We live, as we dream, alone.
Ellen Ripley awoke from her dreams, shortly after the Hadley's Hope mission, to find her
role as advisor on LV-426 still required by her employers.
Captain Hankerson probed the newly appointed Lieutant regarding her time, 57 years prior,
as the Nostromo's flight officer.
He reviewed the crew roster, as well as other classified documents, and tested Ripley's
"Executive Officer Kane.
Its Captain, Dallas.
Science Officer, Ash.
And his technician, Brett.
These names mean anything to you?"
"You know they do."
Ripley sat slumped in hear seat, defeated, looking up at the towering company man, like
all the others - practically salivating at the notion of a percentage and first rights
to an organism he could not begin to understand.
Her response didn't seem to be entirely satisfactory on Hankerson's part, so, she elaborated.
"They were the crew of my first ship - the Nostromo.
We...We'd picked up what we thought was a distress signal from LV-426.
After landing, Dallas, Kane, and Lambert went out to investigate.
And it started..."
You must understand that they were not professional dreamers.
Professional dreamers are highly paid, respected, much sought-after talents.
Like the majority of us, these seven dreamt without effort or discipline.
Dreaming professionally, so that one’s dreams can be recorded and played back for the entertainment
of others, is a much more demanding proposition.
It requires the ability to regulate semiconscious creative impulses and to stratify imagination,
an extraordinarily, difficult combination to achieve.
A professional dreamer is simultaneously the most organized of all artists and the most
A subtle weaver of speculation, not straightforward and clumsy like you or I.
Or these certain seven sleepers.
Of them all, Ripley came closest to possessing that special potential.
She had a little ingrained dream talent and more flexibility of imagination than her companions.
But she lacked real inspiration and the powerful maturity of thought characteristic of the
She was very good at organizing stores and cargo, at pigeonholing carton A in storage
chamber B or matching up manifests.
It was in the warehouse of the mind that her filing system went awry.
Hopes and fears, speculations and half creations slipped haphazardly from compartment to compartment.
Warrant officer Ripley needed more self-control.
The raw, rococo thoughts lay waiting to be tapped, just below the surface of realization.
A little more effort, a greater intensity of self-recognition and she would have made
a pretty good prodreamer.
Or so she occasionally thought.
Captain Dallas now, he appeared lazy while being the best organized of all.
Nor was he lacking in imagination.
His beard was proof of that.
Nobody took a beard into the freezers.
Nobody except Dallas.
It was a part of his personality, he’d explained to more than one curious shipmate.
He’d no more part with the antique facial fuzz than he would with any other part of
Captain of two ships Dallas was: the interstellar tug Nostromo, and his body.
Both would remain intact in dreaming as well as when awake.
So he had the regulatory capability, and a modicum of imagination.
But a professional dreamer requires a deal more than a modicum of the last, and that’s
a deficiency that can’t be compensated for by a disproportionate quantity of the first.
Dallas was no more realistic prodreamer material than Ripley.
Kane was less controlled in thought and action than was dallas, and possessed far less imagination.
He was a good executive officer.
Never would he be a captain.
That requires a certain drive coupled with the ability to command others, neither of
which Kane had been blessed with.
His dreams were translucent, formless shadows compared to those of Dallas, just as Kane
was a thinner, less vibrant echo of the captain.
That did not make him less likable.
But prodreaming requires a certain extra energy, and Kane had barely enough for day-to-day
Parker’s dreams were not offensive, but they were less pastoral than Kane’s.
There was little imagination in them at all.
They were too specialized, and dealt only rarely with human things.
One could expect nothing else from a ship’s engineer.
Direct they were, and occasionally ugly.
In wakefulness this deeply buried offal rarely showed itself, when the engineer became irritated
Most of the ooze and contempt fermenting at the bottom of his soul’s cistern were kept
His shipmates never saw beyond the distilled Parker floating on top, never had a glimpse
of what was bubbling and brewing deep inside.
Lambert was more the inspiration of dreamers than dreamer herself.
In hypersleep her restless musings were filled with intersystem plottings and load factors
canceled out by fuel considerations.
Occasionally imagination entered into such dream structures, but never in a fashion fit
to stir the blood of others.
Parker and Brett often imagined their own systems interplotting with hers.
They considered the question of load factors and spatial juxtapositions in a manner that
would have infuriated Lambert had she been aware of them.
Such unauthorized musings they kept to themselves, securely locked in daydreams and nightdreams,
lest they make her mad.
It would not do to upset Lambert.
As the Nostromo’s navigator she was the one primarily responsible for seeing them
safely home, and that was the most exciting and desirable cojoining any man could imagine.
Brett was only listed as an engineering technician.
That was a fancy way of saying he was just as smart and knowledgeable as Parker but lacked
The two men formed an odd pair, unequal and utterly different to outsiders.
Yet they coexisted and functioned together smoothly.
In large part their success as both friends and coworkers was due to Brett never intruding
on Parker’s mental ground.
The tech was as solemn and phlegmatic in outlook and speech as Parker was voluble and volatile.
Parker could rant for hours over the failure of a microchip circuit, damning its ancestry
back to the soil from which its rare earth constituents were first mined.
Brett would patiently comment, “right.”
For Brett, that single word was much more than a mere statement of opinion.
It was an affirmation of self.
For him, silence was the cleanest form of communication.
In loquaciousness lay insanity.
And then there was Ash.
Ash was the science officer, but that wasn’t what made his dreams so funny.
Funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha.
His dreams were the most professionally organized of all the crew’s.
Of them all, his came nearest to matching his awakened self.
Ash’s dreams held absolutely no delusions.
That wasn’t surprising if you really knew Ash.
None of his six crewmates did, though.
Ash knew himself well.
If asked, he could have told you why he could never become a prodreamer.
None ever thought to ask, despite the fact that the science officer clearly found pro
dreaming more fascinating than any of them.
Oh, and there was the cat.
Name of Jones.
A very ordinary housecat, or, in this instance, shipcat.
Jones was a large yellow tom of uncertain parentage and independent mien, long accustomed
to the vagaries of ship travel and the idiosyncrasies of humans who travelled through space.
It too slept the cold sleep, and dreamt simple dreams of warm, dark places and gravity-bound
Of all the dreamers on board he was the only contented one, though he could not be called
It was a shame none of them were qualified as pro dreamers, since each had more time
to dream in the course of their work than any dozen professionals, despite the slowing
of their dream pace by the cold sleep.
Necessity made dreaming their principal avocation.
A deep-space crew can’t do anything in the freezers but sleep and dream.
They might remain forever amateurs, but they had long ago become very competent ones.
Seven of them there were.
Seven quiet dreamers in search of a nightmare.
While it possessed a consciousness of a sort, the Nostromo did not dream.
It did not need to, anymore than it needed the preserving effect of the freezers.
If it did dream, such musings must have been brief and fleeting, since it never slept.
It worked, and maintained, and made certain its hibernating human complement stayed always
a step ahead of ever ready death, which followed the cold sleep like a vast grey shark behind
a ship at sea.
It started with the ship.
The ship...and the silence.
Then...The Silence ended.
The Nostromo's sensors had fastened onto an electromagnetic anomaly.
One portion of the Nostromo’s brain was particularly adept at distilling sense out
It had thoroughly chewed this one up, found the flavor puzzling, examined the results
of analysis, and reached a decision.
Slumbering instrumentalities were activated, dormant circuits again regulated the flow
In celebration of this decision, banks of brilliant lights winked on, life signs of
stirring mechanical breath.
Within this awakening bottle of clicks and flashes, of devices conversing with each other,
lay a special room.
Within this room of white metal lay seven cocoons of snow-coloured metal and plastic.
Ending WITH the silence, a long, cold sleep.
Stiffly, sullenly, they entered, ignoring the executive officer Kane, for the the coffee
Just once I'd like to come out feeling good...instead of half-dead.
Rise and shine, everyone."
Two female, five male.
Gradually beginning to feel HUMAN again.
Dallas was doing side twists, elbows parallel to the floor, hands together in front of his
He fancied he could hear his long-unused muscles squeak.
The flashing yellow light, eloquent as any voice, monopolized his thoughts.
That devilish little sunhued cyclops was the ship’s way of telling them they’d been
awakened for something other than the end of their journey.
He was already wondering why.
Theyat and discussed many topics, Brett reminding Parker to bring up the bonus situation as
soon as possible.
“Everybody gets more than us,” “Everybody else deserves more than you two.
Complain to the Company disburser if you want.
.” “Complain to the Company.”
Parker muttered unhappily.
“Might as well try complaining directly to God.”
Dallas started for the central computer room, called back over a shoulder.
“One of you jokers get the cat.”
It was Ripley who lifted a limp yellowish form from one of the freezers.
She wore a hurt expression.
“You needn’t be so indifferent about it.”
She stroked the soaked animal affectionately.
“It’s not a piece of equipment.
Jones is a member of the crew as much as any of us.”
“More than some.”
Dallas was watching Parker and Brett.
“He doesn’t fill my few on-board waking hours with complaints about salary or bonuses.”
“Mother wants to talk to you.”
Ash whispered, nodding in the direction of the yellow light flashing steadily on the
suspended console nearby.
“I saw it right off.
Security one, not warning.
Don’t tell the others.
If anything’s seriously wrong, they’ll find out soon enough.”
He slipped into an impressed brown jacket, left it hanging open.
“It can’t be too bad, whatever it is.”
Ash sounded hopeful, gestured again at the steadily winking light.
“It’s only yellow, not red.”
The yellow light...Captain's eyes only.
The information from Mother is soon relayed to the crew by Captain Dallas.
They were not home.
Only halfway there.
“You’ll all be happy to learn that the emergency we’ve been awakened to deal with
does not involve the Nostromo.," Dallas informed his crew.
" Mother says we’re in perfect shape.”
“The emergency lies elsewhere - specifically, in the unlisted system we’ve recently entered.
We should be closing on the particular planet concerned right now.
We’ve picked up a transmission from another source.
It’s garbled and apparently took Mother some time to puzzle out, but it’s definitely
a distress signal.”
“Whoa, that doesn’t make sense.”
Lambert looked puzzled herself.
“Of all standard transmissions, emergency calls are the most straightforward and the
Why would Mother have the slightest trouble interpreting one?”
“Mother speculates that this is anything but a “standard’ transmission.
It’s an acoustic beacon signal, which repeats at intervals of twelve seconds.
That much isn’t unusual.
However, she believes the signal is not of human origin.”
That provoked some startled muttering.
When the first excitement had faded, he explained further, “Mother’s not positive.
That’s what I don’t understand.
I’ve never seen a computer show confusion before.
Ignorance yes, but not confusion.
This may be a first.”
“What is important is that she’s certain enough it’s a distress signal to pull us
out of hypersleep.”
- There was an illuminated cartographic table
on the bridge.
Dallas, Kane, Ripley, and Ash stood at opposite points of its compass, while Lambert sat at
“There it is.”
Dallas fingered a glowing point on the table.
He looked around the table.
“Something I want everyone to hear.”
They resumed their seats as he nodded to Lambert.
Her fingers were poised over a particular switch.
“Okay, let’s hear it.
Watch the volume.”
The navigator flipped the switch.
Static and hissing sounds filled the bridge.
These cleared suddenly, were replaced by a sound that sent shivers up Kane’s back and
unholy crawling things down Ripley’s.
It lasted for twelve seconds, then was replaced by the static.
Kane’s expression was drawn.
Lambert switched off the speakers.
“What the hell is it?”
Ripley looked as though she’d just seen something dead on her lunch plate.
“It doesn’t sound like any distress signal I ever heard.”
“That’s what Mother calls it,” Dallas told them.
“Calling it “alien” turns out to have been something of an understatement.”
“Maybe it’s a voice.”
Lambert paused, considered her just-uttered words, found the implications they raised
unpleasant, and tried to pretend she hadn’t said them.
“We’ll know soon.
Have you homed in on it?”
“I’ve found the section of planet.”
Lambert turned gratefully to her console, relieved to be able to deal with mathematics
instead of disquieting thoughts.
“We’re close enough.”
“Mother wouldn’t have pulled us out of hypersleep unless we were,” Ripley murmured.
“It’s coming from ascension six minutes, twenty seconds; declination minus thirty-nine
degrees, two seconds.”
“Show me the whole thing on a screen.”
The navigator hit a succession of buttons.
One of the bridge viewscreens flickered, gifted them with a bright dot.
“That’s it, all right.
Just a planetoid, really.
Maybe twelve hundred kilometres, no more.”
“Bout two hours, working off the initial figures.
Tell you better in ten minutes.”
“That’s good enough for now.
What’s the gravity?”
Lambert studied different readouts.
“Point eight six.
Must be pretty dense stuff.”
“Don’t tell Parker and Brett,” said Ripley.
“They’ll be thinking it’s solid heavy metal and wander off somewhere prospecting
before we can check out our unknown broadcaster.”
Ash’s observation was more prosaic.
“You can walk on it.”
They settled down to working out orbiting procedure…
The Nostromo edged close to the tiny world, trailing its vast cargo of tanks and refinery
---- The Nostromo's landing on LV-426 was rough,
to say the least, sustaining damage that required quite some to repair, while the expedition
to find the source of signal was underway.
Dallas, Kane, and Lambert, equipped their EVA suits and ventured into the unknown.
With Dallas leading, more from habit than formal procedure, they made their careful
way onto the surface itself.
The lava was hard and unyielding under their suit boots.
Gale-force winds buffeted them as they surveyed the windswept landscape.
At the moment they could see nothing save what ran off beneath their boots into the
As the hidden sun continued to rise, the bloody red colour of the atmosphere began to lighten.
It was now a musty, dirty yellow instead of the familiar bright sunshine of Earth, but
it was a vast improvement over what had been.
They’d been climbing for some time.
The terrain continued hilly, but except for isolated pillars of basalt it was still composed
of lava flows.
There were few sharp projections, most having been ground down to gentle curves and wrinkles
by untold aeons of steady wind and driven dust.
Kane was in the lead, slightly ahead of Lambert.
Any minute now he expected her to announce they’d regained the signal.
He topped a slight rise, glanced ahead expecting to see more of what they’d encountered thus
far: smooth rock leading upward to another short climb.
Instead, his eyes caught something quite different, different enough to make them go wide behind
the dirty, transparent face of the helmet, different enough to make him shout over the
Lambert pulled up alongside him, followed by Dallas.
Both were as shocked by the unexpected sight as Kane had been.
They’d assumed the distress signal was being generated by machinery of some sort, but no
pictures of the transmitter source had formed in their minds.
They’d been too occupied with the storm and the simple necessity of staying together.
Confronted now with a real source, one considerably more impressive than any of them had dared
consider, their scientific detachment had temporarily vanished.
It was a ship.
Relatively intact it was, and more alien than any of them had imagined possible.
Dallas would not have labelled it gruesome, but it was disturbing in a way hard technology
should not have been.
The lines of the massive derelict were clean but unnatural, imbuing the entire design with
an unsettling abnormality.
It towered above them and the surrounding rocks on which it lay.
From what they could see of it, they decided it had landed in the same manner as the Nostromo,
So startled were they by the unexpected sight that none of them gave a thought to what the
seemingly intact derelict might be worth in the form of bonuses or salvage.
All three were shouting at the same time into their helmet pickups.
“Some kind of ship, all right,” Kane kept repeating inanely, over and over.
“Ash, can you see this?”
Dallas remembered that the science officer could see clearly via their respective suit
video pickups, had probably noticed the wreck the moment Kane had topped the rise and given
his shocked cry.
“Yeah, I can see it.
Not clear, but enough to agree with Kane that it’s a ship.”
Ash’s voice sounded excited in their helmets.
At least it was as excited as the science officer ever sounded.
“Never seen anything like it.
Hang on a minute.”
They waited while Ash studied readouts, ran a couple of rapid queries through the ship’s
“Neither has Mother,” he reported.
“It’s a completely unknown type, doesn’t correlate with anything we’ve ever encountered
Is it as big as it looks from here?”
“Bigger,” Dallas told him.
“Massive construction, no small details visible as yet.
If it’s constructed to the same scale as our ships, the builders must’ve been a damn
sight bigger than us.”
Lambert let out a nervous giggle.
“We’ll find out, if there are any of them left on board to give us a welcome.”
Ripley, back on the Nostromo, had tried putting the alien transmission through ECIU for detailed
analysis Unexpectedly, a realignment of priorities
in her querying jogged something within the ship’s store of information.
The resultant readout appeared on the screen so abruptly she almost erased it and continued
with the next series before she realized she actually had received a sensible response.
The trouble with computers, she thought, was that they had no intuitive senses.
Only deductive ones.
You had to ask the right question.
She studied the readout avidly, frowned, punched for elaboration.
Sometimes Mother could be unintentionally evasive.
You had to know how to weed out the confusing subtleties.
This time, however, the readout was clear enough, left no room for misunderstanding.
She wished fervently that it had.
She jabbed at the intercom.
A voice answered promptly.
What is it, Ripley?”
“This is urgent, Ash.”
She spoke in short, anxious gasps.
“I finally got something out of the Bank, via ECIU.
It might have just come through, I don’t know.
That’s not what matters.”
“Never mind that,” she snapped worriedly.
“Mother has apparently deciphered part of the alien transmission.
She’s not positive about this, but from what I read I’m afraid that transmission
may not be an SOS.”
That quieted Ash, but only for an instant.
When he replied his voice was as controlled as ever, despite the import of Ripley’s
She marveled at his self-control.
“If it’s not a distress call, then what is it?” he asked quietly.
“And why the nervous tone?
You are nervous, aren’t you?”
“You bet your ass I’m nervous!
Worse than that, if Mother’s correct.
Like I said, she’s not positive.
But she thinks that signal may be a warning.”
“What kind of warning?”
“What difference does it make, “what kind of warning”!”
“There is no reason to shout.”
Ripley took a couple of short breaths, counted to five.
“We have to get through to them.
They’ve got to know about this right away.”
“I agree,” said Ash readily.
“But it’s no use.
Once they went inside the alien ship we lost them completely.
I’ve had no contact with them for some time now.
The combination of their proximity to the alien transmitter coupled with the peculiar
composition of the vessel’s hull has defeated every attempt of mine at re-establishing communication.
And believe me, I’ve tried!”
His next comment came off sounding like a challenge.
“You can try to raise them yourself, if you like.
I’ll help in any way I can.”
“Look, I’m not questioning your competence, Ash.
If you say we can’t contact them, we can’t contact them.
But damn it, we’ve got to let them know!”
“What do you suggest?”
She hesitated, then said firmly, “I’m going out after them.
I’ll tell them in person.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Is that an order, Ash?”
“No, it’s common sense.
Can you see that?
Use your head, Ripley,” he urged her.
“I know you don’t like me much, but try to view this rationally.”
“We simply can’t spare the personnel.
With you and me, plus Parker and Brett, we’ve got minimum take-off capability right now.
Three off, four on.
That’s the rules.
That’s why Dallas left us all on board.
If you go running after them, for whatever reason, we’re stuck here until someone comes
If they don’t come back, no one will know what’s happened here.”
He paused, added, “Besides, we’ve no reason to assume anything.
They’re probably fine.”
She admitted it grudgingly.
“I concede your point.
But this is a special situation.
I still think someone should go after them.”
She’d never heard Ash sigh and he didn’t do so now, but he gave her the impression
of a man resigned to handling a Hobson’s choice.
“What’s the point?”
He said it evenly, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.
“In the time it would take one of us to get there, they’ll know if it’s an operative
Am I wrong or am I right?”
Ripley didn’t reply, simply sat staring dully at Ash on the monitor.
The science officer gazed steadily back at her.
What she couldn’t see was the diagram on his console monitor.
She would have found it very interesting…
Kane and Lambert followed Kane down a short corridor.
They emerged into a high-ceiling room.
If there were controls, gauges, or any kind of instrumentation in this section of the
ship they were concealed behind grey walls.
Looking remarkably like the inside of a human rib cage, rounded metal ribbings braced floor,
roof, and walls.
Ghost light from outside danced on dust particles suspended in the nearly motionless air of
the eerie chamber.
Dallas eyed his executive officer.
“What do you think?”
Cargo chamber, maybe?
Or part of a complicated lock system?
Yeah, that’s it.
We just passed through a double door and this here is the real lock.”
“Mighty big for just an airlock.”
Lambert’s voice sounded subdued in their helmets.
If the inhabitants of this ship were to its scale what we are to the Nostromo, they’d
likely need a lock this size.
But I admit the cargo-hold idea makes more sense.
Might even explain the need for three entryways.”
He turned, saw Dallas leaning over a black hole in the floor.
“Hey, watch it, Dallas!
No telling what might be down there, or how deep it goes.”
“What is it?”
Lambert had walked over to stand alongside him, kept a careful distance from the abyss.
“Another cargo chamber?”
“No way of telling from here.
It just goes down.
Smooth walls as far as my light will reach.
No indication of handholds, an elevator, ladder, or any other means of descent.
I can’t see the bottom.
Light won’t reach.
Must be an access shaft of some kind.”
He turned off his light, moved a metre away from the hole, and began unclipping gear from
his belt and backpack.
He laid it out on the floor, rose, and glanced around the dimly illuminated, grey chamber.
“Whatever’s downstairs will wait.
Let’s have a look around here first.
I want to make sure there aren’t any surprises.
We might even find an easier way down.”
He flicked his light on once more, played it over nearby walls.
Despite their resemblance to a whale’s insides, they remained gratifyingly motionless.
“Spread out… but not too far.
Under no circumstances walk out of unlighted view of one another.
This shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes.”
Kane and Lambert activated their own lightbars.
Travelling in a line, they started to explore the vast room.
Fragments of some shattered grey material lay scattered about.
Much of it was buried beneath the tiny dust dunes and finely ground pumice that had invaded
Kane ignored the stuff.
They were hunting for something intact.
Dallas’s light fell unexpectedly on a shape that was not part of wall or floor.
Something complex and boldly mechanical.
Within the semi-organic confines of the alien ship its reassuringly functional appearance
was a great relief, though the design itself was utterly unfamiliar.
That was Kane.
“Not a thing.
I’ve found a mechanism.”
Lambert and Kane rushed to join him, their boots raising little puffs of animated dust.
They added their own lights to Dallas’s.
All seemed quiet and dead, though Dallas had the impression of patient power functioning
smoothly somewhere behind those strangely contoured panels.
Kane examined the mechanism, fascinated.
“Wonder what it does.”
“I can tell you that.”
They turned to Lambert.
She confirmed what Dallas had already guessed.
“It’s the transmitter.
Automatic distress call, just like we imagined it might be, though it’s likely been putting
out that signal for years.”
They retraced their steps, carefully positioned themselves close to the lip of the flush,
circular opening in the deck.
Dallas knelt, moving slowly in the suit, and felt as best he could of the shaft’s rim.
“Can’t tell much with these damned gloves on, but it feels regular.
The shaft must be a normal part of the ship.
I thought it might’ve been caused by an explosion.
That is a distress call we’re picking up.”
“Either way, it’s look down below, blow a hole in a wall, or go back outside and hunt
for another entrance.”
He looked across the shaft at Kane.
“This is your big chance.”
Lambert helped him secure the chest climbing unit, made certain the harness was firmly
affixed to his shoulders and back.
He touched the check stud, was rewarded by a faint beep over his helmet speaker.
A green light winked on, then off, on the front of the unit.
“Be out in less than ten minutes.”
He spoke in his best no-nonsense tone.
Kane activated the climbing unit.
The cable unwound smoothly, lowering him into the shaft.
He thrust out with his legs, contacted the smooth sides.
Leaning back and bracing his feet against the vertical wall, he was able to walk downward.
Kicking away from the wall and playing out cable, he started down in earnest.
After several minutes of rappelling his way down the shaft, he stopped to catch his breath.
It was warmer, and growing more so the farther he dropped.
The sudden changes put a burden on his suit’s cooling system and he began to sweat, though
the helmet’s own unit kept his faceplate clear.
His breathing sounded loud to him within the helmet and he worried because he knew Dallas
and Lambert could hear.
He didn’t want to be called back up.
Leaning back, he glanced upward and saw the mouth of the shaft, a round circle of light
set in a black frame.
A dark blot appeared, obscured one round edge.
Distant light glinted off something smooth and reflective.
“You okay down there?”
I can still see you.
Haven’t hit bottom yet.”
He sucked in a deep draught of air, then another, hyperventilating.
The tank regulator whined in protest.
“This is real work.
Can’t talk anymore now.”
He kicked off harder the next time, began taking
longer and longer hops, falling steadily faster in the darkness.
His lightbar continued to shine downward, continued to reveal nothing but the same monotonous,
unvarying night beneath him.
Out of breath again he paused in his descent to run a check of his suit instrumentation.
“Interesting,” he said into his pickup.
“I’m below ground level.”
“Read you,” replied Dallas.
Thinking of mine shafts, he asked, “Any change in your surroundings?
Still the same stuff walling the shaft?”
“Far as I can see.
How am I doing on line?”
A brief pause while Dallas checked the cable remaining on the spool.
Got over fifty metres left.
If the shaft runs deeper than that we’ll have to call this off until we can bring bigger
stuff from the ship.
I wouldn’t think it’d go that far down, though.”
“What makes you think so?”
Dallas sounded thoughtful.
“Would make the ship all out of proportion.”
“Proportion to what?
And to whose ideas of proportion?”
Dallas did not have a reply for that.
"I've got something to show you."
Hankerson guided Ripley toward the console monitor.
Footage only previously viewed by Ash, and, indeed, Ripley found it very interesting.
"As per the company," Hankerson explained, "all recordings were lost after you self-destructed
the Nostromo" Ripley studied images on screen.
She realized what she was seeing.
"That's from Kane's helmet cam, when we did our preliminary recon of the derelict ship..."
"All the corporate bullshit about no proof-- christ -- Earth's known the truth about the
creatures from the start..."
"Does that surprise you?"
I suppose it doesn't."
"The inboard suit recorders logged everything.
We have every piece of footage, every log, every status report - The Nostromo's android
dumped the data into the escape pod's computer long before you slagged him and blew up the
--- The captain had been reviewing Kane's feed
with great interest, all until the recordings were cut short when the parasite launched
itself onto the Executive Officer's face, though the logs filled in many gaps of information.
He referred to the incident statement regarding quarantine protocol deviation - submitted
by the ship's navigator.
"Kane was dead weight.
We had to haul him out of that hole and then carry him back to the ship with that thing
on his fce.
We knew he was still alive, but his suit had been breached.
We had no idea how long he was going to survive.
We didn't know anything except that he'd been attacked and the creature wasn't letting go.
We were exhausted, scared; we had to get help.
Dallas gave Ripley a direct order to open the airlock; he was the captain, it was his
call, and Ripley refused.
She disobeyed a direct order.
She said that with Dallas and Kane not on board, she was ranking officer.
It was easy for her to make that distinction.
She was safe on the ship; she wasn't running out of air on some godforsaken rock with Kane
dying in her arms.
If it hadn't been for Ash's decision to breach quarantine protocols, Kane might have died
He could still die, that thing won't let go of him, but his only chance is on board the
Ash made the right call, and I want be on the record saying so.
We could have all died."
DALLAS' FINAL LOG ENTRY, made before the...incident with Kane, also shed some light on the situation.
Successful re-dcok at refinery after separation of twenty hours, course it set and locked.
Resources necessary to land on lv426 and take off again were negligible, but, The Nostromo
sustained some slight damage.
Brett and Parker just finished the repairs: Not pretty, but it'll hold till we can get
her into dock- acorrding to parker, anyway.
I told him to file his report before we hit the sack.
The creature on Executive Officer Kane fell off, and he woke up.
Science Officer Ash says he's okay, there's nothing wrong him, which means a green light
to go to sleep.
I find myself in the difficult position of having to assess the actions of my crew in
a crisis situation.
Personally, I'm thankful that Ash didn't let us rot in a lock for 24 hours, but he let
an unkown variable into a controlled environment.
I'll go to bat for him - I disagreed with Warrent Officer Ripley's decision to keep
us out and still do - but Ash still might end up with a status change, no matter what
Ripley wasn't wrong, technically, she was lead officer on board and she was following
Still, things could have gone badly if she had her way.
Ash and Ripley got into again over the spider-creature.
She wanted to get rid of the thing, ash wanted to keep it.
I let Ash make the call, he's SO, but, ripley wouldn't let it go.
I respect her opinion, no question; shes got a level head and shes great at management,
but she doesn't know when to let things lie.
The whole thing is like a bad dream.
I just want to forget it and go home.
Lambert is heating up a big dinner, breaking out all the hoarded stuff.
We're going to eat and go to sleep.
Next time we wake up, this will all be someone else's headache.
"If only," Ripley thought.
Images continued to flicker on the monitor - images she had not seen, but, were somehow
Hankerson noticed the interest she seemed to be showing in the dead face that stared
back at them.
"We assume this...creature was incubating the alien spore when it died.
Command believes it was some sort of navigator or pilot--"
Ripley made sure to affirm just exactly how much interest she had in Command's beliefs.
"But it's dead.
Dead - just like Dallas, like Kane, and the rest of them.
I advise that if the site is in tact, if ANY of those things are still alive - nuke the
fucking site from orbit.
SEE: I know how this ends.
They all die."
Kane was the first.
After the facehugger fell off and died, Kane seemed fine, and in good enough spirits.
Lambert couldn’t believe it.
“Are you all right?”
He looks fine, she thought dazedly.
As though nothing had ever happened.
“You want anything?” asked Ripley, when he did not respond to Lambert’s query.
Dallas abruptly remembered what Kane, in his present state, reminded him of: a man just
coming out of amnesia.
The exec looked alert and fit, but puzzled for no particular reason, as though he were
still trying to organize his thoughts.
“Can I have some water?”
Ash moved quickly to a dispenser, drew a plastic cupful, and handed it to Kane.
The exec downed it in a single long swallow.
Dallas noted absently that muscular co-ordination seemed normal.
The hand-to-mouth drinking movements had been performed instinctively, without forethought.
While enormously gratifying, the situation was ridiculous.
There had to be something wrong with him.
“More,” was all Kane said, continuing to act like, a man in complete control of
Ripley found a large container, filled it brim full, and handed it to him.
He downed the contents like a man who’d just spent ten years wandering the deserts
of Piolin, then sagged back on the padded platform, panting.
“How do you feel?” asked Dallas.
What happened to me?”
“You don’t remember?”
Kane winced slightly, more from muscles cramping from disuse than anything else, and took a
“I don’t remember a thing.
I can barely remember my name.”
“Just for the record… and the medical report,” asked Ash professionally, “what
is your name?” “Kane.
“That’s all you remember?”
“For the moment.”
He let his gaze travel slowly over the assembly of anxious faces.
“I remember all of you, though I can’t put names to you yet.”
“You will,” Ash assured him confidently.
“You recall your own name and you remember faces.
That’s a good start.
Also a sign that your loss of memory isn’t absolute.”
“Do you hurt?”
Surprisingly, it was the stoic Parker who asked the first sensitive question.
Feel like somebody’s been beating me with a stick for about six years.”
He sat up on the pallet again, swung his legs over the side, and smiled.
“God, am I hungry.
How long was I out?”
Dallas continued to stare at the apparently unharmed man in disbelief.
“Couple of days.
You sure you don’t have any recollection of what happened to you?”
Not a thing.”
“What’s the last thing you remember?”
Ripley asked him.
“I don’t know.”
“You were with Dallas and me on a strange planet, exploring.
Do you remember what happened there.”
Kane’s forehead wrinkled as he tried to battle through the mists obscuring his memories.
Real remembrances remained tantalizingly out of reach, realisation a painful, incomplete
“Just some horrible dream about smothering.
Where are we now?
Still on the planet?” Ripley shook her head.
“No, I’m delighted to say.
We’re in hyperspace, on our way home.”
“Getting ready to go back in the freezers,” Brett added feelingly.
He was as anxious as the others to retire to the mindless protection of hypersleep.
Anxious for the nightmare that had forced itself on them to be put in suspension along
with their bodies.
Though looking at the revitalized Kane made it hard to reconcile their memories with the
image of the alien horror he’d brought aboard, the petrified creature was there for anyone
to inspect, motionless in its stasis tube.
“I’m all for that,” Kane said readily.
“Feel dizzy and tired enough to go into deep sleep without the freezers.”
He looked around the infirmary wildly.
“Right now, though, I’m starving.
I want some food before we go under.”
“I’m pretty hungry myself.”
Parker’s stomach growled indelicately.
“It’s tough enough coming out of hypersleep without your belly rumbling.
Better if you go under with a full stomach.
Makes it easier coming out.”
“I won’t argue that.”
Dallas felt some sort of celebration was in order.
In the absence of partying material, a final presleep feast would have to do.
“We could all use some food.
One meal before bed…”
Coffee and tea had been joined on the mess table by individual servings of food.
Everyone ate slowly, their enthusiasm coming from the fact they were a whole crew again
rather than from the bland offerings of the autochef.
Only Kane ate differently, wolfing down huge portions of the artificial meats and vegetables.
He’d already finished two normal helpings and was starting in on a third with no sign
of slowing down.
Kane looked up and waved a spoon at them, spoke with his mouth full.
“First thing I’m going to do when we get back is eat some decent food.
I’m sick of artificials.
I don’t care what the Company manuals say, it still tastes of recycling.
There’s a twang to artificials that no amount of spicing or seasoning can eliminate.”
“I’ve had worse than this,” Parker commented thoughtfully, “but I’ve had better, too.”
Lambert frowned at the engineer, a spoonful of steak-thatwasn’t suspended halfway between
plate and lips.
“For somebody who doesn’t like the stuff, you’re pounding it down like there’s no
“I mean, I like it,” Parker explained, shoveling down another spoonful.
Kane didn’t pause in his eating, but did throw Parker a look of suspicion, as though
he thought the engineer might not be entirely right in the head.
Parker tried not to sound defensive.
“So I like it.
It sort of grows on you.”
“It should,” Kane shot back.
“You know what this stuff is made out of.”
“I know what it’s made out of,” Parker replied.
It’s food now.
You’re hardly the one to talk, the way you’re gulping it down.”
“I’ve got an excuse.”
Kane stuffed another huge forkful in his mouth.
He glanced around the table.
“Anyone know if amnesia affects the appetite?”
Dallas picked at the remnants of his single serving.
“You had nothing in you but liquids all the time you were in the autodoc.
Sucrose, dextrose, and the like keep you alive but aren’t exactly satisfying.
No wonder you’re starving.”
Kane swallowed another double mouthful.
“It’s almost like… . like…
.” He broke off, grimaced, then looked confused and a little frightened.
Ripley leaned toward him.
“What is it… what’s wrong?
Something in the food?”
I don’t think so.
It tasted all right.
I don’t think…”
He stopped in midsentence again.
His expression was strained and he was grunting steadily.
“What’s the matter then?”
wondered a worried Lambert.
“I don’t know.”
He made another twisted face, looking like a fighter who’d just taken a solid punch
in the gut.
“I’m getting cramps… getting worse.”
Nervous faces watched the exec’s twist in pain and confusion.
Abruptly, he let out a loud, deep-toned groan and clutched at the edge of the table with
His knuckles paled and the tendons, stood out in his arms.
His whole body was trembling uncontrollably, as if he were freezing, though it was pleasantly
warm in the mess room.
“Breathe deeply, work at it,” Ash advised, when no one else offered any suggestions.
The deep breath turned into a scream.
“Oh, God, it hurts so bad.
He stood unsteadily, still shaking, hands digging into the table as if afraid to let
“What is it?”
Brett asked helplessly.
?” The look of agony that took over Kane’s
face at that moment cut off Brett’s questioning more effectively than any shout.
The exec tried to rise from the table, failed, and fell back.
He could no longer control his body.
His eyes bugged and he let out a lingering, nerve-chilling shriek.
It echoed around the mess, sparing none of the onlookers, refusing to fade.
Ripley murmured, as thoroughly paralyzed as Kane, though from different cause.
She was pointing at the slumping officer’s chest.
A red stain had appeared on Kane’s tunic.
It spread rapidly, became a broad, uneven bloody smear across his lower chest.
There followed the sound of fabric tearing, ugly and intimate in the cramped room.
His shirt split like the skin of a melon, peeled back on both sides as a small head
the size of a man’s fist punched outward.
It writhed and twisted like a snake’s.
The tiny skull was mostly all teeth, sharp and red-stained.
Its skin was a pale, sickly white, darkened now by a crimson slime.
It displayed no external organs, not even eyes.
A nauseating odour, fetid and rank, reached the nostrils of the crew.
There were screams from others besides Kane now, shouts of panic and terror as the crew
reflexively stumbled away from the table.
They were preceded in instinctive retreat by the cat.
Tail bottled, hair standing on end, it spat ferociously and cleared the table and the
room in two muscle-straining leaps.
Convulsively, the toothed skull lunged outward.
All of a sudden it seemed to fairly spurt from Kane’s torso.
The head and neck were attached to a thick, compact body covered in the same white flesh.
Clawed arms and legs propelled it outward with unexpected speed.
It landed messily among the dishes and food on the table, trailing pieces of Kane’s
Fluid and blood formed an unclean wake behind it.
It reminded Dallas of a butchered turkey with teeth protruding from the stump of a neck.
Before anyone could regain their senses and act, the alien had wriggled off the table
with the speed of a lizard and vanished down the open corridor.
Much heavy breathing but little movement filled the mess.
Kane remained slumped in his chair, his head thrown back, mouth agape.
Dallas was grateful for that.
It meant that neither he nor anyone else had to look at Kane’s open eyes.
There was a huge, ragged hole in the executive officer’s exploded chest.
Even from a distance Dallas could see how internal organs had been pushed aside without
being damaged, to provide a cavity large enough for the creature.
Dishes lay scattered on table and floor.
Much of the uneaten food was covered with a slick layer of blood.
“No, no, no, no…”
Lambert was repeating, over and over, staring blankly at the table.
“What was that?”
Brett murmured, gazing fixedly at Kane’s corpse.
“What the Christ was that?”
Parker felt sick, did not even think of taunting Ripley when she turned away from them all
“It was growing in him the whole time and he didn’t even know it.”
“It used him for an incubator,” Ash theorized softly.
“Like certain wasps do with spiders on Earth.
They paralyze the spider first, then lay their eggs on the body.
When the larvae hatch, they begin to feed on…”
“For God’s sake!” yelled Lambert, snapping out of her trance.
“Shut up, can’t you?”
Ash looked hurt.
“I was only…”
Then he caught a look from Dallas, nodded almost imperceptibly, and changed the subject.
“It’s self-evident what happened.”
“That dark stain on the medical monitors.”
Dallas didn’t feel too good himself.
He wondered if he looked as shaky as his companions.
“It wasn’t on the lens after all.
It was inside him.
Why didn’t the scanners tell us that?”
“There was no reason, no reason at all, to suspect anything like this,” Ash was
quick to point out.
“When we were monitoring him internally the stain was too small to take seriously.
And it looked like it was a lens defect.
In fact, it could have been a matching blot on the lens.”
“I don’t follow you.”
“It’s possible this stage of the creature generates a natural field capable of intercepting
and blocking the scanning radiation.
Unlike the first form, the “hand’ shape, which we were easily able to see into.
Other creatures have been known to produce similar fields.
It suggests biological requirements we can’t begin to guess at, or else a deliberately
produced defence evolved to meet requirements so advanced I prefer not to guess at it.”
“What it boils down to,” observed Ripley, wiping her mouth with an unstained napkin,
“is that we’ve got another alien.
Probably equally hostile and twice as dangerous.”
She glared challengingly at Ash, but this time the science officer couldn’t or wouldn’t
And it’s loose on the ship.”
Dallas moved unwillingly over to stand by Kane’s body.
The others slowly joined him.
The inspection was necessary, no matter how unpleasant they found it.
Eloquent glances passed from Parker to Lambert, Lambert to Ash, and around the little circle.
Outside, the universe, vast and threatening, pressed tight around the Nostromo, while the
thick, ripe smell of death filled the corridors leading into the crowded mess…
--- “Let’s get to the real problem,” Ripley
“How do we find it?
We can try a dozen ways of killing it, but only after we know where it is.
There’s no visual scan on B and C decks.
All the screens are out, remember?”
“So we’ll have to flush it out.”
Dallas was surprised how easy the terrifying but obvious choice was to make.
Once stated, he found himself resigned to it.
“Sounds reasonable,” admitted Ash.
“Easier said than done, however.
How do you suggest we proceed?”
Dallas saw them wishing he wouldn’t follow the inevitable to its end.
But it was the only way.
“No easy way is right.
There’s only one way we can be sure not to miss it and still maximize our air time.
We’ll have to hunt for it room by room, corridor by corridor.”
“Maybe we can rig up some kind of portable freezer,” Ripley suggested halfheartedly.
“Freeze each room and corridor from a dis…”
She broke off, seeing Dallas shaking his head sadly.
She looked away.
“Not that I’m all that scared, you understand.
Just trying to be practical.
Like Parker, I think it would be a good idea to try to avoid a direct confrontation.”
“Knock it off, Ripley.”
Dallas touched his chest with a thumb.
“I’m scared shitless.
We all are.
We haven’t got the time to screw around with making up something that complicated.
We fooled around too long by letting a machine try to help Kane.
Time we helped ourselves.
That’s what we’re doing on board this bigger machine in the first place, remember?
When the machines can’t handle a problem, it becomes our job.
Besides, I want the pleasure of watching the little monster explode when we blow it out
It was not exactly an inspirational speech.
Certainly nothing was farther from Dallas’s mind.
But it had a revivifying effect on the crew.
They found themselves able to look at each other again, instead of at walls or floor,
and there were mutters of determination.
The next was Brett.
He went off to look for Jonesy, who proved to be a hiderance in the search, and finding
his way into claw room, with the two creatures.
As he worked his way nearer he bent to clear a beam and had a glimpse of fur and whiskers:
“Here kitty… good to see you, you furry little bastard.”
He reached for the cat.
It hissed threateningly at him and backed farther into its corner.
“Come on, Jones.
Come to Brett.
No time to fool around now.”
Something not quite as thick as the beam the engineering tech had just passed under reached
It descended in utter silence and conveyed a feeling of tremendous power held in check.
Fingers spread, clutched, wrapped completely around the engineer’s throat and crossed
Brett shrieked, both hands going reflexively to his neck.
For all the effect his hands had on them, those gripping fingers might as well have
been welded together.
He went up in that hand, legs dancing in empty air.
Jones bolted beneath him.
The cat shot past Ripley and Parker, who’d just arrived.
They plunged unthinking into the equipment bay.
Soon they were standing where they’d seen Brett’s legs flailing moments before.
Staring up into blackness, they had a last brief glimpse of dangling feet and twisting
torso receding upward.
Above the helpless figure of the engineer was a faint outline, something man-shaped
but definitely not a man.
Something huge and malevolent.
Then both alien and engineer had vanished into the upper reaches of the Nostromo.
“Jesus,” Parker whispered.
Ripley looked blankly at her shock tube, considered it in relation to the hulking mass far above.
“It grew fast.
All the time we were hunting for something Jones” size, it had turned into that.
She suddenly grew aware of their restricted space, of the darkness and massive crates
pressing tight around them, of the numerous passages between crates and thick metal supports.
“What are we doing standing here?
It may come back.”
She hefted the toy-like tube, aware of how little effect it would be likely to have on
a creature that size.
They hurried from the bay.
Try as they would, the memory of that last fading scream stayed with them, glued to their
Parker had known Brett a long time, but that final shriek induced him to run as fast as
Dallas had volunteered to track the alien in the ventilation shafts.
There was less room in the shaft than he’d hoped.
How something of the size Parker and Ripley had described had squirmed through the tiny
crawlspace he couldn’t imagine.
Dallas hoped the shaft would continue to narrow.
Maybe the creature, in its haste to escape, would get itself wedged good and tight.
That would make things simpler.
“How is it?” a voice called from behind him.
“Not too good,” he informed Ash, his voice reverberating around him.
Dallas struggled into a crawling posture.
“It’s just big enough to be uncomfortable.”
He switched on his lightbar, fumbled anxiously for a moment before locating the throat mike
he’d slipped on.
The light showed dark, empty shaft ahead of him, Travelling in a straight metallic line
with a slight downward curve.
The incline would increase, he knew.
He had a full deck level to descend before emerging behind the creature outside the starboard
“Ripley, Parker, Lambert… are you receiving me?
I’m in the shaft now, preparing to descend.”
Below, Lambert addressed the wall “com.
“We read you.
I’ll try to pick you up as soon as you come within range of our tracker.”
Next to her, Parker hefted his flamethrower and glared at the grille covering the duct.
“Parker,” Dallas instructed the engineer, “if it tries to come out by you two, make
sure you drive it back in.
I’ll keep pushing it forward.”
“Ready by the lock,” Ripley reported.
“She’s standing open and waiting for company.”
“It’s on its way.”
Dallas started crawling, his eyes on the tunnel ahead, fingers on the controls of the incinerator.
The shaft here was less than a metre wide.
Metal rubbed insistently at his knees and he wished he’d donned an extra pair of overalls.
Too late for that now, he mused.
Everyone was ready and prepared.
He wasn’t going back.
“How you doing?” a voice sounded over his mike speaker.
“Okay, Ash,” he told the anxious science officer.
“Don’t worry about me.
Keep your eyes on that opening in case it’s slipped behind me somehow.”
He turned his first bend in the shaft, fighting to see in his head the exact layout of the
ship’s ventilating system.
The printed schematic back in the mess was fuzzy and indistinct in his memory.
The vents were hardly among the ship’s critical systems.
It was too late to wish that he’d taken more time to study them.
Several more tight turns showed in the shaft ahead of him.
He paused, breathing heavily, and raised the tip of the flamethrower.
There was nothing to indicate that anything lay hiding behind those bends, but it was
better not to take chances.
The incinerator’s fuel level read almost full.
It wouldn’t hurt to let the creature know what was following close behind it, maybe
drive it forward without having to face it.
A touch on the red button sent a gout of flame down the tunnel.
The roar was loud in the constricted shaft, and heat rushed back across his protesting
He started forward again, taking care to keep his ungloved hands off the now hot metal he
was crawling over.
A little heat even penetrated the tough fabric of his pants.
He didn’t feel it.
His senses were all concentrated forward, searching for movement and smell.
In the equipment area, Lambert thoughtfully regarded the tightly screened opening.
She reached back, threw a switch.
There was a hum and the metal grille slid out of sight, leaving a gaping hole in the
Sweat was seeping into his eyes, persistent as ants, and Dallas had to stop to wipe it
Salt burned, impairing his sight.
Ahead, the shaft turned steeply downward.
He’d been expecting the downturn about now, but the satisfaction of having his memory
confirmed gave him little pleasure.
Now he’d have to watch his speed and balance in addition to the shaft itself.
Crawling to the drop, he pointed the flamethrower downward and let loose another fiery discharge.
No screams, no aroma of seared flesh drifted back up to him.
The creature was still far ahead.
He wondered if it were crawling, perhaps angrily, perhaps fearfully, in search of the exit.
Or maybe it was waiting, turned to confront its persistent pursuer with inconceivable
methods of alien defence.
It was hot in the shaft, and he was growing tired.
There was another possibility, he mused.
What if the creature had somehow discovered another way to leave the shaft?
In that event he’d have made the tense, agonizing crawl for nothing.
There was still only one way to resolve all the questions.
He started down the steep slide head first, keeping the flamethrower balanced and pointing
It was Lambert who first noticed the movement of the tracker needle.
She had a nervous minute until some hasty figuring matched the reading with a known
“Beginning to get a reading on you,” she informed the distant Dallas.
He felt better, knowing that others knew exactly where he was.
“Stay on me.”
The shaft made another turn.
He didn’t recall there being quite so many twists and sharp bends, but he was positive
he was still in the main shaft.
He hadn’t passed a single side tunnel wide enough to admit anything larger than Jones.
Despite the alien’s demonstrated aptitude for squeezing into small spaces, Dallas didn’t
think it could shrink its bulk enough to fit into a secondary vent pipe only a dozen or
so centimetres across.
The present turn confronting him proved especially difficult to negotiate.
The long, inflexible barrel of the flamethrower didn’t make it any easier.
Panting, he lay there and considered how to proceed.
She jerked at the sharpness in his voice, spoke hurriedly into the “com pickup.
Reading you clearly.
You sound…” she caught herself.
How else should Dallas sound except nervous.”
“I’m okay,” he told her.
Out of shape.
Too many weeks in hypersleep, you lose your muscle tone no matter what the freezers do
He wriggled into a new position, gained a better view ahead.
“I don’t think this shaft goes much farther.
It’s getting hot in here.”
That was to be expected, he told himself.
“Continuing on now.
An onlooker could easily have read the relief in Dallas’s face when he finally emerged
from the cramped tunnel.
It opened into one of the Nostromo’s main air ducts, a two-tiered tunnel split by a
He crawled out of the shaft and stood on the railless walkway, stretched gratefully.
A careful inspection of the larger passage proved negative.
The only sound he heard was the patient throbbing of cooling machinery.
There was a repair junction partway down the walk and he strolled out to it, repeated his
As far as he could see, the huge chamber was empty.
Nothing could sneak up on him here, not while he was standing in the centre of the room.
It would be a good place to grab a couple of minutes of much needed rest.
He sat down on the catwalk, casually examining the level floor below the junction, and spoke
toward the throat mike.
“Lambert, what kind of reading are you getting?
I’m in one of the central mixing chambers, at the repair station in the centre.
Nothing here but me.”
The navigator glanced at her tracker, looked suddenly puzzled.
She glanced worriedly at Parker, thrust the device under his gaze.
“Can you make any sense out of this?”
Parker studied the needle and readout.
That’s not my toy, it’s Ash’s.
I’m not sure.”
She jiggled the tracker.
The reading remained as incomprehensible as before.
“There seems to be some kind of double signal.”
Are you getting two separate, distinct readings for me?”
Just one impossible one.”
“It may be interference,” he told her.
“The way the air’s shifting around in here, it could confuse the hell out of a jury-rigged
machine designed to read air density.
I’ll push on ahead.
It’ll probably clear up as soon as I move.”
Dallas had walked halfway to the end of the chamber.
Now he stopped.
“Is that better, Lambert?
Am I registering any clearer now?”
“It’s clear, all right.”
Her voice was strained.
“But I’m still getting a double signal, and I think they’re distinct.
I’m not sure which one is which.”
Dallas whirled, his eyes darting around the tunnel, canvassing ceiling, floor, walls,
and the large shaft opening he’d just emerged from.
Then he looked back down the catwalk to the repair junction, his gaze settling on the
spot where he’d been sitting just seconds ago.
He lowered the nose of the flamethrower.
If he was now the front signal, having moved down the catwalk, then the cause of the double
signal ought be--
The alien was the front signal.
"The monsters, they're just animals.
But this creature -" Hankerson tapped the screen, displaying the fossilized pilot - "This
creature represents sentient life...capable of navigation, construction..."
"Those animals * Put your sentient life out of business, Captain -- the same way they
destroyed the nostromo, your marines, and the colonists of Acheron.
I managed to pull a partial translation of that alien signal before everything went to
It was no distress signal.
It was a warning."
"We are aware of the interpetation filter - which deciphered part of the alien transmission
- specifically what may have been the phrase "DO NOT" twice repeated."
No new information had been relayed to Hankerson.
"We're also aware of the emergency command override," he glanced up at ripley. "used
by Warrant Officer E. Ripley, to access the details of Special order 937."
A half-nod from Ripley.
"I found your special directive for Ash.
It said that he was to procure an alien speciment at any cost.
We were expendable.
When he recognized I was a threat to the objective - to bring this thing back to Earth - he tried
to kill me.
IT tried to kill me."
“He’s been protecting the alien from the beginning.
I tried to tell you.”
She gestured at the corpse of the recently decaptiated and incapacitaed android, compliemnts
of Parker and Lambert.
It was hard to start thinking of fellow crew member Ash as just another piece of equipment.
“He let it on board, remember, against regulations.”
Her expression twisted as she remembered.
“He was using Kane’s life as an excuse, but he was never interested in Kane.
He let that thing grow inside him, knew what was happening all the time.
.” “But why?”
Lambert was struggling, still couldn’t put it all together.
“I’m only guessing, but the only reason I can come up with for putting a robot crew
member on board with the rest of us and not letting us know about it at the time is that
someone wanted a slave observer to report developments back to them.”
She glanced up at Lambert.
“Who assigns personnel to the ships, makes last-minute changes like trading science officers,
and would be the only entity capable of secretly slipping a robot on board?
For whatever purpose?”
Lambert no longer looked confused.
Ripley smiled humorlessly.
“The company’s drone probes must have picked up the transmission from the derelict.
The Nostromo happened to be the next Company vessel scheduled to pass through this spatial
They put Ash on board to monitor things for them and to make sure we followed something
Mother calls Special Order 937.”
“If the follow-up on the transmission turns out to be worthless, Ash can report that back
to them without us ever knowing what was going on.
If worthwhile, then the Company learns what it needs to know before it goes to the trouble
of sending out an expensively equipped exploration team.
Simple, matter of maximizing profit, minimizing loss.
Their profit, our loss.”
“Great,” Parker snorted.
“You got it all figured out so far.
Now tell me why we’ve got to put this sonofabitch back together.”
He spat at Ash’s body.
Ripley already had Ash’s head set up on a counter, was running a power line from a
wall outlet near the autochef back to the quiescent skull.
“We have to find out what else they might be holding back.
Parker nodded reluctantly.
He started forward.
“Here, let me do that.”
The engineer fooled with the wires and the connections located in the back of Ash’s
head, beneath the artificial hair.
When the science officer’s eyelids began to flicker, Parker grunted in satisfaction
and stepped clear.
Ripley leaned close.
“Ash, can you hear me?”
She looked back to Parker.
“The hookup’s clean.
Power level is self-adjusting.
Unless some critical circuits were interrupted when the head hit the deck, he ought to reply.
Memory cells and verbal-visual components are packed pretty tight in these sophisticated
I’d expect it to talk.”
She tried again.
“Can you hear me, Ash?”
A familiar voice, not distant at all, sounded in the mess.
“Yes, I can hear you.”
It was hard for her to address the disembodied head, for all that she knew it was only part
of a machine, like the shock tube or the tracker.
She’d served too many hours with Ash.
“What… what was Special Order 937?”
“That’s against regulations and my internal programming.
You know I can’t tell you.”
She stood back.
“Then there’s no point in talking.
Parker, pull the plug.”
The engineer reached for the wires and Ash reacted with sufficient speed to show that
his cognitive circuits were indeed intact.
“In essence, my orders were as follows.”
Parker’s hand hovered threateningly over the power line.
“I was directed to reroute the Nostromo or make sure that this crew rerouted it from
its assigned course so that it would pick up the signal, program Mother to bring you
out of hypersleep, and program her memory to feed you the story about the emergency
Company specialists already knew that the transmission was a warning and not a distress
Parker’s hands clenched into fists.
“At the source of the signal,” Ash continued, “we were to investigate a life form, almost
certainly hostile according to what the Company experts distilled from the transmission, and
bring it back for observation and Company evaluation of any potential commercial applications.
Using discretion, of course.”
“Of course,” agreed Ripley, mimicking the machine’s indifferent tone.
“That explains a lot about why we were chosen, beyond the expense of sending a valuable exploration
team in first.”
She looked coldly pleased at having traced the reasoning behind Ash’s words.
“Importation to any inhabited world, let alone Earth, of a dangerous alien life form
is strictly prohibited.
By making it look like we simple tug jockeys had accidentally stumbled onto it, the Company
had a way of seeing it arrive at Earth “unintentionally”.
While we maybe got ourselves thrown in jail, something would have to be done with the creature.
Naturally, Company specialists would magnanimously be standing ready to take this dangerous arrival
off the hands of the customs officers, with a few judicious bribes prepaid just to smooth
“And if we were lucky, the Company would bail us out and take proper care of us as
soon as the authorities determined we were honestly as stupid as we appeared.
Which we’ve been.”
Lambert wanted to know.
“Why didn’t you warn us?
Why couldn’t we have been told what we were getting ourselves into?”
“Because you might not have gone along,” Ash explained with cold logic.
“Company policy required your unknowing co-operation.
What Ripley said about your honest ignorance fooling customs was quite correct.”
“You and the damn Company,” Parker growled.
“What about our lives, man?”
Ash made the correction without anger.
“As to your lives, I’m afraid the Company considered them expendable.
It was the alien life form they were principally concerned with.
It was hoped you could contain it and survive to collect your shares, but that was, I must
admit, a secondary consideration.
It wasn’t personal on the Company’s part.
Just the luck of the draw.”
“How comforting,” sneered Ripley.
She thought a moment, said, “You’ve already told us that our purpose in being sent to
that world was to “investigate a life form, almost certainly hostile”.
And that Company experts knew all along the transmission was a warning and not a distress
“Yes,” Ash replied.
“It was much too late, according to what the translators determined, for a distress
signal to do the senders any good.
The signal itself was frighteningly specific, very detailed.”
“The derelict spacecraft we found had landed on the planet, apparently in the course of
Like Kane, they encountered one or more of the alien spore pods.
The transmission did not say whether the explorers had time to determine if the spores originated
on that particular world or if they had migrated there from somewhere else.”
“Before they all were overcome, they managed to set up the warning, to keep the inhabitants
of other ships that might consider setting down on that world from suffering the same
Wherever they came from, they were a noble people.
Hopefully mankind will encounter them again, under more pleasant circumstances.”
“They were a better people than some I can think of,” Ripley said tightly.
“The alien that’s aboard: How do we kill it?”
“The explorers who crewed the derelict ship were larger and possibly more intelligent
I don’t think that you can kill it.
But I might be able to.
As I’m not organic in composition, the alien does not regard me as a potential danger.
Nor as a source of food.
I am considerably stronger than any of you.
I might be able to match the alien.”
“However, I am not exactly at my best at the moment.
If you would simply replace…”
“Nice try, Ash,” Ripley interrupted him, shaking her head from side to side, “but
You still don’t realize what you’re dealing with.
The alien is a perfectly organized organism.
Superbly structured, cunning, quintessentially violent.
With your limited capabilities you have no chance against it.”
Lambert stared dully at the head.
“You admire the damned thing.”
“How can you not admire the simple symmetry it presents?
An interspecies parasite, capable of preying on any life form that breathes, regardless
of the atmospheric composition involved.
One capable of lying dormant for indefinite periods under the most inhospitable conditions.
Its sole purpose to reproduce its own kind, a task it pursues with supreme efficiency.
There is nothing in mankind’s experience to compare with it.”
“The parasites men are used to combating are mosquitoes and minute arthropods and their
This creature is to them in savagery and efficiency as man is to the worm in intelligence.
You cannot even begin to imagine how to deal with it.”
“I’ve heard enough of this shit.”
Parker’s hand dropped toward the power line.
Ripley put up a restraining hand, stared at the head.
“You’re supposed to be part of our complement, Ash.
You’re our science officer as well as a Company tool.”
“You gave me intelligence.
With intellect comes the inevitability of choice.
I am loyal only to discovering the truth.
A scientific truth demands beauty, harmony, and, above all, simplicity.
The problem of you versus the alien will produce a simple and elegant solution.
Only one of you will survive.”
“I guess that puts us poor humans in our place, doesn’t it?
Tell me something, Ash.
The Company expected the Nostromo to arrive at Earth station with only you and the alien
alive all along, didn’t it?”
It was honestly hoped you would survive and contain the alien.
The Company officials simply had no idea how dangerous and efficient the alien was.”
“What do you think’s going to happen when the ship arrives, assuming we’re all dead
and the alien, instead of being properly restrained, has the run of the ship?”
“I cannot say.
There is a distinct possibility the alien will successfully infect the boarding party
and any others it comes in contact with before they realize the magnitude of the danger it
presents and can take steps to combat it.
By then it may be too late.”
Thousands of years of effort have not enabled man to eradicate other parasites.
He has never before encountered one this advanced.
Try to imagine several billion mosquitoes functioning in intelligent consort with one
Would mankind have a chance?”
“Of course, if I am present and functional when the Nostromo arrives, I can inform the
boarding party of what they may expect and how to proceed safely against it.
By destroying me, you risk loosing a terrible plague on mankind.”
There was silence in the mess, but not for long.
Parker spoke first.
“Mankind, in the person of the Company, doesn’t seem to give a damn about us.
We’ll take our chances against the alien.
At least we know where it stands.”
He glanced over at Ripley.
“No plague’s going to bother me if I’m not around to worry about it.
I say pull the plug.”
“I agree,” said Lambert.
Ripley moved around the table, started to disconnect the power cord.
“A last word,” Ash said quickly.
“A legacy, if you will.”
“Maybe it is truly intelligent.
Maybe you should try to communicate with it.”
“Please let my grave hold some secrets.”
Ripley pulled the wire from the socket.
She turned her attention from the silent head to her companions.
“When it comes to choosing between parasites, I’d rather take my chances with one that
Besides, if we can’t beat that thing we can die happy knowing that it’s likely to
get its hooks into a few Company experts…”
She was seated before the central computer console in the main annex when Parker and
Lambert rejoined her.
She spoke dejectedly.
“He was right about one thing, Ash was.
We haven’t got much of a chance.”
She indicated a flashing readout.
“We’ve got less than twelve hours of oxygen left.”
“Then it’s all over.”
Parker looked at the deck.
“Reconnecting Ash would be a faster form of suicide.
Oh, I’m sure he’d try to take care of the alien, all right.
But he wouldn’t leave us alive.
That’s one Company order he couldn’t tell us.
Because having told us everything else, he couldn’t leave us around to tell the port
authorities what the Company’s been up to.”
“Ash was a loyal Company machine.”
“I don’t know about the rest of you,” said the unsmiling Lambert, “but I think
I prefer a painless, peaceful death to any of the alternatives on offer.”
“We’re not there yet.”
Lambert held up a small card of capsules.
Ripley recognized the suicide pills by their red colour and the miniature skull and crossbones
imprinted on each.
Ripley swung around in the chair.
“I’m saying we’re not.
You let Ash convince you.
He said he was the only one with a chance to handle the alien, but he’s the one lying
in the mess disconnected, not us.”
“We’ve got another choice.
I think we should blow up the ship.”
“That’s your alternative?”
Lambert spoke softly.
“I’ll stick with chemicals if you don’t mind.”
Remember what you proposed before, Lambert?
We leave in the shuttle and then let the ship blow.
Take the remaining air in portable tanks.
The shuttle’s got its own air supply.
With the extra, there’s a chance we might make it back to well-travelled space and get
ourselves picked up.
We may be breathing our own waste by that time, but it’s a chance.
And it’ll take care of the alien.”
They went quiet, thinking.
Parker looked up at Ripley, nodded.
“I like that better than chemicals.
Besides, I’ll enjoy watching some Company property go up in pieces.”
He turned to leave.
“We’ll get started bleeding the air into bottles.”
The engineer supervised the transfer of compressed air from the Nostromo’s main tanks into
smaller, portable canisters they could lug onto the shuttle.
Ripley asked when Parker leaned tiredly back against the hatchjamb.
“Everything we can carry.”
He gestured at the ranked canisters.
“It may not look like much, but that stuffs really under pressure.
Enough extra air to give us some breathing space.”
Let’s get some bulk artificial food, set the engines, and get the hell out of here.”
She stopped at a sudden thought.
Parker clearly wasn’t interested in the whereabouts of the ship’s cat.
“Last I saw of him he was slinking around the mess, sniffing at Ash’s body,” said
We don’t want to leave him.
We still have enough humanity in us for that.”
Lambert eyed her companion warily.
“No deal, I don’t want to go anywhere on this ship by myself.”
“Always disliked that damn uppity cat,” Parker grumbled.
“Never mind,” Ripley told them.
You two load up the air and food.”
“Fair enough,” Lambert agreed.
She and Parker loaded up oxygen canisters, headed for the shuttle.
Ripley jogged toward the mess.
She didn’t have to hunt long for the cat.
After searching the mess and making certain she didn’t touch Ash’s decapitated form,
she headed for the bridge.
She found Jones immediately.
He was lying on Dallas’s console, preening himself and looking bored.
She smiled at him.
“Jones, you’re in luck.”
Apparently the cat disagreed.
When she reached for him he jumped lithely off the console and walked away, licking himself.
She bent, followed him, coaxing with hands and voice.
“Come on, Jones.
Don’t play hard to get.
The others won’t wait for you.”
“How much do you think we’ll need?”
Lambert stopped stacking boxes, looked over at Parker, and wiped a hair from her face.
“All we can carry.
We don’t want to make two trips.”
She turned to rearrange her assembled stack.
A voice sounded over the open communicator.
“Goddamn it, Jones, come here.
Here kitty… come to mama, kitty.”
Ripley’s tone was gentle and reassuring, but Lambert could detect the exasperation
Parker staggered out of Food Locker 2, hidden behind a double armload of food.
Lambert continued to sort her boxes, occasionally trading one for another.
The thought of eating raw, unpreprocessed artificial food was daunting at best.
There was no autochef on the tiny shuttle.
The raw bulk would keep them alive, but that was all.
She wanted the tastiest selection possible.
She didn’t notice the faint red light on the tracker lying nearby.
An indignant Jones resisted, but Ripley had him firmly by the nape of the neck.
Nor did bracing his feet keep him from being shoved unceremoniously into his pressurized
Ripley switched it on.
Breathe your own recycled smell for a while.”
The two flamethrowers were lying outside the food locker.
Parker knelt carefully and tried to pick up his.
He overbalanced and a fair portion of the neatly aligned boxes tumbled from his arms.
Lambert stopped her rearranging, tried to see around the locker doors.
“What’s the matter?”
I was trying to carry too much at once, that’s all.
Just hurry it up.”
Keep your head on.”
The red light on the tracker suddenly turned bright crimson, the beeper chirping simultaneously.
Parker dropped his packages, stared at it, and picked up his flamethrower.
He called back in to Lambert.
“Let’s get out of here.”
She’d heard the noise too.
Something made a different sound behind her.
She turned, screamed as The alien was still unfolding its bulk from the airshaft.
Ripley heard the shriek over the open ‘com speaker on the bridge and froze.
Parker looked back into the locker, went a little crazy when he saw what the alien was
Parker couldn’t use the flamethrower without hitting Lambert.
Swinging the incinerator like a club, he charged into the locker.
The alien swung at Parker.
He tried to duck, failed.
The single blow broke his neck, killing him instantly.
The alien turned its attention back to Lambert.
Ripley still hadn’t moved.
Faint shrieks reached her over the “com.
The screams were Lambert’s and they faded with merciful speed.
Then it was quiet again.
She spoke toward the pickup.
She waited for a response, expecting none.
Her expectations were fulfilled.
The import of the continuing silence took only a moment to settle in.
With the Nostromo's self destruct sequence in motion, Ripley, and Jones, prepared escape
to the Narcissus.
Putting down Jones’ box, she gripped the flamethrower in both hands and rushed the
It was empty.
She spun, charged back into the corridor, and grabbed at the catbox.
Nothing materialized to challenge her.
The engines will explode in sixty seconds,” said Mother calmly.
An unlucky Jones found himself dumped near the main console as Ripley threw herself into
the pilot’s seat.
There was no time to plot niceties like trajectory or angle of release.
She concentrated on hitting a single button that had one red word engraved beneath it.
Retainer bolts blew away with tiny, comical explosions.
There was a blast of secondary engines as the shuttle fell away from the Nostromo.
G-forces tore at Ripley as she fought to strap herself in.
The G-force would fade soon, the result of the shuttle leaving the Nostromo’s hyperdrive
field and slanting off on its own path through space.
She finished strapping herself down, then allowed herself to breathe deeply of the shuttle’s
Howling sounds penetrated her exhausted brain.
From her position she could just reach the catbox.
Her head bent over the container and tears squeezed from her smoke-reddened eyes as she
hugged it to her chest.
Her gaze rose to the rear-facing screen.
A small point of light silently turned into a majestic, expanding fireball sending out
tentacles of torn metal and shredded plastic.
It faded, was followed by a much larger fireball as the refinery went up.
Two billion tons of gas and vaporized machinery filled the cosmos, obscured her vision until
it, too, began to fade.
The shock struck the shuttlecraft soon after as the expanding superheated gas raced past.
When the craft had settled she unstrapped, walked to the back of the little cabin, and
looked out a rear port.
Her face was bathed in orange light as the last of the boiling fire globe vanished.
She finally turned away.
The Nostromo, her shipmates, all had ceased to exist.
They Were No More.
It hit her harder in that quiet, isolated moment than she’d thought it would.
It was the utter finality of it that was so difficult to accept, the knowledge that they
no longer existed as components, however insignificant, of a greater universe.
Not even as corpses.
They simply had become not.
She did not see the massive hand reaching out for her from the concealment of deep shadow.
But Jones did.
Ripley spun, found herself facing the creature.
It had been in the shuttle all the time.
Her first thought was for the flamethrower.
It lay on the deck next to the crouching alien.
She hunted wildly for a place to retreat to.
There was a small locker nearby.
Its door had popped open from the shock of the expanding gas.
She started to edge toward it.
The creature started to rise as soon as she began to move.
She leaped for the locker and threw herself inside, one hand diving for the handle.
As she fell in, her weight pulled the door shut behind her with a slam.
----record--- The locker was not airtight.
A distinctive moaning reached her from outside.
Distracted, the alien left the port to inspect the source of the strange noise.
It bent, lifted the sealed catbox, causing Jones to howl more loudly.
Ripley began a frantic search of the confined chamber.
There was little inside except the single pressure suit.
Working rapidly despite her inability to keep her hands from trembling, she slipped into
Pulling on the helmet, Ripley latched it tight.
There was no one around to double-check for her.
If the seals were improperly set she’d find out soon enough.
A touch activated the respirator and the suit filled with bottled life.
She struggled to make a last search of the locker.
There was nothing like a laser, which she couldn’t have used in any case.
But a harpoon gun, with a long metal rod revealed a sharp tip when its protective rubber end
It wasn’t much of a weapon, but it gave her a little confidence, which was more important
Taking a deep breath, she slowly unlatched the door, then kicked it open.
Ripley fell back, grabbed a strut support while her other hand flailed at and contacted
an emergency release.
That blew the rear hatch.
Instantly, all the air in the shuttle and anything not secured by bolt or strap or arm
was sucked out into space.
The alien shot past her.
There was a lever next to the emergency release and she threw it over.
The alien caught the steel shaft of the harpoon through its midsection.
The hatch slammed shut, closing her in, leaving the alien outside.
Stumbling forward, she scanned the console, found the switches that activated the secondary
She pressed several of the buttons.
Near the stern of the shuttle, colourless energy belched outward.
Incinerated, the alien fell away from the ship.
She watched nervously as it continued to bubble, but there had been little bleeding.
It finally topped.
She punched the small computer keyboard, waited dumbly for the readout.
She let out a yell, then moved back to peer out the rear port.
A writhing, smoking shape was tumbling slowly away from the ship.
Bits and pieces of charred flesh fell from it.
Then the incredibly tough organism finally succumbed to the laws of differential pressure
and the alien exploded, swelling up and then bursting, sending particles of itself in all
Harmless now, the smouldering fragments dwindled from sight.
It couldn’t be said she was cheerful.
There were lines in her face and a violated place in her brain that mitigated any such
But she was composed enough to relax her body and lean back in the pilot’s seat.
A touch on several buttons repressurized the cabin.
She opened the catbox.
With that wonderful facility common to all cats, the tom had already forgotten the attack.
It curled up in her lap as she sat down again, a tawny curlicue of contentment, and started
She stroked it as she dictated into the ship’s recorder.
“I should reach the frontier in another four months or so.
With a little luck the beacon network will pick up my SOS and put out the word.
I’ll have a statement ready to recite to the media, and will secure a duplicate copy
of it in this log, including a few comments of some interest to the authorities concerning
certain policies of the Company.”
“This is Ripley,, warrantofficer, last survivor of the commercial starship Nostromo, signing
She thumbed the stop.
It was quiet in the cabin, the first quiet of many days.
She thought it barely possible she might rest now.
She could only hope not to dream.
A hand caressed orange-yellow fur.
“Come on, cat…
Let’s go to sleep…”
It ended as it began: The ship, and the silence...
Ripley, accepting that she would not have the luxury of returning to sleep, to dreaming,
to awakening and seeing Newt's rested face, and prepared for Hankerson's mission.
She and a new team of marines made way back to where it all started, to LV-426, where
once more the silence had ended, extinguished by a new beacon, and perhaps the key to humanity's
In this series, I'm recounting the Earth War, as depicted in the Aliens comics series.
The accounts are explored as originally published, despite certain names, locations, and other
events having been altered over time.
In this specific case, the Heavy Metal roots that date back almost as far as Alien itself
have been explored.
For more on the Earth War, you can check out the Accounts of the Earth War playlist on
the endscreen, and stay tuned for the latest videos.
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A very, very special thanks goes out to Weyland Yutani Executives EmYaruk, and Lady Anne,
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And until next time, this is Alien Theory, signing off.