Big Things Have Small Beginnings is a neo-noir scifi RPG, based on the works of Ridley Scott (think: the brilliant mind behind the films Alien, Blade Runner, and Prometheus). We're set in the year 2093, thirty years before Ripley's ship took off. Weyland Industries, the face of new technology and advanced space travel, funded Project Prometheus. They set out to discovered the origins of mankind...and found so much more. Mankind is now reeling with the new discovery. Meanwhile, infections are spreading in other colonies, the military outpost is training in the event of an alien attack, and rescue ships have been sent out to find Prometheus. The space race is over; now, it's a race for survival.
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That growing, gnawing, all consuming anxiety flushed up his skin. That knowledge, locked in the back of his skull like something physical with fingers and nails, latching on and sinking in. Something is wrong. Something is very, very wrong. Something is inside me. I'm sweating right through this fucking suit and something is in here with me, cooking, keeping me company. Flooding through my veins and climbing up under my skin, my muscles, inside my head...
Elizabeth's face. All he needed, really, was to see that flicker of panic in her eyes--that expression reserved for something truly horrible, something that really scared her. And nothing scared Elizabeth. She was stone and rock and just as hard and daring as he was. But the second something pressed in on her heart, there it was. Panic. She was biting her tongue, keeping her poker face. She had a great poker face. But he knew her. He knew her too well. And he knew he was fucked.
You look at me and tell me what you see...
That grey, giant, blockish head, black eyes flickering, spinning, yawning mouth itching to say something, to express some agony that went beyond death--
Charlie jerked upright in bed, feeling his breath come in quick, even gulps. Trying to contain himself. Remember himself. There was ceiling, light patching in from the three, small windows above their bed, Ellie...
Prometheus. The belly of the whale. The ship groaned rhythmically as the ever-changing winds beat against it's metal hull. Funny how he somehow felt at home here now. Familiar. Intimate with this room, as though he'd been here for years.
Or maybe it was just Ellie. His home. Lying inert beside him, her small body rising and falling with every breath. The sheets wrapped neatly around her, covering the thick scar that ran across her belly like a malicious smile. Still, Charlie didn't fell right in his skin. He didn't feel in his skin, period. He was stuck in that dream state, always floating just a centimeter above himself. The body that betrayed him. The thing that laid dormant inside of him, waiting for the right moment to slip out again.
It was nice not to be quarantined in the medical bay any longer. Really. At very least, it made him feel less like a specimen. But it didn't do much shake the feeling that something was just not right. That he wasn't all together himself. If anything, it confirmed it, when he laid side-by-side with Ellie only hours before, savoring her company, her lips, but stopping himself from going any further. The last time they had sex, he'd impregnated her with an alien child. He wasn't about to make the same mistake twice. The incident was so fresh in his mind, he doubted he could get it up if he tried.
Instead, he was reduced to panting over some fucked up dream in his fucked up head. Luckily, Elizabeth looked like she'd slept through it. Carefully, Charlie shifted to the side of the cot, pulling his legs out from under the blankets to hang them over. Running his fingers through his nearly-shaved head. He eased himself out of bed, careful not to wake her, and shifted over their makeshift sink. Flickering the glowing, fluorescent light on over the mirror. And there he was--bare-chested, cross on his shoulder, wide-eyes. Did his eyes look red? He leaned in closer, inspecting. He hadn't gotten a lot of sleep. Still. Was it sleep red or alien red? There was a deep uneasiness here--that horror movie feel. That quiet anxiety that built up in his stomach--he was like a twelve year old girl repeating bloody Mary in the mirror before bed. But he had to see it. If there was something here...and he was certain there was...he had to see it. Had to catch it in the act. His eyes flickered over his own image, hunting, jaw set and impatient.
Elizabeth was good at letting things go. She could shake it off like a snakeskin, shed herself of it all, and then forget it ever existed in the first place. Where most people simply pretended that they were okay, Ellie truly believed it. Belief was something that hadn't let her down before… she was not about to discount it now. Not in the slightest.
To be fair, she'd been struggling. She remembered the terrified look in Charlie's eyes. "Tell me what you see," he'd said, and Ellie had known that he wanted answers. He wanted to put reason behind the madness, to take out the fear by understanding the diagnosis. But all Ellie had been able to say to him was, "It's not good, baby." What else was there to say? What else was there to say when it had been looking so grim? Cut the patient out of the diagnosis… treat the patient. Act like everything is okay. Isn't that how it worked? You smiled at the patient until he knew he was okay, never telling him that he was probably going to die. Never tell them that they're going to die.
But Elizabeth knew it. She'd known it, even as she struggled to get him back into the ship. Into quarantine. She'd known it as she and the rest of the crew overcame Meredith Vickers to rid her of that fucking weapon. Charlie would not get to be a martyr for their cause. Charlie would not get to be the only one to die.
Yes, Elizabeth was good at letting things go… but there was no way in hell she was forgetting that.
Panic like that stayed with her. The panic of watching her father melt away, inch by inch. The same panic she felt that emerged as Charlie's eyes became circled in red, bloodshot and she saw the fear in his eyes. Trying to be strong. Trying to get answers. Trusting that Ellie would tell him the truth.
She barely gave a second thought to the creature that she dissected every day and studied under a microscope, the one whose DNA she exploited to see what sort of hybrid nightmare it would reveal. This, she did methodically. Without questioning or hesitating. This, she did without flinching. But every time she thought about the distant look on Charlie's face… she cringed.
He wouldn't touch her. Not really. Elizabeth understood why. There was no way in hell he wanted to recreate the events of recent past. But Elizabeth couldn't help but feel… rejected. The last thing she wanted through all of this was the feeling that Charlie was pulling away, and he was. There was a wall flying up between them, something that she couldn't break down, and she was fearful that it would never again open.
Though aware of the fact that Charlie was awake, that he was restless, that he was climbing out of bed, Elizabeth feigned sleep. She didn't particularly understand why… she felt like a child pretending to be asleep so she could be carried to bed. She wanted to observe Charlie. To see what he was like now, when she wasn't awake. Maybe he would drink. Maybe he would cry. Maybe he would masturbate, pent up from last evening. She watched him lean forward into the mirror through the slits of her eyes, watched him study himself as though he was that alien slice of DNA. All of it.
Until finally, she couldn't take anymore. "Your eyes are just going to keep getting redder if you keep staring at them like that," she murmured, rolling onto her side. The sheets pooled at her hips and she kept them there, modesty prevailing for once in their relationship. "You're going to drive yourself mad. Come on, Charlie. Come back to bed." What she wanted to say was, "Talk to me! Tell me what's wrong! Tell me why I'm not good enough to hold right now. Tell me why you don't trust my judgment, that you were prepared to come out from quarantine. Stop treating me as though you are broken and distorted in my eyes, because you aren't. Tell me that you love me." But she didn't. She merely shifted over in bed, holding up the covers for Charlie to enter.
The fluorescent lights hanging over the sink were an ugly shade of yellow and cast Charlie in a sharp light. Still, he watched the image in the mirror. The image that felt not entirely his. Like he'd woken up from a dream but wasn't quite awake. Dreaming within a dream. He just needed someone to jolt him awake again and maybe he'd be done with this nightmare. Maybe he wouldn't find himself on Prometheus at all. Maybe he'd be lying in some cave with Ellie, cold, damp mud underneath his back, her warm, small body nestled in on top of him. Belly unscarred. Images of tall men chasing orbs in the sky painted on the stone walls.
But maybe he'd never been safe. Maybe this had been him all along. There was the image in his mind's eyes suddenly--Elizabeth, frozen in pain, tears wet and streaking down the sides of her face as she couldn't even summon up the energy to scream. What was left of their child--bloody and tiny. So fucking tiny.
The ship shuttered once, causing the fluorescent lights to flicker. And he saw it. Something pushing up under his cheekbone, like an unruly vein, swimming under his skin before it vanished. Instantly, Charlie pushed forward in his chair. Edging closer to the mirror, eyes wide, fixed on his face. Fingers roaming up to rub over his cheek...nothing but smooth skin on hard bone. Did he imagine it? He was sleep deprived. Panicking. Looking for something. But...
"Charlie. Come back to bed."
Elizabeth was awake. Even though she was curled up among blankets, lost in the shadows of the ship, he could still tell she was irritated. He could hear the impatience in her voice. He knew when she was on her last straw simply because it was so rare that she ever got to that point. Out of the two of them, she was definitely the patient one. Charlie was too eager to jump into things. Too eager to dive headfirst into the unknown. And now he was infected and she was suffering for it.
Of course, they wouldn't have let him out of quarantine if they hadn't gone through all the right tests and cleared him of any sign of disease. Still...he felt uneasy. Elizabeth's alien had left her. He'd seen it. Or what was left of it. Where was his? "I just..." he started, but then stalled his tongue. I thought I saw something. Shift it. Something a little more yielding. No point in terrifying her when he was probably losing his mind. "Yeah. Okay."
But he didn't crawl all the way into bed right away. Instead, he shifted under where she'd lifted up the covers, but then leaned back against the headboard. It wasn't like he was about to fall asleep anytime soon anyway. Not with everything that was running through his mind. "Maybe this was a mistake," he said, staring up at the ship as he talked in bed-toned to Ellie. "We don't know anything about this...what happened to me. I should go back to the lab. Run some more tests."
Elizabeth knew when Charlie was reaching his breaking point. She could tell, in the subtle way he seemed on edge, the way in which he looked like he wanted to get up and run. Run away from the responsibility, run away from the fear, the panic. Charlie didn't do well with fear. It was relatively unfamiliar to him, because he tried so hard to avoid it. Where most people might have run from it, Charlie faced it head on, knowing that things were never quite as bad when you had the full picture.
But what about this full picture? The one in which Ellie was healing from a self-abortion, her second lost child some mangled alien mess. What was it? And why had it been put there? So inhuman. Perhaps the Engineers had created those things, too, and that was what they were meaning to destroy. Even Ellie had to admit that she had shown little fear, simply because there hadn't been time.
Reparations on Prometheus were dragging on for too long… and reparations to her relationship were taking far longer. Charlie was avoiding her. The first time he'd ever shown any desire to avoid his fear, and it involved her. What was she supposed to think? He knew why. He believed himself to still be infected, and the vision of Elizabeth sliced across the middle like a gutted pig was too much for him to handle. And perhaps he even blamed himself, knowing that they were here because of expeditions they'd gone on together… the basis of their relationship for so many years.
She saw his tenseness, could see it spreading over his shoulders as he started forward, then paused at her voice. "I just…" but the words died on his tongue. Ellie was not in the mood to hear excuses. She was not in the mood to hear anything, any excuse he had to give. She just wanted him to come back to bed. They were surviving, the two of them. They were getting through this together, as they'd always been. And sooner or later, they would have their answers. That was really all Elizabeth had to keep her going now. Especially with Charlie pulling so far away from her.
The physical closeness she felt as he climbed into bed, leaning against the headboard, did little to make her feel better. In fact, it almost made her feel worse. There was something between them now, a wall he had constructed, and it was just getting higher and higher. Elizabeth had no fucking clue how to knock it down… she just couldn't help but feel that it was somehow her fault. "Maybe this was a mistake," he said, and Ellie could feel her heart sinking into her chest.
What was a mistake? The mission? Coming to LV-223? Maybe they didn't have the answers for which they were searching, yet, but they were trying. This had been their goal together as far back as Elizabeth could remember. How could that be a mistake? They'd worked so hard together, trained so hard together, and now he was saying it was a mistake? Or maybe he meant them. Their relationship. Maybe that's what he was thinking, as he watched the ship instead of watching her. Elizabeth could feel her heart in her throat as she waited for him to continue. She warded off tears the best that she could, and she did so with relative ease. Enough that she even fooled herself. "We don't know anything about this… what happened to me. I should go back to the lab. Run some more tests."
So that's what this was about. He was afraid. For one of the first times in his life, he was afraid, and wasn't able to run to it, because it was already baring down on top of him, choking him, making him sick. Charlie was sick. Elizabeth knew it, the crew knew it… everyone fucking knew it.
"There are no mistakes, Charlie," Ellie said, firmly, though she was sure it was something he didn't want to hear. And yet, she couldn't stop herself from continuing. "Everything has a purpose. Even what's happened to us. Even if we don't get answers, we've paved the way for others who come after us to get them." And then, a quieter, more pitiful plea. Something rare from her. "Please don't go back to the lab. Stay with me."
Elizabeth shifted closer, her head laying against his chest, arm slipping around his stomach. His closeness, his smell, his warmth provided the only safe place in which Ellie could let down her guard, if only for a moment, and she did, with an exhale that she felt through her entire body.
Charlie was doing his best to act not quite as shaken as he actually was. Charlie didn't do weakness very well and he was even worse at pulling of fear. Fear was for people who couldn't see the big picture. For those who were more worried about chipping their nails than excited about the possibility of discovering something new. Charlie hadn't inherited a lot from his father, but he did has his old man's itchy feet. His thirst for something new. His stubborn, unyielding forward motion. Never stopping, never slowing for anything. Especially not fear.
But now, trapped inside the bleeding shell of a ship, a tiny speck of life among eons of emptiness, Charlie was having a hard time wrapping his head around the big picture of anything. Instead of focusing his thoughts outward--disproving the existence of God, evolution, heaven and hell all in one, fell swoop--his mind was spiraling inward. To his body, his blood, his organs, his heart--pumping, working over time, for some alien host that was happily residing somewhere in his nervous system. Somewhere that dilated his pupils and triggered his sweats and shakes. Someplace deep inside his brain that scared the hell out of him. Or maybe some place a little lower. Some place where he could very easily do Elizabeth some real harm. Wouldn't be the first time Charlie thought with his dick, after all. Worse--maybe it was everywhere. Inescapable. Fracturing away inside of him, breaking off, multiply. Something he couldn't dig a knife into and pry out of his body. Something worse. Something contaminating.
His thoughts were uneven and scattered, starting and stopping without taking any real footholds in his mind. Elizabeth wasn't helping. She was doing that thing. That religious thing. Sometimes (when he wanted to get laid) he humored it. Sometimes (most times) he argued with it. Sometimes (when he was waiting for her to stop talking so he could make his point) he ignored it. Now, he just wanted to tell her to shut the fuck up. It was a stab in the back, really. They'd travelled lightyears from earth, encountered blue-skinned ancestors, and he still couldn't get her to stop mouthing-off about God.
"There are no mistakes, Charlie," she was cooing. "Everything has a purpose. Even what's happened to us. Even if we don't get answers, we've paved the way for others who come after us to get them." Even if we don't get answers. Now, that was a terrifying fucking thought, wasn't it? If they'd come all this way, two years asleep in a glass coffin, found an alien species, destroyed their own ship, became infected...everything, and for what? For nothing. That alone was enough to get Charlie up and running to the Control Room. He could plug in to a fucking pod and just tell them to wake him up when they found something alive. Something they could talk to.
He was about to do just that when he remembered who he was sleeping next to. Elizabeth curled up next to him like a child, her head on his chest. Arm wrapped snuggly around him. As though she was clinging to him, pinning him back into the bed, keeping him close. "Please don't go back to the lab. Stay with me."
This was serious. She was using first person pronouns. This wasn't about space, or God, or the Engineers. This was about I, us, we. This was about the woman who put her faith in everything, and now that everything included sick and infected Charlie. This was about them. They weren't playing the roles of the expert archeologists, roles they so easily and so often fell into. This was Elizabeth, being uncommonly vulnerable. And he could never say no to her. Not when she was like this, melting him from the inside out.
Charlie felt a breath leave his body--all desire to run to the lab exiting with it--and he pushed thoughts of the alien host to the back of his mind (where it probably was curled up, anyway). Instead, he slipped his hand up the back of Elizabeth's neck, stroking her hair, working it through his fingertips. Feeling her soft breath patter against his chest. "Hey..." he said, dropping his voice a little lower. "It's okay." So it wasn't a promise, per se. But it was the best he could give her. He slipped his hand to the side of her face, drawing her up so those brown eyes could meet his, and he said, plainly, firmly, "I love you." Because those three words didn't get said enough on this ship anyway. And he pressed a light kiss to her mouth, reminding her that he was here. For now.