In my last post, I explained how I came to write the fic 'We Just Declared War', and what my overall intentions and plans were. In this post, I get to bore you all even more by discussing some of the more detailed dialogue and narrative choices and some of the references I put in, and the in-jokes, and so forth. You know, like a normal Director's Commentary.
However, rather than doing it the normal way and copy-pasting the entire text of the story and interspersing my comments, I'm just going to quote the relevant lines with my comments - otherwise this would be far, far too long.
Spoilers for the story, obviously.
Chapter One: Bughunt
All the chapter titles are quotes from the film. (Or, to be accurate, from the draft script I found online: I couldn't find an transcript of the actual dialogue.) This one is from Hudson: "Is this going to be a stand-up fight, sir, or another bug-hunt?" In the story, I emphasise the insectoid nature of the demons in Buffy's dream to justify the title.
she'd opened it to find Leah and Rowena standing there, wide-eyed and anxious and ready to report the exact same dream.
Originally this was Leah and Satsu, but I decided to change Satsu for Rowena. That's either because Satsu is still too shy to come into Buffy's bedroom in the middle of the night at this stage, or because she's already there. ;-)
Having several hundred versions of the same Slayerdream was actually pretty useful.
I've stolen this idea from a story I started but never finished over a year ago. Buffy has prophetic dreams; now that there are over 2,000 Slayers, will they all have the same dream at the same time? I decided the answer was 'not always, but if there's an apocalypse coming, then yes'... and that all the Slayers in Buffy's organisation at least will be under standing orders to call headquarters and report any such dreams.
Willow seemed to think it would open at a particular time
The timing of this story is left vague; I've used various elements and character names from Season 8, but it's not intended to form part of the Season 8 continuity. Assume that Willow has not yet left on her 6-month mystical walkabout. (And Dawn is still normal-sized, although she doesn't actually appear in this story).
"When the stars are right", Andrew interjected;
An H P Lovecraft reference, but apparently none of the Slayers or mystics present has heard of Cthulhu.
Rather to her surprise, she isn't in a desert or rocky cavern or demonic hellscape; in fact, she seems to be standing in some kind of village or settlement.
Funny how portals always seem to lead to places like that, isn't it? If 'Buffy' were a British show they'd lead to abandoned quarries in Kent.
She still thinks the things are ugly, but they've already saved the lives of several Slayers, and so she's decided to set an example to the troops by wearing her own into battle.
Yeah, yeah, I'm taking another opportunity to rehash my "why Buffy wears kevlar now" argument. Sue me.
Picture: The Hadley's Hope colony on LV-426, plus Buffy from 'Showtime' with Scythe and crossbow added.
She lifts her hand, and stringy grey slime clings to her glove like glue.
The suspense starts to build...
Transparent panels on the high roof let in dim grey light, given a murky submarine quality by the water streaming across them. In places the roof sealing leaks, and water drips down the walls and makes the floor slippery.
Any 'Alien' story needs a large, apparently empty dark room with water dripping down from above. It's a rule.
It is huge. Glistening black. Uncoiling from the highest racks with evil, silent grace. Hungry jaws slaver, dripping sticky slime as it looms out of the darkness. Buffy aims and fires without hesitation.
The point here is, Buffy isn't frozen in fear. She's not a helpless victim, she's the thing monsters have nightmares about. Unfortunately, that doesn't automatically mean she'll always hit with her first shot...
Rips its tongue out by the roots.
This sort of thing is what gives this story its R rating... I was trying to think of different ways for Buffy to defeat Xenomorphs without using guns, and this was one of them.
Buffy looks at her arm. The angry red marks on her skin are already starting to fade
The aliens' acidic blood can melt steel or cripple a normal person, but against Slayer rapid healing abilities it's purely a painful annoyance. This was a deliberate bit of artistic licence I chose to adopt to make the story work better.
Yellow blood coats it and drips smoking off the edge; but the glittering blade is as shiny and unblemished as ever. Undamaged.
So was this. If Buffy had hit one Xenomorph with the Scythe then watched it melt away in the blood, there wouldn't have been much story after that...
The chapter ends on a cliffhanger, and this is also where we progress from the Alien aesthetic to the Aliens paradigm.
Chapter Two: Let's rock
This one is a Vasquez quote - and for the uninitiated, "to rock and roll" is US military slang for opening fire on full automatic with a machine gun.
Her crossbow bolt catches it square in the eye.
She missed the first time, but Buffy learns quickly.
Her crossbow twangs again as she aims for the slimy chinks in the chitin exoskeleton armouring the demon. It goes down in a heap
Notice how the lone Xenomorph in the previous chapter caused her so much trouble, but when there are dozens of them coming at her, she kills them one after the other without much problem? I call this the "Turok-han Effect". It's canon! (It's also known as the Inverse Ninja Principle.)
She summons up her last reserves of courage and determination, forcing her battered body through the steps of its deadly dance. They might kill her, but they will never defeat her...
I rewrote this scene fairly late in the process, to make Buffy more heroic. Yes, she was probably about to be killed until the marines show up to rescue her, but I wanted to demonstrate how she never gives up.
"All right! See how you like it, you fuckers! Eat that!"
"Can it, Hudson."
Apparently there's an 'Aliens' drinking game: every time somebody tells Hudson to shut up, you take a swig. I'm happy to offer my own contribution to the tradition. (And I'm quite pleased with the marines' character voices here.)
she feels a pure twinge of rocket-launcher envy
Cheesy but fun. :-) One thing I did want to highlight in this story is that even though Buffy is on record as saying guns are "never useful", she does love weapons. From her bubbliness about "flying fatality" when learning the crossbow in season 1 to telling Principal Wood all about the bastinado in Season 7 - and her choice of bedroom decoration in Season 8 - she's always been enthusiastic about finding new and exciting tools for killing.
Eight, with the kid. Nine with you
Vasquez, Hudson, Hicks, Gorman, Bishop, Ripley, Burke, Newt, and Buffy. This story takes place after the Xenomorphs have been repelled the first time by the sentry guns, and Bishop has set off to the transmitter to bring down the spare dropship. Hicks tells Hudson and Vasquez "I want you two walking the perimeter"... for the sake of this story, I'm assuming that included them going outside and finding Buffy.
Picture: the marines' first landing on LV-426, with all but two of them cropped out. Buffy is again from 'Showtime', with Scythe added, and a pile of dead aliens and drawn-in yellow blood. Buffy's torso and legs are from two different screencaps here, incidentally.
who apparently rejoices in the name of Newt. Not that Buffy feels herself in a position to criticise anyone else for their odd-sounding name, of course.
Restricted 3rd person POV at work. Everybody calls Newt 'Newt' by this stage of the film, and there's no reason for Buffy to know that her real name is Rebecca. I think Buffy has had enough people making fun of her name by now to not want to inflict that on anyone else.
The woman speaking - some kind of civilian consultant with the marines by the name of Ripley - is trying to comfort Buffy, who feels oddly annoyed by the implication that she needs it.
Putting Ellen Ripley and Buffy Summers together in the same room feels like it ought to disrupt the space-time continuum due to a critical mass of awesomeness. I decided to answer the question "How can Buffy compete with Ripley?" by, well, making her compete with Ripley...
It's only a mild sedative, puts you out for an hour or so while your body heals itself.
My invention, not 'Aliens' canon. I needed a reason for Buffy to go to sleep so soon after she arrived on this planet...
There is fear and disgust in the peremptory command, and Buffy reacts as she usually does to such instructions. She steps closer.
She's a rebel. Although not a hot tramp.
The shape hits the glass inches from her face, but Buffy doesn't flinch.
Important scene. In the film, of course, both Burke and the audience leap back with shock when this happens; but Buffy has ice-cold reactions. No way is she going to flinch. She's also not likely to be disgusted by the aliens; she's met, fought and killed equally repulsive things in her time. Of course, Ripley is unlikely to sympathise with such neutrality... at this point, she may actually be thinking that Buffy has the same attitude to the Xenomorphs as Burke does, and thus be an enemy.
"They clamp onto your face, shove themselves down your throat. Lay their eggs inside of you, to eat you away from inside. Hatch out into the adult things you've seen."
On the off-chance that any readers have never seen 'Aliens', here's some exposition. :-)
It is the last thing she sees before the darkness claims her.
Hands up - how many people thought the next chapter would start with a facehugger already clamped onto Buffy?
Poster: I had fun making this. The font is called "Alien League", incidentally; it's fan-created. Ripley's character role is a little in-joke reference to Giles and Joyce, although it's also accurate; before she joins the expedition, her job is indeed working in the docks loading cargo onto ships. The 'cast of thousands' joke still makes me smile.
Chapter Three: We're In Trouble
Which is what Ripley says to Newt at the same point in the film, when they wake up in the medlab.
a suffocating dream
Yes, this was a Slayer prophetic dream-warning, causing Buffy to wake up while still alive and unfacehuggered.
The building is going to be ground zero of a nuclear explosion in about two hours' time
Notice how I keep slipping these references in just so you don't relax and lose track of the time as it keeps counting down?
when Buffy hurls herself against the window, she bounces. Clearly not normal glass then; some kind of special future technology Slayerproof glass.
Because if it were normal glass, there'd be no story here...
Ripley is shouting and waving at one of the CCTV cameras that line the room, with no apparent effect, and Buffy scowls angrily.
More tension between them. At this point, I wanted Buffy to save the day, so Ripley doesn't have her idea with the sprinklers. Also, the water would have ruined the magazine...
She picks it up and starts rolling it tightly, ignoring the shocked, hostile look the older woman suddenly shoots in her direction. What is her problem, anyway?
Her problem, of course, is a that an evil robot tried to kill her in the last film using a rolled-up magazine just like this one. But Buffy doesn't know that. Incidentally, a rolled-up magazine is indeed an extremely dangerous weapon if used correctly, to thrust rather than swat. Next time you board an aircraft and are issued flimsy plastic cutlery and an in-flight magazine, think about that...
Whirls the demon around her head as she runs full tilt and smashes it hard as she can against the glass wall of the room.
Spraying acid blood everywhere, of course, but we'll skip over that part. I love the visual of this, incidentally. And I stole the way Buffy uses the alien blood to crack the glass from 'Alien:Resurrection'.
Its exposed underside looks like wet sushi.
In-joke. In the original film, the model of the facehugger in the dissection scene really was made up by the Props department using a layer of sushi.
And Buffy is just wondering why she's using one of Spike's favourite insults
Sorry. For the record, 'berk' is British rhyming slang for 'Berkeley Hunt' = 'cunt', although it's considered a lot less forceful than the original word.
Picture: confronting Burke ("I say we grease this rat-fuck son of a bitch"). Buffy is from the final scene of 'Bring On The Night'; she's taken off her jacket now she's inside. I added a hand so it looks like she's hugging Newt.
"If we murder him in cold blood, what makes us better than the - than them?"
I wanted to showcase Buffy's morality here; she's halfway between Season 7 and Season 8 here, after all.
"What do you mean, they cut the power? How could they cut the power, man? They're animals!" - and Buffy instinctively steps in to take command.
At this stage, I start throwing in actual dialogue from the film where it would work - but only in small doses. And I'm also emphasising Buffy's heroic qualities again, of course.
And Buffy, who doesn't know what a tracker is, swallows her pique and manages to say "Good idea".
More competition between the two alpha females. Don't you love it?
*bip* *bip* *BEE-BEEP* *BEE-BEEP*
I've waited half my life to use this sound effect in a fic. :-)
Leaps up onto a desk, ready to dive into their midst and drag him away to safety... and a flash of instinct makes her duck down again, just as a burst of autofire rips through the space she'd been occupying a heartbeat earlier. She doesn't even see who pulled the trigger, doesn't care.
It was Vasquez, actually, but it was a pure accident, so I didn't incriminate her by using her name. If it weren't for Slayer reflexes Buffy would be a victim of friendly fire here. This wouldn't have happened if everyone were using swords and axes, and she would have been able to rescue Hudson. Of course, normal non-Slayer people with mediaeval weapons would have been killed by the aliens long since...
"---- --- ----?" "---- --- ------- ----!" "---- - ---- ---? Not again! What was that?"
That is, "What the hell?" "Shut the fucking door!" "Have I gone deaf? Not again! What was that?" And yes, setting off a grenade in an enclosed space like this will indeed cause temporary deafness. But it clears the aliens away from the door long enough to close it. Did you spot the 'Hush' reference?
The door is metal and sturdy, but Buffy gets the feeling it won't give them much time.
That's a shout-out to Burge in Angel:After The Fall. :-)
Chapter Four: It's Game Time
Hicks says this before the big fight in the operations room.
"Fuck him. He can take his chances. Maybe the aliens will recognise a kindred spirit."
I did consider restoring the deleted scene from the shooting script where Ripley (and Buffy) find Burke cocooned and enchestbursterised later on, but decided it would slow things down. So his fate remains a mystery.
She is not going to let anyone else get killed. She promises herself that.
From now on, none of the humans die. She kept her promise.
But the twisting tunnels seem endless.
I resisted the temptation to say they were "all alike."
And there's a scream - from up ahead, not behind them. What?
Newt just slipped and fell down the shaft in that room with the big wheel thing, but I didn't want to distract attention from Buffy by describing that scene.
Grabs it out of his hand before he can push the plunger.
"Can't run..." "So crawl! Help carry each other! Just go!"
"When you can't run, you crawl. When you can't crawl, you find someone to help carry you." Firefly reference, from 'The Message'.
But as Buffy stands there confidently waiting, something passes between them. Perhaps it's recognition. And perhaps it's fear. No, that's impossible. What would a pure instinctive killing machine like these possibly fear?
Another pure instinctive killing machine that's even better at it than they are, of course. When I say recognition passes between them, I don't just mean that the aliens recognise Buffy from earlier in the fight...
She looks around desperately, searching for some way to escape
'Desperately' is a bit of a mislead on my part... she's got this planned out already.
the entire structure of the ductwork gives way, plunging all the pursuing demon army down into the depths of the complex.
...although that bit was an added bonus.
her tone of voice so fiercely protective of the girl that Buffy is unable to muster a single objection
At this point, Buffy's opinion of Ripley starts to change.
Bishop seems inhumanly calm as he stands in the screaming wind
He is inhuman, of course, but Buffy doesn't know that yet.
It's impressive stuff, straight out of a science fiction film
Fourth wall? What fourth wall?
Chapter Five: They Don't Kill You
In the film, Ripley gives this as the reason why Newt might still be alive. It's also a meta-statement: they meet the Alien Queen in this chapter, but they don't kill her...
"I can drive a power loader."
"Well, uh, it's kind of my job. Killing things like these--"
After seeing how Buffy fights, I think Ripley would have realised by now that she isn't just a colonist's daughter. Not sure what she thinks she is - maybe some kind of special forces operative, or even another android like Bishop only better at combat. (Possible Buffy/Aliens/Terminator crossover alert!!) But she's not going to insist on answers at present; there's other things to think about.
"Yeah, 'cause that worked really well for Theseus."
Buffy is a college girl, after all. She probably knows her share of Greek myth (and has likely asked Giles what sort of demon the Minotaur really was).
She levels the rifle one-handed and pulls the trigger, still running full tilt, and the bullet cracks out and hit the demon dead centre
Doing something like this would be basically impossible for a normal human. The idea is that Buffy is nervous about using guns and so makes mistakes, but when she doesn't have time to think about it, Slayer killing instincts take over.
The queen hisses, slow and lazy, breath steaming from her mouth as she turns to look at the intruders.
The lesser Xenomorphs are 'it', but the queen is honoured with the pronoun 'she'. It's the least I could do. (Although it makes the fight scene later really hard to describe, with Buffy, Ripley and the queen all being 'she's...)
Picture: Ripley confronts the queen, with Newt hiding behind her. Buffy's body is actually Ripley from another screencap taken shortly after the first one, with her gun edited to be only a pulse rifle not a flamethrower as well. Buffy's head is from 'Showtime' again.
Buffy feels herself grin in unashamed delight at the stratagem
After Buffy killed the facehuggers without Ripley's help, I thought it was only fair to let Ripley be the clever one this time.
Buffy feels a sudden twinge of guilt; she came here to kill this creature, after all.
Remember the first chapter?
And that's why she looks around just in time to see the eggs open silently, as if by command.
Benefits of fiction over film. In the movie, we can guess that the egg opened because the queen wanted it to, but it might just have been a coincidence. As narrator, I can make it explicit (or at least implicit) that the queen was trying to kill them.
Ripley bangs the call button, then runs over and hits the other one as well.
This was one of the clever little bits in the film that I only noticed on re-watching. We all do it; you're impatient for the lift to arrive, so you hit all the buttons then get in the first car to get there. Normally, though, there isn't a huge alien chasing you that will get into the next elevator to arrive...
She remembers standing in a high place like this once before. Facing her death.
I wonder if the scene at the end of 'The Gift' really was a deliberate echo of this scene?
She can't even act surprised as the demon queen squeezes her vast bulk out of it and looks around for them.
Buffy is far more knowing than Ripley about the conventions of the genre she inhabits. She knows that the bad guys always return after you think you've escaped them once, unless you actually see them die. (And sometimes even then.)
Draws the Scythe, and looks with clear eyes into the face of her nightmares.
Isn't she heroic? It's so cute. 'Face of her nightmares' is literally true, if you remember the first chapter.
The dropship slews in the gale-force winds, its landing legs catching for a moment on some debris
the entire cabin of the dropship lights up like the inside of a flashbulb.
For some reason, I derive unseemly joy from describing the effects of a nuclear blast at close range. Buffy thinks it's really cool too, but she has the excuse of being a demonically-fuelled supernatural killing machine.
They are safe at last.
[Hollow voice] Oooh noooo they aren't... but you knew that anyway.
Chapter Six: The Only Way To Be Sure.
"I say we take off and nuke the place from orbit. It's the only way to be sure" is surely one of the most famous and iconic movie quotes in 20th century history. At least amongst fans rather than, say, art critics. In this chapter Buffy gets to do just that. There's another meaning, of course: the "only way to be sure" is to do it yourself. And to double-check it's been done...
Buffy is as excited as a four year old in a toyshop at Christmas. She's in space!
Of course she is. Wouldn't you be? I love the image of Newt looking at the odd grown-up with amused tolerance.
She understands the reason why they have to do this, but it seems to take forever for the huge chamber to fill up with air.
Just to make sure the readers know what an airlock is, and know that Buffy knows. She may not be a science fiction geek on the level of Xander or Andrew, but she does know enough to say "Q from Bond, not from Star Trek".
Space was, of course, huge
Douglas Adams tribute.
one of those holographic scanner thingies like the cute doctor guy used in that episode of 'Firefly'.
The episode in question being 'Ariel', where Simon breaks into a hospital to examine River. Buffy is wearing a 'Serenity' t-shirt in Season 8 (and Lorne sings 'They Can't Take The Sky From Me' in 'Asylum') so I think it's safe to say that the 'Firefly' franchise exists in the Buffyverse. I also think Buffy would prefer Simon of the male characters on the show: part of her would also be attracted to Mal, but she'd want to suppress that part of her. Besides, that Canadian actor who plays him reminds her too much of Caleb; it's an unfortunate resemblance...
Like a harpoon.
Wash in reverse! Notice in this paragraph I'm using lots of very short, staccato sentences and phrases to suggest tension; then the next paragraph is one huge long breathless sentence with multiple subordinate clauses as the action begins.
Picture: The alien queen emerges from the dropship. Buffy is modelling her leather coat from 'End of Days', except I shortened it and re-coloured it black to match the other clips of her used in earlier chapters. Scythe: model's own. (In this screencap, unlike the others, she actually was holding the Scythe; I didn't have to paste it in.)
"You know, this 'unkillable enemy that comes back five times in the final act' thing is getting pretty old. I don't think the forces of Evil are really trying anymore. You need to get a new scriptwriter."
Ah yes, the feeble banter portion of the fight. Buffy remains self-aware of genre conventions. Uncoincidentally enough, the enemy really does come back five times in this story... (Blown up with grenades, blown up in the nuclear explosion of the colony, blasted out into vacuum, shot by the starship's weapons, and finally the eggs being destroyed).
Ripley strides out clad in half a ton of steel and hydraulics
I decided that including the "Get away from her, you bitch!" line would be too cheesy. Don't worry, she still says it, though. Notice the deliberate repetition of 'better weapon' at the end of both paragraphs. Incidentally, the practical power loader used in making the film weighed about 275 kg (yes, I looked it up); I decided the real thing would be heavier.
Buffy sees the tail flex, sees a stinger at its tip the size of a swordblade, and shouts a warning
In the film, we often see aliens levelling their tails as if to thrust with them like a sword, but then they lash them around instead. I'm thinking the queen would be intelligent enough to realise she should thrust her tail through the bars to get at Ripley... or would be, if Buffy hadn't intervened. Thus giving Buffy an important role in the battle without putting her in a power loader as well, which would have been silly.
a great jet of yellow blood sprays out, catching Buffy on the side
I didn't think it would be realistic for her to go through the entire story without this happening at least once, given she's fighting the Xenomorphs in hand-to-hand combat.
Then the queen whips out her tail and tries to wrap it about Ripley's foot... but the mangled stump hits the wall a metre below her, and Ripley drags herself over the lip of the pit with a gasp of relief.
Writing this bit amused me. In the film, of course, the queen does grab Ripley, and she has to open the airlock when she's still inside it - and would have been sucked out with the queen if her boot hadn't come off. Because Buffy cut off the end of the queen's tail earlier, though, she misses Ripley... who can therefore leave the airlock and cycle it properly. :-)
When I wrote this, I hadn't yet thought of the running joke.
Though he's not nearly as pretty as her robot double was.
We're very pretty.
That's right, Miss. She's a Conestoga-class rapid response military transport, with--"
Yes, I looked this up on Wikipedia. I was also trying to make it clear who was speaking each time without a clumsy "said Gorman", "asked Hicks", "interjected Vasquez" and "stated Ripley"...
Laser beams, or, I don't know, photon torpedoes, or whatever?"
See? Buffy knows her Star Trek.
"You sure of that? You sure being in space will kill her?"
This is something I've always wondered. Do we have any evidence that the Xenomorphs actually need to breathe, or that exposure to vacuum kills them? In the first film, the alien was caught in the lifepod's drive exhaust which probably toasted it, but the queen in the second film just drifted away into space. I can just imagine her cutting herself, using the spurt of blood to push her back towards the Sulaco, clinging to the outside of the hull and scratching away at the metal with her claws, or dripping more blood onto it...
Buffy turns to look at Ripley, smiles grimly. "This time, it's my turn."
Ripley pushed the button to open the airlock, so now it's Buffy's turn to make sure she's really dead.
Electromagnets buzz to life and a quarter-ton mass of tungsten steel is propelled down a tube at ten times the speed of sound.
According to Wikipedia, the Sulaco was armed with railgun turrets, which is what I'm describing here.
"Buffy, set up a new attack. Coordinates 103.2 north, 265.4 west."
I wasn't able to find out if the coordinates of the derelict alien ship are actually given anywhere, so I made these up. I do know the ship was on the other side of a mountain range to the colony settlement itself, so the nuclear blast wouldn't have destroyed it. And yes, I'm sure Ripley knows those coordinates by heart...
"What? Oh... it's where we landed last time I was here. Where Burke sent those poor damn fools to their deaths
"What" is her momentary puzzlement as to what "splainy" means. :-) She's referring to two separate incidents here, the original Alien movie and one of the opening scenes of this one (or the Director's Cut, anyway).
Her lips curl in innocent joy as she sees what's at the top of the column.
Buffy gets to fire a nuclear missile. Are you afraid yet?
He smiles at Ripley as he walks over to enter his own code.
In real life, using a nuclear weapon requires two separate authorised individuals to activate the firing mechanism; I'm using the same idea here. Also, Ripley/Hicks flirtation \o/
"No. I want to do it." And all eyes turn to see Newt, who's standing in the door to the chamber looking totally focussed and determined. "We're going to blow them up, right? Destroy them all for ever and ever?"
This is the only dialogue I give to Newt, but I do think it sounds like her. Remember, she was at the derelict and saw the first alien attack her father there. Nuking the place from orbit will hopefully be therapeutic for her...
This time, it really is over.
The irony of repeating this was starting to occur to me when I wrote it...
"I'm planning not to dream. Finally - and it's thanks to you."
A reference to Ripley's and Newt's conversation at the end of the film.
And rolls her eyes as she sees what it reveals.
Like I said, Buffy knows her genre conventions. Remember the final scene of 'Teacher's Pet', by the way?
The queen must have brought them with her, or laid them in there, or something...
Well, the egg that hatches out in the opening sequence of 'Alien³' must have got on board somehow; the Queen bringing it or laying it seems the most likely.
She gets the feeling she's just averted something terrible.
She has. It's called 'Alien³'. :-)