A/N: A one-shot about a convoy member and her prior relationship with Alice. Takes place during the events of Resident Evil: Extinction. R&R if you will.
Disclaimer: I don't own it. The only thing I own is 'Artemis'.
Cold New World
The desert air is hot and thick as Artemis breathes it in. The convoy has stopped for the night and Artemis is on portal; scouting out the area to make sure that no infected are nearby. The 19-year old is vigilant as she slowly makes her way around the parked vehicles; an arrow is knocked in her bow, ready to bring an end to any infected she may cross paths with. Having come full-circle, the brunette places the unused arrow back in the quiver which hangs loosely across her back.
"Perimeter is secure, Claire," Artemis states, walking up to the convoy's leader, Claire Redfield. Claire nods, "Okay, go get something to eat, Artemis." The younger woman makes her way to the food truck. On the way she hears some of the other convoy members talking. They are whispering about the new comer; the woman who saved them from the infected crows early in the day. Artemis hears a single name amongst the jumbled talk; Alice.
Alice...Artemis has heard the name before. Spoken in hushed tones around numerous campfires, the woman whom the name belongs to has become a kind of urban legend in this new post-apocalyptic world. Artemis has heard a hundred different stories about the woman who has survived the Hive and the Raccoon City incident. But surely no such woman can exist. There are even those bold enough to say that this Alice is a product of the Umbrella Corporation; engineered to walk amongst the survivors and "recruit" people for Umbrella "missions". Of course the people who tell these stories are usually ex-military men who had lost their minds long before the zombie apocalypse. When Artemis would hole-up with such a person for the night she always slept with her back against a wall and an arrow knocked in her bow. They weren't bad people, just lost and confused. Everyone was these days.
But that life of living alone from day to day and sleeping surrounded by strangers at night only to part ways in the morning is long behind Artemis now. She has been with Claire's Convoy for about two months; which may not seem like a long time but in this new zombie ravaged world, two months is a lifetime. The convoy had found Artemis in Phoenix, Arizona. The young woman was bloody and broken after a bad run in with a gang of desert dwellers who spent their days scouring the wasteland for people to harass. Artemis managed to fend them off, but was left with a broken right arm and other various cuts and bruises. Claire had taken her in, no questions asked, and Artemis had been with the convoy ever since.
The brunette is pulled from her reverie by Carlos' voice saying her name. The ex-mercenary is introducing everyone who is in-line at the food truck to a woman with short brown hair and wrapped up in a tan trench coat. Alice. Carlos seems to know Alice, they talk like old friends. Artemis locks eyes with the woman for a brief second. Alice's eyes are a hard blue; they seem familiar to Artemis somehow. Have they met before? The young woman's attention is drawn back to the food truck when Otto chucks a can of fruit at her head. Artemis catches the can effortlessly, turning her head only to glare at the man. "What?" Otto asks innocently, "It's fruit, your favorite." Artemis rolls her eyes as she strolls away; back to one of the small campfires where her friend, K-Mart, sits.
After dinner, the adults are called over to Claire's fire for a meeting. Artemis and K-Mart aren't usually counted in the adults category so this must be something big. And it is. Alice informs the group about a supposedly uninfected outpost somewhere in Alaska. Artemis is skeptical but knows better than to say so; she and K-Mart are here to listen not speak. The fact that they have been invited to the meeting at all says a lot about the situation. Once everyone is in agreement, that the convoy will head to Alaska after searching through the ruins of Las Vegas for supples, scouts are posted and the rest of the convoy's inhabitants are sent to bed.
Artemis is heading to her sleeping area – a stiff little cot on the kids bus – when a hand grabs her shoulder. In one fluid motion the teen rips the Bowie knife from it's holster on her thigh, turns round and brings the knife up to her attacker's neck. A slight smile spreads across her attacker's face. It is Alice. The older woman lets out a small laugh as she grips Artemis' wrist gently, pulling the knife which the hand holds away from her neck.
"You've grown since the last time we met," Alice's voice is rough like sandpaper but soft at the same time. Her blue eyes stare into Artemis' green ones as realization passes over them. Artemis finally remembers where she has seen those stark blue eyes before.
It was just a chance encounter, a one night thing. Artemis was 17-years old, she'd been on the road for about 6 months and was getting worn out from being on her guard 24/7. The pair had crossed paths at a deserted gas station in Nebraska. Artemis was holed-up in it for the night when Alice came along. After a few tense moments of Alice pointing her duel pistols at the teen who held a knocked arrow aimed straight for the older woman's throat, the pair agreed to share the safe haven for the night. Artemis was less trusting of strangers back then; she kept plenty of distance between her and Alice, never taking her eyes off of the older woman.
Alice finally broke the ice by offering Artemis a can of assorted fruit. The teen accepted the peace offering, "So you're not going to kill me while I sleep?" Artemis asked seriously.
Alice smiled weakly, "No, I'm not going to harm you. Promise." And that was that. Artemis ate her fruit then rolled out her sleeping-bag in the aisle furthest from Alice, trusting that the other woman would keep her word.
By the time that the first rays of morning light came streaking across Artemis' face, Alice was long gone. The teen searched the station for the older woman but found no trace of the only companion she had had in months. A painful feeling of loneliness washed over Artemis and she quickly learned to never again become attached to anyone whom she met in this cold new world.
"I'm sorry that I left you there all alone," Alice's voice brings Artemis back to the present. The younger woman blinks several times, trying to clear her mind of the past. "It's fine," Artemis states weakly. "It was my fault for thinking that you would stay. I was stupid back then."
"Back then...," a light laugh escapes Alice's throat.
"Yeah," Artemis emits a laugh of her own. "Back when a can of fruit was a peace offering and promising someone that you weren't going to kill them in their sleep was like an I love you." The younger woman smiles brightly at Alice as she returns the knife to it's holster.
"Well," Alice takes a step away from Artemis. "I'm glad to see that you made it."
"Ditto," Artemis knows that the conversation is coming to an end. Loneliness begins to creep in on her; she doesn't know how long Alice will stick around this time. She feels weak; clinging to this woman whom she has only know for a night. Artemis had been so alone that night two years ago, she had believed that Alice would take her with her. That they could be a...a what? A family? Damn she was stupid then and isn't much smarter now if she still has feelings for Alice.
Alice stands by quietly as Artemis swims through old memories. When the younger woman finally resurfaces from the oceans of her mind, her eyes are watery with unshed tears. "I really am sorry, Artemis," Alice's voice is soft, almost caring.
Artemis just nods her head, "It's late; we should get to bed if we're going to be scouring Las Vegas in the morning." Artemis turns away from Alice, not giving the older woman a chance to reply, and makes her way to the bus.
Artemis is awoken the next morning by Otto shaking her shoulder. The brunette shoos the older man away, taking her sweet time getting up before jumping out the rear emergency exit. A select few of the adults are gathered around Claire's truck, each packing a weapon or two of their choice.
"Alright everyone," Claire stands at the head of the group. "We're going to search the compound up ahead for supples. There may be some hostiles; if you come across any, take them out then report back to me immediately." They use the term hostiles for zombies as to not alarm the young ones. But no one is fooled; not even the youngest dimwit. "Okay, let's go."
The small group makes their way towards the abandoned compound. Just as they are about to enter the building, sounds of a helicopter can be heard in the distance. Alice orders everyone to prepare for a fight. A few tense moments later, a helicopter appears and drops a shipping crate down in front of the group. The helicopter flies away. Alice slowly approaches the large crate with her pistols drawn; the others follow suit. Artemis and K-Mart hang back a bit; knowing that Claire won't want them too close to the action. Alice, Carlos, and Claire are only a few feet away from the crate when it's doors burst open. Dozens of infected come charging toward the small armed group. Bullets begin to fly as shouts from both the infected and uninfected fill the hot desert air.
Artemis springs forward as two infected come at her and K-Mart. An arrow catches one in the throat while the Bowie knife stops the other. Artemis feels a sharp pain in her side as her Bowie knife cuts through the infected. The adrenaline helps her push the pain out of her mind. She turns to see that K-Mart is frozen with shock as an infected male ran towards her screaming wildly. An arrow appears in his temple causing him to fall dead at K-Mart's feet. Artemis opens the passenger door of Claire's truck, shoving K-Mart inside and out of harms way.
Turning her attention back to the infected, Artemis is shocked to see Alice and Carlos kissing. Carlos pulls away suddenly, he and Alice stare at each other for a long moment before he jumps into his tanker truck. Artemis is unsure of what is going on. She is even more weary when Alice comes running towards her yelling something about take cover...
Claire, and the few others that have come to fight, retreat back to the convoy. Carlos drives the tanker straight into the mass of infected; the truck explodes on impact. The inhabitants of the convoy stare in shock at the site. There is little time to process what has just taken place before their very eyes. Alice and Claire herd the handful of survivors into the compound and up to the roof where a helicopter awaits them.
Claire, K-Mart, and the few convoy survivors board the helicopter as Alice and Artemis watch. K-Mart looks confused as Alice hands her a red leather-bound journal which holds the only hope any of them has; the hope that this place in Alaska truly exists. "You're not coming with us?" K-Mart asks sadly. Alice shakes her head. The blond teen turns to Artemis, "You?"
Artemis can only look at her friend with sad eyes as she pulls her hand away from her side revealing a bloody gash. "It's just a scratch, Artemis, get in I'll patch it up," K-Mart tries to reassure her friend. The brunette's mouth quivers as tears sting her eyes.
Alice kneels down to examine the wound, hoping that the younger brunette is mistaken, that it really is just a scratch; but she knows better, they all do. Alice shifts the pieces of Artemis' shirt that cling to the wound. There, under the bits of fabric, indented into the pale flesh of Artemis' side is a set of bit marks. Alice sighs as she and the younger brunette lock eyes. Standing, Alice tells Claire to go. The red head nods her head as her hands tighten on the helicopter's controls. K-Mart begins to cry as she comes to terms with the fact that she will never see her friend again. Soon her cries are drown out by the sound of the helicopter starting up. Alice and Artemis step away as the chopper rises above them. Neither can bare to watch their friends go. Before either knows it, the chopper is out of site and they are alone; again.
The two women stand in silence, neither sure of how to approach the topic of Artemis being infected. Sighing deeply, Artemis tilts her head back to look up at the barren sky. She feels the sun beaming down on her face and regrets every time she thought about taking her own life when things got too hard. Now she stands at the end but doesn't want to go. The ironic thought make her smile. "What?" Alice has been watching her and became confused when the young woman began to smile. "Nothing." Artemis doesn't know how to explain the ironic situation to Alice so she just lets it go.
The younger brunette begins to strip off the various weapons housed on her body. Unfortunately, she lacks a gun. It will be nearly impossible to shoot herself with an arrow. She can slit her wrists but it will take a long while for her to bleed to death from it. As she is playing through different scenarios in her head, Alice lays a gentle hand on her shoulder.
Artemis looks up at the older woman, "You don't have to stick around for this." Artemis knows that Alice knows that she is going to kill herself to avoid becoming one of those things, a thing that is worse than death.
Alice shakes her head, "I'm not leaving you alone this time." The words cut Artemis to the core. She throws her arms around Alice's neck in a tight embrace. Artemis expects the older woman to immediately pull away but she doesn't. She does just the opposite. She returns the embrace, pulling the smaller brunette close to her body and even begins to stroke Artemis' hair. The contact is too much for the girl who was forced to grow up and die too fast; she breaks down in Alice's arms. The pair stay lost in each others embrace even as the sky begins to darken.
The night air chills them both and Artemis is the one to pull away; she straightens up and backs away from Alice. "If I could just, um, borrow one of your guns..." She is trying to sound official, to sever the emotional bond they have just formed. Alice hands her a pistol. Their fingers touch as the gun is handed over and they linger for a moment, both staring at the weapon between them.
"You can leave now," Artemis tries to dismiss Alice as she checks the pistol over, making sure that it is loaded.
But Alice isn't going anywhere. "I'm not just going to leave you lying up here alone." Alice's voice leaves no room for argument. "I'll bury you." This simple gesture is enough to bring Artemis to tears once more; she nods her head, "Thank you."
Artemis cocks the gun and takes several unstable steps away from Alice. With her back to the older woman, Artemis tilts her head back once more; she looks up at the night sky, one of the desert's most beautiful sites. Closing her eyes and breathing in one last lungful of air, Artemis presses the cold steel to her temple, "Good-bye, Alice."