The apartment was small, sparsely furnished and in no way comfortable. It almost seemed cramped despite the lack of furniture, and the disorder it was in did not help that impression very much. The air in the small living room, which also served as a bedroom, was stale and smoky. The air-ventilation-system did not work properly, but that did not seem to disturb the owner.

She was sitting on the unmade bed, a cigarette clenched between her teeth, her hair tousled, and her complexion sickly white. Dark patches under her eyes suggested lack of sleep and the dullness in her expression that she spent much of her time just thinking. She was also skinny to the point of malnutrition. It simply looked like she had stopped caring somewhere along the way.

And she had. Ellen Ripley had given up. The welcome she had received after coming out of a seemingly endless deepsleep almost one and a half years ago had been nothing compared to the way they had treated her this time around. Her nights were still haunted by nightmares. But they were not about the aliens anymore. Her present dreams were about the way Newt had been torn out of her arms and how the pressure suit-clad nurses had carried the screaming child away, not even letting Ripley say goodbye to her. The endless interrogations about her involvement in the murder of the colonists and the loss of an entire marine team and the subsequent delegation of responsibility for it haunted her, too. Especially the fact that they had dumped the blame on Hicks, who at that time had been out cold and unable to defend himself. She had several times tried to visit him, but he had been heavily guarded in the hospital and then he had been transferred to the detention area without being allowed to see anybody. Every time she had tried to get through to somebody in charge, they had brushed her off, asking her if she really wanted to talk to a mass murderer. So, finally, after fighting an unwinnable battle against the system, she had given up. She did not have the strength to take up the fight again and she figured that it would not do her any good anyway. Newt was gone for good, probably shipped off to one of the colonies and Hicks was probably facing lifelong imprisonment. Those who got close to her either died or ended up in a terrible mess and there was nothing she could do about it. So, after having had plenty of time to think things through, she had decided that she never wanted to be close to another person again.

Sitting on her bed, her arms wrapped tightly around her knees, she felt that life was a nightmare she could not wake up from. It took three long buzzes from the door to bring her back to reality. She blinked, and then looked at the door with surprise, not expecting any visitors. Trying to pull herself together she then got up, ran both hands through her hair, and went to answer the door after dropping her cigarette into the ashtray. Opening the door a little, she peered out into the hallway. A tall dark-haired woman stood outside, smiling kindly when she met her eyes.

"Hi, my name is Bonnie Taylor. I'm a lawyer," she introduced herself. "Are you Ellen Ripley?"

For a moment, Ripley looked at her with a total lack of understanding. Then she nodded, opening the door a little more. "What do you want?" Her tone of voice was hoarse, almost grating and she didn't seem too thrilled by the idea of having company.

Taylor studied her face closely for a moment, seeing much of the despair in her eyes that she had noticed in those of her client's too. "I'm representing Mr. Dwayne Hicks in his upcoming hearing and I would like to talk to you about that."

For another moment, Ripley looked at Taylor as if she had never seen anything like her before, then she opened the door enough to let her in. "Come on in," she then said, stepping back from the door. Almost as if on second thought she added, "it looks like a dump in here." She let go of the door, walked back to the bed and crushed out her cigarette in the overfilled ashtray on the night stand.

Taylor glanced around after closing the door and had to agree with her. She had seen cozier places. But, being tactful as well as well behaved, she pretended not to notice the disorder.

"So, they're really going to put him through a hearing for that? Is that what you're saying?" Ripley asked, dropping back down on the bed.

Taylor nodded, pulled up a chair and sat down. "Yes, that's what I'm saying. I would like you to testify on his behalf," she said.

The whole place had an air of despair about it and Taylor decided that either Ripley was a very sensitive woman who's feelings and life had been severely shook up or there was more to this than met the eye. Taylor knew nothing more about Ripley than what she had been able to dig out of the official index of names, which meant basically nothing at all. The brief description had hinted that there had been some kind of criminal act in her past and that she due to this was counted as being unfit to hold a license of any kind and was also to be considered a questionable employee. Taylor's initial opinion had been that somebody had really tried to bury her without getting the job done completely. People with a label of mental instability and even insanity pasted into their official record were as good as dead. They usually received some kind of support from the health system, if they were seen fit to take care of themselves, but getting a job would be virtually impossible. Taylor had tried to call Ripley on the number stated in the file, but her video-phone was either out of order or off the hook. She now spotted the machine in a corner with its cord ripped out and the screen shattered and it seemed to her that Ripley did not do much to contradict the label in her record.

For a moment, Ripley looked at her with a blank expression then she took another cigarette and lit it, eying the glowing tip of it for a moment. "What happens if I don't?" she finally countered.

The question actually surprised Taylor. From the little Hicks had said, she had gathered that there would be no second thoughts from her quarter and it came as a shock that she should even consider saying no. "Then he goes to jail, probably with a death-sentence. You're his only hope at the present time," Taylor explained, trying not to sound cross. The mere idea that Ripley could say no made Taylor's otherwise steady conviction that she would win this waver.

Ripley looked at her for a moment, obviously noticing the slightly sharp tone to Taylor's voice anyway. "I'm nobody's hope, Mrs. Taylor," she replied with a grimace. "Calling me as a witness in a hearing like that is not very wise." She dragged at the cigarette and exhaled the smoke with a sigh. "Nobody would believe a word I said anyway. Why bother? I'll only lessen his chances. They think I'm insane."

Taylor looked down at her briefcase lying on her lap. What could she say to convince somebody, who had lost hope? That seemed to be Ripley's basic problem. There was nothing left to hope for and therefore she had given up. "I know they do, but Mr. Hicks does not believe that and if you can support his version of what has happened I have something to work with." Taylor was quite aware that Ripley partially refused to testify because she was afraid of sinking deeper into the morass she seemed to be caught in. "If you agree, we can have you examined by a psychiatrist; somebody who can decide that you are as sane as anybody." Ripley looked her straight in the eye at that, frowning. "Don't you see? That would clear you as well. I'm not asking you to do this out of the kindness of your heart. You can really help us beat the Company hollow if you agree to this. That must be in your interest, too." To her surprise, Ripley sighed, turning her face away.

"I don't want to have anything to do with this," she eventually said.

Taylor frowned, leaning back on the chair. Ripley glanced at her with a scrutinizing look, swearing that if she started to tell her that it was for her own good and that she would get a second -- or rather a third chance from the Company, she would throw her out instantly.

Instead, Taylor mused over what Ripley had said for a moment. "Mrs. Ripley. Mr. Hicks is very likely going to get executed if I fail at this hearing. The charge against him is so severe that I have to try and undermine it as much as I possibly can. If you refuse to help him ...," she said, leaving the rest to Ripley's imagination. She leaned forward again, her hands folded, her elbows resting on her knees.

For a long moment Ripley looked darkly at her. To her it sounded as if Taylor wanted to make her feel guilty if Hicks got executed. "What is the matter with you people? Can't you take no for an answer? I don't want anything else than to be left alone. I don't want to be a part of this, because Hicks will be convicted and he will get executed no matter what I say and no matter how I turn and twist things around. Eventually I will end up feeling guilty for his death for the rest of my life. I have enough blame to carry around already. I don't need this, too."

Taylor instinctively leaned back from Ripley's angry retort and found it difficult to find her voice after that. But her client's life was at stake and she would be damned if she would let him die without trying to save him. "Look, I realize that you've been through hell and I sympathize. Believe me, I do ..." she began, but Ripley interrupted her.

"How can you? You don't know what we were up against. You couldn't possibly know unless you've met them. Yes, I've been through hell and I'm very sorry that Hicks got dragged into this thing. I'm very sorry that I can't help him, but there's nothing anybody can do to reestablish my credibility. Even if a psychiatrist could clear me, I will never be able to get rid of that stain. Now, please leave. I have nothing more to say in this matter. I'm not going to be responsible for Hicks' death," she almost yelled, barely able to keep her feelings in check. She already felt guilty for the fact that Hicks had been deprived of one year of his life. She didn't need the guilt for his death, too.

Taylor leaned forward again, hoping to try one more time to convince Ripley, but she could tell by the other woman's expression that there was nothing won by trying now. Instead of continuing to try and convince her, she reached into her briefcase and pulled out a phone card. "Here, take this. Take some time to think it through and then call me and let me know what you decide. I happen to believe that we have a hell of a chance of putting the skids under the Company. But I need your help."

Ripley eyed the phone card as if it was a snake ready to strike and kept her arms crossed over her chest, refusing to accept it. Only too well did she remember that Burke had done the same, thereby forcing her into a position where she felt she could not say no. She would not fall for the same stunt once more.

Taylor rose from the chair and put the card down on it. "I'm sorry you take it this way, Mrs. Ripley. I really am. I wish there was something I could say to make you change your mind," she said, nodded once and turned to the door. "I'll be in my office all day and most of tomorrow, too," she added as if on second thought and then left.

Ripley kept staring at the phone card with contempt. She wasn't about to fall into the same trap once more. With an angry snort that also held a great deal of doubt, she glanced at the door. "Who the hell do you think you are? Haven't you people done enough?" she grumbled, took the card and dumped it in the waste disposal unit.


Taylor got on the next shuttle to Gateway and was back in the detention area before nightfall. The officer on duty was a different one and he was a lot more helpful than the first one.

"G'day, ma'am," he said, looking up when she entered.

"I need to talk to my client in private. Dwayne Hicks," she said, not really in the mood to be bossy. She had figured that talking to Hicks about what had happened might be a good idea. He might be able to advise her how to handle Ripley.

The officer rose instantly. "Sure thing. I'll get him right away. If you would wait in interrogation chamber 3?" he suggested and Taylor nodded and walked to the chamber.

She dropped down on the chair, wondering how much there was going on between Ripley and Hicks. How well did he know her? Did he know her enough to be able to advise Taylor what to do? Before she could even start to come up with an answer, the officer brought Hicks in. Right there and then she decided to show him that she trusted him. "I think you can leave the cuffs off. I trust him," she told the officer.

The officer looked slightly surprised but did nothing to counter her order. "I'll be right outside if you need me," he then said, uncuffed Hicks and left the room, letting the door close behind him.

Hicks stood beside his chair, rubbing his right wrist while staring at Taylor. "Aren't you taking an unprofessional risk here?" he wanted to know and sat down.

Taylor pursed her lips thoughtfully. "I don't know. Am I?" she countered. "I have a few questions to ask you. I found Mrs. Ripley. She's alive."

The corner of his mouth twitched into half a smile, then his expression returned to the stony look that apparently was his trademark right now. "I gather you went to see her and she threw you out?" he asked after a moment.

Taylor nodded, playing with open cards for now. "That's right. She was not very interested in helping. As a matter of fact, she saw it as a personal insult that I even asked."

Hicks leaned back on the chair, staring at her with a look on his face that Taylor could not really read. It seemed to be somewhere between thoughtfulness and amusement. "What did you say to her?" he then asked.

Taylor made a face. "All the wrong things. That's for sure." She hesitated for a moment, and then leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table top. "How do I handle her? How can I make her understand how important this is?"

Hicks leaned forward, too, putting his elbows on the table top and looked her straight in the eye. "You can't," he then said. At the moment he leaned forward, he noticed the split second, where a fearful expression crossed her face. He knew what it meant and he respected her for not pulling back. Without really being consciously aware of it, she feared him. He leaned back again. "She's made up her mind and she's damned difficult to convince about anything at that point. What you need to do is not make her any promises you can't keep. You see, Burke made that mistake. She is not likely to believe anything you say."

Taylor made a face, and then pushed the pad lying on the file and her pen over to him. "Write her a note. Tell her something that might help," she suggested.

Hicks stared at her for a moment, and then nodded. "Maybe that would help," he agreed and picked up the pen.

At the same moment Taylor realized what Hicks had known all along. She was intimidated by the charge against him and still not fully convinced that he was innocent. Giving him a pen was the same as equipping him with a potential murder weapon and unwillingly she leaned back on her chair, her body slightly rigid. Hicks glanced at her briefly, noting that she had realized this and turned his attention to the pad. He quickly scratched a few words on the page and then pushed both the pen and the pad back to her. "Here you go," he said.

Taylor quietly scolded herself for being such a fool. Of course he would not attack her. She was his only hope to get out of here. "Thanks," she muttered, avoiding his stare. She turned the pad around and read what he had written. It merely said -- Ellen, I'm counting on you. D. "Is that going to do anything?" she then asked.

"Depends on what mood she's in, I guess. I actually don't know if it will make any difference, but I hope it will," he replied with a shrug.

Taylor nodded and closed the file over the pad and pen. She then slipped the file into her briefcase and got to her feet. "Okay, I'll give her another try first thing tomorrow morning. She might be less defensive when she's just gotten up. Thanks, Mr. Hicks," she said and reached a hand out to him.

He looked up at her with a strange expression on his face. "I still don't understand why you bother," he admitted and got up, too.

Taylor let her hand drop away and smiled weakly. "Because I have faith in you," she replied.

Hicks instantly shook his head. "No, you don't. You're afraid of me which means that you don't really believe I'm innocent yet. Is it the money or the fame that convinced you to keep going?"

Staring at him, she was unable to hide her surprise. She had not realized that her feelings were that obvious. It seemed that trying to be tough with him did not pay off. He could see right through her. "It's a break for me if I win this, Mr. Hicks. It'll be a break for you, too. The money has nothing to do with it. And, actually, it was my husband who convinced me to give you a chance," she finally admitted.

He smiled at her words and the smile transformed his battered face into something less scary. "Remember to thank him from me if you do win this one."

Taylor nodded then turned for the door, realizing that her fear of him was gone now. He had proven to her that he meant her no harm. All he wanted was to get out of jail.



The following morning was the start of a rainy day and Taylor almost regretted her decision to try and convince Ripley. She did not feel much like going out and when she stepped out of the shuttle and looked up at the steel grey sky, she started thinking that this might all be a big mistake. But done was done. Hicks was depending on her now and she had after all convinced him that he needed her. She could not back out now. Hurrying across the blacktop, she entered the terminal and hailed a taxi when she had passed through clearance.

When she finally stood in front of Ripley's door again, she was wet and discouraged. But she had a job to do and she would do it well. She knocked on the door and waited for a moment until it opened.

Ripley looked out at Taylor and could hardly believe that she had come back. She was about to slam the door shut again but something stopped her. "What do you want, Mrs. Taylor? After yesterday I don't see that we have anything more to talk about," she said instead.

Taylor nodded, water dripping from her hair and coat. "That's true, but I went to see Mr. Hicks after our talk yesterday and he convinced me to try again," she replied. "He gave me a note for you."

Ripley felt slightly confused by the whole thing. Why did people with impossible problems always turn to her? She had not forced any of the marines into this. She had done what she could to warn them and basically all of them had laughed at her. With a sudden pang of bad conscience, she realized that all of them had laughed with the exception of Hicks. He had actually been the only one who had not looked at her with that expression telling her that she was insane. He had been a true believer from the very first moment. Eventually, she sighed and opened the door. "Come on in," she then said.


A short while later, Taylor was starting to feel human again when Ripley handed her a cup of coffee and sat down on the bed with her own cup. Taylor opened her briefcase, pulled the note out and handed it over. Ripley unfolded the note and looked at the words for a moment. Then she looked back at Taylor with an expression saying nothing at all. "So, he's counting on me, is he?" she asked.

"Yes, as a matter of fact he is. As I said yesterday, he doesn't think you're crazy. My suggestion is still that we let a psychiatrist determine whether that verdict holds true or not. Personally I don't think it does. Your reaction is perfectly understandable. I would react that way if I had been through something like that," Taylor said, putting as much emotion in her voice as she could. And, she was really starting to believe what she was saying.

Ripley looked down into the steaming coffee for a moment. "I've been made promises like this before. The Company agreed to pick up my contract if I went back to Acheron. I went to Acheron and they dumped me again. I'm not really into promises made by any of you, Mrs. Taylor. Besides, nobody has ever won a case against the Company before. Why should anybody get away with it now?"

Her words should perhaps have discouraged Taylor but they did not. At present, she was willing to do anything to make Ripley understand how important her testimony was. "That's not quite true, Mrs. Ripley. A case has been won against the Company and it was the law-firm I work in that did it. I have great faith in this -- if I can count on your help."

Ripley looked up again, something hateful suddenly glowing in her eyes. "The Company was informed about these aliens and they said I was insane. They checked it out, found them and what did they do? Did they apologize? No, they trampled me into the ground, telling me I should be grateful not to end up in jail. I don't want to have anything more to do with this." Her tone of voice was strong. Stronger than Taylor had expected, judging from Ripley's appearance.

For a moment, Taylor had to gather her thoughts, trying to find something she could say to her. "Please, Mrs. Ripley. Mr. Hicks is probably going to die, innocent, if you do not help him. We have already agreed on what he should demand when we win this case. And we will win it, if you give evidence. I would say that it's important for your self-respect to do this. Think about it for a moment. I can guarantee you that you will be cleared, too. If only you will seize this chance and use it in your own favor. You can have it in writing if you want to. You can talk to our senior partner if that sets your mind at ease. Just, please, say yes."

For a long moment, silence filled the room. Ripley looked at Taylor, her whole attitude that of a cornered animal and Taylor feared that no matter what she said to her, Ripley would continue to deny and probably throw her out again. Then Ripley relaxed a little, dropping her eyes. "A psychiatrist can clear me?" she asked hesitantly, raising Taylor's hopes.

She nodded anxiously. "I'm certain of it," she replied calmly, not letting her anxiousness shine through.

For a long moment, Ripley sat motionlessly on the bed, her cigarette smoldering between her fingers. Then, she looked up to meet Taylor's eyes. "All right. I'll do it. But only if you can guarantee that a psychiatrist will clear me first. Else the deal is off."

Taylor nodded with a feeling of triumph. The first two steps on the road to victory had been taken and they had turned out just the way she had hoped they would. The psychiatrist she had in mind would clear this woman. She would see to it. "You've got it. I will get you a contract that will guarantee the rehabilitation of your good name and it will be signed by the senior partner of my firm. -- Thank you, Mrs. Ripley. You've already brought us one step closer to creaming the Company." At that, Ripley smiled a little and Taylor smiled back to her. "I'll drop by sometime during the next couple of days and then we can go over what else we should do." With that, Taylor took her leave of Ripley and returned to the rainy day outside.

Ripley sat still on the bed and looked around her cramped quarters. It was amazing how she continued to believe in other people, she mused. But, she needed a reason to go on living and this seemed to be it.



Peter Jones, the senior partner of the law-firm which Bonnie Taylor was employed with, watched his protégée thoughtfully. He had brought her into the firm three years ago and had been in charge of training her for that time. It had surprised him as much as anybody when the Company had requested her for this hearing. After all, she was no more than a trainee until she had been in court or at a hearing for the first time. It was clear to them all that the Company did not expect her to be experienced enough to win a case of those proportions. On that account he had promised her all the help she should need. He had however not expected her to show so much talent on her first independent case.

"I must say, Bonnie, I'm proud of what you've done so far. You've handled it all very professionally. Now, what can I do to help you?" he wanted to know.

Taylor was slightly taken aback by the unexpected praise. Jones was not a man who threw compliments about. "Well, I have promised this witness that we will pay for a psychiatrist to verify that she is sane and I have also promised her a contract on our agreement. She is very suspicious," she said, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. She had a feeling that Jones might not like that. But, he only looked at her curiously, so Taylor continued " -- and I don't blame her. She, as well as Mr. Hicks, have been stabbed in the back by the Company and I think it is only fair if both of them get a chance for rehabilitation."

Jones had trouble holding back a smile. He was very proud of her and he was very much inclined to show it. Being a man who usually kept his feelings to himself, he was aware of why he felt that way about Taylor. She was a very good-looking woman and her level of ambition was extremely high. As such, he knew he did not stand a chance with her. Besides having a lot of ambition, she was also very fond of her husband and one of the most faithful people Jones had ever met. He respected her for it and treated her accordingly. In response to her request, he nodded. "Very well. We'll pay for the shrink and you can have that contract with my signature today. Anything else?"

Taylor smiled at that. She, too, knew that Jones was interested in her and she was not stupid. She had long since learned to use it for her own benefit without ever stretching beyond the bounds of friendship. "No, Mr. Jones. That's it for now."

Jones returned her smile when she turned around and left his office again. If she won the case, and he was starting to believe that she could, she would be offered a partnership. And a considerable raise.


Taylor entered her office and dropped down on her chair, picked up her box of phone-cards and sorted through them until she found the one she wanted. Dr. Antonia Wendt. Wendt was a psychiatrist of high esteem and she was always willing to help Taylor. Taylor stuck the card into the slot in the visionphone and pushed the call-button.

It took about two minutes before Wendt was on the line. She smiled when she saw who the caller was. "Hi, Bonnie. What can I do for you?" she asked. Her Mexican heritage was obvious due to her dark hair, brown eyes and darker hue of the skin.

Taylor smiled broadly. "I'm sending some business your way, Toni. I have a woman who needs to be cleared of a sentence of insanity. I need her to testify at a hearing. Do you have time?"

Wendt raised an eyebrow, still smiling. "Sure I have time. When can she come?" she replied.

"I don't know yet. But, if we could agree that I try to get her over to you by -- tomorrow afternoon?" Taylor suggested and when Wendt nodded, she continued "Fine. If she can't or won't make it, I'll call you tonight. I gotta run. I have a million things to do and not enough time to do them in. See you soon." Wendt nodded again and with those words, Taylor broke the connection and leaned back in her chair, a content expression on her face. "This is going to be a hell of a case," she muttered to herself.