"Samus! Welcome to the Vanguard. Please take a seat," Captain Zaeus directed. "Thank you, sir." Samus replied, taking a seat beside Conan (the only face she could really recognize). The room was packed with people. All Galactic Federation. Three doors allowed entry to the room, but only one was unlocked, most likely to help in keeping the oncoming meeting as private as possible. The other two doors were locked down, and guarded by two adjacent Federation troopers. "Well, well, if it isn't the infamous Conan Guille," exclaimed Samus. "...Talking to the great scourge of the galaxy, Samus Aran," joked Conan. "Haha come here you ol' gal you." He leans in and give Samus a friendly hug, awkward as it was with so much armor on both of them, save for their helmets. Conan was one of the galaxy's most infamous freelance bounty hunters. The two of them knew each other quite well, they had met first on a cooperative mission for the GF many years ago. "How long's it been? A year? Haha time certainly flies when you're having fun." Conan exclaimed. "Feels like it's been forever. I always like missions with you, Conan. I never have to do anything and I still get paid!"
- "Well excuse me, lady. I tend to get a little serious, yes. But I take the utmost pride in the Hunt. Unlike our third teammate..."
- "What!? No. They aren't teaming us up with Houston are they?"
- "Hate to say it but..."
- "Damn. I don't have a problem with Houston, personally. It's just that he..."
- "...Gets a little too into it?"
- "Well he docked in about 7 minutes ago, he should be here anytime."
- "You know I hate those damn things."
- "What? The implants?"
- "Yes! Those things could go rogue on you one day!"
- "Saying Luminoth tech could go rogue is like saying your Chozo blood could go rogue."
- "That makes absolutely no sense."
- "Armstrong! Welcome aboard..." Zaeus shouted. "There's our man," Conan whispered to Samus.
- "Conan, Samus! Good to see you two again,"
"Feeling's mutual Armstrong," Conan exclaimed. "Alright everyone, if you would all take your seats, we can begin," commanded Zaeus. "Alright. First and foremost I would like to welcome everyone. And, I would like to introduce three of the greatest bounty hunters in the galaxy, and our, "employees" for this mission. Commanding the operation will be bounty hunter Conan Guille. Highly respected among both friend and foe, Conan is more than capable of this responsibility. Conan's ship also will play the role of the command ship in this operation. Second in command, will be bounty hunter Samus Aran. Her skills and techniques are unrivaled among the Galactic Federation, as is quite well known. Third in command, will be bounty hunter Armstrong Houston. His skills are known for both their brutality and their effectiveness. Now, to the briefing. One galactic-standard week ago, we received a distress call from GF Assault Frigate Principality. Intertwined in this call was also a number of intercepted Pirate transmissions..."
- "What exactly were these transmissions pertaining to?" asked Conan.
- "...The contents of these transmissions is classified. Now as I was saying..."
- '"Captain, let me just emphasize something. If you want my assistance in this matter, you will not withhold information from me."
Frustrated with the feeling of insubordination, Zaeus gives in. "Very well. They spoke of a highly classified military project, pertaining to the forceful, forward evolution of Metroids. The transmissions are quite vague as to the true nature of this project. But we believe the Pirates are on the verge of discovering how to forcefully provoke a Metroids evolution into higher stages of maturity. A frightening thought. No doubt." "I take it you're sending us to the Principality then?" inquired Samus. "No," Zaeus clarified. "A team has already been sent to discover Principalities fate. And our hands are empty, save for a small set of coordinates. That is where you're going. We've calculated that it is located several parsecs outside FS-176, but that is all the knowledge we possess of it." "You've yet to tell us of our main purpose in all this." exclaimed Conan. "Yes of course. Countless Pirate transmissions have told us of a rogue Pirate Commander called Xi'ga E'shan. We have reason to believe he is the head of this project, he is your target. You are to capture him alive. Is that understood?" "Yes sir," all three of them spoke at once this time. "Very well, you are dismissed. Good hunting," the captain fittingly spoke. The three hunters made their way to the Vanguard's docking bay. "I gotta' see this," exclaimed Armstrong, randomly. "What?" Samus inquired, not knowing in the least what he was talking about. "Conan's ship, that's what," Armstrong clarified. Conan let out a slight chuckle. "Well, we're in the docking bay, try to find her, Armstrong." Conan laughingly spoke. "Wait, first of all, what about our ships? we can't just leave them here?" Armstrong added. "Haha, I can tell you've certainly never been aboard my ship." joked Conan. "And there she is," Conan pointed out his ship. "The Blinding Hierophant..." It was a massive yacht-class cruiser, bristling with high-velocity Missile cannons, Plasma batteries, and Wave turrets. "And to answer your question Armstrong, yours and Samus' ships have already been moved aboard," Conan proudly stated. "Well then..." Armstrong was speechless. He had been under the allusion that Conan's ship was nothing more than a mere fighter. "Well come on, we should get going," Conan directed. The hunters followed Conan to the ship. Conan projected a hologram from his left palm, an ability received from his neural implants, given to him by the Luminoth, this hologram was apparently the ships unlocking mechanism. He used his fingers to move parts of the hologram to the correct location. As he completed it, the doors of the ship slid open. Upon entering the ship the doors locked them inside a small chamber used for decontamination. This was a mandatory step for entering the ship, for the ships AI would not allow access otherwise. As the door behind them remained locked, the door to the front of them opened. "Wow... I have to say this isn't what I expected," Armstrong stated. "No worries, welcome aboard the Blinding Hierophant," Conan replied. As they entered the ship the hunters were greeted by a woman's voice over the PA system, "Welcome Commander," it said. "Hello ANNE," Conan replied. "ANNE?" Armstrong asked. "Artificial Neural Network Entity. She's the ship's AI. You could say she controls the entire thing," Conan explained. "Only by your command sir," ANNE interjected. "ANNE, you remember Samus, yes?" Conan asked.
- "Of course commander. Welcome back Samus,"'
- "And, I've a new guest as well, his name is: Armstrong Houston."
- "Welcome aboard the Blinding Hierophant, Armstrong."
Conan made his way to the flight deck and took his seat. The commander's seat was slightly elevated and located in the center of the flight deck. On its sides were two other slightly lower seats where Samus and Armstrong sat. "ANNE, I'm inputting coordinates. Get us out of dock then set them." "Yes commander." replied ANNE. "Strap yourselves in," directed Conan. The ship flew out of the Vanguard's docking bay, and made an immediate jump into the black void. Unknowing of what lie ahead...
"And... there. Alright, ship is stabilized," Conan informed, as the ship stabilized out of its hyperspace route. "Bumpy ride..." Armstrong announced. "It's only the entering and exiting that's bumpy. She'll ride nice and steady now," Conan clarified.
- "Ship has reached destination commander."
- "Thank you ANNE."
The three hunters stared in awe at the light-blue sphere they slowly approached. It was a massive light-blue world, marbled with whisping white clouds, and scattered, shallow, archipelagos. "It's... beautiful." Samus stated in awe. "No, somethings amiss here." Conan contradicted.
- "What do you mean?"
- "This world is obviously a marine world. Any landforms here would be quite tropical."
- "Why is that a problem?" Armstrong joked.
- "Because an oceanic environment isn't exactly the first choice of place for a Pirate. It's not the heat, but the humidity... they don't like it. But as I understand, and correct me if I'm wrong, it's a rather ideal grounds for Metroid breeding?"
"Right," Samus agreed, "It seems a much more extreme environment than SR-388, but it does resemble what they're used to."
- "ANNE, do you have the planet's information yet?"
"I am sorry commander." ANNE spoke, "Neither Galactic Federation or Space Pirate databases have provided any archived information on this system." "Damn," Conan muttered to himself, swinging his head, slightly to the side. "What have scans revealed then?" "Planetary surface scans reveal this system as 67% deuterium oxide, 21% hydrogen oxide, and 3.7% carbon-based, solid land." "3.7?" Armstrong questioned. "That's 101.7?" Samus added.
"Are you positive, ANNE?" Conan inquired. "Yes, commander," ANNE clarified, in a somewhat irritated tone. Armstrong and Samus glanced at one another confusingly, as Conan thought for a second or two. "This seems a bit far fetched... but my guess, would be that that 1.7 percent be subterranean." Conan thought for a bit longer. "Commander, I have marked the largest of the planets land masses on your data screen, would you like to begin your investigation here?" ANNE inquired. Conan raised his hand out in front of him, and began flicking his wrist in different directions, with each corresponding movement, changing the viewpoint of his data screen's map. No doubt this was yet another example of the near limitless psionic abilities of a Luminoth, via Conan's implants. "Hmm, it seems a good place to start, I agree. And this clearing, right here..." Conan points to the clearing on his data screen, "It just seems, out of place... Go ahead, and stay out of sight..."
The ship accelerated toward the planet's surface, its engines blazing. "ANNE, cloak, now!" Conan quickly shouted. The ship entered the atmosphere and vanished into nothing. "There's the clearing, up ahead," Samus pointed out. "Looks good, ANNE, take us down." Conan commanded. The ship sped toward the open area ahead. The hunters gazed at the landscape. It was a tropical place, thick with trees and grasses. It was seemingly untouched. Beautiful. "ANNE, wait," Conan commanded, "...it's a docking area. ANNE, drop us off and return to orbit, and remain cloaked until I contact you, understood?" "Understood commander," ANNE clarified.
- "You two ready?" Conan asked.
- "Yes, sir." both Samus and Armstrong clarified.
The ship dropped down to ground level and opened its boarding gates. The three hunters leaped from the ship to the ground below. Samus and Armstrong hit the ground. Conan, slowly descending with his jet-pack gear, soon hits the ground as well. "Show-off..." Samus joked. Conan smiled at Samus and laughed, "You should be used to it by now." Conan joked. "Oh really? Well if..." Armstrong interrupts Samus, "Ahem, can we please get on with this?" "Alright, alright. The console's right there." Conan informed.
"It looks Pirate-based, you sure your that good, Conan?" Armstrong asked. Conan turns to face Armstrong, "Armstrong, please. I think I can handle it..."
"Just give me a couple of minutes, we'll be as good as in..." Conan spoke, as he removed his helmet, and began working on unlocking the terminal. As they waited, Samus and Armstrong began to investigate the area, (or so to speak). Samus turned and walked a little ways, to the center of the round platform, Conan had clarified to be a docking gate, Armstrong following. "Look at this place." Samus spoke, realizing Armstrong was in earshot. A slight hiss sounded, as she removed her helmet, and shook her head a bit. She held her helmet under her arm and looked around, marveling at the beautiful, tropic landscape of the strange world. Armstrong walked over to her side, removing his helmet as well. "It's just... I don't know. Amazing," Samus continued. "It really is..." Armstrong agreed. There was a short moment of silence. "......Hey," Armstrong continued, in a calm voice. Samus turned her head to face him, asking the question, "what" without actually speaking. "I'm glad you finally found someone..." Armstrong said in approval.
- "Wait, what?" Samus asked, confused as to whether she'd heard him correctly.
- "What? I just thought..." Armstrong continued, also confused.
- "Wait. You think... Conan?" she continued, jokingly.
- "You mean..."
- "No. Why in the world would you think that??" She began laughing a bit, looking at Armstrong with a sort of "what in the world", sort of look.
- "I'm sorry. I just thought..."
- "I've known Conan forever?! Ever since I first joined the Galactic Federation!" She continued, blushing very slightly at the idea. "Look, lets just forget about this, okay? We need to get back to the mission."
- "Yeah. Of course. You're right." Armstrong agreed as he replaced his helmet and walked away.
She stared at him as he turned and walked away, shaking her head in disapproval. She removed her helmet from under her arm to replace it, only to stop midway. Her eyes shifted slightly, no longer fixated to Armstrong, but to Conan, still at work with the terminal. She stood completely motionless, trying her best in attempting to make sense of this. It had never crossed her mind, what Armstrong had said, once or twice possibly, yes, but nothing serious. She didn't know what to make of it.
"Got it." Conan's voice broke the silence. Samus shook herself back to consciousness, only to have the ground beneath her suddenly open into a gaping vertical passage. She fell through, instinctively catching herself on the edge with one hand. She then instantly remembered, and threw a Grapple Lasso beneath her, snatching her helmet in midair.
"Samus!!" Conan shouted, dropping his helmet and running over to her. He stopped halfway and slid over to the ledge and grabbed her hand, slowly pulling her up. She set her foot on the ledge and pushed herself up beside Conan, still grasping his hand.
- "You alright?" he asked.
- "Yeah..." she clarified, blushing, and suddenly realizing she had not let go of his hand. She quickly opening her hand throwing it to her side.
- "You're sure?" he asked once more.
- "Yeah." Samus clarified again, seemingly unable to vocalize any other word aside from this one.
- "You may want to grab your helmet there." Conan joked.
- "Oh. Right." Samus said, laughingly.
She released her Grapple Beam and caught her helmet in the air, re-equipping it.
- "Everyone ready?" Conan checked.
- "Ready," the other two clarified.
- "Alright, let's go."
With Conan's command, they jumped down into the maintenance hatch he had opened, to begin their investigation of the subterranean compound, and their search for the rogue Space Pirate...
"Agh! Dammit!" Armstrong shouted in agony. Conan and Samus activated there low-light visors to see what had happened. "Armstrong! What... oh, thank goodness..." Conan peered down to see Armstrong's right leg.
- "What do you mean "Thank goodness"!? My leg's bro..."
- "...It's not broken. You just managed to dislocate your knee." Conan clarified.
- "Don't tell me we're going to be carrying him out of here..." Samus interjected, and with an increasingly frustrated tone. At the same time, Conan began hovering his hand over Armstrong's leg.
- "Normally I'd say yes, but... how in hell you managed to do this is beyond me. The ligaments are fine."
- "How is that... AHH!!! Conan, completely ignoring Armstrong's inquiry, quickly snapped his knee back into place.
- "Stop being a baby." Conan teased, "You're fine, now get up..." grabbing Armstrong by the wrist to help him up. Armstrong dusted himself off, mumbling to himself.
- "Alright, we need to have a look around," Samus suggested.
The hunters split up to scour the massive, pitch-black room. Through their visors, it seemed absolutely massive. Billowing with sound, after each tiny step.
- "Anything?" Conan asked. His comm links began to slightly hum, slowly building into an audible voice. "Repeat." He continued. "I said no, not yet... wait..." She paused.
- Samus... Samus, come in." Conan ordered. She didn't reply. Armstrong joined, "Everything alright over there? It sounded like..."
- "AHCH!! The two of them shouted, covering their eyes. I giant flash consumed their visors in an instant.
- "Dammit, what was that!?" Armstrong shouted, removing his helmet, holding his eyes.
- "Sorry..." Samus spoke, with a laughable voice after switching on the lights.
- "Wow... Definitely awake now." Conan chuckled.
He stopped and held his head for a moment as the other two began lecturing and arguing to one another, rather loudly. He toned it out, suddenly noticing something out of the corner of his eye. He made a sharp, loud whistle. The two hunters stopped arguing and looked over. He motioned for them to follow and walked behind a large wall/barrier type structure. The two hunters looked at one another, then back to where Conan was standing. Samus ran first, followed by Armstrong, simultaneously replacing his helmet. They hurried behind the wall, to find Conan kneeling next to something.
- "I believe we're in the right place..." Conan informed, moving his head to the side, revealing a small, glassy orb, busted and cracked open on it's left side.
- "Samus," he continued, "I believe this is your area of expertise..." He stood himself up and stepped aside, motioning for her to take a look.
- "It's second gen', adolescent Gamma-type..."
- "Evolutionary?" Conan asked.
Conan's bright, green, visor turned a bright reddish-orange. He glanced around the room a couple of times.
- "Well, it's gone now. I don't see it anywhe..."
A large, static, flash flew across the hunters' visors. With some unknown force knocking them back and to the ground, knocking Samus and Armstrong cold. Conan landed on his back. Dazed, he heard a loud high-pitched shriek, shook his head and looked up. A giant tusk-like spike was flying toward him from above. Without thinking, he immediately rolled over to his side to dodge it. He looked up, and rolled back to his last position to dodge it again. Too preoccupied to look for or see what was trying to kill him, the tusk rose up again and began to slam down towards Conan. This time, throwing one arm up over his face, and the other out in front of him. The spike slammed down approximately two feet above him, hitting a makeshift, invisible barrier, and recoiling back. The creature slightly dazed, gave Conan a chance to activate his jet systems, pushing himself off the ground almost effortlessly, now hovering slightly above the creature. He looked down at it, just as Samus had said, it was a Gamma Metroid, evolved into its second adolescent stage. The creature came to and looked up at Conan. It gave out a bloodcurdling screech, giving Conan the cue to get ready. Samus, finally beginning to regain consciousness, opened her eyes and saw the beast. She sat up and turned to Armstrong, lying motionless on the ground beside her. She hit him twice, hoping to shake him awake. Realizing he wasn't going to budge, she hit him with a heavy shock of grapple voltage. He jumped to life. Confused and disoriented, he shook his head clear, and turned to face Samus. She flicked her head toward the Metroid, motioning for them to get up and help Conan. She slowly worked herself up, helping Armstrong up as well. In the mean time Conan had begun peppering the creature with his Combustion Beam. He looked over to see Samus and Armstrong.
- "Have a nice nap, you two?" he sarcastically remarked.
The Metroid turned as well, to see Samus and Armstrong. It let out another shriek, and shot off a large, streaming bolt of electricity, that hit Samus and knocked her to her knees.
- "Alright, that's about enough of this, both of you! Behind me, now!" Conan swiftly ordered.
Samus pulled herself back up. The two did as they were told and ran directly behind him as he dropped himself to the ground. A beam of bright, green, light flew over his armcannon, changing it into a massive, heavy artillery weapon, gleaming with interchanging varicolored light. Conan looked back at them.
- "Way, behind me," he clarified. The hunters backed up further.
Conan threw his armcannon forward, toward the Gamma Metroid. The weapon began glowing multicolored, and a loud, ascending hum filled the room. The weapon grew brighter and brighter, and the hum, louder and louder. Conan grasped it with his free hand and magnetically locked his feet to the metallic surface he stood on. His visor, dimmed to a pitch-black, opaque, color. The room suddenly exploded with a monstrous, ground-shaking boom. And a sudden, blinding, flash. Brighter than the very surface of FS-176. The beam from the weapon was much too bright to gaze upon for over a second or two. It produced a massive, quivering, stream of unstable varicolored force, leaping and arcing in all directions, but never straying from its target. It immediately slammed the Metroid against the wall behind it, hammering the creature into the wall itself. Conan began to grit his teeth and silently shout due to the sheer force of the weapons recoil. the inside of his helmet began to flash red, and his visor displaying a, "Warning". He let loose of the beam, causing his arm to recoil to his side. The weapon itself was steaming, and no longer emitted the rainbow-like colors, as it had before being fired. The Metroid had been reduced to a smoldering shell, permanently fixated into the wall itself.
- "What in the hell was that!?" Armstrong asked, astonished at what he'd just witnessed.
- "That, was the Gamma Beam..." Conan answered. All the while Samus smiling and shaking her head sarcastically.
- "Well, let's get going, shall we?" Conan continued.
The hunters began moving to where the Metroid first appeared. Armstrong in front, Samus speedily walks up behind Conan and shoves him. Stumbling a bit, he looks back at her.
- "Showoff..." Samus teases, laughingly.
- "I try..." Conan teases back. Both of them laughing now.
- "Let's hurry up before Armstrong hurts himself again." Conan jokes.
- "Haha, yeah..." She jokingly agrees.
They continue toward the Metroid, all the while Samus smiling to herself beneath her helmet...