Rebecca looked at the pile of letters, magazines and boxes that had come in the mail that morning. It was going to be another busy day, but that was fine. She had plenty of time to sort through everything before heading to work, and it would, like always, be a slow night, so she'd have plenty of time to read. That was one of the nice things about working the night shift at a gas station, there was always time for her to keep up with her reading. The other good thing was that it let her avoid contact with people, because there was no point in taking any chances.
She'd never imagined herself working a job like that, but it was safe. The fact that she washed down everything she touched at the end of her shift wasn't seen as odd, just that she was serious about keeping things clean.
She still didn't know if she was contagious and she didn't want to take any chances. So far, the information she'd managed to get her hands on had indicated that the Tyrant virus wasn't as contagious as people had been afraid of at first, it was simply that it went symptomatic so fast, and zombies were so aggressive that people hadn't been able to react in time.
There wasn't going to be another Raccoon City, or so she told herself, because when she was alone with nothing to distract her, it was too easy to imagine worst case scenarios, especially when she was biking to and from work in the dark. Then she found herself listening to noises in the woods, wondering if the shadow she passed was a tree moving in the breeze, or if there was a zombie out there ready to stagger out and attack the next person that came by. After three months, she was even starting to get used to the trip, mostly. Eventually, she'd save up her money and see about getting a car, but that was a ways off.
There were a lot of things a person could get used to, so maybe the dark would stop bothering her eventually. It wasn't like she didn't know where she was going, or that there was any chance of her getting lost.
And out here there was nothing waiting in the darkness that could hurt her, that was something she had to keep reminding herself.
The worst was over.
A leech crawled across the kitchen table, looking to see if there was anything left over from breakfast. Frowning, Rebecca picked it up before it could get to the pile of mail and carried it over to the sink, where several others were swimming in the dishes that she'd been putting off washing.
A person could get used to a lot of things, but not everything.
Nearly a year had passed, and she still didn't like them. She probably never would, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
Sitting back down, she began to divide the letters based on whether or not she recognized who they were from, and how urgent it was to answer them. A lot of them were probably form letters, responses from various politicians thanking her for her concerns in careful, bland terms. She'd been writing a lot of letters to politicians lately, spelling out the dangers of researching B.O.W.s , but also urging careful thought. After all, poorly worded and hastily passed laws meant that it was, at the moment, illegal to work on a vaccine for the Tyrant virus. While she agreed that the virus was dangerous, banning any legitimate organizations from working with samples of it would only make things worse when the next outbreak happened, and she was sure that it was a matter of when, not if. Raccoon City had been destroyed, but she'd gotten out.
And there was no telling what might have survived in the ruins. Despite the government's efforts to control the story and keep people from panicking, what to do about the ruins of Raccoon City was something that everyone had an opinion about.
The newly formed Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance was demanding permission to go in and clear the ruins, but the quarantine was being strictly maintained. Hopefully, more strictly than when she and the other survivors had been leaving the city.
She respected what the BSAA was doing and was one of the more vocal supporters of their endeavor to get access to the ruins, because if they didn't someone else would.
Not that it really mattered, because the Tyrant virus was out there already. Umbrella was an international company, and she doubted that only its Raccoon City branch had samples of the virus, not to mention the countless employees that had disappeared when the company had fallen apart. If even one of them had a sample of the virus…
The Tyrant virus was out there, somewhere, and work needed to be done on a vaccine, and the BSAA needed more support, and the public needed to be educated about the virus and…
She was doing the best she could, but she was only one person, even if she wasn't exactly working alone.
A good number of the letters came from an assortment of doctors, professors, scientists and people with justifiable concerns about the direction things were going. She was at the center of it all, helping people get in touch, share research, findings and information, putting them in touch with each other, and directing them towards politicians who she felt were most likely to listen.
It was working too, there was serious discussion going on of a re-classification of biosafety levels to take into account 'aggressive vectors', which was what zombies were being referred to in most papers. Zombies still weren't classified as B.O.W.s , a term that, at the moment was too nebulous to be more than a handy phrase for talking about the kind of monsters Umbrella had made, and something for politicians to condemn when they needed to make decisive statements without actually doing anything. Still, progress was being made.
No one had been able to confirm anything, since doing so would mean putting their career at risk, but some of the people Rebecca had been in touch with had alluded to zombies being kept in various facilities for research purposes. Since they were still 'people' who needed medical treatment at properly secure facilities, not B.O.W.s , they were a convenient loophole for researching the Tyrant virus.
It was a loophole she was looking to close, because one accident, one misjudgment and there was no telling what would happen. Especially troubling, were the necessarily vague reports of further mutations and increased aggression in some of the zombies. They lined up with the odd one she'd encountered in the woods, and she didn't like the implications of that. If the virus continued to mutate in its host, continued to mutate its host, there was no telling what might be lurking in the ruins of Raccoon City, all the more reason for the BSAA, or someone to get in there and take a look at things.
And thinking of the BSAA, there was a letter in the pile from Jill Valentine, one of the organization's founding members. Chris was a member as well, and the two of them had been trying to get her to join. She'd been politely declining each time they asked. Hoping that this letter wasn't another invitation, she opened it.
Jill was just thanking her for the efforts she'd made in getting scientists to back the organization. From the start, the BSAA had very little trouble getting qualified individuals for desk jobs and field operatives, though so far, there'd been no chances for them to see any action. The trouble had been getting scientists to back what they were doing, and help them to figure out how to better deal with the B.O.W.s they might encounter. There were just too many unknowns, and no one had been willing to throw their lot in with the newly formed organization.
Through hard work and determination, Rebecca had been able to get a handful of individuals to start offering advice and sharing information with the BSAA.
Letters from researchers were sorted into different piles based on whether she recognized the names on them, and if she'd been expecting to hear from them.
Ones from politicians were opened immediately, and form letter responses were discarded. Actual replies went into their own pile for her to look over and respond to, or send to someone better able to continue the conversation.
There were plenty of journals and articles that were sent for her to read and, she'd bring those to work with her to read over at her leisure.
The last item that had come in the mail that day was a package from Professor Rice. She'd kept in touch with him, because there might come a time when she'd need his expertise on leeches again. She'd let him assume that the leeches she'd been writing to him about were gone, destroyed with Raccoon City, but she figured if she ever needed to know something she'd be able to ask him.
Hopefully, she wouldn't need to ask him anything again, but it was still nice to keep in touch with someone she thought of as a friend, even if most of the time what he sent her were articles and studies he thought she'd find interesting based on their earliest conversations. Usually, she threw them all out without reading anything. She had to deal with leeches enough every day, that she didn't want to read about them from a scientific perspective.
This time though, what he'd sent her was actually useful, copies of articles Marcus had been involved in, and a list of names of some of his associates prior to his abandoning the academic world entirely to focus full time on his research with Spencer. The Professor had included a letter explaining that he figured it might be interesting to her, a way for her to find someone else who might know more about the leeches she'd found. After what had happened, Professor Rice was more inclined to believe that there was something unique about them, and had been willing to accept that it was possible that they'd been working together.
She'd read the papers that night, though she doubted there'd be anything directly useful to her in them. Still, there might be someone else in the circle of people that she was in touch with that would be able to use the information. When she got the chance, she'd make copies of it and ask around to see who was interested in one.
It was a lot of work for her to be doing, but she had time. The leeches didn't really sleep, just rested in shifts and as a result she didn't sleep either. If she wanted to, she could get the leeches to disperse and when that, happened she sort of entered a dreamlike state, but it wasn't the same as sleeping and before long, the leeches would get bored and come back together. Or at least she thought that it was boredom, because she usually got up to a mess of one kind or another.
Another leech crawled across the table towards her, and Rebecca stared down at it. They were growing quickly, most of them were already around half the size of Marcus'. Another year and they'd be fully grown, if they really were anything like medical leeches. That wasn't a terribly pleasant thought, since she was already losing some of the dexterity in her fingers thanks to the size of the leeches. She'd long since gotten rid of the last of the bones from her fingers, burying them in the backyard, and the leeches were more inclined to just wrap around things, or use their suckers to try and hold things than properly mimic the movements of human hands. She could still preform most tasks perfectly fine and she had no trouble typing, but her handwriting was getting pretty bad. How she'd manage when they were fully grown was a very real concern. It wasn't something she spent too much time dwelling on, though.
There was no telling what would happen between now and then. Nothing bad, she hoped, but who knew?
The leech on the table reared up, waving its front half through the air.
She could feel the attention of numerous other leeches hiding throughout the kitchen.
"I know," she sighed, "You're hungry."
So far, she'd only made breakfast for herself, toast with jam, because she liked the texture of it, but it hadn't been enough for the leeches.
Half a dozen were clinging to the handle of the refrigerator door. So far, they hadn't figured out how to open it up on their own, but they were getting stronger and it was only a matter of time.
There wasn't much to choose from in the fridge, she'd need to go shopping again soon, for herself at least.
Grabbing a package of something unidentifiable, probably possum from the look of it and the small bones she could see, she put it in the sink for the leeches. Working nights meant that she had no trouble finding roadkill on the way home to supplement their diet. They liked it and it saved money on groceries, not that money was much of a problem. She lived within her means and honestly didn't need much.
She had her job and she'd written a few articles for magazines, mostly about her experience in the final hours of Raccoon City, and the danger of B.O.W.s, that she'd gotten paid for.
It was something that she could tell her parents about when they called, better than telling them that she was working at a gas station and eating roadkill, because when she looked at it that way her situation seemed pretty awful.
The thing was, that wasn't the only way to look at things.
She could dwell on the fact that she was dead, or she could focus on how there was something left of her, something that wanted to do good and help people. Even if it was all just the leeches, they were still doing the right thing.
And that had to count for something.