Alien 3

By: Alan Dean Foster



The meeting had gone as well as could have been expected.

He felt he’d dealt with the situation properly, putting a stop to rumour and speculation before it could get out of hand. Aaron at his side, he headed back to his office.

A more informative response from the Company would have been helpful, however.

Clemens found his exit blocked by Dillon. ‘Something on your mind?’

The big man looked concerned. ‘Pill pusher. You should be careful of this woman.’

Clemens smiled. ‘She’s not in any condition to cause much trouble. Don’t we owe all God’s children a fighting chance?’

‘We don’t know whose child she is.’ The two men stared at each other a moment longer. Then Dillon moved aside to let the tech pass. His gaze followed Clemens until he stepped through the portal leading to tunnel D.

The woman lay motionless on the bed, for a change not moaning, not dreaming. Clemens checked the IV pack taped to her arm. Without knowing the specifics of her condition he’d been forced to treat her for general debilitation. In addition to glucose and sucrose the pack contained a broad range of tolerant antibiotics in solution, REM-sleep modifiers, and painkillers. The tough ID tag she’d been wearing had been damaged in the crash, so he’d been forced to treat her without the crucial information it contained. He’d monitored her carefully for any signs of rejection and was relieved when none manifested themselves. At least she wasn’t allergic to anything he’d pumped into her system so far.

He was gratified to see that the armpack was nearly empty.

That meant her body was making good use of the rehab solution. The readouts on the VS checker as he passed it over her chest and skull stayed green. Thus encouraged, he slipped a capsule into the injector and turned her arm slightly to expose more of the tricep.

Her eyes snapped open as if she’d only been faking sleep.

Startled by the speed of her reaction, he hesitated. She indicated the device in his hand.

‘What’s that?’

‘General site injector.’

‘I can see that. You know what I mean.’

He smiled slightly. ‘A light cocktail of my own devising. Sort of an eye-opener.

Adrenaline,

some selected designer endorphins, a couple of mystery proteins. For flavour. I think your body’s recovered sufficiently to metabolize them. Five minutes after they’ve dispersed through your system you’ll feel a lot better than you do now.?

She continued to eye him warily. ‘Are you a doctor?’

He shrugged and looked away momentarily, as if the question made him uncomfortable. ‘General med tech. I’ve only got a 3-C rating. But I’m the best you’re going to find around here.’ He leaned forward, eyes narrowing as he inspected her hair appraisingly. ‘I really ought to shave your head. Should’ve done it right away but I was busy with more important things.’

This admission caused Ripley to sit bolt upright in the bed, clutching the sheet protectively to her neck.

‘Take it easy. I’m no murderer. Though you’ll find them here.?

‘Why do you have to shave my head?’

‘Microscopic parasites. Carnivorous arthropods. They’re endemic to Fiorina. Fortunately they don’t find humans particularly tasty . . . except for the keratin in our hair. For some reason they don’t have the same appetite for fingernails.

Wrong consistency, maybe. We just call ‘em lice, and to hell with scientific nomenclature.?

‘Can’t you use some kind of spray, or prophylactic shampoo, something?’ Her eyes remained fixed on the razor.

‘Oh, the Company tried that when they were starting up the mine, but these little suckers are tough. Anything’d have to be to make a success of it on this world. Turned out that anything strong enough to dent the parasites raised blisters on the skin.

Bad enough on the scalp. Damn sight worse lower down.

Shaving turned out to be a simpler, cheaper, and more effective solution. Some of the guys hang on to a little hair out of spite and fight the bugs as best they can. Eyebrows, for example. You wouldn’t think anybody would give a damn about something as ephemeral as eyebrows. But dense hair, that’s out of the question. Try to live with the lice and they’ll drive you crazy, crawling around, eating, itching—’

‘All right, all right,’ Ripley replied quickly. ‘I get the picture.’

‘I’ll give you an electric razor for downstairs. When you’re feeling better you can attend to that. The infirmary’s about the most sterile room in the installation, so you should be okay for a while, but the little buggers’ll find you eventually. They’re too small to screen out. Just shave and they won’t bother you.’ She hesitated, thoughtful, then nodded understandingly.

‘My name is Clemens. I’m the chief medical officer here at Fury 361.’

Her brows knitted. ‘That doesn’t sound like a mine designation.’

‘Mine’s what it used to be. Last of the worthwhile ore was dug out, refined, and shipped offworld some time ago. Weyland-Yutani had this huge facility cost that forced them to abandon, so to recoup a few credits they lease the operative part of it for a maximum-security prison. Everybody benefits. Society is separated from its most undesirable undesirables and the Company gets free caretakers. Everybody benefits, except those of us who are sent here.’ He gestured with the injector.

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