Chapter 6 - The Young and the Helpless
*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.*
A QUICK WORD FROM DAYSTORM: Hey all, just letting everyone know that even though I'm aware that in the Aliens film, Timmy is actually Newt's OLDER brother . . . for the purposes of this story I've switched it around so that he's younger than she is. Letting everyone know that that isn't a mistake on my part. I did it on purpose. :P So, enjoy! We get to see a little more of Timmy as a character and Newt's youth in this chapter.
"She's supposed to be some kinda consultant.
Apparently she saw an alien once."
– Cpl. Ferro
Newt considered herself the reigning queen of the tunnels. Of the ventilation ducts. She prided herself on her ability to traverse them without ever getting lost – and she would never admit, even to herself, that that very thing had happened when she panicked, thinking the creature was after her. She had gotten so scared that she momentarily lost her way.
A moment of weakness, Newt thought. Because not only did she always know her way around, but she knew every secret corner and crevice. She knew the best places to hide, and how many turns to take to confuse the other children. Newt was very able to simply disappear within those tunnels, to the absolute bewilderment and frustration of every other colony child.
So even though the entire colony was in a state of emergency and there was a murderous monster roaming about, she felt a sharp twang of embarrassed disbelief that her brother – of all people – had a secret hideaway she had no idea even existed.
The wide, rectangular "room" hiding right inside the colony's ventilation ducts looked comfortable. Partly because of the illusionary safety offered by the ceiling, which was really just a large fan whoomphing dully as the blades spun forcing fresh air through the ventilation. Mostly because Timmy had apparently been very busy since his discovery of his secret hideaway. The floor was covered in blankets. The scratchy gray emergency blankets their parents had stored in the linen closet next to the washroom in their small apartment. But also the thick, plush comforter from Timmy's bed. A couple articles of clothing – her brother's – were strewn about.
At some point, Timmy had clearly been back to the apartment to gather these things. And to build his small nest in case . . . in case he needed to come here.
"When did you do this?" Newt asked, mildly awed at her brother's ingenuity. "When did you manage to get away and do this?"
It had to have happened after the colony had been shut down. After the monster was revealed as murderous, because before the slaughter in the school rooms no one had thought that the "emergency" would last very long. Everyone had really and truly believed that whatever it was the search parties were looking for would be captured and disposed of quickly and then business would resume as usual. Timmy hadn't known, then, what Newt did. He would have stayed with their mother, like the other children were staying with their parents.
"I sneaked away when mom was sleeping," Timmy admitted, looking particularly proud of himself and preening at his sister's approval. "There's no one anywhere. Nobody saw me."
Of course nobody saw him, if he was using the ducts to move through the colony. But Newt didn't say that. Timmy looked so pleased that she didn't have the heart to tell him when he said something stupid. She shuffled forward and dropped onto the mess of sheets on the floor. Immediately felt comfortable and . . . soothed. This would be a good place to sleep.
Newt looked at her brother and smiled. He blushed hotly, a deep red creeping up his neck and scurried out of the cold steel duct onto the blankets beside his sister. Looked around and then pulled something out from under a sweater. He held it out to Newt, who took it curiously and then broke out laughing. The first real moment of joy she had felt in what seemed like so, so long. The tightness knotting her chest loosened just a little.
It was a photo album. The one their mother kept in her closet so that it was safe, but one that was regularly pulled out and admired by the woman. It had baby pictures in there. Photos from Newt's and Timmy's first days of school. Classroom certificates of merit and awards earned for any number of things. Perfect attendance. High grades. Acknowledgments for things like kindness or cleverness or being of a particular help to a teacher.
That photo album contained every milestone and accomplishment achieved by Newt and Timmy almost from the moment they had been born. And he'd stolen it to hide it because it was important to him. To both of them.
Newt laid the book down on her lap and started slightly when Timmy tapped her shoulder. He held out a silver foil packet and Newt took it gratefully. It was a dessert, she realized. A piece of white chocolate that the colony cooks kept safely locked away for special occasions or as rewards. Sweets like this were valuable, because they were shipped to the colony only once a year along with other supplies from Wayland-Yutani. Desserts, like fruits, were rare treats and strictly rationed to make them last until the next drop ship arrived.
Timmy had certainly been busy! She wondered how he'd managed to get his hands on the treats, even though the kitchens and the storerooms were currently unguarded.
But as Newt took a small bite of the creamy smooth white chocolate bar, savoring the very sweet flavor she immediately loved, something else occurred to her. She turned her gaze straight on Timmy and considered him. He was busily chewing on the contents of his own silvery packet – he had a small piece of spongy pink cake – and felt a swell of deep shame for herself.
For all her cleverness, her brother had been smarter. At least in this instance. While Newt had been wasting time scurrying all through the ventilation, spying on people and trying to learn as much as she could of what was happening (and being nearly eaten by the monster because of it) Timmy had kept himself industriously busy. He'd built himself an escape-place. He'd worked very hard to set this place up comfortably with blankets and food and wasn't that gallon-jugs of water stacked in one corner? He might have brought along a few useless things like the photo album and a couple toys strewn about but for the most part . . . Timothy Jordan had done a very good job.
Newt allowed herself a bright swell of warmth and affection towards her brother. He was really and truly hers. Brave and cleverer than the other kids. She was proud of him.
Catching Newt staring, Timmy glanced up and frowned uncertainly. Sure he must have done something wrong but not sure what.
Newt stuffed the rest of her chocolate in her mouth, loving the taste and wanting to savor it slowly but it was so good she couldn't help herself.
The noise echoed harshly through the ventilation, reverberating all around the two children sitting quietly in their nest. The white chocolate Newt had so ungraciously stuffed in her mouth caught and stuck in her throat, choking her. She coughed hard, struggling to clear her airways. She spit the half-chewed mess on the blanket she sat on and drew a deep breath. Painfully. That first breath hurt.
Timmy was chalky white, his spongy cake held halfway to his mouth. Frozen there as he sat very still, listening fearfully for more noises. Neither child recognized the source of the sound but they knew it was a bad noise. Something dangerous.
"Is it the monster?" Timmy whispered to Newt, his voice trembling. Crumbs of cake stuck to his upper lip. He didn't notice.
"No," Newt responded, her voice rasping and rough from having choked. "No, that's something else."
Something else and human-made. The monster hissed and whistled and snarled, even roared, but all those were organic noises. Sounds something alive would make. The metallic crack! echoing painfully loud through the ducts was not alive. It was a machine noise.
Newt moved toward the main duct leading out of Timmy's nest, back the way they'd arrived from, but Timmy immediately rushed to stop her. "What are you doing?"
He posed the question as if Newt had lost her mind! Another sharp crack ricocheted around them, and both children winced with fright. Newt said, "I wanna go see."
Timmy's sudden opinion of his sister's sanity could not have been clearer. "No. We're safe here."
"Someone could need help," Newt argued, weakly. It sounded stupid even to her own ears, but she was a prideful child and having her brother one-up her with his ingenuity in building this place stung. She would not let him think she was cowardly.
Newt slipped into the square air duct and hurried down the shadowy passage. She thought she might know from where the noises had come from, even though they had bounced around so wildly. Confusing the senses. Over the deafening cracks she'd heard things being knocked over. The clatter of metal instruments hitting the floor.
Timmy's nest was very near the Infirmary . . .
"Rebecca, wait!" Timmy called, panic staining his voice. He scuttled quickly behind her, afraid to be left alone or else afraid to let Newt go off by herself. Possibly a little of both. Regardless, he came with her and Newt felt happy that he did. She was brave . . . but she was still afraid. It felt good to have her brother with her, even though he couldn't move as quietly as she could through those ducts. For once, she really didn't care that he couldn't be soundless like she could.
It took no time at all to make it to the Infirmary. A minute or less, given as quick as they were moving. Timmy's nest really was just that close to the medical bay. But rather than climb up to look out into the Infirmary rooms as her instinct directed her to do, she went down the other passage instead. On a whim, she went the other way so that she was at floor-level in the corridor outside the Infirmary. Newt paused, staring through the slats in an air vent out toward the glass door. Nothing moved but sounds traveled as vibrations through the steel beneath her hands and knees, travelling up through her palms and into her bones.
Something was there. Something was coming fast. Newt and Timmy had mistakenly cut them off. They were just ahead of what was coming.
Terrified, Timmy cuddled close to his sister. She could feel his body trembling against hers and she wasn't immune to his fear. The sweetness of the chocolate she'd eaten burned the back of her throat. She swallowed hard, forcing herself not to be sick.
And then there he was.
A man, by the weight of his footfalls because his boots and legs were all she could see of him from her position. He ran stumbling down the corridor, his boots thumping on the metal floors. Timmy's fear was near to her, so Newt felt it more acutely. But the sheer panicked terror of the man running and stumbling, tripping to slam into the walls with enough force to bruise but then pushing off to keep running was a stark terror so powerful that it invaded the space around him. It seeped like a smell straight into the air and wafted through the vents to where Newt and Timmy cowered.
Neither of them could cry, or whimper or make any sort of noise because that fear, a fear that was not their own, had frozen them.
Newt saw the metallic shine of something dark in the man's white-knuckled grip. She peered out as well as she could, considering she could scarcely make her body move, and felt her eyes widened. This was not the first time she had seen a gun, but it was the first time she saw one drawn before. This was not the same small handheld safely holstered at the belt of a security officer on his rounds. This was . . . this was what it was supposed to be.
A scary, vicious little killing-tool.
The man spun around and fired three times into the darkness crowding behind him.
CrackCrackCrack – chink!
The last bullet fired and the gun was empty. The man didn't seem aware of it, at first. He continued to fire blindly into the hall. K-chink. K-chink. K-chink.
Panic, Newt thought. He was panicked and didn't know it.
The man paused to stare at his little gun. He looked at it and then shook it as if that would somehow make a difference. As if that would make more bullets magically appear. Raw animal terror shone brightly in his eyes, dimming the human intelligence that should have been there. His face bleached white and slick with fear-sweat. Without thinking, the man gave the gun another hard shake and then turned to point down the corridor again.
It didn't have to make sense. He was too scared to realize it because his brain wasn't working right anymore. The gun was empty. Useless, now.
Newt hadn't seen the other figure materializing out of the dark, but now she did. An immense black shape coated in slime so that light glistened almost prettily off its grotesque body. It loomed up behind the terrified, solitary man. Long arms and slender, hooked fingers reaching soundlessly. Patiently stealthy, so as not to alert its victim of its presence.
Two more black figures hissed and whistled from down the corridor. They were what the man had been running from, and firing at. They were . . . it was so obvious to Newt. They were the distraction.
She knew the second Timmy became aware of the trap. Her brother stiffened painfully beside her. She heard his sudden indrawn breath and without thinking, Newt spun to wrap her arm around the back of his head and clamp her hand over his mouth.
She didn't dare utter even a breathless 'shhhhhh' for fear of alerting the monsters but then wondered if it would have mattered.
The stealthy creature lunged, lashing its bullwhip tail forward to impale the terrified man on the sharp barb at the tip. It went straight through his hip. A high, wailing screech that was a mixture of unspeakable terror and agony erupted from his throat as he fell forward. The other two monsters rushed forward, converging in the wounded human.
The thick odor of blood and urine stained the air and hurt Newt's lungs. Timmy was weeping, but quietly.
Newt expected the monsters to kill the man; screeching and crying and babbling incoherently on the floor but they didn't. They didn't kill him or rip at him or eat him. She watched, horror-struck, as one of the monsters grabbed him roughly off the floor. It hissed at the other two, and they hissed back, and then quickly turned with its prize and vanished back down the corridor. The man's screams grated harshly all the way and didn't fade with distance for a longtime.
The other two monsters whistled and moved their heads to look at each other, one baring it's teeth and slopping slime on the floor. They then followed the other monster, disappearing into the gloom as quietly as ghosts.
Timmy still made no noise. Newt's hand over his mouth wasn't necessary but she kept it there anyway. Too stunned by what they'd seen to realize it was okay to remove it.
Three monsters. Three huge, black terrors prowling around and these ones were different than the one who killed her daddy. Their shiny black heads were rounded and smooth. As glossy as polished glass. And they had not killed the man they caught. They kept him alive for . . . for what?
The urine smell was stronger now, as Newt slowly calmed down enough to notice.
Newt glanced at Timmy, thinking that the smell came from him. Her brother was shaking uncontrollably. Only the faintest whimpers coming from some place in his throat.
But no. It wasn't him.
In her terror, Newt had peed herself.