Authors: Tim Lebbon
ALIEN™: OUT OF THE SHADOWS
ALIEN: SEA OF SORROWS
ALIEN: RIVER OF PAIN
Print edition ISBN: 9781783296248
E-book edition ISBN: 9781783296392
Published by Titan Books
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 0UP
First edition: September 2015
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
™ & © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
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For Howard and Caspian
(decommissioned), Alpha Centurai
The sounds echoed, deep and heavy, thudding in her chest like death’s metronome. For a crazy moment she thought it was the vibration of music, and she found herself subconsciously tapping her finger on her cot’s frame. But when she heard the screaming and chaos, the bloodletting and explosions, she realized the truth. The pounding was the ship’s heart beating its final moments. Her plan had worked, and it was time to enact its final phase.
For all Liliya knew, she might be the last living thing on board the USS
Unarmed and alone, she worked her way down from the accommodation deck to the laboratory levels. Slipping into an open doorway, she closed it behind her, and hid in the shadows as someone or something passed by outside. She heard heavy breathing, gentle hissing, and the fear pressed in deep. Remaining there longer than was really necessary, she again found herself questioning her orders.
Look at what they are! See what they can do!
One of the creatures had found its way onto the accommodation deck and caused chaos. Liliya heard the assault—the startled shouts, the beast’s heavy hiss, gunfire, and screams—and then she saw the results of that attack, stepping around the wet, open things that had once been people. There were at least seven of them, although the bodies beneath one bunk were so tattered it was difficult to discern how many had died there. She had probably known their names.
I disabled the failsafe, I let them out, and now—
But it was not her place to question her orders, nor to doubt. She was there for a reason. She had never once let Wordsworth down, and now was not the time to start.
It was strange, walking through the laboratory ship when it was all but abandoned. Usually busy, the quiet corridors echoed with distant sounds, and the
boomed and groaned as its acceleration continued. Liliya knew where the ship was heading. In any red-level emergency the automated response was to plunge into the closest sun. Burn everything.
There could be no risk of escape.
Except she had changed everything. In her mind, a countdown had already begun.
Reaching the junction of three corridors, she looked the way she needed to go and didn’t want to go there at all. The lighting systems in the staircase were flickering and failing. It could have been a result of the ship’s emergency procedures, or maybe there had been damage down there due to someone’s interactions with the escaped Xenomorphs. Hesitating only briefly, Liliya started down the first staircase that led to the lower decks.
I should have done it sooner
, she thought. She’d been aboard the research ship for almost a hundred days, and in that time she had settled in as part of the crew, blending into the background, performing her tasks well but not too well, being friendly but not making friends. The longer she stayed, the less people noticed her. It was invisibility she had been seeking.
Yet if she’d fulfilled her mission sooner, she would have been away from the
by now, and perhaps everything would not have gone so wrong. The shouting, the shooting, the screaming might never have happened. The crew might have escaped.
But with the Xenomorphs chaos was inevitable. Whenever samples were obtained, whether live specimens, eggs, or embryos, everything eventually went bad. They weren’t meant to be contained and studied, and these creatures reared from samples captured on LV-178 were destined to go the same way. Order was not in their nature—they were creatures of violence and blood. The universe was a jagged place wherever they were found, with cruel, sharp edges.
On the next level the lights flickered again, luring her on. A dull glass shape winked from the wall. A communications point. She brushed her hand across the screen and a schematic of the ship appeared. S
glowed softly. Liliya touched the light and watched it fade out. In its place, a warning appeared.
She held her breath as she read it again, even though she didn’t need to. Her memory was photographic, her recall total. That was why Wordsworth had chosen her above all others for this task. Different people were on alternate missions across this part of the Human Sphere, but he’d told her that this was the one that mattered most. This was important. What she took from the
might mean the difference between the Founders’ triumph and their demise as a dark, forgotten footnote of history.
According to the warning, she had even less time than she’d feared. The ship had been set on an accelerated suicide trajectory, due to impact the star Alpha Centurai in under an hour.
Liliya closed her eyes and breathed deeply.
, she thought.
These creatures should not be allowed to
A crackling sound echoed in from the distance, like a velcro flap slowly being opened. It was followed by a shout, the words unclear. Shooting, then screaming.
Liliya hurried to the head of the next staircase and started down. Her descent was cautious, senses alert for movement or sound that might mean danger. She only hoped she could still find what she had come for. Ironically, with the Xenomorphs escaped and rampaging, the laboratories where they had been kept might be the safest place on the ship.
The staircase ended and she emerged into a lobby area with several corridors leading away. Something bad had happened here. A body sat propped against the far wall, one arm bent unnaturally and blood spattered around it. A weapon lay close by. A grille in the floor had been smashed upward, and darkness from the space below seemed to flood out into the corridor.
Liliya moved quickly away from the scene, a story she would never know. Good or not, she hoped the person had died quickly.
She was now on the laboratory deck, and through the next set of doors she came to the first security point. Any hope that the doors had been smashed, or even left open, were instantly dashed—but she had been prepared for this. As she took the small tool kit from her pocket, a dull thud pounded through her feet, followed by a booming sound from somewhere far away.
That was an explosion
. She blinked and tilted her head, listening hard. If something cataclysmic had happened, and the ship started to break up, she’d have to get to the docking hangar or an escape pod, and her purpose for coming here would be lost.
The floor vibrated a little, but nothing else changed. The ship’s beating heart persisted as the engines continued to cycle up.
Whatever had caused the explosion was distant, and no business of hers.
At least not yet.
Pulling out a decoder, she got to work on the locking mechanisms. While the device worked at the combination, she wielded a set of fine calipers and a filament knife, and started turning over the first of the deadlock’s tumblers. The mixture of electronic locks and an old-fashioned deadbolt system should have been enough to keep out intruders, but Liliya was trained. And she was special.
Less than a minute later the doors slid open and she was inside the main laboratory compartment. This entire central section was enclosed within a giant, reinforced, pod-like structure—a hull within a hull, its systems and conduits self-contained, designed to prevent whatever was kept inside from escaping. Yet she had left a trail of faulty failsafes, and the Xenomorphs had found a way out.
Passing the first of the airlocks leading into Lab 3, she glanced through thick diamond-glass at the interior. The labs were in disarray, with several bloodied and torn bodies slumped in one far corner, and a wall blasted open at the far end.
Lab 2 was filled with smoke. She could see little inside other than a few smeared handprints on the window’s interior.
Between Lab 2 and her destination, Lab 1, lay the main storage sphere, its walls thicker and stronger even than the ship’s outer hull. She hadn’t dared tamper with anything here. Death sat inside and, ironically, the source of terrible life.
Liliya had only laid eyes on her once, and the memory provided a palette of nightmares she should never have been able to dream. Even being this close set her skin crawling, her blood cooling.
She hurried past the blank, heavy doorway, and sensed an awful awareness beyond.
Does she know what’s happening? Will she try to break free, rip away from her birthing sac?
Liliya berated herself. She had to focus, and the queen wasn’t her aim.