself comfortably in between two crates.


“Right, then…um…computer?”


“The name is Adam,” it replied coolly.


“Adam, right…I’ll just be heading back to the Scheria, all right?”


“Fine. But rest assured, I’ll be watching you. If you do anything to betray Samus, you’ll be sorry. You’d be surprised at what a computer can do…”


“Er, sure. I’ll keep that in mind.” He began manning the controls, and headed back to the ship…


-=-=-


The G.F.S. Scheria, a Vulcan-class battleship, was imposing not only on the outside, but on the inside as well. General Arvo had put his personal touches on the ship; odd statues lined the halls, depicting Space Pirates in various states of torture. While people agreed that the pirates would deserve such fates, the statues were still rather disturbing. One particularly grotesque one depicted a Space Pirate’s intestines being pulled out, then wound tightly around its throat.


Yes, General Arvo was certainly uplifting to be around.


Wesley was escorted by two silent troopers. Most of the ship personnel didn’t talk much; they had long since learned that idle chit-chat was frowned upon by the general.


“The general’s just inside,” one of the troopers grunted when they had reached the command bridge. “Go on.”


Wesley took a deep breath and entered. Arvo was sitting, his back to the door. “I’m here, sir,” said Wesley. General Arvo turned around.


The familiar Space Pirate general smiled.


“Tarus Wesley…” he murmured. “You’re here. Good. I’ve already given the other one who helped his reward…I daresay that you’re in for a promotion. I do wonder why Aran chose only to tell you that she wouldn’t surrender, though…no matter. You are promoted to the rank of Commander…a high honor, indeed. I daresay my own kind will contact me soon enough, though,” Arvo added with a scowl.


Wesley nodded. “Yes, of course. They’ve been trying to kill Aran for years, and your ship succeeded…”


“Yes, well,” Arvo said, pressing a button on his chair to use its wheels, “you’d better get going…Commander Wesley. I’m sure you’d like to find out what you can do with your new rank.”


-=-=-


“So, what has Wesley done so far?” asked Samus, speaking to Adam.


“Well, he’s been promoted to the rank of Commander by General Arvo…speaking of which, do you know what species he is?”


Samus frowned. “No, why?”


“He’s a Space Pirate.”


Samus jumped up in shock. “What?! Why would the Federation have a Space Pirate as a general? …And on that note, why is a navy officer a general…?”


“Don’t ask me,” Adam replied. “I don’t have access to the Federation’s main database anymore. The things that I downloaded before being cut from it don’t include anything about him.”


Samus sighed. “It figures. Well, either way, we should collect any data that we can. I am curious as to why the Federation is guarding the Valhalla…there wasn’t anything important there last time I went there…”


“Well, with Wesley’s new rank, we should probably be able to gain access to it. Ah, here he comes now.”


Right on cue, Wesley entered the fighter. “Hello,” greeted Samus. “So, I heard you got a promotion for ‘killing me’.”


Wesley stared in surprise. “How did you…?”


“Adam’s been monitoring your progress,” explained Samus. “He isn’t able to speak to you directly, but he can see and hear everything that you do.”


Wesley frowned. “I don’t get any privacy, do I?”


“None,” Adam confirmed. “Anyway, we need you to do us a favor. Get us onto the Valhalla. We want to know what the Federation’s been doing there.”


Wesley looked at Samus questioningly. “What do you mean, what the Federation’s been doing there?”


Samus sighed. “The Federation,” she explained, “may not be quite as benevolent as you think it to be. If we find anything there, it should be self-explanatory. If not, I’ll tell you exactly what happened on the B.S.L.”


“Fair enough,” Wesley replied. “I’ll see if I can get you on there.”

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