The remainder of the trip was uneventful to the point of being tediously boring. The updated drive made the trip back to Earth in just a few days and the Sulaco soon found itself docked at Anchor Point station in Earth orbit.
Needless to say with the fallout from their mission looming, the crew was given extended shore leave while Hicks and Bishop went through the numerous meetings and investigatory committees that the company was famous for. Hudson was relieved that the company decided to include representatives from the Colonial Marines at every meeting which saved him having to repeat himself to his higher ups once the company was through with him.
Although they undoubtedly had questions regarding his involvement and how his ship with the civilian just happened to be in the area when the distress signal was supposedly received, Hicks and his crew were nonetheless commended for their actions and to his surprise he and many others were recommended for promotion.
As was explained to Hicks, since he showed amazing leadership capacities in the mission it was only fitting that he have the rank of captain to go along with his duties.
Ripley on the other hand was given several military and civilian commendations and offered her choice of assignments. She was set to turn them all down but surprisingly due to the intervention of Burke and Hicks, she found herself accepting a newly created role aboard the Sulaco as an independent first officer. The idea being that someone with allegiances neither to the company nor the corp was needed to provide an impartial and at times objective perspective in evaluating crew and ship operations.
She had planned to turn down the position until Hicks and Bishop convinced her that it was created at their request is a method of allowing her to stay with the ship yet not having to answer to anyone currently in the chain of command aside from Hicks. Ripley made a mental note to Sundance kicks just exactly what was bargaining order for her to get such an incredible situation offered to her especially with a pay bump that was on par with upper company executives.
Warner Huntington on the other hand had remained silent ever since the ship docked. He made no request for legal counsel nor received any visitors or communiqués during his time in detention. He truly become a persona non grata which seemed to suit everyone just fine as it was likely that his associates wanted to distance themselves from him as far as they could.
It came as a real shock when Huntington requested to make a statement regarding his situation and asked that all top level members of the company and the Colonial Marines who wish to hear what he had to say be in attendance. While the arrogance of this struck a few individuals the wrong way, the curiosity over his situation undoubtedly fueled by rampant rumors soon became the talk of the station and Earth side as well.
Huntington had asked for a custom suit from one the extremely upscale businesses located on the station and in short order his hand tailored outfit arrived. Before being allowed to adorn himself, the suit and container it was delivered in were given the utmost scrutiny by station security including multilevel scans on a microscopic level. This is been ordered by Burke after Ripley had suggested there were likely people who would stop at nothing to make sure that he doesn’t open his mouth and implement them.
On the day of the public hearing, Huntington strode into the room like a proud peacock in his new attire acting like he didn’t have a care in the world. While it was common practice for bigwigs in the company to walk away from charges, killing Colonial Marines, engaging in unsanctioned genetic experimentation, misuse of company funds, and worst of all, getting caught, were not things the company tended to tolerate as it was the sort of thing that made stockholders uneasy.
Ripley and Hicks decided to skip the hearing as to be honest, neither one of them thought they could restrain themselves from choking the life out of Huntington given half a chance. That did not stop the two of them from following the events on a vid screen as they enjoyed some quality time on earth before visiting Newt.
As the hearing began, Huntington surveyed the high level corporate and military brass assembled in the room. He was extremely proud of himself that despite his recent an unfortunate situation he could still command the best and the brightest to appear.
Huntington stifled a yawn as he listened to the long list of charges levied against him as well is a recap of the events that led them to the courtroom. He was extremely impressed with how detailed report is and he had to chuckle to himself about how much they still were not able to include for lack of evidence.
Finally he was asked to take the stand and address the charges. Showtime, Huntington amusingly said to himself as he strode to the stand to begin his widely and well rehearsed oratory on his powerful connections and lineage as well as his long list of accomplishments within the company.
Ripley was about to switch off the hearings when she noticed several of the assembled members of the gallery fussing with their collars and ties as they as if they were attempting to get air. While at first amused, Huntington seemed very distracted by this turn of events, and soon found himself extremely warm and uncomfortable and undoing the tie on his suit.
Before long everyone in the chamber was writing uncomfortably which soon evolved into a chorus of screams as people began to claw not only up there clothing but at their very skin. One unfortunate individual was literally pulling clumps of hair off his head as he violently scratch the skin from his arm.
Seeing the distress on the monitors security and medical individuals rapidly rushed to the chamber but found themselves unable to access the occupants due to a heavy security door which had locked into place.
Horrified but unable to look away the view screen showed a nightmarish metamorphosis taking place as the individuals inside no longer appeared human but took on the look of the alien human hybrids that Ripley and Hicks had recently encountered.
Huntingtons last conscious thought was looking at the monitor in front of him and instead of seeing his carefully prepared rebuttal he saw a very ominous line of text.
“Phase 2 has commenced”……
To be continued.