Author's Note: Wow. I haven't updated in a long time. Life has been pretty much like riding a roller-coaster with your eyes closed. While that might be fun for some, it's definitely an unsteady way of life. That and side-tracking on a Dragon Age piece that I stalled on too. Haha. It doesn't mean I haven't been fleshing out the timeline (that has gotten really filled out over the past months), I just didn't have a lot of quiet time to write until recently. Now I should be able to continue this story as I have many of the upcoming chapters planned already. Sorry, Transition Without, I'll get back to you later. For those who enjoy this tale, thanks for your reviews and feedback! :)
June 27th, 1986
To the Birkins,
It has been an eventful year of both new experiences and changes in both our lives. Our daughter, Sherry, is just about six months old now. It's odd how it felt only like yesterday that she entered our lives. Despite the rocky beginnings, she is really blossoming into a curious girl, full of smiles and eager to see and do more each day. She loves playing with my good colleague, Shen (from work) when he visits for dinner twice a week; he sings her songs in Mandarin which seem to captivate her. It would be nice if her godfather stopped by more often, but he is caught up in his own matters with William.
William is doing extremely well within his profession. Although he still keeps long hours, he is always here to see Sherry at the beginning of the day. It's heartwarming to watch them interact when they aren't aware of my presence. I will be ever thankful that this is something that never changes. He wouldn't ever admit it, but she might have sparked something anew in him. He has become more motivated and focused than I've ever seen him before. It also gives me a good excuse to get him to come home more often in regards to his general health and care.
Speaking of which, our new home just on the outskirts of Raccoon City was a phenomenal deal. I'm sure William pulled some strings to get us such a nice place on this secluded cul-de-sac. Surrounded by leafy trees, we have ample shade and perfect area for a picnic or to enjoy the sunset over the Arklay mountains. I've included some pictures along with many of Sherry with this parcel.
Otherwise, we are well. The kidney transplant was success; my health exam passed with flying colors. I'll always be eternally grateful for the sacrifice your son made for me when it came down to the line. No one has ever done something so selfless for me before and I hope one day to be able to repay that kindness. I know he would say not to worry and it's part of the vows, but I will find a way somehow.
How are things in England? William told me that you were in the middle of renovations. Are those proceeding well? I know it's a bit early to ask, would it be possible to get together during Christmas? Either we could make the trip over or you could if you preferred. I'm sure William would shamelessly show off his little girl that he might forget to introduce me. Haha.
I hope everything is well on your end and I greatly look forward to your next correspondence.
Papers, on top of reports, on top of more papers. Graphs, charts and print-outs that all lead to the same conclusion - why the hell aren't we making more progress? What am I overlooking when I read these?
William worried inwardly, his forehead resting in his palm while toiling over the recent round of results, neatly collated in a blue binder. Usually, this kind of information would be given to Annette to sort out for better breakdown, but with her on indefinite maternity leave and with a quarterly budgetary meeting scheduled today, William had little choice in the matter. He was going to have to stall the board for more time.
It would be easy to parade another finished B.O.W., namely MA-39 - Codename: Cerberus, to ease the growing concerns with the steady decline in solid results since the start of the T-virus project. Despite the breakthrough of getting necrotic tissue to accept the virus, everything else had been middling at best. William knew that Mr. Spencer would continue to vouch for their continued research, but the committee still had a lot of control over budget, personnel and ultimately the fate of the project. Even Mr. Spencer couldn't stand against an unanimous decision.
He leaned back in his chair, resting his head back against the padded back of the chair. His eyes stared at the ceiling, letting his thoughts roam and come together. Another extension will likely not be tolerated. I've pulled out all the stops the last time and that was barely enough to deter them. I wonder if Wesker might have an ace up his sleeve. It would be unusual if he didn't.
William inhaled deeply, letting one silent moment make an attempt to settle his addled nerves. He lifted his wrist up to his eyes, checking the time on his watch. About a half hour away. I might as well get going.
Rising reluctantly from his chair, he collected the stack of blue binders needed for the meeting, holding them in his right arm as he opened the door. He took a quick glance over the quiet labs, noticing a handful of assistants purging three rows of failed experiments to be cleaned and started up again with a new variant. It only made his stomach sink further.
William picked up the pace, not wanting to add further burden by observing the truth he already knew. His luck won out for once that day as the elevator opened, letting out two scientists that brushed by him on their way to their designated labs. So many new faces that he barely remembered who from who anymore. He shook his head, stepping into the elevator.
As William pushed the button to start the ascent, Wesker slid between the shutting doors with ease, resuming his usual habit of leaning against the back elevator wall while reading a clipboard.
William moved to do the same, trying to keep the binders balanced at the same time.
The ride felt like it went on forever in the hanging silence.
"There's no stalling them this time, Birkin." Wesker's collected voice cut through William's palatable anxiety.
"I know, I know that. It's easier for you to say that when you aren't the one directly in the line of fire."
Wesker slid the clipboard under his arm, his attention fully directed at his associate. "Oh, but I am. Every time I step up to put their ills at ease. Every time you melt down in front of them only gives them more leverage over this entire project. What do you plan to do in this meeting? Showcase another hastily-created biological weapon? Continue to make empty promises? Well, Birkin?"
William stared at the elevator door, his mouth slightly agape as he took in those words. He felt his face redden, both in anger and embarrassment. "And where have you been most of the week as I prepared for this meeting? I'm not a complete fool to know that you aren't just as busy as I am, but you say these things now. What do you honestly expect me to do?"
"It's not what I expect that matters; your concerns should be on how to spin this for a committee looking for progressive results." Wesker adjusted his glasses. "If I have to speak on your behalf again, I'll have more to contribute. However, you will not like the results."
"I have..." William exhaled loudly in defeat, focusing on the binders in his grasp. "Damn it. This isn't going to tide them over at all." He hated to ask, but there wasn't any time to beat around the bush. "What did you have in mind?"
Wesker smirked briefly. "It's not up to debate, Birkin. You've chosen your path and so have I."
"Don't start with your cryptic bullshit, Wesker..." William seethed before getting cut off.
Wesker tilted his shielded gaze at him. "Oh? Tell me, Birkin - how many times over our long years together did I mention taking in different alternatives? Your temper provided me with all the answer I would ever need."
"What?" William paused until the realization dawned upon him. "You mean the T-Veronica virus, don't you? I made it clear about my stance on Ms. Ashford's legacy. While her research might of had merit at one time, it was plain as day at what eventually killed her. I don't need another strain that kills; the T-virus does that well enough on its own."
Wesker shook his head once, leaning back against the elevator. "That close-mindedness is the reason why your own project is in stagnation."
"Again, I'll ask: What did you have in mind?"
As William managed to ask his question again, the elevator slid open lazily to the upper level where the conference room awaited them. He stared hard at Wesker, awaiting an answer.
Wesker raised an eyebrow, watching him for a moment before a faint smirk crawled onto his features. Without another word, he stepped from the elevator, keeping a brisk pace towards their destination.
Damn him! Always hiding his true thoughts from me. Does he trust me so little? Does he value our years together so little? Or is this retribution for causing him trouble in the past? With him, I can never tell. William's thoughts threatened to unhinge him, falling in line behind his partner.
"Some day, Birkin, you'll have to make a choice."
The low warning cut through William's inner turmoil. Before he could retort, Wesker opened the door into the conference room with a few noticeable absences. It wasn't unusual for Mr. Spencer to be absent since there would always be an associate in his place to report back to him.
As both William and Wesker assumed their seats next to each other at the end of the long, rectangular mahogany table, it was at that moment that William noticed what Wesker had when they first arrived. Dr. Marcus was quietly missing from the proceedings. These meetings would be the only time their elusive teacher would come out to give his results or lack thereof. He knew that feeling all too well.
The meeting started after their arrival. The typical introduction, the long-winded presentations for their regular product lines, the new proposals for the next year; none of this mattered to William in the slightest. As each wizened project head took their turns discussing their current matter and projections for the future, William wondered offhandedly if Wesker wore sunglasses all the time so he could sleep through these plodding matters. He chided himself for his personal in-joke, knowing that would only give the board more ammunition against him.
"Dr. Birkin, Dr. Wesker?" A raspy, authoritative voice beckoned William from his thoughts.
William cleared his throat, his hands folded on top of his binder. "If everyone would open their blue binders to the third page, I will discuss the progress made since the last meeting."
Every meeting boiled down to the same routine: William would present the results while Wesker would provide damage control while smoothing things over with the oft wary board. As he presented the data for Cerberus, he could see the obvious skepticism written on their wrinkled faces. Wesker is going to have an uphill battle with these old lizards.
Once William finished thoroughly describing MA-39, he turned his head towards his partner as a cue that it was his turn to take up the mantle.
Wesker sat straight in his chair, hands folded on his unopened binder. "Excuse me, gentlemen. Before I answer your questions, I have two for the board."
"Where is Dr. Marcus? The last few meetings he has sent one of his assistants here to take notes. Now I see that chair is vacant altogether. May I ask why?"
The old men looked back and forth between themselves before seeking silent approval from Spencer's assistant. An affirmative nod was given.
"Dr. Marcus informed us ahead of time that he was in a critical phase of his project and his assistants would be ill-disposed if he sent even one ahead when every hand was needed."
Wesker's mouth thinned into a hard line.
William knew that firm expression well. How many times had he seen it over the years? He knew Wesker wanted to press the issue, but he knew that was likely all he could gather without arousing more suspicion. What is he trying to achieve by asking about our old teacher? Does he know something about Dr. Marcus' research?
"Well then, gentlemen. Shall we get back to the topic at hand?" Wesker pressed on.
While Wesker finished cleaning up the multitude of questions, William wondered what would be for dinner that night. Now I remember; Annette did have something she wanted to talk about whenever we managed to get together. Having a home outside of the facility is such a pain...
"Our research is nearing a critical stage. Soon we shall have a humanoid prototype ready for alpha exhibition."
William stared incredulously over at his colleague, trying to abolish the expression on his face as soon as it had appeared by rubbing his hand over the stubble covering his chin. While their research had found some merits, it had only been with various mammals and reptilians. The very nature of this controversial branch of research had been the ultimate reason for Dr. Marcus demotion from the board. In fact. it had been brought to Spencer's attention due to both him and Wesker relaying facts about this maligned research!
Now Wesker proposes.. no, states that we will simply create a stabilized humanoid host of the volatile t-virus when we barely have ready-made samples of other creatures. Is this his coup de grace? The board will shut this down and likely put heavy limitations to what we already experiment with now. Damn him.
The voices of the board were kept to low whispers between themselves while Spencer's right-hand had excused himself to use the phone in the side room. All the while Wesker sat perfectly straight, his hands folded together the blue binder, awaiting an eventual answer.
"Are you out of your mind, Wesker?" William chided under his breath, leaning against the arm of the executive leather chair towards Wesker.
There would be no answer to satisfy William's demand. He swore he saw a hint of smirk on his partner's face. It did little more than infuriate him further.
I've got to stop this. Once Spencer's assistant.. What was his last name? Starkov? Whenever he returns, I'll...
The heavy wooden door opened and closed behind Starkov, straightening his dark tie, strolling at a somewhat leisurely pace back to the head of the table. All attention rested back on the middle-aged man, expectant.
"Dr. Wesker, you are well aware of the... complications we had with Dr. Marcus on the very same research." Starkov remained standing, his hands held behind him as he addressed the table. "We have seen that the current strain has done little more than create mindless monstrosities. While those still serve a purpose, we don't want the same results when it comes to human hosts. Their intelligence has to remain just enough to function to orders and protocol. How can you manage this at this early stage of experimentation?"
"The steps already documented in Dr. Marcus' unauthorized research provide a solid foundation based on his findings. I am confidant that creating a working prototype is only a matter of time and certain resources."
William blanched at Wesker's bravado. While not wholly unexpected, it only would stack the odds further against them. The board members were obviously very bristled, passing folded notes towards the man at the helm of the meeting. Starkov took each note in turn to read and set aside.
"Time? Resources? Dr. Wesker, you have had ample time and respectable level of funds to work with as it stands. To ask for more, it will take more than your personal confidence and these middling results before we can consider relinquishing more."
William ground his teeth together, finding it incredibly difficult to hold his tongue at the very obvious slight to their research. His brooding seemed to draw Wesker's attention for a moment, directing a barely noticeable shake of his head to keep quiet. He risks having the whole project tossed aside altogether and he wants me to settle down!
Wesker turned his sights back to the wizened faces seated around. "What about Lisa Trevor?"
William's brows came together. Lisa Trevor? Is he mad? She's completely insane and we've done a lot of research in regards to her continuing survival. What the hell could she provide now that she hasn't already?
Before silence could settle, Starkov shook his head. "She is beyond insane and has grown into little more than a liability and an abject failure..."
Wesker interjected midway. "Have you never questioned the very reason how she has adapted? How she has survived where so many others have failed? There is a reason there, Mr. Starkov, and that alone is worth investigating. To answer your question, she is not the foundation, only a valuable asset on the road to progress. All I ask is access to resources that are already at hand and two years' time in pursuit of this new objective."
"Now hold on..." William found his courage, flattening his hands on the table in a move to stand and give voice to his thoughts.
As the cacophony of opinions leapt from the board, Starkov cut them off with a quick wave of dismissal. "This isn't something that can be decided now. This proposition will be discussed further behind closed doors. This meeting is adjoined. You two are free to go."
Wesker wasted no time in collecting his materials, nodding a brief farewell to those gathered before moving towards the double doors.
"Damn it..." William balled his hands into fists briefly, staring downward as his mind connected the dots that this change of course could bring forth. Why couldn't he have filled me on this little scheme of his ahead of time? What did I do this time to earn the short end of the stick?
"Do you have something you wish to share, Dr. Birkin?" Starkov reclined back in his chair, finally taking a seat after the meeting's end.
William straightened, grabbing up his various papers and binders. "What can I say that hasn't already been said, sir?"
"It seemed a moment ago you had something you wanted to add or was I wrong?"
"Right now, I'm not too sure if anything I could add would help matters. A decision has yet to be made; the only thing I want to make sure that this doesn't jeopardize the project completely."
Starkov waved his hand dismissively, glancing amongst the other executives. "That isn't something you have control over, but it will be kept in mind. Now if you please, we have many things to discuss. We will meet again later."
William nodded. "That's all I ask. Thank you." He took his leave quickly. As he closed the door behind him, he noticed that Wesker stood by the nearest window, awaiting his arrival.
He frowned deeply, brushing past Wesker in the direction of the elevator. I'm not in the mood to deal with his usual bullshit. Not right now. Need time to think on this.
It wasn't long till he could hear quiet footsteps fall in line next to him. What William didn't expect was the wall of silence that had fallen between them.
Maybe it had been there all along?
"I've been given the choice to transfer."
Annette furrowed her brow, brushing aside a loose strand of hair the wind pushed into her eyes. "Wait. Why? How?"
"I've been requested to join the reformed team in the European branch." Shen gave a slight shrug, taking a seat down on the large sky-blue picnic blanket. "I'm not sure if it's a mandatory shift or not; that's something I'll find out after having lunch with you and Sherry."
Annette bit down on her lower lip in contemplation, her eyes falling upon the wavy blond hair of her daughter's head, watching her make a general mess with her colorful cups and wooden blocks. "No William?"
"I did let him know twice before I came out here. I offered to wait so we could take the elevator, but you pretty much how he is around me." Shen rested his long arms on his knees, watching Sherry at play. "He did give me an absent-minded confirmation without the usual glare. I think I might be winning him over."
Annette sighed freely. There was simply no helping the way William was. With him, everything seemed pretty much set in stone. "Still, you didn't answer my question: how did you get recommended to a new branch? Did you volunteer?"
"No, I didn't willingly put my name forward for any transfers or promotions. The first time I found out about it was when I got this envelope no more than an hour ago." Shen patted his green shirt pocket in reference. "It's a curious turn of events, though I guess I shouldn't be surprised."
Annette smoothed down Sherry's ruffled shirt while tossing a purple cup back into her awaiting grasp. "Surprised? Did something happen?"
Over the past few months, there had been a lot of changes within the Arklay facility. It seemed the proposal had passed, granting further funds and freedom to explore the possibilities of the T-virus. It was that very freedom that made her wary of returning full-time to the labs. She knew the day would come for human experimentation, it was something she didn't want a real hand in. It had taken Albert's goading to consider it seriously, trying to convince her that Will needed her more than ever. It was true enough, though she knew his underlying motive: keeping her close by to assist with his own lines of experimentation. He wasn't ecstatic about the scant part-time hours she kept at the present, but raising her daughter was the more important priority. Of course, hearing this news made it much harder to sit still and do nothing.
"Perhaps. Perhaps not." Shen started, grinning slightly at the sideways stare Annette shot him. "I'm not trying to be cryptic, but I did make a request quite some time ago. I've never asked anything of my father before so I didn't expect him to be so willing to look into a nagging matter at hand."
"Matter?" She opened the brown wicker basket, bringing forth a small stack of neatly-packed BLTs that Shen had come to enjoy during his time in America.
He took the sandwiches carefully, offering a slight nod of thanks in return. "The man who steals crosswords for his own amusement."
"You mean-?" A grimace lined her face, knowing full well what kind of pitfall it must be to try to sneak around Albert's business. "That was probably not that best of ideas. Is there any particular reason why?"
"He knew about my family. It's not something within my file and it's a guarded secret." He confided in between bites. He had told her vaguely of his family's connections in China and with Umbrella. "It was first when you were about to have Sherry. From then on, he would drop little references he shouldn't have known. While not the most confidential of knowledge, it did make me wonder how much he really knew. So I asked my father to look into this matter. There weren't any answers at first, but it did help to track down leaks within their own political circles. Many of which were high-ranking officials and I still wonder how far our friend's connections really go."
Annette poured two cups of cool lemonade from one thermos, grabbing up Sherry's sippy-cup to add some grape juice from the other thermos. "I can see where this might be traced back, but how can you be sure Al... Wesker had any pull in this?"
Sherry clapped her hands together, her cups and blocks forgotten as she received her cup by both handles. "Sha!" She offered it to Shen, her wide smile infectious. When he accepted her cup, her small hands made a grasping motion, wanting the cup he had in return. He handed it off, chuckling at the disappointment on her small cherubic face to find it already empty.
"I'm sure whatever contacts that had been 'smoked out' had likely killed his insight into foreign affairs in my homeland. I wouldn't put it beyond him to come to the conclusion that I might've been the one to put in this inquiry. Even now, he could have other eyes and ears that knew of my father's part in it; I honestly can't say for certain." Shen continued, handing back the sippy-cup as Sherry traded back the empty cup, wearing the biggest pout she could manage. "To answer your question, I'm sure that's how I was highly recommended to the Paris branch."
With every word, the gravity of the situation weighed heavily on her shoulders. She knew she was at a distinct disadvantage, but one thing was for certain: both Will and Albert had to approve this sudden relocation. She hadn't been aware of an ill tidings between Shen and Albert - was there something she was simply overlooking beyond this reason on foreign intelligence? In fact, what the hell was Albert gathering all this intelligence for?
"I didn't want to be the bearer of bad news." His low voice brought her from her thoughts. "Despite its dubious nature, it could be the start of something fascinating. And it might be easier to maintain our correspondence on our shared hobby."
"Is it secure?"
Shen tilted his head, his brows drawn together in momentary confusion. He snapped his fingers as the realization dawned upon him. "Yes, yes. It's stored in the exact cabinet that was finally signed over to house your personal samples. Ready to go, once you get back, of course."
She watched over her daughter at play, turning her eyes back upon her young friend. She had been so absorbed in her own issues that she hadn't taken stock of his. Still, it was a relief that he hadn't forgotten her request. Both the beginnings of the T-virus vaccine and the scant amount of T-Veronica she had managed to hide away were safe. "How do you feel about all this?"
"I'm not really sure at this point." He gave a half-shrug, staring off into the forest and city that spanned out below their current vantage on the hill.
Annette didn't know what to say to him, but it seemed words weren't needed in this case. Over the past year and a half he had really grown in many ways, both in confidence and stature. He had gained a few inches, now standing taller than her average height. His frame had yet to fill out, giving him an odd lankiness that only time would deal with. It makes me feel my age when reflecting like this. Will the same happen with Sherry? One day I'll look and she'll be grown up.
With that very thought, she leaned over quickly, pulling the young girl back into her lap for a hug with much protest. Sherry enjoyed the attention, yet she had toys in hand and those were her priority. Her small hands clacked two blocks together, submitting momentarily to her mother's embrace.
"I probably should return." He brushed his long ponytail from his shoulder idly, moving to his feet, careful not to step on toys or food in the process. "I'm always grateful that you invite me out to lunch out under the sun. It reminds me of being at home..."
She gave him a wide, genuine smile. "You'll have to tell me more about your home someday. I would love to hear it from your perspective. And I'm glad you liked it. I tried a different kind of bacon this time. William insisted, so I obliged."
"The extra pepper does give it more kick, I'll admit." He shrugged into his labcoat, adjusting his name-tag and various odds and ends within his pockets. "Ah, here he comes. It seems I'm leaving not a moment too soon." He chuckled, waving a hand as he proceeded down the grassy hill towards the mansion, passing by William with a courteous nod.
She raised a hand to wave after Shen and to greet William. It brought a smile to his distant face, stepping by the young scientist without incident as he hurried to join his wife and daughter. When it came to William and his short fuse, she was thankful every time she could sidestep it. She wasn't going to refuse Shen lunch nor her husband; she always found a way to smooth things over, if only briefly.
"How are my favorite girls?" William announced energetically, removing his wrinkled labcoat with little care. Tossing it aside on the blanket, he rolled up the sleeves of his white long-sleeved shirt.
"Dada!" Sherry instantly forgot about the blocks and sippy-cup, waving her hands towards the tall shadow that had fallen over her. "Up!"
"Up, you say? Up you go!" He laughed heartily, scooping up his daughter under her awaiting arms, lifting her as high as he could manage. Sherry giggled happily, jubilant to be flying so high.
Annette prepared the containers in front of her, readying lunch for both her and Will. "I was wondering if I would have to come down there and fetch you, my dear." She offered a tight smile.
"If I had my all-time favorite assistant, maybe these things wouldn't slip my mind." He chimed in return, spinning in a lazy circle with Sherry cheering him on.
Her hands stilled on the thermos, her smile falling into a tight line. If it wasn't Albert, it would be Will. She wasn't the only capable scientist in Arklay, but both of them were dead set in their ways. There were many excellent replacements she had suggested. And while her advice hadn't fallen on deaf ears, it appeared neither had any confidence in those hard-working personnel beyond their usual duties. This fact she was sure with Will, but Albert had seemed oddly stagnant in his experiments after the loss of their secret project. This isn't the true heart of the matter, at least not for me; it's being relegated to playing the eternal assistant. Granted, I'm still somewhat fresh to genetic engineering, but I do want to come into my own eventually. Can I do that? Will I be able to do that?
"Are you alright, Ann?" William's voice cut through her current train of thought. He had stopped spinning, holding Sherry now at his side while she tugged at his dark-blue tie.
She blinked twice, managing to brighten her smile enough despite her inner turmoil. "Y-yes, yes. Sorry. Perhaps I'm a bit fatigued and my mind wanders."
He settled down on the blanket, almost in the exact spot Shen had occupied, placing Sherry on his knee once he was situated. "I'm sorry I've been working long hours this week. We just got early approval to move our research into more advanced testing."
"Can I inquire why Shen has been requested specifically for the Paris branch?" She cut to the heart of the matter, low on any true patience to weed out the answer indirectly. She was tired, yes, due to both taking care of Sherry and trying to find time to pursue her own ends in between her part-time hours.
The BLT held in one hand paused mid-air, just out of reach of Sherry's ever curious fingers. William inhaled and exhaled quickly, catching his wife's blue eyes with his own. "Did he-? Yes, he would tell you, wouldn't he? Yes, I did recommend him at the last board meeting when the offer arose. As did Wesker."
"And this is what you want? To send him away?" She spoke her thoughts before thinking of their ill tone and meaning. The displeasure sat plain on William's face, taking one bite of his sandwich before setting it down on the plate.
"It was only a suggestion. It's up to Dr. Zhang if he wishes to take advantage of this opportunity."
She shook her head in disapproval. "I get the feeling this really isn't a situation he can say no to and step away."
"Perhaps. The committee would take that as a visible slight to their interests unless he had a good reason to turn it down." He admitted coolly, wolfing down the rest of his sandwich in a couple massive bites.
"What if he does refuse? What then?"
William ran his hand through his hair with clear agitation, bouncing Sherry lazily on his knee at the same time. "That's one thing I don't really need to think about right now, alright?"
Rolling her eyes, Annette fell back into silence, busying herself with cleaning up the lunch she didn't have the stomach to eat now. She didn't want to argue, especially not with Will, but the long hours he kept and his usual lack of rest made him even more short-tempered. Perhaps it's for the best? Would he be able to grow in the shadow of these two?
Her daughter wore a slight pout, seeming unhappy with the silence that had fallen between them. Her hands found her blocks and cups, banging them together to stir up some noise.
"Is it possible to get something to drink? Or is the cafeteria closed?" He plucked the toys from Sherry's hands, flying them above her head as she tried to get them back without much success.
She snorted softly, shaking her head. "Maybe it is. Business has been slow today."
"Shame, that." William wore that lazy half-grin that she couldn't resist for long.
Annette had to smile. Watching her husband play together with their daughter was an uncommon treat. It were times like these she could see the reasons why she had fallen in love with the disheveled man. When the layers fell away, his good heart could be seen. Each time it's a little harder to find him amongst his research and now it's going into a new phase...
"I'll hold you to it, Will. You can't duck out of it this time around." She joked. There would be time later to discuss the new direction the research would go, tonight would be a great night to be together. It had been too long already. She offered him the cup of lemonade, watching as he put down Sherry's toys next to him to take the refreshment.
"I can be easily persuaded if I know my two favorite girls are waiting for me." He drank the lemonade down quickly, adding. "And if there's some more of that bacon." When Sherry grabbed up her sippy-cup from her mother's awaiting hands, he carefully balanced his empty cup on his daughter's unsuspecting head.
A few moments passed and the cup still remained.
Annette started to chuckle, trying to hide it behind one hand while she put away the rest of their personal effects into the wicker picnic basket. "That's not very fair."
William broke out into a deep, hearty laughter, causing the cup to tumble from Sherry's head and into her lap. She gasped in happy surprise, imitating her dad by trying to drink from it. When she came up empty, her pout was as clear as day. He grabbed up the thermos from the basket in one swoop, pouring a small amount of lemonade much to his daughter's delight.
Sherry smiled broadly, her big blue eyes started down at her well-earned prize. Without hesitation, she brought the cup up for her to drink, just like dad.
There was a reason for two thermos; Sherry hated lemonade.
As her cherubic face grimaced, the lemonade splashed all over her and onto William's shirt and pants. Sherry clapped. William laughed. Annette groaned.
"Yay. More laundry." Annette replied dryly. "You better come home tonight for a clean change of clothes, my good man."
"Better yet I'll take tomorrow off and we'll have a nice, long weekend." He announced.
For once, the blur ahead was most welcome.
The road ahead stretched further along, the indented yellow line forming one straight line as the motorcycle pushed close to 100 miles per hour. The trees and untamed shrubbery were little more than green-gold reminder that there was a road at all.
Boundaries exist to be pushed. How would there be limits otherwise?
The black cycle raced further along the winding road that led towards the Arklay mountains, away from the developing reach of Raccoon City. Built for speed, the black Yamaha FZR-1000 performed better than he had expected out of such a new model. It had been worth all the expense of obtaining one.
Money had never been a problem and little use beyond bribes and trades for information. He had owned a few motorcycles before, nothing compared to the sleek celerity that sped him along the canopied road.
It had been a long time since Wesker allowed such indulgence. He was glad he had made an exception in this purchase. It was an easy decision, unlike the many that stretched out ahead. How many would be dead ends? How many would lead to anything useful? There was one certainty amongst it all - recent information had been far too easy to obtain.
To take everything into perspective, it was moving along more smoothly than it had since his days within the training facility. His impromptu announcement to the board had opened more doors than shut; the creation of a humanoid form that could utilize the T-virus to a higher degree than the previous B.O.W.s that had paved the way before. That was the theory, one that would be put to test once the budget and resources were in place.
All eyes were on him now, watching and waiting for a viable solution or an complete failure. It was the challenge he had been waiting for all his life. While Dr. Marcus would would be credited as the creator of the T-virus, it would be him that would realize its full potential.
It brought a half-smile to his face, hidden by the black streamlined helmet obscuring his features. The sacrifices he made, such as attending the private luncheon with the mayor and his staff, were starting to bear fruit. With every move he made now, he could feel the momentum with each step.
He would need to be careful. This was a deliberate trail of bread crumbs, treading along a path fraught with sudden derailments and opportunities that seem too good to be true. The information was necessary, no matter the cost. Every step brought him a little closer to solving the puzzle that was Ozwell E. Spencer.
There were many questions Wesker had to ask, many were several he should ask himself: Why the president of Umbrella? Why is this necessary? What would these answers truly bring forth?
Brooding over the matter did little more than leave a bad taste in his mouth. Until he found the right path to such answers, it would be an itch he would eventually scratch. Of that, he was certain.
The mansion came into sight farther down the road, the treeline thinning out as he approached his destination. A flicker of white drew his attention, daring a glance to the left, towards the small hill near the edge that gazed over Raccoon City. He could see the anger on her face as plain as purple sundress she wore.
The half-smile would last a bit longer. So she found out.
At that point, he brought the motorcycle to a slow stop, turning the last corner as he reached the mansion's estate. Instead of heading straight to the garage, he parked the bike right inside the gates. He removed the helmet carefully, his eyes closed until he found the pair of glasses tucked firmly in the front pocket of his black leather jacket. As he departed back outside the gates, he ran a gloved hand over his hair, smoothing any deficiencies caused by wearing headgear.
The sound of dry leaves crunched under his boot heel, approaching a small vantage point that overlooked the hill not too far below. He reached into the small pack he kept at his lower back when he traveled, pulling forth a red apple. He stared at the piece of fruit, his other hand sliding the small switchblade hidden in the outer sleeve of his jacket.
With a flick of the wrist, the blade flashed briefly in the subdued light. He set about to cutting the rind off the apple in a slow, circular fashion. Wesker had never liked the skin, always peeling it off before eating what lied beneath. He found it oddly familiar, yet he couldn't recall exactly when this became a force of habit.
His eyes caught sight of the distant figures below, watching over the quaint family get-together with what little he could make out from his vantage point.
I wonder how he spinned it to her. Knowing Birkin, probably a half-truth that the dear wife could see right through. I am sure I will hear the results whether I want to or not. The decision was for the good of all. Even I can be magnianimous.
It had been his initial recommendation to the committee to have Dr. Zhang 'promoted' to the European branch at the start of next year. It was another matter that had gone too easily, but it would be beneficial on many levels that even he couldn't refuse.
If the young researcher remained within Arklay, he would never reach his full potential, not so long as Birkin played at chief researcher. While he cared less about Birkin's animosity, Wesker couldn't bear to see a good mind wasted when it had better use elsewhere.
Oh, I believe I can feel her disapproval from here. She will come and she will want it revoked. This is when she will learn that there are consequences for ignoring more important responsibilities.
He might have considered sending her to Paris if she hadn't taken up the selfish notion of setting down roots and taking it upon herself to play matriarch. To take it a step further, she had the audacity to ask him to be her daughter's godfather. There had been no religious indication in her file and when asked, she answered with that she had a godfather and wanted her daughter to have the same. He had given his consent. While he didn't care so much for the title, he did know that he could use it to his advantage later, simply another way to get under her skin to do what he needed her to do: keep Birkin in line.
Without her in the labs, Birkin was falling back into bad habits that she had managed to eliminate with her presence. This very innate ability made her more valuable, not counting her side projects. Her idealistic attempts at finding a vaccine were starting to become another problem, especially with the project preparing to move into a highly promising phase. Wesker couldn't allow it to cause any unforeseen delays.
Granted, there is merit and leverage with an experimental vaccine. Unfortunately, it will have to wait. Oh, she will not agree to it, but she will not suspect that the assistance I have given to her project will lead to a dead end. It will keep her going in circles in theory. It is the only way without destroying the results in their entirety.
The inklings of a T-virus vaccine had been another factor in Dr. Zhang's recommended departure. He had been a vital assistant to Annette; without him, it would slow any progress they made even further. It was a win/win situation; things would stabilize with her presence, her attention would be more focused on the new phase while her precious antigen would survive.
His attention returned to the apple balanced in one hand, the red skin dangling lazily as he finished. He folded the switchblade, sliding it back in its designated pocket. One pluck later, the red spiral was launched downward. The strong breeze made it twirl in its red-white descent.
Something that falls slowly likely will never rise again. That is one thing to keep close in the future. Yes, indeed.
He took a bite of the apple.