The distinguished-looking man sitting in his quiet executive suite on the Weyland-Yutani Corporation security/research spaceship Lake Nyos absently waved his hand in the proper motion when an icon on his computer screen began to discreetly blink, producing a respectful voice from out of the air, "Director Bishop, as you wished to be informed, we are fifteen minutes from our rendezvous with the Sulaco."

"Thank you, Captain," replied the man still intently reviewing once again the information being presented to him that had been downloaded from that Colonial Marine Corps iConestoga/i-class starship after both ships had gotten within range of each other while they were traveling through hyperspace. "I'll be there presently. Continue with your orders."

"Yes, sir."

There was once more silence in the room, until Michael Bishop leaned back in his chair with a satisfied sigh, savoring the beginning movements of the endgame. *Who'd have thought that the dead-end job that I was stuck in so long ago would have led to this? But now, I'm here, the most powerful man in the company, and all my foes are dead, disgraced, or gone. It was pure luck I was in the communications section when the first message from the Nostromo came in all those years ago, I must admit. However, as was recognized later, the secrecy I imposed at once and my orders to that synthetic - what was his name again? - were all in the proper traditions of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. The information gained from the brief period we had in our possession an actual Alien was enough to get myself noticed by upper management and into a new career path. Particularly since I managed to avoid any repercussions from the destruction of the spaceship, the failure to find that planetoid again, and the disappearance of Ripley.*

In his supremely-comfortable chair, a sour expression suddenly appeared over Director Bishop's features. *Ellen Ripley. Couldn't she have just been a nice little drone and simply followed orders? If she'd waited for us and been properly receptive to our suggestions afterwards, that woman would have had a most secure position in our hierarchy. After all, we wouldn't have learned then that she was the finest possible symbiote for an Alien Queen. That possibility wasn't even considered for the first few decades in the research program that I began once I accumulated enough power.*

Shaking his head in mild disgust, the executive carefully got to his feet, feeling every one of his advanced years despite all the finest age-delaying drugs the corporation could provide for their top people, that most certainly would never be dispensed among the proletariat. *Ah, well, it's all water under the bridge. Now that it's over, I must admit it was something of a thrill to whip up the whole plan on the fly once I heard from Carter Burke about LV-426. A pity that young man didn't survive. He had a most proper appreciation of the bottom line, but then, in the kinds of games we play, your life itself is simply considered another stake and it must be conceded to whoever is the victor.*

A death's head grin now flashed over Director Bishop's face. *Which is I.*

A few minutes later, while walking down the bustling corridors of the Lake Nyos, benignly nodding at those staff, crew, scientists, and security personal who hastily made way for him during his stroll, Director Bishop had to fight down the overwhelming urge to start giggling. Or worse, cackling. *Your reputation is simply another tool to be used in your struggles for power, but being witnessed acting like the stock villain in a children's three-d viewcast is going a bit too far. Settle down, man! Afterwards, in the privacy of your suite, you can have a good, long gloat over finally winning!*

As the doors to the command center opened, a serious-faced executive entered and glanced around, heading right to where the captain and his senior staff were awaiting. "Any changes, Captain?" asked the director.

"No, sir. Our further scans of the Sulaco confirm it contains only the three humans and the android, all currently in stasis, and the specimens, which are in their inert stage inside the ship's storage vault." The commander of the Lake Nyos now looked at a black-clad, very fit subordinate, who stepped forward.

"I'm Major Overton, head of the security squads, Director Bishop. My men are ready to conduct their sweep of the entire vessel and make a physical check of everything. As per the plan, Groups A and B will go right for the stasis chamber and the vault."

The top manager nodded in approval, directing, "Wait for my orders to wake up the replica. He'll take one of the specimens he and Mr. Burke acquired out of the vault and bring it aboard for study. Once we've learned all we can, our medical squad will take the other specimens and implant them in the hosts, depending upon their suitability. After that, the engineering specialists will rig the ship for its destruction and the escape pod for its flight to the prison planet, whatever it's called. Now, gentlemen, let's get to work."

Not a single muscle flickered in the faces of the others over the atrocity they'd just been ordered to perform. But then, they'd sold their souls to the Weyland-Yutani Corporation long since before, for very good rates, just like every other man and woman currently on that company's starship. Including Director Bishop, who if ever asked, would have cordially agreed that it had all been absolutely worth it. Then, the pitiless destruction of his questioner would have commenced.

Several minutes later, when the two spacecraft drifted together, a docking tube completed its linkage, as shown by the indicator lights attached to the airlock doors in the hangar of the Lake Nyos flashing bright green. Surrounded by his men, every one of them pointing their cocked-and-locked weapons unwaveringly at the doors, Major Overton looked up to the viewing position at the upper level of the hangar. Behind the heavily-armored window, an impatient hand waved in a clear order from Director Bishop: Get on with it.

"On three," rumbled the major, "One, two, three!"

The security squad closest to the airlock dashed forward the instant the doors slid open, ready to open fire instantly if anything came out, and also knowing if that happened, the others behind them would also immediately shoot right through the first squad. Hey, it was why everybody got paid the big bucks. Not to mention that the first squad, if it wasn't their turn in the barrel at this exact moment, would have done exactly the same to whatever poor bastards had been picked to be the first. Unlike any other previous victims of the Aliens, all of the mercenaries understood exactly how dangerous their opponents were, and they knew the importance of massive firepower against those acid-spewing monsters.

As soon as through the first squad was through the docking tube and past the airlock door of the Sulaco, the second squad charged right after. A few moments later, when there was no sounds of either gunfire or screams, the third squad, accompanied by Major Overton, went through a bit more leisurely, followed by the rest of their comrades, leaving behind only the rear guard, who were really pleased by their good luck at undoubtedly being the sole survivors if a true clusterfuck occurred. Of course, they'd be picked first the next time there was something really crappy to be done, but that could be worried about when it actually happened.

Up in the viewing area, Director Bishop turned away from the window, and he went back to the command center. As his superior entered the room, the captain of the Lake Nyos looked up from the three main viewscreens now showing various sections of the interior of the other starship being searched from top to bottom by the corporate mercenaries, reporting, "Sir, everything's going as planned. As you can see, the hangar has been declared clear, and our various squads are going through every ship level. We haven't had any surprises, and the only incongruity is that faint traces of an Alien were discovered in the hangar but nowhere else."

Director Bishop's eyebrows rose over that last piece of news. "How faint were these traces?"

"Our analysis indicates they occurred the day the dropship returned to the Sulaco."

"Hmmm…." The executive thoughtfully rubbed his chin. "Possibly, it was necessary to transfer the eggs from whatever held them - a box or something - inside the dropship back at the planet into a proper container with a tight seal once my replica finally returned to the other ship's hangar. Oh, well, we can simply ask him once he wakes up."

"Ah, about that, the stasis chamber has now been cleared, sir." The captain nodded at the left viewscreen.

His attention drawn to the image on this, Director Bishop watched with deep interest as the mercenary holding the recorder scanned the four occupied stasis chambers. The first of these had a brunette woman lying on her back, her eyes closed, and her strong features relaxed.

"Our records identify her as Ellen-"

"I know very well who she is, Captain," icily interrupted the director, as this man glowered at the woman in her cold-sleep capsule. He couldn't think of someone still living who'd ever managed to cause him so much trouble, including, he was quite sure, that fifty-kilometer radioactive crater back on LV-426 and the vaporizing of yet another priceless opportunity to acquire some more Alien specimens.

"Er, yes, ahem. The other two humans are Corporal Dwayne Hicks, Colonial Marines, and Rebecca Jorden, presumably of the colony at LV-426." The captain didn't even bother mentioning this last person was ten years old. What was the point? Instead, the commanding officer of the Lake Nyos then politely cleared his throat and asked, "Do you wish to wake your replica right now?"

The other man shook his head. "We'll wait until the entire ship is declared safe."

"Certainly, sir."

An hour later, Director Bishop stood just outside the airlock door of the Sulaco, savoring the moment. A few more steps, and he'd be starting what he'd worked for most of his life, the scrutinizing of the secrets of the Aliens, as done by the researchers and scientists crammed in the ship behind himself that he considered to be trusted enough to dig out the slightest clue about those magnificent creatures, all of these dedicated personnel quite capable ignoring such weak things as ethics and morals that interfered with the proper pursuit of knowledge. With every single scrap of data they'd already acquired since the time of the Nostromo also in his ship's computer banks and nowhere else, it was truly impossible for him to fail!

A wide smile on his lips, Director Bishop walked into the hangar of the Sulaco, and he jovially called out to the head of the security squads patiently awaiting his orders, "Major, inform the stasis chamber that-"

Willow Rosenberg's series of spells instantaneously scanned the newcomer, and through vocal and facial recognition, they identified him at once as an individual meeting all the parameters necessary to trigger the booby traps placed throughout the Marine spacecraft by Xander Harris several days before he and the others had journeyed to his home reality, after setting the computers of the Sulaco to automatically begin that spacecraft's own trip back to the Solar System through hyperspace. Without anyone on it at all.

A certain redhaired witch's immensely powerful magic now went actively to work, instead of just maintaining the illusions that had been previously cast.

Up several levels in the stasis chamber, a bored mercenary currently on guard in the room was incuriously regarding the cold-sleep capsule where a little girl was slumbering. He didn't care the slightest who she was, why she was there, or what might happen to her, simply looking at her because she was in his field of view. Right up to the point when she wasn't.

The mercenary disbelievingly blinked, as the little girl instantly vanished from sight inside her imprisoning cylinder. Staring in utter amazement at the other three cylinders that were also missing their slumbering occupants, the man took a few stumbling steps forward, until he was right by the capsule that had seemingly been in use by a youngster, and then he gawked down right into it, through the upper transparent cover.

There was a sheet of paper lying on top of the couch inside, and this note had a childish scrawl written upon on it. The mercenary cautiously bent down, and with his incredulity increasing at every word, he read: YOU ARE A REALLY REALLY BIIIIIIIIG POOPHEAD!

Demonstrating that the universe has a truly fine sense of irony, at the same time, the communications officer on the current shift of the Lake Nyos was answering a serious call of nature. He'd left the door of the head open, and it was only a few steps back to his chair, but honestly, there was no way anything would happen right now that would need him to be there-

Every alarm at his workstation blasted off at full volume.

Rising from his throne in a single panicked leap, the man responsible for the transmission and receiving of messages for the Lake Nyos landed at the threshold of his duty station at the instant he grabbed the waistband of his dangling pants and yanked upwards, hard. Which made his feet shoot out backwards from under himself, and toppled him forward at a fantastic speed, falling right onto his face with an extreme impact that made various loose objects at his desk bounce upwards.

A few moments of agonizing pain later, the communications officer lifted his head currently possessing a broken nose, a split lip, and several missing front teeth, to instantly forget all his physical suffering and start on his mental torment. His instruments were telling him that a massive burst transmission had just come from the other ship they were docked with, plus because nobody had ordered him to start jamming procedures (and that was going to be found to be HIS fault, no matter what), whatever message that craft had just sent was now on its way throughout the cosmos, and there was nothing whatsoever that the Weyland-Yutani Corporation could do about that.

However, there was even worse to come. If he hadn't already done so just a minute ago, the injured man would have now thoroughly evacuated his bowels, because from what he was currently watching on his viewscreen, the Sulaco was also sending a real-time transmission of-

His lower limbs flailing and his pants legs flapping, the communications officer desperately attempted to scramble up onto his feet and at his duty station, knowing it was totally pointless but trying anyway.

Already immensely far away in hyperspace, the message from the Sulaco kept on traveling, as once more Bishop, Ripley, Newt, and Hicks told of what had happened to them. Then, the transmission became something new that had been added later on.

A small group of four people looked solemnly at a recorder. Ripley was seated at a couch, with Newt curled up in her lap, the child's arms wrapped around her new mother in a tight hug. The older woman was giving her daughter an equally strong embrace with her right arm, and her other arm was up and back for her fingers to touch the hand of the man behind her. Hicks stood strong and tall, guarding his own, with his left hand caressing the top of the shoulder of his love, and his right hand also resting upon the shoulder of his blood-brother standing at his side. Bishop, his head slightly cocked at the strange sensations he was feeling, also firmly regarded the recorder that was capturing the images of them all.

Though, it was the first of them who had become involved in this that would speak. Warrant Officer Ripley, of the starship Nostromo said steadily, "Greetings. If you're seeing this, we've failed, in a way. When we did the recordings of our experiences, we also thought of what might happen later on, and among other things, we considered that the Weyland-Yutani Corporation might find and stop us. Should that happen…we knew that none of us would survive the experience. They've already murdered hundreds of innocent people. What's a few more? But, we decided that even if we lost, so would they. Before we went into stasis, among other things, we set up automatic scans of any ship that approaches us in hyperspace, identifying it and its crew, and continuing the recordings if we were boarded by that ship. Should that ship indeed turn out to be operated by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, well...just consider this message, and everything else we told you, our dying declaration."

Ripley leaned forward to softly kiss Newt's head, as the little girl continuing to steadfastly watch the recorder. The older woman straightened up, and said the last few words this universe would ever hear from her. "You see, we all decided that whatever happened, we would be a family forevermore."

The message now traveling through hyperspace shifted into showing the approach of the Lake Nyos, the boarding action by the security squads, and then the real-life entry of Director Michael Bishop into the hangar of the Sulaco, a wide grin on his face. An instant later, this look of glee had contorted into a mask of horror, as he now stared at something in front of him.

A few seconds ago, the recorded image had split into two screens. One screen kept upon Director Bishop. The other showed the far wall of the hangar for the dropships of the Colonial Marine spacecraft. This partition had looked totally ordinary, and as such it had been completely disregarded by the security squads from the other vessel. Even those who'd accidentally wandered near the wall had simply acceded to the subtle mystical suggestions that they step a bit further away, and otherwise they had totally ignored the room divider.

Nobody at all in the room was ignoring it now.

In the recorder, the wall shimmered for a second, and then there appeared across the face of the wall three separate columns of names.

The first column, done in a feminine hand:


Dallas - Captain

Kane - Executive Officer

Lambert - Navigator

Parker - Chief Engineer

Brett - Engineering Technician

Ripley - Warrant Officer

The second column, done in a masculine hand:


Lieutenant William Gorman

Sergeant Al Apone

Corporal Cynthia Dietrich

Corporal Colette Ferro

Private Tip Crowe

Private Mark Drake

Private Ricco Frost

Private William Hudson

Private Daniel Spunkmeyer

Private Jenette Vasquez

Private Trevor Wierzbowski

Corporal Dwayne Hicks

The third column:


It was the longest of them all, with 155 names, each crisply printed and perfectly lined up, in a machine style, including its title. At the very end, printed in a childish hand, were five more names.

Russ Jorden

Ann Jorden

Tim Jorden

Rebecca Jorden (Newt)

Uncle Bishop

At the very bottom of the wall was a single sentence, all in capital letters:


Leaning against the wall by the last word of the epitaph was one of the Sulaco's guided re-entry vehicles, a missile with a nuclear weapon warhead attached, set at its full yield of two megatons, and also having a brightly glowing digital counter attached that was now flashing into single digits (added beforehand by Xander who had explained to a dumbfounded Hicks, "Yeah, it's a cliché, but it's still absolutely perfect for these kinds of occasions, and yes, it's been set to go right to zero if it's even touched.").