In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream

chapter four. the conference

“A stupid person can make only certain, limited types of errors; the mistakes open to a clever fellow are far broader. But to the one who knows how smart he is compared to everyone else, the possibilities for true idiocy are boundless.”
-Steven Brust


Later on that day, both Ellen and Kenny stood in the conference room. Not cool. Not unemotional. Ripley was dressed in a creamy, button-down shirt, with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, with a light grey pair of pants, along with white running shoes. Kendall's outfit was quite different than her mother's. She was dressed in an raven black, tank top, with a unopened studded, camouflage, military jacket, which was paired with a pair of grey cargo trousers, and black lace-up combat boots, that went to her mid-calf. Her ombre hair, was braided back, into a severe bun, so that the people of the board of inquiry could see the anger that had clouded over her eyes.

"I don't understand this. We have been here for three hours. How many different ways do you want us to tell the same story?"
Ripley and Kendall asked at almost the same time, as they faced the eight members of the board of inquiry at a long conference table.

They all wore gray suits and grim faces. They clearly weren't buying their story. Behind them, on a large videoscreen, Parker grinned like a goon from his personal mugshot. His file printed out next to it. Brett's face and dossier replaced it, and then the others. Kane. Lambert. Ash. Kendall turned around, and as soon as she saw the picture of Ash, she felt herself shudder slightly, before it changed to Dallas. She closed her eyes, as she bit her lip, before she turned away from the screen, and she re-opened her eyes to look at Van Leuwen, the ICC representative, who steepled his fingers and frowned.

"Look at it from our perspective, please. Please...?"
Van Leuwen asked.

At that, Van Leuwen gestured for the two chairs that had been placed at the front of the room, at the other end of the table from him. Ripley slightly threw her hands up, in exasperation, and Kendall only rolled her eyes, but they both complied, and sat down, before him.

"Now, you two freely admit to detonating the engines of, and thereby destroying, an M-Class star freighter. A rather expensive piece of hardware..."
Van Leuwen started, and Kendall sighed. This bullshit again? How many different times could they tell them that the Nostromo was worth a lot of money?
"Forty-two million in adjusted dollars. That's minus payload, of course."
Kenny heard one of the insurance investigators say, and Kendall sent him a cold glare, which silenced him.

She could still remember when Parker complained about the payment, along with the bonus situation, back on the Nostromo, as if it had happened yesterday.

"The lifeboat's flight recorder corroborates some elements of both of your accounts. And that, for reasons unknown, the Nostromo set down on LV-426, an unsurveyed planet at that time. That it resumed it's course and was subsequently set for self-destruct. By the both of you. For reasons unknown."
Van Leuwen continued.

This ticked off Kendall, slightly. She seemed to know what her mother was thinking, but it was clear that she wasn't going to say anything.

"Not for reasons unknown. We told you, we set down there on company orders to get this thing, which destroyed our crew..."
Kendall glanced at the insurance investigator from earlier, who had spoken up about the price of the Nostromo.

"...along with your expensive ship."
She continued coldly, as she glanced back at Van Leuwen, who sighed with exasperation.

"The analysis team, which went over the lifeboat, centimetre by centimetre found no physical evidence of the creature you described..."
Van Leuwen said, and at this Ripley spoke up

"Good! That's because I blew it out the goddamn airlock!"
Ripley exclaimed, before she paused at her sudden outburst.

"Like I said."
She said, calmly.

"Are there any species like this 'hostile organism' on LV-426?"
The insurance man asked, as he directed his question to the ECA representative.

"No. It's a rock. No indigenous life."
The ECA rep answered, and both Kenny and Ripley ground their teeth in frustration.

"Did IQ's drop sharply while I was away? Ma'am, I already said it was non-indigenous. There was a derelict spacecraft. An alien ship. It wasn't from there. Do you get it? We homed in on it's beacon..."
Ripley said, and with the first part of her statement, Kendall smirked.

"And found something which has never been reported once from over three hundred surveyed worlds... 'a creature...'" She had started to read their statements. " '... that gestates inside a living human host,' these are your words, 'and has concentrated acid for blood.' "

"That's right. Look, I can see where this is going. But, I'm telling you these things exist."
Ripley said, coolly.

"Thank you, Officer Ripley, and Officer Kendall. That will be all."
Van Leuwen said, but Ripley didn't listen.

"Please, you're not listening. Kane, the crew member. Kane, who went in that ship, said he saw thousands of eggs there. Thousands..."
Ripley started to say.

"Thank you. That will be all."
Van Leuwen interrupted, and this time Kendall stood up.

"Goddamnit! That's not all! Because, if one of those things gets down here, then that will be all! Then all this..."
Kenny grabbed some of the papers close by, and she crumpled them into her fist, tightly.

"...this fucking bullshit that you think is so goddamn important, you can just kiss all that goodbye!"
She exclaimed, angrily, as she tossed the crumpled paper to the side.

She rarely got angry, but this pissed her off, beyond belief.

The looks of the members at the table was enough to tell that what Kenny did wasn't smart. Ripley glanced at her daughter, with a look of surprise. She had rarely seen her eldest daughter angry. The ECA rep just stared at her, and Burke leaned back in his chair, and rubbed his head. Both Kendall and Ripley ignored them, and stared at Van Leuwen. She knew she had to say it, even if it meant that they would be found guilty. Van Leuwen looked at Kendall, with a small hint of surprise, before he read the verdict of Kendall's and Ellen's inquiry.

"It is a finding of this court inquiry that Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley, NOC14472, and 2nd Warrant Officer Kendall-Rae Ripley, 025K509R have both acted with questionable judgment, and they are both unfit to hold a ICC license as commercial flight officers. Said license is hereby suspended indefinitely. Now, no criminal charges will be filed against either of you at this time..and you two are released on your own recognizant for a six month period of psychometric probation. To include monthly review by an ICC psychiatric technician."

All the while, as Van Leuwen read, Kendall glanced at her mother, and she gave her an apologetic look, but Ripley waved it off. She had been thinking the same thing all the while. Glancing back at Van Leuwen, Kendall-Rae just stood, and stared at him. Now that she has heard the verdict for both her and her mother, her eyes closed in defeat. Her face was a mask of tightness.

"These proceedings are closed."

Both Ripley's and Kendall's video-dossier filled the screen behind her, side by side, and at the bottom, a new entry printed out for both of them. FILE STATUS: CLOSED.

Ripley had joined Kenny at the conference table, both of them with their arms crossed, as Burke came up to them.

"That could have went better. Look, I think they..."
Burke started, but Kendall glared at him.

"Spare me your bullshit, Burke. I really am not in the mood for anything at the moment."
She glanced over, as she saw Van Leuwen, as he left for the rooms elevator.

"Van Leuwen!"
She shrugged off Burke's restraining arm, and both she and Ripley caught up to Van Leuwen as he and the other representatives headed for the rooms elevator.

"Why don't you just check out LV-426?"
Ripley asked, as Kendall leaned her frame against the other side of the door frame.

"Because I don't have to. There have been people there for over twenty years and they never complained about any hostile organism."
Van Leuwen answered, almost a bit too calmly, before he stepped toward the elevator with the others, but Kendall stretched her arm across the doorway, stopping him in his path.

"What the hell do you mean? What people? What people did you send there?"
Kendall asked, her voice as cold as ice.

"Terraformers... planet engineers. They go in, set up these big atmosphere processors to make the air breathable. Takes decades. It's what we call a shake 'n bake colony."
Van Leuwen answered, as the door tried to close, but Kendall held it back.

The other people started to get annoyed, and they started to murmur, in annoyance, but from one glare from Kendall, they were all silenced.

"How many are there? How many colonists?"
Ripley asked, curiosity, and anger seeping into her voice.

"I don't know. Sixty, maybe seventy families. Do you mind?"

Kendall's arm slid out of his way, as she took in what he had said. She glanced at her mother, and she felt her insides clench.

"Families... Jesus Christ."
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