Alien 3By: Alan Dean Foster
‘Thank you, gentlemen. There’s been a lot of talk about what happened early this morning, most of it frivolous. So you can consider this a rumour control session.
‘Here are the facts. As some of you know, a 337 model EEV
crash-landed here at 0600 on the morning watch. There was one survivor, two dead, and a droid that was smashed beyond hope of repair.’ He paused briefly to let that sink in.
‘The survivor is a woman.’
The mumbling began. Andrews listened, watched intently, trying to note the extent of reactions. It wasn’t bad . . . yet.
One of the prisoners leaned over the upper railing. Morse was in his late twenties but looked older. Fiorina aged its unwilling citizens quickly. He sported a large number of gold-anodized teeth, a consequence of certain antisocial activities. The gold colour was a cosmetic choice. He seemed jumpy, his normal condition.
‘I just want to say that when I arrived here I took a vow of celibacy. That means no women. No sex of any kind.’ His agitated stare swept the assembly. ‘We all took the vow. Now, let me say that I, for one, do not appreciate Company policy allowing her to freely intermingle . . .?
As he droned on, Aaron whispered to his superior. ‘Cheeky bastard, ain’t he, sir?’
Finally Dillon stepped in front of his fellow prisoner, his resonant voice soft but firm. ‘What brother means to say is that we view the presence of any outsider, especially a woman, as a violation of the harmony, a potential break of the spiritual unity that gets us through each day and keeps us sane. You hear what I say, Superintendent? You take my meaning?’
Andrews met Dillon’s gaze unflinchingly. ‘Believe me, we are well aware of your feelings in this matter. I assure you, all of you, that everything will be done to accommodate your concerns and that this business will be rectified as soon as possible. I think that’s in everyone’s best interest.’ Murmurs rose from the crowd.
‘You will be pleased to know that I have already requested a rescue team. Hopefully, they will be here inside of a week to evacuate her ASAP.’ Someone in the middle spoke up. ‘A week, Superintendent? Nobody can get here that fast. Not from anywhere.’
Andrews eyed the man. ‘Apparently there’s a ship in transit to Motinea. She’s been in the program for months. This is an emergency. There are rules even the Company has to comply with. I’m sure they’ll contact her, kick at least a pilot out of deep sleep, and divert her our way to make the pickup. And that will put an end to that.’
He knew no such thing, of course, but it was the logical course of action for the Company to take and he felt a certain confidence in presupposing. If the ship bound for Motinea didn’t divert, then he’d deal with the situation as required. One potential crisis at a time.
He glanced up at Clemens. ‘Have you had enough time to make an evaluation?’
The tech crossed his arms diffidently across his chest. ‘Sort of. Best I can manage, with what we have here.’
‘Never mind the complaints. What’s her medical status?’
Clemens was well aware that every eye in the room was suddenly focused on him, but he didn’t acknowledge them, keeping his attention on the superintendent. ‘She doesn’t seem too badly damaged. Mostly just bruised and banged up. One of her ribs may be broken. If so it’s only a stress fracture. What is potentially more dangerous is that she came out of deep sleep too abruptly.’ He paused to collect his thoughts.
‘Look, I’m just a general tech and even I can see that she’s going to need specialist attention. Somebody gets whacked out of deep sleep early, without the appropriate biophysical prep, and there can be all kinds of problems. Unpredictable side effects,
latent respiratory and circulatory complications,
cellular disruptions that sometimes don’t manifest themselves for days or weeks - stuff I wouldn’t begin to know how to diagnose, much less properly treat. For her sake I hope that rescue ship carries full medical facilities.’
‘Will she live?’ Andrews asked him.
The tech shook his head in quiet wonder. The superintendent was good at hearing only what he wanted to hear.
‘Assuming nothing shows up later, I think she’ll be fine. But don’t quote me on that. Especially to a registered physician.’
‘What’re you afraid of?’ Someone sniggered behind him.
‘Bein’ accused of malpractice?’Inclement laughter rose from some in the group.
Andrews stepped on it quickly, before Clemens or anyone else could reply. ‘Look, none of us here is naive. It’s in everybody’s best interests if the woman doesn’t come out of the infirmary until the rescue team arrives. And certainly not without an escort. Out of sight, out of mind, right?’ No one chose to comment one way or the other. ‘So we should all stick to our set routines and not get unduly agitated. Correct? All right.’ He rose. ‘Thank you, gentlemen.’
No one moved. Dillon turned and spoke softly. ‘Okay.’
The assemblage began to break up, the men to return to their daily tasks. Andrews was not miffed by the slight. It was a small gesture by the prisoners, and he was willing to allow small gestures. It let some of the pressure off, mitigated their need to attempt big ones.
▶ Also By Alan Dean Foster
- · Alien 3