[Sequel to Underwater Recovery]
[A/N: Hadn’t realised how long it had been since last I updated for this story, but here you are! Extra long for your wait. Valentina OC of Sarah Almeda.]
Valentina had to spend a whole day in the infirmary when they returned to the station. She had gotten a concussion, but they were able to stabilise it fairly quickly. The rest of the day was mostly applying accelerated healing, and monitoring her head.
Samus had tried to protest Valentina leaving the infirmary so soon, even though to Valentina it had felt like forever already. She wasn’t great at just lying around.
“I’m okay again, I promise. The medics know what they’re doing,” she said as reassuringly as she could. Samus didn’t seem as convinced.
“Wouldn’t it be better to take it easy for at least one more day?” she asked. Valentina smiled at her. It was a little nice to have someone care so much.
“I appreciate your concern, but nothing hurts any longer,” Valentina said. Samus tested that by poking Valentina’s forehead. “Not even there, honest! Please just trust me on this. Besides, we have more work to do.”
The briefing had arrived in writing while Valentina was still in the infirmary. The recovery of an intact device had greatly improved the Federation’s search network, and the location of several more devices had been discovered across multiple systems. They were dispatching teams to destroy the devices, preferably at range to avoid a situation like last time. And they wanted Samus and Valentina to be one of the teams. They would hit three of the locations.
Recon probes had estimated that two of them could be destroyed by ship weaponry, but the third was out of sight from the air. So they would have to go on foot for that one. That was how Command were dividing up the targets. They didn’t want any team to have more than one ground deployment.
The Valentroid and Samus’s gunship flew out towards the closest target. They’d hit the two they could reach with aerial bombardment first, then go for the ground one at the end. Samus had suggested splitting up for the first two, but Valentina opposed it on the grounds that they could run into anti-air fire, or Space Pirate vessels. Samus didn’t argue that point.
The two aerial strikes went well. The devices were not particularly hidden, so they could target them from outside of their estimated effective range. The long-distance display showed that the first seemed to be controlling ground-based creatures, and the second was controlling flying ones. That all dropped to the ground when the device blew up. Valentina figured that at least those who were flying the highest could not have survived that drop.
Again both of them were on planets without settlements. Were they just testing the effects? Perhaps the one they first encountered was the so far only attempt at using a device to attack. As far as Valentina and Samus were aware, no more such distress calls had come in.
On the third planet something struck Valentina as odd right away. The area the signal was coming from was very barren. Unless there was some large underground ecosystem, it seemed unlikely a mass of predators would be in the area. There would not be enough for them to prey on. Nor enough flora to sustain a large amount of herbivores. She checked her scanners. The Valentroid confirmed there was a breathable atmosphere, but little else.
Things didn’t look much better from the ground once they had landed.
“Something doesn’t feel right,” she said to Samus when they met up.
“I concur,” Samus said, and scanned the area. Nothing leaped out at them. In fact, nothing seemed to be moving at all. They should still be outside the effective range of the device, so that seemed like an unlikely culprit. It was more like there hadn’t been anything here to begin with. The whole planet wasn’t dead, but this particular area looked like it hadn’t seen rain or anything in decades, if not longer. Only a few very tenacious plants lived here. Drawing their nutrients from unknown sources.
They headed towards the signal, and it wasn’t long until they arrived at the entrance of a large cave. So a subterranean ecosystem was a possibility, but as far as they could tell there weren’t any more signs of life within the cave either. After double-checking the direction of the signal, and knowing it wasn’t above ground, they figured it had to be reached through the cave. This really didn’t feel right, so they went on high alert, and advanced slowly.
Nothing was happening as they moved ahead, but that wasn’t making Valentina feel any better. They had entered a branching tunnel network, so they stuck to the path that seemed most likely to be leading towards the signal. The armour’s mapping system couldn’t penetrate very far down here.
“I don’t think these tunnels are natural,” Samus said after they’d walked a while. Valentina looked around at the walls. It did seem unlikely that a natural cave tunnel would run this straight. Otherwise the only real tell was that it seemed uniformly spacious nearly all the way. You could move something big through here.
“I think you’re right,” she replied. She thought she could finally see an end to the tunnel up ahead. A dead end? No. As they got closer, they could see it was a large door. Wait… “Samus… I think I hear something.” There was a grinding of rock, and suddenly four automated turrets popped out of the wall.
They threw themselves to the side as heavy bolts started flying in their direction. Samus launched missiles, but the turrets shot them down. Valentina returned fire with the EMP setting on her blaster, and Samus switched to some sort of electricity based beam weapon that Valentina hadn’t seen before.
Once the turrets were disabled, Valentina and Samus had only taken a few glancing hits. Nothing that damaged the armour, or drained the shields considerably.
“Space Pirates,” Samus said. “Maybe a manufacturing facility for the devices.”
“What do we do? Pull back and call in reinforcements?” Valentina asked. She looked behind to see if the way was still clear.
“No,” Samus said. There was a peculiar tone in her voice that Valentina hadn’t heard before. “We take it out.”
“By ourselves?!” Valentina couldn’t hide her disbelief. There was something happening with Samus’s armour. It wasn’t visible, but it was more like… like Valentina could hear or sense something changing within.
“Stand back,” Samus said, and took aim at the door. Her arm cannon entered a configuration Valentina hadn’t seen before, and launched a large missile at the door. She covered her eyes on instinct. The explosion wasn’t as loud as she had anticipated, but when she looked again most of the door was gone.
“Wha-what was that?” she asked, but Samus was already heading into the structure. “Wait! Samus!” Valentina hurried after, but she couldn’t move as quickly. By the time she was through the smoking ruin of the door, there were already exchanges of fire going on.
Samus was moving like no one or nothing Valentina had ever seen before. Dashing along, leaping and flipping off walls, using her jump-pack with an agility not possible with Federation-issue gear. Instead of her regular bolts, she was firing beams of red energy that were burning through whatever they hit. Overwhelming Space Pirate shields and armour in just a few blasts. The Space Pirates were putting up a fierce defence, but the few hits Samus did take she just ignored.
Seeing Samus go all out like that was honestly frightening. It made Valentina wonder if maybe all the stories, all the rumours, were true. Samus seemed more like an avatar of destruction than a human being. It wasn’t all firepower either, she was physically hitting and kicking the Pirates with such force that it sent them flying.
However Valentina couldn’t just stand there gawping. The only times she had faced Space Pirates before had been as part of a larger assault team, or encountering a small recon group. She assumed this wasn’t a very large facility, but there still seemed to be a lot of them here. Maybe Samus could handle it alone, but if Valentina could make things easier…
The Pirates were all focused on Samus, perhaps thinking she had come alone. Valentina dashed forward into cover. It took her a moment to configure her blaster for the task.
Keep calm, Valentina. Remember your training, she told herself, then popped around the corner and fired a quick succession of bolts into the backs of two pirates trying to avoid Samus’s blasts. One of them went down immediately, the other had time to whip around before getting two bolts to the chest that took them down. The rest hadn’t seemed to notice, still focusing on Samus. It was hard to tell, but Valentina was worried Samus was taking too many hits.
She dashed forward to the next suitable bit of cover, and took down another Pirate standing by their lonesome. As she was looking for another target, the door she had just ran past opened, and two Pirates stormed in. They and Valentina looked at each other for the briefest moment, then Valentina reacted first.
Five bolts in the exact same place knocked over one of the Pirates. She couldn’t confirm the kill yet, because the other one had drawn a sword, and lunged at her. She rolled out of the way, fumbling for her combat knife. She fired several shots towards her opponent, but only two hit. Not enough. On the next swing from the Pirate she was able to move just enough that the shield deflected it to the side, but it took a small chunk of her shield energy with it. She finally got her knife out, and directed extra power to her arm servos before the Pirate could recover from striking the ground. The knife pierced the shield and struck the Pirate in the neck before they could dodge.
That one dropped to the ground as she pulled the knife back out. She glanced at the other one, but they weren’t moving. A brief scan showed no vitals. She turned back towards Samus, only to see her rush out of the room. Did she know where she was going, or did she intend to just storm through the entire place? There were no remaining pirates standing. Samus must have decided to move on as soon as nothing was shooting at her any longer. Valentina cursed inwardly and ran after Samus. They needed to have a talk after this was over.
There were two dead pirates in the corridor leading to the next room, and inside Samus was already wreaking havoc. This room didn’t have that many Space Pirates, so the last one dropped before Valentina could even raise her blaster. Instead of rushing on again, Samus had stopped at some computer terminals. Could she access Space Pirate systems on the fly?
“Samus,” Valentina called out as she ran up to her. “You can’t just charge off like that, we need to stick together.”
“Valentina?” Samus sounded confused for a moment. Had she forgotten Valentina was there? “Just stay behind me. I can deal with the Space Pirates.” Samus’s tone was bugging Valentina.
“We’re a team,” she said. “If you run off on your own, you’re putting us both in danger.”
“I…” Samus hesitated, then re-composed herself. “We might need to escape quickly after I blow up the production facility.” She brought up a map she had found, indicating where they had to go. “Based on these plans I can set off explosives here, and here, to cripple the facility for good. Please keep our backs clear.” Valentina still wasn’t entirely happy about this, but it was something resembling a plan, and they had a map. She copied the map to her computer, and suppressed a sigh.
“Fine, lead the way,” she said. Samus nodded, and headed out the other door from the one they had come in. The map showed the place was reasonably large, but it unfortunately didn’t say how many Space Pirates were stationed here. If they were lucky, they’d already taken out most of them.
They ran into more Pirates as they headed towards the production hall. Samus was taking them down really quickly though. Valentina’s blaster barely heated up from the few shots she let off.
Ideally they should wipe the production data as well, preferably after making a copy for themselves, but there was no telling when reinforcements might arrive, or if they might decide to trigger the base’s self-destruct. The location of the self-destruct console wasn’t marked on the map, so finding that to disable it would be even worse than making a detour to the mainframe. The Space Pirates did (ironically) not like the idea of their stuff being taken.
Wrecking the production equipment to the extent that it couldn’t be repaired was probably the best they could do on an unknown timetable. They could call in a Federation cruiser to secure the place afterwards.
The hall housing the production and assembly equipment was huge. It was also empty of Space Pirates. That wasn’t a good sign. Still, Samus headed off to set the explosives, while Valentina stayed behind to watch the door they came in, and another to the side of it. She took cover as best she could. This place was designed very openly, but the equipment had some places you could stand behind.
When she heard the first explosion go off from Samus’s direction, the Space Pirates attacked. They came in both doors, but Valentina had set up her launcher. It fired at both doors at the same time. The first of them were blown away by the blast, but more followed. Unfortunately her missile launcher didn’t have more rounds, and she couldn’t exactly reload right now.
Eesh, how many of them are there? she wondered, and began firing. Holding them back by herself was proving very hard. There wasn’t a lot of room to manoeuvre without becoming an open target. Gradually they were forcing her back, but she didn’t have much area to go on. There was a significant open stretch until the next cover.
With her shield draining, and armour getting chipped away, she still held on. What was taking Samus so long? The second explosion should have gone off by now. At least there didn’t seem to be any more pirates coming. She just had to deal with the ones who were already there. About half of them were down, so this was doable.
When the second explosion went off, Valentina could feel the shockwave hit her from behind. She lost focus for just a second, but it was enough. One of the pirates scored a hit on her helmet. There was enough shield energy left to deflect it slightly, but it still cut across her cheek. The pain made her cry out as she was knocked onto her back.
Ah… is this the end? she pondered, dazed. She couldn’t seem to move. Her shield wasn’t gone yet, but there was really not a lot of energy left sustaining it. Her mind felt strangely clear considering what was happening. She could see the reason she couldn’t move was that all the energy that moved the servos of the armour had been directed to trying to keep the shield going. The Space Pirates were still firing. They were lousy shots, but some of them hit her. Well, at least she had bought time for Samus to finish the mission. Samus could-
“Valentina!” Valentina could hear a shout from behind her, and she tried to tilt her head back to look. The Space Pirate shots were now all flying over her. She was able to look back enough to see Samus leaping into the air, then… turning into a ball? Maybe she was hallucinating now. Something launched out of the ball in the direction of the Space Pirates, then suddenly Samus was there. She hunched over Valentina as if shielding her.
Then there was a loud explosion. The world went white, and the heat was immense. Valentina could feel the last of her shield fizzle. Then it stopped. Followed by an eerie silence.
“Valentina!” Samus shouted again. Valentina still couldn’t move. Her HUD was all frazzled, so she couldn’t even check her status, but she assumed she had virtually no energy left. Meaning her armour was basically dead weight. “Valentina!” Samus lifted her up by the shoulders, and Valentina tried to focus on her. The frazzled HUD was making her vision unclear.
“I… I’m still here…” she managed to say weakly. Speaking made everything ache more.
“Thank the gods,” Samus said quietly. “Can you move? Can you walk?” Valentina tried. She attempted to send any power at all to the servos, but it wasn’t responding properly. Only a few jolts. Alright then. She had to disengage the servo control, and move of her own physical power. To her great relief, the command went through.
“Urgh… yes,” she said, and slowly moved her limbs. It had been a while since she last did this. “But the energy is drained… help me up?” The armour was heavy, but not unbearably so. Still, making it out of here was probably the best she could manage. Samus helped her on her feet.
Valentina looked towards where the Pirates had been, and there was nothing. No trace of them. Even parts of the room were gone, others melted and cracked.
“What was that?” she asked. And why did Samus seem unharmed by it?
“I’ll tell you later, when we’re out of here,” Samus replied. Another unfamiliar tone to her voice. Valentina wasn’t about to argue with that though. They needed to get out. It stung to walk. She thought her legs had probably been hit. Possibly bleeding. “You’re sure you can walk?” Samus asked again.
“Enough to get out of here,” Valentina said as bravely as she could manage. Samus took her hand as they walked out. Without power any sensation through the armour felt numb, but it was still something Valentina could focus on besides the pain. She didn’t think her injuries were that bad though, there was just a fair amount of them.
They made it to the ships without further incident. That must have been the last of the Pirates. Valentina accepted being taken into Samus’s ship again. She’d need to physically remove the armour, and some help would be appreciated.
Valentina sat down, and got started while Samus was deactivating her own suit. Taking the helmet off was the easy part. Wow, it looked like a mess. That shot had really cut right through. Getting the gloves off was also fairly simple, which then let her undo the clasps on the boots.
“I’ll help,” she heard Samus say in a hushed voice from behind her. Valentina kicked off her boots, then Samus loosened the sleeves so Valentina could pull them off. Then they disconnected the torso from the leggings, and they got both of those off too. Valentina sighed in relief. Now to get these injuries treated. Her whole contact suit was a mess. As least the pink colour wasn’t that different from blood. Then she felt Samus embrace her from behind.
“Samus?” Valentina’s heart-rate went up a little.
“I’m sorry…” Samus said. “I shouldn’t have… I’m sorry…” Valentina thought it sounded like Samus was crying, but she was being hugged too tight to be able to turn around and look.
“H-hey, it’s okay. Samus, we beat them. It’s okay,” Valentina said, trying to sound reassuring.
“I thought… I could never forgive myself if you… I-I’m sorry…” Samus sounded distraught, and it was making Valentina tear up as well. The adrenaline wearing off wasn’t helping.
“Samus. I’m okay,” she said, and placed a hand on Samus’s arm. “I’m a mess, but I’m okay.” Samus loosened her hold, and pulled one arm back to try to wipe her tears. Valentina moved her hand onto Samus’s remaining hand, and squeezed it gently.
“I’m sorry,” Samus said again. “I… I know, I just… I just want to protect you. But I went in there, and… and I shouldn’t have…” Valentina turned around enough to place a hand on Samus’s cheek.
“It’s okay. Let’s get our injuries treated, then we can talk more, okay?” Valentina smiled as well as she could, and Samus nodded.
The wounds were all fairly shallow, Valentina just had several of them. Samus had some of her own, but not nearly as many. It felt nice when the tingling of the medical gel replaced all the stinging and itching. Then Samus was on her again, hugging Valentina protectively.
“I thought I had lost you,” Samus whispered. Valentina gasped as Samus’s strength.
“You didn’t,” Valentina replied, and returned the hug. She really hadn’t expected to see this side of Samus. Actually she hadn’t even thought Samus had this side. It was making Valentina’s heart race.
“We should head back,” she said after a while. Samus didn’t move. “More Space Pirates could arrive. And we need to send a report.” Samus still didn’t move. It felt nice, but Valentina was getting worried about over-heating. “Samus, please. You can hold me as much as you want back at base.” She could feel Samus’s hold easing, and Samus leaned back.
“Really?” she asked, and Valentina thought Samus’s eyes sparkled a little.
“I promise,” Valentina replied. “But we really need to head back.” She smiled at Samus, who smiled back. “I’ll return to the Valentroid, and send our report before we leave.”
Samus didn’t like the idea of Valentina leaving her ship, but she relented. Even helping to move Valentina’s armour pieces over. Valentina plugged the armour’s computer into the ship’s power, and quickly put together a report to send off, along with a request for a team to secure the facility. Then they lifted off and set course back to base.