Alien covenant 2, p.1
Alien- Covenant 2, page 1
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Alien: The Illustrated Story
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A NOVEL BY
ALAN DEAN FOSTER
ALIEN: COVENANT – ORIGINS
Print edition ISBN: 9781785654763
E-book edition ISBN: 9781785654770
Published by Titan Books
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First edition: September 2017
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For Frank and Barbie,
With thanks and in friendship.
They were all dying, and there was nothing they could do.
Dying in their sleep would not have been so bad. Dying of old age, or an inability to reproduce, or even of disease would have been tolerable. But the cosmos was a cold, uncaring place, and did not care what would have been preferable. At that moment, at that time, it was colder than ever.
Bodies were ripped apart, exploded, sundered, until dismembered skeletons began to pile up against the sides of buildings like white foam from a wave. A tsunami of blood ran down first one street, then another. The inhabitants of the city tried to fight back, and the more they fought, the faster they died. The shapes—the things that roved and raged and ravaged among them—were imbued with an implacable urge to kill.
This they did with an efficiency and soulless resolution that knew no satisfaction. The proponents of the interminable slaughter could never be sated. They killed and would keep on killing until nothing remained that could be called a victim.
* * *
Throughout it all the Prophet slept, and screamed, while around him a select gathering of acolytes shared his visions and shuddered. Shared, and grew ever more resolute in the knowledge of what it was they must do. The fate, the visions the Prophet was unleashing among them, could not be allowed to come to Earth.
If they had to die to ensure that this was so, they would not hesitate. Nor would they hesitate to kill on behalf of the greater good.
On the ground, the ship would never have been able to lift off. By contrast, its mass wasn’t a problem where it drifted in Earth orbit, like a sleeping whale in an endless dark ocean.
Its deep space drive was unmatched, its sustaining technology state-of-the-art, its life support systems backed up by back-ups, its purpose… its purpose was noble. To found a colony. To spread the seed of humankind beyond the single small blue-and-white globe on which the species had evolved.
It also would allow those selected to travel to a new world the opportunity to escape the corruption, exploitation, overuse, and sheer grime that had overtaken the home their criminally indifferent predecessors had carelessly fouled.
Secure in his jump seat on the shuttle, Jacob Brandon continued to admire the Covenant’s lines as he gazed out the nearby port. He was her captain, she was his ship. His future. Serving as an adjunct to Mother, the ship’s remarkable all-seeing, all-knowing AI, he would have little to do except estivate in deepsleep until they reached the distant chosen world of Origae-6.
En route, they would emerge from faster-than-light travel a set number of times in order to recharge the ship, but those were preplanned and routine. He looked forward to a command that, assuming all went as intended, would involve as little actual intercession as possible by him and the crew.
He knew Indri Mithun was watching him. The whip-slender dark-skinned man sitting in the opposite seat made repeated pretenses of fiddling with the computational lens that was affixed to his left eye. In reality, he was studying the captain. Having begun in the launch lounge, paused during liftoff, and continuing throughout the ensuing flight, the constant scrutiny was beginning to wear on Jacob.
“Look, Mithun, if there’s something you want to ask, if you have something on your mind, just come out with it. I’m not going to prompt you.”
Visible through the port behind the Weyland-Yutani representative, the curved edge of a lambent Earth rotated in concert with the shuttle as the compact vessel lined itself up for docking. While the other man fidgeted, he did his best to look and sound authoritative, but only came off as patently embarrassed.
“I didn’t ask to be assigned to watch you.”
Jacob pursed his lower lip and nodded sagely. “And I didn’t ask to be assigned a watcher, so we’re in agreement.” When Mithun offered no comment, an irritated Jacob forced the issue. “So, said the watched to his watcher, if you don’t mind your subject asking—what exactly are you watching me for?”
The company rep swallowed and, having fiddled with his eyepiece beyond reason, switched to adjusting the collar of his shirt beneath his dress jacket. He didn’t seem to know what to do with his hands. Jacob’s narrowed stare from across the a
“You must understand, Captain, that as adept as our people and machines are at assigning values and squeezing parameters, selecting a crew for so momentous an undertaking will inevitably be subject to a lot of second-guessing.”
Jacob smiled pleasantly. “I wish you wouldn’t use the word ‘undertaking’ when talking about the mission.”
This time there was some rationale behind Mithun’s adjusting of his eyepiece. His expression twisted as realization followed understanding. Jacob was disappointed. He had hoped for a response in the form of a chuckle, or at least a smile. But then, he had already decided that the company rep wasn’t readily amused.
“A joke. I see,” Mithun replied, without seeing at all. “I suppose I should have used a different term to—”
“Just get to the point, Mithun.” Ahead of the shuttle and visible on the heads-up, the extraordinary bulk of the Covenant drew near. The representative nodded, appearing relieved at no longer having to play at tactfulness.
“To put it bluntly, there are some who are not sure if the company chose the right couple to put in charge of the mission.”
Jacob met the other man’s now steady gaze without flinching. “Mother is in charge of the mission. I’m just the human captain, and my wife is the supercargo. Oram’s my number two, not her.”
“We aren’t as concerned about Daniels,” the representative replied firmly, “as we are about you.”
“I see. And what is it about me that concerns your unidentified ‘we’?”
Now Mithun did smile, however slightly. “There are those who think you’re too ‘flighty.’ Insufficiently serious to be entrusted with command of such a vast and complicated enterprise.”
The shuttle slowed as it approached the main docking bay. A slight shiver ran through Jacob’s body as the much smaller craft began to fall under the influence of the Covenant’s artificial gravity field.
“On what basis did they arrive at the scientific determination that I am ‘flighty’?”
“Certain correspondence.” Mithun looked away, uncomfortable once again. “Between yourself and others. Correspondence that reflected an excess of enthusiasm for non-project-related matters. There are those in the company who feel that your enthusiasm for participatory sports, for example, might detract from your attention to duty.”
“Sports.” Jacob leaned so sharply in the representative’s direction that the other man flinched. “Listen, one of the reasons I was given command of the Covenant was my demonstrated empathy for the interests of the colonists. Once we get to Origae-6, I have to supervise the establishment of the colony. That requires a completely different set of skills from those needed to captain a starship.” He pressed back into his seat. “The company wanted someone who could incorporate both poles of experience. They chose me. The unnamed ‘those in the company’ can go hang.”
There was a soft bump as the shuttle settled into the docking bay. Jacob was grateful for the return of full gravity. It was hard to kick someone in zero gee, and he was feeling more and more like delivering such a message to the company representative’s backside.
Take it easy, he told himself. Mithun may make more in a week than you do in a year, but he’s just a glorified errand boy. You— you are the captain. Rise above the pettiness. You know what you’re capable of, and what lies ahead. Be confident in your abilities, in your knowledge, in your skills.
Be confident in the fact that it’s almost certainly too late for Weyland-Yutani to fill the position with someone else.
“It’s just that there have been some rumblings on the board.” Mithun kept talking even as they disembarked. “Most of the board is content with your appointment. So is Hideo Yutani himself, but there are some among the Weyland contingent who still feel the need to assert themselves.”
“You’re kidding,” Jacob said. “It’s all been one company for a while now. Weyland-Yutani.” He led the way out into a major corridor. “I thought that sort of nonsense was over and done with.”
“Corporate takeovers are never easy,” Mithun explained. “Most who survive such mergers quickly resign themselves to their new circumstances. But for a few, bad feelings can linger.”
Beginning to feel a bit sorry for his companion, Jacob softened his tone. “So these few on the board, they’re questioning my competency to hold the position of captain?”
Mithun’s reply was glum. “They question everything.”
“And that’s why you’ve been sent to follow me around, to see if I implode under pressure, prior to departure.”
“That’s it, more or less.” For the first time since the shuttle had lifted off, an honest smile creased the narrow face of the company rep. As it did, two stevedores escorting a large autonomous pallet of supplies forced them to hug one side of the corridor. Then they continued at a casual pace. The lighting within the Covenant was bright yet soft, easy on the eye while leaving nothing under-illuminated.
“If you don’t mind my asking, how am I doing?” Jacob inquired as they resumed their course.
“Except for a certain inclination to sarcasm,” Mithun told him, “quite well, I am happy to say.”
“Good. I’d hate to be fired so close to departure. Of course once I’m stuck, stuffed, and packed in deepsleep, it won’t matter. Except in the case of an emergency, it’s against the law to wake a crew member or colonist from deepsleep prior to arrival at their destination.” He grinned at the representative. “I don’t think the company could get a warrant executed in time.”
This time Mithun did not smile. “I find that I almost like you, Captain,” he said, “so I will tell you something. If Weyland-Yutani perceives that its investment in any project—larger or small—might be threatened, there is no limit to what it can or will do to protect it.”
Halting abruptly, Jacob frowned at the smaller man. “You’re saying they could pull me from deepsleep and replace me, even at this late a stage?”
Mithun straightened all of his sixty-five kilos. “I am saying that it would be just as well for you to perform perfectly as the captain of the Covenant and not do anything that might inspire uncertainty regarding your competency, at least until the ship passes the orbit of Neptune.
“Thanks.” Jacob smiled thinly. “I’ll try to operate strictly by the book until we’re under way.”
“I appreciate that,” Mithun replied, “as it will not only be better for you, but will also greatly simplify my reports.”
Both men turned as Daniels approached. Though she was slightly overwhelmed by the final preparations for departure, Jacob’s wife and the Covenant’s supercargo and terraforming supervisor wore the quiet, intense look that had so impressed Weyland-Yutani’s personnel. While shorter than both men, she managed to give the impression of being much taller than she was. An inescapable air of competency clung to her that, according to Mithun at least, managed to evade her husband.
While Jacob had fought to acquire the position of captain through a rigorous barrage of tests, Daniels had sailed through the necessary requirements far more swiftly. It had never bothered him, however, that since couples were preferred to crew the colony ship, he might have slipped in as captain because of his wife’s unexcelled qualifications. They were both thoroughly qualified, he knew. The difference between them might be as simple as her not being as… well, as flighty as her husband.
They didn’t kiss in front of Mithun. Intimacies among crew couples were reserved for moments of privacy. Besides, there was no time.
“My reports.” The company rep was apologetic.
Jacob grinned at his wife as he nodded toward the company man. “Mr. Mithun here has been assigned to shadow me for a while. To make sure I’m not likely to do anything crazy, once we’re on our way. Or worse, anything flighty.”
Swiveling her dark-eyed gaze on the Weyland-Yutani representa
“Better watch him closely,” she said with a straight face. “He’s crazy flighty. Or flighty crazy. I’ve had to deal with it for years.” Before Mithun could comment she added, “He’s also the best-qualified colony ship captain Weyland-Yutani could possibly find. You can take it from me.”
Jacob smiled affectionately at his wife. “You’re prejudiced.”
“Damn right I am. The company’s lucky to have you. I’m lucky to have you. You’re lucky to have me.”
“And if I am lucky,” Mithun added, doing his best to loosen up, “I will be back on solid ground in a couple of days, free from these oppressive if brightly lit surroundings, and assured of stable earth under my feet and an atmosphere whose composition is not artificially renewed.”
Jacob nodded sympathetically, also relaxing a bit. “All right then. Let’s get you run through your assigned checkouts. If we move fast, maybe we can even fit you on the next empty cargo shuttle going back to the surface.”
The company representative’s eagerness was palpable. “I will happily travel as cargo. If necessary, you can stick me in a box. I freely confess that I don’t like space. It is dark, lethal, and wholly uninviting.”
Daniels concealed her expression as she replied. “You’d make a lousy colonist.”
“‘Colonist’…” Mithun shuddered visibly at the thought.
Continuing their impromptu inspection, the three were joined by Mithun’s colleague, Lykke Kajsa. Save for being far more deficient in melanin and half a dozen centimeters taller, she was the female equivalent of her newly arrived corporate representative. While it was Mithun’s responsibility to evaluate the performance of the Covenant’s crew, she was tasked with inspecting the ship itself.
As Jacob and Daniels discussed details of the pre-departure progress and problems, Kajsa supplemented the captain and supercargo’s comments with a steady stream of numbers, dates, and interpretations. The inescapable conclusion, which pleased all concerned, was that everything was proceeding more or less as intended and according to schedule.
by Alan Dean Foster / Science Fiction & Fantasy / Literature & Fiction / Horror have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes