The crackle of acid on ceramic poly is the first sound in decades.
The voice of Sulaco's auto-alarm, repeating instructions with precise patience, is the second.
*Stasis interrupted. Fire in cryogenics compartment. Repeat: Fire in cryogenics compartment. All personnel* -
The hillside is burnt sienna, the sky the color of lead. Ripley hugs her arms to her chest, shuddering against the wind that rushes straight from the horizon. At her feet, the ground slopes away before rising again, a ripple in the landscape all covered in dull brown grass that bends before the breeze. Her face burns in that wind, in that queer light - neither grey nor gold, but somehow both at once.
Not Earth, she thinks. She has not felt honest gravity in decades. But she knows.
The wind pricks tears from her eyes. She blinks them away, opens her eyes to see the slope gone to tumbled stone and the sky to empty darkness. Freezing rain hammers against her skin. She blinks again, finds the drab hillside again.
On the other side of the shallow valley, a girl is running. No, not a girl - a young woman, beyond the coltish awkwardness of adolescence, sure with a woman's strength and a woman's stride. Her hair streams behind her, tawny gold, and the dark coat she wears floats about her as she leaps up the slope.
Ripley closes her eyes, and when she looks again, the young woman is gone.
Not Earth. Not real. On the skyline, trees stand like black sticks. Dance. She turns her head, scanning the ridges, and in the corners of her vision the trees move, waving their arms, clenching fingers. When she looks at them straight on, they are still, and only trees.
Above the trees, building before the wind, clouds are gathering. The storm bank is dark as night, dark as the emptiness between stars. Lightening flickers within the clouds, soundless, heatless.
A strange land, for strangers such as we. There is another on the hillside with her - a girl, dark cap of wispy hair, an elf of a child. And yet when the girl turns to look at her, the movement is stiff, mechanical. Ripley does not know her. Like the running girl, she wears a dark coat, and the sleeves slip over her wrists. A winding cloth.
Who are you? Ripley asks. There is something familiar about the elfin girl, about the way she raises a hand to brush a wisp of hair from her brow. Are you - are you my daughter?
The girl's eyes grow sad, and Ripley knows what she will say before she even speaks. No, you are not. The girl shakes her head.
Where you - on the Nostromos, she wants to ask, but the stranger is looking past her, at another woman on Ripley's left side.
Go 'way, malacheka. You ain't been made yet. This woman is hard of face and harder of voice. But there is nothing manufactured about her. She is a leopard, not a sword.
The hard-faced woman has a knife in her hand. Still staring at the elfin girl, she tosses the knife in the air, makes it dance on her hand, forward and back. The light plays strangely on the black-painted metal. Forward, back. Ash, gold flicker, black sticks. Ripley looks past her at the horizon, where the trees, thicker now, still stand.
Go 'way, metanchi. There is no threat in the hard woman's voice, only surety. When Ripley looks back, the elfin girl is gone.
Who was she?
Why ask me, Snow White? I look like I got the know? But she does, standing there, shoulders muscular and bare under the slate-toned sky. She would swagger, Ripley thinks - she did swagger, short legs and broad shoulders and hair shaved so close you could count the scars. She had a name, Ripley knows, but that was not important. The name was not who the woman was.
You were - Ripley shakes her head, tries to clear her vision. You were a gun. Right hand. Where is your left?
Gone an' forever, Snow White, just like in granny-tales. It was always in the granny-tales - the wolf at the door, the monster under the floor. Like you said.
She pauses to flip the knife over again. Catches it with a slap of metal against flesh.
I never learned nothin'. Just a grunt, just a gun. You want a flight plan, you shoulda asked a pilot.
She throws the blade up, end over end, and it becomes another star, just as a bit of the cloud comes down and swoops past the two women, jerking at Ripley's hair as it goes. A heartbeat of fear, then recognition slams in and Ripley knows the flying thing as Ferro, all tight grin and narrow eyes as the dropship pilot fractures atmosphere with her passing.
Ripley wheels to watch Ferro spin and bank, held aloft by only her outspread arms. Ferro makes another pass, making Ripley duck and leaving a trail of laughter behind. Then another, and even as Ripley scans the dark sky she knows Ferro is leaving, lifting off, climbing swift and sure out of sight.
Ripley draws her eyes back down, locks them on the hard woman. Where is my daughter?
The hard woman stared back at Ripley. Folded the knife away. There. A hand gestures at the horizon. There, can't you see?
She turns, looks. The young woman with the tawny hair is there again, walking down the far slope.
Not her daughter. Newt.
That's not - that's not my daughter. Even as she turns back to protest, the ache rises up in her chest. Not my daughter, I wanted her to be, not my daughter. But the hard woman is gone, and when Ripley looks back across the swale, the tawny woman has a young girl in her arms.
The child has bright eyes and bouncing curls and she is ten years old. The tawny woman - the woman who was the child Newt - is speaking to her, mouth smiling even as the wind whips the words away, and across the distance the girl turns in the woman's arms to look at Ripley.
You never told us about her. This time it is Lambert at her shoulder, face calm and serene. What a beautiful girl. You should have told us. I was a mother, Dallas was a father. So was Parker. You should have told us.
I'm sorry. I - I wanted to do the job. I wanted -
Lambert shakes her head, nods at the approaching figures. All those weeks and months, locked together in that can. You should have told us. We would have listened, not fought so much. Mothers understand each other.
Ripley's mouth tightens. Mother didn't. Mother betrayed us.
Life is different. You know. You've fought to protect your own.
The sky is all darkness now, and the wind streams from behind them, towards the void. Newt's steps have slowed, and now she holds the little girl's hand as they walked.
Why are they so slow? Ripley calls down the slope. Come on, honey! Come on now! But distance and the wind take the sound away. She turns to Lambert - why don't they walk faster? - but the other woman is gone.
Down the hill, Newt and the little girl are playing a game. They hold hands and spin around each other, faster and faster. Newt's hair is a flag, and the little girl's curls flutter like wings. Ripley can see their mouths move, and the sound comes to her, impossibly, against the wind.
Newt's voice is older, but clear and strong, and the child's words chime like a bell.
Ring around a rosy, pockets full of posies, ashes, ashes, we. all! fall! down!
Ripley tears her eyes away from them. Something shudders at the edge of her sight. On the horizon, the trees are dancing again, waving in rhythm with the song. They shimmer, slowly drop their arms. One by one, the trees began to walk down from the horizon, black against the dry grass.
No. Oh, no, no. Newt! Run, baby, run!
Newt and the little girl stand close to each other. The wind is a maelstrom now, shoving at Ripley's body, tugging at her clothes. Newt takes the girl's hands in her own, bends her mouth close to the girl's ear. Then she draws her hands away and steps back, leaving the girl standing alone at the base of the swale.
Keeps backing away.
The black figures are bounding down the slope, tails lashing, legs flexing.
No, oh no. Newt! Don't! Don't leave her!
Newt turns to look up at Ripley, and at the sight of that face - of the bones that had lengthened, shifted, transformed a child into a woman, Ripley catches her breath. For an instant they stare at each other. Then the other woman turns back to the child, and for a moment, Ripley believes Newt will run back to the child, gather her up, flee.
But the woman only gazes at the child, as if she can not hear the chittering screams of the approaching Aliens. She turns away and begins walking up the hill.
Noooooo! Ripley throws herself down the slope, knees pumping. Nooooo! AMY! AMMMY!
When the Aliens fell upon the little girl, the tawny woman does not even turn around. Ripley throws herself to the ground, sobbing and retching, eyes clenched shut against the spray of blood, the spastic jerk of limbs.
She can not close her ears against the screams, or the muttering hiss of the drones as they fed. And above it all, the steady crunch of footsteps in the dry grass.
The screaming stops. The footsteps grow louder.
Ripley. The voice is Newt's, as she has imagined Newt will sound, as an adult, having become the woman she never saw Amy become. Ripley. She shakes her head, tries to crawl deeper into the earth.
Ripley. She is aware that the footsteps have stopped, even as the sound of feeding has not.
Ripley, look at me.
Beyond speaking, still sobbing for breath, she can only grind her face against the stones, shaking her head in mute refusal.
Ripley, look at me. Strong, cool fingers frame her face. Ripley.
Ripley trembles, tears still streaming down her face. A flick of thumbs over her cheekbones, a sigh. Oh, daughter, how I have missed you.
She opens her eyes then, and the beauty takes her breath away. The Queen's neck crest gleams like ebony in the last of the gold and silver light, and her eyes reflects the flash of lightning in the sky above.
I told you, the Queen says, in that voice that sounded so like Newt, all grown up, Mothers understand each other. She opens her mouth, then, and the touch of her teeth is like a kiss.
Above Fiorina 161, the EEV's thrust reversers ignite. The planet draws the tiny craft down, down, down, through the eternal strata of clouds.
For an instant, as the EEV breaks through, a strand of sunlight follows, and paints the craft with fire.
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Fandom: Other (Alien (movies))
Author: hossgal [email]
Details: Standalone | R | gen | 10k | 01/29/06
Summary: Mothers understand each other.
Notes: Spoilers for first for movies in the series. Written for leavethesky in the 2006 Gen Female Ficathon, organized by jennyo. Requested character was Newt, and the prompt was "all grown up". I hope this suits. Thanks go to florastuart, who beta'd and handheld.
Disclaimer/Other: This is a work of fanfiction, characters and situations held by others, not me, no money is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.
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