Okay. So, I know that I already explained that I couldn't promise that this would be updated regularly. However, I still feel like a horrible author for not giving this the attention that it deserved. I have left you all hanging for just over seven months. Seven. Inexcusable, even for someone with my schedule. I deeply apologize to all of you.
However, in those past seven months, I graduated from the University of Illinois with a BS in Print/Editorial Journalism and have been accepted to go back for my Masters in Journalism. I've dealt with some personal issues, had a slight nervous breakdown (school sometime does that to me), dealt with a friend with possessive, nearly stalkerish issues towards me, and started a relationship. So, in a small, tiny, nearly miniscule defense, I've been busy. Seriously though, the first part of this chapter has been sitting on my computer since December, and I've been stuck ever since. Then, on July 3, the bunny bit me, and now I'm back.
Also, I must say that I am shocked at how many people have looked at this story: over 650. I am in awe, and I would like to thank each and every one of you for at least clicking on this and checking it out. To all of those who have added this to their alert and favorite lists, again, I deeply thank you. I'm also flattered to have been added to a Community. And last, but definitely not least, to those who have reviewed. Your comments are what spur me to drop what I should be doing, and write instead.
Same as before, I don't own either Aliens or Predator. The miscellaneous crew members and other personnel of the Piper Maru, though, are mine.
Chapter 2: Kjuhte
"C'mon you frozen…piece of…shit!"
Lex growled viciously as she punctuated each word between the pauses of her cry with a swing of her hammer. Her unfortunate target was the frozen brakes of the arctic truck she was currently lying under. After the departure of the alien ship, she had quickly looked for one of the vehicles the team had brought with them. Many of them had fallen into the vast chasm that was now just settling, or were far too close to the precarious edge to risk moving without disturbing the already destabilized ice. However, luck was with her for once and at least one vehicle still remained nearby.
She vaguely remembered that the head of the drilling crew had ordered the men to keep the trucks running. Besides keeping the cabins warm, the running engines also kept the motors from freezing in the Antarctic air. If the trucks had been turned off shortly after their arrival, there was very little to no chance that she would be able to turn the engine over, at least not without help.
Just because the motor was running though didn't mean that the rest of the vehicle wouldn't freeze over. After prying open the door of the truck and climbing into the cabin, she went to disengage the brakes holding the truck in place only to find a force of resistance barring her success. With a groan of dismay, she scoured the cabin for anything that could help her with the ornery machinery. Finding a heavy-headed hammer, she reluctantly opened the door once more and left the blessed warmth of the cabin and braved the frozen whip-like wind outside. Hence her current position beneath the truck.
Lex was thankful that the treads of the vehicle blocked most of the wind just a few feet beyond her. However, since she had lost her jacket in the pyramid and her harness to the queen's acidic blood, she currently only had her sweater and another undershirt protecting her torso from the elements. She shivered as the melting snow, caused from her body heat, soaked into her comparatively thin garments. Her hands had long passed the numb stage and were beginning to prickle with the pain of invisible pins and needles. Lex knew that hypothermia would soon set in if she didn't get back to the cabin in the next few minutes or so.
Satisfied after a few more whacks to the brakes, she crawled out from under the truck and was immediately met with a blast of snow and wind. Ducking her head and wrapping her arms around her, she dashed for the side of the truck and quickly yanked open the cabin door and climbed inside. She sat for a few minutes, rubbing her hands as she attempted to adjust to the abrupt change of temperature. Once she was certain that circulation was once again established to her digits, Lex pressed her foot on the brake pedal, depressed the clutch and switched gears.
The truck gave a shudder and then began to creep backwards in the snow.
Crowing in victory, she eased more on the gas before swinging the vehicle around to face away from the chasm. She then threw the truck into first gear and slowly started the trek back to the Piper Maru.
The rumbling from the engine and the rush of air from the heater filled the cabin for the first few minutes. It was oddly peaceful, almost serene in its normality. She could almost imagine that she was driving back home in Montana during a winter storm. Of course, the temperature wasn't nearly as frigid there as it was here, and there were at least trees nearby and mountains on the horizon. Yet the warmth of the cabin blocked all that, and for the first time in hours, she could finally relax.
That is, until she realized the staccato of chattering teeth that broke the surrounding calm. In her near sluggish exhaustion, she hadn't realized how cold she was, even with the cocooning heat from the truck. It took her a moment to realize that she was still wearing her sweater which was thoroughly soaked. The nerve signals from her limbs finally reached her brain as she began to once again shiver uncontrollably. The Piper Maru was still quite a ways off, and it would be idiotic for her to wait until she arrived to search for dry clothes on the ship. Making the most reasonable decision, she peeled off her sweater and damp undershirt and rubbed her arms in an attempt to keep the gooseflesh at bay. Lex was thankful that her bra was relatively dry as she wasn't too keen on arriving at the ship wearing nothing but her boots and pants, regardless of her justification for her topless demeanor. Yet showing up in her bra wasn't too agreeable with her pride, either.
Please, please let there be an extra coat in here, she pleaded as she began to search the truck for some sort of clothing or semblance of cloth to cover herself up.
As she twisted in her seat, she felt an object dig into her hip as the lap belt tightened against her movement. She paused at the momentary sharp bite of pain and looked down at her pocket. Unsure as to what could have caused it, she simultaneously lifted herself off the seat to stretch her body out as far as possible while reaching down towards her pocket. The movement was both awkward and cumbersome, yet after a few fumbling moments, she was able to slip her fingers inside and grasp the offending object. Pulling her hand out of her pocket, she situated herself back into the driver's seat and looked at the item in her hand. Her breath hitched.
The object was round, with curved, pointed ridges. Its top was artfully painted red, white and blue, and the words 'Pepsi-Cola' were stamped in script in the middle. A strip of leather was still threaded through a hole that had been punched through the bottle cap, its ends snapped from strain. A lucky charm. That's what Sebastion had called it.
The man who had helped her through the pyramid and had found an explanation in the hieroglyphs for the insanity they had endured within its maze. The man whose camaraderie had helped kept her calm when their world was going to hell. The man who had gone back for her when her grip wasn't strong enough to keep her latched onto the remains of the collapsed bridge; whose hands had reached over the side to grasp hers, a heaven sent saving grace, only to be ripped away by the serpentine demon, his shout of surprise, fear and despair mingling with her panicked cry. The man whom she had later found in the egg chamber, covered in God-knows-what, begging for her to kill him, screaming that one was inside of him even as the crunch and bulging of his ribs gave evidence to his claims. His pleas for her to hurry as she raised her gun, apologies pouring from her lips yet not coming fast enough. The thunder like crack as the gun fired, mercifully silencing the tortured man's screams. His body slumping in its slime cocoon, face relaxed, the bullet wound in his skull the only thing marring his peaceful façade.
The friend she had been forced to kill due to a series of horribly unfortunate events. The friend who's supposedly lucky bottle cap now rested in the palm of her increasingly shaking hand.
Now, adrenaline is a blessed thing. It allows the body to keep going even under the most stressful of situations and push far beyond its regular limits. Fight or flight becomes its only agenda, survival the most important item on its 'to do' list. Yet like any other high, the crash must come, and the landing can be just as brutal as a true fall from a ten story building.
And Alexa Woods had just dropped from said building with the ground coming up fast in …
Her breathing became ragged as she desperately took shallow breaths, gulping for all her worth as the walls of the cabin closed in on her. Her vision spiraled and pigeonholed on the bottle cap in her hand, everything in her sight blurring save for that one, tiny object. Almost impossibly wide, hazel eyes focused on the item that, if it were under different circumstances, would be so universally insignificant that it would have been laughable, yet as of right now, was the source of her mental shattering.
With a primal cry of agony and despair, Alexa's world came crashing down as the events of the previous twenty-four hours hurtled at her with a startling clarity, the emotions and memories as sharp and raw as glass itself.
Oh my God! Oh my God! They're dead. All of them! She mentally screamed as she continued to wail and whimper. Her hand unconsciously clenched over the bottle cap, fingers tightening over the object until it bit into her hand. The sharp sting brought an ounce of clarity to her mind, one that she instinctually fought. After bottling everything for so long, forcing it to the back of her mind to be catalogued and dealt with later, the ignored emotions surged forth like a tsunami, taking out everything in its path. She needed this, and the primal part of her mind refused to let go, mental teeth grappling with the higher functions of her brain. Logic was not needed at this time. Logic could not even pretend to understand the true process of shock, of just letting go and allowing the mind and body to cope. For the moment, logic had to take a back seat to its evolutional predecessor.
Taking shallow gasps of air, Lex grieved for those who were lost in the pyramid, bodies crushed and obliterated beneath the ruins of the structure and the tons of ice that collapsed on top of it. Countless of lives shattered, their loved one's never knowing what truly happened to them. Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, children … all lost, the wound digging ever deeper with the knowledge that there would be no bodies to bury. For many families, closure would be something only glimpsed on the horizon, yet would probably never fully be obtained. The empty coffin would only be a reminder of what was missing, the tombstone a mockery.
And they weren't entombed alone down there, either. Lex let out another string of sobs as she fully realized the true horror of what they had faced. Serpents, something that could only have been straight from myth, one that must have involved some great, demon god, had lurked in the shadows of that godforsaken pyramid. A lean, eyeless body of moist-looking, jet black skin with dripping fangs and a parasitic like tongue … Lex shuttered violently. It would haunt her dreams for years. And they weren't the only ones, either. No, no, no. Those muscled behemoths that would make even the Olympians of myth tremble, armed with spears, nets, guns, and … were those throwing stars? Masked warriors. And they hunted those things for sport, a rite of passage? What the hell? And their leader had even given her a sp-
Lex inhaled deeply as her eyes widened again. She slowly, yet jerkily, turned her head towards the passenger seat. Sitting there, ever so innocently, was the retractable spear that the leader of the hunters had given her. She blinked a few times, not understanding the object for a moment before it suddenly clicked.
"Oh my god … I met aliens," she whispered quietly to herself. "I … met … mother-fucking aliens."
At this moment, logic forcefully shoved the primitive functions back, locking its cage and once again took the reins.
Lex leaned back against her seat as she stared in front of her. She let out a calming breath, her hand relaxing around the bottlecap as she let her mind fully comprehend what she just said. Aliens. I just encountered two races of aliens. One tried to kill me, and I helped the other kill it. And I was rewarded a spear for my efforts from their leader before they flew off in their giant spaceship … Right. Okay. When in the hell did I step into the world of Gene Roddenberry?
After taking a minute or so to realize that it was now proven that humans were not alone in the universe, a more terrestrial realization hit her: those upon the Piper Maru had no clue what happened, and she was the lone survivor out of an expedition of 100 or so.
"Fuck," she swore violently, tossing her head against the headrest. "What the hell am I going to say?. 'Yeah, two alien races duked it out down there, and we were just the casualties. But I escaped. See? No harm done. Just a little cold, so can I have a blanket now, please?' Yeah, no, they'd lock me up somewhere in that ship until we got to dry land and then place me in an asylum," Lex muttered darkly. "Accident, maybe? Closer to the truth, but what are the odds that everyone but me got killed in a cave in? They might think I did it."
Lex wracked her brain for possible explanations to give to the crew and more than likely, the bigwigs at Weyland Industries. Yet there were problems with each one she conceived. With being the only survivor, it was highly likely that they would look upon her with suspicion. Also, if they chose to excavate the site (a risky yet likely scenario, given the poor decision making of CEO Charles Weyland to speed up the expedition at the cost of proper training), the complete lack of evidence of the pyramid due to the hunter's bomb would be difficult to explain. Not to mention that it was projected that actual drilling would have taken days, not hours. By all rights, according to the schedule, they should still be in the beginning stages of drilling. How would that be explained?
Deep in her thoughts, Lex jumped when static filled the air. She nearly gave herself whiplash as she turned to look at the CB radio in the console, the sound emanating from its speakers.
"Groomer, groomer,* this is the Piper Maru. Do you read me, over?"
Lex emitted an unintelligent sound as she stared at the device for a moment before she scrambled for the microphone. She paused, licking her lips, before hitting the talk button.
"This is Groomer, I read you. Over."
"Who am I currently speaking too?"
"Alexa Woods, environmental technician and lead guide for the expedition."
"Ms. Woods, what are you doing on your way back here? You aren't due for at least another week."
Lex closed her eyes and bit her lip, praying that this would work.
"There was an accident. The ice collapsed. I was the only one to get out alive."
There was a long pause from the other end, the cabin absent of the sound of static. The seconds ticked by slowly. It felt far too long for Lex.
"… what of Mr. Weyland, Ms. Woods?"
He died to save us, killed by a stab wound from a 7 ft. hunter alien, thought Lex as she remembered the ailing man. His sacrifice gave them the time they needed to escape. She smiled bitterly. You'll be remembered for more than the loss of a few stocks, Mr. Weyland.
"He was lost to the ice. The entire shelf that Razorback Point was sitting on collapsed. Only a large hole in the ground remains."
Another long pause.
"Do you have any injuries?"
"Not many. But I'm fairly certain that I've gone through at least the first stage of hypothermia."
"Radar has you at about three miles out. We'll see you in about 10 minutes. We'll have the doctor standing by."
"Understood. See you soon. Over and out."
Lex replaced the microphone and slumped back in her seat, anxiety filling her system. Now all she had to do was convince everyone of her version of events, and hope that she wouldn't be thrown in jail for mass murder. With over 100 personnel dead? Yeah. Easier said than done.
* The official name for these vehicles is a Hagglund (from what I can find, at least). They are under the category of 'snowcat,' which are commonly nicknamed 'trail groomers.' Hence the CB nickname of 'Groomer.' I know neither trucker CB nor marine/military radio talk, so please, give me some leeway.
In almost every AvP story I've read so far, they never show Lex going through shock. Now, I know that it can be argued that she dealt with everything in the pyramid, had a 'suck it up' moment, and went on. However, after stressful situations, people go through shock. Soldiers go through it after war: PTSD. Lex, who had arguably never been in such a life or death situation like this, regardless of her occupation of working on the ice and mountain climbing, would have had a mental breakdown at some point.
By the way, that was the most difficult thing I've ever had to write, and the main reason why this chapter took so long. But I'll admit, I'm happy with how it turned out now that it's through.
Feel free to review, leave comments, criticism, etc. Finding a new one in my inbox sometimes is the only thing necessary to make my day. ^-^