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Ripley cleared her throat on the vid screen, but the throng in front of her didn’t seem to notice. Her hands clutched tightly at the sheet they held, its shiver betraying her tremble.

Not nearly drunk enough for this, Hicks found he couldn’t look away. The beer he’d grabbed sat, barely sipped, sweating on the table to his left. How watching a press conference a planet away could feel like gearing up to take fire didn’t matter; part of him knew, and you don’t drink on missions.

Ripley tried again, and her “Excuse me” had enough pissed off Ripleyness in to make him crack a smile.

“I can just go,” she said, leaning in toward the microphone. Sarcasm in full force, she added, “I already know what I have to say,” and made to turn away from the podium, her bodyguards moving in to flank her.

A piercing whistle from one of the media drones brought the focus of the rest, and they settled.

“Okay,” she said, voice flat.

After an audible breath, she said “Okay” again more firmly, nodding her head. “I need to tell you about something, and you’re not going to believe me.” She paused and made eye contact with a reporter in the front row, then another, and another. Her gaze moving to take in the whole crowd, she continued, head high, “This time, though, I have proof .”

Ripley nodded to the large crate on her left, and a woman in bodyguard blue (Myrna? Mira? Hicks couldn’t remember her name, just the strength of her qualifications) released the catch. The sides of the crate spilled open, and the reporters made appropriately shocked noises as Bishop’s mutilated torso and head were revealed.

Jostled by one of her own guards, Ripley lost her grip on her notes. The man handed them back to her, his face impassive, his eyes already back to scanning the crowd. It was entirely appropriate given the circumstances, but Hicks felt a jab of sympathetic loneliness.

As Ripley reached for the drop cloth, her sleeve rode up. Hicks stopped breathing as he caught sight of the thin band of leather around her wrist. He didn’t start again until he had his old company clerk on the line.

If she was still wearing that thing, there was no way he wasn’t going to be able to find her with it if she needed him, I-59 discharge be damned.