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Literature / Aliens: Bug Hunt

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"So grab your pulse rifle, and let's go hunting."

Introduction, Jonathan Maberry

Aliens: Bug Hunt is an Anthology of 18 short stories set in the Alien universe and (mostly) focusing on the Colonial Marines, typically on "Bug Hunts" against an assortment of alien lifeforms. The actual Xenomorphs that form the foundation of the franchise don't appear in every story; rather, the common thread is heavily-armed humans facing down whatever indescribable alien horror the galaxy decides to spit out this week. The stories are:

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  • Chance Encounter: The USCSS Typhoon is forced down on an uncharted planet, and take the opportunity to survey its unique wildlife to obtain Corporate incentive bonuses. One particularly unique specimen catches their eye, the Company wants them to investigate it in particular, but warns them not to take any unnecessary risks. . .
  • Reaper: A Company harvester on an Agri World has gone off course, and then gone dark. The Marines are sent in to investigate the problem, only discover it's far larger than anyone could have imagined.
  • Broken: The android Bishop isn't defective. He's different.
  • Reclamation: After five years, Corporal Dwayne Hicks finally gets to go out and investigate what happened when his wife went missing.
  • Blowback: The Company has spied a potentially revolutionary natural resource, but both of their research teams have been killed trying to study and exploit it. What do you do when Bugs are threatening your profits? Call the Marines.
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  • Exterminators: Frost and Dietrich walk into a bar to blow off some steam. Walking back out again without dying horribly is going to be a lot harder.
  • No Good Deed: Two extremely violent convicts escape from a prison ship, so two bounty hunters go after them, tracking them to the Hadley's Hope colony on LV-426.
  • Zero to Hero: Cowardly Colonial Marine Corporal Sykes learns an age-old lesson: you never really know what you're made of until you're put to the test.
  • Dark Mother: They say when you're dying, your life flashes before your eyes. But maybe, sometimes, you don't just see your past. . .
  • Episode 22: Tune in to Saga of the Weapon as they discuss one of the finest infantry combat rifles ever developed, the M41 Pulse Rifle.
  • Deep Background: A reporter is embedded with a platoon of Colonial Marines, hoping to deliver a solid profile on the Corps. in general and these Marines in particular, maybe see some action, and, just possibly, dig up a little dirt on the Weyland-Yutani Corporation.
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  • Empty Nest: Marines, a human colony, a Xenomorph hive, a lone female human survivor. Think you know how this plays out? Think again.
  • Darkness Falls: Colonial Marine Captain Angela Hall (retired) just wanted a quite place to put her agricultural degrees to use. The universe, as it so often does, decides it's not done screwing with her quite yet.
  • Hugs To Die For: Weyland-Yutani has some innovative new construction techniques, but there's some concerns over the safety of their operations. Colonial Marine General Amotz and her security detail are asked to inspect the facility to ensure it's safe.
  • Deep Black: An elite three-man team is tasked to investigate the long-abandoned mining/penal colony on Fiorina "Fury" 161.
  • Distressed: The Marines respond to a distress call from a Company freighter, which has been struck by an alien object. A very alien object.
  • Dangerous Prey: Prepare to go where no one has gone before. . . into the point-of-view of an Alien Hive.
  • Spite: A colony has gone dark, and the Marines go to investigate. It's not what you think. It's worse.

This Anthology includes examples of:

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    General 

  • A Day in the Limelight: Some of the stories expand on characters from Aliens before the doomed mission to Hadley's Hope:
    • Broken for Bishop.
    • Reclamation for Hicks.
    • Blowback for Dietrich.
    • Exterminators for Frost (with Dietrich in a major supporting role).
    • Dark Mother for Carter Burke.
    • Episode 22 for the M41A Pulse Rifle.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": "Bug" is the basic Colonial Marine slang for any extraterrestrial lifeform, slightly more specifically any extraterrestrial lifeform that is hostile, dangerous, or annoying.
  • Monster of the Week: Most stories revolve around Colonial Marines on yet another Bug Hunt, not all of which also involve the titular Alien.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • In Broken, one of the first things Bishop realizes upon being activated is what his nature is, with several terms for it available. "Android, Synthetic, Artificial Person, Robot." He decides he likes "Artificial Person" best. At the end, Hudson teaches Bishop Five-Finger Fillet.
    • At the end of Exterminators, Dietrich decides that on her next Bug Hunt, she's bringing a flamethrower. She says this to Frost, the man she will inadvertently kill with said flamethrower.
  • Red Shirt Army: Don't get too attached to a large portion of the Marines introduced in these stories.
  • Schrödinger's Canon: The introduction outright admits that some of the stories get pretty weird, and may or may not be fully canonical with the larger Alien universe.
  • Trading Bars for Stripes: Two of the stories (Zero to Hero and Empty Nest) introduce us to four Marines who are serving as an alternative to prison, like Vasquez and Drake's unspoken backstories in Aliens.

    Chance Encounter 

  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Averted, the story takes place on a moon with roughly one-quarter Earth gravity that somehow has an atmosphere.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The flora and fauna of the world are huge, thanks to the low gravity, and the biosphere hasn't evolved anything like a predator, since the physics of the world doesn't support them. Doesn't stop the Xenomorphs from setting up shop just fine; they adapt powerful, "kangaroo-like" hindquarters to leap spectacularly and take advantage of the low gravity.
  • Energy Weapon: The Typhoon crew have laser rifles with which to defend themselves while out gathering specimens.
  • Greed London's fatal flaw, always trying to wrangle a little extra cash out of whoever he can with assorted side bets and gambling games. He's the most gung-ho about getting the samples needed, and makes it out with an immature Xenomorph egg by the end, ready to return it for vast profits. He quickly lives to regret it.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: In a departure from the usual Alien story, when Weyland-Yutani hears about the "Leapers," they ask the crew to get whatever samples they can, but not to take any unnecessary risks to do so. The Captain Lampshades it, saying "It makes me nervous when even the Company is concerned about what they might be sending us into."

    Reaper 

  • Agri World: The story takes place on a planet terraformed by Weyland-Yutani as a perfect ground for eternally-renewing wheat crops, with two giant harvesters slowly circling the fields to reap the grain.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The story ends with one Marine facing down the oncoming horde, knowing escape is impossible, but trying to take as many of them with him as possible.
  • Disposable Pilot: The pilot is the first casualty, going outside the dropship after the weather clears. Then the swarm arrives. . .
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: Pretty much literally. The alien menace is a swarm of insects who lay dormant for decades, letting the planet's indigenous plant life recover before emerging to eat everything they can, then go dormant again. Unfortunately, the Company terraformed the planet, put down a never-ending supply of self-seeding grain, then one of the massive harvesters tore the cap off their underground hive. With no natural checks on their growth, the swarm has grown to apocalyptic levels.
  • Oh, Crap!: Putting the clues together, the Marines realize what happened: the Horde of Alien Locusts got unleashed, have scoured the planet of anything organic, and grown to a huge size. It wasn't bad weather they were flying through on the way down, it was the pressure wave of the approaching swarm.

    Broken 

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Downplayed positively. Bishop isn't defective, he's different, with a bit more free will, adaptability, and ability to creatively interpret his core programing.
  • Chess Motifs: Bishop and other androids activated with him, Rook, Castle, King, and Knight.
  • Space Pirates: Played realistically. "Company F" occupies a corporate colony, takes hostages, and demands money, then skedaddles once they get paid. This time, some Marines happened to be in close-response range, and Weyland-Yutani decided they'd had enough of paying ransom to these assholes.
  • Three Laws-Compliant: Bishop, though he can be creative about it. As deadly gas floods the colony, he prioritizes putting breathing masks on the hostages, and by the time he gets to the pirates, they're dead. He didn't kill them, he prioritized assistance in a logical manner, and it's not his fault the pirates died before he was able to render assistance. Later, he remotely switches off the masks of two pirates, knowing that if they got to the dropship with the other hostages, the pirates would kill the hostages, so killing the pirates was the only way Bishop could ensure the hostagaes' safety. He does feel considerable guilt over this.
  • What Measure Is A Nonhuman: Bishop is a bit disquieted by how everyone reacts to him like a machine, a tool, an asset. . . until he meets Apone and Hudson, who shake his hand and talk to him like a person. He decides he likes that.

    Reclamation 

  • Artistic License – Military: Downplayed. Hicks correctly notes that military protocol would absolutely prevent him from being assigned to a follow-up mission to the one where his wife went missing. Apparently, enough data was withheld that no one made the connection, and through some random stroke of luck Hicks was tapped for the assignment anywaynote . Once Hicks finds Rachel and reveals to the squad their connection, the Sergeant is rightly, dumbfoundedly furious that Hicks is on this mission in the first place.
  • Disconnected by Death: Rachel is attacked by the alien during her last video message to Hicks. She lives long enough to send the message, though what happened after remains unknown until five years later.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The alien of this story leans into this trope. It's black, apparently has tentacles, and that's really all that can be determined, other than that it is hostile and deadly.
  • The Lost Lenore: Rachel for Hicks. He's elated when the orders come to check out the moon where she disappeared, so he can finally try to figure out what happened to her.
  • Love at First Sight: Combined with In Love with Your Carnage. Hicks falls for Rachel Miller after he sees her jam her combat knife through the hand of a Marine who tried to grope her. Eight weeks later, they were married.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Hicks, the guy so laid-back he was napping on a bucking dropship, gets called out by the Sergeant several times for his vitals spiking to unacceptably high levels. Because he's investigating the place where his wife died.
  • Sole Survivor: The Sergeant was relatively safe aboard the ship. Of the Marines who went out to investigate, only Hicks survived.

    Blowback 

  • Made of Explodium: The Bugs in this story explode violently when they get shot.
  • Plasma Cannon: The Marines carry plasma rifles (sometimes confusingly-referred to as "pulse rifles," despite the pulse rifle being a ballistic weapon) for this outing. Possibly because the planet's harsh environment makes ballistic weapons inadvisable.
  • Silicon-Based Life: Downplayed. These Bugs are explicitly carbon-based, "like everything else," but where the solvent for Earth-based life is water, the solvent for this world is propane. Hence the aliens being Made of Explodium.
  • Solid Gold Poop: The element the Company is interested in? It's what these aliens exhale.
  • Unobtanium: Weyland-Yutani's interest in the planet. They know of two elements that could be combined into super starship fuel, but every attempt to combine them has not had positive results. Preliminary analysis indicates there's a third element in the atmosphere of this planet that could catalyze this reaction safely, so the Marines are sent in to make it safe for the researchers.

    Exterminators 

  • All Just a Dream: Frost wonders about this, given he and Dietrich set off a pretty big explosion pretty close to themselves to try and escape the Bugs. No one believes Frost's story, and he himself begins to wonder if it wasn't the dream of a concussed mind. Until Dietrich wakes up and asks "Did we get 'em?"
  • Body Horror: The big bug latching on one's chest, burning into their flesh with acid, refusing to be removed, then pumping the host full of larva which eat them from inside out before swarming out of their mouth to attack, feed, and presumably grow large enough to start the cycle all over again. . . yeesh. These things may be more disturbing than the Xenomorphs themselves.
  • Weakened by the Light: These bugs don't like bright lights, scurrying away from it. Problem is, the bar has only a few neon signs and one gas-powered lamp, and Frost only has a pocket flashlight.
  • Xenomorph Xerox: Interestingly enough. These Bugs seem to be a riff on the Facehugger, latching on to a host, pumping the host full of larva which soon erupt out in a swarm, giving up its own life in the process. It also bonds to the host and defends itself with some kind of acid attack, and removing it without killing the host seems highly unlikely.

    No Good Deed 

  • Abusive Parents: Apparently, Bates' mother was such a piece of work that killing and eating her was his only recourse. She's still a Berserk Button for him.
  • Bounty Hunter: Madison "Mad" Voss, and by extension her synthetic sidekick Jex.
  • Cassandra Truth: Bates tells everyone about the experiments performed on him by MetCon pharmaceuticals when he was in juvenile lockup. No one believes him, because who are you going to trust, an interplanetary megacorporation or some psycho who ate his mom?
  • Cool vs. Awesome: A Hulk/Doomsday Expy versus Aliens? Does it get cooler than that?
  • Double-Meaning Title: Jaeger shoots and kills Bates to save Mad's life, hoping that will earn him simple arrest and transit off Hadley's Hope, but Mad never intended to take him alive, simply killing him. Thus completing the phrase set up by the title, "no good deed goes unpunished." Then Mad and Jex ignore the colonists' pleas for assistance and leave with proof of their bounties, apparently as the Xenomorphs begin their final assault on the colonists' barricades. Thus, they perform "no good deed."
  • Hulking Out: Bates, as a result of the experiments performed on him, turns into a massive rust-red monster with bone spikes all over him.
  • I am a Humanitarian: Bates killed his mother and ate part of her when he was 14.
  • Robot Buddy: Mad had Jex designed to her exact specifications personality-wise, creating a custom-built sidekick for her bounty hunting jobs.
  • Shapeshifter Baggage: How Bates doubles his mass and grows such formidable natural weapons when he Hulks Out is completely glossed over.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Bates condition easily references The Incredible Hulk, while his appearance very much recalls Doomsday (albeit with rust-red skin instead of green or gray).
    • Jack Bates' backstory and prevalence of his mother recalls Norman Bates.
  • Super Serum: Bates was experimented on as a teenager while in juvenile detention with something that would hopefully be this. It certainly worked in some way, he's bigger and stronger than any human before he Hulks Out, and has that option available when he gets sufficiently upset. Unfortunately, he's also stone-stupid with a childlike mentality.
  • Three Laws-Compliant: Jex does not seem to be, having no qualms when Mad gives the order to shoot the fugitives on sight. In fact, he seems rather chipper at the idea.

    Zero to Hero 

  • And I Must Scream: When the infection takes hold, the person is aware, but unable to anything unless commanded by the infection itself, and if there's no one to infect, the spit will just make them stand stock still and wait for someone. Eventually, the infected will die from lack of food and water.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Weyland-Yutani medtechs had recently dropped by the mining colony to "vaccinate the miners with a new strain of penicillin." Nothing about that statement is accurate. Then again, since this was apparently a smokescreen to test a new bioweapon on the miners. . .
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Sykes wanted a post as far from the core systems as he could get, well away from any potential threats caused a mysterious new alien he's heard rumors about. Unfortunately, he didn't pay enough attention to the rumors to realize the fringes of human space are exactly where they're cropping up, nor did he take into account that xenomorphs aren't the only threat out there.
  • Cowardly Lion: Corporal Sykes, with his keenly-developed sense of cowardice, turns out to be an effective and fairly-competent leader when the chips are down.
  • Playing with Syringes: As they investigate the strange behavior of the miners, one of Sykes' squad recalls an incident on a prison barge. There's no proof, but the consensus is that Weyland-Yutani experimented on the prisoners, causing them to go berserk and kill each other.
    Everyone was fine, Weyland medtechs showed up, then everyone wasn't fine.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Invoked. Sykes cashes in a debt owed him by a Weyland-Yutani administrator to get reassigned to a played-out mine in the ass-end of nowhere, specifically to be as far away as possible from these new aliens he's heard rumors about. The ones that "shit acid."
  • Super Spit: The infected miners pass the infection on by spitting on their targets. The spit is alive, able to move and seek gaps in protective gear to infect more people.

    Dark Mother 

    Episode 22 

  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Weyland Storm Rifle. Absolutely packed with high-tech goodies, and impossible to keep working outside of a factory clean room.
  • Boring, but Practical: The Harrington Assault Rifle, which works all the time every time, but wasn't powerful enough to stop enemies in contemporary body armor.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In keeping with the Vietnam parallels of Aliens, the development of the M41 (as well as the performance of its precursor weapons) mirrors the issues surrounding the early models of M-16.
  • Fan Nickname: In-Universe. "Pulse Rifle" appears nowhere in the M41's official specs, but the Marines call it that because it uses an electronic pulse to fire.
  • Gun Porn: If you're not into firearms at all, this will probably be the most boring and pointless story in the whole book. If you are, then its a fascinating "future history" of the development of one of the greatest guns ever designed.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: All the discussion about the technical aspects of the M41 is grounded in actual firearms development (even caseless rounds are a thing, though we haven't quite gotten them to work right yet), and none of it is even implausible by today's standards.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: In-Universe. The unique report of the pulse rifle is discussed at length twice, as part of what makes it such an overall effective and awesome weapon.
  • Show Within a Show: Saga Of The Weapon, a series discussing assorted firearms throughout human history similar to Modern Marvels from The History Channel.
  • This Is Reality: Talking about the nickname Pulse Rifle, one Marine notes that the downside is there's always some recruit who hears the name and thinks it's some kind of Energy Weapon. "What do they think this is, sci-fi?"

    Deep Background 

    Empty Nest 

    Darkness Falls 

    Hugs to Die For 

    Deep Black 

    Distressed 

    Dangerous Prey 

    Spite 

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