Chapter One


Eight days, nine hours, and twenty two minutes. Claire knew because of the clock hanging on the wall in the close confines of her prison -- a comfortable prison, but a prison nonetheless. She had a bed, a desk, a chair, a small washroom, even a television -- everything but her freedom.

Eight days, nine hours, and twenty two minutes since he'd brought her to this place. Eight days, nine hours, and twenty two minutes since she'd seen his face.

Eight days, nine hours, and twenty three minutes.

She flipped through the channels idly, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. It was still cold, she noted glumly. She didn't think Wesker felt it.

The one thing her prison lacked was a window. She didn't know the temperature outside, or where outside was. The last thing she remembered was the kick to her head, and then waking in this room alone.

He'd refused to see her, to speak to her since. Food appeared on the desk while she slept, and although Claire considered herself a light sleeper, she never heard him enter or leave. Once she'd tried waiting up for him. She'd managed to go seventy two hours solid, watching MTV at top volume, splashing cold water on her face, jumping up and down to keep awake. At last she'd let her eyes slide shut for the briefest of seconds and awoken ten hours later to find the television off and the usual plate on the desk.

So last night she'd written him a note on a piece of paper torn from one of the room's two books, both of them on biomolecular structure. The very action made her remember Chris, and that thought brought tears to her eyes, but she fought them back. Something told her she'd need all her energy to get through this with her sanity intact. She didn't even know if Chris was alive. Chris... Leon... all the others. Dead? Or alive and thinking they'd lost her?

Something was different here, too. Wesker had claimed she was his leverage against Chris, but after more than a week of captivity he'd made no attempt to manipulate her, to hurt her, or, to the best of her knowledge, to use her. What was he up to?

The only way to find out was to talk to him, and apparently he wasn't having that. So she wrote him the note.

The note itself came fairly easily; what took a long time was starting. What was she supposed to write? Dear Wesker? Even to her mind that sounded ridiculous. Just leave it unaddressed? She was writing to him or the dust bunnies; she thought he'd figure it out. But then it sounded rude, and she didn't want to get on his bad side -- not yet, at least. Just starting with Wesker was similarly problematic. For a moment of masochism she toyed with "Dearest Albert," but eventually she settled on the one thing that might get his attention: his former title.

Captain Wesker,

Although I appreciate not being thrown into a tower or strapped to a laboratory bed, I'm wondering how long you intend to leave me here with nothing but the television for company. I would very much appreciate the chance to talk to you. I promise not to scream or shout or throw anything whatsoever.

Claire Redfield

She wasn't surprised to find him absent when she opened her eyes this morning. The customary plate rested beside her note. With a sigh, she rolled to her feet, shaking her hair out, and bent over the desk.

To her surprise, she found five words scrawled on the bottom of the note in a slanted hand: Is there anything you require?

Freedom. A telephone. Some low grade explosives and an escape vehicle. But she didn't think any of those would get a positive response, so beneath his answer she wrote: I would like some clean clothes, a sketchpad, and some pencils. More than that, I want answers. I don't want to spend the rest of my life a comfortable prisoner.

She passed the rest of the day in edgy uncertainty, wondering what had made him leave his message, why he wouldn't face her. Was it possible the invincible Albert Wesker was feeling guilt? After all, she had saved his life, and he repaid her by making her a prisoner. She set the back of her mind to work on a way to exploit that. Above all, she cautioned herself, don't piss him off. This time you have to be smart or you'll wind up dead.

She went to bed early but couldn't sleep, wondering when he'd slip into her room, how he knew whether she was asleep or merely pretending. On some level it reminded her of being a child waiting for Santa Claus to arrive with his bag of gifts -- the vague memory of her mother's voice: "Santa won't come until you're asleep, Claire."

She scratched that line of thought in a hurry. The last thing she needed was to think of her mother.

Rolling over, she tucked the blanket beneath her chin and closed her eyes, breathing slowly and heavily. With a bit of luck, maybe she could fool him -- maybe he'd sneak in thinking her asleep, and she could jerk upright like a jack-in-the-box and shout GOTCHA!

She waited and waited and waited, and at last fell into a fitful sleep during which she dreamed of her brother engulfed in the explosion's flames. When at last she woke again, she saw that Santa Claus had indeed come -- next to the plate sat a thick coil sketchbook, a metal box of artist's pencils, an eraser and pencil sharpener, some charcoal, a box of pastels, and a large shopping bag of clothing -- nothing special, nondescript athletic clothes that fit any size, but clean and warm.

She ran her fingers over the sketchpad, then sharpened one of the new pencils. Wesker hadn't left a note, but she ran the lead over the the bottom corner of the paper, sketching in quick jerky motions until she'd produced a rough outline of her own head and two words: thank you.

Sinking back onto the bed, she touched the pencil to the paper and drifted into another world.