Chris sighed as the stashed the unlit cigarette back into the pack in his breast pocket. He'd been trying to quit since the incident at the Spencer Mansion back in July. He'd even given his lighter to his sister, Claire, soon after. While she'd had no idea what had brought on his decision to quit, she'd been ecstatic about it, nonetheless. Of course, he still had a pack just in case the stress of the underground war being waged between the surviving S.T.A.R.S. officers and the Umbrella Corporation got to be too much for him to bear.
He had only had two thus far. The first had been after the news of the outbreak in Raccoon City had reached him. Jill and Brad had still been in the city at the time, while Barry had been staying with his wife's family downstate. Chris was thankful that Claire had opted to attend college elsewhere, lest she have gotten caught up in that zombie-infested nightmare. The second was smoked after learning of the annihilation of Raccoon in a bid to contain the virus. Fortunately, although Brad had not survived the outbreak, Jill had, thanks to Barry's breaking of the quarantine with a helicopter.
The rest of the pack, Chris was proud to say, remained unlit. He'd come close multiple times, but his willpower only grew with each passing day, and only the most dire of circumstances could break him enough to make him light up another one. He wondered if things might be easier for him if he was able to speak with Claire, but he couldn't risk his location being tracked by Umbrella agents tapping his sister's phone. For now, knowing she was safely in higher education was enough.
Right now, Chris was out of the country, following up on some leads in Europe since the summer. Jill had joined him since the outbreak and he was glad for the company. Barry was pursuing leads back in the states, so as to not be too far from his wife and daughters, lest a second Umbrella agent think to use them as a bargaining chip. As for Rebecca, she was still recuperating from the nightmares she'd faced back in July. She'd taken Brad's advice and started therapy, according to Jill.
Jill hadn't come to Europe alone, however. She had brought a new ally with her: a fellow survivor of Raccoon City. Carlos Oliveira was the most recent addition to the anti-Umbrella group, and the only one to not be a former S.T.A.R.S. member. He was a former mercenary employed in the Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service. For all Chris knew, he may have been in-the-know about the existence of the T-Virus since long before the S.T.A.R.S. set foot in the Spencer Mansion in July. He, like them, had lost all of his comrades to Umbrella's bioweapons and vowed to bring an end to their twisted experiments. Chris still wasn't entirely sure what to make of the man, but Jill vouched for him, which was enough in Chris' books.
The primary benefit of having a former U.B.C.S. member join the team was that he knew more about Umbrella's operations than they did; though, admittedly, not that much more. His expertise truly came in handy once the three followed a tip about a warehouse that Umbrella had been using until around the time of the outbreak. In the three months since, activity surrounding the place had ground to a halt, as if the company was taking extra care to not draw attention in the wake of the Raccoon.
Some reporters had been digging into Raccoon's recent history and uncovered the claims made by the S.T.A.R.S. team after the Mansion Incident, which now seemed much less ridiculous in the wake of the much more public outbreak. It wasn't enough to lead to a full-on investigation, but it meant the wheels of justice were turning, and it fell to Chris and the others to make sure nothing could stop them.
The warehouse was a simple supply depot for Umbrella's pharmaceutical products, on the surface. Getting in was easy enough, thanks to Jill's skill with a lockpick and the lack of human security. None of the three were particularly surprised when Jill uncovered a switch to open up the floor, exposing a set of stairs leading down into a hidden underground facility.
"You really are the master of unlocking, Supercop," Oliveira quipped as he began the descent. Jill rolled her eyes at the old joke he'd no doubt heard from Barry. Her eyes fell on Chris and he couldn't help but smirk.
"Well, he'd not wrong." His response earned him a sigh and third place in the line as they descended the stairs.
The facility was about half the size of the lab under the Spencer Mansion, which made exploration easier. While the three had managed to obtain enough firepower to deal with most of Umbrella's known creations, thanks to Oliveira's black market contacts, the place was clear of any creature, living, dead or undead. Despite the temptation to make their rather costly purchases worthwhile, all three were glad to have a non-life-threatening place owned by Umbrella to search.
Not much new information surfaced in the files scattered around, but Oliveira had some luck with a computer terminal. After a thorough search for any security devices that might trigger once the generator was back online, Chris restored the power, allowing Oliveira to access the computer.
"You got anything?" Jill asked as she returned from a nearby stockroom with a box of manilla folders to search through.
"There was an e-mail network set up for the U.B.C.S.," the newcomer responded, eyes never leaving the screen. "Mostly for the monitors, like Nikolai, to report back to the higher-ups and pass intel between teams when radio wasn't an option."
"Wouldn't they have shut the system down after Raccoon?" Jill asked.
"I'm counting on the higher-ups not giving enough of a shit about the guys on the ground to even remember the system existed." After a few moments passed, a grin spread across his lips. "Bingo."
Peering over his shoulders, Chris and Jill saw a massive list of e-mails that went back months, maybe even years. The two ex-S.T.A.R.S. left that search to Oliveira, while Jill read through the files she'd found and Chris made another sweep of some side rooms now that they weren't relying on flashlights to see. After around a quarter of an hour, Oliveira reached out over the radio.
"Hey, Redfield. You're gonna wanna see this." That he'd called on Chris specifically, when Jill was sat in the same room as him, was instantly concerning. Chris returned quickly to the other two and found Jill looking over Oliveira's shoulder, concern obvious on her face.
"It's a report from a Rodrigo Juan Raval, Umbrella Security Service," Oliveira explained. "Stationed on Rockfort Island, in the South Pacific, I think." The other two backed off to allow Chris to read the report.
It related to an attempted break-in at Umbrella's Paris facility. Chris had been scoping the place out around the time of the outbreak, but he'd never made an attempt to get inside. This was much more recent. Supposedly, a young woman had broken in and managed to infiltrate almost as far as the lab there, which was not quite done with the mass relocation of assets to more remote facilities, so as to avoid a second Raccoon City.
Once she'd been detained by Raval, she was transported, alongside some of the remaining assets, to Rockfort Island. Chris felt a great deal of sympathy for this young woman, whoever she was. Clearly, she had some knowledge of Umbrella's dealings. She could be a useful asset if they get to her, but a heavily-defended, still active Umbrella base was out of the question. With their limited resources, there was nothing they could do for the poor woman.
Chris' tune changed as soon as he read the final line of the report:
The woman's ID claims her name is Claire Redfield. We will be conducting an investigation into the possibility of this being an alias, as interrogation has proven ineffective so far.
The blood drained from Chris' face as he read and reread the closing comments a dozen times over. There was so much to process all at once. Chris was not mentioned once in the report, suggesting they had yet to make the connection between Claire and him. There was no doubt they would, though. If nothing else, they would likely want to keep Claire around as a bargaining chip to use against him, rather than execute her or subject her to their vile experiments.
Claire's infiltration of an Umbrella facility couldn't be a coincidence. He knew her roommate was a bit of a conspiracy nut, but he highly doubted Claire would follow up on some of her claims to this extent. More likely, she had learned about his accusations against Umbrella, maybe even his presence in Europe, and come to investigate after being unable to reach him since July.
Chris' first question upon being contacted by Jill after the outbreak was whether or not Claire had attempted to reach her about him. Her answer had been no, as had Barry's. Although, it was entirely possible she had tried once Jill had left her apartment early into the outbreak and gotten no response.
Chris had thought he'd been protecting Claire by keeping his distance, but he may have inadvertently only led her into even greater danger. He looked up and checked the date of the report. It was dated December 17th - ten days ago.
"His sister," he heard Jill say in response to a question he hadn't heard, so consumed by the knowledge that his sister may have been in mortal danger for over a week and he'd had no idea.
Chris returned to the abandoned apartment the trio were using as their base of operations for the duration of their stay to get in touch with Barry. Barry's in-laws lived only a few miles away from Claire's university. Still opting to er on the side of caution, Chris asked Barry to contact Claire for him to see if she was okay. There was still a possibility that the intruder had been using a fake ID with Claire's name. Or that there was an entirely separate Claire Redfield out there with cause to investigate Umbrella. He would even prefer, though he hated himself for thinking so, that it had been Claire's conspiratorial roommate using her ID in some insane quest to expose the truth.
Chris waited in agonising silence for Barry's return call. He didn't check the clock for the duration, or it would only feel like time itself was tormenting on him. The other two were sifting through some stolen files and comparing the information to what they already had up on the cork board. Chris could tell Jill was keeping herself busy to distract herself from the knowledge that she was powerless to help Chris in any way right now. She was just that kind of person.
Finally, the call came in. Chris had never answered a phone so quickly. His heart sank when Barry began with, "I'm sorry, Chris. Her roommate says she left for Raccoon not long after the quarantine started and she hasn't heard from her since."
"She was in Raccoon?" Out of the corner of his eye, Chris saw Jill look up at that.
"It's possible she didn't get past the blockades, but I can't see her going after Umbrella if she only knows as much as the rest of the world does. I can only assume she got in, saw something that implicated Umbrella and, thank God, got out before the bomb dropped."
"And then, took it upon herself to go infiltrate Umbrella's Paris HQ."
"On the plus side, she made it out of Raccoon alive. You know from experience the kind of survival instincts you need to get out of one of Umbrella's f- screw-ups alive. She's always been a fighter, and that means she's likely still on the island."
Chris couldn't help but smile at Barry's words. "Yeah. And I have to go save her."
"What about Jill and the new guy?"
"We're on the verge of a breakthrough over here. I can't pull those two off of this."
After a pause, Barry said, "I'll relocate my family, then head over and meet with Jill then."
"Course I am. You're not the only one who's like family, y'know. And I'll reach out to some of my navy contacts, as well; see about arranging you transportation."
"Thanks a ton, Barry. You're the best."
"No, Chris. You are. There's a reason I asked you to come join S.T.A.R.S., out of everybody we served with in the Air Force. If anyone can get onto that island and get Claire outta there alive, it's you."
These words emboldened Chris. Exaggerated or not, Barry's word was one Chris trusted. At thirteen years older than him, Barry had been like a father to Chris, ever since their service in the Air Force. If Barry thought he could do this, he could.
After the call ended, Chris stood up to go and gather his gear. "Jill, I have to go," he said, the regret clear in his voice.
Jill simply wrapped her arms around him in a tight embrace. "Go. We've got everything here under control. You go be the hero your sister knows you are." There really was no better partner a man could ask for.
Chris looked over to Oliveira, unsure how exactly to say what he wanted to, but the man seemed to know regardless.
"Count on me to keep her safe, big man."
Jill raised an eyebrow. "Oh, you'll keep me safe, will you?"
"What? I have a proven track record of doing that from Raccoon."
"I recall saving your ass just as many times as you saved mine."
"Then, you'll just have to do your best not to fall behind."
"I sure hope you can back up those words, Carlos. I know I can."
If nothing else, Jill's confidence was reassuring. Chris knew he could have faith in her. She'd survived two T-virus outbreaks already, after all. If there was anyone he could rely on to make it through this, it was her. He wouldn't need to hope for her survival. Hers was a guarantee. It was Claire's survival he had to hold out hope for. And that Oliveira wouldn't hold the theft of his lighter against him.
Yeah, Claire going to Umbrella's Paris facility to find Chris, getting captured, and sending Leon an e-mail to ask Chris to come pick her up instead of just asking Leon to get in touch with him in the first place is probably the biggest plothole in the entire series. I wanted to propose an alternative. This is why CV needs a remake more than RE4, Capcom.