Chapter 7 - Eggs
*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.*
"That's it, man. Game over, man! Game over!
What the f*ck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?"
– Pvt. Hudson
Newt refused to answer any questions. She refused to speak to anyone at all. But Timmy couldn't seem to stop. For a little while, he was the centre of attention in a room full of adults. The other children had been sent to the opposite side of the room, because no one was brave enough to leave the secured section just to ask two terrified kids what they saw.
Timmy's eagerness drew immediate attention so that Newt's silence wasn't immediately noticed. No one would have understood Newt's withdrawal if they had. Their own fears, the persistent tension of those past few days, worked to make the grownups less observant than they would have otherwise been. Newt was in the room, sitting quietly next to her brother as he was being steadily questioned, but she had begun to sink into her own mind. A safe place to be, while the world around her descended into senseless horror.
"And then, and then . . . it took him away!" Timmy was saying. "It took him!"
"Took him where, Timothy?" the primary inquisitor demanded. Newt had the vague impression it was a teacher speaking, perhaps because the grownups thought a familiar authority to the children would keep them calmer than having to talk to an engineer or mechanic or even to a security officer. Newt glanced around, spotting those officers standing alertly close by. Listening but not speaking.
"I dunno," Timmy admitted. "We came right back."
He took Newt's hand in his, his fingers cool and dry on hers. Newt didn't return the gesture though a part of her appreciated the contact. It felt good. It made her feel just a little warmer and that was enough to stir something inside of Newt. She hadn't realized that she was feeling cold. But she was and the light warmth she felt from her brother was almost painful against the icy numbness in her chest. Timmy was still talking, trying to explain to everyone exactly what he had seen.
Newt withdrew her hand from her brother's grasp and slipped quietly off her chair. She didn't notice if anyone cared that she was leaving, but no one stopped her. Dressed now in fresh clothes, and having toweled off the best she could without access to a proper bath, Newt still caught the slightest odor of pee from herself and burned with shame and humiliation. Timmy told none of the other kids what had happened, but it didn't matter. She knew. She was eleven years old and she wet her pants like a baby in a diaper.
Without stopping to think if she should, and making no effort to hide her escape from anybody, Newt walked straight across the fitness room and slipped into the ventilation ducts. There came a shout from behind her – one of the grownups calling her back, probably – but she didn't stop. It wasn't like any of them could follow her to bring her back. A kid could have, but who would send a child out with deadly creatures roaming around?
It took no time at all for Newt to return to the sight of her disgrace and the poor man's abduction. The duct smelled sharply of urine, forcing Newt to hold her breath until her lungs hurt. She peeked out into the corridor and saw nothing waiting there, so she sat down and used her feet to kick out the grate. Metal clanged harshly, echoing deafeningly around the dark corridor as the grate slammed against the floor and slid a little bit before knocking against the wall on the other side of the hall.
The realization interested Newt enough to have her pause. She wasn't afraid. She knew she should have been, banging around like that and in a way she sorta was but the emotion felt far away. Like she was aware of it but couldn't actually feel it. And then she wondered if she were doing this on purpose. Daring the creatures to come for her? She'd already survived them twice. Could she do it again?
It was very quiet in the colony, now. With every surviving human locked up in a single location, the colony could have been abandoned. A relic left over from some mass evacuation . . . only nobody was gone. They were trapped. Waiting for something to happen so that they could respond, but not actually doing anything themselves. Or so Newt thought. And it annoyed her.
Making no effort to be sneaky, she walked to where the creatures had ambushed the man they stole and knelt down on the floor. Stuck her fingers in the syrupy pool of slobber they'd left and flinched. It was cold against her skin and thick and somehow very smooth. Like the goo the mechanics used sometimes to lubricate some of the more delicate machinery. It smelled, though. Spoiled milk and sausage grease . . . it sickened Newt to think that the smell was quickly becoming familiar to her.
She stood up quickly, wiping her slimy hands on her pants and looked up and down the corridor. The lights flickered weakly, their illumination making the hall seem much darker than it would have been had the lights not been working at all.
"Where are you?" Newt called into the dark.
She listened, straining her ears for even the slightest indication of noise. Water dripped from somewhere. What felt like a breeze gusted softly through the halls, whistling out of the ventilation. Newt couldn't tell if it was air circulating or if there was a breach in the walls, opening the colony to the outside air. That thought frightened her, where the threat of the monsters did not. Even though the atmosphere processors had made the planet's atmosphere breathable, there were still years of work to be done before this world was properly habitable. The oxygen outside could be breathed safely without masks but it was still very thin. Like air halfway up a mountain.
It would be hard to run away, now. People would get tired faster.
"Hello?" Newt tried again. "I'm right here!"
No monsters. They had been there only hours before and now . . . the corridor was empty. Deserted. If it wasn't for the speckles of blood, and the deep pool of slime at her feet, Newt would have thought the creatures had never been there. That nothing had happened.
Satisfied that she was alone, Newt walked boldly down the hall heading away from the Infirmary and the fitness gym where the surviving colonists were hiding. She didn't know exactly where she was going but that didn't matter so much. She was walking, daring something to leap out at her and nothing did. It seemed so stupid that so many people were ambushed and killed by the creatures but she was being left alone. Or not alone. The creatures had withdrawn to some other place, for now. They would be back.
The first place she went was to the residential block. She found her family's apartment and went inside. Some things were broken and there were splatters of slime on the walls and floors. The monsters had been inside. They weren't there now, though. She went straight to her bedroom and dropped to the floor. Flattened herself down so that she could slide under her bed and pulled out the small box. Inside was something she wasn't supposed to have. A flare. A single, handheld flare that could burn even underwater. She'd stolen it months ago on a dare, and had nearly forgotten she had it.
But she did and it felt good to hold the heavy black stick in her hands. She turned it over, looking for the small strip that needed to be tugged hard to ignite the flare. She just wanted to make sure that she knew where it was, for when she needed to pull it.
Something in the kitchen tinged.
Newt froze, listening carefully. It had sounded like a cup being knocked from the counter to the floor. Her heart started to beat just a little harder. Newt stood up, flare clutched in her hand, and padded carefully towards her bedroom door. She had left the door open . . . front door was open. Bedroom door was open. Mistake? Or had she really not cared?
Now she did.
Newt's numb fearlessness evaporated and she could feel the tension again. She stood in her doorway, looking out into the living room and beyond that to their tiny kitchen. A photo her mother had pinned to the wall fluttered as the ventilation circulated air through the rooms. Nothing else seemed to move. Newt held her breathe, very aware of a presence but not at all sure what to do. Where was it?
A slight, slight skittering noise came from directly ahead of her. She had time enough to realize that whatever it was, it was coming forward. Straight towards Newt so fast it was as if it were being guided by some unseen force.
Without thinking, Newt grabbed the doorknob and threw herself backwards. Effectively retreating and slamming the door shut at the same time. Locking herself in the illusionary safety of the small bedroom.
Something struck the door with a hard knock. It dropped to the floor.
Shadows danced through the slight opening beneath the door. No actual sounds coming from the creature but a lot of shuffling around and too many quick, jerky motions. Newt's heart was hammering, now. Making up for lost effort from before. She gasped, pulling as much air into her body as she could but still feeling breathless.
What was it? What was there?
She knew – knew – it wasn't a giant black monster or even a slithery little one. That was something else and her brain seemed to be tugging at her attention. Recognition hummed through her but she just couldn't pull the memory she needed. She knew what was there, if only she could calm down . . .
Newt's hands shook as she held her heavy black stick to her chest. The flare weapon. Her only one. She wanted to pull the strip and light the thing but couldn't bring herself to waste it. What if she needed it later?
More noises from just outside her door and trickling sounds from inside the room. Water? Was there a breach in her bedroom wall, too? She hadn't seen one.
Newt turned and looked quickly around the small space. Bed. Clothes locker. Desk and schoolwork scattered about the surface. A thin, square rug so that her feet weren't cold on the floor in the mornings. And something dark under her desk, half hidden behind the chair.
She moved cautiously towards the object, but couldn't make out what it was so Newt grabbed the back of her chair and pulled it out. The creature on the other side of the door struck again, colliding with the solid surface with a hard knock. Newt's whole body tightened, a shock of startled fear shooting through her but the door held firm. Whatever was there could not have been larger than a cat.
The dark object partially hidden beneath her desk was . . . she couldn't tell. It was an oval object that appeared to be made of thick, fleshy leather. Again, she sensed motion but not from outside this time. Something was moving right in front of her. She was sure of it. Newt slid away, unaware of the way her body moved. She was feline. Like an animal bristling away from a larger predator. Instinct warning her away even while human curiosity held her where she was.
Newt was simultaneously fascinated and choking on horror.
Instinct was stronger than humanity. Repugnance twisted in Newt's belly and she did the only thing that she could. She spun and leapt up onto her bed. Reached both hands up over her head, realized that she was still holding the flare and stuffed the heavy rod in the waistband of her pants. She tried again, reaching for the ventilation duct over her bed and heaved herself up with far more effort than it would have taken had she been calmer. If she were sneaking away for a game with her friends, this would be easy. She would not have been weak or stiff or clumsy.
The creature kept slamming into the door, sounding frenzied to the point of desperation to get inside. There were still no actual vocalizations from it, as if it had no voice to make any sounds, but that insistent knocking pounded heavily on Newt's nerves and her panic increased.
Finally, she managed to climb into the familiar air duct just over her bed and then push the grate back into place. Sealing herself in. She looked down both sides of the tunnel, fearful that there might have been a creature in there with her but the duct was empty for as far as she could see.
Another hard knock on the door.
Through the slates in the panel, Newt peered back into her room. Eyes fixed on the leathery object beneath her desk. The sense of motion from inside still so acute that she was certain – absolutely certain – something was happening.
And then she saw what that something was.
Like the petals of a grotesque flower twisting open, the top of the dark leathery oval folded back. Slime seeped from the inside, thin and milky white and hideous. Unnatural. Newt continued to watch, even with every fiber of her being telling her to turn her face away. She didn't need to see this new horror.
Slurps came from the inside and she could just see something pulsing. Something organic.
She flinched back, moving deeper into the duct but kept her eyes trained on what was going on in her bedroom. She stayed near enough to the panel to be able to see everything. Her blood turned to ice in her veins, thickening. The flow slowing down so that a pressure built in her head and behind her eyes.
Long, bony legs emerged from the object. A flat, hand-like body with eight legs like a spider and the long, muscular tail twisting like a worm around itself.
There was no sound, but Newt could have sworn she heard it scream as it flung itself from its egg like it had been launched from a cannon. It flew clear across the room and then she lost sight of it as it dropped down behind her bed. Too afraid to lean forward and check where it was, Newt slammed herself against the back of the metal air duct and gasped. Drawing on air so desperately she was swallowing more oxygen than she inhaled.
A second later, those spindly spider legs jammed themselves through the slits in the ventilation panel. The sharp edges cut easily into that tough alien flesh and greenish liquid leaked out of the wounds. Metal sizzled, hissing horribly in Newt's ears. The creature struggled, it's legs and flailing tail reaching for the little girl just there . . . so close!
She opened her mouth wide and screamed as if she would never stop.
A NOTE FROM DAYSTORM: Hi, all! :) I originally intended for all this to take place in the atmosphere processing sub-levels – where the Alien nest is – but as I was writing, things just didn't go that way. I couldn't find a realistic way for Newt to get out of the nest without it sounding stupid or impossible. I mean, really. The nest? So even though this chapter is not at all what I had in mind (and there are not half as many eggs or facehuggers as I'd intended there to be) I still hope it lives up to the expectations set by the former chapters. Cheers!