HASTINGS' OFFICE

With a heartfelt sigh, the former marine dropped down on the chair in front of the com station and stared at the blinking message screen for a second. Did he really want to know who was calling? What if it was Hicks, asking him to come back? Or Ripley, telling him that something bad had happened to Earth? Closing his eyes, he tried to focus on the good things in life and found there were very few of these right now.

Reluctantly, he reached out for the keyboard and activated the screen. The image fading into view wasn't one he had expected, though. "Valenz. Good to see an attractive face for a change," he said, giving her a ghost of a smile.

"Good to see you're still around, Hudson," she replied, her expression tense. "Listen, we need you back on Gateway ASAP. I know this is the last thing you want to hear, but your help is needed."

"You don't beat around the bush, do you, Valenz?" he asked, folding his arms over his chest in a defiant posture. "I'm not coming back and you know that too. There's nothing for me on Gateway. Why should I come back?"

Valenz dropped her gaze for a second, her eyes staring at something he couldn't see, then she raised them again and gave him a dark look. "Because Hicks has hit rock bottom, Hudson. And he has started to dig. If we don't get him back on track soon, the high lords on Jupiter are going to take over here. And if they do, we're all screwed. They don't know what's been going on. Boulder talked to them the other day, tried to stall them. They just don't know."

The first inkling of doubt rose in his mind, making him waver in his decision never to set foot on Gateway again, but he subdued it. He didn't want to go back there. Too many bad memories. "So? How's that my problem?" he wanted to know, trying to play tough.

"Drop the routine, Will," Valenz said a little sharply. "It's not working. A friend needs you. He needs you bad. And I think you are among the only two left in this blasted universe who can help him. We've tried to contact Ripley, but she's nowhere to be found. Nobody knows where she went."

For a second, he almost volunteered the information just to get out of this himself, but he figured that wouldn't be fair. Besides, Hicks had saved his ass more times than he cared to remember just by being who he was. Hudson figured he owed him. He pretended to consider it for a moment longer, and then sighed heavily. "I know where she is. I'll pick her up on the way back," he finally said.

Valenz gave him the first real smile then. "Good. See you in a few weeks, then. We'll try to keep the brass off our asses until then," she said and cut the connection before he could ask any further questions. Wondering what had happened to make Hicks drop down the well, he rose and returned to the turbine chamber.

***

LUNAR STATION

The lunar landscape wasn't as bleak and dreary to look at as many might think. Despite the obvious lack of life on the planetoid, the landscapes created by the constant bombardment of meteors and the likes throughout its existence had developed a fascinating vista, which people paid generously to visit.

Ripley didn't care much about what people paid to get a glimpse of this ball of rock and dust, but she did appreciate the view. Months had passed since she had left Hicks to his own devices and she had been firmly convinced that she would go as far away from Earth as she possibly could when she had gotten on that shuttle on Gateway Station. But she had never made it further than Lunar Station.

When she had stepped off the shuttle there, the tall, gangly shape of a young, blonde woman had met her, stopping her in her tracks. Newt had gone to Lunar Station with the rest of the escapees after she had been weaned off the RJ and Ripley hadn't believed she would ever see the girl again. But Newt had been as much in need of her as she had been of the girl and despite many differences between them, they had established an uneasy mother-daughter relationship, which had kept them both on the Moon.

For a reason which had defied scientists and planetary engineers alike, the Moon had not been fit for terraforming despite its polar ice caps buried deep beneath the dusty surface. Atmospheric processors ringed the planetoid, but none of them were active any more. There had never been even a flicker of air detected on the Moon. Instead of building open-air cities, Wayland-Yutani had been forced to build domes instead. There were several hundred all around the Moon with more than a good share of plant-life to supply the air, and they were all interconnected. That made for a at times bizarre and never boring walk if one chose to cover the distance on foot. And that seemed to be what most ‘tourists' did, when they came to the Moon. They went ‘hiking'.

Ripley herself liked to spend time in the lush gardens and look out at the grey dust of the lunar surface. Newt sometimes joined her, but mostly, the girl kept to herself. She studied a lot, read books by the heaps, both old paper-books and the more ordinary e-books, and generally steered clear of other people. She had no desire to associate with others apart from Ripley and the older woman sometimes wondered about that. She could understand Newt's need to be alone, but she worried a little about it too.

Looking up through the transparent top of the dome she was standing in, she watched as another space liner arrived. More tourists, more souls hungry for tragedy. That was the latest draw, which brought tourists to Lunar Station. The chance to be close to the biggest tragedy in recent history, to look out at Earth from the many view-stations, and imagine the horror which had gone on down there.

Ripley was sickened by this need for morbid excitement. She couldn't stand seeing their hungry eyes watching the residents of Lunar Station for the chance to hear the stories from someone who had experienced it firsthand. Sometimes, she felt like telling them to get lost, but usually, she just walked away from them.

Newt kept far away from them, from their cameras and questions. The girl had never been sociable and being faced with the jackals of the human race did little for her need to rejoin society. And Ripley didn't encourage her to talk to these people. She didn't consider them worth talking to.

"Attention!"

She leaned her head to the right, listening to the impending announcement.

"Mrs. Ellen Ripley, please report to the station office. Mrs. Ellen Ripley, please report to the station office," the announcer's voice rang through the dome.

Ripley frowned a little, then shook her head. What did they want with her now, she wondered, and headed off in that particular direction. As she was almost a quarter of the way around the Moon, she would need to hitch a ride on the subway to get there faster. The high-powered tube-train would carry her halfway around the planetoid in half an hour. From where she was, it would take her a little over fifteen minutes to reach the arrival area of the station, which was where the station office was located.

***

STATION OFFICE
LUNAR STATION

Ripley saw a familiar silhouette through the milky glass of the door to the station office and stopped short. For a brief moment, she considered turning around and going back to where she had been and ignore any further calls, but then figured she might as well just get it over with. She knew Hudson wouldn't leave her alone until she either said yes or kicked him in the face. At the same time, she figured he might not want anything from her at all, so why get worked up about it? With a sigh, she continued forward and the doors parted.

Hudson turned around, caught sight of her and gave her a grim smile. "Ripley," he said with a nod.

Ripley nodded in return, her expression as grim as his. "Hudson," she replied. "What brings you back to Lunar Station? I thought you were gone for good."

"I was. But I got a rather distressing call a few weeks back. So I'm going back," he told her, not beating around the bush. He figured it might be best to hit her with the facts right away. "Hicks is in trouble and he needs us. Both of us." Ripley had started shaking her head almost instantly, but Hudson didn't allow her to say anything. "He's in deep shit to say the least, Ellen. He's been there for both of us while we were struggling. Now it's time we pay him back. So don't give me any crap about how it's all your fault, because it isn't. And you know that."

"Hudson, I can't leave here. Newt is staying with me and I can't leave her alone. She's too fragile. It's just not happening," Ripley replied, refusing to even consider the idea.

"Cut the crap, Ellen. Do you have any idea what's been happening on Gateway?" Hudson was getting worked up about her denial, about the fact that she would turn Hicks down without so much as a thought.

"No, I don't and I don't care. If Hicks wants my help, he can bloody well ask for it," she snapped, angry now.

"No, he can't," Hudson snapped back. "That's what I'm trying to tell you. He didn't ask. Valenz did. Because he's in no shape to ask for anything. He's been sick. She wouldn't tell me of what, but he's not recovering and he needs us there."

That shut her up for a moment as she stared at Hudson with sudden fear in her eyes. "Sick?" she asked and knew that it changed things. With a certain amount of apprehension, she stared ahead of herself for a few seconds, trying to get some order into her suddenly tumbling thoughts. Then she sighed. "Shit."

"Are you coming?" Hudson wanted to know.

Closing her eyes, she tried to focus beyond her fear, then nodded reluctantly. "Yes, I'm coming. I just have to tell Newt."

***

RIPLEY'S RESIDENCE

Ripley stared at her young charge, wondering when a response would be forthcoming. Right now, all Newt did was stare at her with a rather bland expression on her face. She had greeted Hudson willingly, happy to see a familiar face who knew what she had gone through and didn't judge her because of it, but the announcement that Ripley was going to return to Gateway Station was received with no emotion and no response.

"I have to go, Newt. I won't be gone long, though. Are you okay with that?" Ripley asked again, hoping the girl hadn't gone catatonic on her.

"I wanna come," Newt finally inserted, her blue eyes wide.

"Newt," Ripley began, but the girl cut her off.

"I wanna come," she repeated flatly.

Hudson frowned, not sure that would be such a good idea, but figured Ripley would be the best judge of that.

"I don't think that's such a good idea, Newt," Ripley tried, hoping the girl would change her mind.

"I'm coming," Newt stated stubbornly. "I wanna see Hicks again."

For a long moment, Ripley just looked at her, then she sighed and shook her head. "Okay, fine. You can come. Let's get some stuff together and leave."

***

GATEWAY STATION

To re-enter Gateway Station felt almost as intimidating as it had felt for her to enter the colony on Acheron. Ripley hesitated for only a second, though. Newt walked past her down the ramp, an air of indifference about her which made Ripley reassess her own fears. If the girl had no fear of Gateway, why should she?.

Hudson followed close behind, his expression unreadable. Ripley realized that he had grown up in the years she had known him. Reality had been a harsh teacher and his boyish exuberance had been totally and completely squashed the day that Marlee and little Mary had died. Not that she blamed him. Her view on things had changed radically the day that blasted bug had been brought on board of the Nostromo. And things had never been the same after that.

Valenz came to meet them, her expression grim. "Good to see you both," she said with a nod.

"How are things?" Hudson asked, taking the lead.

"Not too well. We've managed to keep the high lords on Jupiter off our asses for the duration, but I don't think we can stall them much longer. They insist on talking to Hicks. And Hicks isn't talking to anyone these days," Valenz explained, the tenseness in her radiating outward.

Hudson glanced at Ripley, who merely kept staring at Valenz with a dark expression on her face, before returning his attention to Valenz once more. "What happened?" he asked.

Valenz looked from Hudson to Ripley and back again and then sighed. "He got infected," she said.

Both Ripley and Hudson froze at those words. "How the hell did that happen?" Ripley demanded.

"Well ... we cleared the planet. There are no aliens left on Earth. There haven't been any for as long as Hicks has been ... out of commission. He got attacked here. On Gateway," Valenz clarified. It took only one look at Ripley to know how that made both of them feel. The only one seemingly unaffected by her words was the girl, who kept looking around the landing bay with mild interest.

"On Gateway? How? I thought nobody infected got on board?" Ripley demanded, suddenly feeling a whole lot more tense than she had before.

"Nobody infected did get on board," Valenz said. "The facehugger was already here. Bishop figured it was a remnant of Miller's little project. Something they left behind. Something they forgot. Bishop and the synthetics went over the station inch by inch and found no trace of any other bugs. Only that one egg and that was it."

Again, Hudson and Ripley glanced at each other. Then Hudson sighed deeply, releasing the tension that had been building in him from the second Valenz had said those words. "Alright, so there's no threat on Gateway?" he asked and Valenz shook her head. "So, what's the problem with Hicks? Apart from the fact that he got infected, of course."

"Well, as you can imagine, it has been a pretty traumatic experience for him. The thing is, he seemed to be getting over it just fine. But then ... he wasn't. He started to become more and more withdrawn, didn't give damn about anything. He stop talking to anybody and started drinking instead. Most of his time he spends in the greenhouse area. If he bothers to get up at all, that is." Valenz looked pretty unhappy about the whole thing. "Boulder is trying to keep things going, trying to stall the brass, but ... if Hicks doesn't get around to talking to them soon ... they'll send somebody out here to take over. And ... well ... I don't think I need to remind you how that can go. We'd rather get Hicks back on track so he can make whatever decisions need to be made."

Ripley didn't like the sound of that. Granted, Hicks had never been much of a talker, but he had struck her as being a man of action. "Is he in the greenhouse area now?" she asked.

"I think so. If he's up, that is," Valenz replied. "Let me take you to your quarters first. This could take a while," she added.

Ripley handed her bag to Newt, who took it without comment. "I'll go talk to him right away. Maybe we can clear this up faster than you think," she said, turned and walked away.

Newt fiddled with the bag for a moment, then glanced in the direction that Ripley had disappeared in. "He's not gonna open up that fast," she muttered just loud enough for the others to hear her.

"Why's that?" Hudson asked. He had learned to heed the girl's words. When Newt said something, people did well in listening. She wasn't a little girl any more, but she had survived the aliens with no outside help and no weapons. That had to count for something.

"He's not gonna listen," she claimed, then turned her attention to Valenz. "Where do we stay?"

Valenz gave Hudson a questioning look, but he merely shrugged. "Follow me," she said and lead the way.

***

GREENHOUSE AREA
GATEWAY

The lush green plants flowing over their designated beds generated enough moisture and air to run the space station for a couple of hundred years, with or without human intervention. The air was humid and just a little too hot for Ripley's liking. It felt like entering a South American jungle. Or rather she imagined that it would feel like that.

Craning her neck, she looked upward. The greenhouse area covered several floors of the station and there was nothing but elevators and ladders between the different levels. The plant beds were suspended from the top ceiling, which seemed to be several hundred feet above her. The beds supported each other on steel rods and each individual bed was large enough to constitute a small garden.

To keep the plants growing and healthy, a variety of animals, birds and insects also inhabited the area, which gave the whole scene even more the feel of being a jungle. All she could hear, though, were birds twittering away somewhere above her, and there was the distinct hum of insects in the air.

She started walking along the walkway leading away from the door she had come in through, believing she knew where to find Hicks. If he was even slightly predictable, he would be somewhere near the fountain. For some reason she had never bothered to find out about, he liked water.

It took time to get where she was going, but when she neared the fountain, which was really more like an artificial waterfall, she spotted him standing near it. He stood leaning against the railing while he was watching the water. If she knew him right, he had been standing like this for hours.

As she neared him, she slowed down, a sense of uncertainty overcoming her like a bad feeling. She had left without saying goodbye, hadn't even bothered to hear his side of things. He would be angry with her, maybe disappointed. What she didn't know was how he would respond to her return.

"Dwayne," she said, alerting him to her presence although she believed he had been aware of her for a while now.

He turned his head and looked at her, his face expressionless. He was very good at keeping his expression bland. "Ellen," he replied. There wasn't the slightest tone of surprise or anything else in his voice.

She came to a stop a few feet from him, uncertain of how to respond. He wasn't showing any emotion, which made her very much aware that he was leaving it up to her to make the first move. "How are you?" she asked, aware of how lame a start that was. But she couldn't think of anything else to say until he had given her some type of indication of what he was feeling.

Whatever was going through his mind, he wasn't sharing. "Fine," he replied, then returned his attention to the waterfall.

"That's not what I've heard," she said, having found her cue for opening up that can of worms. "Valenz says you're not doing too well. She told me about ... it."

For a long moment, he remained silent, his eyes on the water, then he sighed. "Can't you just say it, Ellen? What's the big deal? It's not like I'm the only one it's happened to."

"True," she agreed and took a hesitant step closer. "I just can't help thinking that it might not have happened if I had ..." she tried, but he cut her off.

"Oh, for heaven's sake, Ellen. Don't blame yourself for this too," he said, his tone hard as he turned back to face her. His eyes were alive all of a sudden, alive with anger, with resentment, with hurt and, most prominently, with fear.

"I'm not. I ... just can't help thinking ..." she tried, but again he cut her off.

"Yeah, it might have gone differently if you had been here, but you weren't. Period. That's the end of it, okay? Life goes on, things happen, and there's not a damned thing you can do about it unless you've learned how to turn back time." He stared at her for a second and then shook his head somewhat sadly. "Nothing's changed, has it?" he asked. "You still think everything's your fault, don't you? Well, here's the good news. Earth is cleared. There are no aliens left down there. And I've found out that it wasn't Miller's little darlings that infected the planet. So, you see, everything's just dandy. There's nothing to be worried about. You don't have to stay here and cheer me up or anything."

Ripley knew that if she had been anybody else, this would have been her exit cue, but she was not about to let him get away with being miffed or whatever his present state of mind was supposed to indicate. She took a step closer instead. "That's not why I'm here, Dwayne. Will came back too. He picked me up on the way. And Newt's here. We were worried. We heard ... "

"What? That I don't give a damn anymore?" Hicks asked, anger the most prominent of his emotions right then. "Well, they're right. Valenz is right. I don't give a damn. Let those bastards on Jupiter take over. I've done my share. I've had enough."

"You've been through hell, Dwayne," Ripley inserted. Somehow, those words and the tone she said them in made a change. But not for the better. He just shut down completely.

Taking a step back, Hicks stared at her. "Like so many before me," he said, his tone standoffish. "Thanks for coming, but I don't need your sympathy." With that, he turned his back on her.

For a moment longer, she lingered, trying to think of something to say, but she could not think of even one word that would make a difference. With a sigh, she turned to leave, but figure she should let him know she would be around. "If you want to talk, I'll be here," she said. It earned her no reply, so she decided to leave well enough alone and walked away.

***

"If I want to talk?" Hicks muttered to himself and shook his head. What the hell could he say that he hadn't told himself a million times over? And why talk about it? There was no reason to flog a dead horse. The past was over and done with and nothing he did or said would change that.

Grinning helplessly, Hicks walked over to a bench and sank down on it. If it was that simple to let go of past events, why couldn't he sleep at night? Why did he feel smothered and violated all the time? "Yeah, I wonder," he grumbled sarcastically. He knew exactly why, knew the reason like the back of his own hand. He had gone over it a million times, tried to find a way to get past the fear which clogged up his mind every time he let his guard down. He had fought, struggled against the fear, tried to move above and beyond it, but he had eventually given up the fight to show a normal front to the rest of the team. It was hard enough to keep from breaking down most of the time.

Ellen's return to Gateway made it that much harder. Somehow, he had always felt fairly comfortable around her and hadn't minded so much to let her see beyond the brick wall surrounding his feelings. But he couldn't let her in now. Any break in the barricade would break him and he couldn't afford a total breakdown at this point.

Instead he settled for spending his time alone, either sleeping off a hangover or sitting around the greenhouse area of Gateway where none of the others disturbed him with incessant questions about authority and leadership. He wanted no part of Gateway or the Marines any more. He felt he had done his share and he didn't want to be involved any more.

Pensively, he scraped his nails over his chest, feeling the scar underneath his t-shirt clearly. He could have gone to Lunar Station or further out to one of the populated worlds to have the scar removed, but he couldn't be bothered. It was a reminder in a sense; a reminder of his mortality, of his imperfect nature.

***

Hudson looked up when Ripley stepped into the command central with a dark look in her eyes. "You find him?" he asked and straightened. He had been going over the collected data since they had left and through that he had learned how the others had finally gotten rid of the aliens.

"Yes," Ripley replied and glanced at the screen. "He wasn't very ... forthcoming."

Hudson gave her a frown. "What? You expected him to be after the way we left?" he asked and shook his head somewhat sadly. "It's not like we gave him a fair chance," he added and returned his attention to the readouts. "Give him a while. He'll come around."

Ripley nodded somewhat curtly and glanced around. "Where's Newt?" she asked upon realizing that the girl was nowhere in sight.

With a shrug, Hudson glanced around the central. "Don't know. Around somewhere," he said. "Don't be such a hen about her, Ellen. She's a big girl now. And smarter than hell."

Rolling her eyes, Ripley tried to keep a lid on her feelings. "I know that," she grumbled. "I was just wondering where she was," she added.

"She took a walk," Valenz inserted helpfully.

***

To understand Newt's way of thinking, one would have to walk a mile in her shoes. She wasn't an ordinary teenager and she wasn't an ordinary human being either. Having spent the majority of her life in the shadow of the aliens, Newt had grown up to be a quiet teenager with an air of mystery about her and no love for crowds. The only person who seemingly had any kind of understanding for her peculiar ways was Ripley and Newt trusted the older woman like she trusted no other.

But there was another she felt as attached to as to Ripley and she knew he was in trouble. If there was one thing Newt had learned from her ordeal, then it was that grown-ups didn't deal well with events like the aliens. They didn't want to accept what happened if it screwed up their lives and that was exactly what had happened to Hicks.

She approached him quietly, keeping close to the railing of the walkways leading toward the area where she knew Hicks was. One to her very important thing she had also learned was fear of open spaces and she didn't much like the greenhouse area of Gateway because it was too open with no hiding places in sight. But she had overcome her own discomfort and had ventured out into the enormous expanse of the greenhouse area.

Coming to a stop when she spotted him, she eyed him for a moment from a distance. The thought that he had been infected wormed its poisonous way into her mind and for a moment, she felt the old panic rise in her, felt the need to turn around and run as fast as she could. But Valenz had said he was clean and Ripley had believed it. And that was good enough for Newt.

Hicks suddenly raised his head and looked straight at her from where he was sitting on the bench. For the briefest of moments, the man and the girl looked into each other's eyes and a mutual understanding for the plight of the other arose. It would bind them together for the remainder of their natural lives and would grow stronger over time.

Making a face, the lieutenant rose, but did not move toward her. "Newt," he simply said, his gaze still locked on hers.

Glancing sideways, Newt stilled her mind so completely that no jitter would have shown on the line of an electroencephalogram, had she been hooked up to one. Then she returned her attention to Hicks and closed the distance without further hesitation.

Hicks sat back down again while trying to make out what was going through the girl's mind. "You don't like it out here," he stated. It was a fact, not a question.

Newt sank down on the bench beside him, folded her hands and pressed them between her knees. "Too much space," she admitted. "Not enough hiding places."

That made Hicks arch an eyebrow, but he couldn't very well hold that against her. "There's no real need to hide on Gateway," he said and leaned forward, placing his elbows on his thighs.

"Isn't there?" Newt asked back and gave him a look that spoke volumes.

The implications of her words made him draw in a sharp breath. In as few words as that girl always spoke, she had immediately pinpointed his reason for nearly snapping, a reason he hadn't been consciously aware of himself. No, he corrected himself, a reason he hadn't wanted to be aware of. "Not anymore," he claimed.

"They're smart," Newt said and glanced around the garden, her gaze going upwards and downwards as much as sideways. "They learn to evade, to hide."

"They're not here," Hicks said and closed his eyes for a moment. "What attacked me was a remnant. Someone left it behind." Somehow, he couldn't help thinking that it was weird to discuss such matters with someone that much younger than himself. "It wasn't supposed to be here."

Newt stared ahead of herself for a long moment, and then glanced at him again. "Neither were the ones on Archeron. But they were there. And they killed everybody," she said matter-of-fact-like. "Like they killed everybody on Earth."

Hicks sighed and leaned back a little, straightening his back. "Like they'll kill everybody where ever they're allowed to set up shop," he admitted somewhat reluctantly. "We've done what we can here. We've stopped their progress. Earth is free of the aliens."

"Nothing is ever free of the aliens," Newt claimed. "They talk to each other. They communicate. They're not bright enough to build spaceships themselves, but they know what to use them for." All while she talked, she kept her eyes on a distant spot, her tone as neutral as if she were discussing a movie she didn't much care for. She sounded a tad bored.

Hicks eyed her, understanding the subliminal message she was handing him. The aliens had attacked and started to spread on Earth before anybody had thought to step in and stop them. People had taken off and landed on Earth during that time, both through Gateway and not. "They could be spreading somewhere else right now," he said, the thought sending shivers down his spine.

"They are. Something like that doesn't die," Newt agreed. "They've been around too long." Turning a little to face him, her expression remained calm, distanced. "You can't stop all of them. Not even if you try."

The almost constant rustle of leaves created by artificial air currents took over the area for a moment where neither of them spoke. The chirp of a bird far above them made Hicks look up in a vain attempt to spot the animal, but he couldn't. For a brief moment, he wondered when the wonder had been replaced by terror. As a kid he had dreamed about traveling in space, being whatever he could be to take him off Earth. He had marveled at the expanses when he had first set foot in outer space and that marvel, although slightly tarnished near the end, had always been there. Hadn't it?.

He thought about it, wrecked his brain to try and figure out when exactly the marvel had turned to fear and then to true terror. He figured Ripley's report had been the first step. He hadn't read the written one back then, hadn't had the time, but when she had relayed her experiences to them onboard of the Sulaco, he had started to feel the first true stirring of doubt about his chosen profession. Much could be said for afterthoughts. They were always so easy to conjure up. It was always so easy to think about all the things he should have done, said or thought of before the fact. But that didn't change anything about the course the events had taken.

"I believed Ripley when she told us about them back then," he said, not certain why he felt the need to confide in this messed-up teenager. Probably because she would be among the only people in the universe to understand where he might be going with this. "I didn't want to, but I did. Somehow."

Newt nodded in perfect understanding. "If you want to survive, you stick to her," she said, not a inkling of doubt in her voice. "You know why she will survive all this?"

Hicks glanced at her. "Nope."

For the first time in a long time, Newt smiled. It was vague, nearly non-existent, but it was there. "Because she's sufficiently afraid of them to know when to leave." She leaned back a little and gave Hicks a meaningful look. "She doesn't want to be here. She's afraid of Gateway. She came only for you," she added.

Hicks looked into her blue eyes and saw something there that disturbed him deeply, something he would not forget for the rest of his life. Without a word, he rose and pulled her up with him, then headed quickly toward the exit with his fingers locked in a nearly deadly embrace around the girl's lower arm. Newt followed him without hesitation.

***