Alien 3

By: Alan Dean Foster

Useless the gesture, useless everything now.

It spun her around and shoved her across the nearest cryonic pod. Shoved again. Her face was pressed tight to the cool, inorganic glass. Beneath her, Hicks opened his eyes and smiled again. And again.

She screamed.

The infirmary was compact and nearly empty. It abutted a much larger medical facility designed to handle dozens of patients a day. Those miners, prospective patients, were long gone from Fiorina. They had accomplished their task years ago, extracting the valuable ore from the ground and then following it back home. Only the prisoners remained, and they had no need of such extensive facilities.

So the larger unit had been gutted of salvageable material and the smaller semi-surgery turned over to the prison.

Cheaper that way. Less room to heat, less energy required, money saved. Where prisoners were concerned that was always the best way.

Not that they’d been left with nothing. Supplies and equipment were more than ample for the installation’s needs.

The Company could afford to be generous. Besides, shipping even worthwhile material offworld was expensive. Better to leave some of it, the lesser quality stuff, and gain credit for concomitant compassion. The good publicity was worth more than the equipment.

Besides the facility there was Clemens. Like some of the supplies he was too good for Fiorina, though it would have been difficult to convince anyone familiar with his case of that.

Nor would he have raised much in the way of objections. But the prisoners were lucky to have him, and they knew it. Most of them were not stupid. Merely unpleasant. It was a combination which in some men gave rise to captains of industry and pillars of government. In others it led merely to defeat and degradation. When this situation was directed inward the sufferers were treated or incarcerated on places like Earth.

When it erupted outward to encompass the innocent it led elsewhere. To Fiorina, for example. Clemens was only one of many who’d realized too late that his personal path diverged from the normal run of humanity to lead instead to this place.

The woman was trying to say something. Her lips were moving and she was straining upward, though whether pushing against or away from something he was unable to tell.

Leaning close, he put his ear to her mouth. Sounds emergent, bubbling and gurgling, as if rising toward the surface from deep within.

He straightened and turned her head to one side, holding it firmly but gently. Gagging, choking, she vomited forth a stream of dark salt water. The heaving ended quickly and she subsided, still unconscious but resting quietly now; still, easy.

He eased her head back onto the pillow, gazing solemnly at her mask-like visage. Her features were delicate, almost girlish despite her age. There was about her the air of someone who had spent too much time as a tourist in hell.

Well, being dumped out of a ship via EEV and then awakened and revived from deep sleep by a crash into the sea would be enough to mark anyone, he told himself.

The infirmary door hissed softly as it slid back to admit Andrews and Aaron. Clemens wasn’t crazy about either the superintendent or his number two. At the same time he was quite aware that Andrews wasn’t in love with the facility’s sole medical technician either. Though in status he might be a notch above the general population, Clemens was still a prisoner serving sentence, a fact neither of the two men ever let him forget. Not that he was likely to. Many things were difficult to accomplish on Fiorina, but forgetting was impossible.

They halted by the side of the bed and stared down at its motionless occupant.

Andrews grunted at nothing in particular.

‘What’s her status, Mr. Clemens?’

The technician sat back slightly, glanced up at the man who for all practical purposes served as Fiorina’s lord and master.

‘She’s alive.’

Andrews’s expression tightened and he favoured the tech with a sardonic smile. ‘Thank you, Mr. Clemens. That’s very helpful. And while I suppose I wouldn’t, or shouldn’t, want it to be otherwise, it also does mean that we have a problem, doesn’t it?’

‘Not to worry, sir. I think we can pull her through. There’s no internal bleeding, nothing broken, not even a serious sprain. I think she’ll make a complete recovery.’

‘Which, as you know, Mr. Clemens, is precisely what concerns me.’ He stared appraisingly at the woman in the bed.

‘I wish she hadn’t come here. I wish she wasn’t here now.’

‘Without wishing to sound disrespectful, sir, I have this feeling that she’d eagerly concur with you. Based on what I was told about her landing and having seen for myself the current condition of her EEV, I’m of the opinion that she didn’t have a whole hell of a lot of choice in the matter. Any idea where they’re from? What ship?’

‘No,’ Andrews muttered. ‘I Notified Weyland-Y.’

’They answer?’ Clemens was holding Ripley’s wrist, ostensibly to check her pulse.

‘If you can call it that. They acknowledged receipt of my message. That’s all. Guess they’re not feeling real talkative.’

‘Understandable, if they had an interest in the ship that was lost. Probably running around like mad trying to decide what your report signifies.’ The mental image of confounded Company nabobs pleased him.

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