Sleep When You Die
by Allison E. Lane

Twilight waned. High up on a cliff overlooking a sprawling city, the flickering orange light of a large campfire threw the shadows of the four figures surrounding it into sharp relief.

Johner said, "The bitch takes her time in burning."

He took a long pull from the flask of whiskey Vriess tossed him, his scarred, ugly face puckering in satisfaction, and pitched a loose pebble into the flames. In the heart of the fire, the burned-out husk of the newborn Alien that had pursued them from the U.S.S. Auriga shifted and settled, throwing up a handful of acrid sparks. Johner grinned a mouthful of teeth. Vriess, who was relaxing against a fallen log the others had dragged over for him, sighed.

"Looks like she's finally giving it up."

Ripley said nothing. Her silence spoke volumes to Call, who out of all the survivors of the Auriga was probably the only person who understood what the woman was feeling. In saving Call's life, there on the cliff's edge, Ripley had essentially murdered her own child. And it had to be done--the Alien had to be destroyed--there was no question about it. Call knew Ripley understood that. But that knowledge didn't make her pain any less.

Johner chucked another pebble into the fire. His tone was oddly conversational, given the horrors they'd just survived. "Troopers should already be searching for the Betty," he commented, his eyes flicking skyward. "I don't much love the idea of being around when they find her."

Ripley stood then, restlessly, hands on her hips, moving to the edge of the cliff to gaze at the spread of lights below. After a moment's consideration, Johner offered the flask to Call. It was an unspoken offering of an olive branch, and Call knew it was the only overture of peace she would get from the man. She accepted the whiskey with a tiny smile of thanks. Vriess nodded at her kindly, saying in his rough voice, "I guess you won't want to be answering any official questions, either."

Call looked over at him quickly. The revelation that she was not human but an Auton--one of the scant few that had managed to escape the callback intact--didn't seem to have dampened Vriess's regard for her. Johner had always mistrusted her, now probably more than ever, but it looked as if Vriess intended to treat her as he always had: with kindness and respect.

Perhaps they wouldn't ditch her or turn her in, after all.

Suddenly, the future didn't look quite so bleak. "I guess not," she replied, not entirely able to hide the gratefulness in her voice.

Call passed the whiskey back to Vriess; he held it inquiringly towards Ripley, who had drifted back to the group. It was a minute before she took it, a kind of remembrance in her eyes. Vriess flicked a fly off his unfeeling leg. "Well, we're on Earth--plenty of places to get lost here. Should be no problem."

There was a moment of silent conferral against the group as they all looked at each other, weighing their options. Vriess and Johner seemed to come to an agreement first, nodding at each other before looking at Call and Ripley in turn. "So are we going, or are we going?" Johner said finally, spitting fiercely into the fire, as if in defiance of the creature within.

The two of them still sitting stood, Johner and Ripley moving to help Vriess, but Call said, "Wait. There's something I want to do first."


In the midst of the frantic struggle to land the Betty, there had been no time to deal with the three dead bodies on the bridge of the ship. Now there was nothing but time, at least until the Marines arrived, and nightfall would hopefully extend their window of opportunity for departure a bit. Nobody cared much what was done with the traitorous Dr. Wren, but Call felt it would be callous to leave their fallen comrades to rot, without some form of closure. Johner had snorted at the cliché, but Call had managed to successfully argue her case with a little backing from Ripley and even Vriess. DiStephano and Purvis would receive some measure of a farewell. It was the least they could do.

Ripley was awarded the honor of disposing of Dr. Wren. It was only fair, considering that it had been Dr. Wren who had created her, as well as her first seven ill-fated clones. Ripley dragged the doctor's body out of the Betty without a word and wasted no ceremony in tossing him off the edge of the cliff. It was a long enough way down that they were unable to hear him hit bottom. Finally out of sight, but never completely out of mind, not after what his pet project had done to shatter their lives.

Vriess and Johner decided between them that immolation would be a suitable send-off for a military man like DiStephano. Once Vriess was secured in his spare wheelchair, the two smugglers set out to gather material for a pyre to be erected in the dying embers of the Alien newborn. "Bitch ought to make herself useful," Johner muttered as he hoisted DiStephano's body over his shoulders, Vriess arming himself with a mag light.

That left Call with Purvis.

She knelt next to his crumpled figure as Johner's heavy footsteps receded down the narrow corridor to the Betty's hold. Purvis's eyes were wide and staring, jaw still slack with the horror and unimaginable pain he could no longer feel. Gently removing his blood-smeared glasses, Call closed both. As she did so her gaze fell on the ragged hole in his chest, where the Alien chestburster had exploded from him and through Dr. Wren's skull, killing them both.

He had done it on purpose. The scene was still too fresh in Call's mind: Purvis, wracked with pain from the gunshot wound to his shoulder and the Alien fighting to emerge from his chest, launching himself at Wren, wrestling the doctor with an almost superhuman strength, knocking the gun away, clutching the man to his chest just as the Alien broke free--

Call looked away, biting her lip. Wren would have almost certainly killed them. But Purvis, knowing he was about to die, had used the last of his strength to get in the last word and save them from his own fate.

She could no longer bear the sight. Fetching one of Elgyn's jackets from a locker, she awkwardly shrugged Purvis into it, zipping it closed to hide the bloody mess. Then she grabbed the first scrap of cloth she could find and used it to clean the congealing blood from Purvis's face and hands as best she could. Wiping his glasses clean, she placed them back on his face. Tossing the soiled rag away in disgust, Call sat back on her heels and regarded the dead technician for a moment. Unexpectedly, she found her eyes filling with tears.

It was their fault he was dead. Out of all the members of their small band trying to escape the Auriga, Purvis had been the lone innocent. He hadn't asked the crew of the Betty to hijack his cryotube and sell him to General Perez; he hadn't asked Dr. Wren and his team to use him as a host for Alien implantation. He had only intended to report for work at the nickel factory on Xarem. Instead, Call and her crewmates had delivered him directly to the gates of hell.

It could have been anyone, Call tried to reassure herself as she blinked back the tears, reaching out to wrap her fingers around the man's cooling hand, much the same way he had grasped her hand on the Auriga, urging her to continue on after Ripley had been taken to the Alien hive. It could have been anyone hiding there in the room where the kidnapped factory workers had been implanted. But no, it had to be him--small, quiet, skittish Purvis. Purvis, who didn't know the first thing about laughing in the face of danger, who had been transformed into a ticking time bomb without his knowledge, who by some cruel miracle had been given an extended lease on life when the Alien inside him didn't hatch with the others.

Faced with Purvis, Call had too many regrets, too many what-ifs running around inside her head. If they hadn't run into so many delays, maybe they could have reached the Betty in time to get him into cryosleep and save him. If Dr. Wren hadn't turned traitor and left them… if he hadn't shot Purvis, perhaps the Alien chestburster would have waited longer to emerge, long enough to freeze him and halt the process. And suppose Purvis had a family somewhere--a wife, children? They would never know how it had ended for him, or how brave he had been. Call didn't even know his first name.


Call gasped and dropped Purvis's hand, spinning on the balls of her feet to find Ripley standing behind her. The clone had entered the bridge so quietly that Call hadn't even been aware of her presence until she spoke. "I--I--It's just not right," she stammered by way of explanation, attempting to justify her behavior of clutching on to a dead man's hand.

But Ripley's face showed no judgement as she knelt down beside Call. "I know it's stupid, but I feel responsible," Call continued, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. "He didn't deserve to die like that. He didn't understand what was happening to him, he was so scared…" She sighed, raggedly. "I just wish that I--we--could have done… more. For all of them."

Ripley was silent for a few long moments, taking in Call's tearstained face and the curl of Purvis's pale, cold hand on the metal deck. Thinking of the crewmates Call had lost. Then she said quietly, "Let's get him outside."


"Christ, that shit's oily," Johner choked as he and Vriess backed away from the newly stoked fire, waving the smoke from their faces. They'd arranged DiStephano's body on top of the remains of the Alien newborn, placing his rifle next to him and stacking dry timber around him before adding a fresh torch to the flames. The resulting smoke was somewhat odious. The two offered salutes to the fallen soldier; Johner then turned to see Ripley and Call standing just inside the circle of light, Purvis's body cradled in Call's arms. For a slight little thing, she was much stronger than she looked.

"You wanna stick him in there?" Johner asked, jerking a thumb back towards DiStephano's pyre.

Call visibly flinched, redoubling her hold on Purvis. "I want to bury him," she said, looking back at him defiantly.

Johner stared at her. "How much time you think we got here, sweetheart?" he shot back sarcastically. Peace offerings evidently only went so far with him. "All night? Unless you want the Marines dropping in on our little party--"

"He saved your ass, Johner!" Call cut in furiously, her voice shaking. "He deserves it!"

"I've got a light," Vriess offered.

Ripley defused the situation by nodding. "I saw two picks onboard the ship we can use for digging. It doesn't have to be a deep hole." She gave Johner a hard look. "Feel free to go if you'd like."

Johner muttered several colorful epithets under his breath, glaring at all of them, but followed along anyway.

It was fifteen minutes' work for Ripley and Johner to dig a sizable enough hole at the tree line, Vriess shining his mag light on the proceedings, Call huddling out of the way with Purvis's body. When they were through, Johner panting but Ripley having hardly broken a sweat, Call stood and moved to carefully lower Purvis into the earth.

"He was brave to go at Wren like that," Vriess commented as Call arranged Purvis's arms over his chest and smoothed his face into more peaceful lines.

"Didn't think the little son of a bitch had it in him," Johner agreed after a moment, leaning heavily on his pick. Finished, Call stepped rose to her feet again and stepped away, hugging herself tightly.

"He was a good man," Ripley said finally, looking at Call in silent query. When Call nodded, never taking her eyes away from the still form within, Ripley hefted her pick and began the task of filling in the impromptu grave.

Call watched as the dirt began to obscure Purvis's body from view. Soon there would be nothing left to indicate that he'd lived, nothing to show the impact his short association had made on a supposedly hardened robot. Nothing but a memory. Call knew she would be unable to forget him easily, and she wasn't even sure that she wanted to forget. Some memories, no matter how terrible, were best kept.

You can rest now, Purvis, she thought to herself, as another lump of earth hid his face completely. You're safe, and better off than the rest of us. You can sleep and no longer wake to nightmares.

"So what say we get the fuck out of here?" Johner said, impatience tingeing his voice, when the task was done and Vriess had rolled his wheelchair over the grave to flatten the mound a bit. He slung his pick over his shoulder and started back towards the Betty. Ripley briefly laid a hand on Call's shoulder before following him; Vriess went as well, blithely ignoring the terrain in choosing his chair's route to the ship. But Call hesitated. Snapping a branch off the tree they had buried Purvis under, she broke it in two and ripped a loose cord from her jacket, hastily lashing the sticks together.

"Call?" It was Vriess; he'd brought his wheelchair to a halt and was waiting on her. Beyond him, she could hear Johner exclaiming, "Call, you crazy bitch--"

She jammed the crude cross into the still-loose earth at the head of Purvis's grave. Dusting off her hands, she regarded the site before her with a small smile. It wasn't much, but it was something. Something tangible. Something to show.

"Goodbye, Purvis," she whispered. "Sleep well."

Then she turned and walked away, rejoining her crewmates, ready to face whatever the future held in store for them.


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