Leon was quick to have his gun drawn, taking each slow step with as much caution as a spider with its web. The darkness was not opaque, but it was certainly a strain on his eyes every time the lightning flashed by the hallway window to donate its light for a few moments. The hallway was quiet, minus the pouring rain striking the window, but in terms of people, no doubt Leon's employers were the only ones rich enough for such a high floor.

'Less hostages to worry about…'

The thunder continued on as Leon came closer and closer to the door of his room, the next flash revealing a crack in the door, with a dim light barely showing through.

Instead of the thunder, another sound instead pierced the darkness; a high, clear whistling trill that felt like a shrill alarm with an ending chipping that assaulted his ears, turning around. Timing was not on his side, for the minute he tried to see who was behind him, a flash of lightning raced past, so close it blinded him for only half a moment. Half a moment where he only heard a light jingle.

He pulls the trigger.

And Leon immediately let go of the gun as he felt a searing, wet tar-like sensation upon his hands, still seeing spots in his vision as he attempted to see the perpetrator. Instead, he only found himself falling back with a precise and swift kick to his solar plexus, his pain turning into numbness and then nausea quickly following alongside choking on air. His vision started distorting, the spots getting larger and smaller, white then black then white again. Time slowed around him, as he couldn't tell if his body took seconds or hours to fall asleep in feeling, let alone falling.

He opening his mouth, only for a weak crackle to come forth.

Eventually the spots stopped, and only blackness welcomed him.

For how long? Who knows?

His unconsciousness had no dreams to behold. Only vicious, garbled sounds. The remnants of his most recent phone call, a warped reimagining of his warning to the president that was filled with a maddening laughter every few words, the constant shrill whistle that undulated through the whispers and shrieks, like a vicious cycle. And his voice had no place in such madness.

"…hey Raelyn."

The young teen chewed and swallowed the preheated lo mein noodles before looking up to Claire who sat across her at the small round table.

"I was wondering…why is it that your father came around here?"

Claire found herself feeling a bit rude, seeing that Raelyn had to get a whiteboard near the end of dinner, rather than waiting until then. She couldn't tell if she was eager to know more, or to leave from the town as soon as possible. If so, it would be with Raelyn the same. Speaking of, she soon enough passed the white board over before continuing to finish her meals, Claire scanning though the sentences before her.

"…reduction in workforce?"

A nod.

"And this was literally the only place he was recommended to move to be close to his new job that would have been paid?"

Another nod.

"Sounds like it wasn't much of an expensive move for a place like this."

A shrug.

"…" 'Man, I thought I was used to this kind of quiet.'

Claire felt time seemingly go by slower in silence as they continued to eat, the whistling winds outside turning to dull hollow hums, the rickety grandfather clock in the corner of the living room ticks with each swinging second, and the occasional, barely-there rustle of the wandering tumbleweeds. At least, that's what Claire hoped it was, as she could sense the little rasping in the walls of insects; and in the desert, more often than not, spiders and scorpions of the like. The sounds of clattering interrupted her thoughts, finding Raelyn heading to the trash bin to discard her empty paper plate and utensils.

It began to feel much more than awkward; in fact, infuriating really. It felt like a normal day for her. Absolutely ordinary. Every evening in her own apartment she would be left to her own. All her friends, just as busy as the next, with their own involvement in their fight against bioterrorism. Not even a pet to keep her company. Piles of papers and folders did so instead, from petitions and fliers to junk mail and bills. She certainly is no fighter like her brother, though she recalls the feeling- the need to get up and do something that could mean more.

"…Raelyn? Do you feel lonely? While your family was…is elsewhere?"

Claire took a moment to realize what she asked, looking to the girl for an answer. Her response was merely a smile. Not one of joy, and not really one of sadness. Just a strange smile that just made Claire feel unsure, but not sure of what. And with the same ignorance, and awkwardness, she smiled back.

"That was a silly question, now that I think about it." Claire admits. "Well, I think it's about time I get washed up and ready for bed. The water still works right?"

Raelyn gave a nod, going to the whiteboard to write a new message.

'I will get the boiler ready. Sometimes it doesn't work at first. You'll hear me hit it through the pipes.'

"Alright." Claire stood and cleaned up after herself. And she would do so again once she retreated to her room.

She waited the night away for Raelyn to retreat to sleep, tucking her in. Her room was nothing special. Empty shelves for books, several stacked boxes in the corners, no TV, and a window that had the perfect view to look out to the town all the way to its entrance. There were no family portraits on the walls anymore to speak of, no memories to really discuss. And if it was to discuss, it'd be one sided conversation for the most part.

"Sleep tight kiddo." Claire whispered, Raelyn falling fast asleep. Looking to the teen, Redfield could not help but be reminded of another.

'I wonder how Sherry is right now.'

Claire was not without visitation rights –with a little help from Leon-, soon after the G-Virus incident. The government had taken Sherry under their so-called protection –and experimentation-, and she could not help but wonder why she was not allowed as of late. Her TerraSave activities left her busier than normal, but not busy enough to distract her worries. Especially considering all the times she had seen Sherry's quivering lip and shaking hands, before and after her trials. The Redfield wasn't fond of the circumstances, but if the least she could do was be there, she'd be more than glad to do so and hold the girl in her arms. Less and less were there such signs, replaced by tired looks and sullen, irritated expressions. Suspicion was heightened between the both of them, but to Claire's dismay, she did not receive a letter in return of her own that warned her. Surely something occurred.

Though the more she thought of Sherry, the more strange her situation began to feel…in fact, the similarities of the situation seemed uncanny even. She walked down the stairs with the notebooks in hand she was given, small creaks and squeaks of the flooring turned to near silence once she was on the ceramic floor. Carefully setting the volume proper, she turned on another cassette in the tape recorder.

"If you are hearing this now, then you are following my instructions as planned." It began, Claire following the directions as they were given. "My workspace is next to the door to the boiler room. Assured my daughter is asleep, unlock the 3 locks to their respective keys."

"In my desk you will find the files and addresses of the people I have high suspicion of. I believe these intend to not create a new virus, but evolve the ones that exists. In particular, the T-Virus."

Claire traced her eyes around the clean table to a small lamp and an old style wind-up clock. She held her breath at such callous mention of the virus, the tone in Mr. Lumin's voice less chipper than the introductory tape.

"I entrusted this information to only Mr. Landers, because I could not deem it as high priority as to involve an entire team; lest there are more lives at stake. However, hearing of your exploits and experience, I believed it the wiser to have only you carry out this mission. My family, and especially my daughter, is in danger. This is the only location I could find that hid away from them, but I'm afraid it will not be for long."

"…from who?" Claire asked out loud, looking through the manila folders, unable to find a folder for it, but instead a printed backlog. Notes of…strangers always around the corner. No real details, but only half-sightings and suspicions. Mentions of glowing eyes and shadows shifting almost seemed like a dairy of nightmares. The tape continued on.

"Those people are after the ones here in this town; their seclusion makes them harder to miss. I do not know if the people responsible have an alias or not, or even if they are of Umbrella or another independent black market supplier, but if so, they are a danger nonetheless. I have a gun supplied for you, in either case."

Claire opened the furthest drawer on the right, a Ruger revolver –'hm, I think it's a Blackhawk'-, with only one extra .41 Magnum caliber cartridge to spare. She swung out the cylinder, seeing that it already was loaded.

"I pray you find no use for this but if you must, it is here to help."

"And one more thing." A pause. "If I do not return, take my daughter away from there, effective immediately."

The tape clicked to a stop, but to Claire's dismay, there was another series of tapes just at the bottom of the drawer; all labeled with respective dates. Claire set on her headphones, taking out the files and a clean notebook of her own as she began her secondary assignment on making a copy of each log.

'Hm, guess I shouldn't have expected a complete vacation. Mr. Lumin couldn't spare a scanner in the middle of this move?'

The old clock ticked away as Claire wrote away empty pages, checking off and underlining names and dates as ink and graphite wasted away. The hissing white noise joined in and left for every cassette to be switched out. Claire froze at the sound of creaking above her, her head tilted upward as small clouds of dust fell. She only let out her held breath when she heard the creak of the pipes as water flowed through that followed after half-dragged footsteps and the squeak of a door. Open…and close.

'Phew…' Claire had to wonder though, as she paused the tape for a moment.

An absent father.

A child left behind.

A hint of bio-terrorism at work.

All in the middle of essentially nowhere.

'Could Mr. Lumin…' Claire shook her head, turning off the lamp. Taking the gun and files with her, she walked out and locked the door behind her, going back up the stairs. '…maybe…I'll continue this tomorrow.'

"I don't like this." Claire felt the need to whisper to herself. It was redundant, but if she could be able to save someone before the worst was to come…but she had to know what was to come to begin with before making any rash decisions.

Claire stepped into her room finding a less than welcoming sight before her, rubbing her eyes to wipe away the sleepy haze.

An open window.

And perched upon the ledge of that open window was a silhouette of a dusty black crow, and she would know from facing one too many in her lifetime. It simply just sat there, cocking its head to the side as if observing her.

"…didn't I close that window?"

Claire went over with all the intention to shoo the crow away as she neared, though it seemed unfazed by her nearing presence, ruffling its feathers.

"Shoo, go on!" Claire ordered, though it was diminished to a whisper to make sure Raelyn would not wake. The crow stayed however, Claire giving an annoyed huff and settled her files and tapes in the desk nearby. She swiped her arm at it, but to no avail as it leaped-

And with startling angry caws, it flapped its wings and flailed bare inches away, surprising Claire as she stepped back, arms crossed before her as she felt the stinging of its talons digging into her skin repeatedly alongside its pecking. She immediately reacted with stronger swings, feeling no sensation of impact of blows and the sounds of flapping faded away, finally opening her eyes.

The crow was no longer there, instead falling, swaying black feathers having taken its place. Still cautious, she immediately looked outside to make sure it was no longer around. Up to the cloudy sky, left and right to the empty horizon of the desert, and then down below as dust clouds passed by.

"…why is a crow here anyways?"

'Unless…there's a body nearby!'

It was a stretch of an idea, even an over exaggeration. It easily could have been just a stray of the desert; but she's learned not to take chances.

Claire ignored the pain from her scratches, only wiping them away as she prepared to leave. She peered out the door, surprised but also relieved to see Raelyn was still asleep, despite the ruckus she made. With flashlight in hand, and a jacket for the cold night, she stepped out.

The town easily looked even more eerie in the darkness of the night. They were too far from the city, and there were no street lights or lanterns in sight, rendering the area barely visible without the flashlight Claire grasped in one hand and held her jacket closed with another. The distorted symphony of the mundane sounds seemed just as effective; the creaking of the musty wood, and clattering of decorative bone, and the grass and sand that migrated about seemed louder than normal as the redhead began her search. She swore she heard another, amongst them…

Claire took one cautious step after another, directing her light toward the desert floor before her, checking the town again as she did in the daylight. To her dismay however, there were visitors.

Several creepy crawly visitors that had eight legs, which may or may not have had a stinger and pincers to go with them.

'Great. Zombie apocalypse, manageable. Scientist gone hulking monster, that's fine. But god above, WHY spiders? Just why?' Claire could not resist a shudder as she tried to calmly walk through the migration of arachnids that came through. As much as she did not wish to see them, she still gave them a glance in order to see if they acted to go in any particular direction. To her fortune at least, they did not climb up her legs. Just over her feet.

Claire sucked in a breath, holding back a yell from her seemingly childish fear, the crunching of the critters doing no better for her. The less she had to deal with, the better, she told herself. She shook her head and for a moment, almost missed a new detail out of the corner of her eyes.

Or so she thought.

She swung around, her light towards the small alley between two homes, but there was no one there. The same would be done all the way to the gas station- from one nook to another cranny- its building also closed out, Claire able to see the inner gating for the windows.

She took a moment to look out toward the city lights barely over the horizon, like a sun hidden in the night. The dull ache in her arms was completely ignored with the cold air that passed through the place like a phantom. Too far without a car, and she was left with little to no way back with even less communication options.

"Well, Shane was right." Claire sighed aloud. "There really is nothing more here."

'I'll need to see if I can catch anyone else from the files to interview first thing in the morning.' Claire gave a yawn, turning around to begin her way back. 'And if I have to, get ready to take Raelyn with me when I leave.'

A loud caw stopped her midstep. She looked up, her eyes directed and flashlight set upwards to the rooftop, a crow before her. One that had a spider in its beak.

Only one however.

'The same one?'

She kept it in her sights, slowly walking towards it. The crow craned its head as she neared and swallowed the critter with audible crunching, but she wouldn't climb a home to get to it; not one that looked the most rickety amongst others.

The few seconds seemed longer before the crow took flight into the night again, and for that moment, the wind ceased.


"Mr. Kennedy?"

All the veteran agent could hear for the longest while was a high pitched squeal that ran on as frustratingly as white noise in the dark. The burning sensations in his hand remained, and even caused him to wake, a splitting headache joined by a light too bright for him to ignore.

"He's waking!"

Leon groaned at the volume of the sound, sitting upright again. Slowly opening his eyes, squinting once, twice, three times, he finally became aware of his surroundings. He was in another bed, but instead of the apartment building, it was that of a hospital room.

"How are you feeling?" An elder voice asked. Leon turning his head toward a man in a white hazmat suit and mask, a nurse beside with equally gloved hands checking the pulse at the junction of his elbow, with eyes going back and forth toward the machines behind him.

Leon found more concern however to his right hand, and even his left, both bandaged up and being set in buckets of ice.

"I would be careful. Not sure what you had on yourself, but your hands were suffering terrible burns. Though, they too seem to be the entry point of the infection." The doctor tried to set one of his hands down, but Leon even insisted on removing the bandages of one. "Sir, I will be forced to strap you down if you continue."

"He isn't going to listen." A familiar voice met Leon's ears, turning towards an agent in another suit walking in with an open laptop, an angry looking Ingrid Hannigan staring back at him. "So you best just show him, as well as I."

"Ingrid." Leon sighed in relief, but his worries pestered. "What happened?"

"You were found seizing in the hall of your assigned room. The entire area is set under surveillance and quarantine. What happened?"

"I was attacked by something or someone." Leon witnessed the unraveling of the bandages on his hand by the nurse, until he finally saw the result. His skin was blacked where he once held the gun, as if the firearm had actually melted in his hand; however, upon further inspection, it appeared to be a tar like material burned into his flesh, coin sized bumps of dark red and a sickly yellow that threatened to burst upon his palm.

"Oh god." Ingrid took good notice of the wound. "What is that?"

"Don't know. And this is saying a lot." Leon gulped and set his hand out over, the doctor giving a huff as he began to scrape away slimy excess samples as he mumbled about ungratefulness and the like. "But were the things of my apartment retrieved?"

"Yes. Agents were sent there to see if there were any hints of the intruder, but you're going to be staying until we at least figure out what you've been infected with."

"Whatever it is, it's more the reason I need to go and find out." Leon flinched at the sensation that ran from his palm up through his arm, like a current of fire set through a wire. "As soon as I am let out of here."

"Leon, if you are infected with a virus, you will stay here until we can get a vaccine." Ingrid commanded, the doctor setting out the box of samples to another team just out the door. In turn, two other members enters with restraint straps at the ready, no words needed to be enforced.

Leon grit his teeth, keeping his mouth closed from retorting, instead taking a moment to settle for a forced chuckle. "Well…so much for that vacation."

A loyal dog of the government to the end, he swore he could hear from the recesses of his mind. And if a dog was needed to be put down for being the equivalent of bitten by the infected, would a cure not be found…

He could not finish the sentence. Doubt remained in his mind. There was loyalty, but there was also having common sense. The government was a myriad of secrets that tested his devotion and silence, but he would concede for the latter for the time being. For now, he had a different unknown to ponder over.

*looks around in the empty reading area* I've no excuse really, but being in college, my writing and writing skills in general have been neglected for a while. I just got this brain fart out before it'd leave me, but come the fall, I should be able to write more. Like, mid-August ish, so deepest apologies.

R&R and have a good day.