The alien drooled, gnashed its teeth, gnashed its second set of teeth, hissed, raised its arms and said [in its own language] ‘Mum-raaaa!’
Burke reeled backwards, petrified…well, his face went back a few inches, but his body stayed pretty much the same.
This is it, he thought, sweating. Die time. Teeth bites, blood, holes the size of Bill Paxton’s head. Fuck. Don’t run. Accept it. For the Company, humankind, corporate hegemony etc etc.
The Alien waited off-screen, still drooling.
Wait. I don’t want it to be it, Burke counter-thought. I’m too slick to die. I’m too smart, too good at manipulating things, too…
The alien lunged, ignoring Burke’s personal narrative.
A noise from the ceiling. Some shitty workmanship. A piece of metal beam, military grey, fell onto the alien’s head and killed it instantly.
Burke touched the alien’s head with his foot.
Burke stepped over the corpse and ran out another door.
Minutes later he was on the spaceship.
Bishop didn’t seem to notice as he walked on, so he kept quiet and waited in the communal area, making defences he could use to explain himself to the others.
It was dark, I couldn’t see.
There were guns in the other room, big ones.
I didn’t know it was locked.
You were right behind me, right?
The others came.
Burke had been thinking for twenty minutes about what he’d done and realised he couldn’t explain himself. Ripley was too self-righteous, too unforgiving…
Burke hid under the table.
Ripley went away and came back again a while later, sweating. No one noticed Burke under the table so he stayed still and waited until the cameras had gone and the others were in cryo-sleep.
Burke looked at them all sleeping.
These were the facts:
If they wake up, they’ll tell everyone I’m a traitor. The company will fire me. I’ll lose everything, the house, the computers, my one night fucks.
If they don’t wake up…
Burke sabotaged the ship and directed it towards the prison planet. He got into the escape pod and flew off in the opposite direction. Space was big, but someone would find him.
Burke drifted for weeks.
He was in cryo-sleep, but the dreams still came.
Ripley chased by a huge alien.
Hicks whipped by an alien with a big stick.
The little girl’s fingernails pulled off by an alien in an SS uniform.
Bishop’s head floating in a puddle of coagulated jizz.
Burke’s pod was found by a mining ship. They pushed buttons, woke him up and asked the obvious.
Where are the others?
Why are you the only dude left?
Burke panicked and confessed everything. The mining crew called him a cowardly piece of shit and threw him in the brig.
The mining crew realised they didn’t have a brig, so they threw him in some living quarters instead.
Burke stayed in there until the company came to collect him.
The company asked him what had happened.
Burke told them straight. I’m a coward, I ran, I sabotaged their ship. The mining crew nodded in the background.
The company was confused. ‘That’s your cover story or…’
‘That’s the truth.’
‘Because if you’re not working full speed up top, we can give you some drugs to help things along.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘You work for the company, don’t you?’
‘Well, if you’re stuck, we can…help you out in that respect.’
‘But I killed them.’
‘That doesn’t really work for us.’
‘It’s the truth.’
‘We’ll send it to the writers’ room, see what they come up with…’
‘I won’t lie. I killed them. I don’t deserve to weasel out of this.’
‘Well, it’s irregular, but…if you’re sure…’
‘Punish me. Please.’
The company nodded and sent him back to Earth.
Punishment was swift but not commensurate.
Burke lost his job, the executive title, but was allowed to remain in the company as a content engineer.
His house left him.
So did his computer and his one night fucks.
For seven years he drove to work and sat at his station in the basement, writing content and then engineering it. No one talked to him, because people didn’t really talk to each other anymore.
Burke drifted into a state of blankness. He was not noticed, but that was okay as he didn’t really care to be noticed.
But he still had the dreams.
The little girl…her fingernails…the alien in the SS uniform.
After the first two years, the SS uniform had become a company suit.
Now it was a checked shirt.
Burke woke up sweating four nights a week.
He washed his bed sheets diligently, with neither inner nor outer complaint.
He went to work.
He wrote articles beginning with ‘the top ten craziest…’
He ate re-heated pasta, alone.
One day a little girl walked past him in the street. She looked nothing like the other little girl he’d known, but still he watched her.
The little girl noticed him following her and ran into the road, scared.
A truck came the other way…
Burke didn’t think.
He jumped forward, picked the little girl up and threw her out of the way.
The truck didn’t stop.
It hit him bang in the middle of his cowardly face.
He flew spacewards.
For three seconds.
His body landed next to an ad for new, warmer gilets.
No one checked on him because there were pieces everywhere, but they gawped.
‘Did you know him?’
‘Was it a guy?’
‘Is that his rib cage?’
The ambulance flew in four minutes later, the crew asking which part of the body had the heart.
No one knew.
Not that it mattered.
Burke was long, long dead.
And bionics weren’t advanced enough to bring him back.
The little girl lived, slightly pissed off that her jacket was ripped, but grateful to the man who’d done a dumb thing and saved her life.
Two years later, the little girl and her family moved to a new planet. According to the blurb, it used to be a colony called LV-426. Now it was Paradise Heights.
They were greeted by a company man in a checked shirt and new, warmer gilet. Behind him was something huge and black and slimy, wearing a lab coat and holding a clipboard…
‘This is the chief technician,’ said the company man, patting the alien on the back. ‘Any questions, any problems, he’s your man.’
The black thing hissed.
‘Are you staying too, Mr…?’ asked the little girl.
‘Surke. No, no, I’ve got other things to do.’ Surke smiled, backing onto his shuttle. ‘Don’t worry, you’re in capable hands.’
The little girl nodded, watching the shuttle doors close.
For some reason she believed him.