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Even by the standards of the Colonial Marines, this has been one long, fucked up mission. It's been less than a day since the dropship landed on LV-426 from the Sulaco, and things went rapidly from bad to spectacularly worse the minute they got here.

From the full team they had upon landing, they are down to three combat-ready Marine grunts; a lieutenant who's so wet behind the ears he's practically dripping; the two civilians who were originally part of the mission, one of which has been proving to be very useful, to say the least; Bishop, who is out of reach while he pilots the other dropship in by remote; and the kid who somehow managed to be the only survivor of an entire colony of over one hundred people.

No matter what was said in the heat of the moment, there is no way in hell he's putting that little girl in charge. Under all that dirt that even the sprinklers didn't dent, she's as cute as a button and, by God, she is definitely a survivor... but neither of those statements changes the fact that she is maybe eight years old. If there is ever a moment when they aren't actively about to die, he does intend to find out just how she survived on her own as long as she did. It should make for one hell of a debrief.

Even though the two of them are mostly dry now from their impromptu soak in MedLab, Newt is still wearing Ripley's leather jacket. It swallows her small frame--and that's probably the point. It obviously isn't because she's cold; Operations isn't nearly as sweltering as the processing plant was, but it's definitely more than a few degrees warmer than is strictly necessary; it's very obviously a comfort thing, given the way she's latched on to Ripley--and he's not going to be the one to say a damn thing about it. She's staring at all of them with eyes too solemn for any child to have, like this betrayal is completely she completely foresaw from the minute Ripley plucked her out of the air vents or even the moment she bit him. He has no problem with admitting he doesn't like seeing that look on a grown man, much less a little girl.

Ripley's hair is still damp, and her voice is still shaking, if only a little bit. Now, though, it has more to do with how tightly she's holding herself to keep her anger from showing. Well, more she's trying to keep her expression fairly neutral. She's not doing a bad job at all, really. Beneath the anger, however, a resignation similar to Newt's is on her face.

Gorman might be conscious again, but that has yet to stop everyone from looking to both him and Ripley for leadership. He's kept them alive the last few harrowing hours, at least as well as he can, and Ripley has survived one of these creatures before. He might only be a corporal still, but he's done a better job in charge than Gorman. His track record's a whole lot better too: he's only lost Drake, compared to more than half a squadron on Gorman's head. And Ripley might be a civilian, but she's had damn good ideas so far that have kept them breathing and she's going to be hell with a weapon of her own. She's serious about this, so damn serious, and he's really starting to like that about her. There's a lot he's really starting to like about her.

He's been pacing ever since they pulled back from MedLab to Operations. Ripley's not the only one straining to keep a firm grasp on her temper. His is only holding on by the slimmest of threads. Hudson gave up trying the minute he saved the kid from that parasite thing; there's been a steady stream of swearing and threats against Burke's life ever since then. Vasquez is silent, but there's a look in her eyes that he doesn't want to cross. He doesn't think it would end well.

"It just doesn't make any goddamn sense," he hears himself muttering aloud. His pacing doesn't slow, not until Ripley starts talking. Her theory--Burke smuggling alien embryos back through quarantine, hidden away inside her and Newt--is horrifying. Something in his stomach clenches tightly, uncomfortably, at the possibility. That a human being might do that to one of his own... and, worse yet, to a little kid like Newt... "Wait a minute," he objects. "We'd all know."

The idea of Burke sabotaging the Marines' freezers on the way home, even the idea of him jettisoning their bodies... The whole thing is unconscionable, but it makes way too much sense for a Company man. He's heard horror stories, so damn many horror stories, of all the ways people have been screwed over by the Company that he's willing to believe almost anything he hears on the subject now. Burke's weak denials, especially given Hudson's pulse rifle in his face, don't really do anything to change his opinion.

What actually makes up his mind comes, unsurprisingly, from Ripley: "You know, Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage."

It's not exactly a hard decision to begin with, not with all their lives on the line thank to Burke. This just makes an easy decision even easier. "All right," he states decisively, "we waste him." With a savage grin, he offers Burk a "No offense," and this is going to feel so goddamn good, he thinks as he hauls the man to his feet.

From the look on Gorman's face, he's all for it. There's no doubt where Hudson's thoughts on the matter lie: he's been ready to shoot Burke in the face for a while now. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Vasquez extending her pistol to him, her hand wrapped loosely around the barrel as she offers it to him to do the job.

It's Ripley who objects, grabbing first onto his arm then his left arm to stop him. "No, he's gotta go back!"

He glances over his shoulder at her, a demand of "Why" already forming on his lips, when the room suddenly goes black.

A few seconds later, the emergency lighting kicks on, giving the room barely enough light to see in, even if it is tinted as red as blood, just as he hears Ripley whisper something that's going to stick with him and haunt him for the rest of his life, no matter how short that might be:

"They cut the power..."