Six months later the men in black show up at her door again, smug sunglasses still firmly in place. "There's been in incident," one of them says, as if Lex should understand and care.
"There was an incident the last time too. You told me I'd best shut up about it or else." She makes to slam the door in their faces, but one of them puts his hand on the frame, and she can take maybe two, but not all three of them plus the ones in the car.
He or she or it won't speak, but they were handed a DNA sequence, and they had hers on file from the time they took her away and interrogated her for six hours and believed every word she said before telling her, in no uncertain terms, that none of it had ever happened.
They fight a war in a small town over-run by the aliens, her and him and an army of young men who have no idea what they're dealing with. Back to back, mostly just the two of them, they don't speak in any way except for the one that matters. She doesn't ask what mistake they made this time, what kind of bad luck led to this middle of nowhere town losing just about everything in a single night. It doesn't matter, not at this point.
Lex is still not entirely sure if he sees them as equal or if he regards her as a particularly talented pet, but that's okay. She knows who she is, and she never forgets what they are. All of hers, that have died and will die, because of them. Because her entire species is expendable.
She remembers the pain, but not going down.
The man is looking down on her with an expression of concern on her face. Weyland, except not. Guess the bastard found a way to live forever after all. Lex hates him immediately, and she tries to reach for his neck, but her muscles won't move and she ends up coughing instead, the taste of blood and bile in her throat. "My name is Bishop," he says. "I'm from the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. We need your help."
"Let me guess," she says. "There's been an incident." She tries again, and this time she succeeds in pulling herself up, pulling needles out of her arm. "What year is this," she says, and he looks surprised.
"You were injured in action, Ms. Woods. Fighting the creatures that have now invaded the Mars Colony. The Weyland Corporation cryogenically froze you until such time that your injuries should be healed."
"Mars," she says, and carefully flexes her fingers, measures her strength. He backs away slowly, and she smiles. "And I think you mean until such time as you thought I'd be useful."
They only want her expertise, they say, her experience, but when she asks to be shuttled to Mars no-one says no. This time it's her, Weyland-Yutani's men and the alien hybrid that's not from a human host but from the spaceship that crash-landed on the planet. Some rite of fucking passage. Bishop tells her, "If you could bring it in alive, that would be optimal."
She sticks its head on another spear, and earns herself another scar, one that runs a half inch from the edge of her eye down to her mouth. Whipcord-thin but deep enough that the scar tissue's almost black. Sixty-seven dead and no end in sight; all things considered, she got lucky. All things considered, if you didn't count her dead friends and dead lovers and dead relatives. Everyone dead, that ever knew her name as more than just a possible asset to their corporation.
She knows it's suicide when she threatens to go public, and this time she sees it coming but she's not fast enough to stop the pinch of the needle in her neck. Bishop says, as her world turns dizzy and pale, "Thank you, for all your help."
"Welcome back," the woman says, and second time's the charm, Lex barely even notices the stench of death in her mouth anymore. Instead she just asks for a glass of water, and spits the stream out at the woman's booted feet. The man next to her laughs, and she lifts her head, gives him a sharp nod of acknowledgment. "You're a hard one to find, Ms. Woods. Weyland-Yutani buried you deep, and I really hope you're worth it."
"Yeah, apparently I've been busy being dead. For how long now?"
The expression on her face says, long enough. "My name is Hicks," the man says, "And that's Ripley. Don't mind her. She warms up eventually."
There is a war on earth, Ripley says, and humanity is losing. "The drones mutated into a queen, and once the eggs started hatching, we couldn't stop the epidemic."
Lex walks over to the window, and it takes a second for her to realize they're on a ship, and that the burning planet spinning beneath her is Earth. "What," she says, and she shakes her head blankly. Ripley's hand is suddenly on her arm, surprisingly gentle.
"I'm sorry," Ripley says. "I know."
She starts to shake, and she can't pull away from the window, can't stop looking. Earth, burning. Her Earth, burning. "There are still enough of us left," Ripley says. "On the colonies, and on ships just like these. We can re-build. We can still win, if you help us."
"Me. What do you think I can do exactly? I've been dead for centuries. How could I possibly help." Ripley just holds on to her arm, and waits for her to stop crying.
"We lost a lot of good men extracting you from where the corporation buried you, Ms. Woods," she says finally, when Lex is composed enough to shake her hand off. "They also kept records of a race, an advanced species that used Earth as a hunting ground for millennia."
"Did you imagine I knew how to contact them? Or even if I did that they'd come?"
"Yes," Ripley says, with the quiet conviction of the desperate, and Lex blinks, and remembers. The last thing it did before the alien took her down was inject a spike into her. Designed to hide so well it merged irrevocably with her DNA, made it undetectable.
"Do you have a knife," she says, and Ripley hands her one, wary but trusting. She cuts into her arm, watches the blood well up, rich and red, digs until she finds the chip embedded deep into the flesh.
"What is that," Ripley says, and takes the chip from her, displays it up to the light where it glitters gold under the dark of her blood.
"A beacon," she says. Ripley tells her the predators weren't responsible for this, that the human species, or the ones with enough money and power to make their actions count, brought the aliens here. We'll invite our own damn apocalypse to our home planet thank you very much. Lex replies, "I know. If they were, they'd be here already to clean up their own mess."
Ripley tilts her head, and she's human, but only barely just.
"What happened to you," Lex asks.
This time there's no bile in her throat, just her senses filling in slowly, awareness washing over her like waves. She opens her eyes finally, and he's staring down at her. Unmasked, they're still the most god-ugly creatures she's ever seen. Her hand flies up to her face instinctively, feels for the scars that she knows aren't there anymore. Cloning: it's the new black.
She doesn't ask what year it is, or how she died, or why they brought her back, just her weapon.