Suggested Audio Candy
 Jerry Goldsmith “Alien”
 James Horner “Aliens”
Sometimes in life, you just have to take the rough with the smooth. While my Wild West escapade didn’t conclude quite how I planned, things could have been a helluva lot worse. I’m still breathing, have just about all my faculties still intact, and managed to evade becoming another notch in Mabel’s bed post so, all things considered, there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful. Still a little befuddled as to where I know the name Nostromo from but it will have to go some to be anything other than an improvement from Croaskville. Study the facts: aside from successfully ending the cruel reign of One Eyed Ern, I missed the Burlesque show, had my prize thoroughbred stolen, and damn near ended up a human dildo for my troubles. Right now, outer space ain’t looking that wretched. If nothing else, I should be able to catch up on a well-deserved siesta while I’m here and, who knows, perhaps I’ll make some new friends in the process.
As I dock my escape pod in the loading bay, silence is all that greets me. No welcome mat or party hat, just eerie levels of absolutely nothingness. As it is my first outing on this particular craft, I will need my wits about me as the frying pan is traditionally located rather close to the fire and the Nostromo appears to be something of an unknown quantity at this point. Thus, while it looks as though my phaser won’t need to be set to stun, I set it regardless just to be safe. Can’t be too careful as nobody expected Pinhead, Jason or the Critters to master the art of intergalactic travel but learn it they did. I must expect the unexpected, tread carefully and keep my head on constant swivel in case it all goes off. Should that happen, I may well be needing the reflexes of a cyborg to retain mortality as I don’t wish to become a giant over-sized gestation sac or face that unapologetic anal probe after all. As I exit my tiny cruiser and place my boot on the grating for the first time, it is with a sense of foreboding. Something doesn’t feel quite right here, bad things have transpired, I can feel it in my bones. This nagging uneasiness remains my companion as I exit the loading bay and head towards the main deck.
Pssshhh!!! Star Trek doors, what an unexpected delight. I’m feeling mighty Shatner right now and ready to be beamed up. Maybe I’ll get a crack at Uhura while I’m here? I’ve seen the way she looks at Kirk, the eyes don’t lie, and she’s clearly gagging for him to boldly go where a fair few men have likely gone before. Why should he get all the fun? I’m gonna snag myself some of that sweet dark chocolate, if it’s the last thing I do. That said, the floor plan doesn’t appear to be anything like the Starship Enterprise. There’s certainly something vaguely familiar about my coordinates but I still can’t put my finger on what. Perhaps Bonus Brain will be able to shed further light.
“Excuse me my good man. Could I trouble you for a moment?”
“Fuck off. I’m halfway through Dallas and Sue Ellen is just about to take a shower”
That’ll be a no then. Why am I not surprised? He’s skating on thin ice that one I tell you. If it weren’t for the fact that he did kind of bail me out back in Croaksville, I’d turf him out for his insolence alone. However, you never know when you may be needing an extra frontal lobe and, with personnel at a distinct premium, I’m just glad for the company. The ship’s bridge is empty too so I guess I should soldier on as there has to be someone aboard this vessel. To my knowledge, blast doors don’t just open themselves. It’s way too quiet for my liking and the only sound is of the decompression chamber behind me powering down and I lift my visor to breathe in I synthesized oxygen for the first time in days.
You can imagine my frustration then as my nostrils flare to take in a hefty dose of interstellar decay. Indeed, Ern’s bad breath doesn’t have shit on this infernal funk. Call me paranoid but I’m fairly assured that this isn’t the odor of things being fine and dandy. I think precautions are in order and setting my phaser to kill seems to be a good place to start. Turning back may seem like an inviting option right now but I am the Brutal Word Wrangler and, thus, pushing forward is the only way. Extensive combat training should see me good, coupled with my reflexes, I have no reason to be fearful for my safety. Sometimes silence is a good thing right? No news is good news and all that. So why can’t I shake the feeling that I’m about to enter a shit storm? Call it intuition but I prefer to refer to it as remaining on my toes.
That’s it. The penny just dropped. I know where I’ve heard the name Nostromo previously and, while grateful for my memory skills being up to snuff, I seem to recall reading about things not ending well for its maiden voyage. Unless I’m mistaken, the crew inherited a decidedly dubious cargo after mooching about some abandoned planetoid and getting a little too inquisitive. Presumably I did something particularly heinous in a previous life to warrant landing on these particular coordinates. Looks like I have a choice to make and pronto. Either I scuttle back to the loading bay post-haste or have the courage of my convictions and do what any good Wrangler would do in this situation. Sometimes I wish I had chosen an altogether less eventful vocation. I’m good with numbers so a career in accountancy could have worked out delightful. Granted, a little piece of me would have died every time I clocked in, but I wouldn’t be running the risk of having my face punched through by an embittered xenomorph. Hey ho, no point crying over spilled milk now. That just wouldn’t be Wrangler-like.
Pressing on, I enter the flight deck, half expecting a full harvest of pulsating alien ova all primed to burst open in unison. However, I’m pleasantly surprised to discern no sign of life whatsoever. Granted, it doesn’t allow any further insight into the whereabouts of any personnel but right now my well-being is paramount as I have no overwhelming desire to become a walking incubator for unruly aliens and am only too aware of Officer Kane’s last supper and the acid reflux that entailed. I just have to keep reminding myself that no news is good news and count myself fortunate that no airborne face huggers are currently puckering up for tonsil action.
After a brief scout around, I believe my mission should end here while the going is good. It has been utterly fruitless up until now and I’m more than happy being thankful for minor mercies as I had enough excitement back at Croaksville to last me a calendar month and we’re only on the second day. Never let it be suggested that the Brutal Word Wrangler is a coward but, given the lack of anything resembling activity thus far, I believe I’m well within my rights to wrap things up and leave this forsaken craft for pastures new. Not sure where yet but perhaps somewhere leafy would be nice. Anyhoots, I’m getting ahead of myself. Time to retrace my steps and wave adieu to the Nostromo once and for all. Actually, while I’m here, I don’t think anybody would object to me borrowing this copy of Playmartian as it seems to have no rightful owner. Let’s have a quick look at who’s on centerfold duties? Ugh. That E.T. is incorrigible. I’ll take it anyway, for the journey.
Pssshhh!!! This time the sliding door reveals a sight that I am far less enamored with being made privy to. Tell you what, I’ll give you a clue. It’s around ten-feet tall, possesses not one but two sets of slobbering jaws, and has just caused my bowel to excavate where I stand. And no it’s not the Jonas Brothers. I would be able to point out that shiny cranium in an identity parade without a picosecond’s procrastination and, somewhat dishearteningly, my new friend appears more than aware of my presence. Indeed, it is engaging in some kind of staring match, which is a particularly impressive feat given that it has no eyes. While I’m frozen to the spot as it sizes me up, I’m using this time wisely by taking note of any available exits and priming my phaser for imminent usage. Regrettably, the news coming back is far less than encouraging as there is only one route back to the loading bay and it just so happens to be largely obscured by its bulk. The architect who designed this ship deserves to be shot if you ask me. Would it have hurt to make the corridors a little more spacious?
The time has definitely arrived to shit or get off the pot but, given that I have already soiled my space suit, that’s something of a sore point right now. Should I wait any longer, then I will be granting the first move to my opponent and, Wrangler or no Wrangler, I fear that won’t end well. Not wishing to be knighted by its rigid tail, I edge towards the wall, slinking along it with utmost care, and making no rash movements to provoke its wrath. I’ve seen how these situations play out as Bishop was taken back to factory settings by one tail-swipe and I have absolutely no inclination to follow his lead. Survival instincts are now kicking in and adrenaline begins to course and I raise my heel from the floor to go under starter’s orders.
This is it, one hope left, that being to avoid termination and make it back to my escape pod in one piece. The odds are not looking particularly favorable as each move brings chess-like reaction from my foe as she adjusts her stance to make passing by unscathed a far less credible possibility. All the while, she drools in anticipation, and the resulting globules of highly toxic acid scorch through the grate beneath her. Splash back is another concern as any damage distributed is likely to send her spraying jism my way rendering my weapon absolutely useless. There can be no melee here, bravery won’t be rewarded, and good old-fashioned cowardice offers my only feasible hope of continuation. Ordinarily I would consult Bonus Brain for any helpful survival tips but knowing what I must do to survive is not the issue here. Much as I hate to sound cliché, the proof is in the pudding. Right then, on the count of three. One…two…three!
I set off at breakneck speed towards the bitch, wrong-footing her by weaving left and right so as not to afford her chance to mount an attack. Then, just before reaching her personal space, I spin around her and this instantly provokes her fury. Her jaws open to reveal that potent inner arsenal and it punches a hole clear through the wall by my shoulder as I pass by this titan terrorizer by the flimsiest skin of my teeth and commence my rapid retreat back to the escape pod. If it weren’t for the fact that I can feel her noxious breath on the back of my neck, I’d be feeling pretty smug right now as, of all my achievements, out-foxtrotting an enraged xenomorph in quarters way too close for comfort may well be my finest yet. Got to remain focused as slipping on any perilously placed banana skins would be catastrophic at this point and she’s nothing if not persistent.
I dare not glance behind me and, instead, clamber into the decompression chamber once more, loafer in hand, to take a quick shower before departing with absolute haste. As I await the doors both sides to reopen, she’s making up ground too fast, desperate to state her displeasure at being meddled with and it is then that I decipher a solitary red button that I presume controls the air lock to her left. While outrunning her no longer appears a realistic option, this could well be my last chance saloon. Palming the buzzer like it’s the quick-fire round on Jeopardy, every last one of my prayers are answered as it indeed operates the air lock and she is sucked straight into the vacuum. I grasp onto whatever I can for dear life and my adversary attempts to do likewise but, mercifully, with a lesser degree of success. It’s hard to put into words my feeling of accomplishment as the xenomorph spins off into dead space but, first things first, I have to seal this air lock before it claims another victim. Have you ever heard the term “a few seconds feels like an hour”? That one’s applicable here.
Finally I am presented the closure I crave and dally not in cantering back to the sanctuary of my escape pod at full pelt. Once there, I settle back into my cramped receptacle and floor the controls as it lifts off awkwardly into the ocean of emptiness once again. As I exhale with relief and recline in my seat, I spot something moving behind me and frantically turn to identify this unwanted travel companion, fearing the absolute worst. To my tremendous relief, it isn’t a frisky face hugger but, instead, that elusive kitten Jones. Surely a simple domestic cat couldn’t have been responsible for opening those blast doors on my arrival? Who cares, I fucking made it. Against all conceivable odds, the Brutal Word Wrangler has prevailed.
“Hello Jones. Well, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes. Poor little fella, you must’ve used up eight of your lives son. Does kitty want a treat?”
To my abject horror, Jones is looking rather the worse for wear as he starts to convulse uncontrollably and an ominous looking legion starts to swell around its chest. Knowing that it can mean only one thing, I decide to call time on life no. 9 and pound the poor puss to a bloody pulp with my rolled up copy of Playmartian. I knew it would come in handy on the long journey home but hadn’t expected to be using its secondary function. Sorry Jones. It may not seem like it right now, but I’m actually something a cat lover. But my love for felines isn’t as strong as my hatred for xenomorphs so you’ll just have to take this one for the team. Right then, time to lock in some new coordinates. After all this intergalactic excitement, a nice secluded cabin in the woods sounds like just what the doctor ordered. What could be more relaxing than that?
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2013