First Mission And Revelation
“Cadet Valentina, you are hereby assigned to be cadet Aran’s partner. We worry Aran may have trouble understanding Galactic Federation regulations.”
Samus Aran. The name had already gained a certain amount of fame among the GalFed ranks. Or infamy depending on who you ask. Valentina pondered how she seemed to have heard a lot about Aran, yet knew surprisingly little. Least of all why he decided to join the GalFed forces.
There was the story about Aran taking out a whole Space Pirate base by himself. Several of them, to hear some people tell it. But if there was any proof of this, then Command weren’t sharing.
Everyone had seen at least one image of Aran, though. The mysterious orange power armour of unknown origin, the strange arm cannon, the helmet. Yet no one Valentina had met could say they had ever seen Aran without the armour on, or even without the helmet. And she had really tried to talk to anyone she could to get more information before she set out. Command hadn’t given her anything beyond the mission briefing, and where she was to meet up with Aran.
Aran’s overall shape seemed human enough, but there was plenty of speculation that underneath all that armour was something not human at all.
There were also the jokes that dropping Aran onto a planet was more effective than bombing it.
Her thoughts were interrupted by her ship exiting hyperspeed in orbit of the star of the system. Valentina set the Valentroid on course for the designated planet, and started checking her gear.
The armour had all seals and plates intact, and properly connected. Shields had full coverage. Her armaments were properly assembled and in working order. All power-cells were fully charged. No flaws in the helmet, its visor, or how it connected to the armour. The planet they were going to had a breathable atmosphere, but it was still important to make sure the life support systems were fully functional.
And the jump-pack was operational. Valentina was still wary of the jump-pack. Her success rate in training was at only 60%, though she had actually done a little better in the field. A little. She had to turn the armour in for repairs after accidentally smacking into a rock last mission. Thankfully the shields held, but she was sore for days afterwards.
The Valentroid has reached planetary orbit, so Valentina did a final check to make sure she had everything equipped properly before sitting down at the controls to go in for landing.
Valentina was not sure why she was chosen for this. She had a good record, excluding jump-pack accidents, but she wouldn’t say her performance had been spectacular or exemplary. She still had a lot to learn. Yet the only answer she got when she asked was: “You have been deemed suitable.” Whatever that meant.
When she approached the landing coordinates, she could see Aran’s gunship already on the ground. He had arrived first, and his ship certainly made a statement. The same bright orange as his armour, as if he didn’t care whether or not he got spotted. Valentina could just barely make out his shape, standing not far from the ship.
She landed at a safe distance, and exited the ship, carrying her helmet with her. She figured it made for a good first impression to let Aran see her face before they start. Unfortunately Aran didn’t have the same idea. His helmet was already on, and he was ready to go. Darn, she had hoped to get to see his face. Maybe the rumour that he never took off any part of his armour is true.
The rumours had not prepared her for how tall and imposing he was, though. The images she had seen had lacked any references to get a perspective on that. She swallowed nervously, and put on a brave smile as she walked up to him. He turned towards her. Yikes, no wonder he doesn’t care if anyone sees him coming, she thought to herself. He looked invincible, and carried himself as such too. Anyone he came after would be terrified.
She offered her hand in greeting, and after a moment’s pause he reached out and shook it.
“Space cadet Aran,” she said. “I’m cadet Valentina. The Federation has sent me to help you-”
“I don’t need help,” Aran said immediately. Even distorted by the helmet, his voice sounded human enough.
“Y-y’see sir, the Federation thinks you might need help understanding Galactic Federation regulations,” Valentina said, not backing down. She’d show Aran that she wasn’t that easily intimidated. At least not outwardly.
Aran released her hand, and it was impossible to read his reaction underneath that armour. His body language seemed unchanged, as if he didn’t actually care.
“Come,” he finally said, and turned to head towards their objective. Valentina took a moment to equip her helmet before following. He didn’t seem to be much of a talker.
Aran walked really fast, and Valentina had to jog just to keep up with him. Her stamina wasn’t bad, and the armour helped make it easier, but she still worried she’d be tired by the time they arrived. Yet she refused to back down. She was not going to be a burden.
Aran turned slightly as if glancing back at her, and slowed down a little. Valentina nearly stumbled from the surprise. Maybe Aran wasn’t as cold as he initially seemed. She still had to be quick, but she was able to keep up with Aran more comfortably, and she took the rear-guard.
Their mission was simple. Answer a distress call from a settlement on this planet. They had reported problems with unusually aggressive wildlife, so they were check in at the settlement, then investigate and eliminate the threat.
They would have landed closer if possible, but this was the closest suitable landing place outside of the settlement’s own landing pads. GalFed regulations forbade occupying civilian landing pads except in extreme emergency, and the distress call hadn’t been that dire. The local guard force were able to protect the settlement, but they weren’t sure how long they’d last. Maybe only a couple more weeks at best.
If Valentina was to be perfectly honest, Aran could have probably handled this himself, but regulations stated no cadet should embark on a mission alone. At least two were required. You could never be sure what might happen.
Aran looked like he was walking casually, but Valentina could tell he was ready to spring into action the instant something happened.
Yet their trip to the settlement was entirely without incident. The only wildlife they saw seemed docile enough, and made sure to avoid the two of them. It was a nice-looking world. A decent amount of plant life, interesting-looking trees, and lots of chittering from birds and insects. Most of the animals seemed to be reptilian, but none of them were particularly big. So Valentina wondered what sort of creatures were threatening the settlement.
They crested the final hill and looked down upon the place, Valentina walking up to stand beside Aran. It had a couple dozen buildings, a protective wall, and four farms, two of which were inside the wall. The two outside were not currently occupied, and it seemed like the crops had been hastily harvested, but otherwise they didn’t appear particularly damaged. There were a couple of sections of the wall that looked like they’d been hit hard, though.
After getting a good overview of the place, they headed down towards the closest gate. There were two people in the guard tower who spotted them, and called out.
“Who goes there?!” they demanded, and Valentina took it upon herself to reply.
“We are with the Federation!” she called back. “We have come in answer to your distress call!” She held forth her badge and ID so they could see it through their scope.
After a moment they opened the gate for her and Aran to come inside, and quickly closed it behind them. A third guard appeared to lead them over to where the mayor and guard captain had come out to meet them. People came out to look at them, and everyone seemed taken aback by Aran. Some even going inside and closing the door.
Valentina took off her helmet to greet the mayor and captain. Aran did not.
“Welcome, welcome! Thank you for arriving so swiftly,” said the mayor, before he and the captain introduced themselves. The mayor was a fairly average-looking middle-aged man with a short beard, and the guard captain a stern-looking woman in uniform with short hair.
“Not at all, it’s what we do,” Valentina replied. “I’m space cadet Valentina, and this is cadet Aran.” She shook the hands of them both, and Aran did the same. Valentina had been afraid he wouldn’t. The mayor seemed a little intimidated by Aran, but if the captain also did, she did not show it.
“Would you like something to eat?” the mayor asked as they went inside his house to sit and talk. Valentina shook her head.
“We appreciate the offer, but not right now,” she replied as they sat down. “Perhaps after we are done. What can you tell us about the situation?” she asked, and at this point the guard captain took over.
“We have been under attack for a little over a week now,” she started with. “The rinvers, that’s the animals,” she clarified, and showed them an image of what seemed to be large cat-like lizards. 3-4 metres long. “They are carnivores, but they’ve left humans alone until a week ago. Then suddenly they came bearing down on us, and charged straight into our wall.” She pulled up a video of one of their attacks, and the aggression they displayed was surprising.
“We have no idea what caused their change in behaviour, but they’ve attacked shortly before sunset every night since,” she said, clearly angry at the beasts. “At this rate we’ll run out of weapon energy and ammunition before our next re-supply. And we don’t have the manpower or equipment to go out and investigate ourselves.” She definitely seemed unhappy with this, but at least she didn’t seem resentful towards Aran and Valentina.
“They attack with such frenzy, but they always seem to charge straight for people,” the captain added, scratching her head a little. “They have left our outside farms mostly alone, and only seem to damage anything that is between them and people.” She sighed heavily. “Almost as if they’re being controlled. The moment the sun fully sets the survivors all retreat. Thankfully we’ve only had minor injuries so far.”
“Which direction do they come from?” Aran finally said something, taking Valentina off-guard. The captain brought up a map.
“They always come over the hill to the north of here,” she said, and drew lines of where they had charged from. There wasn’t a lot of deviation in their routes. “And they always attack the closest section of the wall that has people on it. We’ve used this to our advantage to guide them away from damaged parts of the wall.”
“Thank you,” Valentina said, and transferred the map to her own computer. “We’ll go out and investigate right away.”
They were let out of the north-east gate, and started following the direction the rinvers had been coming from. It was still barely past midday, so they had plenty of time before sunset. Valentina wondered if she should try to strike up a conversation, but first off she didn’t know what to say, and second they needed to be alert right now.
After a couple of kilometres Aran suddenly held up his hand.
“Something is coming,” he said, and a few seconds later about a dozen of the beasts came charging out from ahead of them. Maybe they were getting close to their den.
Valentina pulled her blaster, and she went right while Aran went left, both starting to fire. Even when hurt the beasts refused to retreat, seeming completely frenzied. They were no match for a GalFed blaster though, nor Aran’s arm cannon, so they were able to put them all down pretty quickly. There was no cunning or manoeuvring to them, they just charged straight ahead, making them easy to hit.
Heading forward they kept being charged at, eventually from multiple angles as they came more into the middle of their den, or dens. A couple of them got close enough to strike, but couldn’t pierce the shields. It still stung to be hit, though. A survival mechanism in the shields, so that you would always know if you were being hit or if something was draining the shields.
It wasn’t long until they discovered a strange device stuck in the ground. A dark box with an antenna sticking out of it, about a metre across each side, and the antenna nearly two metres tall on top of that.
Aran scanned it and shared the data with Valentina. It was transmitting some sort of signal. While taking it intact would have been preferable, the circumstances didn’t really allow that. Aran fired a missile at it, and it blew apart. Immediately any rinvers still alive dropped to the ground. Aran and Valentina held their fire to see what would happen next.
After a few moments the beasts began scrambling to their feet again, and they ran away.
Valentina stood guard while Aran thoroughly scanned the remains of the device, as his scanners were better. Then he salvaged the most intact part of it to bring back for analysis.
“I think this might be Space Pirate tech,” he said as Valentina secured it on her back.
“What would that be doing here?” she wondered out loud, which actually prompted a reaction from Aran. He shrugged.
“Hopefully we might find out from this,” he said, indicating the salvaged part.
They got back to the settlement without incident, and reported their findings. The mayor thanked them for dealing with it, while the guard captain wanted a look at the part. That might not be strictly allowed by the regulations, but Valentina figured they deserved to at least look at it.
“We’ll stay the night to make sure they really won’t be attacking again,” Valentina said, and Aran concurred with that plan. If they left without confirming the mission was indeed complete, that would be a failure.
The mayor arranged for a place for them to stay, and to clean themselves up. While the armour kept everything well regulated, Valentina would still love a shower right now. He also promised to bring them something to eat soon enough.
Valentina put her helmet down on a table, and sat down. She was more tired than she realised. The adrenaline wearing off, probably. She heard a pssshhht sound, and looked up in time to see the seal on Aran’s helmet releasing. He had his hands raised, and he was going to take his helmet off. She watched with rapt attention, the beating of her heart seeming quite loud in her ears.
As the helmet came off, long golden locks flowed out, most of them tied into a really long ponytail. Clear, blue eyes set in a softer-than-expected-looking face were looking back at her. Valentina just stared dumbfounded. Aran was a…
“Y-you’re a… g-g-g… gir… gi-”
“Woman,” Aran said, cutting off Valentina’s stammering. “And please, call me Samus. You handled yourself well out there, Valentina.” Valentina had never expected Aran could smile like that. There was one word that really stuck to her mind. Aran was… Samus was…