Okay everyone, this is it. This is the last chapter for part one. The second part in this series will be called "Infection," and I promise that it's as good as part one and starts with a bang. Look for it to begin being posted in the next few days. I'll begin editing it tomorrow. That means that, if you have any suggestions based on part one, you need to tell me soon. Love to you all!
Chapter 14: Lingering Thoughts
Claire sat on her bed in her freshly cleaned pink jacket and almost felt like her old self. Sunlight streamed across her hair and made its redness even more pronounced. Sunlight. Color. Friends. Everything seemed like it once had, but it wasn't. It was the day after her escape, and she still half expected to look over her shoulder and find Wesker watching her like a dark sentinel. Sitting without his presence nearby at work was a strange change. She supposed that it was a testament to how removed she had been from the world. It was like she had been locked away in Umbrella facilities for months rather than weeks.
She pulled her sneakers on and readied herself for a new day. Life had to be put back on track, although it was a little late to redeem her standing at college. That made her smile, for she wasn't planning on going back anytime soon. She was going to demand a piece of the action, and she had the perfect way to initiate herself into the anti-Umbrella team. She had been repeating specific coordinates over and over again…
Wesker had left the room for some unknown reason right before they were to leave for Romania, and he left Claire sitting on the couch immersed in her Shakespeare. Wesker's computer remained propped open, and Claire had hurriedly stolen a peek. The screen was, of course, blank, and every folder was password protected. It seemed a dead end, but, as she went to turn away, the computer had beeped. A new window popped up announcing the instructions had been completed.
Claire had watched in confusion as a series of numbers flew by in a textbox before a map appeared. It was a strange, topographic map that resembled Brazil. The image zoomed in to reveal blueprints of a facility. Claire could do nothing but memorize the coordinates that briefly appeared in the corner below the facility before returning to her couch. Wesker had returned to find her nose stuck in her book, not that it mattered, because he was sure Claire would not register the importance or location of what his computer had been connecting to.
Claire smiled as she mouthed the numbers to herself. It had played like a mantra in her head since that glimpse. She was lucky that she had not risked jotting it down in the book's margins, because Wesker, ever the thinker, had confiscated her book before their trip. She wondered what he would think of what she had written in the margins. He'd probably deepen his view of her as a sentimental weakling. Not weakling, she corrected herself. He thought you were good enough to work for him. That puzzled her to no end. Perhaps she even felt a bit flattered to have met a super human's standards.
She had spent much of the night digesting everything that had happened to her, all of which revolved around Albert Wesker. Instead of fueling her hate, she found she couldn't decide what to think of him anymore. He had become more a source of frustration rather than anger or scorn since the time that they had spent together, although she would still say that she disliked the largest part of him. There was that small part—the one that amused her with biting wit and wiped away her tears and gave her Shakespeare—that she couldn't claim to despise. That too she found curious and troubling. Even as she went downstairs and ate a bowl of cereal, he was on her mind. It was safer to freely contemplate him when she didn't feel the threat of him returning.
"Morning, kiddo," Chris greeted as he limped into the kitchen. He always did refuse to let an injury slow him down. She hadn't seen him in months, but he was the same old Chris except for a few new items of interest; Claire had noticed that he and Jill shared a room. "I bet it's been a while since you've eaten real food." He tried to joke about it, and he was, but Claire could see the concern behind the smile.
"You have no idea how sick I am of granola bars and instant noodles," Claire agreed. "But I don't know if Cocoa Puffs are any better. How's the leg, bigger kiddo?" Chris grinned and slapped it playfully.
"No pain, no gain, but don't let nurse Jill hear that." He got himself a bowl of cereal and sat beside his beloved sister. "Claire, I don't know what happened to you when you were with Wesker, but, whatever it was, I don't want you to feel like you need to keep it bottled up to look strong or anything. I mean, he didn't…you know. The whole thing with the bed. I need to know, Claire." Claire dourly shook her head to deny it. "Anyway, we'll get him back for everything one day." Claire sighed and drank her leftover milk.
"I'm fine. I've been thinking about it, and I won't have any problems with what happened. I've already dealt with it." Chris smiled to humor her. "Really, Chris! It wasn't as terrible as it could have been. For the most part we left each other alone." Liar, her brain screamed. Indeed, she was still thinking about how Wesker had cornered her in the kitchen that one day, and she wasn't about to tell Chris how they had sat on the couch talking when both seemed bored with their separate tasks. "But, we will get him eventually." Chris nudged her.
"Damn straight, sis."
"Chris, I've been meaning to tell you this. I want to be part of the team. I can't go study when I know what's at work out there. I can help. I'm more capable than you think." Chris tried to open his mouth, but Claire cut him off. "And you can't protect me forever. If I survived Wesker on my own for weeks, I think I can handle a few zombies and mutants." Chris shook his head and laughed.
"Claire," he laughed. "Why do you think I saved your jacket? I knew you'd need it to feel like your old, kick-ass self. We've already discussed it, and you're in." Claire couldn't believe her ears.
"Really?" Chris nodded. "Yes!" Claire jumped out of her seat and threw her arms around Chris's neck in a huge bear hug. "What's the next assignment?"
"Come on, Claire," Chris said as he pried her loose. "Remember I'm injured." Claire just laughed. God, it felt good to laugh—not a minor laugh, but a full-throated, blissful laugh. Hers was in desperate need of use. "We haven't decided what we're doing next. There have been rumors about this Brazilian place since you hinted at it, and we've contacted a governmental group that might be useful."
"No need to worry, bro. I've got the coordinates right here." She tapped her head. Chris was surveying her with renewed appreciation. He had always credited Claire with a sharp brain. "Captain Wesker is not always diligent, and he's got quite a problem with underestimating Redfields." The two gathered the group, and before long, they were planning a trip to Brazil. Claire was particularly thrilled that the group seemed impressed with her ability to gather information during a stressful situation, but they all assumed her captor had been a tormenter at every possible moment; Claire would not correct them.
"Claire, I can't believe that you survived like that," Rebecca was saying. "I mean, Captain Wesker was never nice, even when he was pretending to be a good guy. He used to be really hard on us for every little thing." Jill, Rebecca, and Claire were sitting together for a brief respite of girl time.
"Let's not call him captain anymore," Jill requested.
"Yeah, I always forget," Rebecca apologized. "Sorry for bringing it up, Claire. I know it can't be easy, but you're doing great."
"Thanks," Claire said. "There were times that I thought he'd kill me, but it wasn't always terrible." With her brother and Leon gone, it felt safer to mention this sort of thing. Jill and Rebecca regarded her with interest. "I mean, it was usually quiet. He was always working, almost constantly. He was like a machine, just typing away or reading reports in the dark. I can't imagine living like he does. It's like he was made for being alone with his single-minded ambition." Claire spoke the words with such softness that Jill searched her face. She intuitively knew that Claire was talking about something Chris would never be able to see. She had seen the same thing when Wesker worked at Stars, and it had affected her similarly at times. Judging by Rebecca's face, she didn't understand quite as much, but she had been younger than anyone at Stars; so she hadn't thought much about Wesker's lone figure hunched at his desk, passively and seriously working while the others played together like true comrades.
"And sometimes we'd talk; more often later than at the beginning," Claire continued. She was about to say more and explain how Wesker had started locked in another room and ended sitting several feet from her with a portable laptop, but that was pushing this too far. She did not want Jill or Rebecca to think that she was going soft or crazy. They might even misconstrue it as Stockholm syndrome, which it wasn't. Claire still fully believed that Wesker had to be stopped, and she could see no way to accomplish that except killing him, which she was planning to help do. "It was just weird to see him in everyday life, but it's not really a life, if you ask me. He's an isolated and unhappy man." Jill wordlessly passed a cookie to Claire and offered her a small nod of understanding.
"You are much more level-headed than Chris when it comes to people," Jill commented approvingly, yet she worried what this boded for Claire. It was easier to kill when you saw in black and white. That was why zombies were so easy to kill. She looked at them and saw creatures, not people. Shooting them required no second thought, but this sort of thing…it had slowed her instincts at the mansion, when she was having problems switching Wesker from being captain to traitor. For Chris, the switch had been easy, and she somewhat envied that. "Claire, be careful," Jill cautioned. "Seeing in grey can be deadly." Their eyes met, and Claire glimpsed Jill's sympathy for her words. Instantly, it seemed a bond had formed between them.
"Okay. Okay," Rebecca hurried. "How about we do something cheerful now? Claire's had too much seriousness lately. I say ice cream is the answer." Claire grinned ear-to-ear. Rebecca had an optimist's streak that made her a natural comfort. And so they ate ice cream, but Claire excused herself early. When she was alone in her room, she found herself staring out the window at the moon. It was a privilege she wouldn't forget to enjoy, and she vowed she would never be sucked into one of Wesker's dark dungeons again.
Wesker gave the order to kill the man and reclined in his chair. Ada had done another brilliant job. She was his best employee in many ways, well, except that she could never be trusted, but he didn't trust anyone who worked for him. In the darkness of his computer office, he scanned the surveillance video system. He had just arrived in Brazil and was at the new lab. Progress was remarkably fast, and human tests were being run on his virus. Of course, very few people were involved, and they could be trusted for the time being because they worshipped the almighty dollar. Very soon it would be time to take the next step in his transformation. Then no one would be able to stand against him, not even Redfield luck would be able to hassle him.
His red eyes found the corner desk where his black bag with the laptop and Claire's book was sitting. He had seen her writing in it but never bothered to check its contents, although he was curious. Perhaps she had hoped to smuggle information out in it—as if he had given anything worthwhile away. But he had to be careful with hostages like Claire Redfield, for she was clever and resourceful enough to take advantage of any opening. He opened the book and held it in his lap as he flipped through the pages.
How is his hair always so damn perfect?
Day 19. Bored to death.
This line reminds me of autumn.
Brazil. Brazil. Brazil.
It's lonely here, like a tomb. He sits and types as if it doesn't bother him. Does it bother him? Ever? Or has he always been a loner like this? It must get old sometimes, because he talks more often now. Chris would call me diseased, but I think I pity this cold, hard man. No one makes him a cup of cocoa when he's up late working like Chris used to do for me.
"Men were deceivers ever." Tell me about it William.
Wesker flipped to the back cover to find an odd, little comment that made a genuine, non-sarcastic smile tug at the corners of his usually flat-lined lips: I bet he wears those freaking sunglasses in the shower. There was even a small, crude cartoon to accompany it. It showed Cartoon Wesker's top half with a showerhead above him. He was only wearing sunglasses, and a little bubble coming from his mouth said, "I'm super cool." Cartoon Claire was standing and glaring at him. Her bubble said, "Prick." He shut the book and set it aside. He was amazed that she had been resilient enough to privately joke about her captor. Either way, it was a good thing that the prick comment had remained private.
Claire claimed that she would join anti-Umbrella no matter what Chris said about it, but he wasn't sure who of the two Redfields would prove more obstinate and win. If she did join, he wondered how long before they would meet again and if he should kill her outright. The computers hummed monotonously as he contemplated the content pouring over them. He had talked more in the last month than he had in almost a year, so immersed and private had he been in his work. Most communication was written rather than verbal these days, and he had never even stopped to contemplate that before Claire arrived. The recent companionship had been enjoyable as well as irritating at times, he admitted. He had never shared living space so closely with someone else, because he tended to find the very suggestion tiresome with its implications of sharing and maneuvering around each other. It was simply inconvenient, and Wesker prized expediency.
He refocused on work. It would be time to resurface soon. As he continued typing, he was intrigued to find that a certain redheaded woman crept into his mind from time to time. How long would it be before his path crossed with Miss Redfield's again?