Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Seventeen.

The helicopter was airborne when the base exploded. The cabin shook and tilted, making Heinkel and the others have to hang on to keep from sliding to the floor. Anderson got up from his seat and went to the cockpit, where he shouted something to the pilot.

The chopper circled the base twice to make sure the Alexia creature was dead and that nothing was going to crawl from the rubble and cause any more trouble. After they were reasonably certain, they flew off. Heinkel closed her eyes and relaxed, glad to finally be able to rest for a few moments.

Opening one eye, she could see that Yumie had gone to sleep. When she awoke, it was likely Yumiko would be back and asking questions about what had happened. Anderson was asleep as well, but would likely wake soon. Claire seemed to hold a vacant expression, likely thinking about her friend, Steve.

After an hour, the chopper set down on a boat, where they were escorted to private quarters. Claire didn't know it, but her room was placed under guard; for the time being, she was a prisoner. It would be up to Maxwell to decide what to do with her. Anderson's mission had been to dig up information on Umbrella to use against it. Either the info would be used to take legal action against them, or it would used to plan tactical assaults for covert operations aimed at killing its employees.

If Maxwell opted to wage a secret war on Umbrella, or continue it at least, Claire probably wouldn't be heard from again unless she convinced the Iscariot head that she wasn't going to be a hindrance. On the other hand, Claire's chances were much better if Maxwell decided to attack Umbrella from the public sphere.

The Pope might step in, too, Heinkel thought. He's got the final say, of course. Hopefully, they'll her go on her way. She knew little of Claire Redfield, but from what she had seen, Claire was worthy of respect. Anderson seemed to like her, so that said something as well.

Heinkel slept like a dead log once she hit the bed in her quarters. All four of them had to go through a thorough delousing not long after getting off the chopper. Lord only knew what kind of microscopic horrors had clung to her while she was cavorting around Umbrella's labs. None of them had been happy about it, but Claire had seemed the most distraught. Apparently she had never been deloused before.

Several hours later, Heinkel found herself standing with Yumiko in an office building in Southern Italy. It had taken two cab rides and an airplane ride to get there, but even so, Heinkel feed an odd sense of being disconnected. Going from Rockfort to the Antarctic and now back to civilization was like traveling to a different place and time. She knew nothing was going to jump out and attack her while she walked down the hallway, but her reflexes didn't; her arms twitched even when a young man, an intern by the look of him, came out a door carrying a stack of papers.

She got to the room Maxwell was sitting in without shooting anyone. His silver hair was tied back as usual, and he looked pleased with them, which was not usual. "Heinkel, Yumiko, I'm glad you made it back, along with Anderson. I understand you had something of an ordeal?"

Yumiko nodded and looked at Heinkel, the only person who could give a full account aside from Anderson himself. "It wasn't that bad, but there were some close call," Heinkel said. "Anderson is alive and well, so mission accomplished for us."

"Anderson didn't fare so badly either," Maxwell said, picking up a cup of tea setting on his desk. "He managed to send us some information that will be useful in annihilating Umbrella."

Heinkel's heart sank. "So then we're going to kill them all?"

Maxwell sipped his tea. "And then some. We'll crush them financially and legally as well. I'm also interested in what the Redfield woman has to tell us as well. I understand she was a Raccoon City survivor, so the tactical information we glean from her and from our own experience will be substantial."

The lump in her stomach hadn't quite disappeared, but it did shrink. "So she'll be let go?"

A puzzled look crossed Maxwell's face. "Is there some reason we should keep her?"

"Um, no," Heinkel said. "I was just…"

"You thought we'd torture information out of her, kill her, and then dump her in a river someplace, right? I'm surprised at you Heinkel, you know we hardly ever do that anymore. Not to random people, anyway." He sipped his tea and kept his eyes fixed on her. They were calm and easy eyes, not his maniacal ones, the kind he got when he was worked up about something. It was likely their success had put him in a good mood.

"So, then," Heinkel said. "Should we take it easy and await more orders?"

"We're quite tired," Yumiko said, chiming in.

"I suppose you've earned a rest, which you should make the most of, as you're headed to Egypt in four days."

"Egypt?" Heinkel and Yumiko said in unison.

"Egypt. Umbrella is planning to have one of its new testing facilities go online by the end of the week. It's poorly guarded and ripe for an old fashioned bombing. Assuming, of course, you don't find a way to make use of its self-destruct system."

Heinkel fought the urge to pass out. She'd had enough of zombie and mutants to last her a lifetime. Furthermore, she didn't care for Egypt at all. There was too much sand. "Can't you just send Anderson?" Heinkel asked. "He was complaining about not getting challenges enough. I heard him."

Maxwell shook his head, putting his tea down. "Hellsing is on the move against Umbrella as well. I've got a job for Anderson, a special one. We can't let the Protestants upstage on this one."

They both sighed. Heinkel was about to ask if they simply couldn't let Hellsing do the dirty work, especially since their goals were the same, but it was no use with Maxwell so she stifled her words. "Alright then," Heinkel said. "I'll have Yumiko write up the report, after I tell her what happened."

"What?" Yumiko shouted. "Not again!"

"Yes, again. Yumie and I do all the work, it's only fair you should write the reports."

"M-Maxwell, sir, tell her…"

Rolling his eyes, Maxwell waved his hands as though shooing them out. "Just go away. Remember, Egypt, four days."

Heinkel turned and left, tuning out Yumiko as she followed behind, complaining loudly about being taken advantage of.

The room Claire sat in was probably the oddest thing she had seen in both Raccoon City and the places she had been in the last forty-eight hours. It was a prison cell, but the only thing that made it such was the bars on the door. Everything else, aside from the lack of a window, indicated a posh hotel room.

The chair she was sitting in was one of the most comfortable things she had ever encountered. With the mini-bar within arm's length, she was finding it a chore to be angry at the Vatican for holding her against her will.

"Father Anderson," the guard said. "What are you…"

"Open it," Anderson said. The guard came in to view, a geeky looking priest, and opened the cell door. Anderson had to dip his head slightly when he walked in. "Ms. Redfield," he said, nodding.

She narrowed her eyes. "Father. What brings you along? Come to interrogate me or something?"

Shaking his head, he sat down on the edge of the bed across from her. To look at him, she would never have guessed the ordeal he had gone through. Aside from the scar on his cheek, which was there when she met him, there wasn't a scratch on him. "No, no one is going to interrogate you," Anderson said. "I expect you'll have no trouble telling them what they want to know right from the start. They'll ask you about Raccoon mostly. How you came to be stuck on Rockfort might also come up, but if you tell them you were looking for your brother and got captured when you stuck your nose in too deep, that should suffice."

Claire scratched behind her ear nervously. The remaining STARS members had formed a kind of anti-Umbrella group and were gathering to launch an assault. What the Vatican's interest in that might be, Claire wasn't sure and wasn't all too trusting. "Why does Section Thirteen treat everyone like they're the enemy?" Claire asked.

He grinned and laughed. "Survival. There's no power in the world that's got to where it is by being friendly and benevolent. Ask Umbrella."

She wanted to ask him what the difference between Umbrella and the Iscariots were, but didn't. "Why are you here?" she asked instead.

His grin faded and his eyes softened. It was almost grotesque how quickly his demeanor could change and further reinforced Claire's conclusion that he was insane. "I wanted to say that I'm sorry about Steven," he said. "Not for what I did, mind you, but that it had to happen."

"I'm sorry too," she said. She had spent her first night in Hotel Iscariot crying into her pillow. Completely shed of tears, her sadness had now become a burning anger. Another glowing coal in the pile her ordeal in Raccoon had created. "He was only seventeen."

"He's with the Lord now," Anderson said. "I also came to ask if you would be willing to help us."

"Help you?"

"Maxwell, the head of Iscariot, wants to use you against them. You can provide us with tactical information on their bioweapons, as well as testify against them in a court," Anderson said. "You've also got some potential as a warrior. With a little training, you'd be a right terror."

Claire shook her head. "I'm not becoming a…a, killer nun or whatever. After Umbrella is buried I'm finishing college and getting a life."

"I'm not asking you to take any vows," he said. "Heinkel and Yumiko are off to Egypt in a few days to destroy an Umbrella testing facility. They're good, but they could do with some help, and I'll be tied up in something else."

Closing her eyes and sighing, she felt the aches and pains of the past two days begin to throb again. The Aspirin had done its work, but the memory was powerful. Part of her wanted to quit the whole mess and go back to college like nothing had happened, but it was a small part.

"I'll go," she said. "As long as I'm well armed and there's a plan of some kind." Too many times, twice to be exact, she had been up against Umbrella without a clue and few bullets.

"Good. Heinkel and Yumiko, Yumie at least, will look out for you. They'll never admit it, but I think they've taken a shine to you."

Claire was surprised by that, but didn't show it. "I still need to find my brother."

"Maxwell might help you with that in exchange," Anderson said. "He's been in a good mood lately. I'd get assurances before that changes."

Already she was having reservations about helping Iscariot. The bars she sat behind left her with little choice, she thought. Having never been to Egypt, she wasn't sure exactly how feasible slipping away quietly would be once the facility was up in smoke, but she guessed she could play it by ear. "Send him by sometime," Claire said. "I'd like to meet this Maxwell person. I hear about him enough."

"Right then. Go with God, child," Anderson said, getting up. As he left, Claire rolled her eyes. For a moment, she had thought Anderson had seriously come by to talk with her about Steve, but it had been nothing more than a recruitment drive.

"Egypt," Claire said. "I guess I always wanted to see the pyramids."

The End.