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Chapter 6

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An early morning sun rises over the silent mountain-top, beaming a warm glow through the foliage. The hidden occupants inside are sleeping peacefully, their minds free of concern after the success of the night before. But one person still cannot rest, his work is to important to leave unfinished and he knows he must act fast to perform his task.

In the deserted laboratories Dr Foster goes unseen. He pushes a trolley table, placing on it a selection of medical tools, syringes and blood bags. Calmly stepping past the empty hatching chamber through to the deeper area housing the Alien Queen. The shaped glass tank shares the ghostly silence as the experiment maintains its settings, the Queen's steely grin watching the doctor, following him around the glass. He pushes the trolley behind the tank to the right where the white walls converge to meet at a boxed end.

To anyone else this would be a dead-end, but he knows better than most. He raises a hand to one of the identical wall-tiles and presses his palm against it. The tile clicks forward to hinge down and reveal a control panel.

Dr Foster uses this eye-scanner and a series of encrypted key-strokes. A hidden doorway opens, he closes the panel and pushes his tools inside, the door closes again behind him. As his breath shows on the chilly air he changes the settings on a display pad, the dimly lit room brightens slowly and the temperature in this refrigerated area rises gently to a safer working level.

Along both sides of the room are small containment tanks for preserving samples. At the far end is a wall of mortuary storage draws, fronted with matching metal doors each coated thinly with frost.

The doctor approaches them with a shiny, metal-framed table base, offering it up to one of the doors which is unlatched to arch open wide. On a drawer inside is a sealed black body-bag, he drags the shelf out along rolling runners to the level frame waiting below.

He lowers the table to waist height and guides it to the centre of the room where there is a long, bright light above. The doctor switches it on and pulls it down closer to his subject. With his equipment trolley slid alongside, the unflinching man leans over the table and unzips the bag.

The face of Mr Phelps appears restful, the doctor proceeds carefully as he prepares to locate the Alien Facehugger. The zip is pulled past the man's chest and stomach, along his trousers down to his feet. The bag is opened out at the bottom, with the corners flapping down. The sides spread wide and drop back as the weight of the hugger falls out and lifelessly slumps to the floor.

Not taking any chances, the doctor slides an upturned glass container over the specimen (like a jar over a spider) and pushes it to the right side wall with his foot. He reaches below the table and takes an oxygen mask attached at length to a cylinder and places it over Phelp's placid expression.

He dresses himself in a face mask and surgical smock. His two tight rubber gloves grasp at the tools, first injecting the resting subject to regulate his comatose state and then belting straps across the shoulders, waist and legs to assure that everything is held down tight.

With a scissor cut down from the neck, the man's lab clothes are parted to show the pale, pink skin of his chest. Without hesitation a scalpel is raised to the cool flesh and dug in defiantly, slicing a curved line guided by the shape of the rib-cage. As a professional surgeon, the doctor peels back layer after layer of flesh, careful not to cut through any major arteries as he exposes the organs beneath.

He turns to the equipment and places an organ storage container on top, opening the clamped lid to show a chiller space inside lined with clear plastic bagging. With a pincer tool in each hand, the doctor turns back to his work, slowly moving the pumping guts aside and delving to find his prize. The tools slide between the gurgling tubes, disappearing deep as the surgeon guides them blindly, feeling instinctively to take hold of a lump of foreign tissue.

The doctor smiles to himself as he eases the form out to the surface. He is oblivious to the dripping surfaces of the defrosting room as he catches sight of the Alien foetus, he removes it from Phelps and offers it over the awaiting container case. The foetus has a longer, more ridged head than the feline creatures produced from the cats, its young form is still growing and weak, needing longer to develop before she has any strength. This premature birth will be kept in a suspended sleep, an insurance to protect the future of these revolutionary developments.

The Queen foetus is laying peacefully in the container. The lid is closed and clamped tight, then placed in one of the many storage units on the end wall. The doctor removes his mask and peels off his gloves to feel his aching, tight hands.

"Thank-you for your assistance Mr Phelps."

He leaves the gory body cut open wide and loosens the table straps to reseal the body-bag. SNATCH! A bony hand grasps the doctor's left wrist, too tight to remove, defiant to stop this evil man. Dr Foster is panicked but shows no sign of weakness as the dying man on the table pulls the oxygen mask away and looks at him with a frightened expression of anger and pain.

The doctor reaches his hand to his tools. First stopping at a surgical saw, but feeling again to take a syringe. He clasps the lethal injection and jabs it defiantly into the man's exposed heart. He sighs and paces the limp arm back inside the bag which he closes and returns to its drawer in the wall.

"Your efforts won't go forgotten I assure you."

Without regret for his actions, the doctor leaves the thawing room to refreeze to a darkened morgue, returning to his duties and his trusting staff.

As the sun climbs high outside, Adam Weyland and Asao Yutani stand side-by-side in the cool office quarters by the long window. With the beauty of the surrounding wildlife laid out before them they admire the view. The dark stone-walled room and air conditioning shield them from the true heat outside as they relax to discuss their intentions towards future negotiations.

They have chosen to talk alone, without assistants or staff hearing their honest feelings. Asao sits with his back to the window, his head silhouetted against the dim light coming through the tinted pane. Adam sips from a glass and leafs through a folder of proposals in front of him, reading quietly to himself. Asao breaks the silence.

"I understand that your father was committed to making one final discovery before he died."

Adam simply looks back at him and nods.

"Well, I've made my discoveries," Asao continues. "Now my targets are aimed towards the growing potential of this corporation."

"I doubt you have many regrets." Adam replies. "And fortunately, you still have your health."

"Yes, but you also have your youth, and you probably had time to experience the greater stresses of business management. They inevitably age you."

"My father knew that his work would be taken care of. You too have a son to depend on, he's a talented businessman."

Asao examines his cane. "I used to have more faith in Haruki, but he may have had it too easy. He doesn't share my passion or reached my expectations. He hasn't proved himself."

"If you don't mind me commenting, I doubt I would have forgiven you if it had been me in his place in your lab experiment. He may have lost some of his faith in you!"

Asao listens to the honest criticism before defending his actions.

"I expect your relationship with your father was quite different to that of Haruki's. My wife died when he was young. I wanted to keep my family close, so I didn't give him a choice about working for me."
Adam places the folder back on the desk.

"What proposals do you intend to make? I had little time for you before your first invitation to meet with me. Since then you've shared all of your secrets... but you know I'm strongly inclined to honour my father's warnings about you. He advised me not to let the Yutanis get too close, and not only because you were rivals -you had a bitter history between you."

Asao nods gently as he hears these words.

"What you say is understandable, and to be expected. From Charles' viewpoint it would be a great risk to side with the opposition. But I must have given you some idea of the ancient knowledge I have striven to control and protect, had it been exposed or shared with everyone, nobody could control who had it or how the technology was used. Had there been a choice I would have liked things to have been different."

"As I say, trust is my main issue. If you want me as a business partner, you need to earn it over time. I do believe we are getting somewhere, but I don't want to make a decision based on the events of one weekend trip. It's very rare that I go behind the backs of the Weyland board members."

"Very well Adam. Though I choose not to involve a comity in my business decisions, I will respect your wishes."

Adam is slightly uncomfortable displeasing his host. In fact, he would like nothing more than to make a deal with Asao, but something still doesn't feel right. He stands to leave and offers a commiserating handshake. Asao looks him in the eyes,

"If you aren't in any rush, would you accept a request to stay for just a few hour more?"

The young man doesn't know what to say, hoping it won't be a problem leaving here with the knowledge of the secrets that have been shared.

"Is there something else you want me to see?"

"You can leave whenever you wish. But if you can amuse yourself here until the afternoon your issues of trust may need re-evaluating. Give me a chance to compile some information for you to see before you go."

Away, back in the silence of space, the Predator shuttle is lead towards the glow of our sun. Returning to the cosmic hunting grounds of centuries past, the familiar planets pass without notice as the ship commits its journey's path to Planet Earth.

Still a great distance away, the advanced sensors begin to scan our planet. Plotting an updated map of the surface and surrounding atmosphere, charting continents for modern geometric changes, searching for ancient remains.

The elements in Predator technology are scarcely found on Earth. The scan will detect any deposits of remnants left by previous hunts, as well as the ruins of their ritual sites which may have been pillaged by modern man.

Two experienced warriors view the illuminated image. A clawed hand accesses the display grid, investigating each event systematically. The elemental readings show many sampled of buried objects lost deep in the ground, too remote and unlikely to ever be found by man. The Antarctic region no longer shows the ancient Predator pyramid. Instead, the site is covered by new buildings -an established development set up to investigate the remains.

The cities seem the most obvious place, but instead, the guidance system points to a strong reading within a mountainous region. This area is a popular site for the ritual hunts of unblooded clan members, but now it shows signs of population, a hidden area of vehicles and weapons.

In the centre of the temple is a great concentration of Yautja metals -the sign the Predators are looking for. They confirm their heading, dismounting their masks from the column stands as they leave the control room.

The golden helmet decorated with a crown of large points belongs to Topknot. His mane of dreadlocks is gathered at the back and held tight by a barbed metal grip. His arm gauntlets are also rich gold and he wears a serrated cutting disc weapon on his right thigh. Hanging from his neck is the front face portion of a human skull, resting against the pale green and black markings of his leathery chest.

His companion warrior is Headhunter, another Predator talented in the sport of hunting humans. He wears a matching skull, but it is broken with teeth missing, this reflects his vicious attitude. His one-eyed face mask is metallic blue with two tusk-shapes pointing down the front of the muzzle.

Due to a previous hunt in which he lost his right eye and fist, his wrist ends at a stump tied off with a binding cloth. His right gauntlet has just one central blade, but on either side of it is a plasma-firing barrel. Across the red and black markings of his chest lies a studded belt trailing over his left shoulder to hold a long skull-handled, sheathed sword. This hunter has two throwing stars hanging at his waist belt alongside bags, beads and bones.

The respected kinsmen stride into the ship's armoury where the three unproven youth are waiting. In addition to the basic body armour of their clan, these eager beasts delight in adorning themselves with their own customised helmets as well as spears, nets, projectiles and blades. They are charged with violent intent, an unsettling energy to kill something.

Topknot faces them, his cannon target in his mask shines red laser-light across the menacing weapons, heating the metal to glow with super-sharp edges. The group stay in deadly silence, patiently meditating their conscious minds as the chariot thunders to take them to their prey, to take back what is theirs.

Though the Yutani facility is unaware of the impending threat, its work is fuelled by the knowledge that this year will see the Yautja return and focused on fine-tuning its defencive capabilities. Learning from the failures of previous attempts, they hope to capture a living sample of the Yautja species providing them with the missing links of the otherworldly technology systems.

The marines practise hard and long every day to meet the targets set by their employers; they are not briefed with all the critical data, but the officers assure them they are more than ready for any situation.

As Adam lies resting in his room, he switches through channels on a television screen. Not watching the transmissions, he finds it hard to concentrate when he should be doing more important things, like getting back to his own business.

In the labs, the staff work hard on preparing and preserving the Facehugger and egg remains. Dr Foster is busy orchestrating their movements now that the Alien warriors are growing, his efforts are focused only on developing these priceless trophies of the company. However predisposed, he notices a movement behind the glass by the Alien Queen's tank chamber. He stops to stare that way, waiting to see if he imagined it.

A dark blue shimmer of movement shimmers again through the still water. The doctor raises his glasses to see clearer, a shape steps round the tank and he sighs, relieved at the sight of Annalise gazing at the floating creature.

"Are you all right over there?" He calls to her.

Annalise sees him looking. "We have a few hours before we leave so I thought I'd take the chance to see these samples one last time."

"It's nice to know that you are so interested in our work."

"Yes, very much so. In fact, I hoped your assistant Mr Phelps would be available to explain some things."

The doctor strokes his bearded chin, thinking of a good excuse.

"I'm sorry to say he's not been well, I've given him some time off. Is there anything I can help with?"

Annalise smiles at his offer. "I can see you're busy, I would like to look at the royal jelly more closely and to read the results from your tests with it."

Eager to deflect her attention from his personal work, he thinks nothing of it. "Be my guest." He says and shows her to a seat at a counter. "I'll bring them over."

Back through the cold, breathing bowels of the complex, Haruki arrives at his father's office to find Asao waiting for him.

"Feeling better?" Asao asks. He doesn't allow time for an answer. "We're on schedule, everything is going as planned."

"And the Xenomorph? Will they be ready?"

"My only uncertainty is where the Yautja will be dropped. Antarctic traffic control will continue scanning until they know the continent and region."

"So, you're certain about everything else?" Haruki asks. "What about your guests?"

Asao is quite confident. "Adam is on his way back here now. Take a seat and learn how real business is done."

Haruki frowns at his father's arrogant self-certainty. He sits down on a wide black leather couch along the right-side wall. It isn't long before footsteps sound through the stone-lined passages toward the stair-well. Adam arrives in the office -clearly impatient to have this final meeting so he can begin his arduous journey home.

"This won't take long." Asao assures him.

Adam sees that Haruki is in attendance.

"How are your fists?" He light-heartedly enquires after Haruki's previous performance with the guards. "You've got a good punch, those guys were out cold."

Haruki smirks at the compliment as Asao is clearly not so impressed.

"He is like his father," Asao remarks. "Strong spirited. I'm not going to waste your time Adam. We're all busy men, and our work is of great importance to today's world."

He places a pad of papers on the desk and offers them across to Adam. The younger man leans to read the covering text and responds with an unwilling expression. Asao hold a hand up to stop Adam's objection.
"Yes, I've had a merger proposal written up. It's been here since last month after I first spoke with your partners. You can take it with you, there's no pressure to read it now. But I know that the main reason you don't want to commit to me will always be trust."

Adam nods, as he listens to the words he realises that the rest of the Weyland company members have been pushing for this merger against the obstacle of only one share-holder: Adam Weyland. It was their suggestion that he travel to Japan to hear Asao's offer. Asao takes hold of a remote-control.

"What if I could prove to you that your trust is already misplaced. That a person you've enlisted to protect you is of more harm than good?"

This claim coaxes Adam to disagree, but the wall panel beside the desk parts to show a grid of screens which flicker to life. A video play across the multiple panels as a single image. It recalls the evidence and accounts of past Yautja hunts, taking place every ten years for countless centuries of human history. Adam wonders where this is leading, what proof is Asao talking about? The more recent years are displayed, until 1987: Latin America.

Asao narrates. "Two teams of elite military operatives were targeted in the jungle, nearly all were killed and the site was destroyed by a massive explosion. Do you remember me telling you that back in the city?"

Video plays of a crater surrounded by burnt-out trees and debris, before displaying a recorded interview with one of the two survivors.

"This is Major Dutch Schaefer, he disappeared soon after the event but a media group tracked him down a few years later."

The retired ex-military man is shown standing outside his rural home, reluctant to let the interviewers inside.

"Look I told you already, it was a setup, we weren't briefed about our true mission. That monster killed them all, seven proven heroes and Hopper's men before us."

The reporters pressure him for more information, urging him for proof of what he says happened. Dutch is clearly losing his temper, even more so as the camera points to see a young girl looking out of a window.

"Listen, that thing was real, it wore an A-bomb on its arm like a fucking wrist-watch! Now get the hell off my property!"

The footage freezes as the man slams his door shut. The screens turn blank. Adam looks to Asao for an explanation.

"What did I miss?"

"Major Schaefer is still involved in avenging those deaths. They were all close friends to him, as was Captain Hopper whose team were the first to go missing. Hopper was a single parent with his daughter raised on a military base. When Schaefer returned he chose to became guardian to the girl, before going into hiding."

Asao knows that Adam won't believe the truth until he sees for himself. He operates the screens to show separate views of the facility, every room, every hallway. He stands to reach with one finger to point at the central display. The camera is aimed towards the staff in laboratories, with Dr Foster and Annalise at a desk.

"Captain Hopper's daughter is sat in my research labs now, viewing highly sensitive information. You employed her as your personal assistant and bodyguard. Annalise infiltrated this facility with your help. Adam, the person closest to you is your greatest threat. There is a reason why she wasn't with your father on the Antarctic mission, Max Stafford didn't trust her so he left her behind."

Adam stares closely at the screen then back to Asao, wondering at first why he would make up such a creative accusation. But then he questions his own knowledge of the woman, a company employee he never thought to doubt.

"You have unequivocal proof of what you say?" He asks bitterly, still hesitant to accept it.

"We're not the only ones with an interest in alien species. And it's in our interest to know who the competition is, as well as their operatives."
Asao slides a file of documents across the desk. It holds photographs and details of Annalise Richards' true name and past.

Adam hurriedly rifles through them. "How long have you known that my PA was actually Danielle Hopper?" Asks Adam in amazement.

"We've known all along." Asao answers in a carefree tone.

"But you risked your whole security letting her come here."
"Yes, but I knew you wouldn't come here without her, so it was a risk worth taking." Asao's words comfort Adam not to feel responsible for his bad judgement.

Adam starts to leaf through the merger agreement in front of him.

"What do you want me to do with this?"

"Whatever you want to. That's up to you to decide."
"And what will happen to her?" Adam gestures to the screen.

"With your permission, my security will arrest her and she will be detained at my discretion."

"Do as you deem necessary." Adam replies, taking a pen from inside his jacket. "You have my full cooperation." He begins to sign the merger.

Downstairs, Dr Foster returns to the table where he left his guest, but he finds her chair empty. He looks around puzzled, checking in the direction of the Alien Queen before walking back through to the other specimen jars. Passing the glass doors of the artifact room, the way opens and reveals the illuminated panels inside. The doctor quietly steps through to find the young lady standing opposite, holding a Predator gauntlet weapon. He makes his way closer as she inspects the item with an intriguing look of experience. He is careful to speak gently to avoid surprising her.

"Are you familiar with these items?"

Annalise calmly turns her head, the weapon protectively held in two hands ahead of her. "I know that they cause pain," she replies. "As well as suffering."
"Then I don't need to remind you that they remain extremely dangerous. Won't your friends be looking for you?"
"Oh, it's quite alright doctor," she assures him. "They know where I am."
A moment of awkwardness is shared. As Annalise turns away to inspect the closed, button-covered panel of the explosive control device, each of them wishes the other would leave them to their vital work.

Their eyes suddenly dart to the far ceiling as a red alarm light begins to flash, causing the doctor to hurry back to his computer intercom to learn the reason for the warning. As he does so, Annalise steps away, backing into the darkness she calmly eases the weapon over her left hand, fitting it into place on her arm.


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