|The Silence | A New Beginning | After The Ragnarok | Dogs of War | Misc Tech | Fan Stuff | Board|
Samus awoke to the smell of superheated air mixed with that of sulfur, molten metal, and ozone which wafted through her helmet’s air filtration system like a kick in the ribs. The stench made her gag and she quickly shut off the system, deactivating it with a thought, then began running on her Power Suit’s primary oxygen reserves. She had other things to worry about and noxious fumes were on her list of distractions best avoided. Long ago, she had learned that she must cut away as many factors that would inhibit her mission and distract her from the real problem as possible and she could now do so with a surgeon’s precision.
Her mind cleared, Samus was pummeled by a wave of pain, fury, and shock. First, there was pain; slowly creeping up her left side where it radiated outwards from her abdomen until her entire body was a quaking mass of misery and anguish. She sat there trembling, a miserable wretch who was all that was left of what had once been the greatest bounty hunter in the galaxy. But it ran deeper, much deeper than anyone could ever imagine, a bottomless abyss which made even the strongest of black holes look like a toy vacuum cleaner.
The reasons behind it sparked and stirred her emotions like the cauldron of a coven as it bubbled and sizzled and spat until it spawned fury, her age-old partner, opponent, poet, and scion of her pain. Fury born of pain, sorrow, fear, panic, and determination which she had long before learned to weld, mold, and morph from her enemies to her allies in many past hunts. More importantly, she had learned to control that fury, to use it to her advantage against her enemies and conquer them.
Lastly came the shock. The shock that emerged from the knowledge of what she had once been, of the great deeds she had done, and the esteem among her kind which had sparked so many legends and stories. The shock that now, all of that had been turned to dust by one small mistake that had happened over forty years ago. That mistake had cost her life outside of the suit, her honor as a hunter, and her position as the galaxy’s greatest hero. Now she was a wanted criminal of the Galactic Federation.
Oh, she had tried to make them refute their claims, to make them know that she still defended the people, that she still cared for the galaxy; she’d even turned herself in to make things simpler. But they didn’t listen. What she had done had been deemed too unforgiving, too loathsome, and too demeaning for even her past exploits and successes to prove her innocence. Now, not many people remembered her as the savior of the known galaxy from the Metroid threat, for bringing the dreaded Space Pirates to their knees, and for countless other triumphs against the darkness. She was now looked upon with akin to a mercenary war criminal. She had descended from the ranks of the defenders to that of the destroyers.
Samus shook away those memories, memories of her long career as a bounty hunter, and concentrated on the task at hand. She had taken a serious blow to her lower hip and her helmet’s damage control monitor displayed the full extent of the injury. Her left leg had been shattered at the joint by the attack and she would have to rely on the suit’s manual options to move about. Even though the suit had been able to repair most of the damage to itself, she wouldn’t be able to get very far with a broken leg.
That had been her weakness. Her suit was originally servo technology stolen from the avian Chozo race by GFed R&D that she later modified with gadgetry she’d discovered on her many hunts or purchased - or stolen. Servo technology was designed so that the user would be able to move about in the thousand-plus pound suit as easily as one would walk through air; pressure sensors detected when the user moved his or her muscles, adjusting to the appropriate position.
Samus had been dependent of her suit for so long that it had become a part of her as much as she was a part of it. Indeed, she could no longer survive outside the suit and if it failed, then her body would fail as well. She had learned to operate it without using her limbs to move the servos and could now achieve any type of maneuver with as much skill - if not more than - she had in her prime. After the accident, she had neural netting installed inside the helmet so she could operate it solely by her thoughts, making the suit’s tongue- and voice-activated switches obsolete. It was no longer a piece of armor, but a part of her body. It was her exoskeleton.
But it was that dependence, that symbiosis with the suit that gave her an edge in battle. She had mechanical and biological implants that allowed her to operate the suit to its fullest potential and she had been a formidable opponent even without her suit. But underneath all that armor and implants lay a human being. She hadn’t lost her humanity yet, but that also worked against her: sometime in life, all organisms must perish.
And that time hasn’t come for me yet.
Samus checked her weapons system and switched to Omega Rockets. These were a little something she had picked up on Rukin R-372 during the so-called ‘Lazarus Incident’ and were a hundred times more potent than a regular missile. They contained a warhead tipped with high-energy explosives that would detonate only after arriving at the assigned target - or self-destructed by the user. Their heavy shielding allowed them to absorb weapons fire and penetrate most forms of armor, increasing their potency by a fourfold. Their only drawback was the wide explosion range that caused computer systems to malfunction - including those of the user.
It was also in Rukin that Samus had suffered her fall from grace and she had not yet been able to climb back up that long ladder. But that would change, and soon. She could feel it in her blood, in her bones. Whatever the outcome of this battle, she would in the end regain her place among the stars.
Flicking on her infrared scanners and echo locators, she quickly searched the area for her enemy. This was what she had come here to do, risking her cover and letting GFed troops find her; she had come looking for him, the one who had caused all of her troubles from the beginning. He was still in here someplace, she knew it. He was her nemesis, and he would not leave until either Samus was dead or his bones lay bleached around his sizzling carcass on the floor of this outpost.
Dragons never forget.
Then again, she didn’t either. Ridley was here, and he wasn’t going to leave the station alive. This was her hunt. This was where her path had taken her, and this was where it would end.
Years ago, she had first fought the dragon on the planet Zebes. Together with the Mother Brain and her cronies, Ridley had personally overseen the replication of the Metroid life form. Metroids were airborne jellyfish-like predators that were used as a powerful biological weapon linked to the destruction of entire civilizations. They attacked their prey by latching onto the victim’s head and draining away its life energy, leaving a lifeless shell behind. Even one Metroid could devastate an entire planet, and the Mother Brain had cloned dozens of them.
Samus had been ordered by GFed to storm the underground base on the planet Zebes and kill all the Metroids she might happen to find there along with the mechanical life vein, the Mother Brain. During her assault, she had met up with Ridley in his hideout and defeated him after an furious battle. She eventually destroyed the Mother Brain and eliminated the Metroid threat from that sector of the galaxy.
But Samus hadn’t finished her task. She was to go to the Metroid’s home world on SR-388 and eradicate every last one. She succeeded in her mission, but couldn’t find it in her heart to kill a lone larva which, upon hatching from its egg, had seen her as its mother. She took the hatchling to a research colony where it could be studied.
This was where she caught up with Ridley a second time. The dragon attacked the colony, killing all the scientists aboard, and swiped the larva, bringing it back to a new base rebuilt on the ruins of the old Zebes. She could still remember him gloating and laughing to her helmeted face as he tempted her with the larva and activated the station’s self-destruct mechanism.
During her return trip to Zebes, she found Ridley and again defeated him in an intense battle located in the heart of his hideout in Norfair. She later destroyed a new, improved version of the Mother Brain who’s death resulted in the destruction of the planet.
But just as dragons never forget, they are also hard to kill. Ridley had been successful in faking his own death, and continued to do so in many other engagements Samus had with the infamous reptile. He and Samus had become masters of illusion and when one thought that they had successfully killed the other, the loser always came back for a rematch.
Ridley was now one of the most wanted beings in the galaxy, and he, too was good at hiding from the authorities. But she had found him. She had flushed him out of his hiding place on some godforsaken asteroid and lured him here to this outpost by announcing her presence to the entire sector. The dragon was crafty, but he could hold a grudge better than anyone Samus had ever met - almost as well as she could.
GFed troops were on their way, she had no doubt about that. But whatever they would do, she would have her revenge on Ridley. She could not forgive him for what he had done to her and to the others on Rukin. Their blood was on her hands and she would make him pay for that.
Not even a dragon can hold as much fury in a grudge as a scorned woman.
The scanners had picked up a life form down the hallway. Samus had been lodged inside a service duct after the last battle with the dragon and her enemy was still in the same place she had left him. Though Ridley had been successful in breaking her leg, she was sure that the dragon had taken a serious beating as well. She also knew that if she could see him, then he could see her. He had the biotechnology to prove it.
After Ridley’s shuttle had been destroyed in the Praxus 3 heist, he had gone to a disgruntled surgeon who still practiced the illegal art of cloning and bionic technology. When he’d arrived, the fire dragon had only half of his body left; the rest a bloody pulp where plasma fires from the explosion and exposure to the vacuum of space had ruptured and imploded his skin cells and tissue, exposing charred muscle and bone. But Ridley was still threatening enough to convince the man to repair him.
Ridley had his right wing replaced with titanium and a new arm grown and fitted with muscle enhancements and servo technology. He also had various types of weaponry welded to his arm and shoulder and even had a set of rocket launchers underneath his wings. Half of the dragon’s head had been seared away, and his lifeless eye was replaced with one that had the capacity to see all known forms of electromagnetic radiation and could fire out a laser beam if necessary. The rest of his damaged face was plastered over with crystanium alloy and a pack-rat’s nest of wiring and other devices were outfitted there. His already powerful scales were reinforced with crystanium, giving his body a greenish sheen that absorbed even the most powerful of energy beams.
The dragon was now only a shadow of his former self, a biomechanical symbiant hell-bent on the destruction of his enemies. And he was within twenty feet of Samus’ position.
Ridley flexed his right arm, feeling the odd quiver which resulted from out-dated servo implants, implants which would never be repaired or replaced. He took a sharp intake of the sulfur-tinged air and exhaled a cloud of smoke from his nostrils, delighting in the odd tingle it always made. He flicked out his tongue in short, jagged arcs, sensing the air around him for his prey, an arch-nemesis who had dogged him for the past eighty years of his life. He could sense the air around him better than any scanning device by measuring air pressure, a sense that had thankfully not weakened over time as they do for other organisms. He could see her, with a sense that only beings with a nerved tongue would ever know.
The human bounty hunter was where she had been five minutes ago, when they had clashed, fighting a battle that had ended in a stalemate. The left side of his chest still stung worse than Zebesian acid where she’d struck home, in the small of his wing-joint that he could never quite reach. He couldn’t tell how much he had hurt his arch-nemesis, but assumed it was enough to equal or surpass what she had done to him to leave her postrate on the floor while he still reeled from his own wounds.
But, he thought, If I can see Samus, then Samus can see me.
The bounty hunter had certainly lived long enough (longer than any normal human should have!) to gain the type of stolen and forgotten technology that would allow her to see straight through walls and look up people’s noses to see their nose hairs. She knew where he was, all right, and not even his best cloaking maneuver could stop that.
So Ridley did the thing that would give him an edge over her; he de-cloaked, solidifying from a pair of white eyes which glowed hotter than the smoldering corridors of the installation, the glorious result of being able to breathe fire. The rest of the dragon’s body materialized from a pair of bat-like wings, one of flesh, one of metal, each tipped with razor-sharp claws and missile tubes. His head and neck stuck out like a couple of long pipes topped with a dagger-like head, eyes set back under a ridge of bone and metal behind a maw of knifelike teeth that glinted in the firelight. The back of his head was bulbous and flecked with small spines that protruded from skin and metalloids, the front a long snout-like beak with a small spike on the lower jaw. The demonic contraption met his body at a barbed ridge of bone, muscle, and metal that stuck out of his back like a mountain ridge and ended in a harpoon-shaped tail. Long, spindly, muscular arms and legs protruded from his body, ending in dragon talons glowing a metallic white. His red scaly skin, enhanced with crystanium, glittered like tinsel around his body and blended in with the biomechanical implants placed in several key positions.
He smiled between two rows of gnashed teeth, savoring every moment of his materialization. Since he could not hurt or be hurt by anyone while cloaked, at least now he would be able to fight his enemy.
Ridley stepped out into the main corridor, picking his way between mounds of debris which dotted the hallway like anthills. The only sound came from the crackling fires of spontaneously combusted material and the clicking sounds that his talons made on the metallic floor. He wasn’t bothered by the heat; he could easily withstand a few thousand degrees as easily as a human could take a typical day in the summer. Ridley was a fire dragon. There was not much that could make him sweat, had he the ability to perspire.
He watched Samus using his tongue. She hadn’t moved and still lay in a prone position. Perhaps she had been killed? No, there was too slim a chance of that. Samus was a survivor, and she could use anything to her advantage and might just as easily spring up from her position on the floor and send a string of missiles his way as one might take a breath. He was smart enough to know that one could never underestimate an enemy. The last time Ridley had done that, he had almost been killed, and he had no intentions of doing so again. Even though he had a few scant months left to live, Ridley wanted to spend them with the knowledge that he had outlived his nemesis.
The dragon sensed for signs of breathing from the human. It was hard to discern anything in the extreme temperatures of the corridor, let alone tell if Samus was breathing through her helmet. She had undoubtedly activated her air filtering system or was relying on stored oxygen. In any case, he found it difficult to see if Samus was still alive, so he tried a different approach.
“Samus!” the dragon’s roar floated down the corridor of the compound as an oath screamed by the squealing metal of a crashing shuttle and reverberated through the superheated air, echoing off the walls. The bounty hunter’s nerves twitched at the sound of Ridley screaming her name like a curse and quickly moved into a kneeling position, readying her gun arm. “I know you’re in there, Samus! There’s nowhere for you to run now!”
She hated to admit it, but she knew Ridley was right. The only way the bounty hunter would make it out of the installation was through the dragon, and preferably over his fried corpse. She also knew that she’d have to do it soon; GFed shock troops were nearing this godforsaken outpost even as Ridley taunted her. Indeed, that appeared to be his motive. The dragon hadn’t moved an inch. If it was a battle of wits he wanted, she could give him that, and more.
“Neither do you!” Samus yelled down the corridor, her synthesized voice sounding odd in the shimmering air. “You’ll never make it out of here alive, GFed will shoot you down before you make it half a parsec from here! And that’s assuming you get past me.”
“Oh, but I do not care whether or not I survive! Surely you know that I will be dead in another fifteen months. The only satisfaction I intend to get from this is to survive long enough to see you die...and the knowledge that you were not the one to kill me!”
“I’m through running. You’ll soon discover your delusional satisfaction will be lost to time. If any of us will be walking away from this fight, it sure as hell isn’t going to be you!”
Ridely laughed, a deep rumble down that echoed down the corridor to be lost in the darkness. “You and I are alike, in a certain sense, yet we are not the same. Each of us serves a different calling, and we are each other’s opposite.” The dragon’s eyes narrowed into slits. His voice was cool and sent shivers down the Space Hunter’s body, despite the oppressive heat. “We are like matter and antimatter. When we meet, things are destroyed, people are killed, and lives forever altered. The end result is something that you do not seem to want, is it? You, savior of the galaxy, defender of the people, protector of those who are too weak or stupid to defend themselves. Did you ever learn that you can not help them all?”
“I learned that years ago,” Samus said. “But I will continue to defend what I believe is right until I take my last breath. And I will kill you for what you did to me forty years ago.” She knew that Ridley would probably be satisfied with whatever outcome resulted as long as Samus’ death was concerned.
The dragon sneered. “Revenge. Ahh, yes. You could never understood just why I did that, did you not? You humans are always the same; always letting their good judgment fall victim to their primal urges. Oh, but I have forgotten! You thrive on those emotions and grow on them better than anything else in the universe.” He chuckled, a few wisps of smoke trailing out of his mouth and nostrils like ghosts from an exorcised man. “I know where your strength comes from, Samus. I know.
“For years we have hunted each other, a deadly romp across the galaxy from the long-forgotten worlds of the Chozo to the most secure facilities of the Galactic Federation. I have fought you long enough to learn your strengths...and your weaknesses....I know, Samus....” he leaned towards her with his synthetic eye, a ghastly device which he opened, revealing its internal mechanics, a grotesque blend of neurofibers and retina. A brilliant laser beam surged out from it’s center, once a black abyss into the darkest corners of the dragon’s twisted mind surrounded only by the flashing lights of neurofiber tips. “Thanks to you, I can see everything!”
Samus stopped, considering what the dragon said, simultaneously lured to and revolted by the eye. They had certainly fought enough battles for her to know something of how the dragon thought, but she still hadn’t been able to get inside her foe’s mind and tell exactly how he worked. To tell the truth, she felt that Ridley was slowly losing his sanity.
“Honestly, Samus, I can not decide whether or not I should thank you or curse you for doing this to me,” the dragon said in a low rumble. “Maybe, just maybe, I’ll try a little bit of both...” Small missile tubes opened up on his wing frame, and several small projectiles launched out in a puff of white smoke that was quickly dispersed in the superheated air. Their tips flashed red for a second, then green. Seeking missiles.
They had locked onto Samus.
Samus quickly switched back to her arm cannon’s beam weapon and fired three quick bursts using her Wave Beam. It’s wave-like pattern partially de-materialized the shots and could send them through solid wall - and right into the target. Explosions greeted her as the seeking missiles exploded one by one - all except for the last. Though the wave beam gave Samus the ability to fire through walls, its wave state made it impossible for her to hit targets between two crests, and apparently the last one had made it through. Either that, or they possessed the ability to avoid energy weapons fire.
Cursing herself for losing her Spazer, an even more powerful beam that fired out three shots instead of one and also could pass through walls, she readied herself for a spin-jump. Just in case the missile had built-in sensors to lead it away from her shots, she needed a sure-fire way to stop it. She knew it was risky to try Screw Attacking the projectile, but she knew the missile would deal more damage to her than the strain of a spin jump.
She waited for the target to arrive within several feet of her position before jumping, commanding the servos to kick off the floor of the compound and spin her into the air. In response to her jump, the suit activated its electromagnetic field powering her Screw Attack option, charging her Power Suit in a brilliant greenish-blue glow. The missile impacted and was absorbed into the field, leaving a few thin puffs of orange smoke. She hit the ground - hard, her broken leg screaming in protest as servos buckled under pressure. She bit her lip to keep back the pain, and soon her mouth was flooded with blood; it was all she could do to keep from screaming out. The suit’s internal cleaning system kicked into gear, and it quickly sucked away the blood that bubbled from her mouth and leg.
Now, it’s my turn, you bastard.
She hit the ground rolling and got up into a kneeling position, in the middle of the corridor, in full view. She had already switched back over to Omega Rockets as she was falling and the tube was now loaded and readied. Using her left arm to steady her gun barrel, she fired a pale blue canister that whistled as it sailed through the air towards the astonished dragon, trailed by a tail of propellant. There was an explosion and her view was obscured by a brilliant cloud of orange and red that quickly dissipated into a puff of black smoke and flames.
Samus stood there, crouching in the middle of the hallway, her left hand crossed under her gun arm, still trailing thin wisps of smoke. She wasn’t certain if it had been a direct hit or not, her helmet’s computer couldn’t tell from the data if rocket had hit the assigned target, the explosion having offset the delicate sensor controls in her helmet. As the smoke slowly cleared, she strained to make out anything in the rubble. She was met only by the ghostly wisps of smoke that wafted out of a gaping hole in the corridor as electronics sizzled in the tense air.
Getting slowly to her feet, she began a running limp down the corridor, thankful she couldn’t feel her leg anymore.
Ridley faltered down the hall, favoring his right leg, his left hanging limply to the side, a twisted mess of flesh and bone. His right leg still moved effortlessly, but he winced with every step taken. He had not expected her to move out into the open, and certainly not in the way she had. He knew now that her leg was broken, and that he could use against her.
A scaled hand reached out for the side of the compound, impaling the concrete wall with bioengineered talons to balance the dragon. With a set movement, he lifted his right leg off the ground, then pulled his right arm out of the wall as he shifted his weight to balance. Ridley stifled a screech as his left hip brushed against the narrow catwalk, dragon blood smearing the wall like vandalism and dripping down to pool on the superheated grillwork of the floor to vaporize in a rusty steam.
Not good. Every move he made sent waves of stomach-wrenching pain up his side, numbing and slowing his progress simultaneously. He rested for awhile, testing the air. No sign of Samus. He knew she was out there, though, hunting him, searching for her prey. He flashed a smile between bloody lips. If a hunt was what she wanted, he could give her that.
He shoved himself up and pushed off the ground, flapping his wings as he hovered for a moment and sprayed dragonfire down where he had come, the floor spontaneously combusting where it touched. He sailed down the narrow corridor, deeper into the deserted compound.
Samus looked at the ceiling of the compound, considering the maze of pipes and gauges that filled her view. The patterns were so orderly, so purposeful - so chaotic. Just like Ridley’s mind, she thought. He was still as contemplative as ever and had been lucky to dodge her last shot. There was still a lot of fight left in them both.
She had been tracking the dragon for the last few minutes, oblivious to any physical pain, oblivious to the trail of bloody footprints she left behind her as her left leg, now beyond feeling, bled freely into her suit, the internal cleaning system overloaded. At one point, she had to stop and think as she came to a wall of dragon fire, very fresh. She ran straight through without giving it a second thought and followed the trail of blood that dripped onto the floor from her prey.
That should have made it all the more easier for her to kill Ridley, but then again, there is nothing more dangerous than a cornered predator who has suddenly become the prey. She ran deeper into the night, titanium boots echoing on the grillwork beneath her feet.
Ridley swooped down the narrow catwalk, and into the large generator room serving as the abandoned complex’s power grid. The room was pitch black, and the dragon quickly switched his synthetic eye to pick up infrared rays and flicked his tongue about in quick arcs to test the room.
There was a large reactor several meters to his right, dusted with years of neglect, a silent sentinel in the night. The complex had been abandoned years ago after the mining corporation discarded the site as a worthless hunk of rock. Now, only the shell of the building remained, everything of value being carried away by maintenance crews. He guessed it was only the skeletal framework of the generator, and not the power plant itself.
He scanned the room, looking for a possible ambush point, but was greeted with sheer walls and darkness. There was nothing on them to offer shelter, just the dark monitor panels and pressure sensors frosted over with an ice layer.
There was a jolt in the air pressure. Samus was coming, and fast. The dragon searched about desperately for cover, anything that would give him an edge. He found none. Without another thought, he alighted to the air.
Samus ran down the tunnel, not daring to activate her Speed Boost due to the strain it would cause. As it was, she would need several weeks in the shop just to repair her broken leg and the damage to the suit. There were still a few places she could go where GFed wouldn’t bother her, still a few friends she could count on. But until then, she must focus on the hunt.
Her titanium boots echoed down the long hallway, collecting in the large room several meters ahead, and reflecting back to her. She readied her blaster and switched to Super Missiles, activated her launcher’s quick load capacity, and covered the end of the corridor, ready to fire at the slightest movement.
Darker the hallway became, the faint red glow of dragon fire dwindling down to blackness as its fuel was reduced to embers. She brought up the sensor command in her helmet, willing her scanning equipment to recalibrate. After a few quick seconds, she switched on her night vision goggles instead, flooding the room with grainy green snow that glittered as it was suspended in place about the room.
Where are you, Ridley?
She studied the area, the large generator on the far wall to the right, the rows of monitoring equipment and piping, most of it ripped out of the wall, leaving jagged marks in the true rock-face that the complex had been drilled into. Twisted pieces of silicon and titanium littered the rocky floor, blending in with alternating igneous bands.
Ridley was not there.
That couldn’t have been true. She’d followed the trail of blood into this room. Unless he’d taken a different turn, he should have been in there. Unless...
Cursing her overconfidence, Samus quickly looked up, raising both her head and her gun arm in one swift motion, just as something wet and sticky dropped onto her helmet. Simultaneously, she turned on her torch and deactivated her goggles, flooding the ceiling with brilliant white light, giving her only a fraction of a second to see the shiny glint of serrated teeth and a bat-like silhouette as the dragon bellowed a scream, pushing himself out of the maze of piping that hung low under the ceiling like a jungle to swoop down on her in a death grip.
Ridley had seen the Space Hunter enter the room and had waited patiently for her to get into position so she was almost directly below him. He kicked himself off, spearing his tail out like a harpoon at his prey, screaming at her with the roar of a subway train, temporarily blinded by the intense beam of light that suddenly burst from his target. Samus dodged to the side and ducked, but his tail still hit her in the left shoulder, and the crack of split titanium echoed through the empty generator room. Talons bared, he grappled onto her breastplate and opened his mouth to spew a burst of flames into her visor. He tore into her, rending through her titanium armor to rip into soft flesh, leaving ragged, bloody trails through her suit, the squeal of strained servos combining with the screech of claw against metal.
He barely felt the series of quick explosions that tore through his own flesh as Samus released a barrage of her own into his chest at point-blank range, the shudder of rapid-fire Super Missiles coursing through his body. Ridley let loose a stream of seekers, not caring where they detonated. He opened his synthetic eye, rearing his head back and cocking it slightly to look directly into her visor, preparing another onslaught.
Ridley was caught in mid-motion as his entire body was jolted by several thousand volts of electricity as the Power Suit’s self-defense mechanism engaged. He stood there, quaking as lightning flared and sparked about him, alighting on his metal components. There were three quick jabs into his stomach as Samus kicked at him with her boots’ retractable blades and a sickening crunch as she punched his synthetic eye with her left hand, shattering neurofibers and titanium alike as both crumpled under pressure. There was another kick, and she spin jumped away from his deadlock, kicking the dragon beneath the jaw with her Screw Attack-powered suit. Samus landed several feet away, sending jagged bits of rock flying as she hit the floor of the complex.
The two eyed each other, a pair of old rival boxers wounded and waiting for an opening. The blistered dragon oozed from several places, his blood pooling over crimson bands of iron on the floor. Samus eyed him cautiously behind the brilliant torch equipped to her gun arm that bored into him as he blinked to clear away the clouds that fogged his vision. They stood there, glaring at each other, rocking back and forth in the white light. The torch sputtered for a moment, weak circuits trying to find a link, before blinking off and then on again until the light finally died, and the two were left to bleed in the dark.
The brilliant white torchlight faded, and Samus was once again surrounded with green snow. She could see the jumbled mass of Ridley standing no more than ten feet away from her, targeted with her gun barrel, and standing silently in the night. His synthetic eye was crumpled where she had punched him, loose neurofibers frayed and flaring in the darkness as they tried to connect. It was almost as if it had suddenly caved inward and she assumed there was a similar imprint on her fist.
Her left arm hung limply at her side, numb with pain where Ridley’s tail had impaled it. She clenched her hand, crushed joints squealing as they ground against one another, her arm burning with agony. She squeezed harder until all that was left was a dull throb in tune with her pulse.
A sharp prick on her cheek, almost a tingle, from where a broken circuit in her helmet contacted flesh. Her screen periodically flared blue as the frayed wire reacted with the thin air of her suit. Realizing that her oxygen supply was running low, she quickly rotated oxygen canisters, draining air from her secondary tank into her suit as the primary slowly recharged. The jolts became more erratic, and she quickly shut power off from the annoying system.
There were similar tingles all along her body, where sections of her Power Suit’s internal lining had been burnt away by faulty circuits, the result of her suit’s self-defense system’s overload. Most of the connections were pieces of critical systems, making it impossible to shut them all off. She was just lucky the suit hadn’t caught on fire.
The suit’s re-gen capabilities were failing. Internal damage for some systems was beyond repair and would have to be replaced, but she was pretty certain she could make it back to the surface with what oxygen she had left. She had spare components sitting in an emergency locker of her Starship; she didn’t have to worry about that. It was all a matter of surviving the next attack; she had her doubts on that.
But just in case...
She opened up a file inside her helmet’s computer that she thought she would never have to use, a file containing a command that had lain dormant inside the suit for decades. The computer asked for an authorization code, RNA, DNA, and retinal scans. She gave them with a thought.
A new screen opened up, text glowing a bright green on the holodisplay.
READY TO UPLOAD?_
UPLOAD RECENT FILES?_
Samus thought for a moment, her other eye still watching the dragon cautiously.
No. No one must ever know what happened. There would always be that one last secret.
For a fraction of a second, the security codes inside her suit dropped, then were quickly reactivated, leaving just enough time for a transmission. A faint blue pulse flooded her suit, and radiated outwards, illuminating the darkness in pale blue before being swallowed into the night. The dragon glanced at her quizzically, blinking with his real eye and testing the air. He seemed to be concealing something under his chest, beneath his right talon. Some sort of bomb?
Distractions. She tried to blot them out, yet they still remained. A vision, a yellow spacecraft, floating among the stars, faint pinpricks of light in the greater cosmos. So small in comparison to the vastness of the infinite, yet an important key. It was there, Samus knew it was there, drifting silently between worlds. She could see it. Any minute now, her ship would be receiving the transmission and then execute its final mission.
Samus blinked, returned her attention to Ridley. He was still standing there, but had finished with whatever he had been holding and a bright red diode blinked on his chest like a beacon. The dragon started, eyes narrowing into slits. “Samus...”
“End of the trail, Ridley...” came the synthetic voice from Samus’s helmet. It echoed dryly off the walls of the generator room, dry and cold in the thin air. Her Power Suit stood like a sentinel in the night, charred and blackened like some ancient battle-scarred suit of armor.
“I am the last of my kind. Did you think I would follow you here just to see you win when my entire lineage is at stake, Samus? Clearly you see that you will not make it off this rock alive, don’t you?”
Samus shrugged. “What I think doesn’t matter to you.”
“Ahh, yes. As stubborn as ever. And I assume you have already made you peace with the universe so the history books will remember you as the savior of the universe, and I as the sinister fiend.”
“What they think of me doesn’t matter.”
“As it should be.” The dragon looked quizzically at her through the darkness with his good eye. “But I must admit that you have been a formidable opponent.”
Samus shook her head slowly.
The dragon continued, “I shall miss these days. Any last words before the void?”
There was nothing more to say. Whatever Ridley had done, it would probably result in not only his undoing but hers as well. He had no reason to fear death. He had succeeded in his mission. Then again, neither did she. In the end, it didn’t matter what had happened. She had come here to kill him and that was what she would do. Their age would be forgotten, buried under the sands of time.
Then again, there is always tomorrow...
Samus allowed herself a smile. “Just this.” Taking aim with her gun arm, she locked onto the dragon and squeezed the launcher before being swallowed into the night.