Chapter 1 - Evil
*It goes without saying that Alien(s), the story and all related characters as well as the xenomorphic beast belongs to the writers, cast and crew of the show. I claim no ownership or association to the film or franchise of the Alien movies.*
"God damn it, that's not all! Because if one of those things gets down here then that will be all!
Then all this – this bullshit that you think is so important, you can just kiss all that goodbye!"
– Lt. Ellen Ripley
Rebecca Jordan – or Newt, to those who knew her well – was small for her age. Everyone thought so, and they would tell her often as if her small stature was something they believed Newt was unaware of. As if her size was something the adults thought needed to be said again and again, or else people would somehow forget that the small, skinny girl living amongst them was actually eleven years old.
Newt was still very clearly a child, though the idea that she was small for her age did nothing to damage her confidence or the sense of her own worth.
A naturally quiet girl, she was often mistaken as shy and that could not have been further from the truth. Those who bothered to look past Newt's young brown eyes were so surprised by the cleverness and ingenuity of this child that they would often dismiss her as just a particularly imaginative girl. Nothing else.
Only, though she was imaginative she was also intelligent and possessed a keen intuition that served her well while chasing the other children of Hadley's Hope through the labyrinth of air ducts spanning through the whole of the colony structure. To Newt and those others, the ducts were a highway of passages that could take a child anywhere in the colony they wanted to go. Even those levels where children were forbidden to trespass . . . if any of the adults realized how valuable those ducts were to the colony's young, no one had ever made any real attempt to stop the children from exploring the entire separate world located just behind the walls and floors and ceiling.
There was little Newt enjoyed more than going in and spying on her parents and everyone else who believed they were alone so long as the doors to rooms were closed. She even once managed to eavesdrop on the commander listening to an audio-transmission containing orders from Wayland-Yutani to expand the exploration circle around the colony.
This time, however, a journey through the ducts had taken on a far more serious air.
Newt was alone, having told no one that she was leaving. Even her brother Timothy – whom she trusted above all the others – believed that she had gone to her room to rest. Or to cry, though Newt wasn't the sort of girl who cried. She and her family had only just returned to the colony after hours of scouring the alien-wilderness further than anyone else had gone before. The wilderness where they found a spaceship that . . . that she didn't know what.
The memory of those immense arched wings rising menacingly up from the black lava-rock chilled her. She was more frightened than she would admit to anyone.
And then seeing for herself the hand-like monstrosity clamped over the face of the man crumpled on the rock. A tiny nightmare. Repugnance twisted in her belly so that she didn't immediately recognize that it was her own father lying there. Her mother screamed in desperation, calling for aid through the small handheld radio she'd wrenched from the truck where her children huddled. Terrified and bewildered.
From the seat closest to the open door, leaning over her mother's shoulder to see, Newt had caught more than a glimpse of that spider-hand-creature. She saw, where Timmy had not, those long legs clamped around the head of her father. The knotted knuckles of its joints. The sickly pale brown flesh of the tough but flattened body. A slow horror swept through Newt at the mere sight of the creature. The instinctive soul-deep flinch that could be felt so keenly in children. The unquestioned certainty that whatever was there was bad. That she was in the presence of something purely evil.
And then the creature's tail, wrapped securely around the throat of its victim tightened as if it were aware of the humans' terror. It would not allow itself to be removed.
Something grotesque beyond imagining had risen from the depths of this alien world and the horror building within Newt erupted in a scream of raw, animal panic. Whatever that creature was, she knew in the deepest parts of her that it had consumed her father. Evil like that would taint whatever it touched and she understood on a level she hadn't even been aware existed that her beloved daddy was gone. He was still alive, but she had lost him.
It wasn't until they returned to the familiarity of Hadley's Hope and her father was spirited away by white-coated medics that Newt had the opportunity to regain a measure of her usual courage. That bright point of strength that was pure Newt – not Rebecca Jordan.
And that's where she was. An hour after returning to the colony, after promising her frantic mother that she would return to their small apartment with her brother and stay there. She had locked herself in her room and removed the panel over the air circulation duct located directly over her bed and climbed up with all the speed and agility of a spider monkey. She was used to doing this.
Newt scurried through the familiar square "corridors", accustomed to the metallic sharpness of the air in the ducts and the omnipresent chill that made her hands feel damp though if she looked at them they appeared perfectly dry.
Her habit of playing in the air ducts was an asset, as she knew exactly where she was and where to go to reach the medical bay without having to stop and peer out to orient herself along the way. She moved quickly along the passages and it took only minutes to go from her bedroom to the tunnel that ran directly parallel to the Infirmary.
She paused only once, to quickly peer out into the recovery room. Two men in clean white gowns were asleep on the beds that lined both sides of the room. The rhythmic beeping of the EKGs reduced their lives, the steady pulse of their hearts, to ghostly green lines on a sterile screen but they were alive. And that was good.
Newt moved on, slipping silently further along the duct. The next room, an examination room, was empty. Steel and glass cases of supplies and rudimentary medications were neatly arranged around a central table and appeared to have recently been restocked. Everything looked very, very clean and smelled faintly of the antibacterial soap used by the medical personnel.
The third room she left for last because it was actually the surgical bay and Newt did not like looking inside that particular room. It was all glossy steel and white floors and bright, bright lights. This room smelled of a sharper disinfectant that burned the inside of her nose and stuck at the back of her throat. The last time a patient had needed to be treated there was only a few months before. A maintenance man assigned to flush the discharge from the cooling unites had his leg caught under the pressurized plates effectively crushing the bones from ankle to knee.
She remembered hearing his screams echoing through the colony as they carried him from the processing sublevel toward the Infirmary. And the sickly-sweet smell of the man after surgery, where his leg had been amputated. To Newt, the surgical bay is where people cut off body parts.
And that is where she found her father.
Her mother was not permitted in the surgical bay itself, but three attending nurses and the surgeon were there. Her father, unrecognizable with the monster still plastered to his face, lay on the table with bright lights focused squarely on him . . . and on it.
Newt settled carefully, making sure not to make any noise in the metal air duct but wanting to stay and watch for as long as it took. She made herself comfortable and then leaned forward to peer through the ventilation slats and realized that she was in the perfect position to see everything. Her stomach cramped, twisting painfully and she thought she would be sick.
The surgeon – one Dr. Mitchell – touched the creature with a latex-gloved hand. Other than a slow, steady pulsing the creature did not react in the slightest to the contact. A nurse handed the doctor a pair of pliers and he took them from her without a word. Tried to slip them under one of the long, skeletal "fingers" but the creature's grip was so firm that to do so would have required cutting into the skull of the man on the table. Up and under the bone because the creature clung so tightly that it was almost as if it's flesh had melted into that of the human man. They had almost literally become one being.
It would not be easily removed.
The nurses muttered and were silenced by a sharp word from the surgeon. He held out a hand and called for a tool Newt didn't recognize but when a nurse placed it on his palm Newt caught sight of what he held and immediately knew what it was. A bone saw.
A bone saw . . . used in amputation.
She shivered; the desire to scream and beg them not to cut her daddy bubbling in her chest but a whisper of good sense kept her quiet. What was she afraid of? They would not cut off his head . . . would they?
The nurses moved closer, ready with sponges and towels but were careful not to get in the way. The high, whirring noise of the saw grated harshly in Newt's ears. She leaned forward slightly, frightened but fascinated and watched with wide-eyed anticipation as Dr. Mitchell carefully touched the saw to the slender 'leg' of the creature. Millimeters above the first of the two knuckle-joints.
The saw cut easily through that tough brown flesh. The creature did not flinch or show any evidence of pain but a whistle and hiss erupted from it that Newt initially thought might have been a vocalization. The creature screaming as it was cut, rather than flailing about as you would expect. But it wasn't.
A stream of green blood spurted from the wound, flying nearly a foot out before losing velocity and splattering on the shiny white floor. The wound stopped bleeding right away, as if the creature were adapted to preserve itself. The droplets of blood on the floor hissed and sizzled with a smell like burning plastic and as Newt watched, horror-struck from her hiding place in the ceiling, the floor melted.
To Newt, it looked very much like how the lard in her mother's cooking pan would dissolve if the heat was turned up too high. That, however, was where the similarity ended. What was happening to the floor carried a sense of quiet menace about it. Foreshadowing something so much more awful to come.
"Keep calm," Dr. Mitchell was saying, though Newt barely heard him over the frantic thudding of her own heart. "It appears to be a defensive mechanism."
Not an attack . . . a defense. Not an attack.
Oh, Newt was a clever child alright. She understood the surgeon's implied reassurance. She watched him put down the bone saw and reach for another instrument. One that would not cut the creature again. But she knew he was worried. She saw her own fear reflected in the man's eyes, though she should not have been able to see anything through the visor he wore.
The green liquid that should have been blood but wasn't . . . was something she recognized from school. Something her teachers had taught her. To melt the floor like that – to melt without burning or heat – would require something caustic.
Something like acid.