chapter eight. meeting the marines
"I'm glad you're meeting someone new, I hope he makes you happy...I can't find anyone because they aren't you."
Three weeks later, in an empty star field, metal spears sliced through the emptiness, before they were followed by a mountain of steel. A massive military transport ship, the Sulaco. It was ugly, and battered, but the important thing was that it was also functional.
In the cargo lock/bay, a dropship sat there, as it waited for action. Across the bay, was the weapons room. The walls held all sorts of armament and two rows of pulse rifles awaited use in their storage shelves.
In the mess hall, it was full with its few long tables, as they awaited the warmth and sound of people to sit at them and to enjoy their meals. Food dispensing machines along the back wall were silent.
Into the locker room, the lockers was closed and neat looking. Each one was full with a crew members belongings. Every room silent and still. Only the rumble of the ship as it moved through space could be heard quietly through the walls.
In the hypersleep vault, very little light was available in the long room. What light there was, cast its rays on a long row of capsules. A near-by computer terminal lit up, as it typed out each individual in hypersleep, one-by-one. Then, lights came to life in all the capsules. Hydraulics lifted the canopies off the row of horizontal hypersleep cylinders. They almost reached the ceiling and then locked open. Lit up, white and sterile.
The prone figures in the cylinders came to life, and Ripley stirred. Apone sat up and immediately placed his trademark cigar in his mouth. Next to Ripley, Kendall, Gorman and Burke were stirring and beyond them, the troopers, wearing shorts and dog tags. They were:
MASTER SERGEANT AL APONE.
CORPORAL DWAYNE HICKS.
CORPORAL CYNTHIA DIETRICH. (female),
PFC WILLIAM HUDSON.
PFC JENETTE VASQUEZ. (female),
PRIVATE MARK DRAKE.
PRIVATE RICO FROST.
PRIVATE TREVOR WIERZBOWSKI.
PRIVATE TIM CROWE. plus the drop-ship crew:
CORPORAL COLETTE FERRO. (female, pilot)
PFC DANIEL SPUNKMEYER. (Crew-chief, male.)
In addition, there was Executive Officer Bishop, who supervised planetary maneuvering. Groans echoed across the chamber. Everyone was looking around and at each other.
"They ain't payin' us enough for this, man."
Drake complained, before a woman sat up from her chamber, replied,
"Not enough to have to wake up to your face, Drake."
Dietrich replied, smartly.
"What! Is that a joke?"
Drake asked, as he turned his head slightly to face Dietrich.
"I wish it were."
Dietrich answered, with a hint of cockiness, as she rubbed the back of her neck.
Drake looked away from Dietrich, and over at Hicks.
"Hey, Hicks...you look just like I feel."
Kendall slowly sat up, and she rubbed her eyes with the back of her wrists. She glanced at Ripley, and she ran her fingers through her hair. She was still tired, even after that hypersleep. She turned her head to glance at the young man, who was in the chamber beside her. So. That must have been Hicks. He was a good looking guy. He had short, almost shaggy dark brown, and eyes that were as grey as her own. Hicks sent Drake a small smile, as he rubbed the back of his head, before he looked at his 'neighbor', and he sent her a half-awake smile, to which she returned with a slight one of her own, before she nodded her 'good-morning'. Sergeant Apone moved down the row of freezers, with his trademark cigar in between his fingers.
"Alright, whattya' waitin' for, breakfast in bed? Let's go. Let's go. Another glorious day in the Corp. A day in the Marine Corp. is like a day on the farm. Every meals a banquet, every paycheck a fortune, every formation a parade. I love the Corp."
Apone barked to the Marines.
One of the them, Private First Class William Hudson, swung his feet out of the chambers, and as soon as his feet hit the ground, he recoiled, slightly.
"Man, this floor's freezing."
He complained, as Apone walked by.
"Whattya' want me to do, fetch you your slippers for ya'?"
Apone asked, sarcastically.
"Gee, would you, sir? I'd like that."
Hudson answered, smartly.
Apone put his finger to his eye.
"Look into my eye. Fall in people! Let's go!"
"I hate this job."
"Give me some slack, man."
Crowe complained, as he made his way down to the lockers.
"Come on, Spelunk. On your feet."
Apone continued to bark orders, as the group of men and women moved to their lockers that were near the freezers.
Kendall, and Ripley moved side by side, neither one of them said a word, for they could not believe that they were actually going back, but these Colonial Marines had absolutely no idea what they were dealing with, so they were going to need their help. Opening their lockers, they found the simple grayish-blue jumpsuit that was put there for them, and they slipped them on, along with the white cotton shirt that went underneath.
Kendall buttoned the jumpsuit up until there were about four buttons left, before she brought the two dogtags that she constantly wore, in front, and they rested on the sea of white. She had opened the severe bun, that her hair had been tied into, and feeling her hair be released, left some relief on her scalp. She gingerly brushed it through, before she left it out.
Meanwhile, Vasquez had immediately began to do some chin-ups.
"Alright, first ensemble is in fifteen people. Shag it!"
Vasquez stopped her chin-ups, and looked over at Kendall and Ripley.
"Hey, Mira... who are the Snow Whites?"
"They're supposed to be some kinda’ consultants. Apparently, they saw an alien once."
"Whoopy-fucking-do! Hey, I'm impressed."
Hudson commented, as he included himself in the conversation.
Vasquez went back to her chin-ups, and this time, Drake joined her. Hudson just stood and watched.
"Hey, Vasquez...have you ever been mistaken for a man?"
"No. Have you?"
Almost in perfect synchronization, Vasquez and Drake stopped their exercises, and they looked at each other.
"Oh, Vasquez... you're just too bad."
Vasquez slapped Drake's open palm, and it clenched a greeting which was part contest. Playful, but rough. A bond could be sensed between them. After a few moments, she gave Drake a hard, but playful slap to the face.
In the mess hall, an unconscious segregation took place as the troopers assembled at one long table while Gorman, Burke, Kendall and Ellen sat at another. Everybody either nursed a coffee, or waited for eggs from the autochef, which was served by Bishop. Some got their meals themselves, and Hudson was one of them. He walked from the machine and sat down at the table with the others.
"Hey, 'Top.' What the op?"
Hudson asked, as he sat down.
"It's a rescue mission. You'll love it. There's some juicy colonists' daughters we gotta' rescue from their virginity."
Apone answered, and some of the Marine's laughed.
Kendall rolled her eyes, in clear disgust, but she said nothing. She just hoped that not all of the Marines were like that.
"Shee-it. Dumbass colonists."
Spunkmeyer commented, as he picked something up from his plate.
"What's this crap supposed to be?
"Cornbread, I think."
"It's good for you boy, eat it."
Hicks threw into the conversation, those being the first words that he had said, since awakening.
"Hey, I sure wouldn't mind getting me some more of that Arcturan poontang. Remember that time?"
Frost said, and all the soldiers laughed, as Frost and Hudson slapped hands across the table.
"Yeah, Frost! But, the one that you had was a male."
"Hey, it doesn't matter when it's Arcturan."
Frost said, with a smirk on his lips.
"Hey Bishop, man. Do the thing with the knife."
Hudson called over to Bishop, and Bishop seemed slightly uncomfortable.
"Oh please. Not again."
"Yeah, do it, Bishop. Go on, man. This is great."
Frost threw in, as he tossed Bishop a K-Bar combat knife and Bishop put his palm on the table next to Hudson.
Before Bishop could start, Drake came up and pushed Hudson's hand forward on the table. Bishop placed his hand precisely on top Hudson's hand.
"Hey, man. Whattya' doing. Come on. Quit messin' around Drake."
Hudson exclaimed, when he realized what was happening to him.
"Hudson, shut up!"
Drake said, with a hint of amusement
"Bishop! Hey, man."
"Do it, Bishop."
"Hey, not me man."
"Hey, come on. Quit messin' around. Come on!"
Bishop then proceeded to stab the point down rapidly between his and Hudson's spread fingers, as he continued to speed up, until the knife was a blur, as the other's cheered. Inhumanly fast and precise.
Hudson cried, his eyes growing wide in disbelief.
"Alright, knock it off! Knock it off."
Apone ordered, and Bishop handed the knife to Hudson.
Drake moved Hudson's food tray back in front of him, then slapped him on the arm.
"Enjoy your meal."
Drake said, sarcastically, as he walked back to his spot at the table.
Hudson was white, his mouth hung open in disbelief.
"That wasn't funny, man!"
Across the room, at the other table, Gorman sat with his creases perfect...the consummate strict NCO. Bishop came up and took a seat in between Kendall and Ripley. He handed around a tray with cornbread on it.
Burke said, taking some cornbread from the tray.
At the soldiers' table, everyone watched the small group of high-ranks eat.
"Looks like the new lieutenants are too good to eat with the rest of us grunts."
Hicks commented, and at that Kendall-Rae smirked, as she rolled her eyes.
"Boy's definitely got a corncob up his ass. The young one is a sight for sore eyes. After being stuck with the same grunts, seeing someone new will do us good. She ain't that bad-looking either. What do you think Hicks? You guys look close in age."
Hearing what was being said about her, Kendall turned her head, and her grey eyes met another pair of grey eyes. A pair that belonged to Hicks. Their gazes met for a brief moment, before Kendall felt her neck turn a bit red. She looked away momentarily, and she felt a small, shy smile grace her lips. A sight for sore eyes. That was something new.
She glanced at the small mug that was in front of her, and she realized that her mug was empty. She stood up, and she walked over to one of the machines, to refill her mug. She pressed a button on the machine, and her mug filled up with coffee. She felt gazes bore into her back, but she kept her head held up high, as she continued to walk back to the table where she was sitting, and she sat back down beside her mother this time. She glanced over at Bishop, who held up his hand and examined a tiny cut closely.
"I thought you never missed, Bishop?"
To both Kendall and Ripley's horror, a trickle of white synthetic blood ran down his finger from the cut. Ripley spun on Burke, her tone accusing.
"You never said anything about an android being on board! Why not?!"
"It never occurred to me...."
"It never occurred to you? Damnnit, did you even listen to what we told you, Burke?! Jesus Christ."
"For your information, Ms. Kendall..."
"Do not call me that."
She snapped, as she emphasized on 'not'.
"My apologies, Ms. Rae, but it's just common practice. We always have a synthetic on board."
"I prefer the term 'artificial person' myself."
Bishop corrected, politely.
"Is there a problem?"
Bishop asked, glancing at Ripley and Kendall.
"I'm sorry. I don't know why I didn't even...their last trip out, the syne...'artificial person' malfunctioned..."
Ripley exclaimed, in disbelief.
"A few problems and a few deaths were involved."
Kendall remarked, forgetting her politeness.
"You heard me. That was absolute bullshit. Ash did not malfunction. Unless trying to shove a porn magazine down someone's throat, or strangling someone is the new form of malfunctioning, enlighten me, Burke. Trying to kill someone is not malfunctioning. In case you didn't know."
"I'm shocked. Was it an older model?"
"Hyperdyne Systems 120-A/2."
Burke answered, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Hearing that, Bishop turned to Ripley, and Kendall, very conciliatory.
"Well, that explains it. The A/2's were always a bit twitchy. That couldn't happen now with our behavioral inhibitors. It is impossible for me to harm or, by omission of action, allow to be harmed, a human being."
Bishop explained, before he smiled.
"Sure you don't want some?"
Ripley knocked the plate of cornbread out of his hand, halfway across the room, making Kendall jump out of her skin.
"Just stay away from me, Bishop! You got that straight?!"
Ripley snapped, before she stood, and walked out of the mess hall.
Kendall sighed, as she rubbed her right temple.
"Way to go, Burke. You really screwed up..."
She muttered, sarcastically.
Something told her that Bishop was not going to be like Ash, but she couldn't take any chances. Burke and Gorman exchanged glances. Frost, at the next table, shrugged and turned back to the other Marines.
"I guess she don't like the cornbread either."
Frost commented, before he realized that Hicks had not answered his question before.
"C'mon Hicks. Answer the question."
Came Hicks' answer, but that wasn't what Frost was looking for.
"Gutsy? That's it? C'mon boy. That's all you can say? She ain't pretty or anything like that?"
"Well. Yeah, I would guess so..."
Hicks said, before he rubbed the back of his neck, feeling extremely flustered.
Frost only laughed, clapping him on the back, good-naturally, before he continued to eat.
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