Mack turns to the team's engineer, "Calvin?"
"Well, CISTR's mainframe's packing some serious encryption. You sure there wasn't another code-key lying around?" Calvin says.
"Yeah, I'm sure. They don't issue those to enlisted folk," Hicks says.
Calvin clasps his hands together. "Well, then. I've got some bypassing to do. This could take a while."
Mack asks, "How long?"
"Difficult to say, but I think it might-,"
Calvin sighs. "It'll be done before we get to Gateway. The system's multi-tiered. A damn fine piece of programming, that CISTR. But once I'm in, we'll have a lot more options."
Mack says, "Ok. You do that. Still got that laser torch?"
Calvin dutifully hands the tool to Mack. "Here's the plan. We've got to push this thing onto our cruiser. For that we should seal off as many pathways as possible."
The group goes over the plan using a schematic map of the various decks of the ship. Calvin says that he can break through the first few layers of CISTR's mainframe by the time they get back, possibly allowing them to send a distress signal to the USS Aimayer, another Marine vessel stationed over Earth.
"What about Portnoy?" Hicks asks.
"I'm coming," the old man says. He knows that this journey will be his last.
Cut to deck 4C. Hicks and Portnoy are carrying motion trackers, jury-rigged by Calvin from two of the stationary ones posted around the bridge. Calvin remains on the bridge while the other four people have gone out.
Hicks and Rodan are on one end of deck 4C, the latter busy shutting a duct opening with his laser torch.
Portnoy and Mack are at a door on the other side of 4C. Mack is focused on sealing the door shut. Portnoy waves the tracker around for any sign of motion.
Both pairs of people are in contact with each other as well Calvin over their headsets.
Mack switches the battery on her laser torch. Portnoy's motion tracker beeps with the haunting sound of movement. He asks over his headset, "Hicks, are you boys in the starboard maintenance alcove? Over."
"That's a negative. We're sealing off the provisions storage room. Over."
Mack's heart tenses up when she hears the transmission. She tries to calm herself so she does not accidentally burn her own finger off with the laser torch. She was always better at close-quarters combat operations than welding duty; it was part of the reason she went to W-Y private security.
Her tangent thoughts go away when she notices a curious silence behind her. She turns around after having finished the welding job.
Portnoy is gone.
"Doc? Doc? Hello?"
Nothing. Just the steady hum of the ship's reactor.
"Shit," she quietly mutters. Her teeth start grinding in panic, causing her jawbones to jut out slightly. "Calvin? Got a reading on Portnoy? Over."
"Negative, sir. His reading's just...gone."
Mack's breathing becomes more and more like gasping. She had never actually seen a creature like this before, but based on Ripley's account...it should be the size of a man by now.
"Mack, I've got something," Calvin says, almost causing Mack to erupt in a spasm of tension-fueled surprise.
"Fucking Christ, Calvin. What is it?"
"Portnoy's back. What in the hell is he doing?"
Portnoy's channel switches on with activity. "I can't take it anymore," he says.
Calvin stops typing for a minute. "Doc! What's your status?"
"I'm finishing what I've started, son. This thing isn't getting off the ship. Good-bye," Portnoy cryptically replies. On the bridge, Calvin witnesses the channel shut off for good.
In the dark depths of 4C, Portnoy ambles through carrying the motion tracker at his hip. He tosses aside the headset and continues in the direction of the Company ship. Small yellow emergency lights illuminate points along the edges of the corridor, but still leave vast swaths of impenetrable darkness. The doctor remembers the bodies that lay here only a few hours ago. He realizes that since he chose to condemn the little girl to death, he has to answer for what he has done.
"Newt!" the old man calls out repeatedly. The motion tracker is silent except for its regular pinging sound.
"Come out, come out, wherever you are!" Portnoy's taunts are interrupted when he steps on something squishy. He tries to free his foot from the floor, but he must pull hard. He kneels down with the caution for his leg joints. He manually pulls aside sticky strands of the filmy material. "My god," he whispers. Sheddings. These must be the sheddings he was briefed about.
He pulls his foot away from the material strand by strand. But then the motion tracker rings with a signal a dozen or so meters behind him. Then it is gone. Portnoy did not get a good look at the signal, but there was something about that irked him. Almost as if the creature knew it was being tracked.
Finally it dawned on the old doctor. He was being hunted.
He knew it was already too late to run. Even if he wanted to run, he was too injured and frail to do so.
Portnoy starts stepping backwards holding the motion tracker out in front, eagerly awaiting the slightest signal. Nothing.
"Little girl! Come, Newt!" he calls out again.
The tracker emits a beeping sound and Portnoy gets a clear look. The signal is not well-defined, but it looks like a blob that changes shape. Erratically.
Now this did not fit with the description in the briefing. Portnoy could not make sense of the tracker reading on the assumption that the creature hunting him was humanoid. It must have a different body shape. But what?
The old man picks up the pace as the signal edges closer and closer. He peers around in the dimly-lit spaces and wonder just where it could be hiding.
Portnoy has to feel his way around the hallway with one hand while holding the tracker with the other. His steps are hampered by leftover strands of skin shedding stuck to his shoe.
A gas pipe lets out a burst of white fumes. The old man nearly has a heart attack from the surprise.
The signal is getting more focused. Where once it was a blob, the reading on the motion tracker has now morphed itself into a narrow shape.
Portnoy suddenly regrets sacrificing himself. He wants to go back to the safety of the bridge. He wants out. He doesn't want to die like this.
He sees it. Some kind of creature. A dark looming mass covered in what looks like saliva.
The dark shape unfurls itself onto the floor. It was hiding in the mess of conduit piping and feed lines somewhere above Portnoy's head.
Portnoy's breathing becomes constricted. All the air has left his lungs.
A hissing sound fills the old man's ears. But it is not like any hissing sound he ever heard on Earth. It is at once too mechanical- and too organic-sounding.
The shape rises from a bundled position on the floor, rearing what Portnoy can only assume is its head. Sharp, lethal-looking black projections emanate from the beast's back and sides. Its head seems unnaturally elongated, lacking any discernible features except for a terrible mouth filled glistening, needle-sharp teeth.
Portnoy is frozen on the spot. He cannot even turn his gaze away from where it had settled, somewhere to the creature's side. Out of the corner of his vision, he sees that the Xenomorph is a giant serpent. One vestigial arm hangs limply off to the side. The torso is thick and muscular. The beast undulates like an angry cobra.
The old man starts tearing up. His mouth-breathing becomes loud and ragged.
The creature opens its maw above Portnoy's shaking head. The old man relieves himself and starts muttering panicked apologies and prayers. "Why? Why? Why?" he asks himself crying.
The small mouth inside another mouth springs out and breaks open the man's skull, eagerly biting into chewy, salty human brain matter. Portnoy screams. Blood flies out and splatters the creature, then runs down the old man's face. He is dead before he hits the floor.