Distressed is a 2017 short story written by James A. Moore, published by Titan Books as part of the anthology novel Aliens: Bug Hunt. In the story, a unit of Colonial Marines find themselves fighting for their lives against a deadly mechanical alien on a damaged cargo vessel.
Responding to a distress call from the cargo ship Shiname Maru, a group of Colonial Marines under the command of Captain Ogambe discover the vessel has been struck by an unknown object that is now buried in the ship's side, emitting incredibly bright light from its outer surface sufficient to cause severe headaches and retina damage if stared at for too long. Boarding the vessel, the Marines find many of the crew have been massacred, their frozen body parts floating like jetsam in the ship's failed artificial gravity, while the survivors have sealed themselves in the cargo bay at the rear of the craft.
The unit is soon attacked by a long, tentacle-like metallic appendage that has emerged from the object buried in the Shiname Maru's hull, which kills a Marine named Perkins instantly and drags her corpse away. As two other Marines, Callaghan and Pho, head after her, they are attacked first by another tentacle and then a large, mechanical creature. The multi-limbed, amorphous creature slices off one of Pho's arms before capturing the wounded Marine and carrying him away. Callaghan is joined by Ogambe and another Marine named Bendez and the trio manages to fight the mechanical beast off, Callaghan noting as he does that Pho's body had been assimilated into its structure.
The defeated creature splits into three separate, smaller constructs and attacks again, Callaghan noting that each of the monsters is attached to the glowing object in the Shiname Maru's side by cables and mechanical tethers. Ogambe destroys one of the creatures but is badly wounded, while Callaghan throws a hand grenade at the glowing object, badly damaging it and incapacitating the other attacking creatures. More Marines open fire on the damaged object, but suddenly it spews forth a wave of viscous fluid that coats the floor and walls in its path. Callaghan grabs the wounded Ogambe and he and Bendez retreat.
The fluid begins breaking down the ship, and Callaghan realizes the object is consuming the vessel to fuel its own repairs. Realizing the machine and its constructs will simply keep repairing any damage they can deal, Callaghan assumes command and elects to jettison the ship's surviving crew in the cargo bay module before the Marines themselves abandon the vessel. As the rest of the unit holds off repeated attacks by the mechanical creatures, Callaghan severs the umbilicals linking the cargo bay to the forward part of the Shiname Maru and jettisons it. With the crew safe, the surviving Marines board their jump ship and evacuate back to their own cruiser. They watch as the unknown object continues to consume the Shiname Maru, and Callaghan insists they destroy it with their cruiser's weapons.
- Distressed is one of eight stories in Aliens: Bug Hunt that does not actually feature the Xenomorph, although Moore still refers to the mechanical alien creature in the story as a "xenomorph" (lit. "alien form").
- The story is also one of several in Bug Hunt that includes an alien species other than the Xenomorphs — specifically, the mechanical alien that attacks the Shiname Maru. Other examples in the book include the various flora and fauna discovered by the crew of the Typhoon in Chance Encounter, the locust-like aliens that devour the inhabitants of LV-KR 115 in Reaper, the flying aliens in Blowback, the parasitic insects in Exterminators, the Blue Moon Centipedes in Darkness Falls and the fire spites in Spite. Prior to Bug Hunt, such species had been something of a rarity in the Alien franchise and were chiefly limited to Aliens comics from Dark Horse; the only other literary example was Alien: Out of the Shadows, which featured the dog-aliens.
- The mechanical alien creature in the story bears some resemblance to the titular alien in the comic book series Virus (created by Dark Horse Comics) and its 1999 film adaptation, which infests electronic systems and uses them to construct mechanical creatures with which it then attacks its prey. Like the alien in Distressed, the creatures built by the alien force in Virus often incorporate pieces of those it has slain in their construction.