The freighter had gone into orbit around Acheron and Mad Maddy had prepped the lander. She knew that the world below her was dying. A message had come in, warning all spacefarers to steer clear of this area until it was over, but she also knew that she had time enough to pick up these people and get them out of harm's way before the thing blew.

Padding the inside hull of her ship, she smiled. "You just keep an eye on us, Betsy. I'll be back in no time," she said, climbed into the lander and closed the hatch. She had done something like this before and she was damned if she would let some kind of official message prevent her from helping others. And the guy she had talked to had sounded really relieved to hear her voice. Grinning to herself as the lander dropped out of the freighter's belly, she rested her hands calmly on the control column. "Life sure is sweet," she yelled and guided the vessel toward the surface and the source of the message.


On the top of the station, Hudson was starting to get nervous. If the woman he had talked to had taken it slow, he understood, but it was almost three hours since he'd been in touch with her and he hadn't heard anything since. He was about to give up hope when he finally saw it. A big, chunky freight-hauler lumbered toward the station, steady on its course despite howling winds that tried to push it off course. "It's about fucking time," he muttered, a big smile plastered all over his face.

The lander touched down on the top of the station and moments later, the rear loading ramp clatter to the ground. The woman standing there made Hudson's smile widen even more. "Howdy, friend. Are you Hudson?" she asked, her voice grating a little.

"Yup. I am. And you must be Madeleine St. George," he countered, shoving a hand out at her.

She grabbed it, grinning, with a big cigar clenched between her teeth. "That I am, sonny. That I am. People call me Mad Maddy, though. So, where's your party of twenty-something?"

Hudson couldn't help liking her. She was as straight forward as he had thought she would be. "Still downstairs getting ready to leave. Can you lander hold them all at once?"

"Nope, but we'll just have to make a couple of extra trips then, won't we? Let's go in and greet them, shall we?" Maddy replied and headed toward the door.


It took a little over a day to get them all off the planet and the spirit was high when they finally were able to set out toward Earth again. Maddy had helped brighten their spirits with her witty chatter and her apparent contentment in her own madness. Mad she wasn't, though. Just a little reckless.

Nobody had noticed that Burke had returned and that he had found a place to hide on the freighter. Everybody was just happy to get off the planet and be on their way home again. Burke cursed the fate that had put him in this position, but at least he was bringing back a prize. He knew that the facehugger had 'impregnated' him. All he had to do was find a freezer and take a long nap. But not until he had been able to send a message back home.



Van Leuwen was standing in the control-center, looking at a monitor that supervised the approach of a ship. The young man working on the terminal glanced up at the executive standing behind him, uncomfortable about being watched.

"Are you sure that's the ship?" van Leuwen asked, not looking at him.

Holden nodded. "Of course I'm sure, sir. This is the ship that stopped at Acheron. It was in orbit around the planet for almost two days."

Van Leuwen looked down at Holden for a moment. "Whose ship is that?" he wanted to know.

Holden checked the readings on the ship. "It's a freighter and it belongs to Madeleine St. George. She's in the private business,” Holden replied, leaning back in his chair.

Van Leuwen leaned closer to the monitor, eying the small glowing dot on the grid. "How long until it reaches Gateway?" he asked.

Holden rolled his eyes and with a sigh bend forward again to check it out. "One and a half months, sir. It's an old junk-yard she's flying. It doesn't have a jump-drive."

Van Leuwen nodded and turned to leave. He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw who was standing just a few feet behind him.

"Well, hello Dirk,” the man said. He was the managing director for Bio Weapons Division. He was about two meters tall and didn't look very much like the director he was. But, despite his mellow looks, he was a tough man to deal with. Van Leuwen had learned that lesson many times.

"Jake. What brings you here?" he asked, nodding to him. They were always very polite to each other, but the sarcasm was never far away.

Jake Miller looked down at van Leuwen, feeling that something was brewing. "Oh, nothing much. I come down here now and again to see what's going on outside. Why do you ask? Do you have something to hide?" he replied, smiling cynical.

Van Leuwen returned the smile in the same manner. "What should I have to hide? No, I came down here for just the same reason as you. The office is slightly boring today. Nothing much to do. So, I thought I'd take a look around. -- Well, gotta go. I do have some paperwork to catch up on. Have a nice day,” he replied and pushed passed Miller to leave the room.

Miller looked after him until the door had closed behind him, then he turned to Holden. "Morning, Holden. Nice day today,” he said. Holden looked up at him, grinning. "So, what's happening?"

"A lot, Mr. Miller. A lot."

Miller took a seat next to Holden and looked at the monitor. "Talk to me, Holden. There might be a bonus waiting,” he replied.

Holden's grin widened and he told Miller everything he had told van Leuwen and a few things more, that van Leuwen knew nothing about. "There seems to be something strange going on. You know that Acheron has been blacklisted some time ago, right? Well, it seems that this freighter stopped at Acheron. Besides that, the captain of the freighter has probably taken passengers on board," he said, eying Miller expectantly.

Miller raised an eyebrow, and then nodded with a smile. "Is that so? You have done very good, Holden. I'll see to it that you get a little raise,” he replied getting up again. He padded Holden's shoulder and then left the control-room too.

Holden turned his attention back to the monitor, smiling at the grid it displayed. "You are going to be a gold mine for me,” he said, tapping a finger against the spot that indicated the freighter. "A gold mine."



Jake Miller was on his way to the docking-area, followed by a group of soldiers wearing decontamination suites. Only one hour before had he been informed, that the Company was about to break ICC quarantine regulations and he would do anything to prevent them from doing it. Especially, because the incoming ship they were going to intercept held something that Jake Miller wanted very badly. According to the information that Miller had received, the Company had not yet been informed about the ship and that gave them more or less two hours to go in, find what they wanted and leave again. The ship had already been placed under quarantine and all Miller had to do was take a shuttle out there. He smiled, mentally rubbing his hands. This was going to be a great day for Bio's. His apparent interest in the ship had been started by a coded message which he had received some time ago. It had been a coded message for van Leuwen and he had intercepted it, making certain it would never reach van Leuwen. A message from Carter Burke containing very crude yet interesting information. They arrived at the departure hall only to find that van Leuwen was already there. He had so far been trying to reason with Miller's pilot.

At the sound of the approaching group, he turned with a furious look on his face. "Miller, what the hell is going on here?" he snapped, no longer able to restrain his anger at the situation. It was bad enough that Bio's interfered in everything the Company did. Now Miller also showed interest in incoming ships.

Miller, not impressed at all, smiled indulgently. "Calm down, Dirk. Calm down. There is no need for hysterics here. We received a message some time ago that the Company was going to break quarantine for this ship and I just want to send some men over there to check out if it is necessary to keep the ship under quarantine at all. Besides, they have orders to look around for whatever causes you guys to try and break our shared regulations on that point -- without alerting us." Van Leuwen turned red with anger, outraged by the fact that Miller had the law on his side. He was certain that Miller had arranged the whole scene so that he could waltz in and snatch the price away from him. Taking a deep breath, he attempted to calm himself.

After a moment, he nodded, forcing a smile. "All right, Miller. Fine. Let's share this one, shall we? I let you in on what it is and you get half the rights?" he suggested.

Miller raised an eyebrow, looking totally stunned. For a moment, he actually was. So, van Leuwen had gotten the message after all. "What are you suggesting, Dirk?" he asked, sounding slightly alarmed. This however, was a show. He felt no alarm whatsoever. He had the law on his side. Van Leuwen had neglected to inform Bio's about the potential alien hazard. That could only mean that he was after all the fame and fortune this would bring.

Van Leuwen screwed up his eyes, glaring at the other man. He knew Miller well enough to know that his apparent lack of knowledge was a trick. One that he couldn't expose without dragging himself into it, too. "The ship has to stay in quarantine. There is an alien life form on board," van Leuwen informed him, knowing very well that Miller knew that already. The other man, however, would rather drop dead right on the spot than admit that.

"An alien?" he asked, looking slightly concerned. Van Leuwen felt the greatest urge to knock his lights out, but restrained himself. "A big one?" Miller added, eying him. Van Leuwen nodded, unable to say anything if he should remain reasonably polite.

Miller nodded, turning to his men. Directed to the leader of the group, he said, "You know what to look for. Go and contain that alien, sergeant." The sergeant nodded and waved his men toward the waiting shuttle. Van Leuwen looked ready to explode, when Miller turned back to him. "Don't worry, Dirk. They'll have that alien contained in no time. We'll make sure it doesn't get lose to be a hazard for any civilians." Everything he said was within the reasonable. Neither van Leuwen nor anybody else from the Company would be able to put a claim on the alien. It would be stored in Bio Weapon's Division as a hazard. Van Leuwen turned around and walked away from the docking-area with the feeling of defeat in his guts. He had stopped counting the times Miller had pulled that stunt on him. One day, he would find the informer Miller got his information from and then all hell would break lose.

Miller watched him go, unable to restrain the smile that curled his lips. Satisfied with the events, he turned toward the viewport that showed him the shuttle that was slowly moving toward the freighter. There was no doubt about, who owned the alien now. "No shared custody,” he muttered and the smile widened to a grin.



Mad Maddy looked very dissatisfied by the intrusion of the Bio's-team. She didn't like them any more than she liked the marines. Hudson stood next to her, watching the team with an indifferent expression. He knew what they were after, but he didn't dare think about why. They had all been gathered in the storage-room, where the colonists had stayed, and three of the six men were standing in front of the door, riffles at attention. They did not immediately seem threatening, but Hudson had doubt that they would use the riffles, should a need occur.

"They're after Burke,” Maddy said, chewing away on her cigar.

He glanced at her, sending her an ambiguous look. "Yeah, I know."

They had found out that Burke was on board, of course, but Burke had sealed himself in one of the rear cargo-compartments and they had neither the strength nor the urge to pry him out of there. Maddy had told them that there was a working freezing in the compartment, one she usually used for herself. Since they had heard nothing from Burke for the one and a half months the trip had lasted, they had suspected that he had either died or made use of the freezer. What surprised all of them was that Bio's knew about his presence on the ship.

Marlee, standing next to Hudson on the other side, watched the team suspiciously. "He's impregnated," she muttered.

Hudson turned fully toward her, briefly losing interest in the Bio's-team. "He can't be,” he almost hissed. "Think of the time he spent on the ship. That's impossible. He would have been dead by now. We all would have been dead by now." She met his eyes and the expression in hers told him that she believed that Burke was the carrier of one of the aliens. "It's impossible," he insisted in a whisper.

Mad Maddy had followed the conversation without understanding much of it. She was bewildered by their conversation. After a moment, she could not keep her curiosity to herself anymore. She leaned closer to Hudson. "What the hell was that all about?" she wanted to know quietly. Hudson glanced at her but refused to answer. Maddy considered the possibility of being ridiculed and decided that she just had to know. "What is he, a hermaphrodite?" she asked a little louder.

Hudson stared at her for a moment, not really sure he understood Maddy correctly. "Who?" he asked, visibly confused.

Maddy nodded toward the door. "That Burke, of course. You talked about him just now."

Hudson gaped at him for a moment, gave a nervous titter and then started laughing out loud. Maddy looked even more confused. "No, he's not a hermaphrodite. Not as far as I know. Maddy, I can't talk about this. Not now,” Hudson finally replied, having gained control again. He glanced back at Marlee, who was fighting back a smile too.

"Maybe you are right. It is impossible, isn't it?" she asked and he nodded, very convinced. Maddy blushed a little and stared ahead of herself. "A hermaphrodite? That's a good one, Maddy,” Marlee added, padding her on the shoulder.

She shrugged her hand off, having trouble fighting back a smile herself. "Go to hell,” she grumbled good-naturedly.

Shortly after, the leader of the Bio's-team returned, attracting everybody's attention. "Ladies and gentlemen. I am sorry about this, but it was necessary. Mr. Burke is considered a criminal and -- well -- this was for your protection. I hope you will be pleased to hear that your quarantine has been cut short and a shuttle will arrive shortly to pick you up. Thank you for being so patient,” he said, reaching up to pull his suite-helmet off. He looked around at them and realized that not one of them believed him. Nobody believed that they had to use guns to contain Burke. Every single one of them knew that Burke had been in the cargo hold all the time and was probably in a cryo tube. They all looked at him and the room was deadly silent. Feeling suddenly very much uncomfortable, the sergeant turned around, waving at his men to follow him, and left them behind. Hudson watched him go, his expression carefully set.

"Let's prepare to leave the ship,” Maddy said loud enough for everybody to hear him.

The colonists started gathering what belongings they had managed to take with them and were all ready to leave when the shuttle arrived.

On Gateway, they were met by van Leuwen and a few of his men. They were joined by several doctors and nurses, who led the colonists off to be examined. Marlee fought off one of the nurses and slipped behind Hudson, who gave the nurse a warning glance. The woman shrugged and walked away.

Van Leuwen looked at them for a while, and then turned his attention to three remaining nurses. "I need to talk to these people. They will join you later,” he said and they walked away. For a moment, he watched them leave, and then he returned his attention to the two remaining. He looked from one to the other and finally focused fully on Hudson. "Well, well, well. If it isn't Private Hudson," he said, staring at Hudson as if he were a rare disease. "I thought you were supposed to be dead?" Hudson merely contented himself with glaring at van Leuwen, not dignifying him with an answer.

Van Leuwen sighed deeply, his hands buried in his pockets. Then he turned his attention to Mad Maddy. "What you have done is highly illegal. You have ignored a warning and landed on a planet that has been blacklisted. Even a planet, that was about to go nova,” he said.

Maddy stared at him, and then shrugged. "So? I couldn't very well just tell'em to forget it, I had to get out of there, could I?" she replied, a little annoyed.

The managing director looked at her for a moment. "You knew that the planet was blacklisted. That alone is an offence, Ms. St. George. That could cost you your license,” he replied.

Maddy kept staring at him. "Aw, bugger off. I don't have no license with Wayland-Yutani. I got it in the Borodino sector. You can't threaten me. What I did I did to save lives. That should count more than your stupid regulations." Glancing at her wrist watch, she sighed. "Can I go now? I have deliveries to make."

Van Leuwen nodded and Maddy walked away after wishing Hudson and Marlee good luck. Van Leuwen re-attracted their attention when he cleared his throat. "Welcome back, Private. And now if you would join the medical staff to be examined? Just in case," he said, frowning a little at them.

"What do you care?" Marlee grumbled, looking away. Hudson put an arm around her shoulders and looked at van Leuwen in a way that made the managing director want to shrink. Even though Hudson was a lot younger than him, he felt like a little boy who had done something wrong.

Marlee was clinging to Hudson, looking slightly concerned about the whole thing and that was one of the reasons why Hudson did not go for van Leuwen's throat right away, although he felt like it. He kept staring at van Leuwen. "Is there anything else you want to tell us?" he asked, his tone of voice frosty. Van Leuwen shook his head, but remained quiet. "Then leave us alone. -- You don't have to wait around here. We can find our way to medical,” he added.

Van Leuwen nodded once. "I know you can. Welcome home,” he replied, turned around and left, followed closely by his men.

Together, Hudson and Marlee walked down to medical to be examined for any possible contamination and any other health problems. they might have developed during the trip. Once there, Marlee was swept away with the other colonists to be examined.


The doctor, who examined Hudson, was concerned about his scar and instantly decided to remove the boil it had created. Hudson was not happy about it, but he agreed that it would be a good idea anyway. The doctor cut through the boil after applying a local anesthetic to the area surrounding the boil and pus oozed out of it.

"How long have you had this?" the doctor wanted to know.

Hudson looked revolted for a moment when he looked at the foul-smelling matter the doctor wiped away from the open boil. Then he shrugged. "I don't know. I got the scar a little over a year ago,” he said.

The doctor raised an eyebrow. "With that kind of boil and the infection, I'm surprised you haven't felt any pain. It must hurt like hell."

Hudson frowned for a moment. The doctor shook his head in disbelief and removed the boil completely. He was surprised to find new, thin skin underneath. Despite the fact that the wound had obviously been infected, the skin underneath had grown back. The boil would probably have fallen off at some point, but the doctor found it extremely odd that Hudson had no other inconvenience than just an itch. It later turned out that the nerve ends on the front-side of his upper left arm were damaged badly. All he would ever feel there again would be just an itch.



Somewhere on Gateway, a special team of doctors were preparing for an operation, which could prove to be dangerous. Jake Miller stood behind a thick glass-wall, looking into the operating-theater with expectancy. The room was completely isolated and closed off. The air they were breathing in there entered through a lot of small openings in the walls. There were no openings lager than one centimeter across. The room was used for possible aliens that had to be studied before it could be determined whether they were hostile or not. The operation taking place in the room was set up in a manner that would allow the team of doctors to leave at once, taking the patient with them, once the operation was over. They had worked for a little over half an hour on the still body of a man. A stasis tank stood just within reach at the head of the table.

The doctor in charge of the operation didn't really know what to expect. They had taken a neuroscan of their patient and estimated the location of the creature they were going to remove. But, when he eventually opened the man's stomach, he stopped dead for a moment, staring down at the white, worm-like thing. He had seen a lot in his days and he counted himself among those who had a strong stomach, but he felt his stomach rebel against the sight. For a moment, it felt to him as if his lunch had returned to life and tried to get out. Reaching up, he ran the back of his right hand over his brow, telling himself to stop being such a wimp. He glanced over at the glass-wall, looking at Miller for a moment. The man had to be insane to hope that a creature, which used humans as incubators, would be alive. Pulling himself together, the doctor returned to his work, carefully sticking his hands into the man's stomach and gently pulling the creature out. He turned toward the tank, that one of the nurses had opened, and let the white form slip into the fluid. The nurse closed the tank again and rolled it over into a corner, where she connected it to a wall-socket. The doctor followed that procedure for a moment, then he started on closing the man up again. After completing the operation, they rolled the patient out of the room.

Miller stood still behind the glass-wall for a moment, then he walked to the air-lock, that would admit him into the room. The two doors leading into the room were made of the same material as pressure-doors and would be virtually impossible to open by force. He opened the door and stepped into the room, his eyes never leaving the outline of the stasis-tank. With slow, hesitant steps, he approached the tank, looking at the white object floating in it. Within the next minutes or so, the creature should wake up, providing it had survived the process at all. Miller stopped a step away from the tank, looking at the alien with fascination. Not sure it would be such a good idea, he reached out and touched the glass of the tank. There was no reaction at all and he started to think that the alien had not survived. But, then, slowly its head started to move. Then, it was all movement in the tank. The alien moved about in the tank with such speed, that Miller took a surprised step back, not sure he wanted to be in the room after all. Despite the fact that stasis-tanks generally were very hard to break, he had a brief vision of the alien smashing through the glass and throwing itself at him. After a moment or two, the alien stopped moving again, its head turned in his direction. It made no move to try and destroy the tank. It just hung there, its tail moving back and forth to prevent it from sinking down to the bottom and, despite the fact that he could see no eyes, Miller was certain the embryonic alien was watching him.



Two days after the arrival of Maddy's freighter, Burke woke up in a hospital bed. The first thing he was aware of was a nauseating pain in his stomach. He grabbed at his stomach and hissed when his fingers hit the scar there. Raising his head, he pulled the sheet away and looked at the bandage. It made him smile when he realized that the alien was out and he was still alive. That meant that the Company had received his secret message, which he had managed to send from the ship. Before he had time to give it more thought, the door opened and Jack Miller stepped in, smiling broadly.

"Mr. Burke, how good to see you awake,” he said. Burke looked confused, not really sure what was going on. He had expected van Leuwen. Miller, obviously aware of that, sat down on the edge of the bed, padding his hand like he would that of a child. "I know,” he said, smiling. "I know. You were expecting Dirk, but, you see, the alien you brought home could present a hazard to our civilization and we had to impound it. But, not to worry. She's in good hands with us."

Burke looked startled by that. "She?" he asked and Miller nodded, a strange look on his face.

"She's a real beauty. You should see her. In just two days, she has changed her shape to almost ten times the size she was, when we pulled her out of you. It's a real catch."

Something about that piece of information made Burke afraid. There was something in Miller's expression, which spoke of obsession.

Miller's strange expression stayed on. With a soft smile, he shook his head. "I really do think you should see her. After all, without you, she wouldn't be here. There would be no chance of ever studying something as marvelous as her, if you hadn't taken it upon yourself to get her back to us."

"I didn't exactly plan this,” Burke replied. He realized suddenly, that he didn't feel safe. "This -- alien is probably very powerful. Are you sure you can hold her?"

Miller looked slightly annoyed at that question. "Of course we can hold her. We stuck by the instructions you sent. We used the special room we have for alien life forms. She has made some half-hearted attempts to smash the armored glass a couple of times, but she didn't get through. She's very aggressive. But, who wouldn't be when removed from the natural habitat."

For a long moment, Miller said nothing and Burke got the idea, that Miller felt awed by the creature. He had felt the same way about them, but somehow that had changed. The gold-mine he had seen in the aliens, had turned out to be a dangerous trap. One that might kill him in the end.

Miller rose again, smiling. "Well, Mr. Burke. You're welcome any time you want to take a look at your little girlfriend. I bet she would even know who you are,” he said, chuckling at the joke.

Burke just looked at him, unable to display any kind of reaction. He felt paralyzed.


It took Burke three weeks to get back on his feet and he moved about slowly even then. The treatments he had undergone had done a lot for his health and complexion, but he felt very exhausted and beside himself. He'd had time to digest the news about the alien, but he still did not know how to react. Van Leuwen had been nowhere near him and he ascribed that to the fact, that Miller had beaten van Leuwen to the alien. Burke didn't even try to contact van Leuwen. He knew the managing director of the Company too well to be tempted to set things right at the present time. For the time being, he was under protection from the Company by Bio Weapon's Division, but he doubted that it would last very long. He had to soothe van Leuwen before Miller lost interest in him. Determined to find out what he really felt about the alien, he headed toward Bio's, his stomach all in knots. The tension pulled at the healing scar and that made him move even slower than usual.

Miller came to meet him after he had announced his arrival and guided him toward a room at the rear of the station. "You'll love it,” he said, looking like a man who was going to show off his sports car.

Burke frowned a little, wondering what had happened to Miller. The man was usually a very intelligent, rational man, who didn't let anything get to him. But, the alien had triggered some kind of change in the managing director for Bio's. Burke had made a few inquiries about the whole situation and had been told that Miller spent much of his time in the adjoining room of the alien's chamber.

They reached a door and Miller entered a code into the door-access-panel and the door slid aside. Burke stepped inside, looking at the large, wall-to-wall window. The room behind it had changed shape. The three walls were decorated with strange, peculiar shapes. The stuff covered the floor and the ceiling as well. But, as if by some special design, the alien had omitted covering the glass-surface that made out almost one wall. The rest of the wall had also been left free, leaving the doors uncovered. Projections shot out of the walls, floor and ceiling here and there, giving it all a surreal look.

Looking into the chamber made Burke feel as if he was looking at the painting of a very disturbed artist. The chamber resembled a nightmare-landscape. He stood still for a while, just looking at the whole thing with a blank mind. Somehow, his mind refused to take in what his eyes saw.

Then, eventually, he turned toward Miller. "Where is she?" he asked.

Miller smiled a little. "Just wait. She'll turn up any minute,” he replied, keeping his eyes on the room. Suddenly, it seemed as if a large portion of the right-hand wall came lose. Then, the alien unfolded its long limbs and approached the glass almost in slow-motion. It stopped a few inches from the glass and Miller glanced at Burke again, smiling. "Isn't she a beauty?"

Burke had taken a step back, staring at the creature looming on the other side of the suddenly frail-looking armored glass. From his experience with the aliens, none of them had been as large as this one. Besides that, its head was very different than what he remembered. Instead of forming a near-oval, it leveled out in three peaks at the rear of the head, sort of forming a shield. There were four instead of two arms and its legs were a lot thinner and a lot longer than that of the other ones he had seen. Staring at it, he slowly reached the conclusion that maybe the radiation had caused this change in the alien. Finally, he nodded to himself. That had to be the explanation.

"It's -- different,” he said.

Miller turned halfway, staring at him. "What do you mean, different?" he wanted to know.

Burke studied the now unmoving alien, not moving either. "The head is different and there are two sets of arms instead of one. And, it's too big. The others were smaller,” he explained, glancing at Miller.

Miller frowned, looking back at the alien. "Are you saying that this might not be the right race?" he asked after a moment.

Burke shook his head slowly. He was certain that it was the same race. "No, that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that this is a different version of them. I don't know. Maybe the radiation did it. Maybe it's a mutant,” he suggested.

Miller looked at the alien for a long moment, then glanced at Burke again. Some of the obsessed expression had vanished from his face. Obviously, he no longer regarded the alien as a perfect specimen. The alien in the room suddenly jumped at the glass and bounced off it. Its outer jaws opened and the inner jaws shot out, crashing into the glass with no effect at all. The attack happened so fast that neither Burke nor Miller had time to react heavily to it. They both jumped, but made no other moves.

Miller raised his eyebrows, looking startled. "She hasn't done that before,” he commented.

Burke rolled his eyes, shaking his head a little. The man had to be stupid not to see the potential danger in the alien. All right, so it couldn't smash the glass. But, Burke had the idea that these things had the ability to find ways out of confinements.

"I wonder what she did that for,” Miller muttered.

"She wanted to attack us. Do you feed her?"

The question came out of nowhere and Miller looked at him for a brief moment, slightly reproving. "Of course we feed her. It took us a while to figure out what she wanted and it turned out that she eats mostly everything we give her. That includes whatever it is delivered in, too. She wants fresh meat. Cooked meat she doesn't touch. But, fresh meat and the plastic container it is delivered in. She eats it all. After we figured out what to feed her, she started building that,” he replied, making a sweeping gesture toward the room's decorations.

The alien had withdrawn to the rear of the room, where it sat motionless, its head turned in their direction. It was waiting patiently. Burke stared in at the alien, unable to force his gaze away from it. The outline of this one started to fascinate him more and more. The initial feeling of dread was starting to subside, leaving behind a feeling of awe that he could not really place. After having seen what these aliens could do and how much intelligence they displayed, he had first been afraid. He had thought that the alien would find a way out of its prison, but it seemed to be securely locked in. A disturbing thought, that he would not really give room for, rose out of his sub-consciousness. If this was how the colonists had felt, he could understand that they had all been killed.