Okay faithful readers, here is the beginning of part 2. I really appreciate the feedback that I've gotten so far, and I'm working to keep you hooked. Read, review, but most of all, enjoy!
Chapter 15: Uneasy Allies
Claire Redfield lowered her SG 550 at the target and carefully peered down the scope. Wesker's words rang in her ears: Claire, you can't right the wrong of the world; you're too weak. She pulled the trigger and watched as she hit the target in the middle with a short burst of fire. She was getting better. It had been two weeks since her escape from Wesker, and Leon had taught her the basics on assault rifles, with which she had no prior experience. She had been fairly good with her hand-to-hand combat thanks to Chris, but she really was the rookie of the group, and so she worked extra to meet their standards. They had all been trained before the Raccoon outbreak, and Claire had fumbled through on her own.
The training had helped more than anything with her recovery. It made her feel in control again, and she wouldn't lie; spending enormous amounts of time with Leon had been nice. He was a solid, charming guy, like he had been in Raccoon, but Claire drew the line at friends. She always felt like part of him was holding back, as if there was someone else on his mind. Maybe there was.
Claire reflected on her past relationships. The last boyfriend had been a month before Raccoon. Sam, she recalled and inwardly laughed. He'd been nice, but Chris had threatened to kick the poor guy's ass after he was caught offering Claire cigarettes. That brother of hers always had her back, and Sam hadn't been a serious love interest anyway. There had never been anyone serious, and she couldn't remember one that she found interesting and engaging enough to battle against Chris to keep.
Her mood turned darker as she considered what would have happened to Sam if they'd stayed together and he'd decided to visit Raccoon with her. He'd probably have been eaten…The more she thought about it, the more she realized how difficult having a relationship would be with that threat in the background, and that was probably why so many people involved in anti-Umbrella kept themselves single. Certainly she doubted whether any of her previous boyfriends would have been strong enough to survive or protect her. There had been one man who she might have loved: Steve. Umbrella had taken that from her too.
One day the nightmare will be over. Chris and her would go back to normal jobs and enjoy the holidays, and he and Jill would have cute kids and make her an aunt. The days of always looking over her shoulders for monsters would be over. She lowered her rifle and trudged over to the edge of the range. Several black vehicles had arrived. Wesker had always chosen black vehicles, she recalled, just like his clothing. He frequently came to her mind at the oddest times, whether it was seeing a pack of noodles to someone with sunglasses, but it didn't bother her. She was used to lingering ghosts from her experiences.
Chris was greeting the men who exited from the vehicles below her vantage point. They must be the US agents, she contemplated. I'd better go see what's up.
"Do we have a deal or not?" Chris asked the three men sitting across from him and Leon at the table. "It's a big facility, and we could use the help." He regarded these newcomers with curiosity and caution. Leon had explained how gritty some of the governmental dealings were, and his distrust of the agents' good intentions had rubbed off on Chris. This was a temporary merger for mutual benefit and nothing more.
"I think it's a good idea," one of the men stated. He had brown hair that was graying at the temples and a thick moustache. "But what we're after is not just blowing up the facility. We have reason to believe that a new project is underway. We want to gain the data on whatever they're working on so that we know what we're going to be up against in the future. They keep making new creatures, and keeping up with the damn things makes killing them harder." Sure, Leon sarcastically thought. He was sure they would go after a sample. The government had more interest in bio-weapons than just cataloguing them. None of them knew how close William Birkin had come to selling his services to the Pentagon, but they'd seen enough to understand.
"We're out to kill," Leon stressed. "If you want samples or data, you get them on your own. We go in together only if destruction of the lab is the end goal. Two separate groups will make success more likely." The man shot Leon a calculating look and a slight smile.
"Leon Kennedy, isn't it? I've heard of you…" The man turned his predatory stance into a shrug. "Two separate groups? I don't think so. Forgive us, but we don't know you. I won't risk being betrayed or left to blow up. We go in two groups, but I want at least one of your members on my squad for security. You can have one of mine." Chris and Leon looked at each other.
"Agreed," Chris stated. "We plan a mutually timed entrance and exit, but if we're in a tight spot, we'll proceed to blow up the plant whether or not you have your data. Got it? We'll give you fair warning so you get out safely, but I won't risk the mission. We'll have to be in constant communication."
"The US government appreciates the offer. You can call me Nash," the man grinned and extended a hand. "We couldn't do this ourselves." Chris and Leon shook his hand and they began planning the mission. Of course, despite the pleasantries, anti-Umbrella had an agenda as separate as the government's. If possible, the sample/data would be blown up with the rest of the plant, as had been previously decided. The self-destruct system would ensure that. It was simply a matter of moving faster than Nash's team so that the agents were forced to evacuate without a virus. The question remaining to be settled was who would accompany the other team in the exchange. Chris had given the matter a lot of thought.
"I have the perfect member of the team to join you," Chris said. He led their new allies to a sitting room where the rest of his team was waiting for the details of the mission. "Allow me to introduce Claire Redfield. She's young, but tough as nails." Claire stood and spun to greet the newcomers. Chris knew that she would have sense enough to escape on her own if these men didn't heed his warnings, and she had been beating him with declarations of being ready for action since her return. "She's been inside multiple Umbrella facilities." Chris waited for her and Nash to shake hands.
Instead they stood and stared at each other with grim expressions.
"A pleasure, Claire," Nash greeted, but his eyes were cold while his face smiled. "Or should I say Jennifer Fielding?" Claire folded her arms while everyone else exchanged glances.
"Jennifer Fielding?" Chris began. "Claire, these aren't the guys that…?"
"Yes they are," Claire said, deadpan voice. For a moment, no one seemed to know what to say or do. The entire mission hung by a thread.
"With all do respect," Nash said. "I won't work with someone I know that I can't trust. She works for Wesker." Nash thought he was exposing a horrible truth to Chris's team, for it was obvious to him that they had no idea she was a double agent.
I do not!" Claire protested. "He kidnapped me and I was about to go home when you attacked me at the airport."
"You didn't seem like a common kidnap victim in the interrogation room," Nash countered roughly. Even looking at her made the bile rise in his throat. "I lost a lot of good men when that bastard of a man showed up to save you, his former hostage—how interesting." The evidence did seem damning when put like that, but anti-Umbrella knew better. Nash only saw a dangerous bitch in Claire since that incident. The men he had lost…he had been close to them, like brothers.
"Ok, look," Jill said, coming to the rescue. "Claire is definitely working for our side. Let's sit down and discuss this before we make a big mistake. There's more at stake here than a nasty goodbye." The remainder of the day was spent in tense discussions and explanations that neither side fully wanted to accept. In the end, it was decided that the mission would continue, but Nash had his eyes on Claire Redfield.