In case any of you wonders, extra info on Richard's past, his sister and his girlfriend was taken from Umbrella Chronicles files, and is perfectly canon. The rest of the story... up to you to decide its plausibility.
Enjoy, and please tell me what you think in a review!
Name's Richard Aiken, back-up man of the S.T.A.R.S Bravo team, the luckiest or unluckiest guy on earth – not sure which it is yet – and future corpse.
As far as I know, Rebecca Chambers and I are the only survivors in our team.
I should be glad at least I helped her get in this creepy mansion instead of leaving her out with those bloodthirsty dogs… but I didn't bring her to safety after all. Yeah, got her out of the fire, but there's still the frying pan… I was assigned to watching out for her, after all she's just a rookie, and although she's extremely talented there's a long way to go for her to get experience.
And I've failed.
Time and time again.
Worse yet, I wasn't able to do a thing for the rest of my team-mates. Not a single one.
Kenneth. One of those… rotting men got him, I'm sure. We were on the run; I only heard the shots and a scream… I'm sure it was him. I could've been there, I could've!
By the time I did get there, it was way too late.
At least I had to try, to get in time and be there for someone else, but the team dispersed and some panicked. Forest headed upstairs, already wounded. I'm not sure yet what happened, but the door he went through seemed somehow locked, and I couldn't get to him.
By the time I heard of him again, it'd been also too late.
Mangled beyond recognition by some crows. I'm still unsure whether he was dead before the birds' attack, or if that was what killed him.
Kevin didn't even make it out of our crash-landing. And Edward got killed by another undead shortly after, when we came across that train.
Then, Enrico. I lost him soon after the incident with Forest. He told me to stay close to Rebecca and keep looking after her as I'd been assigned, and he went on his own saying something about a discovery and proof and having things to confirm. There's no certain telling, but the only time I saw him again he looked extremely out of his mind, paranoid, shocked. And again, he went on his own, telling me that no matter what, Chambers couldn't die just yet.
And he was right.
But… Kenneth, Forest, Kevin, Enrico, Edward. Forest was a great marksman whose skills rivaled those of Chris Redfield from the Alpha team. Kenneth was a veteran we all could turn to, as well as Enrico, the team leader. Both with still a lot to do ahead of them, a million uses for their experience and skill, and instead it's the people like me who survive… ones that have accomplished nothing. Kevin didn't even have anything to do with this; he just piloted for us and got the shorter end of the stick! Even the co-pilot Edward, the rear security man, the one who is the strongest defense got taken down to leave us, the more careless ones with the luck.
Every one of them suffered from sour luck, from the circumstances. And just like that, any of them could've been I. Should've been!
Now the only one I could help is nowhere to be found. The last task I could do, and I'm failing it. But I have to keep trying, and that's why I've remained alive.
Rebecca Chambers has to survive.
She's the rookie, a kid who grew up too quickly and is the youngest one I've seen entering S.T.A.R.S., needles to say with a definitely great future ahead and perfect records backing her up. She already survived getting separated from the rest of us before coming across me, so if she doesn't survive this one… most likely it will be my fault.
That kid just… reminds me of someone. It took me long enough to figure it out, but she reminds me so much of my little sister. My baby sister… the start of everything… killed right before my eyes by a criminal. I was a kid as well at the time, but still… I was so scared, I couldn't move, I was helpless and I did nothing. I let her die, I couldn't protect her, and I failed. And now I'm failing again.
Even now I'm not sure of what to do. Bridgette… you always were opposed to me taking up this dangerous line of work… I have to go back to you. I promised I'd go back, I promised I'd live, and so far I'm still up on my feet, but… what if the time comes again when I have to protect someone? I still feel so much guilt about my sister, I know she was supposed to survive back then and I was the one who should've died… if I have to give my life to protect anyone, I can't fail again. That's why I'm even here, as a S.T.A.R.S. member, to protect those I still can. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to live with myself, expecting to die in vain when a life was given up for me, my baby sister's life!
But I want to be there for you when you need me, too, I love you…Bridgette, I'm so sorry. When the time comes again, I don't want to hesitate. I can't. I'm so sorry.
Guess it was luck that has taken me this far, and for that I'm glad. At least now, this once, I got to protect and save someone.
First Rebecca, then Jill Valentine from Alpha team.
I made sure to register every overly suspicious area before motioning the rookie to follow me; thankfully a mere storage room had awakened those suspicions in me, innocent and useless as it seemed. After all, the old hallway contained only a couple of rotting habitants and didn't seem worth investigating. Yet, I didn't feel right approaching carelessly, and instructed Rebecca to wait while I went and took a look around.
Not too long after I entered the storage room, I was proven right and greeted by a snake as wide as I am tall and so long that it had to curl and curve its body a lot to fit in the room.
As much as I was scared, I felt a bit of relief that Rebecca wasn't with me at the time. But then, I heard her banging her fists on the door – which apparently had gotten jammed, or something – and screaming. I evaded the huge reptile for a while, yelling at her to go away and escape whatever had found her, and thankfully I heard her running away.
At least that once, I protected someone and took the risk in their stead.
That thing, the snake, got me in the arm. I swear I couldn't tell just how long its teeth or mouth were, but it was enough to mangle my arm from shoulder to past my elbow.
Guess I was meant to keep repenting for my sister and keep putting myself in front of the dangers that threatened others, because my worries about Rebecca wouldn't leave me in peace. Right after the bite I felt dizzy and light-headed, but I still had to get the girl out of this place alive, so I wasn't ready to give it up just yet.
I would've preferred killing the snake so it wouldn't be a threat to my comrades or anyone again, but if I didn't run right then I wasn't gonna make it.
I hit the door with my good side, trying to land a few shots on the snake to hold it back. The door gave in and miraculously didn't take much damage, as I could still close it securely after stepping out. My next reaction was heading out and finding our rookie right away, but the pain in my arm had gotten awful and I felt fevered. My eyes weren't working with me, the floor tilted under my feet, and if I saw at least that much clearly, my arm was turning purple-ish around the wound.
I made it through the next door and collapsed in the hallway, hoping nothing would get me while I blacked out.
Next time I came to, I was seeing Valentine, but I still can't remember well what happened or what I told her. I only remember blacking out again and waking up with my arm bandaged and the pain halfway gone.
She explained I'd been poisoned – no wonder the color the wound took and the amount of pain – and that she had gone and gotten me some serum, then returned and bandaged it all up. I was so grateful, although still weak and sort of dizzy; I couldn't get back on my feet just yet.
I closed my eyes for a second, and when I opened them again she was gone.
Jill had miraculously found me and saved me; I just couldn't stay there and hope she didn't go to the storage room, if the snake was still lurking around there. Guess I could get back on my feet after all, with a little help that I got by leaning on the wall. I shook my head and backtracked to where I'd been bitten, and found the door a bit jammed again; however, I could hear pretty clearly movement inside, steps, shots, something heavy being dragged across the floor – perhaps dragging itself?
I couldn't let Jill get killed by that thing, even if I hadn't come to my senses properly yet, so I threw my good side against the door again and managed to open it.
I was right, the snake was still in there, lunging at Jill every now and then and failing to catch her.
I aimed my shotgun as best as I could and start emptying shell after shell into the monster, running around it every time it switched it's attention to me. Soon enough, it fell over and stopped moving.
The girl from Alpha team heaved a sigh of relief and approached me, thanking me with a smile. That was the second time I protected someone, and needless to say I felt like a great weight was off my shoulders.
But it didn't last long; the snake hissed and raised its head again, lunging quickly towards Jill with increased determination.
Bridgette, dear… I didn't hesitate.
I threw myself in her direction without thinking twice, pushing her away just as the snake opened its huge mouth, dropping my shotgun in the process.
In a second, I was surrounded by its mouth, swinging my legs helplessly outside of it. It flung me around a few times as it moved its head before I got pulled down its throat and was completely surrounded by its insides. The flesh smelled terrible, and thankfully didn't wrap so tight around me. Had the snake's body not been slightly affected by whatever affected the rotting men, its insides would've crushed every bone in my body instantly and begun digestion. Still, I was unable to move around and my skin felt itchy and slightly pained every time the slime that covered the monster's flesh touched me. Surely that was how I would've ended; slowly corroded, if I didn't starve to death or suffered from lack of oxygen first, but I've no idea if that thing was capable of digestion anymore.
The monster's body shook violently around me as I kept hearing gunfire, this time shots that only could've been from my shotgun: Jill Valentine had taken it and opened fire somewhere in front of me, probably near the head of the reptile.
As the back-up man of the team, I usually kept an eye out for everyone and carried a heavy shotgun that fit best my position. At the moment I couldn't have been happier to drop my weapon, even though I wasn't much of an expert with the knife and handgun I had left.
It wasn't too long before the snake fell over again, this time really defeated.
There wasn't much air and the flesh around me felt like it was getting tighter; I couldn't scream. I barely could call out Valentine's name, but I suppose she didn't hear.
From then on, some of the most agonizing minutes of my life went by.
My skin burned and itched whenever it touched the odd internal fluids, but this… thing, if it had the same sort of disease or whatever it was that turned men into undead, it should be one as well. I assumed so, since it wasn't making much attempt for digestion.
Eventually it would wake up, if it hadn't died yet. I needed to get out of there soon, so I took out my knife and stabbed the side of the monster and tried to pull myself forward. I didn't make much advance, but it was my only way out.
For some minutes I continued doing this, starting to feel dizzy again at the lack of air, while the wound on my arm started hurting again – there was no time to take care of it, I needed to use both of my arms if I wanted to get out. Sometimes I got tired and tried to make a hole on the side of the snake that I could crawl out of, but it seemed useless; no matter my efforts, I could never stab to the other side. The flesh was thick, and the more it was hurt, the more fluids it secreted, and I didn't want to take any risks with those. Eventually I got near the head.
It seemed ridiculous, the whole situation did. But I guess when you're in a state of suspended disbelief and trying to get out of a gigantic undead snake's mouth, there's not much to do but nod and keep trying. However, I couldn't manage to open the mouth.
I was tired, hurting and dizzy.
I stopped and tried to breathe in deep, but oxygen just wasn't enough. While I kept quiet, I heard someone coming in; the door creaked and had to be hit in order to open, since it seemed to get jammed every time.
Well, apparently my way out had just arrived.
I threw my body as much as I could against the snake's mouth, trying to open it, wondering again if it was dead or alive. I ended up pushing it around, and soon felt something hit against it: distinctively, a bullet.
The first person who came to my mind was Rebecca, and I yelled out her name. Jill probably thought I was done for, and I had no idea about Chris or Barry or Wesker or Enrico or anyone. Rebecca ceased fire. We tried to talk, yelling as loudly as we could, and after a while we managed to open the snake's mouth and get me out.
She explained how she had to run away from a few undead that cornered her before and later encountered Chris Redfield from Alpha team. After helping him out and clearing the area, she returned for me.
I had to get back in action, so… for the time being, all I could do was put my hand in her shoulder for a while and say my sincere thanks.
We advanced on to the courtyard of the mansion and approached the beat-up residence. Around halfway through the courtyard, however, I instructed her to go back to Chris. The place seemed to get more suspicious, the creatures more varied and unpredictable and I wasn't armed properly to protect Rebecca any better than Redfield probably could. After all, he was a prize-winning marksman, and my skill was nowhere near his without my trusty shotgun… come to think of it, I sort of miss that gun.
Anyway, I was right again. The residence was crawling with huge bees, spiders, and undead, all trying to get another piece of me.
Eventually I checked most of the rooms, and stopped at a mostly empty one with a chest and a typewriter in it. There were no chairs on sight, but that was the safest-looking place, so I had no problem with sitting on the floor. I went to the farthest corner from the door, noticing the lack of windows and sat there, finally getting some time to catch my breath.
Not that I wanted a rest… I still had to check on Valentine, find a way out, and get Rebecca, there was no time to relax! But… my arm, my arm… it hadn't stopped hurting, and my body felt weak and oddly hot. Maybe my trip to the insides of a damn undead snake re-poisoned me? Whatever the case, I needed to regain strength, and time only seemed to make things worse.
I was worrying about the rookie again, but thankfully that reminded me of the notes she'd scribbled down for me before she went back to Redfield. She said it was in case I had to treat my own wounds, since I really knew nothing on the medical area. So, I took the sheet of paper out of my pocket, all crumbled but still readable.
Her notes were simple enough.
"Green Herbs simple curative effects
Blue Herbs minor poisoning, maybe some other uses
Red Herbs if mixed with the others, it intensifies their effects
They should be easy to locate. If any herb is higher than your knee, it might not be safe to use it. With the others, just chew on them or apply them to the wound."
I limped my way to the chest beside me, wondering if anything useful could be there – the shelves in this room had some ammo that I took, so hopefully there could be more in there – and found quite a few things inside. Some odd crests and stone pieces, rounds for weapons I hadn't seen anybody carrying, and thankfully a few herbs.
Didn't wanna take any chances, so I took one of each (as well as a First Aid Spray that I pocketed for later) and put them on a seemingly clean table nearby, beside the typewriter. I took out the leaves and put them together, chopping them to pieces with my knife until they'd mixed properly. Then, slowly, I took off the bandage in my arm and put the mixture to it, rubbing it slightly with my hand. And God, did it hurt! The wound already seemed to have gotten worse again, and this wasn't helping the pain much, for now.
Once done, I just put the bandage around it again, tighter. Must've been my luck again back there, because although I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, it seemed to work after a while. My view cleared. And so, I could see the piece of paper in the typewriter and the text on it.
"JILL VALENTINE. Residence. Still not heading out of here!"
I couldn't help but smile.
Valentine… really smart.
She had typed similar messages previously in the paper, all with a number and the time, as to indicate which was first. And since none yet said she was heading back to the mansion, I assumed she was near me. Before stepping out to look for her (I hope you'll forgive me, Bridgette, but I have no time to spare and I must risk it, I can't have it any other way) I left my own log of sorts.
"RICHARD AIKEN. Residence. Staying, searching for Valentine."
And with that, I went back on my way.
By that time I was already feeling the pain subside at an amazing rate, same as my strength returning. Soon enough I was able to unlock new rooms, one of which contained some stairs concealed poorly behind a bookcase – maybe someone had already gone through? Maybe Valentine?
It was suspicious enough anyway, so down I went.
Watching my steps, I advanced through the concrete hallway. My footsteps echoed in the walls too loudly, but it seemed that it couldn't be helped. And of course, the back-up man couldn't afford to get any surprises, so I concentrated as much as I could.
It was empty enough, and I got to an area where the floor was divided. Maybe at a time there would've been a little metal bridge there, but now that space was flooded and the only way to get to the other side seemed to be by stepping on three big crates that floated in the water, placed conveniently one in front of each other – too conveniently.
Jill. Surely she'd been through there.
I looked back and kneeled down, noticing the marks on the floor that were signal of something heavy having been dragged from its position to the edge of the water. I kept looking, and the marks seemed to repeat three times, without a doubt the proof that someone had pushed the crates to create that makeshift bridge. I smiled; hopefully we all could regroup soon. Or, at least, I could stay with Valentine and use my beloved shotgun again.
I advanced until the floor beneath my feet tilted, becoming ramp-like and flooded, and ending in a pair of heavy metal doors. Whatever the place was, whatever had happened to it, I was gonna find out soon enough. And so, I pushed the doors open – the water made them heavier than they should've been, but at the time that was the last of my worries.
The place was definitely damned huge.
And also damned flooded.
I could see the path properly, but the water was up to my waist and made it hard to move around. It seemed to encircle the whole room, and also the broken god-knows-what structure that was in the middle. Below looked pretty bottomless, what with the water and all. To my left and right, pretty further away, I saw a couple of doors. But before anything else, I closed those behind me, making a loud metallic sound.
As if on cue, as if having noticed me, I heard something splash the water, ahead.
My first thought was that I'd caught up to Valentine, but I left it aside soon enough, as something seemed to disturb the water – swimming, swimming too fast for me to see well.
I raised my handgun and shot, shot, shot blindly, whatever that thing was; it definitely wasn't human and so, definitely not friendly.
Four shells and one curse afterwards, it stopped and floated up to the surface, dead.
A shark… could anyone believe that?
Just what was that place? Why would they have sharks in there? Specially these – their skin was as damaged as all the other creatures'. Come on, undead sharks?
Could it get any more unbelievable?
There she was. Ahead, to my left, in a part that was slightly above the water level, in front of a door.
God, finally… and she was safe! I couldn't be any more relieved, I was simply elated that nothing had happened while I wasn't around to help.
And she seemed just as happy to see I hadn't become snake food.
"Richard, watch out!"
Out of nowhere – perhaps from below? – three more sharks lunged at me. I shot the closest one, forcing it to get back, then shot the next one. I kept alternating like that, until I had to reload.
And in that second, while Jill called out to me and shot the creatures from a distance, I felt something digging in my leg and yanking me down to the water.
Satisfied with my screaming, the shark shook me around and let go, only to leave space for the next one as it bit on my side. So many teeth, so much pain… the water, the bubbles coming from my mouth, they didn't allow me to see. The pain, the world, all dark blue and hazy and turning and spinning around… and Jill, Jill was still shooting, yelling. Her bullets broke through the surface and got one of the sharks, as the other one swam below and around me. The third shark still had my body between its jaws, but I felt no pain.
I felt nothing. Only an indescribable weird feeling as I tried to breathe, swallowed water, and felt my body try to squirm away on instinct against the monster's mouth.
No air anymore.
I tried to breathe, at least to yell, but only bubbles surrounded my mouth and nose.
And then, as I opened my mouth and swallowed more water, it all came back to me.
Blood seemed to float too calmly out of my body, apparently catching the attention of the shark swimming around. And I could've sworn that besides the pain that only that snake bite back in the mansion could compare to, I felt water coming in through my new wound, exchanging itself with blood.
I screamed, mute, and flung my legs in the water, struggling to breathe, to break free. I noticed I still held my handgun, and put it between the shark's eyes.
I pulled the trigger; somehow, it still worked. The shark released me and stopped moving, dead.
That left me with one more to deal with. Not to mention it also left me breathless, barely conscious, dizzy, confused, hurting and most of all, scared.
How could I fail now…?
I swam to the surface. At the slightest movement, pain shot through all my body, as more blood tainted the water and seemed to draw the creature closer.
Enduring the pain to get some air, or dying. The choice was easy.
I held my side with one hand, amazed at my luck – shouldn't I have died right then and there? – and propelled myself up with the other. The water around me seemed darker now than at first, and although the whole room spun around me, I could feel the current being disrupted as the remaining shark got closer.
It appeared in front of me, lunging directly, jaws open and ready.
I jerked my body back, kicking the water in front of me and eventually landing a kick in the creature's head as it got closer, pushing it way momentarily.
Desperate, I took the chance to swim upward, finally feeling the air hit my arm first and then my face as I pulled myself up to the surface.
I gasped, coughed, breathed.
NO! No, she must be safe! Goddammit, Richard, don't get her near the danger!
I breathed deep and went quiet immediately – not that I had much of a choice. The shark was back, and I felt myself being pulled down again.
And again, pain.
By luck or instinct, the shark had bitten onto my wounded arm.
I gritted my teeth for a second, but I couldn't hold in a scream – poisoned, mangled, cured, re-poined, cured again, and now bit by a shark; the pain in my arm was too much.
And yet, I found the strength to struggle and wrestle with the beast for a while.
It swam around, jerking me from one side to the other with ease, until it hit me against a wall, knocking the air out of me and intensifying the pain. I found nothing to do but hit it between the eyes with my now useless gun. Soon enough it slipped off my hand, and only then I remembered my knife.
I took it out with my good hand, as the other was still caught up, and tried to stab my opponent. But my sight and my aim were already slipping by, and I missed many times, barely missing my own legs as I tried to push the thing away with them while stabbing blindly.
One minute. I was running out of breath.
And somehow, I thought I could hear some sort of female voice, surely computerized and saying something about the water, even though it was hard as heck to tell from my place.
I kept wrestling, finally freeing my arm after I landed a lucky hit above the monster's mouth. And then, it disappeared from my view.
Suddenly, the water around me felt like it had a strong current to it, yanking me down forcefully. The water seemed to be lowering… draining? I had no time to think of it, I was beginning to lose my senses fully.
I was more aware now than ever of the pain in my arm, and held it as tight as I could.
I forgot the shark.
Forgot the danger.
Maybe I was going to die.
Maybe that was my time.
But I did not forget you, Bridgette!
Not for a single moment!
I'm sorry, my Bridgette… I gave up.
The will that had just kept me alive through all this was almost gone.
Maybe I didn't intend that.
But I couldn't stand the pain anymore, and I couldn't get anything else in my head. The blood loss, pain, pain… death…
I kept being dragged down, slowly, slowly…
And somehow, before I knew it, I was in the bottom. I could feel air around me, and concrete under my back as I lay there. I breathed, feeling like my wounds were burning at the contact with air. The water had been completely drained. I couldn't open my eyes anymore, couldn't move anymore, couldn't think of anything.
Anything but you.
Somehow, my good hand seemed to move on its own, searching my pocket for something. But that was already off my consciousness.
And with only you in my mind, I blacked out again. Whatever was to happen to me at the time… even if I was able to protect people…
I just hoped you'd forgive me…
Jill exited the aqua ring's control room to the lower level, were dead or half-dead sharks lay helplessly, out of their element and unable to do anything.
She held the shotgun close to her body, watching out for anything else that might still be around, ready to catch her off-guard. And so she advanced quietly, slowly, with a demure tone to her steps and every one of her movements.
Why Richard was so willing to give his life, so… recklessly, dare she say, would always escape her.
And just as she wondered where he'd ended up, his body came into view, lying peacefully near the central structure of the room. Blood pooled under him, from both his side and his arm, which was now twisted and torn and bloodier than ever. His expression was calm, his face pale; his body was perfectly still, dead.
As she neared him, she noticed two things on his hand. The first was quite clearly a can of first aid spray – she assumed it must've been his last desperate try to cling to life, but then… did it mean he had survived the shark attack? At this, she felt a sudden wave of guilt for having left him behind – and the other was a photo of two people holding hands and smiling, Richard himself and a young woman that Jill didn't recognize.
And here I am now.
"Five minutes until detonation."
Why am I awake, now?
At the rate I was losing blood… I should've died.
I guess it doesn't matter now. Not even the can of first aid spray I suddenly have in my hand, as well as the picture of Bridgette and I.
Five minutes… detonation… what's it all about?
Detonation… is this place going to explode?!
Oh God… Redfield, I hope she's with you.
My head's spinning, I feel like I got run over by a truck. Or maybe by a lot of undead shark meat.
I don't even know where my handgun landed…
Guess it's me and my knife. I have to make sure everyone's getting out of here!
Feet firm on the ground, one after another, I try to get up.
No, no, no… I can't help it now. I can't move it an inch; it hurts so much… it's lost, alright. No problem, I've still got one left, and that's all I need to use a knife.
"Four minutes until detonation. All personnel evacuate immediately."
…and I'm up. Well, time to get going…
I can still help.
I don't need all my limbs functioning to protect someone. Or, at least, to be their shield.
There's something at the exit, I can't see well…
Is that you?
What are you doing here?
You should be at home.
Wait, don't go alone!
This place isn't safe, I'll protect you!
I can't walk that well, I feel weak… but I think I can jog for a while.
Wait for me, everyone… sis, Bridgette…
The back-up is on its way.