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Blowback is a 2017 short story written by Christopher Golden, published by Titan Books as part of the anthology novel Aliens: Bug Hunt. In it, Corporal Dietrich and her unit are dispatched to a toxic world to eliminate the indigenous lifeforms that have been killing Weyland-Yutani scientists there to harvest a vital chemical.

Plot

Corporal Dietrich and the rest of her unit — Apone, Stenbeck, Hicks, Hudson, Vasquez, Frost, Wierzbowski, Crowe, Zeller, Lieutenant Emma Paulson and new recruit Private Malinka — are given orders to neutralize the hostile fauna that has been killing Weyland-Yutani scientists on Clytemnestra, an inhospitable moon that harbors vital chemical resources. As the squad descends in their dropship, piloted by Khan and Spunkmeyer, Dietrich regrets a night of heavy drinking — and alcohol-induced passion — with Corporal Stenbeck, despite having put an end to their brief relationship two months previously.

Once on the surface, the unit gears up in their environment suits and moves out into the turbulent, poisonous, dust-laden atmosphere. They are soon set upon by the creatures responsible for slaying the Weyland-Yutani science teams — thin, kite-like creatures with glass-like skin that ride the tremendous gusts to attack their prey from the air. Two of the creatures attack Stenbeck, and when Malinka shoots one of them, it violently explodes, triggering a chain reaction of detonations that spreads to all the other nearby kites, including the one upon Stenbeck. The blast kills him instantly, and wounds Malinka.

While the rest of the squad try to keep the aliens at bay, Dietrich and Frost draw their combat knives, unable to fire upon any of the creatures that get close. Dietrich steps in to attack a kite swooping down on Zeller and Malinka, only to realize her blade cannot pierce the creature's glassy skin. It circles away and another kite attacks Zeller, who fights it in vain with his knife. The creature tears his suit, exposing him to the caustic, poisonous atmosphere and subjecting him to a hideous death. Dietrich shoots the creature attacking him, incinerating them both and ending Zeller's suffering.

Realizing the futility of their situation, Paulson orders a retreat and the squad falls back to their dropship. Back on board, the Marines are horrified when Paulson and Khan inform them the creatures are in fact the source of the precious chemical Weyland-Yutani requires — and that their orders are to capture one alive. Aghast but with no alternative, the survivors suit up and prepare to step back out into hell.

Trivia

  • Blowback is one of eight stories in Aliens: Bug Hunt that does not actually feature the Xenomorph, although it does feature several characters from Aliens.