Well, we're talking sex (and it's all between the ladies, so if
that sort of thing offends, you should head out now), prodigious
obscenities in places, and considerable amounts of violence. On
the positive side it should be noted that there's no sexual
violence to speak of, no kinky leather scenes (though some might
not consider that a plus), and hopefully nothing that will
depress you. Btw, Ripley, Call, Johner and Vriess, and
especially the alien don't belong to me, but what the hell, I
felt like borrowing them for awhile.
This story has quite a few illustrations (some of which can be
glimpsed in the title blocks), and those can be accessed from
within the story, or from a separate page. It's done it this way
to speed up downloading, and allow our readers a choice to view,
Always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
To view the
Illustrations, click the numbers in parentheses, throughout the
Click here to go to the Illustrations Page,
and see thumbnails.
| Ch. 2-3 | Ch.
4-5 | Ch. 6-7 | Ch. 8-9 | Ch.
10-11 | Ch. 12-Epilogue |
Into the Darkness
Ripley stared up at the cement and brick structure protecting the
exterior of the ventilation shaft. Parts of it were threatening to turn
to rubble, but it had held up better than the main structures, "It
looked smaller from up there," she murmured disgustedly. She
carried a small backpack of equipment -- a flashlight, a few tools, a
heavy knife, and a length of cable -- that she'd retrieved from the
toolbox in the flyer. She linked her fingers together and offered Call a
boost up. When the smaller woman was on top of the small structure,
Ripley jumped up, catching the top edge of the retaining wall and pulled
herself up. The roof was made of heavy steel grating, and as Ripley
peered down through it, she could see more layers of the grating. She
leaned over, pressing her ear against the cool steel "I can't hear
any fans," she whispered. "The turbines aren't running."
Call crouched down beside her. "That makes sense. When the Auriga
hit, it must have caused one hell of an earthquake…done a lot of
Ripley nodded slowly, then pulled back her hand, punching the grate.
The steel bent inward, but didn't give, and she struck again and again,
weakening it with every blow. Finally, she stabbed steel tipped nails
through the thinnest part, tearing the welded steel apart with
surprising ease. Muscles working with effort, she peeled it back until
she had a hole wide enough for a human body to pass through. Only five
feet down, another layer of grating covered the shaft, and she dropped
down to land lightly. A flashlight shined through the lapped steel strap
revealed the barely moving blades of a huge turbine, just the width of
the shaft, another ten feet down. (1)
Call landed next to her, and Ripley handed her the flashlight as she
proceeded to tear through the grate with cold efficiency. When the hole
was large enough, she dropped through, hanging by her fingertips for a
brief moment before dropping to land lightly on the support frame for
the huge fan. A hard yank pulled a fan blade loose, then she used it to
jam the turbine in place. A moment later, she clipped the lightweight
cable to a cross brace, then dropped the end over the edge. "Stay
here until I call for you," she whispered, then slid down into
blackness. The thin cable was perhaps two hundred feet long, and she
found herself wondering what to do if it ran out before her feet hit
something solid. She wasn't certain she could get enough purchase to
pull herself back up the length of spindly wire.
By the time her feet hit another layer of steel grating, the entrance
overhead was little more than a pinprick of light. The makeshift floor
beneath her feet was uneven, torqued out of proper position, while the
surrounding walls looked to be crumbling in. Still, it didn't appear
ready to give way. "Come on down," she called up, then watched
silently as Call slid down the cable, her slight figure drawing nearer.
Ripley caught her around the waist, steadying her as she dropped the
last couple of feet.
"It should turn and go horizontally at some point," Call
told her as she released her grip on the cable.
Powerful muscles bunched as Ripley gave the cable a hard yank. The
support it was attached to gave under the pressure, and the wire came
spilling down. Ripley coiled it quickly, then got ready to start over
They made their way lower, drifting into the darkness until the only
reality was whatever they could see under the immediate gloss of the
flashlight beam. Finally, Ripley dropped from the last grating to land
on crumbly cement. The shaft turned sharply, angling downward just a few
degrees off horizontal, and narrowed, forcing her to hunch over to keep
from bumping her head. Call dropped down beside her, glancing back the
way they'd come. "At least we know this isn't the way they
came in," she murmured.
Uncertain whether or not that should be considered good news, Ripley
shrugged but didn't argue. She simply dropped to a crouch, listening.
Call started to speak, but Ripley hushed her, focusing inward as she
hunted for a sense of the creatures moving through the base. She pushed
stray hair back from her face. "They're here … deep …
Call dropped to one knee beside her, running a soothing hand up and
down Ripley's back. "Do they know we're here?"
A slow shake of the head was her only answer. "I don't
know," Ripley admitted at last. "But I don't think so …
tearing those androids apart didn't help." Her chin came up, face
pale under the harsh, directional light of the flashlight beam. "I
think the soldiers in the base must have fought back … but that's not
… what's wrong…" she muttered haltingly, then trailed off into
thoughtful silence. Suddenly she rose, her movements fluid. "Let's
go," she said distantly.
Debris slowed them in several spots, the damage more significant as
they drew nearer to the main part of the base. More barricades blocked
their way, but Ripley tore those out with dismaying ease. Finally, they
came up against the intake for an air purification plant. The fans were
moving very slowly and lights glowed dimly through them.
"They must have been on emergency power," Call murmured.
"Looks like the batteries are running down." Ripley tore
the protective grating off, then used a heavy wrench from her pack to
jam the slowly spinning fan in place. A hefty yank tore a blade free.
Together, they climbed through the purification system, tearing out
anything that got in the way until they finally came out into a large
maintenance room. The emergency lights they'd seen from the other side
of the intake vent glowed dully on the walls, but there was no sign of
life. Ripley ran her flashlight over the room, hunting for anything that
could be used as a weapon, but there was nothing.
"We should be in the upper levels," Call explained.
"According to the plans McCay uploaded, there should be light arms
storage near here."
Her thoughts elsewhere, Ripley offered only the faintest of nods. She
tried to envision what she'd seen through the queen's eyes, but the
memories were so fleeting, the thoughts so alien, that it was hard to
decipher their meaning, even for her. "Lead the way," she
whispered at last.
They stepped into an eerily quiet hallway. A few emergency lights
still glowed in the distance, but didn't add much in the way of useful
"That way," Call whispered and gestured ahead, leading the
way on light feet.
Ripley's stride was more confident. She carefully studied their
surroundings, noting that someone had made an attempt to clean up the
worst of rubble where the roof or walls had partially caved in.
"They had time to start getting things back in shape before it went
"The weapons locker should be just a little further," Call
said, keeping her voice as low as possible. Even then, it seemed
painfully loud to her ears.
A few minutes later, they pulled up short as Ripley's light played
over the scene before them. "I'd say we've found it," she
observed as her light revealed a plate steel door, twisted and torn
partially off its hinges, while the floor was pockmarked with acid edged
holes. A man's body, bloody and torn, lay sprawled in the doorway,
weapon still clutched in his lifeless hand. Ripley knelt, prying the gun
free of his death grip. She lifted the rifle and sniffed once.
"It's been fired." A quick check revealed an empty magazine.
"I was afraid of this," she sighed as she set it aside and
rose, stepping carefully over the body and into the small room. Her
light revealed the formfitting storage lockers that normally housed the
soldiers' standard artillery hanging open and empty. Bodies were strewn
about in haphazard fashion, their wounds gaping and brutal. They hadn't
"Is there any ammunition?" Call whispered and started
checking, only to come up empty.
Ripley shook her head. "They must have run out of ammo…the
fighting got personal, and they didn't have a prayer." She knelt
beside the body of a young trooper, reaching out silently to turn him
over. Sightless eyes stared upward. He'd been eviscerated, his body laid
open. She stared at the wounds with grim fascination, remembering the
scars she'd seen on Leeds' body. Underneath the bloodstains, this man
had all that and more.
"He was cybered," Call exhaled as she noted the sheered
wall of artificial muscle visible in the wound. Red blood and white
fluid mingled together to form a milky, pink pool under the body. Ripley
silently reached out, touching a finger to the mix, before bringing it
to her lips. "Ripley," Call whispered, her tone disapproving
and sickened at the same time.
The cloned woman waved her silent. "That's it," she
whispered as the familiar taste flowed over her tongue. "The
soldiers here must all be like this one…the taste is … bitter …."
She rose suddenly, shining her light over the bodies. Finally, she found
what she was looking for, a woman, dead, her chest bulged outward but
unbroken. She drew the knife from her packpack.
"Ripley, what are you…" Call trailed off, looking ill as
Ripley used the sharp blade to slice the woman's chest open. The cut
revealed plastic sinew overlaying real muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
She cracked the sternum back, ignoring Call's gasp. Suddenly, something
slithered free of the dead woman's chest cavity, the tear drop shaped
body making a tiny shrieking sound as it fell to the floor. The baby
alien was visibly weak, barely able to let out a scream of hatred as it
glared up at the two intruders. White fluid from the dead woman's
artificial implants flowed over the black and silver body, and the
creature screamed again, but this time the furious sound trailed off
into a strange, gagging wheeze. "They can't escape…" she
realized. "The plastic's too strong…and even if they do break
through, it's toxic." She speared the tiny creature with her knife,
spitting it with ease, then held the blade there as it sizzled in acid
blood. She rose, ignoring the thing as it died while Call stared at it
in silent horror, wondering how something so small and seemingly fragile
could so quickly become so deadly.
The dying creature already forgotten, Ripley refocused her attention
as she rose gracefully. "Let's see if there's anything left here
that we can use," she decided out loud. She found a couple of
knives to replace the one destroyed by the infant alien's blood,
strapping one to her thigh while she handed the other to Call.
The auton stared blankly at the weapon for a brief moment as though
trying to decide what to do with it. Finally, she strapped it to her
"That seems to be it," Ripley murmured unhappily, then
turned to face Call. Her question cut straight to the heart of the
matter. "Where are the nukes kept?"
"Toward the bottom…thirty floors or so, I think...the plans
aren't very clear." She hesitated for a moment, then spoke slowly.
"Ripley, this base…it's an old military shelter…if a nuclear
explosion goes off far enough down, the reinforced concrete should
contain the worst of it. Particularly, if it's a small warheads. They're
meant for battlefield use and aren't really that powerful. Someone above
ground could probably survive."
Ripley nodded, her expression distant. "Any civilians in the
area have a chance."
"So do you," Call said softly.
Her words drew a sharp look from Ripley. "Meaning?"
"If it comes down to it…you escape. I'll set off the
Ripley stared at her silently, no trace of emotion visible in her
dark eyes. "No," she refused simply.
"There's no reason for both of us--"
"No," Ripley repeated, her voice inflexible. She had to see
to their end personally. That was far more important to her than mere
"But you can have a life here," Call argued.
The cloned woman's tone turned almost accusing. "So could
Call stared up at the woman in front of her, hunting for a way to
explain what she was feeling. The words came haltingly at first.
"For the first time in my…existence…I care for something in a
way that has nothing to do with programming…." She stared
up at Ripley, taking in the high arch of her cheekbones, the elegant
planes of her face. She reached up a tentative hand, touching very
gently. She desperately wanted to make her understand how much those
emotions meant to her. How much Ripley meant to her. "I don't want
you to die."
Ripley stared at her for a long moment, her expression unreadable,
then wrapped her arms around Call's slight frame. "Been there, done
that… it wasn't that bad." She slid her hands up, cupping her
lover's heart shaped face in long fingers. "It's the loneliness
that's terrible." She swallowed hard, and her eyes fell away for a
brief second. Emotions were still so alien to her that she hadn't a clue
to how to express them. "I don't want to be without you…."
She caught one of Call's hands in her own. "Whatever happens, I won't
leave you behind."
Call leaned her forehead against Ripley's chest, aware of the warmth
of her skin and the steady beat of her heart. "Dammit," she
whispered almost inaudibly. "Why couldn't I be…" she fell
silent as she realized she'd spoken aloud, but not before Ripley heard
the softly uttered words.
A hand curved to Call's chin, drawing her head up. "Couldn't be
what?" the taller woman questioned. "Human?" She shook
her head. "Then you wouldn't be you." She ruffled short hair
very gently. "And I wouldn't want that."
In the distance, sounds echoed through the darkened base. Something
was moving, though it wasn't close. At least not yet.
"We should go," Ripley sighed, reminded of their mission.
"We've got a long climb ahead."
Call straightened herself as she pulled back a step. "There's a
stairwell near here. If it hasn't collapsed, it should take us most of
the way to the bottom."
Though nothing moved, the underground corridors weren't silent.
Occasional sounds could be heard and more than once Call thought she
heard the echo of an inhuman roar. She spared a glance for Ripley who
seemed not to notice the myriad of creaks and groans. Or perhaps she
heard them and simply knew they were the structure and not the aliens.
Her sense of the creatures wasn't perfect, but it was impressive.
They found the stairwell easily, the door partially blocked by
debris. Ripley pushed it aside to pull the door wide, peering down into
darkness. The staircase was made of large sections of steel bolted to
the wall. It rattled gently when she stepped onto the landing.
Call lifted her flashlight, shining it on the opposite wall.
"Uh, Ripley," she exhaled as she saw the way the bolts that
fastened that section in place had been nearly sheered off in the
"I see it," Ripley exhaled. Her footsteps light, she made
her way a little lower, gauging the likelihood that it would hold her
weight. "I think it's okay," she decided. "Even if the
wall bolts give, it's attached to the section beneath it, and it looks
solid." She looked up.
Something roared in the distance, the sound distinct this time.
"Come on," Ripley whispered, and Call silently followed.
They'd gone down several floors when the distinct thud of a footstep
echoed somewhere overhead.
Both women froze, their heads snapping back to stare upward. Call
glanced at Ripley who shook her head, indicating that she didn't know
who or what it was. More footsteps followed as something started down
Suddenly, Ripley was moving, taking the steps two at a time, dragging
Call along behind her. Despite their speed, they were both surprisingly
quiet, but the thing must have heard because the heavy footsteps gained
momentum. On the next floor, Ripley lunged through the landing door and
into a dark corridor. She shoved the door shut, hunting for a way to
block it closed without success.
Something roared in the stairwell, bringing both of their heads up.
"Oh shit," Ripley exhaled and extinguished the flashlight,
relying on the comparatively dim and distant emergency lights..
"Is it…" Call questioned.
"Oh yeah … come on." She broke into a hard run, forcing
Call to work to keep up.
They could hear the creature. It had their scent now.
Suddenly, the corridor branched off in two directions. Ripley looked
at Call, who gestured right with the simple comment, "Another
weapons locker," then left. "There should be another stairwell
Ripley stood poised on the balls of her feet. She glanced back. Their
pursuer had gone curiously silent. "Shit," she breathed. She
looked back and forth between the two options. "Lady or the
tiger." Something roared -- in the direction of the weapons locker
-- and her head swung toward the second stairwell. She debated
momentarily, then spun, pushing Call into the left branch of the
corridor. She didn't have to see the thing to know it was getting
closer. It was time to make a stand. She pushed the smaller woman into
the cover of a doorjamb while she stood braced where she could see and
hear anything moving at the juncture.
Pressed into the cover of the doorjamb, Call knew to be quiet and
perfectly still, but she shifted just enough to draw the knife strapped
to her thigh. Ripley didn't bother with hers. It wouldn't do any good
Moments passed -- though they seemed more like an eternity -- before
the alien moved into view. Its black form was a mere silhouette in the
faint light, but that was enough to know there was something very wrong
with the creature. Where most of the aliens were sleek and graceful,
this one moved slowly, half dragging its left leg along. Spindly fingers
reached out, flickering through the air, while its head tipped back,
hunting for some sign of its prey. As it moved, light glittered off its
head, playing over the smooth rounded snout, then sinking into the
shadows. It turned slowly, and even Ripley had to force down a gasp as
she saw it more completely. The left side of the alien's head was
misshapen, crushed inward along the top of the skull, while its mouth
pulled back from silver teeth in a permanent sneer. The neck muscles on
one side were mishapen and stood out at an odd angle, while its arm was
bent in against the body, the joint withered and malformed. As they
watched, it tipped its head back, roaring its hatred into the darkness.
Like a living thing, the sound bounced off every wall, surrounding the
two women, before it died away into an echoey wail.
It sensed them, Ripley realized, as it bellowed again then stood
listening to the sounds as they bounced back. The bullet shaped head
swung their way. It knew they were close. They wouldn't be able to hide
from those perfect hunter's senses for very long. Pressing Call back
with one hand, Ripley stepped forward, the knife gripped tightly. She
said nothing, simply stared at the creature, gauging its response.
It turned slowly. Though it had no eyes, there was a sense of a
baleful gaze raking over her. She read as both ally and prey, something
its mind had little capability of understanding. The aliens saw the
universe in the simplest of terms. Hunters and prey. They were hunters,
all else of any importance was prey. It seemed to consider this problem
as it slowly advanced on her, heavy muscles rippling with the effort
required to drag its ruined body along. It was hungry, and sweet human
meat would feed the gnawing pain of starvation, but it could not forget
those moments when it first struggled to tear its way into the open air.
Fragile, delicate, enraged, it ripped free, screaming as it was
presented not with its first meal, but with bitter, burning liquid that
filled its stomach and lungs, surrounding it in a sea of sickness. The
remembered agony had left it with a profound hatred of those smells and
tastes. It could feel them, scent the delicate bite of toxins somewhere
Call pressed herself more tightly into the corner, wondering if
Ripley had lost her mind. The thing coming toward them would kill her,
tear her apart like those men and women so many floors above … as well
as countless others long since lost to the annals of history. (2)
Ripley's dark gaze was hooded as she watched the creature come
closer. She could feel Call's terror, but ignored it. There was no room
for fear when dealing with these beasts.
The thing swung its head back and forth, roaring again, disconcerted
by her lack of response.
Ripley remained perfectly still, watching it, wanting to understand.
As she stared, she could almost see into its mind, trace its history
back to its gestation, feel its rage as the warmth of its host became a
prison. She could taste the sweetness of red, human blood as it was
poisoned by the bitter toxin of sickly, white fluid. This creature was a
part of her. She had some part of its race memory, so it must have some
part of hers.
It stared at her as if sensing that connection. Suddenly, it screamed
and fell back a step as it was assailed by the memory of something
growing in its chest, the pain of being invaded by a parasite. It raged
again, backing up another step.
Ripley allowed herself the smallest of smiles as she sensed the
creature's fear. She lifted a hand slowly, movements perfectly
controlled, and hypnotic. The alien sensed the movement, and its head
swung back and forth, tracking her, hunting for the other presence it
could sense. Her hand was up, fingers spread, the joints so long coupled
they were reminiscent of the xenomorphs'. The creature before her let
out a dull roar, but the tone was lower this time, the rage less
evident. Its head followed her slow movements, tracking her like a snake
charmed by a fakir's recorder. Ripley focused on the creature with
incredible concentration, pressuring it back through sheer force of
will. The thing bellowed resentfully, but didn't advance.
Whatever it was, it lacked the pure driven evil of its predecessors.
It was capable of feeling fear.
Call watched the scene with wide-eyed disbelief, certain Ripley was
one breath from the end of her life.
Suddenly a roar tore through the air, the sound painfully close and
hideous in its intensity. It rattled the doors and drew an answering
scream from the creature in front of Ripley.
In an instant, Ripley realized she'd made a mistake as the xenomorph
howled with rage and lunged. It was slower and weaker than its brethren,
but it was still a power to be reckoned with.
"LOOK OUT!!" Call shouted, but Ripley was already reacting
to the threat. She danced backwards, body blocking Call into the corner
when she would have lunged forward. Her foot slid in the creature's
thick saliva, and Ripley momentarily pinwheeled her arms, not quite
hitting one knee before she regained her balance.
It was just long enough for the creature to find itself almost nose
to nose with Call over Ripley's shoulder. It smelled the artificial
blood coursing through her veins, touching off a fresh wave of fury.
Intent on tearing her to shreds, it lunged.
"NO!" Ripley bellowed and came up between the two just as a
saw-toothed tongue spiked toward Call. Somehow, inhuman reflexes
intercepted the attack. Her fingers wrapped around the thing's tongue,
twisting it aside before it could carve a hole in her torso. Screaming
like a banshee heralding death, Ripley fisted her free hand, and punched
it into the creature's head with every last ounce of her strength. She
felt the smooth gloss of rubbery flesh under her knuckles, then it gave
way. Bone and gristle buckled under the force of her strength, and her
fist sank into pulpy brain matter. The thing roared, pulling back as it
threw its head back and forth in rage and pain.
The distant bellowing grew louder and closer. They didn't have much
Acid geysered from the alien's ruined skull, and Ripley used her body
to protect Call from the flying drops of burning blood, then leapt
forward, striking out wildly. She forced it backwards, then tripped it
up and punched the ruined side of the rounded head, tearing into it with
raw strength. A shriek rose from her chest, splitting the darkness as
she beat the thing down. Acid blood flowed freely, melting into the
cement and steel under her feet. The sleeves of her jacket had melted to
the elbow, leaving leather and fabric hanging in smoky tatters, while
her skin showed through the holes where droplets of acid had spattered.
Choking and gagging, the monster fell to its knees, sinking into the
floor as its blood ate into the cement.
"Ripley, come on!" Call broke in. The floor was obviously
weakening, and she could hear the distant roars drawing nearer. They had
to run, and she wasn't sure the cloned woman was aware of her
surroundings anymore. She grabbed the center back of Ripley's jacket,
picking one of the few spots that wasn't riddled with pinhole sized
droplets of acid, and hauled her away from the dying creature.
Snarling, Ripley spun on the small woman, one hand instinctively
lifting to strike.
"No!" Call snapped and fell back a step, hands lifting in a
Ellen Ripley froze, chest heaving as she struggled for air. It was
like there was no oxygen left in the entire universe. She was living and
breathing hatred itself. Then, suddenly, something about Call broke
through the hypnotic frenzy. Still gasping, she let her hands fall to
her sides. "I-I'm sorry." The words came haltingly, and her
eyes slid away from a dark velvet gaze.
"It's all right," Call whispered, lifting a tentative as
though she was going to touch the taller woman. Her fingers never made
contact. "But we have to go now."
Ripley nodded, peeling off her jacket to wipe away the worst of the
acid still sticking to her skin. The buttery leather was sizzling gently
when she tossed it aside. She spared a glance for the thing lying dead
in an ever-deepening hole. "I don't think we should plan on being
under there anytime soon. The concrete isn't melting as fast as steel
would, but it's seen better days." She straightened her shoulders,
getting her emotions back under control. "Let's go."
They found the second stairway in short order and were two floors
down when they heard the roars again, this time their tone mournful.
Ripley's head tipped, staring upward as though she might understand.
"Ripley?" Call exhaled almost inaudibly.
The cloned woman's head canted to one side as she continued to stare
upward. "They're forbidden from the crèche….hunted by the
Call frowned. "I don't understand."
"Because they aren't right … they were … damaged … when
they were born." She paused for a long moment. "The effort of
tearing through the cybernetics…and then instead of flesh, they tasted
poison." There was something akin to pity in her voice as she
whispered, "They don't belong anywhere." Ripley turned a
hooded gaze on Call. "My children allow no imperfections," she
"They aren't your children," Call insisted, her denial
drawing a sad smile from the woman in front of her.
"They're a part of me," Ripley disagreed mildly. "As
much as I hate it, I feel something for them." Her eyes slid
closed as she remembered the moment when the creature on the Betty
cried out in her mind, screaming for her to save it as its body
disintegrated into space. She had cried then, pitying the tormented
child as much as she pitied herself. Neither of them had had any choice
in their creation. "Don't worry," she whispered a moment later
as she sensed Call's worried gaze. "It won't stop me from killing
them." She straightened herself and began moving again, her feet
light on the stairs. She'd gone a few steps when she realized Call
wasn't beside her. She turned on her heel, peering back up at the auton.
Call was watching her closely. "It's all right," she assured
Call drew nearer. "Are you sure?" she questioned, reaching
out. This time she did make contact with the warm skin of Ripley's
cheek. "I know this is hard for you."
Ripley nodded. "But necessary." She managed a weak smile.
"It has to be done."
Call nodded and didn't speak again, allowing Ripley some measure of
space as they continued deeper into the bowels of the base.
The sounds from above, died away at some point, leaving them in
silence and darkness. There were no bodies, but occasionally they saw
pools of dried blood or spent shell casings, mute testimony to the
brutal combat that had recently raged through the underground complex.
They had gone just over seven floors down, when the staircase became
impassable. The steel was buckled and melted through so badly that it
had separated from the section below, which had collapsed downward.
Ripley shined her light into the shaft, spotting the sheered metal
spikes from the destroyed staircase. "We won't be going any farther
this way," she murmured disgustedly.
"We can backtrack…there are a couple of other staircases down.
If those don't pan out, there's an elevator shaft that could take us all
the way to the bottom…it just might be more of a challenge."
Ripley's mouth twisted in a wry grin. "God knows, can't have
enough of those."
Even Call managed a watery smile at that comment. "Let's
go," she sighed tiredly and started back the way they'd come.
She was hungry…desperately, achingly famished, hunger her constant
companion. On a world full of food, she was starving. She screamed,
roaring in rage, while her children -- those that hadn't been damaged by
the poisonous prey -- moved around her, serving her needs as best they
could. She howled again, her voice echoing off cold, hard walls. She'd
sent her children abroad to destroy the watchers and hunt for fresh
killing fields, but they'd found only hot sand and more poison. Nearly
all of the humans in this place had been toxic, leaving the queen and
her children with little more than a few bites of fresh meat to share
between them. They could not go on like this.
She howled again.
Calling her children to her.
They could not stay here.
It was time to move on.
Ripley cursed softly as she kicked another door open, shredding the
lock with pure force.
Call glanced at the damage, then back at Ripley. "Were you this…"
she paused thoughtfully, before deciding on a word, "...unsubtle…in
your previous life?" she questioned dryly.
Ripley shrugged. "If I could have done that, I probably
would have been." She stepped inside the arms compartment, running
her flashlight over the boxes and lockers of materiel. The second
staircase was as impassable as the first, and they couldn't even get
through the corridors to access a third one listed on the plans in
Call's head. That left the elevator shaft, and to do that, they needed
ropes or something else that would allow them to climb. Though they
hadn't see or heard any sign of the aliens for quite some time, Ripley
was alert to their surroundings, well aware that the creatures had a
habit of showing up when least expected. Get complacent and they had
"Here," Call broke into her thoughts, and Ripley spun
toward the sound of her voice just in time to catch a t-shirt tossed her
way. She peered at soft green fabric for a brief second, then at Call.
"The acid," the auton nodded toward her, and Ripley looked
down, noting the myriad of pinprick holes decorating her shirt, turning
it into little more than lace. "You're hanging out…and I'm afraid
to touch you in case there's any left on the fabric or your skin."
"Good idea," Ripley admitted and peeled the shirt off,
tossing it aside before using the t-shirt to rub down her skin. In
moments, it was smoking gently. "Throw me another one, would
you?" she muttered as she tossed it on top of the other one. She
caught the undershirt tossed her way and yanked it on over her head.
"Better?" she queried.
Call shrugged. "Now I'm not afraid of burning my fingertips off,
if I accidentally touch you."
Ripley's mouth quirked in a wry smile, but she resisted the urge to
make several remarks. Call didn't always have the best sense of humor
when it came to some jokes. The auton was a serious sort. Of course,
Ripley wasn't certain she'd have found her current sense of humor
terribly funny in her previous life so she couldn’t really blame Call.
"Bingo," the auton's voice broke into Ripley's silent
musings, and she glanced over, noting the small woman standing in front
of an open locker. Ropes, tackle, and rescue gear were hung neatly
Ripley moved to study the gear. "That should do what we
need," she agreed, her momentary humor draining away like snow on a
hot stove. The ropes made getting down a virtual certainty, but climbing
back out would be slow at best.
As if reading her thoughts, Call whispered. "We're not going to
get out of here, are we?"
"Probably not," Ripley admitted. "But you knew that
Call nodded slowly, then turned to face Ripley, staring up at her
with hungry eyes and reached up to caress her cheek. "Yeah, I guess
Long, slender fingers closed around Call's hand, and Ripley brushed
her cheek against her lover's palm. "Leave," she whispered
intently. "This isn't your fight. It's mine." She reached out
with her other hand to brush her thumb lightly over the curve of Call's
cheek. "You can get out … go have a life. Don't die here like
Call mimicked Ripley's gesture, turning her head into the caressing
hand. "No … we're in this together. I won't leave you," she
whispered, repeating her lover's earlier vow.
"Goddamn you for sheer idiocy," Ripley exhaled and hugged
the smaller woman, holding her tightly. She didn't want to think of Call
being torn to shreds, her body giving way to sharp claws. Hot tears
burned behind her tightly closed eyes. When she finally separated from
Call, her dark eyes were still glossed with emotion. "You really
are too good for the human race," she husked.
"No," Call disagreed. "I just can't leave you."
The two women stared at each for a brief moment, then Ripley
straightened herself with conscious effort and reached past Call to grab
for the gear they needed. "We should be moving." She slung a
coiled rope over her shoulder. It was lightweight, the coils of rope
almost delicate, but a tag on the end rated it to six hundred pounds.
Certainly, more than enough to handle both of them at once. Call turned
toward the cabinet, grabbing harnesses and a canvas backpack. She
quickly stuffed the gear inside. They took a few minutes to search the
rest of the lockers, but couldn't find anything else of any use.
Finally, the two women started back toward the elevator shaft, their
footsteps only a little slower than they might have been. They were
nearly there when Ripley suddenly stuck out her hand, halting Call as
she pulled up short. They stood perfectly silent while Ripley listened,
her senses tuned to the faintest sound. Something ... no someone ... was
moving in the corridor ahead of them.
She gestured for Call to stay put and carefully set the ropes down
before slipping away into the darkness. Call tracked her until she
disappeared into the shadows. She started forward a brief moment later.
Her howls echoed through the complex and her children heard her call.
Hunters slipped through the darkness, their prey forgotten in the wake
of their queen mother's needs.
Though she couldn't hear or see the creatures that had become the
bane of two lifetimes, Ripley could feel them moving, sense the calls
drawing them together. Even knowing there was someone ahead in the
hallway, the awareness distracted her. As a result, she didn't track her
prey until his voice cut through her brief daze.
"Get your hands up, lady," the trooper growled, barely
managing to keep a grip on his weapon without losing his hold on his
"Easy," Ripley murmured, holding her hands up in plain
view. "If you shoot, you'll just bring them down on us."
"Yeah," he panted nervously, eyes darting left and right.
He had an arm around another soldier whose arm was across his shoulder,
though he barely appeared conscious. "Then again, I don't know you.
For all I know, you brought those things here. Maybe if I shoot you,
they'll go away." His mind was stressed to the limit. After hours
of hellish darkness as the prey and not the hunter, listening to his
friends and comrades die, he was painfully close to the breaking point.
"That won't help." Ripley shook her head. "I'm here to
kill them." Her voice dropped, becoming low and sad. "I'm the
only one who can."
"Why should I believe you?" he demanded.
"Because you know it's true," the woman whispered, her
voice oddly gentle. She tried to edge closer, hoping to steal his
weapon, but it wavered unsteadily, making her afraid the unbalanced
soldier might unintentionally fire. She was still considering her
options when she heard the impossibly soft pad of footsteps, their pace
matching Call's hesitant stride. Ripley bounced lightly on the balls of
her feet, ready to move fast. She was a blur the instant she heard the
distracting clatter and saw the soldier's eyes dart toward the shadows.
She forced the weapon up, stripping it from his fingers before he could
fire. The two soldiers went skidding in response to a hearty shove.
A groan was torn from the nearly unconscious man while his comrade
rolled into a braced position, ready to protect him.
"Easy," Ripley soothed, holding out one hand in a calming
The soldier's eyes darted around the darkness, panic plainly visible
in his expression.
"I'm not going to hurt you," Ripley assured him.
The unconscious soldier moaned again, twisting as if in agony. Dark
eyes fell on him, an odd kind of sympathy showing in their rich depths.
"Ripley?" Call's voice came from the shadows.
"It's all right." She turned her attention back to the two
men, nodding toward the downed one. "They got to him, didn't
The soldier's teeth ground with the effort to control himself.
"Goddamned things," he hissed. "They … they … I don't
know what the fuck they are … they … they get inside…"
"I know," Ripley whispered and moved forward, kneeling
beside the prone figure. She reached out, barely touching him before she
pulled her hand back. "But you can't help him."
As if in response to her soft words, the unconscious soldier spasmed,
gagging and jerking as his chest bulged outward for a moment. His eyes
snapped open, pain and terror showing in their depths.
Ripley handed the gun back. Call was there to take it from her. She
caught the spasming man, forcing him onto his back as she noted the
dried blood on his lips. "How long has this been going on?"
she questioned, muscles straining to keep him under control.
"Off and on for an hour or two…I don't really know…you can
help him, can't you?"
Ripley shook her head as the spasms grew worse. The creature had been
trying to tear through the soldier's chest for an hour or two, probably
beating at the man's sternum until it exhausted itself, then trying
again when it was rested. By now, both the soldier, and the creature
inside him were so broken and destroyed it was a wonder either of them
was still alive.
He convulsed, gagging and spitting up more blood, this time tinged
with white. The creature was making its way into the plastic muscles
that interlaced with his real ones. His eyes snapped open, agonized
knowledge glittering within the pale orbs. "Please," he
gasped, instinctively sensing that she understood. "End it."
"I'm sorry," Ripley whispered.
"Make it stop," he pleaded, his voice trailing off into a
"I will," Ripley promised. "I swear … I will."
The blade was in her hand in a moment. It was an act of pity. Even she
couldn't imagine what it would be like to have one of them inside
without even the promise of a quick death. Lean muscles rippled as she
struck, driving the blade deep into the man's breast, puncturing his
heart and the creature nestling within his chest in one smooth move.
Acid, blood, and white fluid swelled up around the blade, melting it in
instant. It didn't matter. It had already done its work.
"Thank…." The soldier's voice faded away as he died, not
quite instantly, but close enough.
I'm sorry," Ripley exhaled and pushed back to sit on her heels.
"No," the other soldier whispered. "You weren't
Ripley caught him by the lapels, yanking him forward until they were
nose to nose. "It was the kindest thing to do," she hissed
dangerously, hating what she'd just done with every fiber of her being
and eager to let go of the fury burning in her stomach.
The soldier sagged, unable to react for a long moment. "He was
in so much pain."
"It could have only gotten worse…there was nothing you could
do," she said flatly.
He shook in her hold, staring up at her with open awe. "Who are
Ripley straightened, bearing his weight as she pulled him to his
feet. "It doesn't matter. I'm here to destroy them." She
glanced back as Call crouched down to study the damage to the dead man,
then turned her attention back to the soldier. "According to our
information there are short range tactical nuclear warheads in the base…is
that true?" Her tone brooked no argument, and he gave none.
He nodded. "When it got really bad, the general said to use
them, but no one could get there…we were on walkie talkie when the
last team tried…"
"Screaming…so much screaming…they didn't make it…."
Ripley spared a glance for Call. "So we just have to get to
"You have to have the security codes too," the soldier
Another glance earned a shrug. "I have a set…but I can't
guarantee they're current," Call admitted.
"Do you know the codes?" Ripley questioned the soldier.
He nodded jerkily. "The general gave us all copies of the
numbers … in case he didn't make it … we … we were going to try
and … make it…" he nodded toward his dead comrade. "I …
I pulled him out of one their … nests…"
"Tell me the numbers," Ripley coaxed.
He stared up at her uncertainly.
She barely resisted the urge to shake him. "We'll make sure
they're destroyed, but we need those codes … then, I want you to climb
out of here … save yourself … you've done your part."
He nodded, looking relieved. The human heart and mind can stand only
so much, and he was well past the limit. His voice trembled as he told
her what she needed to know.
"Thank you," Ripley whispered, and Call moved to hand him
The soldier shook his head. "Don't bother. I ran outa ammunition
awhile back…mostly just shooting at shadows…"
"We came in through the southwest ventilation shaft, but I don't
know if you can get out that way," Ripley told him.
"Don't worry," he assured her. "I'll find a way."
"You do that," she whispered, leaning close enough that her
hot breath played over his face. "Tell them what you saw … make
sure no one ever brings them back again … promise me you'll do
"I … I promise," he swore earnestly.
Ripley gave him a gentle nudge in the direction of the staircase out.
"Go on. The stairwell will take you most of the way."
The soldier nodded, then bent down to close his friend's eyes and
grab the computer chip, dog tags, hanging on a chain around his neck.
"I'll tell them," he assured her again, then disappeared into
"Do you think he'll get out?" Call whispered.
Ripley shrugged. "I hope so. Someone should get out of this
"Try not to think so positively," Call murmured, then
checked the magazine on the rifle, making absolutely certain it really
was empty. It was, and she discarded it, careful not to let it clatter
as she set it aside. She caught up with Ripley as the tall woman was
slinging the coiled rope over one shoulder. Ripley handed her the
backpack, and Call hooked it over a shoulder.
"Let's go," Ripley said simply, and led the way into the
darkness, Call trailing close behind.
When they reached the elevator shaft, Ripley stuck her head inside,
listening to the sounds emanating from the depths of the facility, like
demon's cries from the deepest pits of hell. "They're moving,"
she whispered worriedly. She glanced back at Call. "Can't you hear
it…hear them…calling from different parts of base…coming together….she's
calling them to her."
Call leaned out, listening carefully, but she couldn't hear what
Ripley did. She just heard the sounds of the base settling, and echoing
around them. She shook her head. "I don't know."
Ripley worked long fingers through her hair, pushing it away from her
face. "I do," she told Call, her voice flat with suppressed
emotions. She looked back at the small woman. "You can still back
out…get out of here, and go tell the world … make sure this never
Call shook her head. "They wouldn't believe me anyway."
"No … they never do," Ripley exhaled, remembering her own
efforts to make someone listen. She began tying one end of the rope to
an exposed girder. When it was solid, she flung it down into the shaft.
"I'll go first." She buckled a climbing harness around her
waist, settling it on her hips, before tying off to the rope. "Here
we go," she told Call before swinging into the shaft. She'd gone
down a few yards when she felt the rope shift as the auton clipped
herself on and swung out into the open tunnel. Ripley was amazed by the
sense of relief that washed through her. Though she didn't want anything
to happen to Call, she was grateful that for once, she wouldn't have to
face the end alone.
Darrin Leeds stared down at the valley below through heavy
binoculars, watching for any sign of movement. He spotted the discarded
flyer near a ventilation shaft and zoomed in on that point, noting the
torn grating on the roof of the small building. "They must have
gone in there," he told Tyrell.
The corporal nodded. "We finished checking the androids. Looks
like something really shredded them. We also found the casing from two
small nuclear missiles…HT-20's, single warhead…they're trashed too,
but it looks like they had some kind of backup plan. They never got a
chance to use it though. I'd say they never even saw these things
Leeds nodded. "Make sure everyone is locked, loaded, and ready
for bear. We'll be leaving in a few minutes." He turned on his heel
and hurried back to the now silent hummer, eschewing the stairs as he
leapt inside. He paused in the open hatch while his eyes adjusted to the
relative darkness, then focused on the scene in the center of the
vehicle. A field surgical table had been rocked into position from its
normal place against one wall, and McCay lay stretched out on top, her
eyes closed, body limp. Adams, the communication's tech stood next to
the table, silently staring down at her. He looked up on Leed's entry,
then ducked his head and hurried out when Leeds jerked his head sharply
toward the hatch.
McCay blinked suddenly and pushed up on one elbow. The tech had cut
away her shirt and undershirt, but she was wearing a camo shirt donated
by one of the men. The buttons down the front hung open, showing
glimpses of the flesh between her breasts as she moved. Stained by
chemical blood, her flesh was too pink while the skin-plast patch was
too pale for normal skin.
Leeds noted the soft curves and disparate colors before his eyes
snapped up to meet her gaze. "It's time," he murmured.
She nodded and sat up, swinging her legs over the edge of the table.
"Did Adams fix your damages?"
"Mmmm, somewhat…" She lifted a hand and rubbed her chest
distractedly. "Got the worst of the tears sealed, and shunted off
most of the leakage." She began fastening the shirt buttons, her
fingers clumsy. "Downed a couple of pints of artificial blood, so
hopefully that will help my system power back up and get my electrolytes
back in balance…probably be able to think a little clearer then…."
His eyes ran over her. "I wouldn't think blood meant for humans
would help you," he murmured distantly.
She shrugged. "It wouldn't if you put it into the veins, but
we're designed to break down and use basic sugars and proteins as power
"Like the androids in that village you described?"
Her eyes narrowed ever so faintly. "Just like that," she
agreed. "Though that isn't exactly the proscribed method."
"But it is one way for your kind to exist?" Leeds
questioned with a trace of bitterness.
"Yes," McCay admitted tersely, "it is."
A muscle pulsed in his jaw. "You must know I can't trust
you," he rasped, getting to the point. "You lied about what
you are…I don't even know if you're telling the truth about Ripley and
Call…hell, I don't know they're telling the truth."
"No, you don't," she agreed. "I guess you'll have to
take it on faith." Her eyes ran over his blocky frame. "I
thought you were supposed to be big on faith, Sergeant."
He shook his head slowly, that word setting his teeth on edge when it
came from her lips. "How can I…when you're a thing…whose every
word and deed can be programmed by anyone with the right tools?"
She finished buttoning her shirt, hiding the jerry-rigged patch on
her chest. She offered a dark smile. "And you can't be?" she
challenged. "Anyone who tells you what you want to hear can control
you as effectively as a master programmer can me…think about
that." She stepped around him, headed for the door.
"I won't let you have a weapon," Leeds bit out. "And
if I have any reason to believe you've lied again, I'll put the bullets
through you myself."
She didn't look back, just stood stiffly. "I'd be disappointed
if you said anything else, Sergeant."
"This way," Call's voice echoed eerily as she pointed down
a broad corridor. They were a few floors from the very bottom of the
complex. After leaving the ropes and climbing gear in the elevator
shaft, they'd begun hunting for heavy materiel storage. Flashlight beams
touched the walls, slowing here and there, when it looked like they
might have found what they were looking for.
Finally Ripley's beam fell on a heavy set of steel doors that had
been torn off the hinges and nearly shredded. The floor was slimy with
saliva. "I'd say we've found it," she murmured, stepping
carefully to keep from skidding.
Call shined her light on the numbers above the remains of the doors.
"Yeah…" she exhaled as she crosschecked them against the
information in her databank.
Pushing debris aside or climbing over it, Ripley entered the storage
area first. It was quiet. Nothing moved within reach of her flashlight
beam. Weapons lockers lined the walls, and every one of them had been
torn open, shredded by clawlike hands, while the weapons were strewn
around the room in pieces.
Ripley stared at the mess with a jaundiced eye. "They've
definitely been here," she sighed.
Call stepped past her, glancing inside the lockers to note the
damage. "There were still a lot of weapons left in here before they
attacked." She turned a frown in Ripley's direction. "Why
didn't the soldiers use them?"
Ripley crouched down, running a finger along the edge of a shattered
rifle covered in mucus-like slime. "Because they never made it this
far." She looked up, studying the damage. "This wasn't a
fight. There are no blast points on the walls, no blood, no acid
holes." She straightened and dug through first one locker, and then
another, hurling broken parts aside as she hunted for anything they
could use. "They've smashed all of the guns," she decided at
last, then yanked open an ammo locker. A few grenades, intended for use
in a rifle launcher, were still intact, and she grabbed two of them,
hooking them on her belt. "These can be hand activated. It's not
much, but it’s something." She straightened and continued on,
disappearing into the shadows, slipping in and out of Call's vision as
she moved deeper into the storage area.
"What happened?" Call hurried after her.
"The soldiers were killed or … captured … before they got
this far..." The cloned woman's footsteps were perfectly silent,
but Call could still see the pinpoint beam of her flashlight. "They
realized they'd been invaded too late … didn't understand what they
were dealing with. They came in through the air vents and headed
straight down … her children were waiting for their prey."
"But the weapon's lockers … this place has been trashed …
why would they…" Call's voice trailed off as she realized what
Ripley was saying. "Oh my God," she exhaled.
"That's right," Ripley inserted. "They knew what they
were doing … destroying their prey's ability to fight back."
Call could hear the smile in Ripley's voice as she whispered,
"You can say that again … that cute little race memory that means
I'm still Ellen Ripley … means they’re born knowing everything
they've ever known … and everything I've ever known. They've
learned about weapons … that they need to destroy them."
"What about the nuclear stores?"
"Good question." Ripley's flashlight beam touched on a
black, steel wall. "Looks like our answer's just ahead." She
found the inset, sliding door with her torch. Deep claw marks pitted the
stainless steel, and the metal was bowed from the sheer rage something
had unleashed upon it, but it had held. Ripley shined her light on the
number pad set into the wall next to the doors. Somehow, it had escaped
the chaos. "Think it still has enough power to open?"
Call nodded. "Security on nuclear storage has a six month backup
system….it's older than God, but it was designed to be failsafe."
She glanced at the furrows torn in the smooth metal. "I'm more
worried about whether or not the doors will slide with all that
"Don't worry, they don't have to move much."
Call shrugged, then quickly entered the codes into the number pad,
fingers dancing over the surface. Suddenly Ripley heard bolts sliding
behind the walls. The sound echoed, seeming incredibly loud to sensitive
ears, and the cloned woman glanced around nervously, half expecting a
black, domed head to appear from the shadows. Gears ground, the sound
bringing Ripley's head back around as the doors split at an angle and
slowly creaked apart. They moved little more than a foot before the
twisted surface of the doors forced them to a halt. The way the doors
angled and fitted together, it made for a tight fit, but Ripley slipped
through with a millimeter to spare. Call scrambled after her a moment
The nuclear storage area was small, compared to the outer areas. The
difference lay in the four-foot thick, block walls that surrounded the
deadly missiles, but couldn't possibly contain their power. Their only
real task was to comfort the human guardians. Four small missiles were
strapped down to shock absorbing gimbals in the center of the room.
Designed to be fired from a shoulder mounted launcher on the
battlefield, each weapon carried only a single, low yield warhead. More
than enough to send the base tumbling in on itself. Four matching
launchers hung from harnesses on one wall.
Call moved to the end unit, unstrapping the missile with knowing
Ripley watched over her shoulder. "Is it contact
activated?" she questioned, uncertain of the technology.
"No," Call responded, her full concentration on the weapon.
"Timer." She flipped open a small panel along the cylinder and
reached inside the narrow tube to make an adjustment.
"How much time?"
Call was silent for a long moment as she studied the data that came
up on a small led screen. "Base time is fifteen minutes. They're
meant for use on an open battlefield, so they didn’t allow much time
to escape … didn’t think it would be needed … or didn't
Ripley sighed sadly. "That's that then," she exhaled,
folding her arms across her chest as she leaned back against the wall.
"Not necessarily," Call agreed distantly. "If I can
build a decaying loop into the timer system, I should be able to make it
reset the time continuously until the loop self destructs….it would
buy us more time."
"If I can get it right, probably a couple of hours … it's not
an exact science. These were never designed for this kind of
alteration." She continued to work, reprogramming the delicate
timing system with considerable skill. Finally, she snapped the hatch
closed. "That's the best I can do … I think it'll work, but we
won’t know until…" she trailed off suggestively.
"Until we use it," Ripley finished for her.
The distant roars of the creatures grew more agitated, drawing her
"They're moving," Ripley breathed. "We've got to
hurry." She grabbed a launcher off the wall, slinging the carrying
strap over her shoulder. "Do we have two hours from now, or two
hours from when it's fired?" Ripley questioned, assuming that the
timer alterations had worked. If they hadn’t, it wouldn't matter
"From the time you fire it."
"Okay..." She turned a liquid gaze on Call. "You can
still go back." She brushed a few stray strands of hair off Call's
forehead. "I couldn’t think any less of you."
The auton shook her head.
Ripley brushed the pad of her thumb over Call's lower lip, outlining
the delicate cupid's bow. She swallowed hard, mouth working silently for
a moment. Finally, she pressed a soft kiss to her lover's forehead.
"In this life, you are the only pleasure I've had … the only
decency I've seen … the only thing I wouldn’t be grateful to
forget." She ducked her head, tasting soft lips. "Thank you
… without you … I would have existed, not lived."
Call reached up to touch Ripley's cheek, fingers brushing against
smooth skin. "This is the first time I've ever believed my emotions
were real," she admitted raggedly, "rather than some trick of
the programmer's art."
"No trick," Ripley whispered, then separated from her.
Both women knew they couldn’t spare any more time.
"Whatever happens," Ripley promised. "We'll be
Call nodded, then lifted the missile, holding it carefully, more
worried about damaging the timer circuits than the setting it off.
Thankfully, the nuclear genie was a relatively stable one.
"Let's go," Ripley said softly and took the lead.
to Next Part--Chapters 10-11
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