I really liked my life before. I was Amanda Ripley, badass astronaut, on board a cool spaceship with cool ‘70s futuristic decor. I was traipsing around in my underwear, punching big plastic light-up buttons, talking to my space-sick crewmates - having a whale of a time. We had bran and cornflakes; we had comfy hypersleep beds; we had lighting that worked reliably. Life was good.
That was before I boarded Sevastopol Station.
It seemed alright at first. It was no luxury liner, but Sevastopol was a sprawling and reasonably comfortable place, where everything had a practical purpose. There were no grandiose overtures to its design - it just was, a perfectly serviceable habitat for a working-class industrial workforce. Having grown up in and around the freighters on which Mom worked, the decor was instantly familiar - harshly lit and grimy, yes, but comfortingly lived-in. The walls and floors had scuff marks. People lived here.
Not many people, though, because damn if something hadn’t up and murdered nearly everyone. It didn’t take long to find out what: a sleek, black alien monster that somehow slithered and stomped at the same time. I managed to hook up with a group of survivors trying to quarantine and eliminate the creature, and better yet, they seemed to know something about my mother’s disappearance - the whole reason I was there in the first place. They seemed like decent people - just ordinary folks trying to get by. I bought their stories, and I bought their plan to get out of there. Thus unfolded a series of highly mechanical tasks - tasks at which I was fully trained. As a smart, capable, no-nonsense, getting-shit-done space engineer, I could handle this.
My objectives were purely practical, but compelling enough. There was a lot of legwork involved. I would take a train to a new area, flip some switches, turn some gears, hack some computers, and get out. It was stuff I’d done a thousand times before on other missions - there were even keycards I had to find, so familiar and frankly simplistic were my objectives. Surely this would be a piece of cake. Maybe I’d even be able to find some trace of mom.
But a piece of cake it wasn’t, because I also happened to be hunted almost every step of the way by the same creature that had killed so many people. Every step I took had a pervasive dread to it - would this be the step that alerted the alien to my presence, provoking it to come swooping down from the conspicuously alien-sized ventilation holes in the ceilings? My motion tracker gave me little comfort - it didn’t work in hiding places like vents, and as it turned out, the vents themselves weren’t all that safe anyway. I couldn’t even walk around with the tracker on all the time, as its pings would draw the alien’s attention themselves. Shooting the alien did nothing. It was only halfway through the ordeal that I found a flamethrower with which to scare it away. I crafted dozens of flashbangs and pipe bombs out of the scrap I found around the station, but mostly I just hid and prayed as the thing stalked past. Though my locker and cabinet hiding places did not guarantee safety, they sure made me feel more secure than standing out in the open with...it.
But I’m smart. I learn fast. It didn’t take long before I figured out what the alien was looking and listening for. Then, it became a waiting game - one I would play, patiently, over and over as I carried out my repetitive handle-pulling and computer-hacking. I did a lot of things, but I did each one ad nauseam. So while it was a stressful time, it was monotonously stressful - once the monster’s underlying psychology became clear, it wasn’t quite as scary. That said, I was never not scared. The alien was ever-present, but often secondary to more pressing threats. Crazed, frightened people shot at me, but even they weren’t my most deadly foe. The patrolling androids were the worst. Terrifying in their banality, they were benign plastic skin and glowing red eyes and calm voices until they marched resolutely towards my waiting, vulnerable neck. They really are very difficult to kill - more often than not, I’d just run away, hoping the doors would seal behind me.
By the time I reached the end of my sojourn on Sevastopol, I’d been beaten, bruised, shot, electrocuted, bitten, and burned. I’d gone into the heart of the alien nest and into the icy black vacuum of space. I’d jumped in terror at sounds coming from all sides, and forced myself to continue when all hope was lost. But I fought through it all, dammit, and came out on the other side a changed woman.
So yes, I’ve got complaints about my experience on the Sevastopol. Yes, I’d prefer my stay to have been shorter. And yes, my engineering skills were mostly used for busywork. But even with all that, I feel like my struggle did my mother’s justice and respect. I didn’t spend my time prostrating myself before her memory; just quietly got on with it, capturing her spirit along the way.
I think Mom would have been proud.