Alien 3

By: Alan Dean Foster



Hell, why was he worrying? Everyone he’d ever known would be dead by the time he got back home. That didn’t render him any less anxious to make that oft-anticipated journey.

So he did his rotten job as best he could and hoped that his rotten employers would eventually take note of his skill and professionalism and offer early retirement, except that now a rotten, unforeseen difficulty had arisen with the sole intent of complicating his life. Andrews harbored an intense dislike for the unforeseen. One of the few compensations of his job was its unremitting predictability.

Until now. And it compelled him to make use of the Communicator. Angrily he hammered the keys.



FURY 361—CLASS C PRISON UNIT—IRIS 12037154.

REPORT EEV UNIT 2650 CRASH

OCCUPANTS - BISHOP MODEL ANDROID,

INACTIVE HICKS, CPL. —ES

MARINES—L55321—DOA RIPLEY,

LT.—CO SVC.-B515617—

SURVIVOR UNIDENTIFIED

JUVENILE FEMALE—DOA

REQUEST EMERG. EVAC. SOONEST POSSIBLE—

AWAIT RESPONSE SUPT. ANDREWS M51021.

[Time delay transmis 1844—Fiorina]



Clemens had dragged the woman out of the water and had hustled her up to the facility as quickly as possible. So quickly that her condition and not her gender had dominated their thoughts. Reflection would come later, and with it the problems Andrews envisioned.

As for the EEV itself, they’d used the mutated oxen to winch it ashore. Any of the mine vehicles could have done the job quicker and easier, but those which had been abandoned outside had long since given up the ghost of active function, and those within the complex were too valuable to the inhabitants to risk exposing to the weather, even assuming the men could have safely hoisted an appropriate vehicle outside.

Simpler to use the oxen, unaccustomed as they were to the task. But they performed effectively, save for one that collapsed subsequently and died, doubtless from having been subjected to the unfamiliar strain of actual work.

Once within reach of the mine’s sole remaining operational external crane, it was easy enough to secure the badly damaged escape craft to the bracing and lower it inside. Andrews was there when the men went in, soon to emerge and declare that the woman hadn’t come alone, that there were others.

The superintendent wasn’t pleased. More complications, more holes in his placid daily routine. More decisions to make.

He didn’t like making decisions. There was always the danger of making a wrong one.

The marine corporal was dead, likewise the unfortunate child. The android didn’t matter. Andrews was somewhat relieved. Only the woman to deal with, then, and just as well. She presented complications enough.

One of the men informed him that the Communicator was holding an on-line message. Leaving the EEV and its contents in the care of others, the superintendent made his way back to his office. He was a big man in his late forties, muscular, powerful, determined. He had to be all of that and more or he’d never have been assigned to Fiorina.

The reply was as terse as his original communication.



TO: FURY 361—CLASS C PRISON UNIT 1237154

FROM: NETWORK CONCOM 01500—WEYLAND-

YUTANI MESSAGE RECEIVED.



Well, now, that was profound. Andrews stared at the readout screen but nothing else was forthcoming. No suggestions, no requests for additional information, no elegant corporate explication. No criticism, no praise. Somehow he’d expected more.

He could send another message requesting more data, except that the powers-that-be were likely to deem it extraneous and dock his pay for the cost. They’d responded, hadn’t they? Even if they hadn’t exactly replied. There was nothing he could do but deal with the situation as best he saw fit . . . and wait.

Another dream. No sense of time in dreams, no temporal spaciousness. People see all sorts of things in dreams, both intensely realistic and wholly imaginary. Rarely do they see clocks.

The twin-barreled flamethrower was heavy in her hands as she cautiously approached the cryonic cylinders. A quick check revealed all three occupants untouched, undisturbed. Bishop, quiescent in fragments. Newt ethereal in her perfect childish beauty, so foreign to the place and time in which she unwillingly found herself. Hicks peaceful, unmarred. She felt herself hesitating as she drew near, but his dome remained shut, his eyes closed.

A sound and she whirled, flipping a switch on the weapon’s ribs even as her finger convulsed on the trigger. The device emitted a plastic click. That was all. Frantically she tried again.

A short, reluctant burst of flame emerged a few inches from one of the barrels, died.

Panicky, she inspected the weapon, checking the fill levels, the trigger, those leads that were visible. Everything seemed functional. It ought to work, it had to work . . .

Something nearby, close. She dreamt herself retreating, backing up cautiously, seeking the protection of a solid wall as she fumbled with the flamethrower. It was near. She knew it too well to think otherwise. Her fingers wrestled with the balky device. She’d found the trouble, she was sure. A minute more, that was all she needed. Recharge this, reset, then ready to fire.

Half a minute. She happened to glance downward.

The alien’s tail was between her legs.

She spun screaming, right into its waiting arms, and tried to bring the flamethrower to bear. A hand clutched; horribly elegant, incredibly powerful fingers crushed the weapon in the middle, collapsing the twin barrels, the other arm trapping her. She pummeled the shiny, glistening thorax with her fists.

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