When this is all over, when it’s all said and done, you will hear the news clips blasting over the holos about how the Galactic Federation moved “quickly and decisively,” how the decision was unanimous, how the lone hero Samus Aran was selected to infiltrate the cavernous underworld of SR388 with the sole directive to exterminate the Metroids and bring peace and security to the galaxy once and for all…
You will naively believe it.
Yet in reality, decisions are never unanimous, nor actions decisive. And mercenaries are never altruists. Congressmen, saints, and heroes…all great luminaries are voracious opportunists, their motives guided by incentives, their hearts entangled with vanity. Hidden deep within the seemingly well-intentioned actions of our civil servants, our philanthropists, our martyrs, and our saviors is an unabashed quest for balance between chivalry and greed. Within the pit of righteousness, benevolence and want are allies.
My fee was 1B credits. That’s one billion. Up front. With a collection fee of 10mil per Metroid, twice what I had asked for the Zero Mission. The senators howled. They complained. They wrung their hands and ground their teeth. They begged and pleaded. They had no choice but to accept without negotiation. I could see the fear on their sleepless faces. Even over the holos, it oozed from their souls, taking up residence in their unblinking crow’s feet-fringed eyes, announcing itself through nervous ticks, pen chewing, finger tapping, manic note-taking, and chronic throat clearing. It sucked the life right out of them, just as the Metroids will do if they inevitably make it to Daiban in the looming galactic bio-apocalypse.
I was the only one who had ever successfully stopped them. It was I who eradicated them from Zebes, infiltrating the Space Pirate breeding hives and turning them all to fragments of shattered ice. The Congressmen knew that I, and only I, could do it again.
Senator Snootsi was my champion. He was a good man with a soft demeanor and kind body language. He was an Earth human and was much more tender with me than the last time we talked. I suspect that he still harbored some of the nearly extinct customs of male-female status and interaction unique to that planet. The rest could care less, as many of them lacked analogues to human gender on their homeworlds, and fewer still could comprehend the idea of status based on sex alone. Yet his respect for me seemed to have been augmented by my recent revelation. Most had assumed I was a cyborg and the true source of shock and controversy stemmed from the fact that I was (primarily) human. I imagine his surprise must have been twofold.
“Aran will not let us down!” I remember Snootsi saying with an imperceptible loss of control to Senator Rosso, a Lumis who had questioned my ability to effectively battle the Metroids in their own environment. Maybe part of Rosso’s doubt stemmed from his inability to believe a lone human woman could accomplish something a team of the Federation’s finest could not, but regardless, I wasn’t sure he was wrong, and his criticism had revived an uncertainty within my ego that I thought I had long eradicated… Just like the Metroids. It was the years of hard training, the soul-numbing pain, the insurmountable losses, and mostly the overwhelming successes which had put it to bed, and it was the condemning words of a fear-stricken Senator from Luma who had reawoken it.
During the meeting, a technical briefing was given in which the Special Squadron footage was shown under oath of secrecy. It was gruesome and disturbing. I cannot reveal certain details here now, for if this manuscript should ever be compromised, I would be required to surrender my credits and be brought to trial before a military tribunal for crimes of treason under the Galactic Charter. What I can tell you is that it was unlike any carnage I have ever witnessed.
The Marines fired wildly from behind barricades as the Metroids descended upon them, powerful claws piercing through armor and lacerating flesh, great swaths of it hanging and being raked open as the victims struggled to free themselves from the clammy grip of the faceless parasites. They were lifted into the air or slammed into the ground by the savage beasts, no audible screams, though their chests heaved, and then within seconds they were gone… Dust… Wisps of carbon ash blowing in the drafty caverns. I had never seen a man killed so brutally or definitively.
Metroids are decisive.
And so, apparently, was the colonel who presented the briefing. What wasn’t obvious was the footage had been edited – if not outright doctored. The deaths of these men were real enough – war porn of the worst sort – but there were too many holes in the story; these were not the well-trained men of Rick Stein’s platoon, they were men at the brink of mental collapse. Something terrible had happened on SR388, and this was merely the final moments of a horrible ordeal. What had now become painfully obvious was that the military was using the deaths of Rick and his men to sway the senate through fear, and by now nearly the entire chamber was quaking. To see human beings – protectors of the Federation – abused in this way was sickening.
I stole a glance at Chairman Keaton; his green face flickered momentarily in recognition and sympathy, as if to suggest there wasn’t a thing he could do.
What I saw next is classified… But there was something else there… I am not even sure what it was. The resolution was too poor to make it out clearly, but it fills me with dread even as I write this.
“Senators,” I told them, “I’ll take 100mil for THAT.”
The credits were transferred before the meeting was officially adjourned, and just like that, I was a billionaire. The footage had filled me with such disgust, such anger that I probably would have taken 750M… No, 1B is a nice round number and I like round numbers! But my disdain for these heartless creatures rages all the more. I will meet them with equal heartlessness, and I will not stop until every last one of them is dead. None, not even one, will be spared.
I now depart for a military briefing in Galactic Federation HQ, just 15 minutes from here by gravrail. My usual briefings happen over secured com lines while I am in transit to my targets, so the required briefing and the visions of the doctored footage bothers me all the more. I do not look forward to it, and would just as soon get on with my mission.