“Would you care for some coffee?” Franklin the slimy company guy asks me.
“State your name and rank for the record.”
“Calvin Shelley, Private.”
“Now, to the best of your ability, describe the events of the last mission you were on.”
I can feel something slowly oozing on the side of my head, and the metallic taste of blood in my mouth.
“C’mon Shelley, stay frosty! You don’t want to be asleep during a drop!”
Everything inside of me was rushing up to my head. A bunch of stuff is rushing out of the mouth of the guy across from me. I think his name was Webb? Suddenly, there’s a crash.
“Private Wells, clean up that med kit when we land!”
“Why don’t you have Webb do it after he cleans up his puke, sir!”
“I gave you an order, soldier! Don’t forget I’m sergeant and you’re a private. Just for that you can clean up Webb’s puke and shine his boots!”
We broke through the atmosphere and were flying. “In the pipe, five by five” could be heard on the loudspeaker. It’s a relief; I hate falling. I’ve been on thirty drops, four of those actual combat drops and not simulated. I look around the APC and it’s then that I notice something weird in the back.
“I would have given you credit if you had the stones to sleep through a drop, Shelley!”
“I probably could, I’ve been so exhausted since we woke up from the sleep. Next time don’t punch me in the back and we’ll see if I’ve got the stones!”
“Hah, well I wish I brought some coffee. And trust me Shelley, I don’t want to see your stones.”
Corporal Harris and I had been on three missions together. If it wasn’t for her I would have been dead on the first.
“So what do you make of Roboto in the back there?” she’s looking past me to the back of the APC.
Light reflected off of its orange and gold armor, any kind of humanity hidden behind a green visor and red helmet.
“Is it an android?” Stupid question, but I had heard that the Weyland-Yutani military division was pushing for the robotics division to develop more battle droids.
“I don’t know. It makes me worry what kind of a bug hunt we’re going on if they’re bringing in that kind of support. ”
“All right, Marines, get ready to roll out!” Sergeant Hill was already on his feet and heading to the front of the APC sardine can we were trapped in, nestled snug in the belly of the dropship.
All of a sudden the ship rocked heavily and Sgt. Hill lurched into the front.
“What the fuck was that?!” Wells shouted in a frightened croak.
“Hold tight everybody, we are taking enemy fire!” came the voice over the loudspeaker.
Another hit – we’re falling fast. I hate falling. The gold and yellow hitchhiker is standing and running towards the front. I hear missiles firing from the dropship.
“Ok, troops, we’re going to blast out of this transport! Brace yourself!” Hill’s normally booming voice was eclipsed by the deafening carnage.
“What happens next is a blur. The APC somehow made it out of the dropship onto the surface of the moon. LV something. I wish I could remember the dossier now.”
“LV 426. Archeron. Continue, Private.”
The next thing I know I’m outside in the vicious wind on this desolate world. Sand is whipping past, stinging every exposed area on my body. I can see Harris, Webb, and Wells standing in a line beside me. I can feel something slowly oozing on the side of my head, and the metallic taste of blood in my mouth. A couple of bodies are on the ground, and Sergeant Hill is on his knees with his hands behind his head. A group of about six black insectoid creatures have some kind of mounted energy weapons trained on him. One was yelling in an incomprehensible language while another was toying with a grey box.
Weyland-Yutani: Building Shitty Worlds.
“Yxxxxsv *what* xxxyszzzzz *mission* xxxxyyyyzzzz *identify*”
“Screw you, pirates!” Hill yells with defiance over the wind.
Very quickly the window to retaliate was opened. Multiple energy weapons were fired, Hill slumped forward, but I saw a couple of the pirate aliens go down as well. Harris and Wells sprung up for the pulse rifles that were collected in a pile a few yards away. I lurched forward and faceplanted into the dirty sand, scrambling to right myself while spitting it out. I can see our savior, the gold and red hitchhiker.
By the time I grab a pulse rifle I can see Webb’s head and spinal cord being ripped out of his body by one of the “space pirates.” What’s left of his body collapses to the ground, and I fire a grenade into the gut of the creature in front of me. It makes contact and explodes, but the pirate keeps coming. It must have some kind of armored skin to take a shot like that.
Then it freezes, literally. I can see that the Hitchhiker has a cannon mounted on its arm that apparently can shoot a freeze beam. The end of the cannon then opens wide and the Hitchiker casually launches two missiles into the pirate. It explodes into a million pieces.
“We’ve got to salvage the APC, do you think there’s a chance in hell that it will run?” Wells was running in the direction of a column of black smoke.
“Wells, be realistic! The APC is trashed, we probably blew out the shocks as soon as we landed! Help me collect what we can. Shelley, you ok?” Harris was in command of our three-man army. I say three because at that point I didn’t know what to count the Hitchiker as.
“I’m o-ok I guess… I’m bleeding.”
“Yes, yes you are. I may have some med stuff around—“
“Here, I grabbed it from the med kit that fell.” Wells walked towards us with his arm outstretched, brandishing a roll of bandages.
“We’ve got to find a radio and open up com with the Ticonderoga! We should head into that colony to get out of this storm and look around.” Harris took my helmet off and proceeded to wrap it with the bandage. Looking at the dead shell of what was once a Weyland-Yutani “Shake and Bake” colony. So many of them have ended in disaster, with the colonial marines cleaning up the mess. Weyland-Yutani: Building Shitty Worlds.
“No. I can’t allow that risk. You will come in with me but I’ve designated a place for you to hide.”
The Hitchiker speaks! And apparently it’s a woman.
Harris was livid.
“What?! You expect us to just wait like we’re at the doctor’s office?! What about those things that just killed most of our unit?! There’s got to be more, and they’re going to be looking for their buddies.”
“No, that was a guard detail. The rest are after the same thing that I’m after. I may be too late, I need to hurry—“
“I don’t fucking care! I want answers. Who are you? What are all of you freaks after? How are we getting off this shithole?”
“Samus Aran. That information is on a need-to-know basis. I’ve already sent a com up to the Ticonderoga, my ship should be landing about 200 feet from where we’re standing, ETA 30 minutes. ”
“NEED TO KNO—“
“We should go. My scanners are picking up life forms, and they’re not space pirates.”
The flat calm of Samus’s voice was both soothing and disturbing.
“What happened next, Private Shelley?”
“It’s hard to say. We entered the colony with the bounty hunter and she directed us to a storage room. She said that she would be back in 25 minutes. It actually wasn’t bad for the next 20. After that, things get blurry.”
Samus was early. She had a somewhat large cylinder attached magnetically to her non-cannon hand. Her once shiny armor is now covered in what looks to be pirate blood. Parts of her armor look like they have been eroded away with acid.
“We have to get out of here.” There is actually some urgency in that cool voice now.
“Pirates?” Wells says what we’re all thinking.
“Worse. It appears the pirates were here longer than I thought, and were compromised. Those six that were outside were survivors waiting for a rescue ship of their own. Let’s go, now.”
As we run to the hole in the front entranceway, black shapes fall from the ceiling.
“Shit! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” From the shadows a dark blur grabs Wells and tries to haul him away. He fires wildly. Then somehow the creature turns the head of Wells into a shower of blood and brain matter.
“Fuck! What are these things?!” Harris starts firing at headless Wells with her pulse rifle and nails the creature multiple times. It lets out a screech as green blood is pouring out of its body. After a number of long seconds it finally goes down.
We manage to board the bounty hunter’s ship, which weirdly looked like her helmet.
I’m firing in all directions now, not knowing what I’m hitting. If I hear that bug screech I know it’s a good shot. Samus is next to me, blowing these things apart with missiles. “I’m almost out, we must keep moving.”
I feel something behind me. Samus turns around and her can charges for 2 seconds, letting loose an energy shot right past my head. The next thing I know my back is on fire.
“Is that when you lost Corporal Harris?”
“All I can remember is Samus’s cannon turning into a hand. She managed to pick me up over her shoulder and started to run inhumanly fast. As we’re getting away I can see Harris staring at us down the hallway one second, and then in the next she’s engulfed by the darkness.”
“When did you lose the specimen?”
“Wha’? I’m sorry, just realized she’s gone.”
“Were you close with the corporal?”
“It’s none of your business, but yes, we were… friends. She was my only friend in the corps. I think she felt sorry for me.”
“I’m sorry for your loss, private. Many good people did not make it back from this mission.”
“You’re sorry? Bullshit. What was the question? The specimen. I guess we lost it at some time after we found the dragon.”
“Yes. I read the report.”
“She called it ‘Ridley’.”
We manage to board the bounty hunter’s ship, which weirdly looked like her helmet. She removed my trashed armor and threw it out of the back hatch. She closed the hatch, placed me in a chair, and strapped me in. I must have blacked out because the next thing I know there were alarms going off all over the ship.
“Hold tight,” she said, grabbing the cylinder containing the mysterious specimen, just sitting inside the ship.
Then she’s opening the hatch. Good thing I was strapped in – I was beat up so bad I couldn’t help much anyway. Outside was one of the creatures from the colony, only this one was huge and had wings.
“Ridley?! I have the specimen!” Samus was holding up the cylinder. The creature screeched that horrible screech, and steam started to erupt from the top of the cylinder.
“Get rid of it!” I yelled, knowing that what happened next couldn’t be good.
She threw it out of the hatch and the creature flew after it. She charged up a freeze blast and managed to tag the creature on one of its wings. As the hatch was closing you could see the damn thing spiraling thousands of feet.
“Do you know why Samus did what she did?”
“It was the only way to be sure.”
“According to Lieutenant Bartleby’s report, when our company droid took you to the Med Bay, the bounty hunter locked you both in and managed to override the lock. She then knocked out Bartleby. A nuclear detonation was reported on Archeron at the site of the colony New Dawn, completely destroying it. Samus Aran knew what she was getting into.”
“I don’t think she realized that the space pirates were entrenched in that colony for that long. They took down our dropship with a surface-to-air cannon, and that dragon thing—“
“Xenomorph – they’re called xenomorphs.”
“Whatever, that thing was a xenormorph, and did not happen overnight. I agree with Samus Aran’s decision. And I know they’re called xenomorphs. I’ve done some reading since you brought me here.”
“I read up on that moon, LV 426. Weyland-Yutani had a colony set up there almost 60 years ago. Hadley’s Hope. It went up in a reactor explosion. That report had more holes than Swiss cheese, but I figured out the rest. Also read about the Nostromo, another tragedy. What you’ve done, the lives lost, you’re not going to get away with this. I’m fucking done with this debriefing!”
“Private Shelley, I have not dismissed—” I didn’t see the hit coming.
“Security? This is Dr. Franklin. Please arrest Private Shelley. He is having a PTSD episode and will need to be placed in confinement. After that please have him committed to the mental ward of the Titan Veteran’s Hospital.”
“Is that all, sir?”
“Yes. And have a nice day.”