Chapter 1

With a final push, Elizabeth Shaw managed to untangle herself from the two battling creatures: one, a grotesque mockery of the child she had always desired, the other, a fallen version of the "gods" she had sought for so long. Breaking free of their struggle, she pulled herself to her feet, doing her best to ignore the pain that was shooting up from the wound in her abdomen. She needed to get out of here quickly. She didn't know which of the two aliens would win the struggle, but she wanted to be away from there before it ended and the survivor turned its attention back to her.

Thankfully, she could see that her pack was still where she had dropped it, and looked to be undamaged, so hopefully the oxygen canisters she had filled it with were all right as well. Perhaps she could make her way back to the remains of the caves, where, with a bit of luck, she would find the artificial atmosphere still working. If not, there was always the Engineer's crashed ship. It looked to be fairly intact, so it might be a hospitable environment. If none of the jars filled with that black goo had broken in the crash, anyway.

What she would do once she got to the safety of an atmosphere, she didn't know, but she would figure it out once she got there. Right now, surviving was the important thing.

She was just about to turn and run back toward the entryway when she saw the struggling Engineer crash to the floor, the squid-like monster's tentacles already trying to wrap themselves around its neck, its waist, and its arms. It looked like her "child" was going to win, the power of its dozens of tentacles easily winning out against even the giant humanoid's great strength. She supposed it was for the best. If she had to be stuck on a planet with one of them, she supposed it was safer to be stuck with a mindless monster than an intelligent being that was angry with her and capable of harboring a vendetta against her.

Enough worrying about them, she told herself. Get moving.

Turning away from the battle, she charged toward the entryway, but only got about ten steps before she tripped over something and went sprawling.

She bit back a scream as she clutched at her wounded stomach. She could feel her abdominal muscles beginning to pull apart again, and she knew she needed more of the regenerative solution she'd been injecting herself with since the C-section, as well as more painkillers. She wished that there was time to look for them, but of course there wasn't. She would just have to worry about dealing with her wound once she was safe.

Managing to remove one hand from her stomach, she reached down to move whatever she had tripped over out of the way and started when her hand touched the handle of her ax.

Leave it, she told herself, as she struggled into a kneeling position. It's useless. Now that she'd seen the size of the squid-creature, she knew that hacking at it with an ax wasn't going to do much good. Even if it did decide to come for her after it had finished with the Engineer, she was better off running and hiding. Trying to fight it would be suicide. If the Engineer was so easily overpowered, what chance did she have? She had to get out.

Just as she managed to get to her feet, she heard the Engineer scream.

This was different from the creature's formerly angry snarls and bellows as it had chased her through the corridors of the escape pod and grappled with the squid like monster. On the surface it sounded similar to them, an almost inhuman roar, but she could tell it was not a scream of anger at all, or despair, or even pain. This was a scream of terror.

The sound of the humanoid's scream trailed off into a frantic gurgling even as she turned toward it, and as she finally looked back at it, she saw why. One of the squid-creature's tentacles had wrapped tightly around the Engineer's neck, choking it and causing its eyes to bulge and its mouth to open in a desperate attempt to breathe. The humanoid grabbed weakly at the tentacle, trying to free itself, but it was no match for the thick rope of pure muscle that stole its breath, let alone the half-dozen others that were helping to restrain it. It was helpless as a child in the grip of this newborn monster, and it knew it. Its dark eyes were wide with fear and revulsion as it stared the instrument of its death in the face.

Not so powerful after all, she couldn't help thinking. And that was indeed a fitting end for the cruel creature she had once regarded as a god.

No…that wasn't quite right. She had never thought the beings were divine. Only that they were superior. And benevolent. That they were wise creators and teachers who would welcome their children home to them with open arms and the answers to all the questions humanity deemed important.

But now there would be no answers. Perhaps there never would be. This thing was the last of its kind on this planet…perhaps the last of its kind in the universe, for all she knew. After all, why had its kin never come and rescued it in the two-thousand years it had been in stasis? Perhaps they too, had all been wiped out. This wasn't their homeworld, but they still had been tinkering with a substance so lethal it was capable of wiping out all the life on a planet, and perhaps some of that substance had hitched a ride back with them. Perhaps they were all gone.

Almost all gone, she reminded herself, as the squid-monster pulled the trapped Engineer forward. The humanoid's struggles had grown more feeble, but its eyes were still wide and terrified.

The center of the squid-like creature seemed to…open as it held the humanoid in its grip, revealing a ring of small holes surrounding what looked like a central, toothy mouth. As she stood there stupidly, too horrified to move, these small holes opened and several small, wormlike tentacles shot out, wrapping themselves around the Engineer's head, holding it in place.

The being screamed again, still a harsh, guttural sound, but there was no mistaking the horror in it. Its right hand came up feebly, still trying to free its head, and its legs kicked wildly, but it was doomed.

Her last chance for answers, doomed.

The entire reason why she came out here, doomed.

The cause for which she'd suffered, for which she'd lost Charlie, for which she'd given everything that mattered to her, doomed.

And as she watched in horrified revulsion as the central hole in the squid monster began to open, she realized that she still held her ax in her hands.

And as she moved, as she ran, as she made a mad dash toward the monster, she had time for only one thought.

I can't let go. I'm a fool, but I can't let go. This is all I have left…

Then she swung the ax with all her might at the squid-creature, aiming for that strange central mouth, just as it opened fully and a long, grayish "tongue" began to poke out.

It was a direct hit. The ax split not only the mouth itself, but the strange "tongue" (which she could now see wasn't a tongue at all, but some sort of fleshy tube) as well. Both pieces of the tube curled back away from the ax-blow, fell limp for a moment, and then began to flail around like wounded serpents.

The fact that the monster reared both backward and upwards in response to the ax-blow was the only thing that saved either Shaw or the Engineer. A gout of hot, acidic blood spurted from the wound, spraying the walls and ceiling with corrosive fluid. Shaw screamed, letting go of the ax, which was starting to smoulder, and dropped to the floor, trying to get out of the way of the high pressured stream of death. The Engineer screamed as well, flailing against the tentacles which were already loosening their grip on it, and the squid-creature roared in pain. The noise was tremendous for a moment as the halls of the escape pod echoed with sounds of terror and agony.

Then, with a final bellow, the squid-monster fell forward and collapsed in a slimy, fleshy heap. Its tentacles twitched a moment longer, as if blindly searching for something, and then they were still.

She backed up a few trembling paces, eying the creature warily. Was it dead? After only one well-placed ax-blow? She found it hard to believe such a monster could go down that easily.

The sound of scrabbling and harsh, panicked breathing tore her attention away from the dead monster. She turned her head and saw the Engineer a few feet away from her, struggling to free itself from the now limp but still heavy tentacles that were still coiled loosely around its body. It still seemed somewhat panicked, despite the squid-creature's apparent death, and looked as though it wanted to get as far away from the monster as possible. Its movements were weak, however, as if it had used up most of its strength in the struggle earlier, and Shaw could see that it was injured, a harsh, oozing wound covering half its head and face. Shaw had no idea whether it had been hit by the monster's corrosive blood or if the wound had been sustained in the crash earlier, but it looked serious. As she watched, the humanoid managed to untangle itself from the tentacle around its throat, hurling the huge muscular tendril away as it did so. That seemed to expend the last of its energy, however, and it fell over onto its side, still breathing heavily.

She took an instinctive step toward it, wanting to help it, and it raised its head back up and fixed her with a cold, black glare.

Shaw could only stare back at it, a dark feeling of dread stirring in the pit of her belly. This being had only moments ago been trying to kill her, and from the looks of things, it was still furious with her. What would it do now? When it recovered enough to get back on its feet, what would it do to her?

She backed up a step, the enormity of the foolish mistake she'd made only now beginning to become clear to her, and the Engineer's eyes narrowed. It turned its gaze from her to the dead squid-creature, regarded it for a moment, then turned and once again fixed its dark eyes upon her trembling form.

She realized wanted to say something to it. To explain herself…and why she had saved it. To beg it not to harm her, to beg it to explain why it had tried to do destroy every man, woman and child back on Earth, to ask it why all this had happened, why everything had turned into such a nightmare. What she had done to deserve all of this. That last question was surely beyond the being's capabilities to explain, even if the others weren't, but she wanted to ask it anyway. Because she wanted to ask someone why this was happening to her, and this angry Engineer was as close to an authority figure as her deteriorating state of mind could identify.

"Why?" was all she could get out, her voice a helpless whimper as tears blurred her vision. Tears as useless as the question itself. The Engineer couldn't understand her. Just as she wouldn't have been able to understand it if it had chosen to speak to her. Trying to engage in any kind of dialogue with this being was as useless as crying over the things she had lost.

The Engineer regarded her a moment longer, expression now unreadable, then turned and began to busy itself with removing the remaining tentacles from around its waist and limbs.

She blinked at it, almost offended that it disregarded her so easily after she had saved it. True, its behavior earlier hadn't really indentified it as the kind of being who was likely to care about honor and debts, but still…she realized that somehow, after everything that had happened, after everything she had learned about these fallen "gods," she still desperately wanted to matter to this creature. It was all she had left…the only thing she could still cling to, even as everything else around her fell apart. She wanted answers. She wanted acknowledgement. She wanted to be important. This thing and its kin were her ancestors, after all. She wanted to find out why the being had acted as it had. What had changed, what her people had done wrong, and what she could do to fix it. She wanted to right all of the wrongs she and humanity had done so that this creature would view her as worthy.

She wanted it to make everything all right. Because for some reason, she still hadn't given up hope that this being had that capability within it somewhere.

"Please…" she said to it, desperation plain in her voice.

It paused in the act of removing the last tentacle from around its waist and looked back up at her. And then its dark eyes flew wide.

Shaw whirled around in time to see the squid-monster shudder with a violent convulsion. The remains of its mouth pursed, then spasmed as hot, steaming fluid gushed forth, spilling down the front of the creature and making a stinking puddle on the floor. The squid-creature shuddered again, and its tentacles twitched. Shaw suddenly heard a commotion to the right of her and turned to see the Engineer had freed itself and was in the process of scrambling to its feet.

"Wait!" she called out to it, but the humanoid ignored her once again and charged down the hall toward the exit. It was clear that, whatever the squid-monster was doing, the Engineer didn't want to be anywhere near it.

Which was probably a smart idea, she reminded herself. She turned for the exit as well, but the searing pain in her belly had intensified and she ended up falling to her knees. She clutched her stomach with a moan, but was drowned out by a wet gagging noise coming from the monster behind her.

It belched out more hot liquid, then spasmed a final time as the torn remains of its mouth-tube spread wide. As she watched in horror, a glistening mass slid out of the torn mouth and landed with a plop in the middle of the steaming puddle of fluids.

A tiny, pitiful whimper came from the twitching form as it lay there, and Shaw almost instinctively began moving toward it, shuffling painfully on her hands and knees. Something about it ignited a primal, almost motherly urge within her, and she realized with surprise that this was the first maternal feeling this abomination she had borne had brought out in her. Her mind once again ignoring the danger as she acted on a gut instinct, Shaw reached the struggling little form and leaned over it for a closer look.

Whatever it was was encased in a cloudy, red-tinged sac of some sort, a sac that only partially revealed the tiny little being within. It was fighting harder now, its struggles growing more frantic and its cries becoming louder. They still pulled at her, and Shaw found herself wanting to reach out and pick whatever it was up, hesitating only because she didn't know if the fluids it was lying in were acidic the way the blood from the squid-monster had been. Wondering if she could find something to lift the baby out of the puddle with, she scanned around the room and her eyes fell upon on the handle of her ax, lying only a few feet away from her, resting where it had fallen after the squid-creature's blood had dissolved the blade.

She picked up, intending to use it to push the little one out of the puddle so she could pick it up, but before she could, the baby moved once more inside the sac, and Shaw could see its little arms and legs scrabbling at the inside of it. One of the legs came up in a powerful kick and its little toes caught the inside of the sac, tearing it open. And with a final twitch, the little one was free.

Black, shiny skin glistened in the bright overhead lights. Twisted, unnatural limbs ending in sharp little claws thrashed and writhed helplessly amid the mess of fluids and membranes. An eyeless, elongated head reared up at her, opening to reveal tiny pointed teeth in an unnaturally protruding inner jaw. A jaw that was open in a screaming hiss, a sound devoid of any sort of humanity or even sentience.

A monster.

She screamed, her horror, her revulsion, her hatred for the little abomination snuffing out the strange maternal feelings she had felt earlier, and the monster joined her, seemingly throwing all its strength into matching her howl.

Still screaming, Shaw raised the ax handle above her head, preparing to bludgeon the tiny horror to death.

But before she could bring her weapon down upon it, it finished its furious screech and dropped its head limply back into the puddle. There was a noise almost like a tiny sigh as its little struggles ceased and it lay still.

It was dead.

And as she stared at the little corpse, something broke within her. She turned away from her two dead "children" with a howl, wanting to put them from her sight. She didn't know if her anguish was brought on by revulsion for them, anger at fate for mocking her by giving her children she could not love, or even guilt for the fact that she couldn't see them as anything but monsters. Whatever it was, it drove her to flee, and she scrambled to her feet and charged down the hallway, trying to ignore the pain in her abdomen.

Ignoring it, however, didn't make it go away, nor did change the fact that her wound had already been placed under a great deal of stress by the day's events. She made it halfway down the hall before she felt something tear loose in her belly. The pain sent her sprawling, her cry of despair rapidly giving way to a scream of agony. As she hit the floor hard, she felt she felt the wound tear further, and she screamed again, the sound choking away into agonized sobs. She couldn't go any further. Both her body and her mind were at their absolute breaking point.

She curled into a fetal position, trying to ease the pain in her abdomen, and cried, not knowing what to do and finally accepting that it didn't really matter. She was trapped here. The Prometheus was destroyed, the Engineer's ship had crashed, she had no idea if this little escape vessel was still operational or not. She was trapped, and she was alone. The Engineer was gone, her "children" were dead, her crewmates were dead, Charlie was dead…

She couldn't go on, and there was no reason to do so anyway.

She didn't know how long she lay there, crying from pain and grief and loneliness, but eventually her strength began to give out. Her sobs quieted into soft sniffles as her consciousness began to fade. And although she felt some fear at the idea that she might not wake again once she was out, she mostly felt relief that this ordeal would finally be over.

Then she heard footsteps.

They were long, and they were heavy, and they were coming toward her. And although her mind was beginning to grow rather muddled, she was still able to reason out that the footsteps could only mean one thing.

The Engineer had returned.

Shaw sighed and didn't bother to open her eyes, knowing she didn't have the strength to fight back if it decided it wanted to finish her off. She could only hope that the Engineer would make it quick.

She felt it standing over her in silence for a long time, while she lay there and waited for death. A part of her wanted to look up at the creature, to see what it was doing and why it was taking so long, but another, stronger part of her wanted to keep her eyes shut. As much as she accepted the inevitability of things, she had to admit she was still afraid of the towering humanoid.

It watched her a few moments more, then she felt it kneel down beside her.

She tensed, waiting for the killing strike, but it never came. Instead, she gasped when she felt one of the being's huge hands seize her chin. It pulled her face up roughly, as though inspecting her, and Shaw opened her eyes in spite of her earlier resolve not to.

The Engineer stared down at her, its dark eyes looking almost puzzled…almost curious. Shaw stared back at it through a cloud of pain, wondering what it was about her that could have so intrigued the creature. Maybe it was wondering why all the fight had gone out of her. Maybe it was wondering why she had saved it. Maybe it wondering why she was crying. She didn't know, and there was no way to ask it.

The Engineer let go of her face and took hold of her shoulder instead. She moaned as it turned her roughly over onto her back. The being's eyes widened for a moment, and she guessed it had noticed her wounded abdomen. Although she no longer had the strength to raise her head and look, she could feel the wetness of blood trickling down her stomach, and she assumed that some of the blood must have soaked through her suit as well. The Engineer reached out with its other hand and gently felt the wound, as though trying to determine its nature. She whimpered when it pressed down on the injury and the creature's eyes widened slightly again, as if registering something. A moment later, its hand left her belly and slid beneath her knees. The other slid behind her shoulders.

She caught her breath as the humanoid lifted her clumsily into its arms, her gasp one of surprise as well as pain. Then she felt herself moving, and she realized the being was carrying her somewhere. She tried to raise her head to look, but her vision was beginning to swim. All she could see was a blur of sterile white walls and harsh lighting. Suddenly feeling nausea threaten, she closed her eyes and laid her head against the Engineer's chest to steady herself. The odd, rubbery-looking suit it wore was strangely soft against her face; the intricately ridged pattern giving way against the pressure of her head as if it were conforming to her presence. It was surprisingly comfortable, and she huddled against it and did her best to stave off nausea by concentrating on the sound of the humanoid's breathing.

She was only carried for a short ways before she felt another stab of pain in her stomach as the Engineer leaned over and set her on something soft. It felt like a bed or sofa, and she realized that they must be in the living quarters of the escape pod. The Engineer had set her down on one of the couches.

She opened her eyes and saw the humanoid kneeling beside her, looking at her. She almost shut her eyes again at the sight. For some reason, the being's dark eyes unnerved her. They were the least human feature on its face, and they radiated a cold harshness that brought her no comfort. It was the eyes that reminded her that this otherwise very human-looking creature truly was alien. And therefore unpredictable. She wondered what it was going to do with her.

The Engineer unhooked its gaze from her own and looked back down at her wound. It hesitated for a moment, as if unsure what to do next, and then its hands came out and grabbed a hold of her suit. Shaw cried out in surprise as it pulled sharply on the tough blue material, ripping it open. The creature grunted as it tore through her suit as easily as if it had been made of cheesecloth.

She screamed, panic overriding every other feeling for a moment. The Engineer's head snapped up, its dark eyes wide with surprise, and she struck out at it weakly. The attack was pointless-she knew she had absolutely no chance of hurting it, but this monster was undressing her and she felt an instinctive need to defend herself.

Its huge hand came up and caught hold of her wrist, stopping her as easily as if she'd been a young child. A look of annoyance flashed across the humanoid's face, and Shaw pulled away from it with a whimper. It pushed her hand down, then took hold of her suit in its other hand and and continued ripping it open.

Shaw screamed again and tried to kick at the creature, but the movement jarred her wound again and she felt it tear open further. She tried to scream again, but felt blackness rushing in and smothering her, stealing her voice and her sight and her thoughts. She thought she heard the Engineer snarling at her in a harsh, guttural voice, but then the blackness swallowed that up as well and she knew no more.

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I feel bad about killing the little Xenomorph, but there's no other host for him so it had to be done. At least he got more "screentime" than in the actual movie :P