Because I love Parasite Eve and hate Third Birthday with a vengeance (rather like my views on Prototype and Prototype 2). Set after PE.2, and Prototype 1. This was part of a larger crossover I do not have time to finish, but the Parasite Eve chapters are complete.
"Its your fucking fault!" Detweiler turned on Mercer. "Captain Cross is going to be shot."
"What the fuck?" Mercer glared back. "He's your best. Samson knows it."
"Politics. Samson got his job schmoozing," Corporal Winder said. "Cross makes him look bad. Samson catches him working with you, you might as well have handed him the fucking gun."
"Shit." Mercer began to pace, ignoring the glares from the Blackwatch squad. Detweiler ignored him.
"Anyone got any ideas?"
"Kinda hard to say its a lie." Detweiler gestured to the pacing virus. "Exhibit A."
"Yeah, well Exhibit A Mercer's not helping. We need ideas or we're all screwed."
"Break out?" Maxwell suggested idly. "Cross is only one floor up. We could-"
"Get shot." Winder interrupted. "You don't go AWOL on Blackwatch."
"What can they charge him with? We weren't spreading a virus, we were stopping it."
"Samson'll call that semantics. Just talking to virus-guy should get you shot."
"But we stopped-"
"Just wait. Blackwatch will have stopped Wesker. TheWisemen Squad worked with Mercer."
"Mercer could testify?" Simons said, uncertainly. The scowling virus didn't react.
"He's not a person, he's a problem. He takes Cross's side, we're all convicted." Detweiler said, furious.
"I'm surprised they haven't shot the Captain already."
"Samson tried. Fury overruled him, and its his helicarrier. Fury don't like Samson much." Winder laughed. "Told him if he drew his sidearm, he'd not need a helicopter for the return trip to the ground. But SHIELD aren't in the CoC. Fury can't stall Samson forever, so unless someone's got some good contacts they're holding out..." He let his words trail off. The silence was uncomfortable, and Simons racked the side on his rifle with sudden force. Unless Winder produced something to fix this, there was going to be a mutiny. Hell, he'd lead it.
"I know where she is." The virus had stopped dead in the middle of the room.
"What?" Mercer was fumbling, his hand blurring into tendrils that extruded the broken remains of a cell phone.
"Fuck. Got a phone I can use?"
"Calling in a marker. If we can find her, she' ll step on Sampson." The Blackwatch troops shifted uneasily, weapons surreptiously easing to readiness.
"Who is her? Detweiler asked. Mercer paused, eyes narrowing under the hood.
"You don't need to know," he said, holding out a hand. "Phone?" Subtly Detweiler eased the safety off his rifle.
"Last time you went and freed a her it was Elizabeth Greene." The guns wouldn't stop Mercer he knew, but there was a chance one of them could sound the alarm for containment. The virus stepped back, spreading its hands in frustration.
"She...is a high level official Wesker is holding." He picked the words with care. "The rest is above your paygrade.
"But not yours?"
"I ate someone." That was most likely true. It didn't win him points with Detweiler.
"Who are you calling?"
"Also classified." Detweiler refused to break eye contact with Mercer, not sure just how far he could be trusted. Winder reached into a pouch and tossed a cellphone to Mercer without taking his eyes off the virus.
"Its a burner. Keep it." Huddling over the phone, hiding the buttons, the virus dialled quickly. The call was answered almost immediately, and Mercer didn't bother with greetings.
"Kyle? I've found her." They couldn't hear the other side of the conversation, but Mercer turned away as if he could have privacy in a room full of Blackwatch soldiers.
"Very sure." There was a pause as Blacklight rippled and Wesker's voice answered 'How do you think?' before the shapeshifter reverted.
"In one of their bases, containment, bottom level." Another pause. "They flooded the other levels with virus and sealed the base. Two hundred miles from us, one mile from Forrestsburg. If containment cracks -" Mercer stopped, immune to the images of Hope Idaho and Raccoon City he'd evoked in his Blackwatch audience. "Twelve months. Three for food and water remaining. Want her to die there once the supplies run out."
"We're closer. I'm here with a Blackwatch squad. Their Captain's under guard." He grinned at something the other person said. "Not shooting me on sight. Detweiler?" He held the phone out. Reluctantly, grateful he still had his gloves and mask on, the soldier took it.
"You their L.T.?" The voice was used to command, and casual with it.
"Good. Get them prepped for a fast departure. You're taking Blacklight. Treat him as a Subject Matter Expert, he knows what you're facing. Take heavy weapons. I'll clear this."
"Who am I speaking to?"
"F.B.I." The answer was reflexive, utterly natural, but there was something, a slight pause, that raised his hackles.
"Military personnel do not take orders from civilians unless you're the President."
"Then consider this a heads' up on the order you'll get in five." The phone went dead.
"F.B.I? That's your play?" Detweiler snapped at Mercer, disappointed. He hit redial, ready to give the agent a peace of his mind. Nothing happened. He held the phone up. The number had wiped itself. There was no record of the call. "The hell?"
"Over your clearance," Mercer said, far too knowingly. The men were stirring, on edge.
"Spit it out, Hill."
"Sir, do we have any orders saying we have to stay here?" The Private asked. Detweiler knew he was thinking the same thing as the rest. Mercer seemed confident that whatever he had done would save Cross, and while Detweiler barely tolerated the virus, Cross trusted it and Mercer seemed to reciprocate.
"We're confined to barracks," he said, and wondered if the helicarrier counted as barracks.
"Yes, but we also have standing orders to keep eyes on the virus at all times." Simons pressed. Mercer shrugged, walked to the door and walked out. There was a surprised shout from a guard outside. 'Hey, you aren't supposed to-' drowned out by the sounds of the Blackwatch squad grabbing their gear.
"Virus on the move. We are in pursuit," Winder radioed in, piously, wondering where his life had gone so wrong he was trusting a virus and a voice on the phone. "Let's move."
In the briefing room above, Fury looked between Samson and Cross. The Captain, seated and under guard, was absolutely impassive while Samson railed at him. Fury's radio buzzed.
"Sir, I have an urgent message from the Shield Security Council. Top priority." Samson stepped back, glowering at Cross.
"Fury, if you want to deal with civilian matters and leave the military to me, you're welcome," Samson said, with a nod. Fury glowered. Taking the message in private would obviously result in the handcuffed Captain being 'shot while trying to escape'.
"Relay it," he ordered bluntly.
"They state that the Blackwatch squad we have detained are on secondment for a top secret mission, effective immediately. We need to give them every co-operation. Departure expected in fifteen minutes. Details to follow." Samson looked as though someone had shot him. Cross's face was impassive. If the Captain had known anything about this, Fury couldn't tell, but he doubted it.
"Get them to the transport deck. Notify Supplies."
"Have done, sir." There was a pause. "They say they need their officer, sir."
"Get those goddamn handcuffs off," he ordered, with no little satisfaction. As one of the SHIELD guards leapt to obey, Samson put his hand on his sidearm.
"That traitor stays here, Fury."
"I'm following orders, General."
"Civilian groups like SHIELD do not give orders to the US military." Samson said, grating on the words civilian. Fury stepped in close. He was an inch taller than the General.
"On my motherfucking carrier, you following my motherfucking rules." The stare down lasted only a moment, but Fury didn't break gaze with Samson as he spoke to the bridge officer. "Who authorised the mission?"
"Sir, those orders have Presidential authorisation." The voice spoke diffidently. Fury scowled. Someone had been pulling strings, but if it pissed off Samson he wasn't going to complain. Samson bridled.
"I don't believe it. That virus is pulling something."
"Under your guard on my helicarrier?" Fury was quite certain Mercer wasn't. He hit the intercom as it buzzed again.
"Sir, I have a direct communication incoming from the Joint Chiefs. Should I put them through?" Fury made very sure Samson could see the smile spreading across his face. His words were surprisingly mild, but he was savouring them.
"Do so." The screen crackled to life, a flickering face showing on the holographic display.
"Sir." Captain Cross and General Samson snapped to attention, saluting. The salute was returned, but the next orders weren't to them.
"Director Fury, you currently have a Blackwatch squad and the Blacklight entity on your helicarrier. Confirmed?"
"These have been seconded for a top-clearance mission vital to National Security. Please give them every co-operation. We expect them to depart in ten minutes."
"Depart for where?"
"That's need to know. The U.S. military would be grateful if SHIELD could provide equipment and aid. Don't dispatch SHIELD personal with them." General Samson stood up, outraged, but kept his tone moderated.
"Sir, with all due respect, " he interrupted. "Captain Cross is under arrest facing tribunal for insubrdination and treason." Cross said nothing, but his shoulders stiffened. Fury glared at Samson.
"Your bjection is noted, General Samson." As the General stood to attention, the next order was not to him. "Captain Cross, this is a direct order. Get the hell out of that chair and join your men. Now. Transport leaves in ten. Be on it."
"Sir, yes sir!" The Captain stood up, turning to the door, and Fury gestured to one of the SHIELD agents.
"Get the man there."
"Sir, yes sir!" The door was still closing behind them when Cross broke into a run.
"General, I have reason to suspect Captain Cross was co-operating with Mercer." Samson protested. His protest was ignored.
"General Samson, you will extend all assistance with this mission. Captain Cross has full clearance. Consider Blacklight an attached specialist. "
"For this mission, that monster outranks you, General. If that's a problem, Cross can take general command." Sampson wavered, pride stung. He hated Cross, but saw the abyss in front of him if he was removed for disobeying orders.
"Private, relay the Captain's change of status to the bay."
In the hanger bay of the helicarrier, Cross took the situation in at a glance- the transport helicopter being prepped, munitions loaded by busy SHIELD personnel and Blackwatch checking weapons as something ten feet tall with a face like a peeled skull faced them. He reached for his gun, found the empty holster.
"Add LAW rockets to the load," Detweiler called, as the figure dissolved with a blur of red and black tentacles, reforming into a squat, four-legged, shape close to the ground. Mercer's voice came out of it.
"Lickers. Fast. Small arms fire works. Use a lot of it."
"Detweiler, report." Cross's voice carried, and the squad jumped to attention. "As you were. Report, Lieutenant."
"Chopper ready to depart in five. Acquiring a pilot, Sir. Briefing underway on opposition." Cross raised an eyebrow, glancing at Mercer as the virus resumed its normal form and starting hauling crates casually into the cargo bay. If they were hunting what Mercer had just demonstrated -
"Take Javelins. Load for a red zone." He ordered.
"Am doing, sir."
"Winder, get us a pilot."
"Sir, have done sir." Cross tried not to laugh as he spotted the pilot who'd flown Samson here checking out the cockpit. It looked like the General would be relying on Fury's good graces to get home, and those were in short supply. He checked the preparations with one practiced eye, while he pulled on his own weapons. His men were experienced enough to be relied on, but he hated not having time to check himself. They all knew what you didn't have in the field was what could kill you. Why the hell was Mercer of all people loading virus detectors? The virus could sling the damn crates around faster than the pickups, but why was it being so goddamn helpful? He was starting to have a bad feeling about the mission, and he didn't even know what it was yet.
Recognising Mercer breaking multiple Secrets Acts for the briefing was not reassuring. Goddamnit, was he being let out just to get his whole squad slaughtered in the hellhole crater left of Raccoon City?
Winder's newly-acquired pilot was checking the helicopter. Cross nearly laughed as Mercer finished loading crates and headed for the pilot's seat, correcting himself sullenly as the pilot got there first. Sometimes the inhuman thing was very easy to read.
"Sir, yes sir." Detweiler handed him the manifest.
"Mercer says the only thing it'll hit down there is on our side, sir." The rest of the manifest seemed sufficient for two days in a hot zone. Food and water included, spare suits, ammo and fallback weapons. Good. The only person who knew the details of the mission was Mercer, half in the cockpit as he spoke to the pilot. Shit, Cross hated going in blind.
"Ready to depart?"
"Sir, yes sir." With practiced ease the squad climbed in, piling onto one of the benches inside the chopper. Mercer swung in after them, sliding easily onto the other bench. Cross took the same seat. Damned if he was going to be crowded if it was a long trip. The helicopter lifted away, to the southeast. Cross took a moment to admire the sight of the helicarrier retreating behind them. Damn that was an impressive machine.
"Mercer, what's the mission?" Cross asked, once the noise of the transport had settled to the steady thrum of engines and his hearing had adjusted.
"Umbrella base near Forestsburg." Winder swore, cutting across the virus' answer. Cross privately agreed, but this wasn't the time for chat. Umbrella bases near civilian populations were universally trouble.
"Tactical details?" Cross ordered.
Mercer flipped the manifest over, pulled out a pen, and began to sketch. Under his pen a professional level plan emerged: seven levels, entries at the top, but no sealed ways out. Another skill he'd got from some unlucky civilian caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Umbrella troops and security? What's our target?" Cross asked, annoyed he'd missed Mercer's briefing.
"Abandoned. Umbrella viruses live throughout. Hostage trapped on the lowest level." Cross looked at the plans as Mercer changed pens. Red markings began to indicate automated security points and sealed doors.
"We can't fight through that." Blackwatch could, he knew, but the virus would get out. Nothing was worth that, not near a town.
"I can." The virused bastard actually sounded smug. "You hold the line at the door. Kill anything that gets passed me."
"So kill any virus that gets out?" Winder smirked at Mercer, and the virus glared back.
"Where's the access point?" Cross cut in before the banter could turn into an argument. "The main door is a dead loss. Large enough for their nasties to get out, and we don't have the men for a full perimeter."
"Goods door here." Mercer's finger stabbed down. Cross looked and nodded. The entry itself was large enough for three men at best, with a broken-up road nearby for the helicopter to land on. At the bottom of a gully, anything that came out of that entrance would be running uphill.
"A killing funnel," he said, in approval. Mercer's answering grin was distinctly predatory.
"Shoot anything that comes out that door," it said.
"Including you?" Winder sniped again. There was a chuckle, but Mercer wasn't laughing.
"I'll live. They won't."
"Understood. Call ahead or get shot," Cross said bluntly, not bothering to ask about the hostage. They were Mercer's problem. The virus nodded.
"Better than it getting out." It was strange that the virus had a better grip of why the plague had to be contained than some of his colleagues. Cross looked up the tactical map of the area, examining Forestsburg. A sprawling suburban town, almost impossible to lock down and only a mile from the base. If the town got infected, house to house clearance would be impractical. They would have to level the city, and even then a perimeter around the urban sprawl wouldn't be possible. An outbreak wasn't a risk, it was a certainty.
"Estimated casualties if we fail?" he said, knowing the city would be a total loss. The laughter stopped.
"Best case? Fifty thousand," Mercer replied bleakly, "if they manage to contain it." With the T-virus and whatever the hell else Umbrella had in there, Cross knew that was an unlikely 'if'. If they failed, well, Cross privately vowed, they wouldn't. Blackwatch held the line.
They landed on the broken road by the door. Immediately the Blackwatch squad piled out, fanning to cover the edges of the gully and establish a perimeter. Nothing was flushed out by the initial rush, but Cross wasn't letting his guard down. It was quiet, even the animals hushed by the disruption of the helicopter.
"Perimeter secured sir." Detweiler reported.
"Good. Simons, Winder, Maxwell, you're on watch here. The rest of you, take station. Firing positions on the door." They needed no further telling, the three lookouts finding positions where they could see anything approaching from outside the perimeter, while the others found cover and set up firing points to cover the rusted steel door.
Mercer slid down into the gully, and Cross followed him more slowly. The door was too set in its frame to move, sealed in by dirt and rust. Cross scowled. That had to have been done deliberately, if the base had only been closed for a few months, but it had backfired. The door itself had begun to corrode. How close were they to an outbreak?
"Verheyde, C4. We'll blow it," he ordered. Mercer ignored him, hooked his fingers under the massive steel panel and lifted. The foot-thick door came easily out of its rails. That was a two-ton dead weight, Cross thought, remembering the virus thing throwing tanks. Mercer set the heavy panel down, dashed round it, and lifted the solid door back into its place with a thud.
Cross looked at the door, sealed as far as he could tell, and started back to join the squad. "Day, Durrant, check the main door is sealed. Scout but don't engage. Hill, check the thermite supplies. I want to be able to weld that thing shut." The men he'd detailed scurried off to their duties as he hunkered down, taking aim at the goods door. Tense silence fell.