Fanfic Friday – “Homecoming”

14 Sep

As planets go, Zebes is mostly unremarkable. A mid-large terrestrial body with a semitransparent carbon dioxide atmosphere, it orbits the humdrum star called FS-176 at a period of 834.34 sols. Its sulfuric acid cloud layer is highly reflective, spiking the surface temperature to near-uninhabitable levels. Life, however – aggressive, irrepressible life – flourishes everywhere, in the underground caverns and the quicksand deltas and the canyons of broken crust. The planet itself could be skipped over at a moment’s glance – but the fauna is something different altogether.

Zebes is home to monsters.

These are the grim musings the bounty hunter vocalizes into her comm as she watches the bronzen orb drift through space. Autopilot carries her toward it, and she feels a shudder as its gravity embraces her and pulls her close, like a lover. She completes her log, and sweeps her fingers over a bank of glowing switches. Waste is jettisoned, the viewscreen blast shield slides shut, and her console whirrs as it moves away from her lap. Her chair rotates and lowers, but she does not step off.

She curls like a child, wrapped in a flight coat with her knees to her chest. She shakes. It might be the cold in the cockpit, but it’s more likely that she is boiling over with pain. Old pain, dulled by time but festering still, like an evergreen venom in her veins. Zebes is a place of death, she knows this, and yet she is drawn unerringly to it like a moth to a flame. She knows her wings will blossom with fire and coil away, but she flies straight at its inviting glow all the same. How can your private hell be the only home you know?

The cockpit lurches as the gunship rumbles through the upper atmosphere, and Samus Aran is spilled from her captain’s seat. Her limbs extend and she lands like a cat on the steel floor panels. The flame draws close, little moth. She steps into the elevator capsule and her finger hesitates an inch from the pulsing button. She shakes her wavy blonde curls away from her face, drawing them up into a high ponytail. She breathes, centring herself, and punches the switch.

Under a minute later, the gunship touches down. The capsule extends with a fffsssss of air and kisses the planet’s surface. Samus’ breath bounces back in her face against her visor, and when the doors slide open her vision is frosted with condensation. Her suit meeps, informing her politely of her skyrocketing heart rate. When the fog clears, she looks out at the gloomy bleak world she calls her home.

The clouds are heavy with acid, huge and roiling and darkly orange. Lightning flashes far away in the distance. The air is a miasma of steam and acrid moisture, sizzling precipitation hissing away against the heat of the mossy ground, and Samus breathes slow and clear inside her helmet. Circle the flame. Feel its heat. She takes a step out, ignores her suit’s environmental warnings, and breaks directly into a loping run.


4.68 standard time units later and Samus has traversed the bowels of a dripping cavern, guided less by her navcom than a vague sense of purpose. She is not sure what brought her back here – the Federation “reconnaissance assignment” was a flimsy excuse at best – and she has even less of an idea what she will find. She only knows her blood is pulling her forward, and she obeys. Closer now, little moth.

At the neck of a swollen passage lit by unearthly bioluminescence, Samus’ visor spots an energy signature. She touches her temple and her vision flashes blue, x-raying through the mineral wall and highlighting the rudimentary electrical piping in vivid orange. She follows it at a tireless pace, vaulting over obstacles both living and inanimate. It terminates in a sealed portal carved from stone, and Samus stops in her tracks at the sight of it.

She knows the curved rune shapes as well as the contours of her own body; she has made ones just like them many times herself. They showed her how, when she was a girl. She ran often then, along cavern tunnels much like this one. The harshness of Zebes was all she knew. It was a place where one could not remain separate from one’s surroundings – you either joined the ecosystem’s unflagging sprint, or fell underneath it. Samus never fell. The hunter in her was awakened here, and now it sniffs at the door with hungry curiosity.

Her palm touches the ancient stone, finding a carved birdlike shape. It falls away immediately, obligingly, without a sound. Samus’ suit temperature regulator compensates for the flushing in her chest, and she steps through into darkness.

She touches her temple again and the world glows green. She sees a square-cut room, and a crumbling statue seated in the centre. As she approaches it she sees that it is curled, fetal, and she shivers in recognition. Her blaster comes up, activating with an eager hum. She steps tentatively forward. Careful, little moth. The flame is hot.

Samus’ visor flares white and she is blinded, crying out in surprise. Heat sensors scream. Nightvision switches off automatically and in the split second it takes for her eyes to adjust, the monster uncoils itself from the ceiling and drops to the floor, sleek and ghastly, screeching its reptilian fury.

The bounty hunter is ready, raising her arm and squeezing the trigger, feeling the dampeners absorb the recoil as she launches round after round of superheated plasma at her enemy. Her rapid-fire barrage pauses only long enough for her to flick a switch, and fire off several high-yield missiles into the smoke. Their detonation shakes dust from the chamber, and Samus hears the rubble tink off her helmet. Then there is silence.

Flame burns, doesn’t it.

The monster launches itself out of the smoke, spreading grotesque batlike wings in a primal aggression display. Its jaw stretches wide and a glob of heat coughs out, igniting into a fanning fire which pours from the monster’s throat as its head whips back and forth. Its tail, spiked with an evil glistening talon, lashes through the smoke in agitation. The monster is angry.

Samus Aran is not afraid. After all, little moth: you have the home field advantage.


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