Alien: Lineage

Cover Artwork by SickJoe: https://www.deviantart.com/sickjoe

Based on Alien, © 20th Century Studios 1979.

This work was made possible by the generous support of my Patrons:

Disclaimer: This work of erotic fiction includes scenes featuring sexual content and is intended for adults only.

CHAPTER 1: COLD CASE

Jones stirred, opening his eyes and trying to blink away his blurred vision.

Something was wrong.

Like waking from a dream, he slowly came to, attempting to sit up on the soft padding beneath him. Pain shot down one of his legs, his muscles trembling, his body responding to his commands with worrying sluggishness. His thoughts were still muddled, and he tried to remember what had happened and where he was, dredging up the memories like he was fishing scum out of a pond.

He was in a stasis pod, and its canopy was open. He could see the reflection of the red warning displayed on an adjoining computer console flashing intermittently, illuminating the room with brief pulses of eerie crimson. Why were there no lights on?

It was a fight to get out of the pod. He had to swing one leg onto the floor, finding it painfully cold beneath his bare feet, one hand gripping the edge of the machine for stability. His body was emaciated – he had lost weight and muscle mass. Nausea gripped him in its icy fist, and he was compelled to double over, painful cramps wracking him as he tried to retch up the non-existent contents of his empty stomach.

Still trying to get his bearings, he turned to examine the pod. The protective padding inside was still pristine, but the open canopy was caked in a layer of thick dust, and the same was true for the nearby monitoring equipment. It looked like an open sarcophagus from some ancient tomb. There were more such pods lined up to the left and right of it – Jones could see them in the gloom, but they quickly dissolved into the inky darkness. Everything smelled musty and old, and he could see his breath forming little clouds of condensation. No lights, no heating, no power.

He moved over to the console beside his pod, keeping a hand on its metal frame to brace himself, still unsteady on his feet. The flashing red lettering on the bulky display explained why he had been woken up.

Power interruption. Emergency resuscitation protocol engaged. Medical teams have been alerted.

Apparently not,” he muttered to himself, glancing around the dingy room.

The first thing he needed to do was find some clothes before he froze to death. All he was wearing were his skinnies.

Remembering that he should have some belongings stashed in the locker beside his pod, he opened it up. It was supposed to be locked, and there was no way he could have remembered the combination for the digital lock in his present foggy state of mind, but the door simply swung ajar without power. Inside were a few sundries and a bundle of clothes. It was a lab suit – environment-sealed and insulated. It would do nicely.

Putting it on was a struggle in itself, his stiff limbs and weak muscles fighting him all the way, the dizziness from his stay in the pod lingering. The suit was designed to protect the wearer in clean rooms and labs, made from a plastic-like material in shades of white and hospital green. It could be sealed, it had a mask with a rebreather, and it was equipped with a heating element. The battery had drained over time, but there was enough juice to protect him from the cold and to turn on the small LED flashlight mounted beside the visor.

Jones swept the thin, pale beam across his surroundings, watching it reflect off the motes of dust that choked the air. Some of it was starting to come back to him now as the suit staved off his lethargy.

He was standing in the stasis room, a dozen pods just like his own lined up from wall to wall. The place was a mess. It looked like a bomb had gone off – the cables and pipes that should have delivered power and water hanging limply from the ceiling, the nearby work surfaces and computer consoles caked with dust and ice. The CRT on his pod was still flickering, and it seemed to be the only device in the room that still had power.

He tapped at the keyboard, but he couldn’t access any of the functions. All it did was throw out another error message – emergency battery banks depleted.

“How long was I out?” he muttered, checking a nearby pod to see if it was occupied. He wiped the dust from the glass with a gloved hand, finding nobody inside.

Now that his mind was starting to sharpen, the gravity of what had happened to him became apparent. His weakness and atrophy, his growing hunger, his brain fog – he must been in stasis for far longer than was healthy. Judging by the state of the room and the lack of any medical response, years could have passed. Just where the hell was everybody else?

Jones remembered his name, which meant that his brain hadn’t been completely fried, and he lifted the ID card that was attached to his chest to read it off.

“Senior lab technician, exobiology department,” he murmured to himself. “Okay, I’m a scientist. Yeah, I remember now…”

He had been assigned to a research base on some backwater colony, though he couldn’t remember why. It was coming back in brief flashes, like flipping through a gallery of old photos. What he needed was some food, then his metabolism might kick in.

Jones located a door with his flashlight and made his way over to it, his boots leaving footprints in the dust as though it was a carpet of fresh snow. Just like the locker, the electronic lock was disabled without a power source, the door creaking open on stiff hinges. He stumbled out into a corridor that was in the same sorry state as the stasis room, the panels on the walls falling off to expose wiring in places, the metal grate beneath his feet caked in dirt.

He popped open his visor, taking in a breath of frigid, stale air before raising his voice.

“Hello?” he rasped. “Is anyone there?”

God, he might not have exercised his vocal cords in years. He sounded like a chain smoker.

As he continued through the derelict hab, it became more apparent that he might well be completely alone. There was a difference between disrepair and complete abandonment, and it was obvious that nobody had set foot here in a very long time. Without any active computer terminals, he couldn’t check the date, and he couldn’t even recall when or why he had entered stasis.

He rounded a bend in the corridor and came across a window, stopping to glance out. The glass was grimy on the inside, and even after wiping it clean with his glove, the outer pane was so covered with frost that he could scarcely see through it. All he could make out were brief glimpses of blocky, industrial buildings whose drab architecture made them blend into their surroundings, the sky painted in shades of ugly gray. It was barren, without a leaf or blade of grass in sight.Hadn’t there been an atmospheric processing plant? He remembered something about that…

Come to think of it, nuclear reactors didn’t exactly run out of juice. If the whole colony wasn’t a radioactive sinkhole, and assuming that the power interruptions were due to disrepair and not someone manually shutting the plant down, maybe there were still powered structures inside the complex.

His intuition soon took him to the galley, and he stepped through another unpowered door into a larger room filled with tables and chairs. It was as much habit as it was memory, so he must have walked these halls many a time before being put under.

As he swept his flashlight across the plastic chairs and vending machines, he saw something new. Along with the loose panels and hanging cables that he had come to expect, there was some kind of growth on the walls, its slick surface reflecting the light. At first, he wondered if it was dark ice, but it proved to be organic when he took a closer look. Was it some native fungus or algae mat?It almost resembled melted resin, like someone had spilled a vat of half-cured printer filament, the substance bunching up into bulbous shapes and forming web-like strands in places. It was oddly elastic, too, resisting him when he pressed down on it. Something about its black, oily appearance filled him with a sense of foreboding, and he couldn’t articulate why.

Skirting around the strange structures, he headed for the kitchen, passing through a pair of swinging doors that sectioned it off from the galley. All of the refrigerators were unpowered, and he didn’t want to know what horrors might lurk within them, but there should be some canned and packaged food. If anything, the cold conditions would work in his favor.

After rummaging through some of the cupboards, he managed to find some pre-packaged meals. They were synthetic crap – not the most appetizing – but he was hungry enough that it didn’t matter. Once his belly was full, he felt strong enough to continue his explorations of the facility. The next item on his agenda was finding a power source.

Jones happened upon a map mounted on the wall in the hallway outside, wiping it clean to see a color-coded representation of the facility. As he had suspected, he was in a prefab building, which was one of many that must have been set up to form the colony. Shake and bake colonies – he’d heard that term somewhere.

This was a laboratory, apparently. That made sense – this must have been where he worked, according to his name tag. There was another word on the laminated card that read Weyland-Yutani. That rang a bell, and it wasn’t his name. Could that be his employer? The same lettering was present on the map.

Once he had located the exit, he set off, soon arriving at a jammed door that led to the colony. He was feeling a little stronger and sharper after his meal, so he managed to pry it open with a piece of discarded pipe, stepping out onto the planet’s surface.

Immediately, the howling wind began to tear at his suit, the gale almost strong enough to tip him over. Torrential rain hammered him, coming at him almost sideways, his feet sinking a good inch into the wet earth. He turned his head as he took in his surroundings, finding himself on a kind of main street formed by two rows of habs that extended in both directions, the dirt road between them strewn with wreckage and debris. He could even see a damaged APC that had been reduced to a burnt-out husk, its angular chassis partially buried beneath the twisted metal of a collapsed prefab. There had been fighting here, but who had been the aggressor?

The elements had not been kind to the colony, and many of the structures were listing, the wind and rain taking their toll. A pyramid-like structure loomed above the surrounding buildings, only just visible through the oppressive storm clouds. It was the reactor complex. It was still online – he could see a few faint aircraft warning lights piercing the haze, helping to pick out its shape.

He couldn’t make it there right now – not in this weather. Instead, he spotted a nearby building that still seemed to have power, a neon sign on its street-facing facade advertising a bar. Jones knew that sign – it sparked memories of him drinking and laughing with colleagues, though he couldn’t remember their faces.

Stumbling his way through the mud and rain, he tripped over something, falling face-first into a puddle. As he collected himself, struggling to his feet, he turned to see that it was a person who had been almost completely buried in the wet earth. They were lying on their back, still wearing their weather-beaten environment suit, a pair of empty sockets staring back at him through the grimy visor.

Jones ran the rest of the way to the bar, pulling himself up the short flight of steps that led to its front door and slamming it closed behind him. The sound of the storm faded, replaced with the labored breathing that filled his helmet. He popped open the visor and retched, leaning over a nearby table, but he managed to keep his meal down.

“What the hell happened here?” he demanded, as though the empty bar and scattered chairs could answer him.

That body – the rate of decomposition – it had to have been there for years. Years with nobody sent to retrieve it. Maybe help had already come, but they had missed Jones’ pod?

His suit was the more pressing matter. The heating element was already starting to fail, and if the sign outside was still powered, there must be a live charging port somewhere nearby.

On the other side of the counter, he found a standard outlet, extending a cable from his suit’s sleeve and plugging it in. He breathed a sigh of relief, watching the battery meter start to fill. There were still a few bottles left on the dusty shelves, and he reached for the nearest one, popping open his visor and twisting off the cap with his teeth. The amber liquid warmed his belly, its heat making him gasp. A little whiskey was just the pick-me-up he needed.

“Right,” he muttered, glancing around at the deserted bar as he waited for his suit to charge. “My name is Jones,” he continued, lifting his laminated badge as though needing to reassure himself. “I am a lab technician, and I work for Weyland-Yutani. Wey-Yu…yeah, that sounds familiar. I’m on a colony planet,” he said, lifting his eyes to the filthy window that looked out over the street. “Something very, very bad happened here, and I got left behind. I was in stasis…and I can’t remember why because I was in there too long. Maybe years. I have food, and I have power, so what’s next?”

The next step should be to figure out where and when he was. If there was power, maybe he could find a terminal and figure out what had happened on the colony – maybe get a distress signal out to hail passing ships. All things considered, his situation could be a lot worse.

“Silver linings,” he mumbled, taking another swig from his whiskey bottle to steady his nerves.

Something colorful caught his eye, and he spotted a jukebox off in one corner of the room. More indistinct memories resurfaced – the scent of cigarette smoke, the sound of jovial voices and laughter joined by music, the now scattered seats filled with people drinking and chatting. This bar had been the social nexus for the colony. It was a place where all the workers and employees came to relax and spend their scrip after a long day.

Workers and employees…

Where were they now? A colony of this size should have had a couple of hundred residents. The bar was a wreck, and it looked like someone had upturned some of the tables to use as cover, the street-facing windows pocket with bullet holes that let in the frigid air. Who had attacked them? Could it have been pirates, maybe some kind of rebellion?

There was more of that strange black substance, too, an organic pillar of the stuff climbing the right wall and spreading its tendrils across the ceiling. The air was oddly humid, droplets of moisture misting his visor, condensation dripping from the growth. It had to be some kind of native plant species – maybe his job had been to study it?

With his suit charged, Jones continued his explorations, making a point of finishing the last of the whiskey first. He checked the storeroom of the bar, finding no evidence of any colonists, then moved to the bathroom. It had been overtaken by the black growth, the stuff coating the walls and ceiling to create a pocket of dark, fleshy material. It was tangibly warmer inside, like the thing was putting out heat.

Not finding any working terminals in the bar, Jones elected to carry on. With a full battery for his suit, he left the prefab, trudging back out onto the muddy street. He passed by the damaged APC, noting that there were a couple more bodies buried in the wreckage along with it, their tattered clothing suggesting that they were Colonial Marines. Had there been Marines stationed here, or had someone sent them in?

He passed a couple more prefabs, making note of a company store where he might be able to find more supplies if the need arose. Whatever had happened, it had happened quickly. The colony almost seemed frozen in time, like everything had been fine one moment, and it had gone to shit the next. The dark storm clouds overhead were wracked with occasional forks of lightning, illuminating the scene for scant moments, searing the carnage into his mind like a photograph. The monolithic cooling tower of the power plant loomed above it all, strangely ominous. Searching for more lights in the storm, he spotted a yellow glow seeping out through a dirty window, trudging through the ankle-deep muck as he changed direction.

The door was stuck – either frozen solid or rusted shut – but a broken window provided a convenient ingress point. Careful not to cut his suit on the jagged edges, he swung a leg over the frame, then clambered inside. Shattered glass crunched underfoot as he swept his flashlight beam around, examining his new surroundings.

A sense of deja-vu overcame him, the sight sparking a few memories. This place was familiar – it was a research lab. Could this be where he had worked? A few seats were scattered around the lobby, that same Weyland-Yutani logo hanging on a sign above the receptionist’s desk, a single grimy light strip doing its best to illuminate the scene. Just like in the bar, everything was coated in dust, but it was noticeably warmer inside than out. Maybe the building still had some functional environmental control, or maybe it was more of that black sludge…

Jones wandered deeper, following a corridor that led out of the lobby, some part of him retracing a route he must have walked many times before. He passed sealed doors that led to side rooms and desiccated planters, the ferns and flowers long dead. The lights here were choked by more of that dark growth, the substance creeping its way across the walls and ceilings like an insidious carpet of moss, forcing him to rely on his flashlight to navigate.

The humidity was growing stronger the deeper he went, droplets of condensation forming on his visor, forcing him to wipe it clean every couple of minutes. He was glad of his rebreather – who knew what kinds of spores and fumes this stuff was pumping into the air?

He paused by a door that was jammed open, the polymer-like substance having prevented it from closing all the way. There was just enough of a gap for him to push his head inside, Jones scanning his beam across what looked like a break room. There were vending machines, a few couches, and some more long-dead planters. His flashlight lingered on a shape, picking out something familiar in the darkness. At first, he thought that it might be more of the alien substance growing over one of the couches, but he felt his stomach turn again when he recognized it. There was a person sitting there. They were no more alive than the ferns, the lab jumpsuit that they were wearing so blackened by dirt and decay that it almost seemed to fuse with the seat. They hadn’t been wearing a helmet, and Jones could see a skull covered in a fuzzy carpet of bacteria, its gaping jaw held in place by a few remnants of sinew. With so much decay, it was impossible to say how they might have died.

Jones moved on, wondering whether another stint in the pod might cleanse the images from his mind. The hallway culminated in a round room, the curving wall lined with doors, each of which was painted with a number. It was a nexus of some kind that led to different laboratories.

Since the building still had power, a lot of the doors were locked, and he had no way to get them open. One of them was jammed by the black substance, so he checked that room first, turning sideways to squeeze through the gap. The interior was immediately familiar, the computer consoles and scientific equipment sparking recognition even in their degraded state. This had been a high-tech facility at some point, the work surfaces strewn with chemical analysis equipment and electron microscopes, his eyes drawn to a large benchtop centrifuge used for separating liquids. At least he remembered all of these things – his brain hadn’t completely succumbed to freezer burn.

In the center of the room were several cylindrical tanks that ran from floor to ceiling, the glass so dirty that it was hard to tell what was inside them. They were all shattered, more broken glass crunching beneath his boots as he walked over to the nearest one. Hazardous materials containment units. Jones remembered that term, reflexively checking the seals on his suit. Inside the shattered container was a large, bulb-shaped object. It was organic in appearance with a tough, leathery skin, and around its base were several root-like tendrils that had covered the bottom of the enclosure. It had four fleshy petals that were splayed open like some kind of grisly flower, exposing an empty cavity on the inside. It looked like some kind of alien flora to him – maybe something analogous to a pitcher plant. More samples from the planet, perhaps?

There was nothing else of interest, so he returned to the nexus, examining the rest of the doors. One of them was labeled with the number zero-four, the paint just visible beneath the coating of dirt, that number seeming somehow familiar. Jones approached it, giving it a shove, but it was locked down. Grumbling to himself, he looked around in search of something that he might use to pry it open, but he was out of luck.

As he examined the obstacle, he noticed that there was an electronic reader mounted on the frame, one of its indicator lights blinking. He lifted his badge and held it against the scanner, and to his surprise, the lock disengaged with a click. After opening the door the rest of the way, he stepped inside, finding himself in another lab. This one must have been locked for the duration of whatever misfortune had befallen the colony, because it was in a much better state than the last one. There was still dust and disrepair, but none of the black growth had made its way inside, and the equipment was all relatively intact. The lights flickered on as he ventured further, one of the strips fizzling out in short order to plunge the room into shadow, but it provided enough light to see by.

“I worked here,” he muttered to himself as he walked along one of the tables, dragging a finger through the layer of grime. It was all familiar – even the placement of the sample racks and tools dredging up memories. This was where he and his team had analyzed biological samples taken from whatever they had been studying, sequencing genes and breaking down chemical makeups. Maybe the native flora had been interesting enough for Wey-Yu to establish a colony here to study them. There could be pharmaceutical or cosmetic applications.

There was another body off in the far corner of the room, slumped against the wall, so covered in dust and shrouded in shadow that he couldn’t make out its features. That was probably for the best. It might have been a colleague once.

Jones made a beeline for his work terminal, hitting the power switch, then slamming his fist on the keyboard when it didn’t boot up. Corrosion, moisture, dead batteries – there could be a thousand reasons why it wasn’t working. He scanned the desk, knocking an old coffee cup aside, then located a drawer. Inside was a bulky tablet computer. Maybe there was some information on it?

As he fumbled for the power rocker through his gloves, he caught movement out of the corner of his eye, dropping the device in alarm.

The body was moving.

Jones retreated a few paces, his eyes wide as the figure slowly climbed to its feet, its limbs jerky and its movements erratic. It stood there in the corner beside one of the consoles, obscured by shadow, so unnaturally still that it was uncanny. Its head slowly turned to face him, its pale features illuminated by his flashlight as he looked it in the eyes.

“Doctor Jones.”

His racing heart slowed as he realized what he was looking at. This was a synth – an android worker designed to assist the research team. It almost resembled a store mannequin, not requiring any advanced cosmetic features like the higher-end models, its milk-white skin tarnished by dirt and moisture. It was dressed in simple yellow coveralls emblazoned with the company logo, now so faded and decayed that it looked like a freshly exhumed body. It repeated its greeting in a strangely calm, level voice that contrasted with its unnerving appearance.

“Doctor Jones, are you quite alright?”

“I-I’m sorry,” he mumbled, still reeling from the fright. “I don’t remember who you are.”

“My name is Horatio,” it replied, its head jerking as though it had developed a nervous tic. “I am a Weyland-Yutani synthetic. My assignment is to assist you and your research team with the handling of hazardous chemical compounds and dangerous specimens. You seem confused, Doctor. Would you like me to fetch a medical professional?”

“Then, we worked together?” Jones pressed, ignoring the question. “How are you still online? Do you know what happened to the colony?”

“Apologies, Doctor,” the synth replied in that perfectly level tone. “I have not had access to the facility’s wireless network for some time. As such, I am afraid that I cannot be of much assistance in this matter. If you would like to accompany me to the front desk, perhaps we can investigate the source of this outage.”

“Have you not left this room since I last saw you?” Jones asked, watching the android jerk its head again. It might have fared better than the computers, but it was still a piece of equipment that hadn’t undergone a maintenance procedure in God knows how long. “How long have I been away?”

“I was unable to exit the laboratory without a key card,” the android explained. “It has been approximately four-thousand three-hundred and eighty-five days since I last interacted with a member of staff.”

“Wait,” Jones began, leaning a hand on the nearest desk as he felt his head start to spin. “You’re telling me that I’ve been out for…twelve fucking years? That can’t be right…”

“My internal chronometer is quite accurate, Doctor, I assure you. Am I to understand that there has been some manner of disruption to the facility? That would certainly explain the prolonged absence of any staff members. I have been programmed with basic first aid subroutines and can assist you if you should require it. Please state your r-r-r-r-requirements.”

The android stuttered, its face twitching for a moment.

Jones sank into a nearby office chair with a puff of dust, cradling his visor in his hands. Twelve years? It was possible, certainly, but the damned synth had to be wrong. Fucking thing must be busted – that was it. No way had he been left in that stasis pod for over a decade. What life would there even be to go back to now? Hell, maybe he could look forward to some backpay if he ever managed to get off this Godforsaken rock.

“Horatio,” he began, turning to the expressionless android. “This colony should have some kind of communications array, right? If I can get you there, can you send out a distress call? Do you know how to repair systems like that if they’re damaged?”

“I am rated to repair a wide range of Weyland-Yutani systems,” the synth replied.

“Okay, then we have an objective,” Jones replied. He steeled himself, then rose from the chair, balling his fists through his gloves. It was just another problem – one step at a time. All he had to do was stay focused. “Follow me, Horatio.”

He headed back out of the lab, the android trailing behind him. Horatio’s gait was a little wobbly, as he probably hadn’t used his legs this much in a decade. Jones’ legs were shaky for wholly different reasons.

As they emerged into the nexus, Jones paused, turning back to the android.

“Horatio,” he began. “You were assigned as our research assistant, which means that you must have been present for a lot of the experiments. Is that correct?”

“That is correct, Doctor.”

“Your memory is a lot more reliable than mine at the moment. What were we studying here?”

“We really must get you to a medical professional as soon as possible, Doctor,” the android replied. “You are one of the senior researchers on the project. The team’s task is to analyze exobiotic samples and catalog specimens.”

“Specimens of what?” Jones pressed.

“Why, species XX-121, of course.”

“Is that a species native to this planet?” Jones asked.

“I believe that the majority of the samples were originally sourced from LV-426,” the android explained. “They were transported to this location for further study.”

“Maybe that’s what happened,” Jones continued, staring up at the black mass that carpeted the ceiling. “Maybe another corp sent someone to steal the samples. That might explain all the bodies.”

“Bodies, Doctor?”

“Do you know what this is?” Jones asked, gesturing to the dark growths. “I’ve seen it all over the colony, and it appears to be organic.”

“My assignment as a lab assistant does not require a great deal of extraneous knowledge, but I believe that to be hive resin, Doctor. It is a substance secreted by species XX-121 in the drone stage of its life cycle. It was being studied for potential industrial applications.”

“Drone stage?” Jones added, raising an eyebrow.

“It appears that there have been multiple breaches of containment protocol,” Horatio added, his head twitching as he glanced around the room. “I trust that the appropriate authorities have been alerted to the situation?”

“If you’re telling me that some kind of creature made this,” Jones continued, gesturing to the substance again. “I’m assuming that we don’t want to run into one. Then again, if this containment breach happened twelve years ago, it’s very unlikely that any organism could have survived this long. There isn’t so much as a blade of grass out there – it’s a wasteland.”

“Still, protocol requires that we report such incidents to Weyland-Yutani security personnel with the briefest of delays.”

“I don’t think you quite understand the situation yet,” Jones muttered, setting off again. “It’ll become apparent soon enough.”

CHAPTER 2: COMPANY MAN

They made their way back to the lobby, Jones watching Horatio curiously, wondering if the android might show any signs of emotion. Not being an advanced model, he mostly seemed vaguely annoyed by the state of the building, like a nanny seeing a child’s room strewn with toys. Jones had no doubt that the synth would have picked up the nearest mop and started cleaning if left to his own devices.

The rain began to hammer Jones’ suit again as he stepped outside, Horatio stumbling in the wet mud. At least the storm was cleaning some of the dirt from the android’s face, giving him a somewhat less horrifying countenance. They passed more rubble, trudging through the wreckage as they headed in the direction of the reactor, following the main street – such as it was. The conditions made the going tough, and it wasn’t long before Jones needed to seek shelter again, taking refuge from the downpour inside a large warehouse.

The interior was cavernous, with shelves stacked to a ceiling that must have been three stories high, the sound of rain hitting the roof creating a dull roar that echoed through the space. There were supply crates, shipping containers, and pallets of goods strewn around the concrete floor. To the left was an alcove that housed a couple of power loaders, their industrial yellow paint job picking them out against their otherwise drab surroundings. This must have been where the colony stored a lot of its goods and raw materials.

“The colony is in an alarming condition,” Horatio began, rainwater dripping from his tattered uniform. “I must restore network access and contact headquarters at the earliest opportunity.”

“I need a break first,” Jones sighed, popping open the visor on his helmet to get a breath of fresh air. He wrinkled his nose, his brow furrowing. “What’s that smell? And why is it so hot in here?”

He began to walk deeper into the warehouse, scanning the shelves with his flashlight, the sound of his rubber boots echoing off the concrete. The beam reflected off something lustrous in the gloom, Jones pausing as he glimpsed more of the hive resin. The stuff seemed to blend into the darkness, making it all but invisible unless it was under direct light.

There was so much of it here, forming great pillars that rose all the way to the ceiling, carpeting the shelves to create sheer walls. Their uneven surfaces made him think of flowstone from some dank cave. It was so hot that his suit had already shut off its heating element, and he could see droplets of moisture seeping down the glistening structures, almost like they were sweating. More of those strange bulbs had taken root at the base of the mass, forming clusters like pustules, most of their fleshy petals splayed open. In only moments, he was standing in a completely alien environment, the walls closing in to form tunnels like some kind of termite mound.

Something pale caught his eye – there was something on the wall of the nearest tunnel. He stepped closer, focusing his beam on the area, then recoiled. There was a person melded into the wall, desiccated flesh stretched over the pale bone of their exposed skull, their body completely cocooned in the dark resin. There was a hole in their chest the size of a basketball, their broken ribs visible through the breach, like something had exploded out of them.

Horatio caught him by the arm as he stumbled backwards, almost falling over, Jones jerking away from the synth in his alarm. As he turned his head, he saw that there were more of them, some two dozen bodies cocooned inside the walls like some kind of nightmarish beehive.

“What the fuck happened here?” he demanded, spinning around to face the android again. “What did this to these people?”

“Species XX-121, naturally,” Horatio replied as though it was the most normal thing in the world. “Their reproductive cycle is quite well understood. I suggest that we move on lest we encounter any drones. They can be quite protective of their breeding grounds.”

“Breeding grounds?” Jones repeated, his eyes scanning the bodies. They were frozen in place, their jaws open in silent screams, each one having fallen victim to the same strange injury. “Just what the hell were we studying here?”

“I recall you being quite optimistic about their employment as biological weapons, Doctor.”

Me?” Jones demanded, turning to glance at the synth in disbelief. “I wouldn’t…couldn’t have done this.”

“On the contrary, you were instrumental in the study of the captured specimens. However, I doubt that you had any part to play in the containment breach, so your distress is unwarranted. I never once observed you failing to adhere to facility protocols, and your employee evaluations were always exemplary.”

“I can’t be here,” Jones muttered, turning back the way he had come. There was a creeping sense of dread looming over him like a shadow, commanding him to run, as though there was some nameless terror on his heels about to give chase. What were these drones, and why did the term instill such fear in him?

“Do be wary of the ovimorphs, Doctor,” Horatio added as Jones passed by a cluster of bulbs. “They are capable of entering hibernation and remaining fertile for extended periods of time.”

“Ovimorphs?” Jones repeated, pausing to look at the nearest bulb. “You’re saying these are eggs?”

Almost as if to answer his question, one of the intact bulbs shifted, its four petals splaying open. They were joined by ropes of slime, their fleshy inner surfaces glistening and wet. Inside was something that looked like a mass of wobbling offal, making him recoil, the movement suggesting that something was alive in there. He raised a hand to close his visor reflexively, but too late. Like some kind of hellish jack-in-the-box, something sprang from the egg, moving so quickly that Jones scarcely had time to react.

In a flash, there was a pale hand in front of his face, Jones reeling backwards to see that Horatio had interceded. The synth had some kind of horrifying insect clutched in his hand, its jointed, spider-like limbs flailing wildly. It had a long, serpentine tail that cut through the air like a whip, coiling around the android’s forearm with enough strength to cut into his sleeve.

Jones watched with wide eyes as Horatio crushed the thing, its spindly legs twitching erratically, green goo and unidentifiable guts spilling between the android’s fingers. The blood began to smoke as it hit the concrete, creating acrid fumes and forcing Jones to seal his visor. The substance was eating through the material like sulfuric acid, bubbling and smoking. When Horatio let the corpse fall, it too sank into the ground, its bodily fluids burning through the floor like a ball of red-hot nickel through ice. The synth had not fared much better, Horatio examining his own hand curiously as it began to disintegrate, several fingers falling away as the metallic endoskeleton beneath his rubbery epidermis was exposed.

“My God!” Jones exclaimed, retreating another few paces. “What the fuck was that thing?”

“Their purpose is to implant a host with a parasitic embryo,” Horatio explained, impervious to pain. “I suggest that you keep your visor sealed, as it may provide some small measure of protection if such an attempt reoccurs.”

Jones scanned the forest of eggs that surrounded him, adrenaline making his heart race. Suddenly, the freezing rainstorm was feeling a lot more welcoming. Setting off at a brisk jog that bordered on a panicked run, he headed for the exit, leaving the hive behind him. He paused when he reached the door, doubling over to catch his breath. His stay in the stasis pod was still making him weak and tired.

“Thanks,” he added as the synth approached, pausing to swallow. “I don’t know what being implanted with an embryo entails, but that might have been the end of me if you hadn’t intervened.”

“I consider the safety and well-being of the Weyland-Yutani workforce to be my personal responsibility,” Horatio replied with a warm smile, apparently unaffected by his mangled hand.

“I’ll give you a steam wash myself when we’re through this.”

“Might I be so bold as to suggest that we proceed with haste, Doctor?” the android continued. “I am growing increasingly concerned for your safety.”

“A very wise suggestion.”

They headed back outside, weathering the storm, Jones’ flashlight beam barely helping him navigate through the twisted metal and boggy terrain. He came across a couple more bodies that had been all but reclaimed by the mud, along with another Marine who was leaning against the wall of a prefab, a rifle still resting in his lap. Jones briefly considered taking it, but he knew nothing about firearms, and it wasn’t likely to be functional after a decade of being exposed to the elements.

What Horatio had told him was still rattling around inside his skull. Granted, Jones had few clear memories of his time before emerging from stasis, but he refused to believe that he would ever be a part of something like this. Surely he would have recognized the danger that these specimens posed?

As he skirted around an abandoned truck, the tarp that was strapped over its bed whipping in the wind, something caught his eye. There was a shape on top of a prefab far to his right, silhouetted briefly by a flash of lightning, picking it out against the clouds. At first, he mistook it for a cluster of comms antennas, but then it moved. As darkness engulfed the figure once more, he caught a brief glimpse of something not quite humanoid slinking away. Its body was covered in jutting prongs, and there was a serpentine tail slithering behind it.

Horatio noticed his double-take, but between the rain and Jones’ helmet, they couldn’t communicate.

With burning muscles that hadn’t been exercised in over a decade, Jones finally reached the corporate headquarters of the colony – a large, two-story structure with a jutting control tower that overlooked a landing pad. When he approached the door, he found that it was torn from its frame, so he proceeded more warily.

The lobby of the building was a graveyard. There must have been a dozen Marines and Wey-Yu security personnel lying all over the room – slumped against the front desk and piled on the floor. The bodies were in an advanced state of decay, but it was plain to see that some of them had been dismembered, with severed limbs and the dark remnants of long-dried blood splatter visible in places. There were bullet holes everywhere, as though a frenzied firefight had taken place here, and there was even a pair of automated sentry guns sitting atop the front desk. They were aimed at the door, as though the defenders had been trying to hold off an attack.

As he made his way deeper into the dark, dusty room, his flashlight beam reflected off something else. He recoiled, bumping into Horatio, his eyes scanning the bizarre sight as he tried to make sense of what he was seeing.

Lying slumped on the floor was a creature, maybe seven feet tall, its body coated in a glistening carapace that more resembled hard plastic than anything living. It was humanoid, with arms and legs where they should have been, but that was about where the similarities ended. That tough, black carapace enclosed it like the shell of an insect, but it had a skeletal appearance, with visible ribs enclosing the torso. Between the bony structures were cable-like veins and wiry sinew, its inky flesh indistinguishable from its armor in color. From its back jutted large prongs that almost resembled exhausts, and from the base of its spine emerged a long, segmented tail with a point like the tip of a spear. Worst of all was its head – a grotesquely elongated, eyeless structure, carnivore teeth that gleamed like polished metal shining between its jaws.

Its body was pocked with bullet holes, the acidic blood that had spilled from them eating into the deck while leaving its carapace undamaged. It wasn’t the only one – there must have been just as many dead xenomorphs as people, their dark coloration making them much harder to spot in the gloom.

Xenomorph – species XX-121. Seeing one of the damned creatures had sparked a memory. These were the drones that had created the hive and had brought those poor colonists to serve as living incubators for their offspring. This was what had attacked the colony, not pirates or a rival corp. Images flashed in his mind of the tall aliens floating in specimen tanks, cut open on a dissection table, acid-proof tools slicing into their still-warm innards.

“It appears that the infestation is worse than I assumed,” Horatio said, casually stepping over a Marine who had been run through with a tail spike. “The communications equipment is on the top level.”

Jones followed behind the android, his head swimming with newly recovered memories. It was all coming back to him now. Wey-Yu had found these things on some far-off planet where they had wiped out an entire colony. The corp had recovered intact specimens, and they had set up shop on this backwater to avoid prying eyes, studying the things for both military and industrial applications. Jones had studied them. What hubris could have overcome him to make him think that something like this could be controlled and contained? It seemed insane to him now, but had he ever protested or voiced his concerns? He couldn’t remember…

They navigated around more bodies on the stairs. This must have been where the last survivors had staged their final stand. Who knew how long they had held out before finally being overrun by the swarm. If what he remembered about the species’ life cycle was accurate, each dead drone represented one colonist used as a host. The gestation period was only six to twelve hours, but with at least a couple of hundred colonists on site, they could have been reproducing for a while.

He remembered the figure that he had seen on top of the prefab. Drones could enter a state of hibernation for prolonged periods of time, so they might not be gone. At least one of them was awake and running around, potentially acting as a scout for the rest.

“We need to do this quickly and then hunker down,” Jones began, entering the control tower behind Horatio. “I believe I saw a drone on a roof while we were on our way here. It could take weeks or even months for rescue to arrive, and we need to avoid alerting the hive to our presence for as long as possible.”

“I am glad that your prognosis is improving, Doctor,” Horatio replied. “You are beginning to remember.”

The android approached a bank of consoles situated beneath a large, slanting window that looked out over the landing pad, Jones moving over to take a look outside. Sheets of rain lashed against the glass, and below, he could see the round pad surrounded by cargo equipment and refueling vehicles. To his dismay, there was no idle ship waiting there for him, but he hadn’t been all that hopeful.

Horatio began to type at a keyboard with his intact hand, a bank of flickering monitors flaring to life one by one, the whir of electronics filling the room as his fingers danced with inhuman speed. It seemed that everything was still receiving power from the plant, or perhaps their backups had not yet been wholly drained. Lines of bright green text began to scroll faster than Jones could follow, the glow reflecting off his visor.

“It appears that the colony’s power delivery system has been heavily corroded by the planet’s harsh conditions,” the synth began. “Without regular maintenance, many sectors have been severed from the grid.”

“Can you gain access to the comms?” Jones pressed, glancing around warily. Every second they stayed here was another second a drone might find them.

“Attempting now,” Horatio replied, his unblinking eyes fixed on the monitors. “The wireless transmitters were damaged by the frequent storms. I am downloading the latest Weyland-Yutani directives and access codes. Diagnostic readouts for the main satellite dish seem favorable.”

“Good, maybe we can use that to send a distress call,” Jones added. “It was probably too damned big to be very susceptible to the elements.”

Horatio stopped suddenly, standing up straight. The android turned to face Jones, framed by the green glow of the console, his expressionless face still coated in streaks of grime.

“What’s wrong?” Jones asked, his brow furrowing.

“My sincerest apologies, Doctor, but the most recent communique from Weyland-Yutani corporate headquarters was quite specific. The situation in the colony is to be contained by any means necessary, and anyone possessing knowledge of the company’s operations here is to be terminated.”

“Terminated like…fired?” Jones asked, feeling a pit form in his stomach as he took a couple of steps back.

“I’m afraid n-n-n-not,” Horatio explained with an erratic twitch of his head. “If you will allow me to carry out my directives unimpeded, I assure you that your termination will be quite painless.”

Jones bolted, adrenaline driving him onward as he made for the stairs, leaping down the steps two or three at a time. He could hear the android’s heavy footfalls behind him, but while Jones wasn’t in peak physical condition, time had been even less kind to the synth. All he could do was try to outrun him.

Jones’ boot caught on a corpse that was lying halfway down the stairs, sending him careening down the last couple of feet. He hit the deck hard, the impact knocking the air out of his lungs, his weakened body reeling from the blow. Struggling to his feet, he turned his head to see Horatio approaching, the android lurching down the steps like some kind of zombie. The tattered state of his clothes and the streaks of wet dirt that covered his ghostly face only furthered that comparison.

“Doctor Jones, I really must i-i-i-i-insist that you follow corporate d-d-directives,” the synth stuttered as he sent the dead body rolling down the steps. There was a puff of unspeakable dust and debris as the desiccated husk hit the floor not far from Jones, its skull breaking away to roll over to his side, the terrified scientist following it with wide eyes.

He was running again by the time Horatio reached the bottom, gasping for air as he raced for the lobby. Dodging around the bodies of Marines and xenomorphs, he made it to the door, the cold wind and pouring rain greeting him. The mud slowed him, making him slip and stumble, but he made it to the cover of the derelict truck. Jones could feel the frigid metal through his suit as he put his back to it, taking a moment to catch his breath, his legs aching with the effort of running. With the rain, he couldn’t hear Horatio anymore, so he dared to peek out around the dirt-streaked cab.

The synth had stopped at the metal steps that led to the door, turning his head with a jerky, unnatural motion as he scanned the area. His glowing eyes flicked downward, finding Jones’ footprints in the mud, the android lurching into motion again.

“Fuck, fuck!” Jones hissed into his helmet. He might be faster than the damaged synth, but he was already out of stamina, his freezer-burned body failing him. That thing would run him down relentlessly like a wolf following an injured deer until it collapsed. The android couldn’t get tired, and he couldn’t be reasoned with. Jones certainly had no way of destroying him. Maybe he should have tried to pick up one of the pulse rifles in the lobby, but there was no guarantee they would work after twelve years of neglect – and that was if he even knew how to use one.

He had to keep moving.

Jones spied the glow of another prefab that had power, figuring that it was as good a direction to move in as any. He began to wade through the mud, following the golden light that spilled out through its windows like a ship at sea guided by the beam of a lighthouse. Somehow, to his frantic mind, it promised warmth and safety.

Horatio wasn’t far behind, Jones turning to see the synth round the cab of the truck, those eerie eyes fixed on him. The wet ground was slowing the heavy android, his shoes sinking up to the shin, forcing him to lift them higher with each step. It was enough to give Jones a head start, and he pushed his failing body further, surging adrenaline keeping him upright.

He made it to the building, his muddy boots slipping on the metal steps, his gloves gripping a wet railing for purchase. The door was already cracked ajar, light spilling through the gap, Jones faltering in his panic as he reached it. Collecting himself, he jammed his fingers between the door and the frame, pulling it wider. Every second wasted was one that brought Horatio closer, and he turned his head again to see the android stalking towards him, already halfway between the truck and the prefab.

With a bellow of desperation, Jones managed to widen the gap, turning sideways to slide through. He almost fell as he emerged into a room that was still illuminated by a few dusty halogen strips, finding himself in what must have once been a restaurant – he could see a few tables and chairs scattered around. It had succumbed to water damage, and it was in a similar state of decay as the rest of the colony. There were two sets of swinging doors at the back of the room, potentially leading to kitchens or storerooms.

He picked himself up and made for the nearest one, pushing through into a smaller space lined with shelves that were filled with old produce. Taking a moment to turn off his flashlight, he took cover behind a large freezer, silently wishing that the doors would stop their swinging.

“Doctor Jones?”

Horatio was inside, the synth’s absurdly calm voice echoing over to Jones’ hiding place.

“Really, Doctor, I would have expected someone with your exemplary evaluation record to be more c-c-cooperative. Our directives were quite clear.”

Jones could hear the android’s heavy footfalls over the sound of the rain, a chair leg screeching across the floor as Horatio pushed it aside, beginning his meticulous search. Would he spot Jones’ muddy footprints? He tried to hold his breath, the sound of his own panting filling his helmet, but he was as exhausted as he was terrified.

“I really must insist that you reveal yourself, Doctor.”

The footsteps grew closer, then the swinging doors were pushed aside, Jones dropping into cover behind his freezer as the android appeared in the doorway. Through the shelves, he could just about see the synth looking around the dingy room, scanning for his quarry with a very deliberate motion that resembled that of a security camera. He was holding the doors open with his arms as he stood between them, blocking the only exit.

“I’m afraid that I must report your lack of adherence to company policy, and I regret to inform you that it will tarnish your otherwise e-e-e-exemplary record.”

Jones could do nothing but cower and wait to be discovered. There was nothing that he could use to defend himself, and there was no other way out of the room. His goose was cooked. The memory of Horatio crushing that parasite with such ease flashed through Jones’ mind, and he wondered whether that would be his fate, too. Would the synth crush his windpipe like someone crumpling a discarded soda can?

With a sickening, wet crunch, something bulged from the android’s chest. White, milky fluid splattered the nearby shelves, more of it seeping from Horatio’s mouth as he glanced down to see a long blade protruding from his torso. Something had run him through with the force of a medieval jouster, inches of the pointed implement jutting from his tattered uniform, its coating of synthetic fluids making it glisten in the dim light.

The android was ripped off his feet, pulled back through the opening like a fish yanked from a pond on a line, leaving the doors swinging. Jones listened, his breath catching in his throat as he heard the sound of a scuffle, heavy footfalls and the clashing of chairs being tossed around painting a mental image of what might be happening beyond his view. There was a sound of squealing servos and tearing fabric, then an ominous gurgling, followed by a feral hiss that sent a chill down Jones’ spine. He knew that sound – he had heard it before. It was the furious snarl of a drone.

Jones sank back behind the freezer, covering his helmet with his hands and closing his eyes, praying that he wouldn’t be found. He was out of the frying pan and squarely into the fire.

After a minute more, the sound abated, as though whatever bout the two monsters had been having had concluded. Still, Jones didn’t dare move for what must have been half an hour, eventually building enough courage to slink out from his hiding place. He crept through the storeroom, painfully aware of how his suit rustled and his rubber boots squeaked, trying to make as little noise as possible.

There was a trail of white fluid leading through the doors, and he pushed one of them open just enough to get a peek through to the other side. The restaurant was even more of a wreck, most of the chairs pushed to the walls during the scuffle, several of the tables upturned. Horatio had been practically disassembled. Pieces of the android were scattered around the restaurant, an arm here and a leg there, his bodily fluids coating the room like splatters of white paint. It was on the furniture, the walls, even the ceiling. The xenomorph had torn him apart like he had been made of tissue paper.

As Jones crept out of the storeroom, wary of any sign of the creature, he spotted what remained of Horatio’s head and torso lying on the floor in a pool of milky fluid. To his horror, the android’s eyes were still open and tracking him. Horatio opened his mouth and tried to speak, but the slash that had very nearly severed his head must have destroyed whatever he used for vocal cords, and all that came out was a gush of liquid.

Jones hurried past him, pausing by the exit to check that there was nothing waiting in ambush. He couldn’t even feel relieved that Horatio had been incapacitated – not with something arguably worse now on the hunt. Perhaps the drone didn’t even know that he was there, drawn instead by the android’s loud and clumsy pursuit.

Leaving the grisly scene behind, he slipped out of the restaurant, heading back in the direction of the company store that he had passed earlier. After a few minutes of wading through mud and frantically checking the rooftops for signs of the drone, he made it inside, collapsing beside a shelf stocked with prepackaged food.

Jones took a while to relax and catch his breath, going over what he had just been witness to. The bastards at Wey-Yu had written off the colony, along with everyone in it, and they didn’t want news of what had happened getting off-world. Even if he managed to send a distress signal from the control tower, there was no guarantee that anyone would come to help him. They might just ignore him and leave him for the bugs, or worse, they might send in another security team to make sure that he couldn’t air any of the corp’s dirty laundry.

So, what were his options? His immediate needs of power and food were met, but he couldn’t call for help, and he couldn’t stay in the colony with xenomorphs on the loose. Could this be why he had entered stasis in the first place? Had he seen this inevitable outcome looming on the horizon and taken steps to preserve his own life? It had worked – he was the longest surviving colonist – but to what end? All he had done was delay that inevitability.

He reached for a food packet from the nearest shelf, peeling open a protein bar and opening his visor to take a bite. The chase and exertion had left him famished, and he was about ready to keel over. He needed sleep – real sleep, not the kind induced by a pod. Once he had eaten enough assorted snack items to settle his growling stomach, he headed deeper into the building, finding a moldy couch in a back room that would serve as a bed.

 

CHAPTER 3: CHIMERA

 

Jones awoke feeling no better than when he had fallen asleep. He struggled out of the uncomfortable, decaying couch, stretching his stiff limbs. After rummaging around for a while, he found a shopping bag with a strap that he could sling over his shoulder, and he spent a little time filling it with supplies from the store shelves. Wherever he decided to go next, he would need food, and the less time he spent outside, the better.

He had gone over his options, and he figured the only place he could really head next was the reactor building. If he was going to be stuck in the colony for an extended period of time, then he needed to make sure that he wasn’t sitting on top of a potential meltdown. Horatio had reactivated the computers in the control tower before going rogue, and that was still Jones’ only route off-world. It would take some careful planning, but he might be able to engineer a scenario where he could observe a landing ship and stay hidden if its crew were suspicious, assuming that anyone even responded…

One problem at a time.

He set off into the muddy street, heading in the direction of the monolithic cooling tower, guided by its flashing warning lights. It was still raining – it never seemed to stop – and the sky was still choked with dark clouds. Jones kept one eye on the rooftops at all times, knowing that if the xenomorph caught him out in the open, he would stand no chance of escape. They were as fast as cheetahs and far more vicious – he remembered that much.

On his way past the headquarters building, he dipped inside to see if he could find any working pulse rifles. The readouts on their little ammo counters were all dark, even when he discovered the power switch, which meant that their batteries were drained. Few of them had any ammunition left – it had seemingly all been expended during the firefight. Jones didn’t know enough about the firearms to clean or maintain them anyway.

He continued on, passing beyond the bounds of the colony proper, the cooling tower growing larger and larger. The terrain was even more barren out here with no prefabs to break up the sight lines – an endless expanse of mud flats without so much as a tree to be seen. Anyone who tried to terraform this place had their work cut out for them.

The going was tough, and Jones was once again exhausted by the time he reached the plant. He was stopped by a tall security fence that encircled the compound, but the elements had not spared it from their ravages, and it had collapsed in several places. Before long, he was standing in front of the main door to the complex, the pyramid-like cooling tower rising above him like the sheer wall of a cliff face. Fortunately, the main lobby required no passkey, but the same probably wasn’t true for the more sensitive areas of the building.

As he stepped inside a very corporate space with more desiccated planters – the left side of the room taken up by a front desk – he realized how hot it was. He was already starting to sweat inside his suit, his visor misted with droplets of moisture. It wasn’t a meltdown, or he’d already be dead, but the alternative wasn’t much more encouraging…

Jones pulled off his helmet and let it hang down the back of his suit like a hood, unzipping the garment most of the way down his torso. He remembered enough about XX-121 now to know that there were no airborne pathogens associated with the species, and only a full hazard suit would protect him from radiation if there was a problem with the core. There was a laminated placard with a color-coded map of the facility on the wall behind the desk, so he tore it down, giving it a brief look over.

As he proceeded deeper into the building, his suspicions were quickly confirmed by the sight of masses of dark hive resin clinging to the walls and ceiling. It was even thicker than what he had come across in the warehouse, the glistening, dripping material transforming the spartan hallways into nightmarish tunnels. The jet-black substance played tricks on his eyes with its reflective sheen and its oddly organic shapes, every shadow potentially hiding a xenomorph, their odd anatomy almost indistinguishable from their mad architecture.

Navigating was going to be an issue – the plant seemed to have been transformed into a giant termite mound. He would have to keep a close eye on the map and try to match its corridors with the winding passageways left by the drones.

Why had they come to the plant when all of their food and hosts would have been in the colony? Could it be that they were attracted to the warmth of the core? Judging by the environmental conditions of their hives, they seemed to prefer a warm, humid environment in which to make their nests. A nuclear fission reaction might have drawn them like a moth to a flame.

Jones was in a completely alien environment now, the pervasive resin blocking out the lights on the ceiling to plunge him into darkness, his flashlight beam his only means of navigating. The further he ventured, the more he began to notice the mist that swirled around his legs. He couldn’t be sure if it was a malfunctioning ventilation system or some intentional product of the hive, but it reduced visibility even further. At least the hive’s architects had jammed open the security doors with their resin, granting Jones access to areas of the plant that would have been difficult to reach otherwise.

Sweat was pouring from his brow now, the heat becoming more intense with each step, Jones checking the laminated map to make sure that he was on the right track. The resin made even perfectly straight hallways twisty and strange, and he was in danger of losing his way. If he got lost in these depths, he’d never make it out.

Just as he was starting to consider turning back, he came across a landmark that he recognized. Above one of the jammed doors was an illuminated sign that had been almost completely overtaken by the resin, its glow just visible. It corresponded with a marking on the map – the wastewater treatment plant. While that wasn’t his ultimate destination, it looked like he should be able to pass through into a service tunnel that would take him closer to the control room. He was no nuclear physicist, but neither were the people employed to man these facilities by Wey-Yu, so he should be able to get a read of the situation if nothing else.

To his surprise, when he squeezed through the narrow aperture of the overgrown door, he found himself standing in a cavernous space that was lit by natural light. It was like being inside a giant underground cavern, the organic, flowing resin once again reminding him of wet stone. There were giant tanks for storing wastewater from the reactor stacked up against the leftmost wall, but they were completely buried beneath the carpet of resin, making it look like someone had poured a giant vat of melting plastic over them. At his feet was the thick mist, and high above his head, the resin culminated in an uneven dome. Pale shafts of light shone through, providing just enough illumination for him to see by. They were spaced out at irregular intervals, slanted at angles that suggested the drones might have burrowed through the outer skin of the building. They were probably ventilation shafts more than they were skylights, as xenomorphs didn’t even have eyes.

Jones began to cross the room, keeping a watchful eye for eggs that might be hidden in the mist. Horatio wasn’t around to save him this time. He tripped on a pipe, grunting in annoyance as he fell and dropped his bag, but he soon brushed himself off and carried on.

The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end as he heard the telltale hiss that had been burned into his mind like a brand. Without even searching for its source, he bolted for the nearest cover, diving between two of the large water tanks. They were about the size of truck trailers – long, cylindrical containers that had once stored radioactive coolant. He flicked off his flashlight and lay down on the sloping resin, feeling its oddly flexible texture beneath him, covering his mouth and nose with a gloved hand to stifle the sound of his breathing.

One of them was in here with him. It could be the scout that had been shadowing him, or his presence in the hive might have woken more of the drones from their hibernation. His wild eyes darted across the ceiling above him, but even in perfect lighting conditions, the damned things were camouflaged into the resin. He remembered how Horatio had been ripped apart and how the xenos had torn through the entrenched Marine defenses in the HQ. What chance did he stand compared to androids and armed soldiers?

Jones froze like a deer in the headlights as a shadow passed through the mist ahead of him, visible for only a moment as it moved between the two containers. He might have been able to dismiss it as a trick of the light if it wasn’t for the swirling fog that it left in its wake.

He tried to press himself deeper into the resin reflexively, but there was nowhere else to go. Like seeking refuge in a cul-de-sac, he had cornered himself. Memories of how the things hunted came flooding back to him. He remembered the vibration-sensing structures that ran along either side of their elongated heads, their developed olfactory bulbs, and the rudimentary light-sensing organ beneath their eyeless skulls. Jones had dissected those structures – studied them. Far from being blind, they could map out a detailed image of their environment using a kind of sonar, tracking their prey by sound and scent, like a bat and bloodhound rolled into one vicious package.

Cold terror gripped his heart as he heard the sound of scraping claws on metal. Something was climbing the tank to his left. Turning his head slowly for fear that any sudden movements could spur an attack, he glanced up, seeing the shadow rising into view.

The unmistakable profile of a xenomorph emerged to peer down at him, its long, curving skull glossy enough to shine like polished steel. Between the pervasive gloom and the creature’s dark coloration, Jones could only really make out the features that caught the light from the shafts that spilled into the room, picking out the strange sinew and cable-like structures of its alien anatomy.

Its lips peeled back in a snarl to expose a set of wicked, shining teeth, fat strands of drool forming dangling ropes as it let out another snake-like hiss. Those jaws opened, the sinew and tendons that held them together stretching, a smaller mouth with its own bespoke set of teeth extending like a tongue to lick at the air. More of its body came into view as it rose higher, Jones able to make out its bony shoulders and the strange chimney-like protrusions that jutted from its back.

What could he hope for now – that it would simply kill him swiftly, and not cart him off to an egg chamber to suffer a prolonged and excruciating death as a living incubator for its offspring?

Frozen in fear, he watched helplessly as the thing crawled down the near side of the tank like an insect to block his escape, the vertical surface doing nothing to slow it down, the creature dropping gracefully into the mist a few paces away. It landed in a crouch, but slowly rose to an intimating height of seven feet and change. It took a step closer, sending him scrambling backwards on the floor, the thing passing directly beneath one of the light shafts.

Up close, Jones noted that it wasn’t quite the same as the specimens he had found sprawled on the floor in the headquarters building. Where before, he had seen bony hips and exposed ribs, here the features were softer and more rounded. While still present, the exposed sinew and cable-like veins were covered with an almost translucent film, like a pale layer of skin or flesh had formed over them. The tough carapace, too, was buried beneath this beige-tinted epidermis. The dark coloration typical of xenomorphs was shining through it, just visible beneath the surface, lurking there like a shadow. It was only when the light was directly on it that anything seemed amiss.

Its shape was more human – familiar, something about it sparking recognition. Its ribs were visible just beneath its skin, and there was something more. What should have been a flat and featureless chest instead had a pair of small mounds, forming a pair of modest breasts, lacking any nipples or obvious functionality. Below, its torso tapered into a slender waist. Its core was packed with muscle and sinew, the subtle rows formed by its abs casting shadows on its skin, forming an indent that ran down past where its navel would have been. It was svelte, athletic, built for agility as much as strength.

Its hips were wide, flaring out to give it a distinct hourglass, like the figure of a runner or a gymnast. They swayed as it took another step towards him, a long, flexible tail waving in the air behind it like a whip. Xenomorphs had proportionally long limbs, and this example was no exception, its rounded thighs dimpled by muscle. They tapered into digitigrade legs, vanishing into the mist at the ankle.

Something was wrong – this wasn’t right. Why was it different from the others?

It towered over him, crouching down closer as he lay back against the resin, turning his head as those slavering jaws came to within an inch of his face. He could feel the warmth of its breath on his cheek, a droplet of its slimy saliva dripping to his collar. Was it scenting him? That secondary mouth slowly slid free, but despite the rattling hiss that emanated from the alien, it didn’t plunge the implement into his throat.

Only when he dared to look it in the face again did Jones realize the truth. Tattooed onto the translucent skin of its smooth forehead was the number twelve, the little trails of ink clearly visible. It all came rushing back to him, almost too much to process at once.

He remembered the vats filled with specimens in various stages of development, some sporting the dark carapace of wild xenomorphs and others with this smooth covering. He remembered poring over the genetic data with his team, the sequencing of alien genomes, and the splicing of more desirable traits. What was it that Horatio had said? It had been Jones who had championed XX-121 as a weapon, yes, but not the wild strain. He and his team had been creating hybrids, preserving the species’ desirable traits while introducing new ones sourced from human DNA. The goal had been to make them more amenable to interaction with their handlers – easier to control, tempering some of their more violent and feral instincts when not directed at a military target.

It was not a xenomorph – it was a chimera. Jones remembered Twelve not as a number, but as a name. This was not his first interaction with the creature, though it had grown considerably since the last time he had seen it. He recalled a creature the size of a cat chasing after a red ball that he had rolled along the floor of his lab, pursuing it with a strange, four-legged gait. Wey-Yu had wanted rapid maturation, and Jones knew that he had to socialize the specimen before it grew dangerous. Eleven failures, a twelfth opportunity. This one was going to succeed. He didn’t merely want to create a living weapon that would be mindlessly unleashed upon its prey – he wanted a creature that could serve alongside its human handlers, intelligent and social enough to be trained.

The skin and fat that had grown to cover the carapace, the more human features, even the vestigial breasts – they were products of that gene-splicing process. Finding the right balance had taken years of careful experimentation, and it had been impossible to introduce one feature without inadvertently including others – such was the nature of genetic engineering.

“Twelve?” he asked, his voice trembling. “Do you remember me?”

It had taken so long to equip the chimeras with mammalian social instincts. His only hope now was that some remnant of the bond they had formed still remained, like an imprint.

The creature backed away a little, cocking its head at him. Even if they had interacted when the chimera was little more than a newborn, it had been living wild for twelve years.

“Please remember,” he pleaded, tensing as he waited for the killing blow.

It didn’t come, so he dared to reach out a hand, extending it towards the chimera’s face in the hope that the alien wouldn’t just tear it right from his wrist. The chimera brought its featureless face closer, seeming to scent his palm, its long tail whipping back and forth through the mist. It loosed not a hiss this time, but a trill, the sound calming him. It did remember him, then. He had raised this creature from the tank to an adolescent – he remembered playing with it and performing tests in the lab – but he couldn’t recall when they had parted ways. It must have been around the time he had gone into stasis.

He tensed up again as it drew its face closer to his, but rather than sink its teeth into him, it brushed its tattooed forehead against his cheek. Its skin was soft and smooth, the fat layer beneath it making its texture squishy. Jones lifted a shaking hand, running it along the length of the creature’s elongated head. It trilled again, then turned its attention to the shopping bag that he had discarded nearby.

“Oh, are you hungry?” Jones asked. Moving slowly so as not to startle the hybrid, he reached for the bag, the plastic rustling as he fished inside it. He produced a protein bar and tore it open, offering the morsel to the creature. He lurched as its pharyngeal jaw shot forth with alarming speed, snatching the bar from his hand, the primary set of teeth starting to chew it.

“Y-you’re a hungry girl, aren’t you?” he muttered as he watched a few crumbs fall to the misty floor. “What have you been eating all this time?”

Perhaps the chimera had the same ability to enter a low metabolic state as the wild strain, but Jones had never had time to study that aspect of their physiology. In fact, he was quite surprised by how…developed the subject had become. She had been the most human of the experiments, meaning that they had successfully integrated the largest number of human traits, and everything must have gone to shit before she had fully matured. Either the wild xenos didn’t have a problem with her, they had all died off, or perhaps she had killed them…

She had been notably more intelligent than them, even while immature, and it might help explain why there seemed to be no surviving examples of species XX-121. Had his team inadvertently created a super-predator?

Now finished with her meal, she turned her attention back to Jones, reaching out to paw at his suit. She was remarkably dexterous, her six fingers – four digits and two thumbs – exploring his unfamiliar clothing. They had engineered her to be social – to desire human company, just like a domesticated animal. She’d probably been completely alone for a decade.

“Glad to see you’re doing well,” he muttered, the alien responding to his words with a tilt of her head. “I know you don’t understand me, but I’ve only had a murderous robot for company since I woke up. You’ll forgive me if I take the opportunity to vent.”

She pawed at his suit again, becoming more insistent, so he unzipped it down to the waist. Twelve was certainly a curious creature, and that had been the case when she had been small, too. He remembered having to put locks on the cupboards and storage containers in the lab because she would always find her way inside them.

“See?” Jones said as the alien leaned down to scent his bare chest. “Just clothes – you remember those. Hell, your memory might be better than mine if those monkey ladder tests we carried out were any indication…”

He grimaced as Twelve dripped globs of her warm saliva onto his skin, moving her head down to his waist, seeming intent on finding out what lay lower.

“Okay, that’s far enough,” he chuckled nervously as he tried to gently ease her away. “I know I have a lot of apocrine glands down there, but let’s keep it above the belt.”

She rose higher again, nuzzling her face against his, smearing more of that gelatinous saliva on his cheek. Xenos communicated with one another primarily through pheromones, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that Twelve would be so interested in smells. Maybe she was scenting him like a cat – marking him as a friend.

Jones lay back against the resin again as Twelve crouched over him, reaching behind his head with one of her clawed hands. With a surprisingly gentle tug, she uncoupled his helmet from his suit, lifting it to examine the transparent visor.

“Yeah, helmet,” Jones said. “Did you see me wearing it?”

She loosed another trill – perhaps using sonar rather than vision to examine it – then balanced it precariously on top of her long head. Jones couldn’t help but snicker at the sight. The chimera set it back in the fog beside her, then reached for the shopping bag again, rummaging for another protein bar.

“Fast learner,” Jones mumbled, watching her peel open the wrapper. “Listen,” he began, starting to get up. “As much as I’d love to sit here and chat, I have a nuclear reactor to check on, so-”

Twelve placed a hand on his chest and firmly pushed him back to the floor, not even looking up from her snack.

“Alright,” Jones stammered, raising his hands in surrender. “Maybe the reactor can wait. It’s lasted this long, after all.”

She tossed aside the empty packaging, then turned her eyeless face to him again, drawing closer. Pinned beneath her as he was, he couldn’t help but feel a predatory aura emanating from her as her lips pulled back to expose her teeth, her seven-foot frame bending like the body of a contortionist to reach him.

“You know,” he began, recoiling a little as another rope of goo fell to his bare chest. “I would really have appreciated a little more time to train and socialize you…”

Her head twisted on her slender neck to peer lower, one of her hands slowly reaching for his zipper. Knowing how it worked now, she pulled it lower, opening the garment past his groin.

“Oh God,” Jones grunted, lurching as her fingers brushed the bulge beneath his shorts. “I get that you’re lonely, but I don’t think we’re a good match.”

When he tried to wriggle out from beneath her, she placed her hand on his chest again, her touch gentle but firm. The unspoken demand was obvious enough. Stay. When she succeeded in peeling back his elastic waistband, he felt her smooth skin brush his shaft, the creature pawing at his flaccid member. He felt a droplet of her drool fall to his belly, and even with those razor teeth hovering so close to his most sensitive anatomy, her insistent probing soon had him swelling.

The xenomorphs had a powerful drive to reproduce, and that clearly hadn’t been engineered out of the chimera. Species XX-121 was capable of reproducing with any lifeform that could harbor an embryo, from cattle to humans, and they weren’t picky about their partners. That brutal life cycle had obviously been one of the first things to go, as Wey-Yu couldn’t have their new weapon breeding out of control and turning its handlers into hosts, but the team hadn’t taken any steps to replace it with anything. Chimeras were intended to be vat-grown as needed, and they should be sterile, but nobody seemed to have informed Twelve of that fact. She was encountering a friendly male for the first time in her mature life, and he might smell just the way she liked if her human heritage was anything to go by.

Despite the situation, he couldn’t help but marvel at the softness of her skin as she gently cradled his growing shaft in her hand. She was so dexterous – nothing like her violent, erratic cousins. Droplets of her slaver fell to his cock, sliding down its length as she came closer, her sensory organs mapping him.

Perhaps wanting to get a closer look, she swiveled in place, keeping her head level with his groin as she swung her hips over his face. She was upside-down relative to him now, crouched low, her long tail trailing out of view above him. A strand of fluid dripped to his cheek, but it wasn’t from her mouth this time.

As he glanced up, he saw her shapely rear hovering over him. Her cheeks were remarkably human, tight and firm, sculpted by muscle that befitted her athletic build. Jones could even see the shadow of her dark carapace through the semi-translucent flesh, like glimpsing a silhouette through frosted glass. Between her smooth thighs was a neat little sliver of pink, its rosy, flushed color contrasting with the pale skin that surrounded it. Fluid with the same viscous consistency as her saliva dripped from her puffy lips, swollen with desire to the point it looked uncomfortable, the silken folds of her loins just visible between them as they glistened in the light. A fat, wobbling rope of that slime oozed down her inner thigh, Jones finding himself following it with his eyes.

A shiver of unexpected pleasure passed through him as she extended her pharyngeal jaw, using it to lick him like a tongue, its surface far softer and more flexible than he would have imagined. It was coated in her drool, making its touch slippery, Twelve keeping her sharp teeth mercifully clear.

Gazing up at those perfect lips, inflamed with passion and soaking wet, the intrusive thoughts started to grow louder. He was probably going to die soon anyway, and it wasn’t like there was anyone around to walk in on him, so why not?

He tore off a glove and slid his bare hand up her thigh, feeling the silky texture of her skin, the pillowy flesh firming up when she flexed in response. Its pale color and translucent appearance had made it look delicate and raw, like an insect that had recently molted or something fresh from an egg. In reality, it was remarkably tough, like someone had stretched a thin layer of tight latex over every inch of her body. She was warm, even in the muggy heat of the hive, and the humidity of the environment was making her wet to the touch. It could be sweat, too – he had no idea.

As his fingers made contact with a glob of her fluids, they began to glide, made almost frictionless against her glossy skin. Enticed by the sight of her swollen lips, he brushed them gently, feeling Twelve twitch at his touch. She didn’t pull away, so he trailed a finger between them, stroking the sensitive pleats of her vulva. God, she was burning up, another strand of fluid leaking from her to remind him of her drooling maw.

She responded by bringing her hips lower – a wordless request for him to continue. He slid a finger into her twitching opening, feeling wet, silken muscle grip him tightly in a powerful spasm. Even with such ample lubrication seeping down his wrist, he could barely get a digit inside her, and it was even more of a struggle to wrest it free of her grip.

In his reclining position with his back against the raised resin, her loins were now in reach, and he sat up a little to bring his lips to hers. Overcome with desire, he encompassed them with his mouth, too aroused to care that the fat strands of her alien fluids were seeping down his chin. He felt her burning heat on the flat of his tongue as he dragged it across her vulva, parting her soft lips, brushing the firm bud of what must be a swollen clitoris. Twelve flinched, and he reached out with his hands, gripping her thighs to keep her close.

Pulling away seemed to be the last thing on her mind, and she pushed back against him, encouraging his licking by grinding against his face. Jones had to take a moment to guide her lest she push him back against the resin and just sit on his head, easing her into a more comfortable position, starting to lap at her dripping loins. He traced her delicate folds, reveling in their velvet texture, feeling her lithe body shiver and buck at his touch.

He let his hands wander across her thighs, mapping every inch of smooth skin and every dimple of muscle. Her translucent flesh was cushiony and welcoming, letting his probing digits sink into it, as yielding as gelatin. Beneath it was sinew like bunches of steel cable – the source of her inhuman strength and flexibility – stretching taut in response to his impassioned explorations.

Jones kept up his licking, painting her womanhood with doting strokes, his warm cheeks becoming slimy as they slid against her inner thighs. There was nothing unpleasant about her taste, that gelatinous, ropy substance coating his tongue and seeping down to drip on his bare chest. Twelve seemed enamored, gently rocking her hips in time with the motion of his lapping, quickly learning that it felt better when she kept still.

Sliding his hands up past her wide hips, he took greedy handfuls of her perky cheeks, feeling her butter-soft fat melt between his fingers. Like firm rubber, her sculpted butt sprang back when she tensed, maintaining its perfect shape in spite of his kneading. Twelve was so lean, her body all wiry sinew, but her human DNA had created enticing pockets of inviting fat that had settled in all the right places. He could see the shadow of her exoskeleton – now serving as an endoskeleton – moving beneath her skin as a reminder of her more dangerous heritage.

She hissed as he filled a hand with her doughy flesh, but it wasn’t an intimidating sound. It was more of a trill or a purr – an expression of desire.

He redoubled his efforts, mouthing at her oozing loins, teasing her sensitive anatomy with slow strokes and quick flurries that made her powerful thighs quake and her long tail slash at the air above his head. Joined in a lurid kiss, he crawled his lips across her swollen flesh, feeling the pulse of her engorged clitoris on his tongue. He circled it, pursing his lips around it, drawing teasing shapes like he was trying to write his name. Her long, flexible spine arched like a cat stretching in the sun, her range of motion the envy of any human yogi. She retained some of the sharper features of her xenomorph ancestors, with jutting vertebrae that formed sharp spines and the strange chimneys that made up part of XX-121’s respiratory system. Maybe he’d hold off on the sensual massages for now.

Twelve wasn’t done with him, making Jones lurch as she brought her elongated head down to his loins. With the way she was crouched on top of him, he could look down past her flat belly and between the subtle mounds of her breasts, watching as her drooling maw neared his erection. Ropes of dangling saliva draped over his pulsing shaft like a sordid glaze, the warm, slimy fluid keeping him hard even as she bared her sharp teeth. Praying that she would be careful, he watched her long, flexible inner jaw extend. Keeping its fangs clear, it began to lick and stroke, exploring him just as he had explored her. Jones had seen xenos use that organ to pierce a human skull like a grisly hole punch, but it was just made of muscle – muscle that could be soft and malleable when the situation called for it. Its texture was not so different from her loins, silky and soaked in slime, the strange ribbed structures making him shudder as they slid against his length.

Just as she had used it to manipulate food, she was now guiding his member, drawing it into her mouth. Whether she was copying him or she was driven by something more instinctual, he didn’t know, but she pushed her face down onto his cock. Her lips pursed around his base, tight and rubbery, Jones feeling the warmth of her maw encompass him. Her inner jaw had spiraled around his shaft like a snake, holding him tightly, the sensation of its squeezing sending a jolt of pleasure coursing through him. Her teeth never nicked him, and he felt only the satin lining of her inner cheeks sliding against his glans, jostling for room in her mouth along with her pharyngeal jaw. It wasn’t a blowjob – it was clumsy and without much direction – but it was a little slice of hot, slimy heaven.

Before he could resume his work, he felt Twelve’s long tail slide beneath his head, its soft underside cradling him. Gently, she lifted him higher, pressing his face between her pert cheeks.

“Alright, alright,” he mumbled as his voice was muffled by her loins. He picked up where he had left off, his tongue gliding against her feverish folds on a layer of her bubbling slime. She hissed around his cock as he began to rub her firm bud with the heel of his hand, his skin wet with her fluids, kneading in slow circles that made her trill and purr. He paused occasionally to leave sucking kisses on her thighs, taking every opportunity to cup her ass in his free hand.

She gave as good as she got, swirling her pharyngeal jaw around his shaft, smearing her saliva on his skin as more of it seeped down to mat his pubic hair. His cock pressed into her cheek, sliding against its warm lining, its alien texture surprising him as it rubbed against his glans. Twelve was intensely curious, and she was a fast learner to boot, coiling her tongue-like appendage around his tip as she learned where he was most receptive.

Suddenly, she let him slide free, his member remaining linked to her lips by a fat rope of glistening drool that broke to drape itself over his belly. She thrust against his hand, Jones having to release her loins from his mouth, watching her pink opening wink and clench. Twelve was trying to fuck his hand, so he maintained his rubbing, placing his other hand on her rump to try and keep her steady.

The chimera doubled over, the muscles in her belly clenching beautifully as a tremor wracked her, droplets of what might be sweat or moisture raining from her body. She gave his hand a few more desperate thrusts, then dropped to her knees, bumping him in the face with her butt. Jones marveled as she watched her spiky spine arch and flex, the soft meat of her thighs and rump quivering, a strained hiss escaping her. She must have just climaxed.

Keeping his pace gentle and placating, he ran a hand down to the small of her back, avoiding the spines. Her skin was soaking, glistening, the light shaft that was directly over the pair making her shine as though her body was misted with dew. What was he even feeling for this creature? Twelve wasn’t human, yet he felt an undeniable attraction, along with a kind of pride for having inadvertently created something so beautiful.

“You good?” he asked, hoping that the tone of his voice would convey the affection that words could not.

She slowly turned her elongated head towards him, her tail starting to whip through the air, her lips peeling back to expose her teeth in a snarl.

“Uh…you good?” he repeated, a little less certain now.

Quick as a flash, she swung her lithe body around, Jones barely even able to register the rapid movement. She was a blur, and then her teeth were hovering an inch from his nose, a strand of her saliva falling to his burning cheek.

“G-good chimera,” he mumbled, not sure what to do with his hands. “You’re not going to eat me now that you’ve had your fun, are you?”

With a low hiss, she repositioned herself, bringing her hips down lower. She had to bend a little to reach, Jones feeling another warm, slimy rope of fluid drip to his thigh. Twelve reached down between her spread legs with a six-fingered hand, gripping his shaft.

“Now, hang on,” Jones stammered.

Before he could elaborate, she slammed her hips down on him, plunging his saliva-soaked cock into her narrow opening. She was so painfully tight, even with the ample lubrication, walls of slippery flesh swallowing him down to the hilt. He could feel the incomparably luxuriant texture of her insides stretching to accommodate him, the toned muscles in her depths fighting him for every inch, flexing and squeezing as though trying to force him back out again. Her grip was just as fierce as the snarling maw that was staring back at him, just as powerful and athletic as her impressive physique, every fold and wrinkle stark in his mind.

“Fuck,” he grunted, gritting his teeth as she let her weight drop on him. He could feel himself bottoming out, ripples of muscle caressing him, globs of her gelatinous excitement forced out around his shaft by her unbearable tightness.

Instinct guided her movements, and she gyrated her hips, grinding him against her innermost reaches as though trying to scratch an itch. When she lifted herself again, Jones could see her pink flesh clinging to his skin on its way up, adhering to him like a latex glove. He tried to move, attempting to relieve some of that pressure, but she placed a firm hand on his chest again. Stay.

Her meaning was obvious enough. Twelve was going to set the pace, and they would be done when she decided they were done.

She let herself drop again, exerting remarkable control over her core, her head and torso seeming to hover in place as her lower body began to thrust. There was no buildup or foreplay – no time afforded for Jones to adjust to this new situation, just the ruthless fucking that nature demanded.

His eyes lidding with each thrust, Jones turned his attention to her chest and belly. Her flat stomach flexed and tensed in time with her movements, the bulges of her abdominal muscles easily visible beneath her translucent skin, little droplets of moisture trailing down the perfect channel that they carved into her midriff. Just the sight of it made his mouth water, like he wanted to clean every inch of that belly with his tongue.

Above it, he could see the rib-like vestiges of her alien parentage, along with her breasts. They were clearly an artifact of the genetic engineering work – it was hard to select only the desired traits – as no xenomorph could possibly have a use for them. They were featureless blobs of fat, without even nipples, but their shape lit a fire in him. They were perfect a-cups, modest in their size but complimenting her lithe figure beautifully. He watched them bounce softly as she moved, little tremors passing through them each time she slammed down on him, like jello wobbling on a plate.

He reached up and cupped one of them, finding that it was the perfect size and shape to fill his hand. Twelve’s regular pace faltered as he squeezed, and she let out another hiss, her exquisite fat bulging between his fingers. She was sensitive there, pushing out her chest as if to demand more, and he was all too happy to oblige. Jones brought in a second hand, taking his fill, unable to suppress a grin as his fingers plunged into her bosom. Her damp skin was wonderfully elastic, fat as soft as putty springing back into shape when he let up, then melting into his hands when he resumed his mauling. He released one to let it bounce free as he trailed a hand down her stomach, sliding on her wet skin, feeling her muscles move beneath his palm.

Quick as a flash, she doubled over again to reach him, both of her hands closing around his head. Her long, spider-like fingers encompassed him in a cage, strands of drool hanging from her jaws as she leaned in. His alarm soon faded as she locked him in a clumsy kiss, her soft lips meeting his, her secondary jaw pushing deep into his mouth. There was no restraint or modesty in her, only a primal hunger, her drool sliding down his chin as she embraced him greedily. That flexible pharyngeal jaw filled his mouth, bulging his cheeks and brushing against his palate, mapping out this new space. Like an eel, it seemed to move of its own volition, coiling around his tongue as though attempting to subdue it. Jones did his best to return her kiss, stroking the alien organ, tracing the odd ribs and cable-like structures that ran along its length. Twelve seemed to enjoy that, leaning into him, keeping up the rapid pumping of her hips.

Jones was a little concerned that she might not let him breathe, but the lurid invasion set his head spinning, her incredibly agile organ unrelenting in its explorations. Maybe there was some leftover instinct driving her – some desire to kiss written into her human DNA. It was all that he could do to reach up and run his hand along her elongated head as they embraced, caressing her. Twelve had a need for touch and companionship that must have gone unfulfilled for her entire adult life, and she was eager to make up for lost time.

Perhaps sensing that he was running out of breath, she withdrew, Jones watching the unspeakable strings of alien drool that still joined her lips to his stretch. His face was covered in slobber – so was his neck and chest – but he was too far gone to care at this point.

Just like his partner, his body was shining with sweat and moisture now, the pervasive heat and humidity of the hive turning the place into an oven. It glued their bodies together, making every touch slick and wet, the sheen accentuating Twelve’s movements as she danced in the light. She was twisting and swinging her hips now, seeking out more stimulation, delighting in the sensation of Jones’ shaft reaching new spots.

His own pleasure was mounting, growing to unbearable levels, every twitch and contraction of her opulent walls robbing him of his breath. She never seemed to run out of stamina, always maintaining the same cruel pace, a body honed for violence now turned to a more carnal purpose. She squeezed her powerful thighs around his hips, the soft cushion of fat preventing the sensation from becoming unpleasant, keeping him locked inside her as though he had any intention of leaving her warm embrace.

She placed a hand on his chest again, holding him against the floor, her tempo somehow becoming even more punishing. All he could do was watch her boobs bounce and shake, admiring her flexing core, the chimera putting on a captivating show for him. She threw her long head back, hissing at the ceiling as pleasure tore at her, Jones watching a strand of her saliva fall to her chest. Like hot glue, it draped itself over her breasts, a glob of it sliding down between them to follow the channel of her toned midriff.

Jones gave her a wordless grunt that he hoped would convey his rising excitement, gripping her hips like handles and pulling her down onto his shaft. Those fever-hot, pillowy walls seemed to swirl around his length, her folds caressing his glans with their maddening textures.

Maybe he’d stay here. Maybe he’d say fuck it and just spend the rest of his days eating packaged rations and bending this succubus over a crate whenever the mood took him. That wasn’t such a bad prospect…

He could feel Twelve getting closer and closer, her seething, squeezing depths gripping him ever more tightly. It felt like molten flesh was pouring around his shaft, liquid muscle massaging him, her loins drawing on him with a palpable thirst.

Even if Jones had wanted to hold back and keep the encounter going, Twelve wasn’t letting him, wringing his climax from him through sheer force and vigor alone. It wasn’t like he could ask her to slow down. The pressure built and built, that sweet ache growing harder and harder to ignore.

Twelve beat him to the punch, her winding body contorting, her loins clamping down on him like a fist as the first wave of her orgasm hit. Even now, she didn’t relent, moving in time with each spasm of ecstasy to prolong it as much as she could. The ripples and contractions were enough to drag Jones over the edge along with her, her hissing rising in pitch as he pumped a hot rope of his seed into her waiting passage. She could feel it, her long spine arching and her tail whipping through the mist with each wad of emission that painted her tender reaches, her walls narrowing rhythmically as though trying to wring out every drop that they could. Keeping a hand on his chest possessively to keep her mate pinned, she bounced in his lap, letting droplets of her drool rain down on his face as she drew closer. After a few more cruel thrusts, she’d taken everything that he could give, and her aggressive fucking gradually slowed to a more placating pace.

She locked him in another kiss, a trembling aftershock making her tense up for a moment, Jones meeting her grateful embrace. He let his hands wander across her damp skin, tracing the curve of her hips and the sculpted muscles of her belly, cupping her breasts and gripping her thighs. Twelve liked to be touched, crooning and trilling as he pet her, rubbing her squishy face against his cheek affectionately.

“I’m really glad you decided not to eat me,” Jones sighed, relaxing into the resin. Twelve flopped down on top of him, still keeping her thighs tightly locked as though not wanting to let him leave just yet. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do with you, but I promise not to leave you here alone.”

As he lay there with the chimera resting peacefully in his arms, more memories surfaced. He remembered what had happened now, and why he had entered the pod. There was the sound of warning sirens – flashing red lights signaling a containment breach. People were running and panicking, Wey-Yu security were gearing up, and Jones was yelling at someone. Maybe an overseer? He was arguing bitterly that there needed to be an evacuation, and that even the Marines dispatched from the troop transport ship in orbit wouldn’t be able to save them, but the man was adamant. All staff should remain at their posts, and all civilians should lock their doors and stay inside – the authorities would get everything back under control. They didn’t understand. None of them did.

Knowing the fate that would await him if he lingered for too long, Jones had made for the medical bay and the stasis pods. He had stripped down to his skinnies, climbing inside the pod even as he heard the telltale sounds of gunfire outside, setting the machine to open only via manual release. In theory, only a rescue party should have been able to open the pod and release him, but rescue had never come.

“I have all the pieces now,” he muttered, giving Twelve a pat on the head.

After a few minutes, she seemed to rouse from her post-coital stupor, finally sliding off him. She sat at his side, watching him curiously as though waiting to see what he did next.

“I have a reactor to check on,” he explained, knowing that she didn’t understand but appreciating her company all the same. “Once that’s done, I think I’m going to place a phone call. Want to come with?”

She tilted her head, but when he zipped up his suit and lifted his bag, she seemed to get the picture. Twelve fell in behind him as he made his way deeper into the building.

CHAPTER 4: PROOF OF CONCEPT

 

The dropship plummeted through the canopy of dark clouds, starting to shed velocity as it neared the colony, its missile pods unfolding like the wings of a bird. As it began to hover over the landing pad, skids dropped from beneath its belly, the squealing of its engines overpowering even the rumbling thunder. It bounced on its gear as it set down on the pad, the floodlights mounted beneath the cockpit bathing the surrounding area with pale, blue light.

It had taken a month, but Jones had finally managed to hail someone. It seemed that Wey-Yu still had some ships snooping around the area to make sure nobody stumbled upon their little science experiment. The dropship was probably Marine surplus, its usual markings replaced with the unmistakable yellow of the corporate logo.

A landing ramp began to descend from under the bulky craft, several flashlight beams piercing the darkness as they swept across the nearby crates and prefabs. There were three men wearing private security gear, and they were armed with some pretty hefty pulse rifles, keeping them shouldered as they made their way out onto the pad. Jones wasn’t a fool – he knew that they weren’t here to extract him. They were here to tie up loose ends. He was very familiar with the comms frequencies they used after recovering some helmets from the bodies, and he was already tapped in.

“Where the hell is this guy?” one of them asked. “Didn’t he say he’d meet us here?”

“You think the xenomorphs got him?” another suggested.

“I already told you, Santiago, there ain’t no fuckin’ bugs left on this rock. They’re either long dead or in hibernation. The scans showed two heat signatures in the colony, that’s the egghead and his cat, accordin’ to him.”

“A fucking cat survived this long?” another of them asked skeptically.

“Too small for the bugs to bother with, maybe?” his counterpart added with a shrug.

“I’m pickin’ up two signatures on the scanner,” the first man continued as he waved a thermal device in Jones’ direction. “They’re in the control tower – that must be our mark.”

“What do we do about the cat?”

“Oh, like headquarters wants us to keep the cat from spillin’ company secrets,” the first soldier said, giving the other man a shove. “Just call the guy and have him get down here. I ain’t climbin’ all those steps just to put a round in the back of his skull.”

“Corporate said they wanted it done proper. No evidence.”

“Have him dig his own hole, then. I ain’t doin’ it.”

One of the men lifted a hand to his helmet, changing frequencies, his voice crackling through a speaker in the control tower’s console. Jones waited for a moment, then picked up a receiver.

“Yo, Doctor Jones. How you doing? Your evac is here – first-class ticket to somewhere better than this shithole. You reading me?”

“I’m so relieved to see you,” Jones replied, doing his best to sound sincere. “I’ve been stranded here for so long. I can’t tell you how good it feels to speak to another person after all this time.”

“Don’t you worry, Doc. We’ll take real good care of you. Hope your bags are packed because we don’t want to be here any longer than necessary. Why don’t you come down and meet us on the pad?”

“I’ll be right there,” Jones replied, replacing the receiver.

“You think he bought it?” one of the men asked over their private channel.

“What choice does he have? You think he’s gonna wait around for the next ship to drift by?”

Jones turned to Twelve, who was perched on a storage crate nearby, crouched there like a gargoyle as her long tail trailed down onto the floor. He reached out and stroked her head, the chimera nuzzling his hand affectionately. During their time together, their bond had only grown stronger, and he’d been able to continue the little experiment that he had started so many years prior.

“Twelve,” he chimed. “Kill.”

Baring her teeth in a cruel grin, she dropped down from the crate and slunk off into the shadows, melting into the darkness. The goons were partially correct. There had been some drones still left hibernating in the colony, and he had disturbed more than one during his foraging, but Twelve had made short work of them. She had all the strength and speed of a xenomorph, but was far more intelligent and cunning, allowing her to run circles around them. It had made for valuable training. After all, that was what she had been created for.

He settled into a moldy office chair and adjusted the salvaged headset that he was wearing, eavesdropping on the security team. After a few minutes of him ignoring their calls, they grew restless.

“Fuck this, let’s just go get his ass,” one of them complained as the group set off towards the tower. “I ain’t standin’ around in the rain forever.”

“Wait, what was that?” another asked.

“What was what?”

“Didn’t you guys hear that?”

“It’s probably just the fuckin’ wind.”

“No, I could have sworn that…”

“Hang on, one of the heat signatures is movin’ our way. Is that the Doc?”

“Motion sensor is pinging. What the hell?”

“Head inside, and let’s get this over with. The sooner this asshole is dead, the sooner we can get off this dirtball.”

Jones heard the sound of a door opening, the rain fading into the background.

“Fuck me, what the hell happened in here? Looks like a whole fuckin’ squad of Marines and a dozen of our guys bought the farm.”

“Shit! Oh, goddamn. It’s a bug – a dead one. Scared me half to death. Looks like they managed to ventilate a few drones before they got overrun.”

“Get upstairs. Take point. I don’t want to be here any longer than I have to be.”

“Shit! Got movement! What the fuck!”

“Contact, contact! On your fucking right!”

Jones swiveled in his chair idly as he heard muffled gunfire emanate from a few floors below, his headset filling with panicked shouting and screaming. When the noise faded, he rose from his seat, heading over to the window to look out at the dropship. A pale figure passed through its floodlight beams, racing up the ramp, Jones waiting patiently as he watched the cockpit canopy light up with muzzle flashes.

“That ought to do it,” he muttered, slinging a rucksack loaded with supplies over his shoulder. He made his way down the stairs, stepping around the mangled bodies of the three intruders and out into the rain, securing his hood more tightly against the howling wind. As he walked across the landing pad, Twelve rushed out to meet him, the rain washing away the blood that stained her translucent skin.

“You did a great job,” he said, reaching down to pet her. “Just like we practiced, good girl. I doubt this is how Wey-Yu expected me to deliver their new weapon. I have some supplies to load, so hang tight. We’ll be off this rock before you know it.”

~THE END~