They've been called real tough hombres, ultimate badasses, packing state-of-the-art firepower
with nothing they can't handle.
The marines that would be accompanied to LV-426 with Ripley to investigate the loss of communications
with the colony had apparently already seen it all.
And, in a line that sparked years of theories about their past missions, it's asked if the
LV-426 mission would be a stand up fight...or another Bug Hunt.
Have the marines, seen in Aliens, encountered extraterrestrial beings before?
Other bugs, they had to snuff out?
Their past missions have alluded to in previous extended universe material, though, quite
appropriately, the short story collection, Aliens: Bug Hunt, shares some history amongst
the group, including the Ultimate Badasses having to take down hostile lifeforms on a
dangerous mission overseen by Weyland Yutani.
In "Blowback," by Christopher Golden, Sargeant Apone lead his squad under the supervision
of Weyland-Yutani-appointed C.O., Emma Paulson, to the Pollux System on a highly sensitive
and of course classified mission to, what the marines believed to be, a bug hunt.
Bug Hunters for this op included Apone, Dietrich, Spunkmeyer, Hicks, Hudson, Vasquez, Frost,
Wierzbowski, Crowe, and previously unseen members: Khan, Zeller, Stenbeck, and a green
new marine by the age of 18, Pvt.
Much of the interactions in the story play off the relationships we already know, but,
offering a few glimpses into the characters we haven't quite seen.
For example, the story explains that Vasquez viewed Apone as something of a father figure
-- which, wasn't exactly a good thing.
"Blowback" describes an exchange between the two.
VASQUEZ: I’m already bored with this op.
Can we just go out and kill whatever we’re supposed to kill, get this bug hunt over with?
APONE: Belay that shit, Vasquez.
We’re gonna set a good example for our greenie today.
Private Malinka needs to see how this unit operates so she can learn how you’ve all
survived together this long.
Which means you and Hudson and Wierzbowski and Stenbeck are on notice right now, before
we even hit the surface.
We do this quick and by the book.
Is that clear?
VASQUEZ: I hear your voice in my sleep, Sarge.
APONE: What’s that?
VASQUEZ I said, ‘Yes, sir, Sergeant, sir!’”
APONE: Damn right you did.
Half the time, Vasquez only said the things she did in order to get a rise out of Sergeant
The man wasn’t much older than herself, but he had a grizzled air about him—partly
due to the bushy black mustache he always seemed to be smoothing down—that made him
seem like everybody’s disapproving father.
Dietrich knew from late-night conversation that Vasquez didn’t have a high opinion
of fathers and couldn’t resist pushing Apone’s buttons.
There is also a focus brought to Dietrich, and her fraternizating with fellow marine
Corporal Tim Stenbeck.
The two had been sleeping together on and off but things seemed to cool off until the
night before the mission, where the two drank whiskey, spent the night together, and were
left fighting hangovers during the briefing.
The Colonial Marines weren’t here for research - two research teams had already spent time
on the moon, in fact, and were killed.
They marines were here to make sure the third team of scientists Weyland-Yutani planned
to send might have time to build themselves a compound before the local fauna—whatever
the hell these aliens might be—could turn them into chum.
. “We’re about to land on Clytemnestra,
a moon orbiting Thestias, in the Pollux system,” The company’s exploration drones found an
element on this moon that will revolutionize interstellar travel.
They’ve been working for decades on better engines, better fuel.
Eleven years ago, they theorized that a combination of two elements—let’s forget the chemistry
and just call them salt and pepper—”“The problem is that every time the researchers
tried to combine salt and pepper, they blew up their lab.
What they needed was some third element that would stabilize that mixture.
From the reports I’ve read, they tried over two thousand combinations before they gave
up a few years ago.
“But eleven months ago, Weyland-Yutani drones found a gas in the atmosphere of this moon
that they are certain will render those combustible elements inert.
If they’re right, they think they’ll have a fuel that will allow spacecraft to be reengineered,
to travel many times faster than they ever have.
Before, the amalgam of those elements would have just exploded, killing everyone on board.
But now, if they can draw it from the atmosphere of Clytemnestra… well, you can imagine.”
Hicks cleared his throat.
I think we’ve got the rest.”
“The usual,” Hudson agreed.
“Put our asses in the shredder.”
“Don’t be such a pussy, Hudson,” Vasquez said.
“You gotta think long term, hermano.
They put two science teams down on this damn plateau and bugs killed ’em all.
So they call the exterminators—that’s us.
Killing bugs is just good exercise, man.”
“And what do we get out of it?”
Sergeant Apone glared at him.
“For starters, you don’t get court-martialed.”
Her nausea had all but vanished.
“I’ll tell you what you get, Wierzbowski,” she said.
“Less time drifting around deep space, waiting for some action.”
Even Hicks smiled at that.
On the surface of the planet, the mission began - and the bug hunt very quickly became
an intense fight for life.
ZELLER: I’ve got movement.
WEIRZBOWSKI: I see nothing.
Not a blip on this thing.
ZELLER: I’ve got multiples now!
Northwest, coming our way.
APONE: Up high?
You saying these things are flying?
Dietrich saw it then, slicing through the air.
Just a glimpse of it, thin and wraith-like, body open to catch the wind as it glided toward
She muttered a stream of profanity into her comm unit and pulled the trigger, firing a
plasma burst that lit up the dust storm like lightning high up in a thunderstorm.
The thing banked left, somehow made itself smaller, and then plummeted toward the ground,
headed for her face.
She dropped, rolled right, came up onto one knee with her weapon aimed at the spot where
the thing had alighted.
It stood six feet away and for a few heartbeats they were eye to eye, Dietrich and this creature
unlike any she’d ever seen.
Despite what she’d seen overhead, the bug stood tall and thin, its limbs like razors.
Its body seemed smooth and black, glassy as volcanic rock.
She counted two sets of eyes, both covered by a gossamer membrane which seemed to screen
out the dust and grit of the atmosphere.
Gunfire punched the air around her.
Zeller shouted about incoming bugs.
Wierzbowski kept insisting he didn’t see anything on his sensor.
As Dietrich pulled the trigger, the wind roared across the plateau and nudged her to the left,
throwing off her aim.
Plasma bursts tore up the rocky ground near the bug and it shot her a look that might
have been nothing more than curiosity.
Then it opened like a flag unfurling.
The wind took it, blew it backward and upward and it angled its body so that it was soaring
high out of range in the space between one breath and another.
DIETRICH: Holy Shit.
DIETRICH: I'm Fine.
STENBECK: You can’t hesitate like that.
Coulda gotten yourself— HUDSON: Can you two hump each other later?
Like, after we kill all these damn locusts, or whatever they are?
More weapons fire.
More shapes knifing through the atmo-storm.
Wierzbowski complained again about his sensor until Spunkmeyer finally slapped it out of
SPUNKMEYER: It’s broken, idiot!
Use your goddamn eyes instead!
VASQUEZ: Shit, ’Bowski, you know you must be stupid when Spunkmeyer’s got to explain
stuff to you.
APONE: Fix that scanner, Hicks.
STENBECK: Get up!
Incoming, damnit, get on on your feet!
Dietrich and Hudson rose in the same moment, both of them staring as Stenbeck raced toward
He lifted his plasma rifle and fired above them, but Dietrich’s focus stayed on the
pair of bugs slicing through the dust storm, gliding down behind Stenbeck.
By the time she raised her plasma rifle, they were too low for her to take the shot without
Hudson said, taking aim.
“Stenny, hit the dirt!”
Even from thirty feet away, through the dust, Stenbeck’s moment of epiphany showed in
He dove to the rocky ground, rolled, propped himself onto his elbows too late.
The things were almost on him.
Dietrich and Hudson started to fire.
A figure came out of nowhere, emerging from the dust to the east.
Only when she started shouting and cursing did Dietrich recognize Private Malinka’s
On the range, Malinka had no peer.
Nineteen years old, but she could shoot the whiskers off a cat from a hundred yards.
But Malinka had never seen real combat before today.
The girl’s first two shots missed.
Stenbeck had fallen on his own weapon and struggled to bring it round, even as the first
of the bugs landed on him.
One of its wings sliced the exo-suit open like it was made of cobweb.
Dietrich opened fire again, shouting Stenbeck’s name.
She got one syllable into it when Malinka’s third shot hit one of the bugs.
The creature exploded in a roiling ball of flame that hit the second one—the one on
Stenbeck—and then that bug exploded as well.
The blast blew Malinka off her feet and she tumbled into the rising dust and smoke, lost
from view in the storm.
For a few seconds Dietrich could only blink and stare at blossoming clouds of fire as
the wind carried them away, painting the darkness red and orange and blue.
HUDSON: Man, what the hell was that?
Hudson started toward the burning air, barely seeming to notice the way gusts would ignite
above them, a chain reaction that seemed to threaten the possibility of the whole sky
lighting on fire.
Dietrich grabbed Hudson.
“Get your shit together.
Nothing you can do for him now.
Don’t you have eyes?”
Now she had to watch Hudson swivel his head around to stare at the slowly extinguishing
fireball, and the charred, blackened bones it illuminated, all that remained of Stenbeck.
“Aw, man,” Hudson said.
“This is bullshit.”
Thunder crashed across the sky.
They turned to see a fresh fireball streaming toward the ground.
Pieces of the bug whipped past them, hitting the dirt like shrapnel.
Dietrich glanced around, saw nobody, and knew the only way home was to kill their way out.
“Do your job, Hudson,” she said.
“Light ’em up!”
He snapped his head up, then nodded.
Killing bugs was just about the only thing he’d ever been really good at.
Back they moved toward the center of the plateau.
Bugs whipped overhead like flags unfurling.
Dietrich took one out with a burst from her plasma rifle, staggered by the blast as it
Hudson shot two.
“Damn it, Lieutenant,” Hicks growled on the commlink.
“What the hell are these things?”
Before Paulson could reply, a chorus of voices filled Dietrich’s head.
Above them all, she could hear Zeller and Wierzbowski shouting about the next wave of
attacks coming from the cliffs to the northwest.
Even as she and Hudson turned in that direction, a gust of wind cleared some of the dust off
the plateau and Dietrich spotted the rest of the unit closing ranks.
Malinka limped as she hurried to join them, injured but alive.
Gunfire tore through the dust again.
A rising crescendo of plasma rifle fire traced its way through the darkness in all directions.
Crowe and Spunkmeyer had begun to roar and now Vasquez and Hudson and Wierzbowski joined
Zeller and Malinka, too.
The black kites sliced through the storm, descending.
Lieutenant Paulson waited, following them with her weapon, and when she opened fire
one of the bugs exploded in a fireball that struck another, and another, destroying four
of the deadly kites and turning them into a chain reaction conflagration that swept
into the whirl of the storm until the whole sky became a churning tornado of grit and
debris and blazing embers.
“Lieutenant!” she shouted, turning to scan for Paulson, ready to run to her.
They had to retreat, had to get off this godforsaken rock.
She didn’t see the bug come sailing along the southern edge of the plateau until Zeller
started shouting that it was too close, that someone had to kill it.
Zeller was right—if he’d shot it, the explosion would have torched him and Malinka
Zeller managed to get his blade out.
He fought the thing, stabbing at it, even punctured one of the thing’s shielded eyes,
but its wings kept slicing at him, tearing his armor to ribbons, and in seconds Zeller
was on his knees.
ZELLER: I can't.
MY eyes...I think my eyes are bleeding.
The gunfire continued.
Other voices shouted on comms.
Bugs exploded in the air along the outer rim of the plateau.
The brighter the burning air, the easier it was to spot them, to kill them before they
Malinka backed away from Zeller’s weakening struggle against the thing that had killed
They were wrapped together, the Marine and the black glass kite.
When Malinka reached her, Dietrich saw the shock in the girl’s eyes and knew that no
matter how tough she had been in training, she understood combat now.
Understood what it meant to be a Colonial Marine.
Lieutenant Paulson had ordered a retreat.
Dietrich could hear Apone’s familiar growl over the comms, urging them onward.
She had lost track of her position, so she could only rely on the others as they hustled
back to the dropship, their withdrawal punctuated by a dozen more explosions that heated the
air so much the air inside her suit burned to breathe.
Then they were at the dropship.
Khan had lowered the ramp and Dietrich stumbled a bit going up.
She dropped to the floor inside, surrounded by the others, and as the ramp began to close
and she stared out at the burning storm, she wondered about the ghosts of Stenbeck and
The dropship’s external guns shot a couple of the kites to keep them away from the closing
ramp, and then it was over.
VASQUEZ: Anyone wanna explain that?
How the hell do those things just explode?
The whole sky went up in flames!
KHAN: Just proved the company’s science team right.
Species is carbon-based, like most known life forms, but the solvent for all life from Earth
For these aliens, it’s propane.
HUDSON: Oh, that’s beautiful.
They knew the things were gonna go boom if we shot ’em and they sent us out there anyway?
KHAN: They knew there was a chance.
APONE: Khan, get us off this fucking rock.
KHAN: Sorry, Sarge.
Can’t do that.
APONE: What the hell are you talking about, Corporal?
You want to explain this, Lieutenant?
PAULSON: Corporal Khan, I assume by your reaction that you’ve gotten readings from the dropship’s
You’ve located the source of the stabilizing element?
HICKS: What the hell is this?
Not only did you have intel about the bugs that could’ve saved Stenbeck and Zeller,
but now you’re saying you and Khan have been keeping this other shit from us, too?
PAULSON: You’re going to want to stand down, Corporal Hicks.
APONE: Stand down, Corporal.
Maybe you want to explain yourself?
If there were mission parameters you couldn’t share before, I’d like to hear them now.
PAULSON: We had an additional set of orders.
You all know how this works.
Every mission has multiple objectives.
Objective one was to clear the plateau and pave the way for the next science team to
drop a temporary base there.
Objective two was to see if the instruments could scan and locate the source of the stabilizing
Based on information transmitted back by the last group who died here, the company had
some theories— KHAN: That’s what I started to say, Lieutenant.
They’re not theories anymore.
DIETRICH: Spill it already.
KHAN: The element the company’s looking for...
The bugs produce it.
DIETRICH: But now we don't want to kill them.
WIERZBOWSKI: I don't get it.
That's why we're here.
To kill em.
VASQUEZ: Not anymore.
DIETRICH: The job’s changed, Wierzbowski.
We’re not supposed to kill them anymore.
Turns out these things are the goddamn prize we came looking for.
Now the job is to catch one.
The sick expression on Wierzbowski’s face reflected the twist in the pit of her stomach.
In silence, the rest of the unit exchanged scowls and then began dragging their exo-suits
back on, reaching for their weapons.
Malinka grinned, visibly excited at the prospect, and that was when Dietrich knew she wanted
to stay far away from the girl.
That excitement would make her reckless.
The scraping on the hull continued.
The bugs were out there waiting, almost as if they knew the dropship wasn’t going anywhere.
“All right, Marines,” Sergeant Apone growled as he walked toward the rear of the ship,
waiting for Khan to lower the ramp.
“Let’s get it done.
Watch each other’s backs and try not to die.”
Vasquez and Hudson high-fived each other, trying to amp themselves up.
As Khan hit the controls and the light started to flash, indicating that the ramp was opening,
they all gripped their weapons tighter and watched the gap for those thin fingers, those
sharp black glass edges.
Air vented out of the ship and the whole unit started forward.
As the story ends, the marines go out once more to face the bugs, and we can imagine
they went on to successfully hunt the bugs they were assigned to find, though the squad
certainly became smaller due to this mission.
It should be noted, though, Bug Hunt, the collection of short stories, comes with a
disclaimer that the stories may not necessarily be considered canon, or within official continuity
- but I think it's easy to imagine the marines from Aliens in this situation - or, a situation
like this - in their past.
One of the best things about the marine characters in Aliens is that their comraderie feels geniune
- that they really have been out there in space, on all kinds of missions, for some
Part of this is definitely thanks to James Cameron's writing and directing, but also
due to the incredible cast assembled to play our favorite ultimate badasses.
Recently, I'm sad to say, we lost one of these cast members.
Al Matthews, who played Sargeant Apone, passed away September 22nd, 2018 at the age of 75.
Matthews was an actual Sargeant, who served in the Vietnam War, and because of his experience,
he brought a true authenticity to the role, and to the relationship between him and the
My condelences go out to his friends, family, and fans - we salute you, Sarge.
Rest in Peace.
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