Delta of Tranquility

Author’s Note: Hey everyone, it’s Denal Douglas, and welcome to my first entirely independent fanfiction written for Aliens! In Episode 3 of the “Bad Company” podcast, “Stupid or Special Forces”, we discussed the Marines from “Aliens” and their performance on the mission; specifically, we talked about fan misconceptions and how they weren’t nearly as incompetent or incapable as a lot of people seem to think they are, but we also brought up one or two mistakes that they did make. One of the ones I pointed out was that in the processing plant, after they handed over their rifle magazines, effectively leaving themselves defenseless, they didn’t draw their sidearms to use for defense, other than Frost drawing his when he had to turn his flamethrower over to Apone. I expressed the opinion that although just having their sidearms out wouldn’t have given them an effective response to the hive ambush and things probably would have turned out exactly the same, it was still a reasonable course of action to take so that they at least had weapons to use. But then I started to wonder if I was wrong about that. What if having their sidearms out could have changed things significantly? What if that one little difference could have been what got all of the Marines out alive? This story is an attempt to explore if, and how, that could have happened. It’s not part of the Bad Company universe, and so it won’t feature many of the changes and additions we’ve made in our canon line. A lot of what we do in Bad Company is dedicated to fixing things in the franchise that are inaccurate from a technical perspective (see “Episode 2-Weapons Tech Part 1” for some good examples), but this story is supposed to be a direct adaptation of the movie as we’re shown, starting as the Marines enter the hive, with just one change, so it’s written under the assumption that everything in the franchise IS accurate. Everything else that’s different from the movie spirals out from that one difference. I’m not ashamed to admit that it reads a lot like the hive scene from “Ice Star”, Bad Company’s “Aliens” rewrite, but that’s deliberate, because both this story and that scene are intended to replicate the original hive scene but show how the Marines survived, just with different ways of how it happens. The title, “Delta of Tranquility” is a reference to the book “River of Pain” and has a double meaning: “delta” in this context refers to the triangularly-shaped area where a river can split into several directions as it meets a larger body of water. As such, it is found at the “end” of the river, and two, it shows how the “river” can split in different directions.

One thing I’ll add before I get into the story is that some people might argue it wouldn’t have made any difference because the Marines’ VP70 handguns fire 9x19mm Parabellum, which is “ineffective against the aliens’ exoskeletons”. This claim is based on the scene in the vent towards the end of the movie where Gorman shoots an alien in the head with his VP70 with no apparent effect. However, in “Stupid or Special Forces”, I also gave a detailed explanation why, from a ballistics standpoint (I have a college degree in firearms technology) and based on other things we see in the movie, that scene alone isn’t sufficient evidence to prove that 9mm rounds are ineffective against aliens, and the majority of other evidence indicates that 9mm CAN be used against aliens. Check out that episode for the full explanation. This story assumes that the 9mm round will work against any part of the aliens’ body.

The air was hot on Hudson’s skin as he followed Vasquez closely down the narrow corridor. He looked around nervously, a vague sense of danger building in his stomach as he took in the sight of the dark, organic matter covering the walls and floor, twisted in weird shapes and pierced at random points with odd patterns of holes.

“Watch your fire and check your targets,” Sergeant Apone reminded them. “Remember, we’re looking for civvies in here.”

Hudson was getting a bad feeling that none of the colonists had survived. He held the motion tracker out in front of himself, scanning slowly. Nothing. No signs that anyone was moving up ahead. There should be some indication by now. Movement, or voices if they were alive.

“Easy,” Apone said softly, and then from the back, he heard Hicks warn, “Tighten it up, Frost, we’re getting a little thin.”

He didn’t like this place. He hadn’t believed Ripley’s story when he had first heard it, but then, none of them had. It was such a wild claim, so far beyond anything they knew of, that it was hard to accept as true. But this… stuff coating the walls was also like nothing he had ever seen before. He was starting to think she wasn’t just a crazy civvie and what she had been saying was the truth.

Behind him, Dietrich snapped off a piece of the stuff, eyeing it curiously. “Looks like some sort of secreted resin.”

“Yeah, but secreted from what?” Hicks asked from his position watching their rear.

“Nobody touch nothing,” Apone growled sternly. Hudson clutched his rifle a bit closer and continued following Vasquez further down the hall. Apart from their footsteps and the soft pulsing of the motion tracker, there was nothing but dead silence. Hudson didn’t like total silence. It was unnerving him and he wanted to say something to break it, but he didn’t know what.

“Hot as hell in here,” Frost observed. His opportunity granted, Hudson spoke up, the false coolness in his tone more obvious than he would have liked, “Yeah, man, but it’s a dry heat!”

It was a lame remark and he regretted it immediately, even more so when Apone snapped from right behind him, “Knock it off, Hudson!”

Chastened, Hudson fell silent and went back to focusing on the motion tracker, trying not to think of his surroundings. It was just another mission like the countless others he had been on before. Nothing unusual, no reason to suspect any of them wouldn’t make it out.

As they closed in on the room where the colonists’ transmitters were signaling from, Lieutenant Gorman’s voice came over their headsets, sounding nervous and tense. “Look, uh, Apone. Look, we can’t have any firing in there. I, uh, I want you to collect magazines from everybody.”

“Is he fucking crazy?” Hudson demanded in disbelief. If Gorman wanted them to go in unarmed, he should come down and go in himself.

Frost sounded even more annoyed as he asked, “What the hell are we supposed to use, man, harsh language?”

“Flame units only,” Gorman insisted. “I want rifles slung.”

Apone began to protest. “Sir, I-“

“Just do it, Sergeant. And no grenades.”

Apone sighed. “Alright, sweethearts, you heard the man. Pull ’em out. Come on, let’s have ’em.”

Hudson reluctantly ejected the magazine from his rifle, and pulled out the one spare magazine he carried in his vest. His one hundred ninety-eight rounds of ammunition, normally more than enough for an ordinary mission like this, were literally snatched from his grasp as Apone went around collecting everyone’s magazines, along with the batteries from Drake’s and Vasquez’s smartguns. “Frost, you got the duty,” he said. “Open up that bag.” He stuffed the magazines into Frost’s dump pouch as the private sarcastically said, “Thanks a lot, Sarge.”

“Hicks, cover our ass,” Apone ordered. “Head ’em out, people.”

Hicks reached over his shoulder for the shotgun he kept strapped to his back. “I like to keep this handy, for close encounters,” he explained to Frost as he pumped it loudly.

“I heard that,” Frost grinned.

Hudson looked disdainfully at his empty rifle, jealous of the shotgun. He was completely unarmed at this point, except for his knife. Normally, he didn’t think carrying a sidearm was worth the extra weight, but now he was wishing he did have one. He gazed around at the others, and his eyes fell on Dietrich. She was holding her flamethrower closely, and her sidearm was still in its holster by her hip. Swallowing, Hudson said tensely, “Give me your sidearm, man.”

“What?” she looked at him in confusion.

“Hey, man, you got a flamethrower,” he pointed out, and held up his empty rifle for emphasis. “I got nothing. Give me your sidearm. Please.”

“Shit,” Apone cursed as he drew his own sidearm. “I should have thought of that. Hand it over, Dietrich. Crowe, get it out.”

Dietrich reluctantly pulled her sidearm out and handed it over to Hudson along with the spare magazines as Crowe slung his rifle over his shoulder and drew his own handgun. Frost reached down for his own sidearm, saying, “Heads up, Drake,” but Apone stopped him.

“Drake, Vasquez, sorry, sweethearts. Don’t think you want to have to carry those things on top of a needing a free hand for a sidearm,” Apone said, gesturing at their smartguns. Vasquez and Drake both shrugged. At first, Hudson was a little surprised that Vasquez hadn’t even tried to draw her Model 39 and Drake wasn’t insisting on getting Frost’s sidearm regardless of what else they were carrying, but when Apone turned away, Hudson saw them give each other a meaningful glance, and as he looked more closely, he saw they both had batteries hooked up to their smartguns again. They must have been carrying spares that Apone didn’t know about. That, and the weight of the VP70 in his hands, was a comfort. A small comfort, but still something.

They resumed moving deeper into the processing plant, and Hudson continued scanning, motion tracker in his left hand, sidearm in his right. As they went, he began to notice a sharp, pungent smell, and something dropped out of his stomach. He knew the smell of dead, rotting bodies. He had smelled it many times before. But he had never smelled anything so overpowering, and it increased with every yard they advanced until it filled his lungs. He knew what was coming, but he didn’t want to see it.

“Any movement?” Gorman asked over the radio.

“Nothing,” Hudson mumbled back resentfully. The sidearm was something, but as far as he was concerned, the lieutenant could kiss his ass for leaving half the team barely armed. “Zip.”

Then they entered a larger room than the corridor they had been in, and the sight that greeted them confirmed the suspicions he already had. He stared in disbelief at the pair of shoes suspended in the wall above his head, turning his gaze to look up along the length of the rotting human corpse cocooned high in the wall, almost up to the ceiling. It looked like it was at least a week old, and had a gaping hole in its chest.

“Holy shit,” Apone said softly, coming to a standstill next to him.

Hudson looked further into the room, seeing more corpses embedded in the resin that covered the walls. That explained why the smell was so strong. Unhappily, he walked behind Vasquez as she kept going, still checking on the tracker. He wasn’t expecting to find any survivors now. All he wanted to do was make sure no one could sneak up on them.

“Steady, people,” Apone was trying to encourage them. “We’re still Marines and we’ve got a job to do. Keep it moving.”

That was the only thing that kept Hudson going. Not the mission. He didn’t care about that. As far as he was concerned, the mission was already a failure. The colonists were dead, and there was nothing they could do about that. But that didn’t change the fact that he was still a Marine. So was everyone else alongside him, and he had to be there for them. He couldn’t abandon them.

Then, from off to one side, he heard Dietrich yell, “Help!”

“What?” Apone spun towards her as Hudson turned to see where she had gone.

“Top, get over here! We got a live one!” Dietrich called out.

Hudson came around the corner to see Dietrich standing in front of a woman cocooned in the wall just above the floor. Her skin was as pale as ashes and her eyes were open wide, staring at Dietrich.

“You’re going to be alright, you’re going to be alright,” Dietrich tried to calm her, but the woman only pleaded desperately, “Please, kill me!”

“Just stay calm, we’re going to get you out of here.” Dietrich reached down as if to start ripping at the resin that held the woman trapped. “You’re going to be alright,” she repeated. “Give me a hand,” she ordered to Hudson. “We’ve got to get her out of here.”

Not all of the Marines could see what was going on, and he heard several of them calling out, asking what was happening. Hudson took a single step forward, but before he could go any further, the woman began trembling and shaking violently as if she was starting to have a seizure. “Convulsions!” Dietrich exclaimed as the woman began to scream in pain. There was a cracking sound from her chest, and movement under her shirt. A patch of blood appeared on the fabric as her screams intensified.

“Dietrich, get back!” Apone pulled her out of the way, repeating as Hudson hurriedly stepped backwards, “Get back!”

There was another crack, followed by a loud, horrific ripping noise and blood sprayed out as the woman’s shirt was torn apart and a long, blood-covered worm-like thing burst out, screeching harshly and showing a mouth full of sharp, pointed teeth. Hudson tried desperately to hold onto the contents of his stomach as his insides lurched in revulsion and he cried out, “Kill it, man, kill it!”

“Frost, flamethrower! Get up here!” Apone roared, pointing his VP70 at the worm.

“Move!” Frost dashed up as Dietrich readied her own flamethrower, and the two of them fired together, spraying flames at the worm and the body of the woman. They both went up in a wall of flames, the worm screaming in pain as its blazing body went limp, hanging halfway out of the woman’s chest.

Before anyone could say anything, a loud hiss echoed around the corridor from somewhere high above them, followed quickly by another. A lightning bolt of fear pierced Hudson’s stomach as his motion tracker began beeping, showing a signal on the screen. “Movement!” he called out.

Apone turned to face him, his voice loud and sharp. “What’s the position?”

Hudson turned around slowly, trying to confirm the location. “Uh, can’t lock in!”

“Talk to me, Hudson!” Apone called out, holding his handgun up as he swept the area around them, Frost taking a few steps closer to cover him.

At first, there was only one signal. Then a second later, there were several. Then more. Too many. More than he could count. “Uh, multiple signals! They’re closing!” he warned, his hand shaking as he held the tracker up. Sweat began forming on his hands, but his grip on the tracker and the handgun was so tight that they were each still firmly grasped.

“Go to infrared, people, look sharp!” Apone ordered.

“What’s happening, Apone?” Gorman’s voice was sharp. “Can’t see anything in here!”

No one answered, and Hudson reached up to drop the infrared sight on his helmet down over his eye, still watching the tracker. The signals were closing in on them from every direction. “I got signals! I got readings in front and behind!”

“Where, man? I don’t see shit!” Frost complained tensely.

“He’s right,” Hicks added from the tail of the column. “There’s nothing back here.”

Hudson looked around frantically, trying to spot something, anything, but there was nothing, even on his infrared sight. “Look, I’m telling you, there’s something moving and it ain’t us! Tracker’s off scale, man! They’re all around us, man!”

He hated the fear in his voice. This wasn’t the time to be afraid. He needed to be in control of himself. He needed to breathe. He needed to stop feeling the fear, but it was like trying to walk out into a blizzard with no jacket and not feel cold. It wrapped around him, gripping him and piercing under his skin right to his nerves.

Dietrich looked around nervously, suggesting, “Maybe they don’t show up on infrared at all.”

Hudson turned to face her, and then froze in horror as a long, black shape unfolded itself from the wall behind her into something vaguely humanoid, but worse than any nightmare could ever imagine. Before he could shout a warning, the thing grabbed Dietrich and yanked her backwards, launching itself towards the ceiling. Dietrich let out a howl of shock and fear and thrashed around, firing her flamethrower in a blind panic. Hudson had just enough time to drop his motion tracker and grab the back of Frost’s armor to yank the bigger man away from the jet of flame, but he wasn’t quite fast enough and some of the burning napthal compound landed on part of Frost’s armor, along with the bag holding the rifle magazines.

“Shit! Get it off me, man, get it off!” Frost yelled frantically, dropping his flamethrower and clawing at his armor, trying to get it off. Hudson dropped his handgun as well, grabbing at the buckles and trying to undo them. As he did so, Crowe dropped to one knee a short distance away, aiming his handgun carefully and firing four shots at the thing still carrying Dietrich up towards the ceiling. It shrieked in pain and dropped her. She hit the ground with a thud and a cry of pain. The body of the monster landed on the floor just a few feet away and Apone grabbed Dietrich and pulled her away as yellowish blood poured out from the corpse, letting out a loud hiss as it hit the metal grating of the floor and began burning through like acid.

“Look out, look out!” Hudson yelled as he succeeded in loosening the ammo bag from Frost’s belt, the flames searing over his hands in the process. As soon as it was away, he threw it as far as he could with a yell of pain. At the same moment, Frost succeeded in releasing his armor and he let it fall to the ground, still burning. Hudson had only a few moments to see that the other Marine was uninjured and check his own hands, which were clearly burned, before he heard a frantic yell from Hicks. “Come on!”

Hudson’s head jerked up to look, and he realized with horror that he had flung the flaming bag of ammunition right towards Hicks, Wierzbowski, and Crowe. Crowe, who was still down on one knee, got up so fast that he almost lost his balance and Hicks grabbed the stumbling Marine as he ran past, trying to drag him around the corner of a nearby wall. Wierzbowski was closer to the bag and didn’t even try to follow Hicks and Crowe, instead diving over a piece of machinery and landing awkwardly on the metal grate floor. The bag detonated with a deafening crack, and Crowe, who hadn’t managed to get completely to cover, was knocked off his feet. Hudson heard Gorman cursing over his headset, demanding, “Apone, what is going on?!”

“Wierzbowski and Crowe are down!” Hicks yelled, propping Crowe up against the wall and running to check on Wierzbowski. Hudson dropped to one knee and grabbed Frost’s flamethrower, tossing it to the bigger man before picking up his own handgun, looking around frantically as he gripped it with both hands. Apone helped Dietrich up as she struggled to breathe, the wind clearly knocked out of her. There was a loud, agonized scream and Hicks spun away from Wierzbowski back towards Crowe, his voice full of horror as he yelled, “Crowe! Crowe!”

The scream was cut off by the crack of two gunshots and Hicks dashed around the corner towards where he had left the other man, calling again, “Crowe!”

Dietrich, who had regained her breath, turned her attention to Wierzbowski, demanding, “Are you alright? Anything broken?”

Wierzbowski was shaking as he checked himself and picked up his flamethrower. “I, I think I’m okay!”

Something moved in the shadows in front of Hudson and a few feet away, Vasquez cried out, “Let’s rock!” and began spraying around herself with her smartgun. Drake gave a roar as he joined her, firing wildly towards the ceiling. More shapes appeared, moving menacingly towards them. “They’re coming out of the fucking walls!” Hudson howled in terror, grabbing Frost and pulling him in the direction of the exit. “Let’s get out of here, man, move!”

Hudson could hear Gorman saying something over the radio, but he wasn’t listening. Apone, however, was yelling, “Vasquez, Drake, hold your fire!” before adding, “Say again? All after incinerators?” into his radio, as if trying to understand the lieutenant’s orders. Hudson was about to call out for Apone to ignore the moron and run, when a long dark arm reached down from the ceiling, yanking Apone off his feet. Reacting faster than his own terrified brain could process, Hudson jerked his sidearm up, firing at the monster hanging from the pipes above. It dropped Apone and screamed in pain, trying to crawl away. Apone rolled over away from the acidic blood that poured out of the creature and got to his feet as Frost shoved Hudson aside and blasted a jet of fire at the creature, sending it up in flames.

“Let’s go, people! Move, move, move!” Apone began hustling everyone towards the exit, not even trying to stop Drake and Vasquez from firing as everyone began running. Hicks appeared from around the corner where he had left Crowe, holding the smaller man up as they stumbled along. Crowe was still holding his VP70 in his right hand, and he fired two shots blindly in the direction they had come from as they joined the others. Frost grabbed Crowe’s other side and helped Hicks pull him along, while Wierzbowski dropped back next to Hudson, his flamethrower ready.

The next few minutes were a frenzied, terrified blur for Hudson. He kept his place in the middle of the group as they hurried down the corridor the way they had come. But somewhere along the line they took a wrong turn and Hudson found himself running with the others up another set of stairs that were encased in the same resin as the lower level. They came out onto the ground level to find themselves surrounded by even more of the stuff and Hudson realized with horror that they hadn’t come out by the APC. Drake and Vasquez were still shouting and firing at the oncoming monsters pursuing them up the stairs, but as Hudson looked around for the way out, the APC suddenly crashed through the wall, stopping in front of them.

Apone grabbed the door and flung it open, climbing aboard and yelling at everyone to get in. Wierzbowski and Dietrich watched their flanks as Hicks and Frost dragged Crowe in, and then Dietrich jumped in as Hudson approached. He turned back to see Vasquez a few feet away, and Drake farther back. The bulky smartgunner let out a curse of anger and fright as his weapon ran dry, and then Hudson saw something moving among the weird, twisted shapes of the resin next to Drake.

“Drake, look out!” Vasquez screamed, turning to shoot at the thing, but before she could, Wierzbowski yelled, “No, don’t!” and fired his flamethrower. The jet of flame went right past both Hudson and Vasquez, engulfing the creature. The flames barely missed Drake as he stumbled backwards and turned to run. Hudson jumped onto the APC, helping Vasquez and then Drake on. Wierzbowski was the last one to board, still firing his flamethrower as he leapt backwards through the door. As soon as he was through, Hicks slammed the door and yelled, “Let’s go, go, go!”

Hudson was thrown to the floor as the APC jolted backwards and then turned in a circle, accelerating rapidly in the direction it had come from. A supply crate was knocked loose from its ties overhead and Gorman, who was staggering from the driver’s compartment towards his seat at the command center, was hit on the head. He let out a grunt of pain and fell to the floor.

There was a crashing sound and Hudson saw the windshield shatter, glass falling all over Ripley, who was in the driver’s seat. A long arm reached in towards her, but she slammed on the brakes and Hudson saw it go flying forward, carried off the APC by its own momentum. Then Ripley stomped on the gas, sending them forward again. There was a scream and a loud crunch as the APC lurched slightly, and Hudson realized that Ripley had run the creature right over.

A few moments later they were out of the processing plant, bouncing across the rough ground. Still Ripley drove on, until Hicks, who was the closest, grabbed the controls from her and gently brought the vehicle to a stop. Hudson let out a long, shaky breath, looking around at everyone else. They had all made it out. Alive.

“Alright, sound off. Who’s injured?” Apone looked around. “Frost, you get cooked at all?”

Frost was checking himself carefully, and shook his head. “Not me, Sarge, the plate took the heat,” he said, referring to the armor that had protected him from the small amount of burning fuel.

Dietrich looked up as she finished tending to Crowe. “Looks like Crowe has a few cracked ribs, Top. No serious internal organ damage, I think, which is lucky, but he’ll still be out of action for a while, and I’d like to do a proper CT scan on him to make sure there’s no bleeding. Hudson, let me take a look at those hands.”

Hudson had forgotten about his hands in the panicked rush to escape. He looked down and realized that the skin on his shaking hands was bright red and slightly blistered, and the pain he had been ignoring was growing intense. Dietrich pulled out her canteen and gently poured the water out over his hands, making him flinch. “Don’t move,” she said sternly. “We need to get these burns cooled down. Someone give me another canteen.”

Drake promptly passed his over, and Dietrich poured its contents over Hudson’s hands as well before announcing, “Second-degree burns. Not as bad as they could be, considering the level of heat exposure, but they’ll still take a while to heal.”

Her hands were much gentler than her attitude as she spread antibiotic cream over the burns, wrapped both of Hudson’s hands, and gave him a shot of painkillers as everyone else sat around recovering. Hicks was tending to Gorman, who was still unconscious. Apone gave the lieutenant a pitying look. “Poor son of a bitch.”

“Pendejo almost got us all killed,” Vasquez snarled, looking as if she was about to punch Gorman.

“Leave him!” Apone ordered sharply. Newt was kneeling in her seat up front, facing backwards and watching everyone over the headrest, while Ripley had turned around in the driver’s seat to look at Gorman, and then looked up at the sergeant.

“So now what?”

Apone looked around at everyone, and then back at her. “You tell me. You’re supposed to be the expert.”

Hudson, afraid someone was about to say they needed to stay, burst out, “Let’s just bug out and call it even, okay? What are we even talking about this for?”

Ripley’s gaze was steady as she replied, “I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

Hudson started to agree eagerly, but Burke cut in. “Whoa, hold on. Hold on one second. This installation has a substantial dollar value attached to it.”

“They can bill me,” Ripley said sharply, and Apone agreed, “Hell, they can bill all of us.”

Burke made a pathetic gesture as if trying to calm them down. “Okay, look. This is an emotional moment for all of us, okay? I know that. But let’s not make snap judgements, please. This is clearly…” he hesitated. “Clearly an important species we’re dealing with and I don’t think that any of us have the right to arbitrarily exterminate them.”

Hudson could see that Ripley couldn’t believe what she was hearing, but all she said was, “Wrong.”

“Look,” Burke protested. “I’m not blind to what’s going on, but I cannot authorize that kind of action. I’m sorry.”

Ripley looked between Apone and Burke, saying slowly, “Well I believe Sergeant Apone has authority here.”

Hudson watched impatiently as Burke gave her a skeptical look. “Sergeant Apone does?”

“This operation is under military jurisdiction, and Apone is next in command,” Ripley reminded him coolly. “Am I right, Sergeant?”

“Absolutely,” Apone agreed firmly.

Burke didn’t even give Apone the respect of looking at him as he continued to Ripley, “Look, Ripley, this is a multimillion-dollar installation, okay? He can’t make that kind of decision. He’s just a grunt.” Then he finally did look at Apone, almost apologetically. “Uh, no offense.”

“None taken.” Apone gave him a large, sweet smile, which turned to a glare with almost frightening speed and he growled, “Now sit your ass down and don’t open your fat mouth again.” He reached up for his radio. “Ferro, do you copy?”

“Standing by,” she replied.

“Prep for dust-off. We’re going to need an evac now. And watch your backs. We’ve got bugs around, and not the friendly type. They’ve got acid blood, so watch yourselves if you run into any of them.”

“Roger, I’ll go out and get Spunkmeyer back in here. We’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“Bishop, get your shiny metal ass out to the dropship before they take off,” Apone added. “I don’t want to have to go back for you.”

“Roger that,” the android replied.

There was a pause, and suddenly Hudson felt his blood freeze when the radio activated again and he heard shouts from Ferro. “Spunkmeyer, look out!”

Everyone else went perfectly still, but before Apone could say anything, Ferro yelled, “Duck! Lure the damn thing out of the ship!” Her voice was followed a moment later by gunshots and a string of curses from Spunkmeyer.

“What the hell is going on there, Ferro?” Apone demanded.

Ferro’s voice was breathless as she responded, “One of those fuckers tried sneaking into the dropship. Almost got Spunkmeyer, but we got it out of the ship and killed it.”

“Are you two okay?”

“We’re both fine. So’s the ship. Bishop’s here and we’re on our way.”

Apone turned to Crowe. “Can we get this thing moving again?”

The mechanic shook his head, one arm wrapped gently around his ribs. “Sounded like we blew the transaxle on the way out. This hunk’s staying here, Sarge.”

“Alright, then we head out on foot and they’ll have to pick us up.”

Hudson followed the others out into the wind, anxiously looking around the strange, barren landscape for any signs that the creatures were coming after them. There was only the windswept ground and the processing plant behind them. A moment later, the thrum of the dropship filled the air and the craft’s spotlights illuminated them. The dropship came to a hover just off the ground and the ramp opened, revealing Spunkmeyer and Bishop standing there. Hudson eagerly jumped aboard, not looking back at the horrors they were leaving behind. Dietrich and Hicks were the last to get in, carrying Gorman, and as Spunkmeyer closed the ramp and they went to strap themselves in, Bishop handed a memory disk in a case to Apone. “I downloaded a copy of the colony’s logs to this just before you called for me. I thought it might be good for us to get an idea of exactly how the infestation began.”

Apone nodded, and tucked the disk into one of his pockets. “Good work, Bishop. Ferro, take us home.”

Hudson saw Burke was looking very nervous all of a sudden, but he said nothing.

The flight back up to the Sulaco was quiet. Hudson could guess that everyone was still somewhat in shock at their close encounter. He was just grateful that no one had been hurt more seriously. He was also grateful for the painkillers keeping him from feeling anything in his burned hands, although he knew they would be hurting later.

Once they were back on the ship, Dietrich and Hicks carried Gorman to the infirmary, and Dietrich motioned for Hudson to follow, while Wierzbowski supported Crowe as they went as well.

When Dietrich had finished taking a second look at Hudson’s hands and rewrapped them, he wandered up to the bridge to find Apone, Ferro, Hicks, Ripley, Newt, and the others standing around watching a computer screen, and he realized that Apone and either Ferro or Hicks had already launched the nukes.

“Direct hit,” Hicks reported quietly after a moment, watching the bloom of the explosion spread across the screen. Ripley was watching with silent satisfaction, not saying anything, her hands gently squeezing Newt’s shoulders. Newt turned to hug her, and Ripley knelt down to return the hug properly.

“Rest in hell,” Apone said firmly, turning away.

“That was anti-climactic, man,” Hudson commented sarcastically, although he was secretly relieved.

Apone turned and gave him an amused look. “You’re welcome to go back down there and take another look if you want.”

Hudson blanched. “Uh, not me, man! I’m good!”

“I thought so.” Apone gave everyone a quick glance. “Alright, sweethearts, we’re going home. Everyone get dressed down for cryo.”

Hudson looked around his friends as he followed them towards the locker room. He had come out with a few new scars and enough nightmare fuel for years, but they were going home alive. All of them.

Edit 5/3/2021: Thank you to NeverNeverLady over on for noticing I completely forgot to mention Newt in this entire story! I’ve gone back and added a couple of references to her now.

Edit 6/12/2021: Fixed a couple of minor grammatical and punctuation mistakes, along with changing a few details of the hive battle to make it flow more smoothly and fit what we see in the movie more accurately. In the original version of this story, Frost gives Wierzbowski his sidearm, but I forgot that Wierzbowski already has a flamethrower and so he wouldn’t need Frost’s handgun. To explain how he was able to save himself from the alien that grabbed him when he couldn’t in the movie, I changed it to Crowe who gets knocked off his feet and then grabbed, as explained below.

And that’s a wrap! This was an interesting story to write, for several reasons. I’ve worked on “Bad Company” for over two years now, and done a lot of the writing, but this is the first story I’ve done completely on my own for the “Alien” franchise.

I feel like it was appropriate for this to be my first story. Sometimes I worry that when it comes to the lore of “Aliens” and “Bad Company”, especially in the podcast, I come across as arrogant or someone who thinks he’s always “right”, and the whole point of this story was to prove myself wrong. I made a claim, started questioning if it was true or not, and then when I realized it might not be, set out to prove it as incorrect. And I think the end result confirms that yes, I was wrong to say that for the Marines to sling their empty rifles and taking their handguns out wouldn’t have changed anything. It still might not have, but I think this story shows it could have.

In a way, though, writing this also made me a bit sad. In “Bad Company” and “Ice Star”, we change several things to help the Marines get out alive, and I had always thought those changes had to be made. But with this story, I demonstrated to myself that the solution didn’t need to be complicated. Something as simple as drawing their handguns COULD have saved all of their lives in the movie, and the fact that they should have done that, didn’t, and all died as a result, is a depressing thought.

One final note for any skeptical, sharp-eyed viewers wondering how something like just having different weapons changed things such as Frost not getting incinerated or Crowe not being killed by the ammo bag exploding: it’s difficult to get this across by comparing a story told in the medium of text to a movie where you can see everything, but the point was that because they have more weapons, they’re standing in different places. Apone doesn’t confiscate Frost’s flamethrower because he already has his handgun out, and so Frost takes a couple of steps over to cover him, which moves him far enough away from Dietrich for Hudson to pull him out of the way just in time. As for what happens to Hicks, Crowe, and Wierzbowski, there are several reasons for this: because Frost didn’t get completely incinerated, Crowe stopped to shoot the alien grabbing Dietrich, and Hudson was already helping Frost to get rid of the ammo bag, they didn’t have to run towards Frost and Dietrich to help them like in the movie, and so they were farther away, with Hicks being the furthest from the bag and Wierzbowski being the closest instead of Crowe, although still farther away from it than Crowe was in the movie. Also, when Hudson got the burning ammo bag off of Frost, he didn’t just drop it, he threw it away, accidentally sending it close to them, and what might seem like a magically-appearing piece of machinery for Wierzbowski to duck behind was, again, because they were standing in different places. Because Crowe was the one Hicks was able to partly pull to safety before the bag exploded, he was the one grabbed by the alien, but he managed to either hold onto his handgun during the explosion or pick it up after, while Wierzbowski likely couldn’t in the movie with his injuries because his flamethrower was bigger and heavier (and he has no sidearm in the movie), and so Crowe was armed and able to shoot the alien that grabbed him. The rest was simple from there. Hope this clears that up.

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