- Epilogue -
It was the screams that woke her. At first she was startled to find that they were not her own, especially after the nightmare she had been having. She pulled open the gown she was wearing, just to be sure.
A raised red line extended down her sternum. She poked it experimentally and watched as the spot her finger touched became white then slowly shade itself back in to red. It wasn't a dream. It was real.
She tore off the blankets and skidded across the shiny linoleum floor to a row of lockers. There had to be clothes in there somewhere. She threw on some sort of orderly shirt and drawstring sweatpants, pausing only an instant to eyeball the size of the sneakers before she slipped them on too and ran out of the door.
The hallway was dark and empty. The blue-white glow of the emergency strips along the walls allowed her to only barely make out shapes ten feet in front of her. She ran a hand along the wall, just to be safe, and continued to jog down the hall. Her fingers traced along, searching for any distinguishing features. There were none.
High-tech, fancy Company bullshit. She thought.
Just then her fingers felt nothing. The wall disappeared right out from underneath them. She doubled back, sticking her hand in the space before the rest of her body followed. A harsh white overhead light clicked on as she entered the room, leaving her blinking and squinting as her eyes adjusted. She blinked around the room.
The walls would have held an entire cache of pulse action rifles, most of which were missing. On the table in front of her lay a gnarled, battle-worn flamethrower. She gave its trigger a small squeeze and a jet of flame shot out. Satisfied, she swung the two remaining rifles over her shoulders, their extra ammo in bandoliers across her chest. She rummaged through a metal cupboard and found a a string of thermal grenades, which she promptly strapped around her thigh. Finally, she hoisted the flamethrower onto her hip, checked that it was full and continued down the hall.
It didn't take her long to reach her first armed human.
"Lieutenant Ripley!" he said, clearly startled by the woman nonchalantly walking up to him with a flamethrower. "What are you doing up?"
She ignored him.
"Is it lose?"
"Well yes. But -"
She cut him off.
"Where are the Corporal and the girl?"
"In the cafeteria." He jerked his head to the right.
She spun and began to march of in the direction he had indicated.
She stopped, and spoke with her back towards him.
"If you want to survive this, you'd better find go find yourself one hell of a hole to hide in, preferably on an escape pod." She paused before adding, "And watch out for the goddamned airducts."
The sound of the man scampering away dully echoed as she continued down the hallway.
It didn't take her long to find the cafeteria. Letters spelled out in emergency lighting alerted her to its presence just ahead and to her right, however something else diverted her attention. The word "HELM" shone in the dull emergency lighting next to a door. Suddenly beset by an incredible idea, Ripley hurried through the automatic doors and scampered up the metal ladder that immediately greeted her. Upon reaching the top, she moved straight to the nearest console and began flipping switches and entering commands until she was satisfied. She gave a dark chuckle before moving on to the cafeteria.
The door opened with a barely audible hiss and once again a flood of too-white light burned her eyes. When she regained her vision, she saw them, asleep in the corner of the room. He was propped upright, the lines on his haggard face still visible even in sleep. She was curled up with her thumb in her mouth and head in his lap.
Ripley walked over to them, quietly setting the flamethrower on a nearby table.
"Hicks" she whispered, shaking him lightly so as not to wake Newt. The Corporal's eyes popped open, unfocused and confused.
"Ripley?" He said, still waking up. "What're you doing up already? They said it'd take days... " His voice trailed off as his eyes took in her battle attire.
"Oh shit," he said, straightening. "It's out?" He phrased the question as more of a statement. Ripley nodded, watching as his face became simultaneously more alert and older by fifteen years.
"We've gotta get out of here," she whispered, picking up a still sleeping Newt with one arm and handing Hicks a rifle with the other. He examined it briefly before slinging it over his shoulder and picking up the flamethrower.
"Alright, but what about everyone else?" he asked.
"They'll figure it out sooner or later." She shifted Newt on to her hip and continued, "Besides, I've set the ship to vent into space in twenty minutes. It should give some sort of alarm beforehand. If that doesn't work I also have the ship set to self destruct shortly thereafter and if all else fails I've got this thing heading into a nice solid moon... and I fudged up the controls so bad that it's irreversible." She felt her face flush as Hicks stared at her as if she was some sort of demi-god.
"Honestly, they really shouldn't have commands for some of these things. Makes no sense outside of the alien-killing business."
She grinned as Hicks burst into laughter. It was nice to hear him laugh. After everything they had been through it was probably much needed as well. She found it hard to believe that not so long ago she had been ready to jump into an inferno just for the chance to kill one of those aliens. Looking back on it, it seemed comical. Now she felt herself not caring about them. Sure, she had no desire to get herself or the others killed, but as far as the fate of the creature... well, she had done what she could with the ship. If it survived that, then she wouldn't have been able to do anything anyway.
No use dragging the weight of the world along with me. She thought as Hicks finally got a hold of himself.
"Alright then. Let's do this." He said, still grinning. Ripley turned and led the way out of the cafeteria.
It took them longer than expected to get to an EEV since the majority of the others had already been launched. By the time they found one the ship's voice (once again a cheery female voice) was announcing that there were only ten minutes left until interior ventilation.
"Bastards were going to leave us here!" Hicks growled, pushing the button to get into the EEV. Ripley just shrugged. She was tired of The Company, the aliens and whatever little diabolical schemes one would create to possess the other. She was tired, and she just didn't care. Instead of responding, she gently placed Newt in yet another cryo chamber and sealed her in.
"Hicks, once you get in your cryo tube I'm going to vent this too." She waved her hands, indicating the escape vehicle. "I just want to be sure."
"I can do it."
She turned to face him. The Corporal was nervously eyeing the cryo chambers. He seemed to have no intention of getting in another one after his previous experience. Ripley felt a pang of sadness sweep through her at seeing this man-of-steel Colonial Marine terrified of getting into a cryo tube.
"We can both do it. There are two suits." He seemed to perk up when she said that, so she handed him one of the spacesuits with a smile and then shimmied into hers.
"Ready for this?" He asked, as they strapped themselves into their seats. Ripley swallowed, this was a bit too much deja vu for her, so she slipped her marshmallow-mittened hand into Hicks' and nodded. He smiled and pressed the appropriate button.
Immediately they were both jerked forward in their seats as the sudden lack of pressure fought to rip them from their harnesses. Ripley squeezed the Corporal's hand, and he returned her pressure. They sat like that until they were no longer being pulled from their seats, merely floating in the absence of anything.
No giant, dark alien shapes flew past them either.
Hicks pressed the button again, closing the back of the craft. They remained seated, hands clasped until the green light came on to signal that there was enough oxygen in the cabin for them to breathe. They de-suited and Ripley moved to get the cryo chambers ready. Hicks didn't move.
"Hicks, it's gonna be a long trip back." Ripley said softly.
"I know. It's just... "
She could see the internal battle raging behind his eyes. It must have been won quickly though, because he abruptly stood up and began to disrobe until he was only wearing his boxers and dog tags. He slid into the nearest tube.
"Let's get this over with." He managed to get out through his grit teeth. Ripley considered him for a moment before shutting the empty cryo chamber and sliding in next to him.
His initial surprise was smothered as Ripley pressed her lips to his in a sweet, simple kiss.
"Well Hicks," she said, pulling back, "I think we need a vacation."
The Corporal grinned and wrapped his arms around her as she lay her head on his uninjured shoulder.
"I'd say we earned it."
Ripley smiled and gave his torso a small squeeze as the lid to the cryo chamber sealed itself. He returned the squeeze and drowsily added:
"See you on the other side."
Ripley drifted off into hibernation safe and comfortable, listening to the steady heartbeat of Corporal Hicks.