L.A.
- RIPLEY'S APARTMENT

Ripley looked at Taylor with lack of belief. It was hard for her to believe, that even though Taylor was an energetic lawyer, she had been able to establish an appointment with a psychiatrist so fast. The contract in her hands made understanding it a little easier, but she was still not certain that she could trust Taylor. She looked down at the contract again, a frown furrowing her brow. It had everything they had talked about included. But, no matter how she tried, Ripley could not shake the fear that something easily could go wrong.

Taylor watched her expectantly. "Well? Can I convince you to see her tomorrow?" she asked again. Ripley had not responded to the question the first time.

The frown grew deeper as Ripley looked up again. "How did you get an appointment so fast? Most psychiatrists have a waiting list of several months, don't they?"

Taylor had to agree. "Yeah, they do. But I know this woman and she knows how important it is for a hearing to get rolling as fast as possible. So, she always keeps a few appointments open for things like this. I can always count on her. -- So, will you do it?"

Ripley gave it a moment's thought, turning the options she had over in her head. She again wondered what she had done to get into this mess. Then she nodded slowly. "Okay, I'll do it. But, if she finds the slightest thing wrong with me, I will not testify. You got that? I don't want to be accused of being insane again. I've had it up to here with that" she replied, passing a finger over her throat in a dramatic gesture.

Taylor nodded with a serious expression. To her Ripley seemed strange, even considering what she had been through. Hicks had been angry and disappointed at first, apparently not wanting to drag anybody down with him, but he had changed his attitude toward Taylor. Ripley was angry, too, but there was more behind her reactions than anger or disappointment. Taylor just could not figure out what it was. "Sure. I understand what you mean. But, I doubt very much that she will declare you insane. Why should she? You're perfectly normal. The Company has just stepped on your toes one time too many."

Ripley was slightly surprised by Taylor's insight. She nodded briefly. "Yeah. I guess so," she muttered and returned to staring at the contract.

Taylor glanced around the apartment. In her opinion, Ripley needed to get out of this place. As fast as possible. The disarray and bad air was enough to make Taylor dizzy. She did not even what to know what it did to Ripley.

"So, how do you plan to nail the Company?" Ripley interrupted her train of thoughts.

Taylor smiled knowingly. "Oh, I have some plans. But, number one, the one that is in motion right now, will be a winner. I can almost smell it. I have you as a witness. And with a paper saying that you're perfectly sane, they can't touch you. Besides, I have something up my sleeve. It's not certain yet, but I think it will be soon." That comment made Ripley frown again. "The android that was with you on the Sulaco. What type was that?"

Ripley made a face, haunted by bad memories. Every time somebody said android to her, she remembered Ash. Bishop had been okay, though, she reminded herself quietly. But as to what type he was, she did not have a clue. "I don't know. A newer model. But, I don't think you should count on him. They've probably already wiped his memory." In Ripley's opinion, Bishop was what Taylor thought she had up her sleeve. That alone was not very impressive.

For a moment, Taylor remained silent with a thoughtful look on her face. Then she smiled again. "I doubt that. If we are dealing with the Hyperdyne System 340 F/7, then there is no way they could wipe his memory without destroying him first. They are build in a way which prevents anybody from tampering with their memory. They are on every flight away from Earth as a sort of walking recorder. If you could tamper with their memory, they would be no good. So, I would guess that he is that type. What is his name?"

Ripley found it hard to think like Taylor did. She eyed the other woman for a moment before responding. "Bishop. But, if they can't wipe his memory, they have probably destroyed him, Taylor. He knows too much."

Taylor met her eyes and Ripley could see a savage determination and something else in them. "If his name is Bishop, then he is an F/7. If he is an F/7, he belongs to Bio's. If he belongs to Bio's, he's still around. Because he knows too much. Bio's would never let an opportunity like this go up in smoke because the Company wants to protect itself. Besides, the Company and Bio's are constantly at each other's throats. Believe me. The last case we had against the Company was started by Bio's."

Ripley was not able to hide her surprise. She had expected Bio's Weapons Division to be loyal to the Company. "I thought they were the same organization," she said, venting her lack of knowledge.

A look of confusion crossed Taylor's face. "They haven't been the same organization for more than twenty years. Surely you must have heard about it at some point." It was a complete mystery to her, why Ripley would suggest something like that. Sure, Ripley was old enough to have been working when the Company and Bio's split up, but she seemed to be completely surprised by the fact that the two organizations were two different parts.

Ripley pursed her lips, realizing that Taylor obviously knew nothing about her return to Earth over a year ago. "I've been out of it for a while, Taylor. In fact, the last but one time I left Earth, the Company and Bio's were still one and not intending to be anything else."

Expecting Ripley to be joking, Taylor gave her an uncertain smile. When Ripley did not return it, Taylor got worried. "What are you saying?" she asked after a moment.

Ripley considered what Taylor might do with the piece of information she was about to give her, then decided that it did not really matter. Whether Taylor had access to her files or not, she would have to know the background story in order to use Ripley's testimony in the right way. "I'm saying that I have been in deepsleep for fifty-seven years. I came out of it a little over a year ago."

Taylor's eyes widened in surprise, and in her mind she quickly went over what she knew about deepsleep and the effect it had on people. As far as she knew, the longest anybody had survived cryogenic sleep was sixty-three years. Ripley had been very lucky -- or unlucky. It depended on how one looked at it. "So -- you encountered those things over fifty-seven years ago?" she asked and Ripley nodded solemnly. Taylor needed a moment to digest that. This woman had lost fifty-seven years of her life due to an encounter with those aliens. Apparently they had a very touchable effect on everything they came close to. It was also possible that she could use this in the hearing. How was still a question. But if van Leuwen started making trouble, Taylor would throw it in his face, figuratively speaking, and see what it brought her. With a sly smile curling her lips, she looked back at Ripley. "That could also come to our advantage if they start making trouble. If we could somehow prove that the Company was out to hush you down, maybe because they did not want to make a big thing out of this -- that would really shut them up. It would do well for a surprise-aspect for the hearing. If they don't want to play along, we could even alert the media. This is just the kind of thing the public loves. People being screwed over by the Company and then getting their revenge." Her smile grew wider at the mere thought of the victory this could give her.

Ripley had never imagined that the fact that she had lost her time so completely could help her in any way. The whole affair started to brighten, but one thing concerned her. "Forget about the media, Taylor. They might twist it around in one way or another. If the wrong people get a hold of those aliens, we're all doomed."

Taylor's expression darkened at that. "You're right, of course. Let's forget about the media. For now we'll just concentrate on creaming the Company. I would think that we could get them to cough up a whole lot of money to make sure this stays a secret," she replied.

To Taylor's great regret Ripley once again undermined her feelings of triumph. "Forget about the money. Whatever Dwayne is claiming is okay with me, but I don't want their money. All I want is my life back," she said.

With a sigh, Taylor leaned forward. "Ripley, now that you've got the chance to get back at them for what they've done to you, you should do it. They'll keep on screwing people over until somebody bites back. Why not you? Why should you just stand by and let them do what they want?" she exclaimed, trying to get Ripley to see it her way.

Ripley eyed her sternly for a moment. "As I said, Taylor. I don't want their money. And what I really want they can't give me. My life was happening fifty-eight years ago and they can't turn back time. Besides, even if I do stand up to them and even if you do win this case, it won't stop them from screwing somebody else over." She could understand why Taylor wanted her to hit down hard on this, but she did not feel like ripping open old wounds and that was what she would have to do in order to get what Taylor wanted for her.

Taylor had leaned back again with a thoughtful expression on her face. "Agreed. It won't stop them. But it sure as hell will make them think twice before they put a spoke in somebody else's wheel," she defended her idea. "If you don't stand up to them, they'll have a hold on you for the rest of your life. And, believe me, it won't make any difference who's in charge of the Company. This is not van Leuwen alone, doing all this. I don't know what they write in their job descriptions when they are looking for new employees, but it has to say something about being devious and not caring about others. That's for sure."

Ripley smiled a little at that. "I know what you want to do, Taylor, and it doesn't sound bad. But in order to get it, I will have to relive the whole thing and I can't do that anymore. I've done it once before and it tore me to pieces. I'm working on getting my life back together and it seems that every time I'm beginning to, somebody turns up and rips it all apart again. I can't do it anymore." She sighed and got up to take a look out the window. Considering which floor she lived on, she could see little else than the building just across from hers. "Let the past be the past. Save Dwayne and then leave them to their own devices. I don't care what they do after this. As long as they leave me alone," she said, then turned back to face Taylor. "Do you know what I mean?"

Taylor had listened quietly to her and she knew that Ripley was right. "Life sure isn't easy, is it?" she then asked with a frown. "I know what you mean and I understand you completely. We'll nail them for what they've done and that will be the end of it. I'll do what I can to make sure they can't get to you after this hearing is over. I'll show them what a good lawyer I am."

Ripley could not help smiling at that remark. Taylor was obviously very certain of her own abilities. "Let's hope it doesn't turn on you. I'm starting to see the possibilities in this, though."

***

L.A.
- DR. ANTONIA WENDT'S OFFICE

Dr. Antonia Wendt received Ripley the following afternoon with a thick file lying on her desk. The file was Ripley's and Wendt had been forced to pull a few strings to get it. But it gave her a good angle at who this woman was and what had happened to make a Company-employed psychiatrist say that she was insane; or rather mentally unstable. That was the verdict passed on Ripley in the file. Wendt had spent most of the evening and a better part of the night reading through it, studying every little bit of information.

When Wendt's secretary showed Ripley in, Wendt knew about her what she wanted to. "Please, sit down," she said, waving at the chair in front of the desk.

Ripley sat down slowly, feeling extremely uncomfortable about being in the office of a shrink. She had never thought that she would be in need of a mental evaluation and if anybody had told her that sixty years ago, she would have laughed at the mere thought. Now that she was here, it was every bit as unpleasant as she had always imagined it to be.

Wendt eyed her over the rim of her reading glasses, and then pulled them off with a thoughtful expression. "Mrs. Ripley. I've had the chance to go over your file and -- well -- as you probably know, you're quite mad according to this."

Ripley was taken aback by her words. She had not expected a psychiatrist to be this blunt. "Ahem," she said. "I Am?" was the only other thing she could think of saying.

Wendt nodded. "Yes, according to the file. You are here today to give me a chance to determine whether this is right or not. Your initial reaction to my bluntness is already contradicting the file's contents." She leaned back on her chair. Whoever had done the evaluation had obviously been affected strongly by somebody else's opinion about this woman. Wendt had in her time as a psychiatrist seen many cases, where completely rational and normal people had been declared insane because it was the easiest way of hushing them down. If they were labeled as insane, nobody would believe them. It was as simple as that.

"Well, personally I don't think that I'm mad. I know what I saw," Ripley said after a moment.

"Good, good," Wendt said, opened the file and put her glasses back on. "All right. In your first statement, you said you had encountered an alien life form fifty-eight years ago on the world now known as Acheron. An alien life form which has acid for blood and is very hostile. Due to this and the fact that the crew, which went over the lifeboat you arrived in and found no physical evidence of the creature, you were labeled as mentally unstable and your license was revoked indefinitely. You were under medical surveillance for half a year after the Company passed this sentence on you and according to that, you were haunted by recurring nightmares, which caused you to wake up basically every night with your sheets soaking wet." She paused to glance at Ripley. "Are you still having those nightmares?"

"Not the same ones," Ripley replied, afraid of how this made her feel. To relive what had happened was not on her list of what she wanted to do. "I still have nightmares and they are recurring, but they're not about me anymore. They're about the little girl we rescued on Acheron. She was taken away from me and I can't stop dreaming about her, about the way they just dragged her away."

Wendt studied her for a moment, and then looked down at the file again. "I see. Have you seen this girl since?" she then asked.

"No, I haven't. I don't even know where she is," Ripley grumbled, looking down at her hands lying folded in her lap. "I want to see her again. I had hoped to be able to keep her, but they wouldn't even let me say goodbye to her."

Nodding to herself, Wendt glanced down at the file for a moment. "Did you relate to this little girl, because you had lost your own daughter due to this prolonged cryogenic sleep?" she wanted to know.

Ripley started at that. Nobody had ever asked her that before and she had actually not thought about it herself. Not consciously, anyway. "Maybe. I guess I did. Newt was the same age as Amy was when I left. Basically," she said after thinking about it for a moment. It surprised her that Wendt had access to her file. After all, it did contain several things that the Company might want to keep a lid on. Fortunately for them, Wendt was obliged to keep her mouth shut about this.

"I see," Wendt said. "So, you were somehow hoping of regaining a piece of your past by having a little girl to take care of. A child as a replacement for the one you lost. Is that correct?"

Ripley did not really like the way Wendt put it, but she had to agree with her anyway. "Well ... yes. I think so. I wouldn't want to call her a replacement, though. Newt is Newt and Amy was Amy."

Wendt had already made up her mind about this case but she was a professional and wanted to be absolutely sure. "True, true," she muttered. "But, never the less, this girl would have replaced your daughter and she would probably have been able to give you some peace of mind. I do understand that they didn't consider you as a potential parent for the girl, though. The people in charge of adoptions do not evaluate whether your file tells the truth or not. They reflect on that you have been declared mentally unstable and that's all they need. A person with any kind of derangement cannot be taken into consideration when it comes to adopting a child." She hesitated for a moment and pushed her glasses up on her nose. "There are certain aspects of your file that I do not really understand. Among them is this very short, handwritten note saying that some kind of acidic fluid had been spilt on the floor right in front of the hatch of the lifeboat. The steel was corroded. That in itself is a piece of evidence saying that the alien has indeed been there. After all, lifeboats are made to last and so they are made of acid-resistant materials. No normal acid should be able to corrode the floor of a lifeboat."

Ripley felt anger welling up in her. Not only had they labeled her as insane, they had also lied to her. Afraid of how Wendt might perceive any angry outburst, she kept her mouth shut, though.

Wendt looked up for a moment, and then returned her attention to the file. "You are entitled to be angry about this, you know," she said with a smile.

"I am angry. They've dragged me through hell and everything was based on a lie," Ripley grumbled.

Wendt raised her head again, still smiling. "Good. Anger can be a healthy feeling, if it rises from the right circumstances. You are allowed to be angry because you were put in a position where you could not defend yourself." She leaned back on her chair as the smile faded away. "But it can also be unhealthy if you bottle it up inside. When you get angry and you want to throw things, you should do it. It is one of the best cures for anger. Let it out. On objects, mind you. -- Now, where were we." She glanced over the top page of the file. "Your sentence seems to be based on the fact that there was no physical evidence of the creature, but I dare say that the evidence has reared its ugly head, hasn't it? According to this, you've again encountered this alien race. And this time more than one. And you are not the only witness. There is really no foundation for this so-called sentence."

Ripley was slightly surprised at how easy Wendt was to talk to. Her initial feeling of dread had been replaced by a sort of respect for this woman. "This isn't as bad as I thought," she confessed, much more at ease.

Wendt smiled knowingly for a moment. "This is not a grilling. Besides, it is always wise to get another doctor's opinion if you are not satisfied with the first assessment."

Ripley nodded. "Yeah, you're right about that. I've just always imagined that being -- well -- interviewed by a psychiatrist would be very unpleasant."

Wendt raised an eyebrow. "I am not here to make you feel bad. I just have to make sure that you are not on the verge of going over any edges and it seems clear to me that you have a pretty good grip on yourself. Everybody slips sometimes. Nobody has a perfect grip on their feelings all the time. That does not necessarily make you mad, if you know what I mean." Wendt fell silent after that, studying the file on her desk with a slight frown.

Ripley glanced around, trying to find something interesting to look at, feeling that the silence was starting to be oppressive. The office resembled a normal, impersonal doctor's office and nothing else. The floor was covered with linoleum and the walls were white. After a moment, she looked back at Wendt, who had folded her hands and was watching her. "So, what is your verdict, Dr. Wendt?" she asked, meeting the woman's eyes.

"For me to have an opinion about you I would need to see you several times to get to know you. But, since I think that we can easily establish that you have been -- well, to put it in the right context -- framed, I don't really think it will be necessary. Your reaction to what you have experienced along with the loss of your previous life is more than adequately explained. I don't believe you are insane or in any other way badly influenced. All you need is some time to find your way back to yourself. You might need to lean on some friends for that and I cannot imagine that you should find it difficult to find some." With a smile, she added, "The only thing I can say about you is that you need to gain some weight. It is not very good to be borderline undernourished as you are. Think about that and go home and eat some cookies or chocolate -- and healthy food, of course."

For a moment, Ripley just looked at her. "That's it?" she then asked, surprised that Wendt didn't have a bunch of other things she wanted her to observe or something like it. Ripley wasn't really sure about the procedure when it came to sessions with a shrink.

Dr. Wendt watched her for a second, her lips pursed. "Yes. That's all I have to say about this matter."

A million thoughts tumbled through Ripley's head at the same time, making her unable to focus properly on what she should say to that. But one thought seemed to be the most prominent. "Will this have any influence on my sentence?" she wanted to know.

Dr. Wendt nodded. "I dare say it will," she replied, folding her hands. Watching this woman had made her believe that she was right about Ripley. A little bad luck and anybody would react the way she had. There was nothing in her behavior saying that she was insane at least. "I have a certain reputation among my colleagues and I am well established in this society," she went on, smiling calmly. "I like what I do and people seem to value my opinion. That is why you have been sent to me. And, according to my findings you are as sane as anybody. There is nothing about your behavior that suggests anything else. This statement will be entered in your file and it will, without doubt, eliminate any other medical opinions. My opinion is that the long period of hyper sleep and everything which happened before you went into hyper sleep had a great deal of influence on your first evaluation. I would call it a trauma. You were suffering from post traumatic shock. That does not give anybody the right to condemn you for the rest of your life." She unfolded her hands again, still smiling. "I think that will be all, Mrs. Ripley. If you do feel the need to talk to anybody about what has happened to you, feel free to schedule an appointment with my secretary."

Ripley frowned at that. "Does that mean that you feel I need to see you again?" she wanted to know.

"Not as such. But, I do mean it when I say that I think you are suffering from post traumatic shock. So, if you feel that there are things you cannot come to terms with, there is no shame in having a professional look into it. But, no, you do not appear to need any treatment," Wendt replied.

Ripley finally returned her smile. At last things were starting to go her way. She rose, looking pleased. "Thank you, Dr. Wendt. You don't know how much this means to me. I was starting to doubt my sanity." With that, she left.

Wendt looked after her until the door closed again. Then she turned to the file, looking down at it thoughtfully. Her thoughts returned to a conversation that she'd had just a few minutes before Ripley had turned up. A conversation that had helped her make up her mind in advance. Van Leuwen had called her, telling her under no circumstances to clear Ripley. He was willing to give her a lot of money for that. Wendt had declined the money and the request out of two reasons. She had no intention of making up her mind about a person she had never met up front and she did not like it when people were framed. Had van Leuwen refrained from calling her, she might even have agreed with the file. Ripley did seem highly strung and there was a chance she might crack if she did not calm down soon. But basically Wendt did not believe that Ripley was a hazard to anybody, including herself. There was no sense in destroying her life any more than it had been already.

***

TAYLOR'S OFFICE

Ripley sat waiting on the chair in front of Taylor's desk, which occupied much of the space in the small office despite the fact that the desk was not very big. The office was tidy and the shelves with books and other material were organized to a point where Ripley would almost call it compulsive. The colors were in dark earth-tones but that did not necessarily say anything about Taylor. These might be the colors of the previous owner of the office. She had been waiting for half an hour for Taylor to come back, but so far the younger woman had not shown up. A file was lying on the desk and Ripley had trouble controlling her curiosity. When she had come in, she had glanced at the cover and knew that it was Hicks' file. With a glance at the door, she reached out for the file and turned it around. She figured if it was confidential material, Taylor would not leave it out in the open and then just leave her office for longer periods of time. She pulled herself together and opened the file. The first page held personal information about Hicks and a picture where he looked slightly younger than when she had met him. His hair was also longer, but his expression was much the same as the one she had gotten to know; serious, with a gleam of something roughish in his eyes. Unconsciously she reached out to touch the picture, wondering if his good looks were ruined forever. Then becoming aware of what she was doing, she smiled to herself, closed the file and turned it around again.

"He was handsome, wasn't he?" Taylor asked from the door, then held up her hands when Ripley was about to defend why she had peaked at the file. "It's okay. There's nothing in there that you don't know." She dropped her briefcase on the floor beside the desk and sat down on her chair. "So, how did the interview with Wendt go?"

Ripley shrugged. "It was okay. She says I'm not crazy, so I guess I'm not." Her tone of voice was slightly sarcastic and Taylor smiled at that.

"Wendt's the best in the business. It took me quite some time to get close to her, but she's turned out to be a friend in need. She's always there when I need her the most," she explained, and then flipped Hicks' file open. With a smile she pulled the picture free of the first page and held it out to Ripley. "Here. Take it. He'll look that way again. Soon," she added.

Hesitantly, Ripley reached out for the picture, took it and looked at it again. "He was pretty good-looking, wasn't he?" she then agreed quietly.

Taylor nodded, making her own assumptions from Ripley's tone of voice. It was obvious that she was more than a friend to Hicks. The way he had said Ripley's name only emphasized that and Ripley's apparent interest in his picture summed it all up for Taylor. She thought she knew where she had both of them. "So, do you love him?"

Ripley reacted the same way as if Taylor had slapped her. She looked at her with surprise written all over her face. "Love him?" she asked, staring at Taylor. "No, I don't. I like him. He's one of the only people who saw things my way. He believed in me from the beginning. -- Why do ask if I love him?" The question sounded extremely absurd to Ripley. Sure she was attracted to him, but odd circumstances made strange bed fellows. She had not even considered physical attraction as such.

Taylor was equally surprised by Ripley's denial. "There's no harm done in admitting it. I won't tell him, you know," she said, misinterpreting Ripley's reaction as embarrassment rather than what it truly was.

Ripley shook her head. "You don't understand. This has nothing to do with admitting anything. I am not in love with him. I owe him my life and that's it. I'm grateful for what he did for me and I don't want to see him die because of this. Nothing of what happened was his fault. He is as innocent in this as the rest of the team. But, no, I don't love him." The more she tried to explain about how she felt for Hicks, the more unlikely it sounded to her own ears.

Taylor nodded. "Sure, okay. No problem. Let's get back to the case," she said, dropping the subject. She still did not quite believe Ripley, but that did not really matter. It would have no influence on the case. "So, Wendt doesn't think you're crazy. Did she give you a statement?"

"No, she didn't," Ripley replied, still feeling a bit funny about Taylor's previous question. "She said it would be entered in my file and that's it."

Taylor smiled. "Ah. Even better. She's going to alter your official file. That means you're basically already cleared. The appropriate people will be informed about that, too. Things are really going our way. Now all we have to do is prove that Hicks is indeed innocent." She hesitated for a moment, looking down at the file, and then looked up again to meet Ripley's eyes. "He is innocent, isn't he?"

Ripley returned her stare, a creeping sensation making her stall before she answered. In her opinion it did not look good if Taylor did not believe firmly in her client's innocence. "Of course he's innocent. He didn't kill anybody. He wasn't able to kill anybody. He nearly died up there, Taylor." Her tone of voice had taken on a slightly strained tone and Taylor could fully understand that.

"I didn't mean to sound doubtful. Basically I believe he is innocent, but I wasn't quite sure. I needed to know what you really think," she replied. "Ripley, did he at any time threaten to kill anybody? Did he say anything that could be used against him?"

For a long moment Ripley kept silent. Only too clearly did she remember how close Hicks had come to wasting Burke. If the aliens had not interrupted him when they had, Burke would have died a lot sooner than he had. Taking a deep breath, she held it for a moment and then let it out in a sigh. A lie like this was not likely to turn on her. She and Hicks were the only ones who knew the truth and she doubted very much that Hicks had mentioned this to Taylor. "No. He didn't," she finally said without much conviction.

Taylor nodded to herself, noting Ripley's tone of voice without knowing what it meant. "Good. I wouldn't want anything nasty to turn up in the middle of the hearing. That would be rather unfortunate. It could discredit both of you with the snap of a finger and ruin his chances of getting acquitted. For good."

Ripley started wondering if maybe she should mention it anyway, but then decided not to. Nobody could know about it. Bishop had not been present when it happened and the others were dead. There was no sense in bringing this to light. "Right," she replied in a subdued tone of voice. It was not in her nature to oppose authorities.

Taylor eyed her closely, unable not to hear the change in Ripley's voice. "Is there something you want to tell me?" she asked.

Ripley closed her eyes, and then sighed again. She would not be able to rest if she kept this to herself. "He did threaten to kill Burke. Nobody but Hicks and me know about it, though. Bishop wasn't there when it happened and all the others are dead. You see, Burke had tried to -- " she began but trailed off. Somehow the memory of that hideous creature made her throat constrict. She could almost feel its iron grip around her throat again.

"Burke tried to what?" Taylor pressed.

It took Ripley a second to reply as feelings of guilt and anger once again welled up in her like stagnant water from an old well. "He released two of the parasites into a room, where Newt and I were sleeping. It was only due to Hicks' quick reactions that we both avoided ending up as incubators for those things. Burke wanted to return the aliens to Earth at any prize. That's why Hicks threatened to kill him."

For a long moment Taylor looked down at the file, thinking about what Ripley had just said. Then she looked up again. "Since nobody else knows about this, I don't really think it's relevant. He didn't do it, after all. He didn't kill Burke. -- Did he?"

With a sigh, Ripley leaned back on her chair. "You really have a hell of a lot of faith in the man, don't you," she commented, staring at Taylor.

"This has nothing to do with faith, Ripley. It has to do with whether he killed somebody or not," Taylor countered, sounding just a little bit annoyed. "Did he?"

Ripley shook her head. "No, he didn't. He didn't kill anybody."

That was good, Taylor thought to herself. Very good. If she had known that Hicks had killed somebody, her defense might not have been as convincing as she wanted it to be. "Fine. I think I just about have everything I need now."

"Even that surprise you have up your sleeve?" Ripley wanted to know, having a strong notion about what it was.

"Yeah, even that," Taylor replied cryptically and smiled. "Even that."

Ripley looked down at the picture in her hands and hoped that she would be able to see him again. Even though Taylor was dead wrong when she thought that they were in love, Ripley liked Hicks a lot and would really want to meet him when he was not working as a marine. She had often over the last year wondered what kind of person he actually was. He was a friend in need. That much she knew. When she was having a fit over Newt's disappearance, he had made her understand how important it was for them to leave. Somebody else might have left her there. Finally, she rose. "I'm going to go home now. I have a new vid-phone, so you can call me when it's time for my appearance at the hearing," she said and then left the office.

***