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Max_Writer

Aliens Adventure Game: Forced Entry 1 (Part 2): 2010-07-30

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I finally was able to run a second game of Aliens and finish up where we left off in July 2010. As it was so long ago, I'm first publishing the last game for easy reference. The new entry should be up within the week.

“This is Coombs,” the man’s calm voice said. “I’m in engineering. I have two technicians here. I sent one of the men to go check out the cargo bay. He started screaming. We called for you. Where were you?”

“You sent him off alone!?!” Simmons said.

“There was valuable cargo in the cargo bay that I needed examined,” Coombs said. “The ship is dead and empty.”

“No, it’s not dead and empty sir,” MkVenner said. “There’s … what’d you say … xenomorphs?”

“We’ve got something on this ship–” Simmons started to say.

“Xenomorphs,” Lt. Smith confirmed.

“Those things … if there’s more than one, we’re in deep shit,” MkVenner muttered.

“Riley, please respond,” Coombs voice said.

“It sounded like … it sounded like his suit was compromised,” another voice said.

“Shut up West,” Coombs calmly said. “Riley, respond.”

Only silence answered.

“Riley, respond,” Coombs said again.

Nothing.

“Lieutenant, I need you to send a couple of men into the cargo bay to try to find out what happened to Mr. Riley,” Coombs said.

“**** that man!” Simmons said. “No way!”

“**** that sir!” MkVenner said.

“No way!” Simmons said again.

“Not with only two of us!” MkVenner said.

“Then send three,” Coombs calmly said.

“Coombs, you didn’t see this thing!” Simmons said.

“I understand that,” Coombs said. “You’re also heavily armed. Please do your job.”

“Lieutenant, this thing almost killed Kemps in no time flat,” Simmons said. “It’s going to tear us to pieces.”

Lt. Smith signaled them to switch to the private channel and MkVenner did so. Smith pointed out that though they had the nerve gas, they still needed more information on Coombs. MkVenner told him if he wanted dirt to follow him to engineering. He nodded and they switched back to the open channel.


* * *


Simmons listened on the open channel.

“Riley?” Coombs voice came over the radio. “Riley? Respond.”

There was no response.

“You two secure these samples,” the man said.


* * *


“All right marines, let’s move out,” Lt. Smith said once he was back on the open channel.

“Sir!” MkVenner said, shaking his head.

He hoped Coombs hadn’t picked up the word “marine” in the transmission.

“Form up on McVeety,” Lt. Smith.

“MkVenner sir,” the other man said.

“I mean MkVenner,” Smith said. “You’ve got point.”

As MkVenner started to lead them out of the bridge, Lt. Smith stopped him. He asked if he’d fired any rounds and then told the man to reload his weapon. Kemps was coming around and was in a great deal of pain.

“What the hell was that?” he said.

“Dude, Kemps, man! Are you okay?” Simmons asked him.

MkVenner unslung Kemps’ rifle from his shoulder and floated it across the room to him. Simmons caught it and asked him how he felt. He said it felt like his leg had been in a vice.

“What the hell happened?” he asked. “Was that a piece of machinery?”

“Dude, you don’t want to ****ing know,” Simmons told him.

“Can you walk?” MkVenner asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said. “We’re in zero-g. I’ll manage.”

“Get up on your feet then,” MkVenner said. “Make sure your safety’s off.”

“My safety hasn’t been on since we got here,” Kemps said.

MkVenner motioned for the man to switch over to a private frequency and he did so, as did Simmons.

“You said there was something in the security locker?” MkVenner said.

“Yeah, some serious shit in the security locker,” Simmons answered.

“Let’s go,” MkVenner said.

“Kemps?” Simmons said.

“Yeah, yeah,” Kemps said. “There’s sentry guns.”

“Rocket launchers,” Simmons said.

“Nothing we can really use at close range though,” Kemps said. “There’s gas.”

“They took the smart guns,” Simmons said. “Looked like they had pulse rifles.”

“Ammo for the pulse rifles?” MkVenner said. “I’m going to the security locker.”

He and Simmons went to the security locker and returned with magazines and bullets that they distributed amongst the marines. Everyone made sure they had two more extra magazines.

“I tell you what, I think Coombs can kiss Riley’s ass goodbye,” Simmons said to MkVenner over the private frequency as they loaded up.

“We’ve got to find Brobski,” MkVenner said.

“Absolutely,” Simmons replied. “You know what I say? I say ef these frigging engineers. We’ve got to find our Jew-boy and we’ve got to find him now.”

MkVenner nodded.

Wanting to show the lieutenant the alien, MkVenner led them through the hypersleep chamber to the shaft that led to deck three. On the way, Lt. Smith had them switch over to a private channel and reminded them that they needed to find dirt on Coombs. Simmons replied that the thing would be some.

“You’re not going to believe the size of this thing,” MkVenner told him.

They switched back to an open frequency as they reached the shaft.

“Corporal,” Simmons said.

“Go for corporal,” MkVenner replied.

“Hold up,” Simmons said. “Pop a flare.”

MkVenner took out one of his flares, broke it, and it burst into life, the small device providing its own oxygen-fed flame. He nudged it into the shaft, which it lit in a bluish light. It struck the wall of the stairwell and headed downward at an angle. For just a moment, MkVenner, wired tight, thought the saw a shadow move at the bottom of the shaft.

Simmons noticed that the door to the medlab was still open, darkness deep within the hall there. The hypersleep pods reminded him of coffins and all of them were draped in darkness. He backed after the others, watching the open doorway to the bridge.

Kemps followed MkVenner into the stairwell. MkVenner gestured for the man to wait in the doorway and then put one of his magboots to the wall and pivoted himself to stand on the wall, moving to the opening and covering it from above. He leaned his head very carefully over, Kemps covering him, and finally the light from his helmet penetrated the disintegrated air duct within.

The thing was gone.

“**** me,” MkVenner said.

“What is it man?” Simmons said. “What is it?”

“It’s gone man,” MkVenner said.

“I thought you killed that thing!”

“I shot it in the face. It’s gone man. It’s gone!”

MkVenner carefully moved around the wall and got back on the steps again. He motioned for the lieutenant to move into the shaft and Smith did so while MkVenner covered it.

“Hey Hal,” Simmons called.

“What?” MkVenner replied.

“Didn’t we catch this thing on video?”

“Yeah, we can’t access the helmet until we get back.”

“Shit.”

MkVenner motioned for Kemps to enter the shaft and move down the stairwell. He motioned for Kemps to watch the stairwell while he watched the air duct.

“Lt. Smith,” Coombs voice came over the channel. “Have you investigated the cargo bay yet?”

“We’re en route,” Lt. Smith replied.

Kemps moved down almost to the landing between level one and level three and kept an eye on the open doorway at the bottom. Anderson and Henson also moved into the shaft while Simmons waiting in the doorway to the top. Then MkVenner signaled for Lt. Smith to go to a secure channel and they both switched over.

“See?” MkVenner said, shining his helmet light into the air duct.

Lt. Smith looked into the shaft. Irregular holes pockmarked the duct and MkVenner pointed out the places where the thing had bled out. Smith looked very concerned and a little unnerved.

“I shot it point-blank in the face,” MkVenner said.

Then they noticed the rest of the marines looking up.


* * *


Simmons was standing in the doorway of the shaft, watching the hypersleep chamber, when something launched itself out of the dark doorway that led to the corridor to the bridge. For just a moment, he thought it was some kind of ballistic projectile. Then he saw it had arms and legs and realized it was one of the things.

“****!” he yelled.

He fired a burst from his pulse rifle and saw the thing jerk as the bullets glanced off the lower body and arm of the thing, sending more of the acid blood outward and into the hypersleep chamber. The thing struck him solidly and grabbed him, knocking both of them into the shaft. Simmons found himself face to face with the horrible metal teeth and felt the thing squeezing his chest.


* * *


The rest of the marines looked up as Simmons crashed into the shaft, the alien holding him as both floated across the top of the shaft amidst a cloud of the alien blood. The creature was huge with a massive eyeless head. It was completely black and almost had a mechanical look to its insect-like frame. Great, black tubes grew from the thing’s back.

MkVenner switched back over to the general frequency and heard Simmons cursing and screaming as the thing gripped at his head. Then Simmons went limp in the thing’s grasp. The two struck the wall of the shaft and the thing turned, its legs slapping against the wall uselessly as if they were not working.

“Watch the blood!” MkVenner screamed.

“What’s going on up there?” Coombs said over the radio.

“I’ll save you Simmons!” Henson screamed.

There was a flash from his pulse rifle as he fired a burst. The 10mm rounds flashed again as they struck the top of the shaft near the creature.

“Check your fire!” MkVenner yelled as he aimed at the thing. “Check your fire!”

The thing struggled in the air and then tucked Simmons under one arm. It grabbed at the ceiling and started to pull itself towards the door to the hypersleep chamber again.

MkVenner fired at the thing, the muzzle of his pulse rifle flashing silently in the vacuum. Bullets struck the thing in the head and legs, the head shot only a glance and the other shots sending more of the acid blood into the air. Then everyone else opened fire as well, only Anderson and MkVenner’s bursts actually striking the thing in the in the chest, legs, and lower body. It jerked at the bullets struck it and let loose of Simmons, the two floating apart with a cloud of the thing’s blood spreading out between them.

“Get out of the shaft!” Lt. Smith said. “Get out of the shaft now!”

MkVenner reached back and put a hand on Kemps as he saw that the mass of the tiny droplets of blood were between them and the rest of the marines. Lt. Smith and Pvt. Anderson headed back up the steps at speed. Pvt. Henson bent at the knees and leapt upwards, his feet leaving the metal steps. He stopped himself with one hand when he reached the ceiling, reached over and grabbed the incapacitated Simmons, and then pulled him towards the open door to the hypersleep chamber as the others made their way into the doorway.

Little blobs of the acid blood were expelling smoke as they struck the railing, steps, walls, and ceiling of the shaft. The area was filling with a whitish haze.

Cpl. MkVenner and Pvt. Kemps headed down the shaft and into the main passageway on deck three. They were not far from the airlocks, the last place they’d heard from Brobski. MkVenner could also see that the far door in the long passage was open. He knew it led to the cargo bay.


* * *


Simmons came too and was in pain but couldn’t feel any broken bones. Anderson looked him over briefly but his suit had not lost its integrity. Miraculously, none of them had been touched by the alien’s acid blood.

“Lieutenant, what is going on?” Coombs voice came over the radio. “Have you sent some men down to check out the cargo bay?”


* * *


“Coombs,” MkVenner said, very calmly, “when we get a chance, we’ll go check out the cargo bay. We’ve got hostiles all over us. Our team’s been split. We might have a man down. Just give us a minute.”

“Very well,” Coombs replied.

MkVenner and Kemps held their position, looking down towards the two open doors that led to the airlocks on either side of the ship.

“Hey, corporal, can we close this door behind us?” Kemps muttered.

“To the stairwell?” MkVenner replied.

“Where that blood … acid stuff is,” Kemps said.

He was watching the stairwell very carefully.

“Hold tight Kemps,” MkVenner said.


* * *


Simmons led the other group back through the bridge, where they found that the floating body of Penrose was missing.

“Don’t forget, the thing came from this direction,” Simmons said.

“Seal off the stairwell,” MkVenner’s voice came over the radio. “We’re going to seal off the doors down here. Talk to me Simmons. Where are you?”

“Uh … we’re getting ready to head down the passage to deck two,” Simmons said.

They headed down the stairwell from the bridge to deck two and found themselves in an open chamber with a single open door in the opposite wall that led to engineering and a dark passage to the left. The door to the right was closed and they knew it led to the tube to deck three.

“Where’s Coombs?” Simmons said. “Coombs?”

“Coombs here,” the voice replied.

“Where are you?” Simmons asked.

“We are in engineering,” Coombs replied. “Where are you?”

“Doors are open, yeah?”

“Yes … we opened them to get to engineering. Where are you? Are you at engineering?”

“Yeah, we’re on level two.”

“I need a couple of men in here.”

“Oh, you’re going to get a couple of ****ing men.”

“Pardon me?”

Simmons looked at Lt. Smith.

“Mr. Coombs, we have to pick up the rest of the squad,” Smith said.

“They are investigating the cargo bay,” Coombs replied. “While they investigate the cargo bay, I need a couple of men. I’ve got something I need transferred back to the dropship.”

“We’ll get there as soon as possible,” Lt. Smith said.

“Aren’t you right outside the door to engineering?” Coombs asked.

Smith looked at Simmons and then touched the switch to the private frequency. Simmons did as well.

“Let’s go,” Simmons said to him.

He took the lead and motioned to Anderson and Henson to follow him. Henson covered the rear.


* * *


“Lieutenant? Lieutenant?” Coombs voice came over the radio.

MkVenner rolled his eyes and guessed Lt. Smith had switched to the other frequency.


* * *


When they reached the other end of the tube, Lt. Smith switched his frequency over again. Coombs called for him over and over but he didn’t answer the man.

“Anderson,” MkVenner’s voice came over the radio. “Anderson.”

“Yeah,” Anderson said. “We’re almost there.”

“If there was any power, are there any emergency bulkheads that could be dropped to seal off these airlock tubes?” MkVenner asked.

“Might be able to rig something,” Anderson replied. “We’d have to weld it shut. We’d have to weld one of the doors to the … you mean to the damaged airlock?”

“Yeah.”

“We’d have to weld it shut. Make it air tight. Might take a little while.”

MkVenner saw lights in the passage and then movement as the lieutenant entered the passage from a corridor on his right. He slapped Kemps, who was just finishing manually closing the door to the stairwell. Kemps spun around with a shout.

“Easy easy easy bro,” MkVenner said. Then: “Lieutenant.”

“I have a visual on you corporal,” Lt. Smith replied.

“Eyes on please,” MkVenner said. “We’re moving to you.”

He and Kemps moved down the passage towards the far end.

“Lieutenant, I need some men in engineering,” Coombs voice came again. “And have you checked out the cargo bay yet?”

“We are en route,” Lt. Smith replied.

As they reached the open passages that led to the airlocks, Kemps and MkVenner slowed and covered both of them as they moved past. MkVenner was on the right, on the side with the damaged airlock, and as he looked down it, he thought at first it was pitch black. Then he realized he could see stars far down the passage.

“Holy shit!” he said.

Something sometimes blocked the stars, as if it were floating down there.

“Ell-Tee, can you move your team down here?” MkVenner asked.

“Holy shit!” Kemps said. “How can these things live in vacuum man? How can they survive?”

“Stop, Kemps,” MkVenner said.

Kemps continued to mumble under his breath and MkVenner turned to see him looking the other way. As he continued to babble incoherently, MkVenner slapped him in the back of the helmet.

“Get a hold of yourself,” he said.

Lt. Smith and the others moved to meet them in the middle of the passage.

“Does anyone have a motion tracker?” Simmons said.

“They don’t work in vacuum,” MkVenner said.

MkVenner said they had to check out the destroyed airlock. He pointed out that something was floating down there and Brobski had disappeared down there.

“What … what … what?” Kemps said.

He seemed to be coming unglued.

“Don’t you remember what Brobski said?” Simmons said. “The lady, the lady that was on the recording, she was down here, that the whole hatch had been blown off, so it’s probably her body floating around.”

“Well, it could be,” MkVenner said. “But it could be Brobski’s body.”

“Shit,” Simmons said.

“If there’s any chance he’s alive, I want to go get him,” MkVenner said. “We don’t leave our people behind.”

Simmons looked down the passage which looked a kilometer long. In actuality, he guessed it was closer to forty meters down to the airlock. He drew out a flare, broke it so it lit, and tossed it down the corridor. Then he looked back into the passage.

Everyone was watching all around, helmets and pulse rifles constantly pivoting, though they also kept glancing down the corridor to the destroyed airlock. As the flare reached the end of the corridor, they could see the damage, even at that distance. There were bullet holes and explosive blast burns in the walls, floor, and ceiling. As the flare got to the end, they could see a body floating there. The flare actually bumped into the body in a corporate spacesuit. Icicles of blood spread out from the wounds like red quills and the walls were painted in frozen blood. The suit was torn and shredded. There were also unusual resin secretions around some of the wall and ceiling corners, almost taking the shape of oversized black honeycombs.

“What the hell is that?” MkVenner whispered.

He asked Anderson if there was anything they might be able to salvage off the ship that they could weld over the intersection and seal it up. Anderson answered that he guessed they could salvage enough to close the door there. It might not form the perfect seal but it would be a start. He said once power and life support were back on, they could find any leaks and seal them. He said it might be easier to seal it at the airlock at the other end, however.

“Let’s go check this damned cargo bay,” MkVenner muttered.

“Yes lieutenant, please go check the cargo bay,” Coombs’ voice came over the radio.

“Give me pirates any day,” Simmons muttered.

They moved down the corridor to the open door of the cargo bay and shined their lights within. A short corridor led to another open door. The cargo bay beyond was vast and obviously encompassed the entire aft section of the ship. The main drive apparently went right through the cargo bay and the huge room actually encompassed it. Pallets were stacked throughout the bay with large crates atop them, the entirety of them secured to the deck. Each metal crate had a bill of lading with a bar code and a printed manifest. MkVenner tore one of the plastic bills of lading off and kept it.

The cargo formed lanes that crisscrossed the cargo bay and as they moved to the aft of the bay, some 100 meters away, they spotted more of the strange resin honeycomb. Near the back, they saw actual columns of the stuff, reaching almost to the ceiling and covering several of the pallets of crates. Simmons groaned when he saw it.

“That can’t … that can’t be part of the ship, right?” he said.

“It’s organic,” MkVenner said.

“Is that blood?” Henson muttered. “It’s blood over there. I see blood.”

“Where?” Simmons said.

Henson pointed to the left and they carefully moved to the spot. There was blood on the floor and splashed on some of the crates. There were also a few torn bits of space suit.

“Coombs,” MkVenner said.

“Yes,” Coombs replied.

“What was the name of the man you sent to the cargo bay?” MkVenner asked.

“Riley,” Coombs replied.

“I don’t think Riley’s coming back.”

“Damn it. What’s down there?”

“Bunch of alien shit, I don’t know.”

“Why don’t you bring your sorry ass down here and check it out?” Simmons said. “Maybe you can tell us.”

“I’ll be down once I get an escort,” Coombs replied.

They looked at the organic material across the bay.

“What do you think Simmons?” MkVenner said.

“I don’t think you want to know what I think,” Simmons said. “What are you asking Corp? Do I want to go check it out or what? **** no. But, I mean, it’s what we’re here for.”

“All right, pull it in,” MkVenner said. “Keep it tight. All your firing lanes cleared.”

They approached the strange resin secretions and saw that connected to the resin were what appeared to be two bodies. They were obviously dead but the bottom half of each appeared to have changed or mutated into some kind of round, puckered alien substance that looked almost like a flower with an overly fat stem. With the changes of their skin and hair, the men appeared to have almost been mutated into the strange roundish alien thing that they were sticking out of.

“What!?!” MkVenner said. “What the ****?”

“What the hell?” Simmons said. “What the hell!?! I mean, what the hell!?!”

“What’s going on down there?” Coombs voice came over the radio.

“Clear the channel,” MkVenner said.

He looked at the two corpses and what they were becoming.

“What I wouldn’t give for a flame unit right now,” he said.

“I’m for getting back to the dropship and blowing the hell out of this thing,” Simmons said.

“Yeah, well, while we’re wishing, let’s just make ourselves back on Earth,” MkVenner said. “Kicking back, drinking tea, and eating chips.”

“Give me a beer and I’ll agree with you,” Simmons said.

He looked at the resin encrusting the walls.

“This stuff, it looks like some kind of organic material,” he said.

“We can’t just leave those guys there like that,” MkVenner said.

“What?” Simmons said. “Corp, in all fairness, they’re gone. We haven’t grabbed bodies from anywhere else.”

MkVenner looked more closely at the bodies but didn’t recognize them. They appeared to have been in good shape and were well muscled, with military style clothing and haircuts.

“I can tell you one thing,” Simmons said. “Neither one of these guys is Riley.”

“Does either one of those guys look like typical corporate deep-spacers to you?” MkVenner asked.

“Oh yeah,” Simmons said. “Absolutely.”

“Something’s starting to stink around here.”

“I still need some help in engineering,” Coombs’ calm voice broke in. “I have some items I need moved at which point, we can return to the ship.”

MkVenner nodded to Simmons and switched over to the private frequency. Simmons clicked over, as did Lt. Smith.

“So, I’m thinking, what kind of item is this that he’s wanting to move?” Simmons said.

“I don’t know. I don’t know,” MkVenner said. “We’ve got a whole cargo bay full of high tech electronic shit.”

“Is it?”

“We’ve got combat consoles up on the bridge. We’ve got a medical bay with what Henson and Kemps say has stasis containers in there. We’ve got these two jarhead assholes hanging up on a wall.”

“Yeah. Those ain’t civilian anything, we know that. I’m thinking we crack open one of these cases.”

“Yeah, I agree with that.”

They opened up one of the metal crates and found that it was, indeed full of electronics just as the bill of lading said. That surprised both of them.

“Damn, I could have sworn …” Simmons said. “Well, you and Ell-Tee are in charge. I don’t like being down here. We’ve got one guy dead already. I don’t know if it was one of the ones that came after us or another of them.”

“Let’s get the **** out of here,” MkVenner said.

“Hey wait, I just had a thought,” Simmons said. “Okay, so, Henson and Anderson found some kind of specimen container in the medbay.”

“Empty,” MkVenner said.

“Yeah, empty,” Simmons said. “What if that was how big it was? We’ve seen these things fit into a pretty tight hatch. What if what Coombs wants us to move is one of these damned things?”

He looked at the other two.

“I mean, we’re not here for what he thinks we’re here for in the first place,” he went on.

“No,” MkVenner said. “No, this is a cover up. I don’t know man. I never heard of anything like this. I mean, it can live in a vacuum so … we can’t know for sure if these things attached themselves to the ship when they found it or where they came from but I just can’t see these things floating around in the void. They had to have come from the ship or, wait a minute–”

“Anderson might be able to tell where the ship came from,” Lt. Smith said.

“The recording of the staff sergeant,” MkVenner said. “Didn’t she say there were two other ships?”

“She said something about two ships,” Lt. Smith said. “I don’t remember.”

“Yeah yeah, two ships, it was broken up but it was in there,” Simmons said.

“She said something about two ships,” MkVenner said. “We need to hear that recording again.”

“Damn, we’d have to get back to the bridge then,” Simmons said.

“Aw …” Lt. Smith replied.

“Have our mission parameters changed yet sir?” MkVenner asked Smith. “We catch Coombs with his hands wrist deep in this pie, what can we do?”

“Well, something bad happened here, I’m not even sure what,” Lt. Smith said. “We need to find how Coombs is connected with this.”

“Well, he’s covering up pretty hard,” MkVenner said.

“He seems pretty ****ing calm for a civvie,” Simmons said.

“If we go up there to move whatever he’s talking about moving and it turns out to be some more of these damned things, is that enough clearance to deal with it?” MkVenner said.

“Oh yeah,” Lt. Smith said.

“And then we can get the hell out of here?” MkVenner said.

“Yeah,” Smith said. “Hopefully. He’s got a whole crew on his ship though. That’s the problem.”

“Ef those guys man,” MkVenner said. “After fighting these things, I’d be happy to face a couple of yahoos with a gun. We’d better switch over and get back up there to see what the hell he needs moved.”

They switched back to the open frequency.

“Hey, lieutenant,” Kemps said. “Coombs wants to talk to you.”

“Lieutenant, are you back with us?” Coombs voice came over the headset.

“Ah … yeah,” Lt. Smith said.

“West has gotten ship’s power back on,” Coombs said.

“Not down here,” MkVenner said.

“Well, it’s possible the lights weren’t on down in the cargo bay,” Coombs said. “Gravitational systems are still … we’re working on that.”

“We’re coming up,” MkVenner said.

They left the cargo bay and saw lights in the main corridor of the third deck though many of them had been damaged and destroyed apparently. They could more easily see signs of combat and bullet holes in the area. They headed back up to the second deck and found that doors were now closed in their path though they opened with a press of a button.

When they got to engineering, they found more of the strange resin there. Two large resin columns covered two consoles, also covered in resin. Four people were encased in each column and the six men and two women were all terribly mutilated and burned, as well as frozen in vacuum. All were well-muscled and wore military style clothing and haircuts. One of them had an old Colonial Marine tattoo. Three of them had large, gaping holes in their chests as if something had burst out of them.

“What the ****!?!” Simmons said.

“Yes, we found the remains of the crew apparently,” Coombs said.

“You didn’t feel it important to tell us this shit when you found it?” MkVenner said.

“Well, they were dead,” Coombs said.

“So are we if we don’t get the hell off this ship,” MkVenner said.

There were also four oblong, leathery orbs on the deck. They were closed but reminded them of the things the men were changing into in the cargo bay.

“What the hell is this shit Coombs?” MkVenner said.

The bodies that did not have chest wounds were nearer the strange, oblong growths and appeared to be blue in the face and the lips. They had probably died from asphyxiation when the atmosphere had been vented from the ship.

“So, lieutenant, corporal, can you guys count like I can?” Simmons said, eyeing the bodies with the chest wounds.

“If this thing is adding up the way it looks, yeah,” MkVenner said.

“I’m going to take a guess that the previous crew didn’t ice any of these things,” Simmons said. “So I’m going to bank on the fact that there’s at least two more.”

“Two,” MkVenner said.

He looked at the corporate executive.

“All right Coombs, where is this precious cargo that you want us to transfer for you?” he said.

He pointed at the oblong, fleshy things on the ground.

“That’s what I thought you were going to say,” MkVenner said.

“To hell with that, man!” Simmons said. “I mean to hell with that!”

“Have you seen one of these things full-sized?” MkVenner said.

“One of what things?” Coombs said.

“Oh please!” Simmons said. “Cut the shit! Yeah, you’ve seen these things!”

Coombs looked at them.

“There is a substantial bonus for every one in your group upon returning,” Coombs said.

“How big of a bonus?” Simmons asked.

“More than ten times what you were offered each,” Coombs said.

“Twenty-two grand?” MkVenner said. “Really? That’s like a weekend in Vegas!”

“Hyperdyne has substantial interest in the Weyland-Yutani find,” Coombs said. He looked them over. “Your contracts can be renegotiated to your favor. But these need to be returned to the Mendez.”

“Lieutenant?” Simmons said.

Lt. Smith looked around the engine room.

“Coombs, what the hell is Ashgrate?” he said.

That surprised both Simmons and MkVenner.

“What?” Coombs said.

“Ashgrate,” Lt. Smith repeated. “What is Ashgrate?”

Coombs looked them all over.

“It is unimportant,” Coombs said. “We need to move this cargo.”

“If you want us to move this cargo, it’s important,” Simmons said.

“Gentlemen, I hope you will keep in mind that you are in my employ,” Coombs said. “As are the pilot of the dropship and the captain of the Mendez.”

“I hope you remember that … all of the rest of us are carrying the ****ing guns,” Simmons replied.

“As are men on the Mendez,” Coombs slowly said. “If you’d like to stay on this ship, then do whatever you wish. Kill West. Kill Hennison. Kill me. But if you do, I can guarantee, as we are still in communication with the pilot, than none of you will get off this ship and back onto the Mendez. The Walbran is in a decaying orbit. It’s got several days, but eventually it’s going to crash into that planetoid. I have offered you compensation. I don’t find this any less distasteful than any of you. But we must salvage what we can so that these people’s lives were not lost in vain. These are all Hyperdyne employees. Their families will be justly compensated.”

“All right then, here’s the new deal,” MkVenner said. “I want full disclosure and I want full disclosure now or I’m not taking another step in any direction that you want me to. Neither does the rest of my team.”

Coombs looked at him.

“I can give you that once we reach the Mendez and you have signed non-disclosure forms,” he said.

“Let me tell you right now, I ain’t picking that ****ing thing up until I know what it is, what comes out of it, what it does, what it came from, how the hell you know about it, how the hell you got a hold of it, and how this whole ****ing fiasco went down,” MkVenner said. “Or I’ll pull the trigger and blow away your multimillion dollar eggs right here, buddy.”

“You don’t want to do that,” Coombs said quietly.

MkVenner lowered the muzzle of his pulse rifle and pointed it at the things on the floor.

“Lieutenant, please get your men under control,” Coombs said.

Simmons also aimed his pulse rifle at the things.

“Yeah man,” he said.

“Wait, wait, let’s not be rash gentlemen,” Coombs said. “These are … from what I can piece together, Weyland-Yutani has been investigating a new potential biological weapon. These are apparently all that’s left. The creatures that you fought, elsewhere in the ship, are somehow related to these eggs.”

“Biological weapon?” Simmons said.

“Damned good one too,” MkVenner said.

“Yes,” Coombs said slowly. “That’s all I can tell you.”

“Biological weapons don’t crawl around in an air shaft and reach in and grab people and rip them to pieces,” Simmons said.

“These do,” MkVenner replied. “It’s all you can or will tell us?”

“It’s all I can tell you,” Coombs said.

He was watching the two men very carefully.

“Do it,” Kemps whispered. “Do it man.”

“So what’s Ashgrate?” Simmons asked.

Coombs looked at him over the rifle barrel.

“One of the specimens was recovered and was in transport to Hyperdyne, codename: Ashgrate,” he said. “It was in a stasis tube.”

“Where is it now?” MkVenner said.

“I do not know,” Coombs replied. “I’ve not had a chance to look at any of the ship’s logs yet.”

“Yeah, well, we found some kind of specimen,” Simmons said. “Well, we didn’t. Henson and Kemps found some kind of specimen tube up in the medbay.”

“It was empty,” MkVenner said.

“Empty,” Simmons echoed him.

“Apparently it escaped,” Coombs said.

“Yeah, you ****ing think?” Simmons said.

“Gentlemen, as I’ve said, my only assumption is that it escaped and … somehow attacked the captain,” Coombs said.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute,” MkVenner said quickly. “Henson, how big did you say that tube was that you found? The specimen container?”

“It was a regular stasis tube,” Henson said. He held out his hands to indicate something about two feet wide and maybe three feet tall. “Yeah, it was good-sized.”

“That big black ****ing thing that attacked us in the stairwell couldn’t fit in one of those, could it?” MkVenner asked.

Henson shook his head.

“So something else came out of that,” MkVenner went on. “What bit a hole in the captain’s sleep couch? What, it crawled inside of him and then busted out of his chest as something different?”

“Nah, that’s weird,” Henson said.

“Where did these come from Coombs?” MkVenner asked.

“Uh … they were picked up on a Weyland-Yutani base,” Coombs replied.

“What?” MkVenner said. “What base?”

“It was a … uh …” Coombs said.

“This isn’t Weyland-Yutani-controlled space,” MkVenner said.

“It’s controlled by several different corporations.”

“Where is this base?”

“It is … the planet is called Acheron.”

MkVenner and Simmons were looking over the eggs. Both noticed how similar they were to the things in the cargo bay. These were somewhat translucent, however. They could see that there was something inside each of them.

“Gentlemen, if we return these, we would all become very wealthy,” Coombs said.

Simmons and MkVenner looked at each other.

“Where are you taking them?” MkVenner asked.

“They are to be returned to Hyperdyne,” Coombs said.

“Where’s Hyperdyne?” MkVenner said. “I know it’s a company, but …”

“They will be taken to one of Hyperdyne’s scientific research laboratories and studied,” Coombs said. “What was in the cargo bay?”

“Dead men,” MkVenner said. “Two dead guys. They looked like two dead marines actually. Kind of like that guy right up there.”

“Those are Hyperdyne employees,” Coombs said. “Everyone aboard the ship was. Now, will you please stop pointing guns at those?”

“Not yet.”

“Gentlemen, I’m sure that we can come to some equitable agreement. As you have said, you think that there are more of these creatures on board.”

“At least two.”

“It would behoove us to get off of this ship.”

“Well, actually, so far, you and your engineering team haven’t done a damned thing except feed these ****ers from what I can tell.”

“Feed them?”

“Whatever. One of your guys wandered off into the cargo bay and he’s dead somewhere.”

“He went down–”

“It’s just you and these two.”

“We lost Brobski too,” Simmons said.

“Yeah, we lost a good man up here,” MkVenner said.

“I’m sorry,” Coombs said. “But it will all be in vain if we don’t take these back.”

They all looked at each other. Only the sound of their breath in their helmets filled the silence.

“Anderson, Kemps, Henson, keep an eye on this stuff,” Simmons said. “Lieutenant. Corporal.”

Simmons, MkVenner, and Lt. Smith all switched over to the private frequency.

“So, what the hell are we gonna do?” Simmons asked.

“I ain’t picking one of those ****ing things up, I can tell you that,” MkVenner said.

“He’s got us over a barrel,” Lt. Smith said.

“Are you kidding me?” Simmons said. “We could arrest this guy!”

“And do what?” MkVenner said.

“Shove one of these eggs so far up his ass it pops out his head!” Simmons said.

“The problem is, the Mendez is under his control,” Lt. Smith said.

“Without him, we’re not leaving,” MkVenner said. “If we’re going to do anything, we can’t do it until we get back aboard the Mendez. And, until we control the Mendez.”

They realized they could get to the space station and wait out there for help if they needed to. They could get to it with the dropship, but they still had to get control of the dropship for that. None of their men were pilots.

“Can you imagine if they get a hold of one of these things though?” Simmons said. “I know he’s got us over a barrel, but if someone gets a hold of one of these things and figures out how to make it turn into one of those big black things?”

“We’re screwed men,” MkVenner said. “We just got kicked all the way down to the bottom of the food chain.”

“I saw that thing up close, and I mean up close,” Simmons said.

“All right,” MkVenner said. “We send Smith and Kemps to secure the dropship. We call it recon. Their true task is to get onboard, draw weapons on the crew, keep them locked down, keep them on that dropship waiting for us. We take Coombs, his two techies, and however we can package these ****ing things up. We take them to the dropship. All right, when we get to the dropship, we ditch Coombs, we ditch techie boys, we leave them on board with these ****ing things, we haul ass to the station. We drop a few surprises for the assholes who stay on the ship. We frag this whole ****ing place.”

“Yeah man!” Simmons said. “Yeah!”

“Let’s ghost these assholes,” MkVenner said.

“Alright, I can do that,” Simmons said.

They went back to open frequency and MkVenner said he wanted Smith and Kemps to make sure they had a clear route to get the cargo to the dropship. He also said he wanted to find something to carry the things and Simmons suggested the crates in the cargo hold.

Lt. Smith and Pvt. Kemps left engineering to go secure the dropship. Once they left, MkVenner sent Anderson and Henson down to the cargo hold to retrieve a crate to transport the eggs. Those two men left as well.

Lt. Smith kept in constant communication, noting when they were on level three and when they approached the airlock.

“Entering the airlock,” Lt. Smith said. “Oh shit!”

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