Chapter 9 - The Last Stand
*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.*
"You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you?Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility."
– Ash (Synthetic)
Newt flinched, her teeth clicking as she bit down hard. She only just missed biting off a piece of her own tongue. The whole colony structure bucked once and then trembled violently before subsiding with a series of furious shivers. Vibrations that buzzed almost like an electrical current through the floors and up into Newt's body. Straight through her clothes into flesh and bone. The initial deafening whoomph was gone but she could still hear it ringing in her head.
She was stunned. Lying on her stomach on the floor only inches from the monstrous "hand" reaching so desperately for her . . . Newt remained aware of the threat but couldn't make her body move. She attempted to roll up onto her knees – kneeling being the forerunner to standing up – and it was like trying to move while completely submerged in water. She felt heavy, as if there were actual resistance pushing against her.
The creature was nearly out of the ventilation, now. Hissing pierced the ringing chime in Newt's head causing her to look blearily around for the source. Droplets of acid steamed thick fumes on the floor just past her nose. No, that wasn't the source. Newt turned her head, twisting clumsily to see whatever else there was but the corridor seemed empty. Things that had been standing up were now toppled over making a mess all around Newt but there were no people in sight and certainly no monsters, other than the one right in front of her.
Newt found the strength to push herself off the floor. She wobbled a little and backed up to keep from falling down again. She closed her eyes against the whirling dizziness and nausea twisting her stomach into knots. Vomit climbed thickly up into her throat, high enough to sting the back of her tongue. She could taste the foulness in her mouth. The hand-creature wiggled, struggling through the growing opening in the duct panel and managed to slice itself on a protruding piece that was only partially melted and still sharp.
A gush of acid washed down over the flattened body, doing no damage to the alien flesh but dissolving the metal duct and the wall and the floor beneath it.
Newt didn't run away. She didn't have the strength or the sense to do that.
She walked. She strolled or, more, she tried not to throw up as the corridor seemed to slowly tilt and roll. The persistent chime-like ringing in her head was fading, and through the lingering noise Newt thought she could hear gunfire. A part of her tensed in anticipation of another explosion but it didn't come. Human screams echoed harshly. Those didn't last long.
Newt paused, resting her hand on the wall. She hurt everywhere. Her whole body felt battered and beaten and ripped apart. She was too tired even to feel bad for herself. All Newt wanted now was to find some quiet corner to crawl into.
But there was nowhere so she just kept walking. Soldering onward without any real idea of where she was going. Or what she was so boldly walking into.
More screams. Human screams and the horrid screeching of the monsters.
The part of Newt that still wanted to live warned her against going any further. Habit made her notice entrances into ducts, both those located near the ceiling and those down by the floor. But the monsters used those highways, too, and Newt had no interest in encountering more in there. It really was just easier to stay in the open hall.
And because of that she saw what she would otherwise have missed. The walls were caked with slime. One layer over another so that it appeared as if more was deliberately added as soon as the first layer dried. The walls looked brittle but they were hardening into something like a shell. And there were creatures folded into the walls. She could see them. They blended so well that she shouldn't have been able to spot any of them but she could. They were moving.
There was silence.
Humans going quiet. Again. Newt couldn't tell if that meant they were all dead, or they were just hiding. The idea that she was the only survivor caused a shiver of cold to ripple through her but there was nothing she could do about that. If they were all dead, then that was it. They would just be dead.
None of the creatures in the walls moved to stop Newt from going past; possibly because she was so calm. No running. No screaming. So they ignored her, allowing Newt to cross without trouble. It helped, she imagined, that she was able to walk more steadily now that the dizziness was gone. If she'd fallen over she was sure she would be killed. If she fell . . . they would descend on her and that would be all. She would be done.
Again, Newt felt the flutter of temptation. Her exhaustion and terror poking at her so that lying down and letting them take her didn't seem as frightening anymore. It would be over quickly and she was just so, so tired!
But fear of dying and the instinctual desire to live no matter what would not let her do that.
So she walked, moving silently through the monster-infested corridors and kept her senses alert for movement. For any indication that she'd drawn the creatures' attention.
The door of the fitness centre was open. The door itself partially ripped from the wall so that it swung precariously, held in place by a single hinge that strained under the weight. Not nearly strong enough to hold it for long. A large, melted hole in the floor directly in front of the door made it so that Newt would have to jump over it if she wanted to get into the room. She didn't do that. The creatures had begun to hiss alarmingly and Newt spotted the deep gouges dug into the floors. Gouges caused by claws. The blackened and charred steel of the walls on either side of the door, also melted but not by acid. The stink of scorched metal and superheated oxygen said that it was not the monsters that'd done the damage here.
The colonists had fought. Hard.
But there were no bodies. Newt peered around, her heart beating only a little faster than normal but only because of tiredness. Had she been rested, she knew her heart would have been hammering. There was this absolute sense of wrongness and suddenly, with other people is the last place Newt wanted to be. They didn't understand. How could they not understand? Fighting the creatures would only get them killed quicker . . . or was that the point?
Confused, Newt turned away from the obliterated fitness centre. Lost and alone. She wondered where the survivors had gone, for surely some of them must have escaped. And what, she wondered, had caused the blast that shook the entire colony structure? It was like . . . it had felt like being inside a jar that someone knocked off a table. The slam hadn't been long but it could have consumed the entire world, as far as it felt like!
The creatures were hissing and spitting. From further down the corridor, too far for Newt to see through the gloom, one of them whistled and screeched. A long, high noise that caused the little hairs on the back of her neck to prickle.
It was time to go.
Newt walked as quickly as she could without rushing, again debating the benefits of returning to the ventilation but the memory of the spider-hand-creatures scurrying after her was too fresh to risk it again so soon. An idea, the slightest flicker of a possible escape, tugged incessantly at her mind but Newt pushed it away. Right now, she needed to . . . she needed . . .
She needed what? Find the colonists so that she could die with them? Run away? She could. Even after all her too-close-encounters, she was still sure in her ability to get away. But where would she go? There were no other settlements. No people or structures with bright lights and smiling faces. There was no safe place to go. Beyond the wall of Hadley's Hope was a whole world of black lava rock and harsh winds. Frequent storms. Brutal cold at night though the days did occasionally get pleasantly warm.
Newt was born here. This was her home and all she knew, and yet for the first time in her short life she thought of outside and realized the awful truth.
She was on an alien world.
And now, for the first time since this whole nightmare began, she was truly alone.
Rapid tapping from behind had Newt pausing, tilting her head slightly as she listened. Rain? No, that wasn't right. She spun, her eyes widening in renewed terror as the spider-hand-creature raced straight down the middle of the corridor with its long tail flicking and eight sharp, hard legs nearly a blur!
No scream! There were too many monsters around for Newt to risk screaming but she did take off. Running for all she was worth, pushing her exhausted body for more. More speed.
The walls seemed to swell, giving the illusion that there were actually thousands of monsters. There weren't, of course, but Newt didn't know that. She pelted through the corridors, aware that she was stirring the creatures into a frenzy of excitement with the promise of a chase. But she was beyond caring about that. She was beyond caring about much of anything. Now it was simply instinct. A base, animal intelligence telling her to flee, even if sight attracted the very things she was fleeing from.
From the corner of her eye, Newt spotted one monster leaning into the wall lift its slim head to look right at her. She saw those sharp teeth glistening and caught the low hiss of interest. She hoped, desperately, that the creature hesitated long enough to give her a head start. She shot past it at the exact moment it looked up. If it gave chase now, she would be run down in seconds.
The skittering spider-hand-monster was gaining on her, moving so fast!
Without thinking but with an enviable coolness, Newt dug the heel of one boot into the floor, using her own momentum to spin her body around and lunged down a side passage. She shot into a small storage closet, slamming the door behind her and then climbed the shelves inside. There was a panel in the ceiling that the children had discovered years before. Just one panel that had come loose and could be pushed up. Even removed, allowing a child to climb into the ceiling.
These were not the air ventilation ducts and once she was inside, there would be nowhere for Newt to go. She would be trapped. But wasn't she trapped, now? In a tiny, cramped closet only a thin door to keep the monsters out?
Newt climbed swiftly, her years of experience at scampering up and down walls a valuable skill now that it was no longer a game. She pushed on the panel with one hand, easily lifting the thin sheet and pushing it aside so that she could put it back in place once she was up.
Movement in the darkest corner of the closet caused Newt to freeze stiff. She held perfectly still for only a second and then, drawing on what remained of her courage, she moved only her eyes to look at what had come in with her . . .