Strength Through Wounding
Through our bleeding, we are one.
Through the darkness breaks the light.
Through the light unending pain.
Deify the wretched ones till the darkness comes again.
~A Fire Inside~
July 25th, 1998. 7:30am.
There was blood beneath her feet. Pools of it. In the distance, a scream; a cry.
Her entire body trembled, sobs falling from her lips like the crimson droplets that fell from her hair. It would all have to go, every strand. How could it ever be clean again?
Footsteps pounded beyond the door, liquid raining down on her from somewhere above. It fell into the cracks around her, into the paper that peeled away from the wall. The tiles were broken, the glass that should have shielded her little more than shattered pieces of light upon the floor. The strange distant roar of water was all that kept the howls at bay.
Why wouldn't they stop?
Again, the footsteps.
She pulled her legs closer to her chest. Never in her life had she felt so defenceless; naked and shaking on the floor as blood seeped through her toes and down her arms. She was covered now, patches of lightly tanned skin barely showing beneath the mess.
"Oh God," she called in a trembling voice. Jill Valentine had never prayed, had never felt the need to. Her options had run out, her mind focusing on the only concept that had not failed her.
She could feel phantom breath against her skin. Moist fingers slid around her ankles, up her calves and around her waist; tugging, stealing, feeling their prey in bloodthirsty anticipation. She dared not look to validate their existence.
The foosteps were outside the door now, shuffling to a halt mere feet from her form.
Tears mingled with blood, carving a clean path down her cheeks. Fear had left her, acceptance refusing to set in.
"Jill!" Richard's voice cried out to her, urgent and deathly afraid. She knew what would follow; a scream, the tear of flesh from bone.
"No!" she screamed.
The door shook violently, fists pounding furiously from the other side. Her eyes caught the dust that fell from the frame, and the hinges that suddenly snapped away.
Instinctively, her arm shot out, fingers sliding along the cold tile. She did not know what good it would do but she was cornered; feral and terrified.
Suddenly, her surroundings were not so bleak. The tiles were smooth and perfectly porcelein, the walls unblemished. The blood that had coated her seconds before was nothing but water, water that fell from the shower head above. Undead hands were gone, replaced by shadows and wounds. The glass...the glass screen was intact, for the seconds she was allowed to gaze upon it before it was forcefully slid back.
Chris dropped to his knees at the edge of the shower, reaching out to grab the shoulders of the girl whose cries had drawn him to that very room.
She blinked, arm still pressed to the tiles before she brought them both to her chest, screaming now for a reason other than terror.
"What the hell are you doing?" she screeched. "Get out!"
Chris reached desperately for a towel, falling back onto his ass from the sheer force of her anger. She was still screaming when he came to her again, eyes closed as he pushed the towel against her. He at least had the sense to allow her to adjust it appropriately before opening them again.
Jill remained pressed against the far wall of the shower cubicle, huddled fearfully into a ball. Chris was a predator to her in that moment, his eyes quite possibly seeing more of her than she ever wished him to see. But as his presence lingered and he attempted a sympathetic smile she felt the fear melt away. All that he had done flooded back to her and suddenly she found herself on her knees, arms around his neck.
"You were screaming," he told her. He breathed in deeply to continue but the words failed to materialise.
His words seemed to strike a chord within her and she moved away, sinking sideways into him as she settled back down onto the floor, eyes drawn to where she had previously been cowering.
There was blood here...she had seen it. The hands...the screams...
"Were you?" she asked in deep, breathy gasps. "Screaming? I heard someone. I thought-"
Chris shook his head mournfully. His clothes were now soaked through, his attention fully on holding her while she needed him.
"For what it's worth, I hear them too."
The towel slipped a fraction of an inch, prompting hands to grasp the edges before it fell. His words floated through her conciousness, barely heard against the buzz that just would not fade away.
Reality slowly seeped through the gaps in her consciousness. It was morning, she was in her own apartment... Yes, that was right. She had taken a shower. A shower to rid herself of the grime, the sweat and the blood, not all of which had been her own. Her skin had burned beneath the force of her frantic scrubbing, the memories stubbornly refusing to be washed away with the soap. For the briefest of moments she had caught her own reflection in the smooth glass of the shower cubicle. Ribs that were painfully bruised; arms that bore deep welts, thighs that were almost completely black. She looked inhuman and sure enough, the flesh began to peel, to fall to the floor and stain the water red. She had slipped and had scrabbled desperately up the wall that began to morph before her very eyes.
The blood had fallen next.
She should have known that such an event would not leave them unscarred.
"Will you stay?" she asked without hesitation. All embarrassment that his sudden entrance had caused faded away. "At least until I fall asleep."
Chris smiled, though she could tell by the expression on his beaten face that it masked fear to match her own.
"I doubt sleep is possible," he answered smoothly. "But yes, I'll stay. I don't want to face the nightmares alone either."
The simple fact that he had not joked about her lack of clothing, or thrown some brash builder-grade comment her way, offered her a glimpse of the depths to which the grief had already touched him.
Not a single word had been spoken about their fallen comrades. Even Brad had remained respectfully silent on the short journey home. It was not that they did not care; they simply were not ready to face the truth. They were all too weary to face Irons when they had finally returned. Fortunately the hour was still early and many of the employees of the R.P.D. had not yet begun work so they were able to slip into the parking lot with no questions asked.
Rebecca had tended to the worst of their injuries, though thankfully none were life-threatening. They considered themselves extremely lucky that the most serious injuries sustained were the ribs the tyrant had broken as Chris and Jill were thrown about the lab. All things considered, it could have been much worse.
Rest was all they needed, and it was the one thing they all knew they would not be blessed with that night. Barry had retreated to his family, Brad to his and Rebecca to her one-bedroom apartment. Jill had offered her spare room to the girl, but she had revealed the wish to be alone for a while. Jill on the other hand was not so keen on facing the emptiness of her lonesly apartment and was extremely thankful when Chris agreed to stay while she showered. He had seemed as lost as she and she knew from the moment the locks on her front door turned that he would not be leaving that night.
Chris helped her to limp towards her double bed, fragile limbs barely capable of carrying her the small distance. He was respectful enough to leave her to slip into an old T-shirt while he changed into one of her father's old shirts. It was a little tight but he thought that it was good enough for one night.
They dared not consider what faced them when they woke. S.T.A.R.S. had been destroyed, most of its members dead and the others hurting from a story no one in their right mind would believe. They would be infamous and quite possibly blamed for the deaths of their friends. Jill knew that the accusations would be the hardest part to face. Maybe she would have been strong enough once, but now she was not so sure.
"Jill! Look out!"
"Hold her back!"
No matter how tightly she closed her eyes, their voices continued to echo in her mind.
She refused to move as Chris settled down onto the bed, pulling the covers over them both. In all honesty, she had not expected him to respond as she reached out, hoping to pull him close enough to embrace.
She did not know why, but something about his arms made her feel safe. Safety was what she craved that morning. Safety was all she could ask for.
For once, she did not feel the sudden rush of blood that his close proximity had brought about in the past few months. She was far too exhausted to crave his touch, or even to appreciate that he held her to him perhaps a little too possessively. It was when the bare skin of his thigh touched her own that she felt the tingle slither up the inside of her thigh, to that place deep within her that only he seemed able to touch. It would have been so easy to move her hands south and her lips north, to beg his indulgence for an hour or so and allow him to heal her wounds for a while. He was hurting too and she could feel the tension in every muscle that pressed against her; tension she could so easily release...
It was not love; it was not even lust. Comfort was what they both sought. It would amount to nothing more than two friends taking away each other's pain.
She knew he would be good at erasing her pain. The mere touch of his lips to hers would be enough to heal her soul...until they left.
No, she did not want that with Chris. As much as she longed for his touch, she did not wish for it this way. If she was to have Chris Redfield, she wanted all of him; body and mind, heart and soul. His body may have provoked a few innapropriate thoughts but it was not his body she had fallen for.
Soon, all she fell for was sleep.
The apartment was empty once Rebecca's key had found the lock. Bare, depressing; she had not yet found the opportunity to decorate and most of her possessions remained packed into cardboard boxes.
She made no effort to pick up her feet and they dragged carelessly across the carpet, keys falling to the kitchen counter.
Jill's offer still echoed in her ears and momentarily she felt annoyance at rejecting the offer of a bed. Then the moans would return, her sense of smell would be blotted out and she knew that alone was the only way she could handle the guilt.
'Besides, she probably fell straight into Chris's bed.'
Jealousy pricked at her nerves and she was forced to once again repeat the desire for isolation so that she did not wish for arms to fold into. She barely knew Chris Redfield, but he seemed to be a kind man and she fell all too easily for a little kindness.
Truth be told, she did not know many of her comrades. A rookie of barely a week, most of her friendships had been formed within the Bravo team...and now they were gone.
Her inexperience was not all that made her feel aeons younger than the others, Redfield and Valentine in particular. It was their attitudes, their advanced personalities and their private lives. Barry was married with children, Jill was far more experienced than her in the ways of men and love, and from the impression her short tenure at the R.P.D. had given her, Chris was somewhat of a lady's man. A lady's man who would look past a girl of model calibre to gaze at his partner. Their lives were too complex for her inexperienced mind. She was eighteen years old, and had barely been kissed. The majority of her friends were only just entering college, yet she was a graduate working for a well-known combat unit. She had never been drunk in her life.
She was too young for this...
A wound delivered quickly did not heal as it had opened; it was common knowledge. In the short space of a week she had made six good friends and in the even shorter space of a single night, every one of them had died.
No, they had been murdered.
Her bed was as hard as it had been that morning. The sheets offered her little comfort but she took what she could.
'Perhaps I will wake up and find it has all been some awful nightmare?'
Soon, the pillow was damp with her tears. Of course it had been real; she could feel the pain in every limb. Wounds that had taken root deep beneath the surface of her skin. Some would heal, others would not...
The phone rang off the hook several times, but she refused to answer. It would only be her parents. They worried, as all good parents did, and checked the website of the Raccoon Times every day for news of S.T.A.R.S. and any possible danger their daughter may be in. She had been missing for some time and there was little doubt that Bravo team's misfortune had found its way into the news.
Perhaps it was selfish to ignore their worry. After all, they only cared. But how could she face them? They had told her she was moving too fast, that law enforcement was not a career path she would be able to handle. Part of her had accepted the position in S.T.A.R.S. to prove them wrong, and to prove to herself that she was so much more than Rebecca Chambers, biology geek.
Wesker's selection method proved that she was good; only the best were selected for Umbrella's trials. Or were Alpha team the best, and Bravo merely cannon fodder? Why assign a medic with an interest in the field of clinical pathology to a mission involving a lie that would be too easily exposed by such an individual?
Whatever their plan was, she knew that every member of Alpha team outshone her. She would not even be alive if it had not been for Chris's protection...or Richard's.
She tried not to dwell on the details of Richard's death. He had put himself in harms way for her so many times. She should have been the one to tackle Jill to the ground. She should have been the one to float to the surface of the bloodstained water in too many pieces to count. She should not have stood by and watched the monstrosity approach them...she should have acted.
The phone rang once again. Moments later it was in three pieces on the floor, the wire frayed at the end that had pulled away from the wall.
The silence was blissful.
Barry Burton was a family man through and through. He would not accept overtime, he would not work holidays and every year he handpicked his daughters' presents, taking the whole day off work if need be.
Barry Burton would die for his family. In fact, Barry Burton was disturbed to the depths to which he would sink to protect his beloved wife and daughters.
They must have been watching from their window, he concluded as his eldest daughter bounded down the driveway the moment his engine died. They always waited up for him, but he hoped they had seen sense on this particular occasion.
He was reluctant to exit his vehicle at first. Blood, dirt and who knew what else still stained his clothing. The few wounds he had sustained were painful enough. How could he assure his daughter that her father was alright when the mere sight of him screamed the opposite.
"Daddy, what happened to you?" Moira asked as he dropped to his knees to embrace her. The bear hug he involuntarily trapped her in was perhaps a little too forceful, but he had to know that it was truly her.
"Daddy...had a rough night, sweetheart," he answered. It was as close to the truth he was willing to reveal to the child.
"You've got red on you," Polly pointed out.
Barry smiled at the innocence he envied at that moment. Oh how wonderful it was to be young and not know of the true horrors that lay out there.
Kathy Burton threw herself into her husband's arms, petrified in every sense of the word. Sorrow overcame him when he sensed the desperation in her touch. How foolish he had been to play with his life when his family needed him so.
"Kathy, are you alright?" There was one thing he had to know.
"Am I alright?" she asked incredulously. "How can you ask that, you damn fool? What the hell happened? When you didn't come home... Oh, God."
Barry held his wife as she wept, and held out an arm for his daughters when hands began to tug at his leg.
"There was nobody here?" he asked, seeking further clarification once her sobs had sufficiently subsided. "You're alright?"
Kathy blinked up at him, searching for meaning behind the dirt that coated his face.
"Honey, what are you talking about?"
Of course. The bastard had been lying. If Barry thought this knowledge would ease his mind, he was wrong. He had almost shot Jill, had recklessly led them all into Wesker's trap...and it was all for nothing.
He should have known better than to take that lying sack of shit on his word.
"Come on inside," Kathy urged in a soothing voice. "I'll make you a sandwich and you can get cleaned up."
"Please...no meat," he begged, the thought almost bringing laughter to his throat.
The dirt was not easily shifted, and he was sure the sandwiches would return later in the day. There was nothing like death and decay to put a man off his food. He explained the events to Kathy as well as he could, though he was careful to omit his treachery. Even she would be unable to understand why he would betray his friends. Kathy Burton was a strong woman and she had little respect for those who hurt others, no matter what their reasons. Losing her love was bad enough, but Barry did not think he could handle losing her respect.
He waited for sleep, but none came. Instead, his computer invited him over. His immediate reaction was to check the news, to see if Bravo's disappearance had hit the Web yet. He wouldn't put it past Irons to milk the situation for more than it was worth.
Irons would no doubt want a word-for-word report on the night's events. Barry knew for a fact that none of the others had it in them to recall the horrors they had faced. The last time he laid eyes on Valentine he was sure she was on the verge of tears. Jill was as strong as Kathy, if not stronger, with exceptional control over her emotions. He had never once seen her cry. The only emotion she ever allowed others to see spin out of control was the anger she directed towards those in her way during an investigation she was unusually passionate about. Or to Chris.
The expression in her eyes as they left the aqua ring haunted him still. Empty...lifeless. As though emotion escaped her and she were trying to organise her mind from scratch.
His fingers moved before his mind thawed and he found himself typing the beginnings of a report. If it would save the others from facing the darkness... After all, he owed them.
Chris woke that afternoon to unusual warmth. Then he saw her... She seemed so out of place in the moment; so peaceful on a day that promised to be anything but.
She held herself close to his body, as though she sought something more than his warmth. He had not known what it was about his embrace that she had craved so desperately, but as long as it helped he did not mind her proximity.
'If only she wasn't so damn beautiful.'
The light touched upon her face in a way that hid the many bruises and grazes. Her lips were broken and her cheeks were flushed; it seemed unfair that her skin should be so inviting when it was so marred. For a moment, he considered chancing a kiss. Just a small peck on the cheek.
But this was Jill Valentine. A small peck would never be enough. He would want her in his arms, and he would want all of her. Every flaw, every nuance. It was all beautiful. She was always beautiful, even when ugly.
Chris could not begin to understand the depths of the desperation that held him prisoner then and there. While his heart told him that it was all or nothing, his body and his wounded psyche told him that he would take whatever she was willing to offer at that moment. But it wouldn't be real...
'And who is to say she would want any part of you?'
His mind interrupted his thoughts and every concept of what they could have melted away around him
'Look at you...what would she want with you? Your body is broken and your soul is weak. You couldn't protect your friends, what makes you think you could protect her? She deserves more than you, orphan.'
The voice was unkind and horrifically familiar. It was the voice that had haunted him in the wake of the accident that claimed the lives of his parents. The voice that had be nurtured by months of floating around foster families that didn't give a shit about him or Claire...only the money they received for putting a roof over their heads. It had felt like years had passed before their aunt and uncle took them in.
'Fuck off,' was all he had to say to the annoying voice.
Even though the voice had retreated back into the nothingness from whence it had sprung, its point lingered. He couldn't protect her.
Jill stirred beside him, lips parting almost painfully to hum a faint tune of annoyance.
"You awake?" she muttered a moment later. Chris responded by tucking fallen strands of her dark hair behind her ears, clearing her face of irritations.
"Don't think I was asleep for long," he sighed.
His eyes had closed on many occasions, but he did not know on how many of them he had actually found the sleep his body longed for.
Too many monsters lurked behind his eyelids. He had no desire to face them, because he knew that victory was impossible. How can you fight that which isn't real? The screams were all in his head, as were the images that forced themselves into his consciousness. He was well aware of this but they still unnerved him, still ate away at his sanity until all he could do was hold Jill and pray that she was not wracked by the same horrifying guilt.
"What time is it?" she asked groggily. He wanted to lie, to tell her to go back to sleep because they had plenty of time, but he knew that it would do no good. Instead, he glanced over her shoulder at the alarm clock that she had never set.
"Twelve-forty," he answered. "I hate to say it but we should leave soon."
Surprisingly enough, she did not complain. Her warmth left his side as she rolled stiffly out of the bed, hissing in pain at her aggravated wounds.
"Are you alright?" It was a stupid question. Of course she wasn't.
"I never realised...how much...it all hurts," she gasped. "I suppose the adrenaline was blocking it out."
Chris made to move towards her, but a sharp pain up his right side caused him to grunt in acute pain. His ribs were broken, how could he have forgotten? There was more pain, all around his body. Every movement sparked another stab of agony. Soon, his head throbbed from the combined effects of the signals that suddenly sped to his brain.
"I'm sorry," Jill spoke suddenly.
He did not understand the meaning of her apology. If anything, he should have been the one to apologise.
"I know you would have prefered to be alone," she continued. "I'm sorry I was so-"
"Jill," he interrupted. "You have nothing to be sorry for. Look, I- I appreciated the company. I should be thanking you, not accepting unfounded apologies."
He did not sense any movement from her direction, but knew that she had accepted his words. Perhaps she was simply too exhausted to argue? He knew that he was.
"Thank you," she whispered finally. "Chris...about last night."
"Don't worry," he laughed dryly. "I didn't see anything."
A forced laugh followed, but even this did not alleviate the crushing pain that suddenly came to his chest. He was amazed by the effort it took to joke as he had before. Words that he used to tease his partner often came of their own accord.
"That's not what I meant."
He should have known that humour would get neither of them far.
"You don't have to explain," he assured her. Again, every word added weight to his chest, building in a violent crescendo until he was suffocating from the pressure.
He was almost glad when she left the room, taking fresh clothes with her. It offered him the opportunity to fully pull back the covers and attempt to pull his own clothes over bruised limbs. There was no sense in using Jill's shower, not when he only had the same filthy uniform to change into.
Irons would be waiting for them when they arrived. He could almost sense the man's fury from several blocks away. The little sleep they had managed to steal would not prepare them for the impending confrontation, and from the media flurry that would follow. The chief would never approve media coverage, and would perhaps even try to quiet it down a little. The fact that one of his subordinates, a man he had trusted, had single-handedly destroyed what he often thought of as the R.P.D.'s greatest achievement would bring unprecidented shame to his name. His desire to run for mayor was no secret, and an event such as this would greatly affect his chances.
Perhaps a tip-off was in order...
The public had to know the truth about Umbrella. One way or another, they would know.
The buzz had faded from her ears by the time she hung up on Chris. Fifteen minutes was not nearly enough time to ready herself for what lay ahead. She had showered, cooked a reasonable lunch and re-bandaged her more severe wounds. Even so, her mind raced at a rate that destroyed what little organisational skills she had.
Rebecca reached for the TV remote, pressing the volume button until the deep voice of the lunchtime newsreader drowned out her thoughts.
"Mystery still surrounds the fate of the S.T.A.R.S. team after the mysterious events of last night. As reported to you yesterday, S.T.A.R.S. Bravo team began a physical investigation of the Arklay Forest area, believed the be the operating grounds of a cannabalistic cult police claim is responisble for the recent murders that have been perpetrated in the area."
She sighed deeply, knowing that it was too much to ask for a few hours of peace. The 'Cannibal Murders' had gripped the entire city, turning the usual humid summer atmosphere into suffocating fear and trepidation. The once-popular camping grounds had become deserted, Raccoon began to lose valuable tourists and its citizens were confined to their homes in fear. It was journalistic gold, and had dominated the news channels since the beginning of the investigation.
"Police Chief Brian Irons confirmed last night that S.T.A.R.S. had lost contact with Bravo team. Alpha team appeared to meet the same fate when they failed to return from a search and resuce mission and the mystery deepened further still with reports of an explosion in the depths of Arklay Forest at dawn. Chief Irons later released a statement that Alpha team had returned, but has so far refused to elaborate. Given what the public have referred to as the police department's mishandling of the investigation, rumours have already begun to circulate regarding the fate of the S.T.A.R.S. team. More on this story as it develops."
'So Irons got our note...'
She thought it a little unprofessional to leave a note stating their return, but none of them had been in the mood to talk. Her professional opinion told her that they should perhaps have all been recovering in a hospital ward, but the others had refused all help but hers and went on their way.
It did bring a smile to her face when she considered the hole Irons' pacing must have been burning into the carpet. One destroyed helicopter, one team missing and a mansion scattered in various pieces across a forest that was no doubt on fire was enough to push anyone's blood pressure through the roof.
"Bet'cha they could rebuild the mansion with the bricks he's shitting right now."
Rebecca turned away from the voice she could not hear, from the figure that was not standing at the edge of the sofa. The trembles that wracked her body betrayed her forced reaction of tranquility. If she did not listen, it did not exist...
"Oh, yeah. Sorry, I forgot you're ignoring me," the voice chuckled as she switched off the TV and took her empty mug into the small kitchen.
"How long are you going to keep this up?"
As the cup fell from her fingers and into the sink, Rebecca looked up into the eyes of Richard Aiken. He was just as he had been last night; handsome, youthful. His orange S.T.A.R.S.-issue T-shirt was soiled yet dry, the left shoulder almost entirely open to accommodate the bandage she herself had strapped to the wound beneath. Blood soaked through the gauze, stained the frayed edges of his T-shirt and the dips of muscle in his arm. There were smaller cuts that marred his smiling face, but the blood that had once leaked from them lay dry around the edges.
Rebecca swallowed slowly, expending more energy than she expected forcing her fear down into her stomach.
"Y-you're not real," she stuttered. "You're an hallucination, b-brought on by stress, sleep deprivation and blood loss."
Richard sighed, leaning back on his right foot as he observed her with what she recognised as pity.
"I knew you would say that," he muttered with downcast eyes. "Truth be told, I don't even know what I am."
A series of sharp raps on the door to her apartment sent her to her feet, poised defensively before she recognised the sound for what it was. Several seconds passed slowly as she peered through the peephole and then drew the locks she had fastened in place the night before. Never before had she felt the need to use the Yale lock, the deadbolt, the chain and the standard hook all at once. Raccoon may not have been the safest city in the state, but crime was relatively unheard of in her neighbourhood.
"Neighbour let me in," Chris explained as she allowed him into her small apartment. "Jill's waiting in the car. You ready?"
Her head moved of its own volition, displaying agreement she did not feel.
Chris had obviously showered recently; his hair remained damp, the scent of overused shower gel reaching her from inches away. If he wanted to hide the fact that he had spent the night at Valentine's, he had done a very bad job, she noted.
That vaguely irritating surge of anger flared within her and for a moment she forgot all about her guests, both invited and not. To her relief, when she turned to scan the living room there was no sign of her fallen comrade.
"Chris..." she began. It was obvious before she spoke that he was thoroughly disinterested in what she had to say. His mind did not seem to be with him in that moment. He could barely look her in the eye.
"I'm sorry," she gasped. "I-"
"It wasn't your fault," he told her bluntly yet compassionately. He seemed to know the thought well, and she was not entirely sure that his statement was directed at her alone.
"I wasn't ready," she lamented further. "Not for this."
For the first time since his arrival, Chris met her eyes and held them in a steady gaze through which he transferred the little strength she could sense lingering within his battered body.
"None of us were," he assured her. "Experience amounts to squat when you're dealing with things that shouldn't be happening. No training in the world could have prepared any of us for what happened."
"But maybe it could have saved them..." she breathed, tone and rhythm falling from her voice. Guilt was an awful emotion.
"You saved me, and you saved Jill."
Rebecca could honestly think of no reply. She had saved no one. It was a fluke, a chance encounter that may or may not have worked.
"Open the door!"
The pure terror in Jill's voice seemed to cut through the metal that seperated them. It was frantic, desperate...
Rebecca's hands fumbled up the edges of the solid doorframe, Barry's joining but failing to find anything of use. It was held tight by an electronic lock connected to a control panel that was not responding. Just the kind of luck that she expected.
"We can't!" Barry shouted back, both sets of eyes drawn to the circular window above their heads. Fingertips brushed against the glass, leaving a bloody streak in their wake.
There was no blood before, they must be injured...
"What do you mean, you can't?" Chris roared. His voice was broken by a pained grunt as his body slammed against the door, to no avail.
"Warning. A level five breach has been detected. Containment procedure has been initiated. Biohazard lockdown is in effect. Warning."
For the first time since the uproar had begun, Rebecca listened to the computerised voice. It was amazing what one could learn when they opened their ears.
"Something must have broken out," she shouted, her small voice almost completely drowned by the resonating siren that blared above them. "Everything has been locked. Is there nothing on your side?"
Her heart thudded to a halt as Jill's cry reached her. Her voice shook tremendously, caught halfway between awe and terrified resignation.
"What the fuck is that?" Chris asked.
Whatever it was, those in the hallway never found out.
A heavy force collided with the door, bending the metal outwards ever so slightly. The screams of their comrades echoed throughout the lab and for the briefest of moments, she was sure that a face had appeared at the window. But it was impossible. No face could be that hideous. No lips, no eyelids...no skin. At least, it did not look like any skin she had encountered before.
She waited not even a second before her feet propelled her down the hallway, searching for the room they had passed through barely five minutes before. Rebecca was not well versed in the use of computers, but she knew enough to know that a room filled to the brim with them in such an establishment was likely to be a control room.
Barry bounded clumsily behind her, colliding with several walls as they turned corners sharply. Then, they found it.
"Come on," she urged herself as she hammered away at the only keyboard that remained firmly attached to a monitor and was in possession of all its keys. There was no way she could have know what she was hitting, but menu after menu popped up and she was so sure that the answer lay there...somewhere. All she had to do was find it.
"What do I do?" she demanded. Her voice came out as little more than a squeak.
"I don't know," Barry rushed, as frantic as she. "I'm not good with these damn things."
A medic and a weapon's specialist. Nature and strength versus technology. Short of throwing the keyboard through the screen, she could think of nothing that would help their teammates. She could not help but notice the iron in the fact that the three members of the team who could have helped her were either trapped, dead or circling above the facility in the hopes that someone had somehow survived.
"Wait, what was that?" Barry exclaimed suddenly, a finger pressed to the screen.
She followed his lead, jumping back several folders until she was presented with a file labelled 'Security Protocols'.
"This is it!" she exclaimed excitedly, going so far as to involuntarily jump onto the balls of her feet.
"Disable locks," she spoke aloud as she double-clicked on the correct command.
'This action cannot be performed at this time.'
"Containment procedures cannot be overwritten," Barry recited sadly, recalling the memo they had found earlier.
"There has to be something we can do!"
There was another note in the security memo, something she had barely paid attention to as she scanned the meaningless words...something important.
Her hand moved of its own accord, stepping back two folders until she found the command she had been looking for.
"Self destruct," Barry read. "You can't be serious?"
"In the event of the initiation of the self-destruct system, all staff must evacuate to the surface," she recited. "In order for this to be possible, all internal electronic locks will be released, allowing swift progression through the laboratory facilities."
Barry opened his mouth to object further, but her hand moved faster than his tongue. Another siren sounded, this one deeper and more persistant. It was loud enough and obnoxious enough to drive any sane person from the premises; exactly what it was intended to do.
"Warning. The self-destruct system has been activated. Releasing all locks."
There was a sharp whir of compliance as the door at the far end of the control room unlocked itself.
"All locks have now been released."
"You think it worked?"
Neither of them chose to wait around, wanting instead to find out if their toil had been successful.
If their friends were still alive.
The corridors were still empty; the undead that had lurked in the open laying in mangled piles on the floor. The door they were searching for loomed ever closer, and they were met with dismay as it remained firmly closed, no sounds transferring through the reinforced steel.
Suddenly, a click...a whir!
The door opened slowly, a blood-stained yet perfectly human hand reaching round the edge to pull it the extra few inches.
Chris Redfield stepped into the open, a picture of devastation. His uniform was stained beyond repair, soaked through to his skin. Wounds that had been suffered in their absence glistened morbidly beneath the emergency lights. Valentine was no better, requiring the steady arm of her partner to remain upright.
Part of Rebecca did not want to know what had happened behind that door.
"Are you alright?" It was a redundant question, but both partners nodded an answer.
"Nothing that won't heal," Chris panted. "I think she sprained her ankle."
"I didn't," Jill argued, as fiery as always. "It just hurts."
"Warning. The self-destruct system has been activated. All employees must evacuate immediately. Warning."
"It was the only way," Rebecca excused meekly. Surely she was in for a hell of a lot of trouble. Her first mission, and already she was facing umemployment.
Her momentary victory had been short lived. In her haste to save her friends, she had failed to remember why the labs had been so devoid of the undead to begin with; at the onset of the outbreak, the employees had sealed the experimental laboratories to prevent the subjects from escaping before they themselves had been locked in by the 'biohazard containment procedure'. In releasing the locks she had also released everything Umbrella had created.
"All things considered, I think you did quite well."
She knew that he was merely saying this to cheer her up, but she accepted the compliment regardless. It was the wrong moment to seek sympathy or explanations from a man she could tell was as wounded as she.
With one last glance around her apartment, Rebecca picked up her coat and left to face uncertainty.
AN - I know I should probably be working on the epilogue for Only Through The Pain, but I got started on this sooner than I thought I would.
Basically, this will be a short (in comparison to my last one) story dealing with the S.T.A.R.S. members at moments during the months that follow the mansion incident. It's a sort of distant prequel to Only Through The Pain and Chris and Jill will be the main characters, though the others should hopefully get equal batting. It will chronicle the evolution of their friendship into something more and the beginning of the team's fight against Umbrella. For the mansion incident itself I'm using a blending of the two scenarios. The story should explain it as far as it needs to be explained, but if anyone wants to know how my version goes I'd be happy to answer any questions.
The rating is likely to change, as is the genre because I admit that I genre-hopped a bit when planning it. There's horror, drama, friendship, angst, minor action and romance.
Music is a great inspiration for me, and the title from this story comes from an A.F.I. song. It sounds much better than what I had originally planned for the title.
I hope you enjoyed the prologue, and I would very much appreciate your feedback :). I'm attempting to write something a little different than what I am used to, so it really helps to know when I'm doing things right and when I'm missing the mark by a mile.
Disclaimer: I own nothing that you see here. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no copyright infringement is intended.