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Alien: The Cold Forge is a 2018 novel written by Alex White and published by Titan Books. It takes place on the eponymous Cold Forge, a secret Weyland-Yutani deep space research station, on which the physically handicapped Doctor Blue Marsalis is researching the Xenomorphs, ostensibly trying to develop the creatures as a biological weapon for her superiors. However, she actually harbors a secret agenda of her own, which is in danger of being revealed when a ruthless company auditor arrives to investigate the station's research projects. It soon becomes clear a saboteur is also at work on the Cold Forge, unleashing Blue's test subjects and placing everyone on board in mortal danger. The book was released on April 24, 2018.[1]

Publisher's Summary

With the failure of Hadley's Hope, Weyland-Yutani has suffered a devastating setback — the loss of the Aliens they agressively sought to exploit. Yet there's a reason the company rose to the top of the food chain. True to form, they have a redundancy already in place... the facility known as

THE COLD FORGE

Remote station RB-232 has become their greatest asset in weaponizing the Xenomorphs. However, when Dorian Sudler is sent to RB-232 to assess their progress, he discovers that there's a spy aboard — someone who doesn't necessarily act in the company's best interests. For Dorian, this is the most unforgivable of sins. When found, the perpetrator will be eliminated with extreme prejudice. If unmasked, though, this person may be forced to destroy the entire station... and everyone on board. That is, if the Xenomorphs don't do the job first...

Plot

Dorian Sudler, an exceptionally ruthless auditor for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, is sent to the remote space station RB-232, known as "The Cold Forge", to review the research projects being conducted there, some of which are behind schedule and over budget. Upon arrival, he is introduced to the station's commander, a veteran Colonial Marine named Daniel Cardozo, as well as his chief of security Anne Wexler and the senior research staff. Dorian takes a particular interest in Doctor Blue Marsalis, whom he learns is severely physically handicapped on account of a degenerative terminal disease — while her real body lies in her room, she conducts her day-to-day business by commandeering Marcus, the station's synthetic.

Dorian is shown around the station, including it's three research projects, each of which has military applications — Rose Eagle, an advanced entangled communications relay, Silversmile, a computer virus designed to destroy networked systems, and Glitter Edifice, Blue's project, in which she has been breeding and studying Xenomorph specimens with the aim of developing them as a weapon. Dorian is shown the creatures, bred from captive chimpanzees, and is immediately in awe of them.

With Dorian's tour complete, Blue returns to her work. However, she is actually neglecting her company-mandated brief to develop the Xenomorphs as weapons and instead seeks to create new and immensely effective medical treatments from their unique biology, driven by a desire to cure her own degenerative illness. To this end, she is attempting to harvest a sample of Plagiarus praepotens, the virulent mutagen that Facehuggers inject into a host in order to create a Chestburster. Blue hopes this highly specialized and mutative substance can be modified for medical purposes, but has so far had no luck in securing a sample during implantation. Her assistant Kambili is aware of her actions, having helped her in her attempts to collect a Plagiarus sample, but now that a company auditor is aboard he is increasingly concerned that their deception will be uncovered. Despite his aversion, the two deduce a new plan to secure a sample, and Kambili gets to work preparing a chimpanzee host.

However, Blue's plans are derailed when Kambili is gravely injured preparing the chimp for the procedure, and her lab is temporarily shut down. Worse, Dorian informs her that her boss, who had been working with Blue on her secret research, has been arrested on Earth on charges of corporate espionage and embezzlement. Several hours later, a data breach on the station allows the Silversmile virus to escape containment and begin infecting systems on the Cold Forge. While the virus cannot reach the station's primary mainframe, it wreaks havoc inside the research labs, destroying many of the teams' files and also taking control of the vast reflective heat shield that protects the station from the star around which it orbits, threatening to open the plates over the Xenomorph kennels in order to destroy the specimens within. Blue, using Marcus' body, is forced to perform a risky EVA to secure the panels; while she locks down several of the kennels, many of the others are opened by the virus, killing the creatures within, while Marcus's body is also damaged.

In the aftermath of the incident, the station's senior staff learn that Blue has been maintaining her own secret server to store her research data — a serious breach of regulations. Hoping to recover something following the Silversmile debacle, Dorian orders the station's IT staff hack into the server and retrieve the data. Realizing her files will reveal her long-running deception, Blue tries to stop him, but Dorian paralyzes Marcus with an executive override code and locks her out. However, before the server hack can be completed, the Xenomorph kennels are opened by an unknown saboteur, unleashing the creatures upon the station. The senior staff quarantine the outbreak by sealing off the Glitter Edifice labs — trapping any staff still inside, Dorian among them — before trying to jettison the entire section from the station. However, following the Silversmile breach, the release mechanisms require manual operation, forcing Blue to go outside in Marcus' body once again.

While activating the external release controls, all communications fail, leading Blue to head back inside to investigate. Upon her return, she finds the Glitter Edifice labs have been reopened, and the Xenomorphs are now loose. In the ensuing carnage, many of the station's staff are killed, including Commander Cardozo, while several Xenomorphs get aboard Dorian's ship, slaying its crew and causing the vessel to crash into the Cold Forge, venting the docking bay to space, destroying most of the station's escape pods and virtually splitting the station in two. In the aftermath, the survivors realize someone must have purposefully infected the otherwise inaccessible primary mainframe with the Silversmile virus. This is the only way the Glitter Edifice labs could have been opened after they were locked down, and would also account for the numerous other vital systems that have begun failing, including the orbital stabilizers and artificial gravity.

In order to restore critical systems, Dorian accompanies an IT tech named Javier to the station's mainframe. Gravity is restored, and as more systems begin to come back online, Dorian notices a Xenomorph approaching on a security monitor; he hides in a cabinet and watches with intent as the creature arrives and abducts the hapless technician. Meanwhile, Blue — seemingly the last crewmember alive in the living quarters, separated from the rest of the station by the hull breach — receives a message from a nearby ship, offering to extract her so long as she brings a viable Xenomorph sample with her. To this end, she takes control of Marcus, sends him into the Xenomorph kennels — now turned into a Hive by the creatures — and has him impregnated by a Facehugger; while there is no chance of a Chestburster developing within his synthetic body, the Plagiarus praepotens injected into him is safely stored within his artificial stomach.

The other survivors remaining on the station seal themselves in one of the research labs. Dorian convinces Anne to accompany him on a supply run for food, but when they are alone he reveals this is merely a ruse to get her away from the others; now alone, he asks her to escape with him in the one remaining escape pod, something he cannot do alone as he lacks the necessary access code. Disgusted, Anne refuses, prompting Dorian to brutally beat her with a chair, virtually paralyzing her, before leaving her in the open for the Xenomorphs. Blue — still piloting Marcus — learns of Dorian's actions when she accesses the station's security footage, only for Dorian to immediately apprehend her; he once again deactivates the synthetic, before beating the android's head to a pulp with a fire extinguisher — knowing that the neural connection will allow Blue to feel the pain herself. Using the station's systems to guide and lure them, he then sends the Xenomorphs after the surviving crew, toying with them. He spares only two technicians, Lucy and Nick, planning to retrieve the escape pod code from one of them. He goes to meet with them, psychologically manipulating Lucy into joining him and killing Nick himself.

With Marcus too damaged for her pilot, Blue orders him to get to the escape pod himself. She then takes control of the only other mechanical body on the Cold Forge she can possibly commandeer — the station's Power Loader. She uses it to collect one of the airtight crates used to store the Xenomorph Eggs before rampaging through the station after Dorian. She catches up to him and Lucy, but before she can deliver the killing blow the loader is overpowered by Xenomorphs. Dorian and Lucy continue to the escape pods, donning space suits and heading outside to access the vented section of the station. After she enters her access code, Dorian kills Lucy by pulling off her helmet, exposing her to the vacuum of space, and prepares to leave. However, when he spots the Power Loader moving by carrying the Egg crate, he deduces that Blue is trying to recover a sample and must still have a way off the station with it. Compelled by his hatred and determination to beat her, he goes after her himself.

Dorian catches Blue in the med bay, easily overcoming the handicapped woman and choking her to death before reviving her with the medical systems so that he can torture her further. The Power Loader arrives, now under the control of someone off-station, but it is unable to enter the med bay and intervene. However, several Xenomorphs have followed it, and one of the creatures captures Dorian. A second tries to take Blue, but it is killed by the Power Loader. Blue climbs into the empty Egg crate the loader carries, revealing its purpose — without Marcus to help her into a pressure suit, she requires the crate as an airtight vessel capable of transporting her through the vented section of the station to the escape pod.

Blue flees the station with the damaged Marcus, while Dorian awakes to find himself impregnated with a Chestburster; now driven utterly insane by his experiences, he relishes its birth as he dies. Some time later, Blue appears before two Seegson executives, who reveal that the sabotage of the Cold Forge was orchestrated by their agents as a means to hurt Weyland-Yutani and steal their prized research. Congratulating Blue on escaping the station with the Plagiarus praepotens sample contained within Marcus, they offer her the chance to continue her research for them.

Development

According to author Alex White in an interview with AVPGalaxy, he began working on the then-untitled Alien novel project in 2016.[2] He originally developed several story pitches for the book, including a "Lord of the Flies survival-horror" concept that would have followed a group of problem-child military recruits who are stranded and forced to survive on a planet overrun with Xenomorphs.[2] As well as his basic story ideas, White further adapted his proposals so that each could be presented in one of two potential variations, one being closer to the tone of Alien and the other more in the style of Aliens; the author planned to ask the editor which of the two films was his favourite and tailor his pitch accordingly. However, when the editor expressed no real preference, White simply went with the one he preferred himself — the more horror-themed tone of Alien.[2] He commented that the major difference between the two versions of The Cold Forge concerned the Colonial Marine character, who would have survived longer in the Aliens-styled draft. The story that was ultimately chosen by the editor had been "far and away" White's favourite of his suggested ideas.[2]

Many aspects of the novel were influenced by White's career in the defense technology industry. This includes the use of utterly obscure code names, both for the projects on board the Cold Forge and by the Seegson agents seeking to steal Xenomorph samples. According to the author, "Good code names are completely purpose-agnostic when viewed on a spreadsheet. You shouldn't be able to discern a single detail about them..."[3] The mystery of where the Xenomorph Eggs originated — information that is never revealed in the novel — was likewise based on White's defense experience; he explained that whenever he has been involved in classified projects, he was never told where the materials that he was working with came from, for the sake of security.[2] The same applies to the staff of the Cold Forge — no one on board needs to know the origin of the samples, and thus they are not told, thereby reducing the risk of that information leaking.

Similarly, most of the individuals in the book were based on people White had personally encountered.[2] While writing, he decided that the character of Lucy was somewhat forgettable, and thus came up with the idea of having every other character describe her negatively to see if it coerced readers into hating her despite the fact she never really does anything wrong, labelling it a "psychological experiment".[2] This manipulation led the author to joke that some of Dorian's traits were based on himself, albeit dialled up to sociopathic levels in the book. Another influence on Dorian was the comic Aliens: Music of the Spears, in which Damon Eddington's love for the Xenomorph served as a template for Dorian's own reverence for the creatures; this influence is obliquely referenced in the novel when Dorian first sees the creatures, likening them to "a symphony of death".[4] The use of present tense throughout the book — unique among Alien novels — was designed to introduce doubt, as, according to White, the traditional past tense "kind of makes it sound like somebody lived" to tell the story after the fact.[2]

After turning over his first draft to 20th Century Fox so that they could edit the novel and request any changes they deemed necessary, White was thrilled to learn they did not require any alterations; in fact, Fox sent him a lengthy letter of compliment commending his work, which according to White was "apparently the only time it's really ever happened".[2]

Following the release of the novel, White began releasing a chapter-by-chapter "commentary" as part of his email newsletter,[5] in which he revealed his thoughts and reasoning behind many different aspects of the book.

Trivia

  • Despite the ambiguity surrounding the origin of the Eggs in the book, White has expressed interest in writing a short story prequel that explains where they came from.[2]
  • It is never conclusively stated in the book who opens the Xenomorph kennels, an act that is said numerous times to require physical input. However, the implication is that someone outside the station (presumably the same Seegson operatives who ultimately pick up Blue) took control of Marcus and used him to release the creatures.

References

  1. "AVPGalaxy - Alien: The Cold Forge – New Alien Novel From Titan!". Retrieved on 2017-09-14.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 "AvPGalaxy Podcast - Episode #65". Retrieved on 2018-08-07.
  3. Alien: The Cold Forge author commentary - Chapter 1: Line Items
  4. Alex White. Alien: The Cold Forge, p. 42 (2018), Titan Books.
  5. "Twitter - Alex White". Retrieved on 2018-08-07.

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