Chapter XIX

Birkin placed the last vial into the metal case, feeling his heart leap a beat. This was it. He'd done it. Now, there was no way back anymore. The trunk clicked closed and Birkin sighed.

He was alone in the room. Alone with a set of microscopes, flickering neon lights above and a set of viral samples of all of Umbrella's projects.

Annette and him had signed the contract three days ago. It promised them protection from the company, research time and everything else that potential employers offer. The government had been more than happy with their decision and showed it in the form of a high-number cheque. Not that money had been the factor influencing their resolve. Money was irrelevant in a position such as his. Not the position as head researcher, of course, but rather that of a target. One quick pull of the trigger and his time was over. Birkin would have accepted the deal even if he had to pay for it.

There had been other options to choose from too, but he knew that both would lead to dead ends. Staying with Umbrella any longer was impossible. If not his physical wellbeing, then certainly the mental stress would have finished him sooner rather than later. Same with Annette. Perhaps even worse for her. Her eye didn't twitch when she was nervous, but she had lost weight and color and life, if you could call it that. Her eyes were hollow when they weren't struggling with fear and she seemed to have aged ten years in ten weeks.

He knew he didn't look any better, and ever since the raid of the house the situation began to affect Sherry, too. If you wanted to believe Freud's theories, the event would resurface in her later life. Birkin didn't want his daughter to end up as a pawn of Umbrella, or possibly even as a leverage used against them.

Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do - Dr. James Marcus, whenever the situation required it.

It did, now. In less than four hours everything would be over. He and Annette would walk out of the facility, get into their car and drive up to the meeting point – Wallace Street 14, close to the St-Michael Clock Tower. From there it was a five minute walk to Sherry's school. They'd pick her up, and then somebody would pick them up. Goodbye Raccoon, goodbye Umbrella.

They'd take a plunge into the big pool of anonymity. That meant goodbye Birkins, too, he guessed. At least it didn't mean goodbye life. He'd hate to say goodbye to that.

Behind him the automatic door opened. Birkin spun around, one hand protectively on the metal case. It was only Annette – who else should it be? – but the whoosh of the door always unsettled him.

"Are you finished?" Annette asked.

"I'm ready here. Everything is prepared."

Normally they wouldn't talk openly about such things. All labs were video and audio supervised. Normally the room would be full of six or seven security guards by now, all pointing their weapons at him and bellowing, 'Put your hands behind your head, doctor! No quick movements, hands behind your head!'

All cameras on this level were disabled due to some technical malfunction. Someone had, not so accidentally, dropped his beverage on the control panel for a small extra to the salary. The technicians were only programmed to arrive this afternoon. By then the Birkin family would be long gone, hopefully a few hundred miles away from Raccoon City.

"Okay, then," Annette said. "I only have to pick up the files from 323." She glanced at the case that contained the world's most dangerous biochemical weapons. "Check them again until I'm done and then we can go. We'll be just in time to get Sherry, if we can avoid the afternoon traffic."

They both knew that the afternoon traffic was an insignificant detail, but in a situation like this every possibility and odd should be considered. Annette looked demonstratively at her wristwatch, then the door whooshed open and she was gone.

Birkin turned back to the case. He entered the five digit code. There was an affirmative beep and it clicked open. Nine samples were safely stored within. Most were T-virus derivatives. Chimera, Hunter, Eliminator, Tyrant, human, leeches and plant. There was the early strain that had developed from Lisa Trevor's merging with the Nemesis parasite, and of course there was the G-virus.

Birkin took the G-vial. He could see the wall on the other side through the clear purple liquid. For a moment a heavy doubt overcame him. This version was the up-to-date one according to Umbrella's data.

As of yet there was only one sample of the real finished product and that lingered within a hidden vial in the pendant he had given to Annette. The pendant Annette had mistakenly given to Sherry. The exchange had been his fault. He had delayed in telling Annette the true meaning of the locket. Now, their daughter wore the hazardous agent around her neck, ignorant to the danger. He had already ordered an identical piece of the jewelry and Annette and him had agreed to exchange the lockets when Sherry was sleeping. There was no reason to upset the little girl even more, not after what had happened. She treasured the gift more than anything else and it would break her heart if they took it away.

Behind him steps echoed in the hallway and the door whooshed open.

"That was quick," he said and turned around to face his wife.

What he faced were the muzzles of three guns, all pointed at him.

"Put your hands behind your head, doctor! No quick movements, hands behind your head!"

Three Umbrella executives – they didn't wear the Umbrella logo, but he knew they were here on Spencer's order – with their fingers on the trigger. They wore combat suits and gas masks, making an identification impossible. But he knew they were from Umbrella's special forces, because for an instant he had the picture of Wesker in his mind. Wesker, who complained about the bad ventilation in the masks, when he had switched from the research division to the information bureau.

He was frozen. There was a slight tremble in the tip of his fingers, but it wasn't enough to lift his hands behind his head.

"Doctor, we're here to collect the G-virus." one of them said. For the next awkward moment nobody moved. The stakes had just increased beyond the limit. Spencer had stopped playing fair, Wesker kept his business to himself and Birkin had the worst cards since the beginning of the game. Marcus would say 'if you wanna play you gotta pay' but Marcus was long dead already.

Without really planning to, he took a step backwards. Three guns adjusted to his new position.

"Stop! Don't move!" the gas mask barked. Finally, Birkin raised his hands. By now, his whole body was shaking and the realization hit him with the force of a fist to the eye.

"You can't have it!" he cried. The emotional part that had taken control over his actions did that. The logical part screamed to be rational and do as they wanted, because this wasn't some Hollywood movie where the hero surprisingly survives the hail of bullets. It was crude reality, where one well placed shot was enough to make the lights go out.

"Sir, hand over the case, or I am forced to retrieve it myself," the executive said and made a step towards him. It was that step that ended it all. Birkin stumbled back in momentary shock, tripping over the chair.

He lost his balance and fell against the drawer. By the time he was sinking to the ground – always keeping his hands behind his head – the shots started. The trat-trat-trat of the machine pistol was all he could hear. He felt an unnatural warmth spread over his torso and back, a warmth that shouldn't be there. The pain only came later, moments before the end.

When he regained consciousness again the gas masks were gone. He hadn't even noticed them leaving.

The door whooshed open again and Birkin feared they had come back to finish it. But it wasn't them. It was Annette and the look on her face as she saw what happened was enough to tell him that he wouldn't make it.

She was beside him in an instant and her eyes were full of tears. She pressed her hands against his chest and when she retrieved them, they were bloody.

"Oh my god, William…" she stammered, "…stay still…stay still… I'm going to get help… don't move-" put your hands behind your head! his mind finished for him "-everything will be okay! Hold the hand here press don't let go I'll be back William, don't die, do you hear me don't die William WILLIAM!"

He wanted to tell her that he understood and that he pressed the hand where she had put it, but the only thing coming from his mouth was thick blood.

The next time he blinked Annette was gone again and he was alone, a dying man ending in his own blood. He pressed harder to the spot Annette had instructed and only then noticed that he held something in that hand.

The G-virus.

He thought, Goodbye Raccoon, goodbye Umbrella and goodbye Sherry, goodbye Annette.

Then he did it. Because sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do - William Birkin, towards the end of his life.

--

Annette browsed the cabinet without really knowing what she was looking for. Tears were blurring her sight and the only thing she could really see was William slumped against the wall with a red lab coat instead of a white one.

She couldn't hold back the sobs and was grateful that nobody else was in the room, or had been in the corridor before. What were they going to do? Shit, what was she going to do? She had counted at least six darker spots and even though none of the bullets should have hit the heart, how was William supposed to survive six bullet wounds?

She took a handful of the sterile bandages and two antibiotic bottles, sheers and a medical sewing kit.

Annette Birkin had never run so fast in her life as she did when she made her way back to 311, the lab where William drowned in his own blood.

The door before her opened automatically. As soon as Annette stepped through it was as if she collided against an invisible wall. The items she was holding fell to the floor and her arms dropped to her side, useless. For a moment she was in a daze, not being able to process what she saw. The blood was there, and it had multiplied dangerously in the last few minutes.

William, however, wasn't there.

What he had left her were bloody footprints and a torn, crimson lab coat, but there was no William.

There was an empty syringe where he had sat.

She wanted to say 'What have you done, William?' but she knew exactly what he had done. The realization forced her to her knees, her legs not supporting her anymore.

"What have you done…?"

There were droplets of purple liquid in the syringe. There was no question as to what he had injected himself with.

"God…god what have you done!?"

And what was she going to do? What could she do? For a moment she doubted that William was still alive. He couldn't be. Nobody survived such an injury, nobody just walked away with such an injury.

Then, the logical part of her mind kicked in. The scientific part. The researcher. Mutation had certainly begun by now, only hastened by the necessary tissue regeneration. Did William even look like William anymore? Was the man she knew and loved still alive at all?

Then it came to her.

DEVIL.

Administered within the first few hours it might be able to reverse the process, hadn't he said so? He had, he had, she was sure he had. But how was she going to give it to him? The virus enhanced aggression and that emotion would only be fueled by the pain he must go through.

He would swipe at her, kill her, without even being aware of what he did. He would strangle her and hurt her and wouldn't realize that all she wanted was to help. That she just wanted to help!

Annette cupped her head in her hands, suddenly understanding the extent of the situation. Oh god… oh god, but wouldn't do it, would he? He wouldn't… Only, deep down she knew he would. Because William wasn't William anymore and it was in the nature of all viruses to reproduce.

From that moment she knew they were all doomed.

The thing William had become would take terrible revenge and it wouldn't be able to distinguish between good and bad. She had to help him, make him see, but he would tear her to shreds the moment he laid eyes upon her. What could she do? What could she DO?!

The only thing that was left to be done, of course.

If someone had asked her if she would ever do something like that she would have straight-out denied it. She guessed that you could never know such things beforehand.

Annette crawled over to the torn lab coat and prayed to god that she find what she sought in one of its pockets.

She did. The little white card with the telephone number written on it was not so white anymore, but the number was readable. That was the only thing that mattered.

Annette had never put all her eggs into one basket. For the first time she did. She dialed the number and couldn't bring herself to stop crying.

On the third ring, someone picked up.

She was shocked into silence for a second, then the sobs broke through again.

"…you need to come!…. god, you need to come!… he's infected – INFECTED – Albert… please… you have to come…!"

Annette cried too hard to understand his answer, if there even was one, if the man she had implored had even been Albert Wesker. By the time she calmed down, the phone had gone dead.


This is the way the world ends.
Not with a bang, but with a whimper.
-T.S. Eliot


THE END


I know many of you will hate me for this ending. :P But at least you will have reason to check out the sequel (yes, there will be another one...)! That one will cover the events of RE2/3 from the point of view of our favourite characters. Annette, Ada and of course Albert Wesker.

Until then, however, I want to lead you way into the past, Pre-Mansion...

corpus delicti
the body of a crime
STARS are assigned to the case of a hysterical madman. When he takes down their car in the middle of Arklay Mountains, they are at the mercy of the psychopath hunter. Chris, Jill, Barry, Brad, Wesker... and a snowstorm.

Until soon!