Alien 3

By: Alan Dean Foster



‘Do you mind? This is just sort of a stabilizer.’

She was feeling safe enough now to let him approach as she turned her attention to examining her surroundings. ‘How did I get here?’

‘You crash-landed in an EEV. Nobody knows what happened to your mothership or what caused you to be ejected. If Harry Andrews - he’s the superintendent here -

knows, he isn’t saying.

‘Whatever catastrophe caused you to be ejected also must have damaged the landing controls on the EEV because you smacked into the bay pretty hard. We hauled it back here. I haven’t been inside myself, but if the exterior’s any indication of the kind of internal damage she suffered, you’re damn lucky to be alive, much less more or less in one piece.’

She swallowed. ‘What about the others?’

‘Yeah, I was kind of wondering about that myself. Where’s the rest of the crew? did they get off on other EEV’s?’

‘There is no “rest of the crew,” ’ she informed him tersely.

‘It’s a long story, one I don’t feel much like telling right now. I mean what about those who were in the EEV with me? How many were there?’

‘Two. Three if you count the android.’ He paused. ‘I’m afraid they didn’t make it.’

‘What?’ It wasn’t sinking in.

‘They didn’t survive.’

She considered for a long moment, then shook her head brusquely. ‘I want to go to the ship. I have to see for myself.’

She started to sit up and he put a restraining hand on her shoulder.

‘Hey, hang on. As your doctor, I have to tell you that you’re in no condition for that.’

‘You’re not a doctor, remember?’ She slipped out of the other side of the bed and stood waiting expectantly, quite naked. ‘You want to get me some clothes, or should I go like this?

Clemens took his time deciding, not entirely displeased by the opportunity to view her vertically. ‘Given the nature of our indigenous population, I would strongly suggest clothes.’

Rising, he opened a locker on the far side of the infirmary and began sorting through the contents.

‘Keep in mind as you gambol through our little wonderland that the prison population here is strictly male and none of them have seen a woman in years. Neither have I, for that matter.’

She waited, hand on hip, giving him the calculating eye.

‘Yeah, but I don’t have to worry about you, because you’re a not-doctor, remember?’

He grinned in spite of himself.





III


Clemens noted how her eyes darted to and fro as he led her through the corridors and along the walkways. Like those of a nervous child . . . or sophisticated predator. She missed nothing. The slightest sound drew her instant attention. Their feet made little noise on the worn metal. The garb he’d scavenged for her was a little small, but she didn’t seem to mind.

‘I’ve no idea how long you were in deep sleep, but coming out of it the way you did can be a helluva jolt to the system. Just so you don’t panic if I look at you crossways, you should know that I’m still monitoring you for possible delayed side effects.

So let’s steady on as we go, Ripley.’

She looked at him sharply. ‘How do you know my name?’

‘It’s stenciled on the back of your shorts.’ He smiled apologetically. ‘We also found your ID tag. It was so mangled the computer could hardly read it, but we got that much off it.

Unfortunately, most of your personal medical info was scrambled. I had to guess a lot.’

Ripley rolled her shoulders forward experimentally, let her head roll from side to side. ‘Feels like you did a pretty good job.

Thanks.’

To his immense surprise he found that he was slightly embarrassed. ‘Hey, any jerk can slap on an armpack.’

She grinned. ‘I don’t think so. It takes a specially qualified jerk.’

The work crew was being as careful as possible with the hulk of the EEV as they eased it onto hastily raised blocks. The old crane groaned with the effort. There hadn’t been much call for its use since the mine had been shut down, and temporary reactivation for the purpose of manipulating the emergency vehicle had been a touchy process. But the machinery was responding adequately. Cables sang as the craft was gently lowered.

It had attracted its share of stares when it had first been hauled inside the complex. Ripley drew rather more as she and Clemens approached. She did a much better job of pretending not to notice than the prisoners did of trying not to look.

‘Just what kind of place is this work prison?’ she asked her guide as they started up a ramp toward the battered lifeship.

Clemens stayed close. ‘Used to be a mine cum refinery.

Mostly platinum-group minerals. Naturally the raw ore was refined on the spot. Much cheaper than shipping it offworld for processing elsewhere. I understand there was a considerable rise in the price of platinum about the time the ore body here was located. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been worth the Company’s while to go to the expense of setting up a facility this size this far from any point of consumption. It was a rich lode, highly concentrated.’

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