Amanda peered at the double faces of her watch and wondered how long she had until she’d be kicked out for loitering. It was late afternoon, and the establishment’s booths were beginning to fill with patrons looking for an after-work pint. Amanda gaze wandered over the other customers as they talked and laughed and drank, and she tried to ignore the little prickles of envy that crawled up her spine. She had spent many good nights in bars like this one with friends and coworkers, but those nights seemed so hazy and far away, as if they’d been nothing but dreams. At one of the booths, a group of engineers wearing Hyperion logos on their jumpsuits burst into laughter, and Amanda had to turn away.
Hyperion was a midsized station owned by Spectrum, a company so small that Amanda had never heard of it. She and Samuels had stepped off the Torrens and on to its’ docks at the beginning of April.
“What about Earth?” Samuels had first suggested while they had still drifted aimlessly in the Torrens. They had both crept around the ship hesitantly those first few days: half-fearing a reappearance of the creature— although they had expelled it— and half-hoping Verlaine and Connor would emerge from some clever hiding place. After scouring the ship, they had confirmed that there were no other unwelcome passengers, but also that the Torrens’ crew was gone.
“Earth is too obvious,” Amanda had countered. Not only the birthplace of human life, but also the planet where Samuels was built, and so close to her own home planet of Luna.
“But easy to lose ourselves in,” he had pointed out. She had had to agree and so they had spent two weeks in a motel in an Italian suburb before two Weyland-Yutani agents kicked down their door. Amanda and Samuels hadn’t dared to wait and see what the men had planned for them, and instead left them half-dead on the cheap plastic floors as Samuels shook the blood from his knuckles. They had spent the next four months on the Torrens, occasionally docking on planets and stations only long enough to refuel and restock their supplies. When they had decided that they had put enough distance between themselves and anyone who might be following them, they docked at Hyperion, a mundane station that was unlikely to attract any kind of attention.
Amanda took a tiny sip of her pint and scratched her head. She’d been sitting in the bar for nearly an hour and had only finished half her drink. The bartender, a short middle-aged woman, had repeatedly come to hover around her, no doubt annoyed by the customer who was taking up space and spending little money.
“I’m waiting for my friend,” she said awkwardly, when she felt the woman’s eyes burning into the top of her head. The bartender rolled her eyes and stepped around the bar to serve a group of men at one of the booths who were waving her over.
“Your beer is flat, anyway,” Amanda mumbled under her breath, dinging the edge of the glass with her fingernail. She looked back at her watch and sighed.
Samuels was late. This was not too unusual, for he was often kept behind at work. The first time that he hadn’t met her when he was supposed to Amanda had panicked. She had remembered the way he had looked on Sevastopol, slumped on the floor with milky liquid leaking from his nose and from between his lips, and her heart had hammered with fear. She pictured Ricardo with that terrible creature clinging to his face, Taylor with shards of glass embedded in her brain, Waits with his broken body, Axel and the mess of gore and blood he had left behind. She had pushed her way to the nearest transit car, seeing nothing but white until she had stumbled into his workplace and watched him turn around in his desk chair, his face an immediate picture of concern. His co-workers had watched awkwardly as he had put his arm around her and guided her back to their apartment. Amanda’s breathing had steadied by the time she had sat at the kitchen table with a glass of water. Samuel’s had tried to speak to her about the incident several times since, but she had refused.
Amanda reached up and scratched her scalp again, trying to make the casual gesture appear effortless. It was a difficult task, especially as the hair was as fake as the ID in the pocket of her pants. The wig was a pain in the ass, just like her false name, and her terrible job. But Weyland-Yutani would be searching the galaxy for dark-haired, bare-faced Amanda Ripley, and not for Ellen Baker, who had red hair and a fondness for pink lipstick. Amanda Ripley worked contract jobs on ships and hangers, Ellen Baker sold clothing in a store that catered mostly to middle-aged women and only rarely did she forget to smile. Amanda knew that using her mother’s first name could be a dangerous, but she had once heard that aliases were most believable when they meant something to the person using them. It might have been stupid to cling to her past, but she’d always been so very bad at letting it go.
“Ellen,” Amanda turned at the sound of her alias. Samuels smiled as he pulled out the barstool beside her. His face was a familiar comfort, even with dyed blonde hair that washed out his skin. Amanda raised her hand to the bartender who had returned from the booths. She sulkily poured Samuels the same brand of beer that Amanda had ordered without asking him what he’d like. Samuels accepted the drink with a friendly smile and slid over his payment, just the same.
“Hey, Adam. You’re late,” Amanda said lightly, addressing him by his own fake name. “Long day?”
“A wasted day,” Samuels replied with a dry smile. “I’m afraid the life of a dental receptionist isn’t as exciting as one might think.”
Amanda laughed. “There are other jobs, y’know.”
Samuels’ smile turned rueful. “Not for me.”
Amanda turned back to her drink and awkwardly fiddled with the coaster underneath it. He was probably right. Hyperion Station was a good, anonymous place for them to take shelter in, but the inhabitants saw synthetics as little more than tools. Amanda had seen Samuels’ fists clench when his coworkers spoke to him too clearly and with over enunciation, as if he were a child. Hyperion gave its’ least sought-after jobs to synthetics, and while Samuels could generally pass as human, it was pointless to pretend to people as intimate as coworkers. Synthetics owned by the station were not paid for their labour but Samuels’, as an independent, was paid in full, although his earnings were deposited directly into the bank account of Ellen Baker.
“I hope I don’t sound as if I’m complaining to much,” Samuels said after a moment.
Amanda swallowed. “You’re allowed to be angry,” she said. “You’re allowed to be hurt.”
She looked up and met his eyes. His brow was furrowed, as if he couldn’t think of how to respond, a strange delay for a synthetic. His lips parted, and Amanda found herself wondering if they were soft. After a moment Samuels blinked rapidly and turned away toward the television on the wall. Amanda let out a breath and took a deep gulp from her glass. Moments like that one had been happening between them with more frequency, but that was simply another thing that she did not want to address.
Amanda turned to the television that Samuels was watching. A news anchor sat solemnly as images of a watery, grey planet flashed beside her.
“Fiorina 161, a planet that operates entirely as a correctional facility, is facing budget cuts after the lead smelting works on the premises was declared ‘non-essential,’” the anchor’s bottle-blonde perm shook with every word she spoke. “Although the site remains open, it is unknown how long such the operation will realistically be able to run.”
“No one knows where that is, you know,” Samuels gestured to the screen with his glass.
Amanda frowned, and studied his profile. His face was neutral and his eyes were trained on the screen, as if the awkward moment between them had been in her head. “What do you mean?”
“The coordinates of the planet are unlisted. It’s somewhere in the Neroid sector, but the Company won’t release where.”
Samuels quirked his lip. “Security.”
Amanda dug her fingernails into the flesh of her palm. Security? Bullshit. It seemed to her that it should be impossible for Weyland-Yutani to extend their reach to encompass every part of the galaxy, and yet it was omnipresent. “I wonder what they’ll do with it.”
They fell into a silence, but it felt more companionable than awkward. Samuels leaned forward to pick up his glass and Amanda couldn’t help but look again. His throat moved as he swallowed, allowing the drink to be dissolved in the fluids in his artificial digestive system. She picked up the drink menu, quickly looking away before he could catch her.
“Six months after the tragedy that left hundreds of people dead, authorities are still investigating what exactly caused Sevastopol Station to fall into the gas giant that it orbited.”
The menu fell from her hand and fluttered to the floor. She looked back at the television with a pounding heart. The image beside the anchor’s head had switched to Sevastopol’s exterior in its former near-glory, lit brightly by KG-348.
“Representatives of Seegson and Weyland-Yutani maintain that the tragedy was an unexpected accident that was unpreventable the moment it began.”
“Bullshit,” Amanda hissed. Samuels leaned forward and clenched his jaw.
The image beside the anchor had switched to that of a large Earthen forest fire. There was no new story on Sevastopol, and so no reason to give it more than a brief mention.
Amanda gripped the sticky wood of the bar hard enough to turn her knuckles white. There were so many people who had lost their lives because of Weyland-Yutani’s greed. So many people whose memories had been dishonoured by the very people who killed them.
“Ripley,” Samuels whispered in her ear. The sound of her real name jolted her from her reverie, and she looked at Samuels half-dazed.
“Sorry,” she said slowly. “I—,”
“No,” he interrupted, urgent but still so quiet. “We have to go.”
Amanda was instantly alert. She glanced carefully over at the end of the bar, where Samuels was staring so intently. The bartender was speaking urgently into a telephone by the cash register, shooting quick glances over to them.
“Just act like everything’s fine,” Amanda said lowly, and casually sipped her beer. “We don’t know what she’s doing, it could be nothing. We don’t want to bring any attention to ourselves.”
“Right.” Samuels copied her and sipped his drink, but his shoulders were tense.
“We’ve already paid,” she continued, “so we’re just going to get up and leave.”
Blood pounded in Amanda’s ears, but she breathed deeply and forced herself to move slowly as she slid off the stool. She was closer to the door than Samuels was, so she stepped forward, trusting that he was behind her.
“Amanda Ripley, turn around and put your hands behind your head,” a cold female voice said, followed by the unmistakable cocking of a gun. Someone screamed and Amanda could hear the sound of overturning chairs and frightened shouts.
She forced herself to continue her deep breathes and looked at the window in front of her. It faced the hall outside, and she could see the bar reflected in front of it. The cranky bartender stood a several feet behind them with a revolver pointed at the back of Amanda’s head. The counter of the bar was still between them, and Amanda’s heart pounded as she made up her mind.
“Samuels?” Amanda said softly. Her arms shook slightly as she lifted them to the back of her head.
“Yes?” his breath was hot against the back of her neck.