April, 1990 –
8 Years before Raccoon City Incident
So simple a desire, so difficult to obtain or at least it had not till a few moments ago when her reality came crashing down upon her head tearing her false identity into worthless tatters and any fragile semblance of 'freedom' into nothingness.
She was Valete Spencer, second born child of a set of twins, the only daughter of Ozwell and Verena Spencer and she, she'd finally been found. The fact that her Father no doubt wanted this kept quiet was the blessed reason the news crews weren't swarming the Ashford Mansion at this very moment, and it was BIG news. As if the personal triangle of connection between herself, her Father, and Umbrella weren't enough, the fact she was cosseted, indulged and STILL actually estranged from her Father drew the news crews to the family scandal like bloodhounds to gore. In truth that was part of the reason she'd run away to begin with, to escape the pressure, to escape the privileges and consequences of being ONE heir of many to the Umbrella Corporation and its fortune, its legacy.
That, and well, Alfred Ashford, the cross-dressing wonder her father had promised to her to. This escape had been more than a bid for freedom it had been a creative OUTLET for pure protest against that. At least Valean, her brother, got someone beautiful and intelligent and amazing like Alexia Ashford. That is more than she could say and there was pictures as far back as age five in which the four heirs, two pairs of twins: Valete and Valean, Alexia and Alfred, were together as if getting them used to each other young would make things 'work out' in the future for the whole entirety for the rest of their unnatural lives. No way, no thank you, as soon as she was old enough she'd found a way to bypass a trust fund her mother had established, a majority of it was still intact she'd been most frugal in her spending, the bulk of most the money she'd spent had to finish off her college tuition. One thing she was not was stupid, heavy spending tended to draw attention and she was a 'cash only' type, she didn't leave a paper trail.
It made it all the more frustrating that she'd been found NOW in her place of employment out of chance, someone had recognized her description as a missing person and now, now they were told to take her into protective custody. It was a fancy way of saying 'drag her back to her father if she didn't come quietly', "Ms. Valete Spencer?"
The male was dressed in an impeccable, flawlessly pressed suit. A pale hand with perfect long graceful fingers brushed a stray strand of brown so dark it was almost black away from her cheek, eyes a blue so intense it was almost an eerie color of frost incarnate, snapped on the speaker as he said her name. A shame she couldn't play the 'I only speak languages you don't know' card. By seven years of age, as a youth, she'd already known English, German, and Spanish in addition to her 'native' French, the fact that those were languages MOST Americans learned as teenagers not children wasn't lost on her but it had been expected for her to learn them, know them, AND retain them. By age 12, when she'd graduated from college by the way, she'd known Chinese, Japanese, Irish, Welsh, and Swahili. Languages were one thing she did enjoy; she took to them with a personal relish. Upstairs were books in which she was learning how to speak Vietnamese. Her hobby didn't serve her well here though; she couldn't ignore them by feigning ignorance to their spoken tongue.
"Yes?" her tone was steady, not a trace of shakiness of unease, a point for her because right now she wanted to bury herself far away from the likes of all those eying her for 'removing' her from the likes of these premises. Charles Ashford, after being rendered a widower shortly before her arrival had all but welcomed and sheltered her from prying eyes for the last five years and never asked a thing in return for the hospitality. Her repayment had come in the form of Angela 'Angie' Ashford, Valete had been a much needed positive, feminine influence on the young girl's life in the absence of a mother from her infancy. Half mother, half sister to Angie, half daughter, half assistant to Charles Ashford during the years in which he manufactured the T Virus which was the TRUE reason company tycoons had come to this residence in the first place. Not her, not her, why couldn't they just take the virus and go away?
Fat chance, they spoke again; their tone was attempting to be professional and conciliatory, like they were talking her down from jumping off a building. If only the opportunity was present, it wasn't a far stretch from what her mind was contemplating, "We have instructions to escort you downtown to Corporate Headquarters, your Father is waiting for you but he doesn't have long."
"What?" she heard them but she didn't believe what she heard, her Father would never waste time to see the likes of her personally, not unless he was already here on other business. That was more likely to be true.
"Your Father, he is in town on business and wants to see you, we are to bring you to him," and sure enough, she was right though they made it quite clear that thought the feeling wasn't mutual, that even though she didn't want to see the likes of her Father they'd drag her to him if need be. At this point, fighting would be utterly pointless, especially since Ashford was having a hard enough time; he had seemed to deflate after they'd already taken the virus off his hands.
The T Virus was valuable; the bread and butter of his research but it possessed attributes as heinous as it was useful. One of the first things she'd learned with its research going around the house is that it wasn't quite 'right' though, it was extremely dangerous – unstable and contagious as hell, certainly not made for everyone was putting it lightly. The T virus wasn't Charles Ashford's brain child, it wasn't even his discovery but its cure – the antivirus and how it could be used for good was. Charles Ashford was a philanthropist, an agent of good in a solid sea of corruption as far as the eye could see at least in the likes of the Umbrella Corporation. The man resented the fact his invention of the T Virus' positive use as a medical miracle for the disabled and defunct, mentally and/or physically, was now being commandeered by a company that would only see its value for destruction and death, well un-death actually.
Valete nodded, "Alright," she gazed over at Charles Ashford, making eye contact long enough to send a silence message over the distance, giving him a look both full of gratitude and encouragement. She'd set things right, she'd make sure that in the wrong hands his research wasn't used for the wrong reasons. She rose, following a male that took the lead, another followed at her back. Protective Custody - no matter how pretty it sounded it still was, in essence, imprisonment.
Her Father being present 'in town' wasn't the only surprise she was met with upon arrival at the Umbrella Corporation Raccoon City Headquarters, she barely turned to go down the corridor leading to his private 'top floor' office when a figure pushed himself out of a chair in the waiting room, with an uttered cry of, "Valete!"
For anyone else she'd not have bothered to stop but for that voice, for the loneliness it conveyed in that one word, she had to. It was her brother – Valean, and from the way he said her name to the rough but emotion-felt embrace he gave her in relief let her know he'd not changed a bit. Five years apart hadn't really put any chasm between them, she loved him. Five years ago she'd considered bringing him with her but only considered because she knew deep down that he'd never do what she did, he'd never go away, would never run away, "Why? Why did you run off like that?"
It was also why she could not answer him now, he just wouldn't understand. A soft smile curved at her lips, it was easy to smile around Valean, so easy it almost seemed natural and perhaps it was, "Later…a lecture waits…," probably more than a lecture actually but for the first time she was actually reassured that she'd not be summarily disowned. For one why go to the effort to drag her ass down here if only to tell her to 'get lost'. That and Valean was too raw, too naïve, too emotional to be trusted to run a cutthroat company like Umbrella Corp. one day which meant her father wanted her, NEEDED her still whether he liked it or not.
Valean was the shining figurehead and Valete, she was the brains behind the operation, her eyes everywhere, her hands were in everything – important or not. Ozwell Spencer had been brilliant in his plans, placing Alexia beside Valean, masking his incompetence with a bride who was the epitome of beauty and intellect while leaving Valete nearby to protect Valean from himself and the likes of anything else that could pose a threat (Alexia) to him or to the Spencer dominance of Umbrella Corporation. In the years since she'd been gone Valean had not gotten wiser, he was still the same idealistic schoolboy which meant that both international business and politics would see him dead without her and Daddy to watch his back. The second wasn't going to live forever, their mother certainly hadn't.
Another small reason she didn't get along with Ozwell Spencer. Valete couldn't explain it but she got the feeling that he was responsible for that fact. Verena Spencer's death was almost convenient, more mysterious than it was tragic, she'd just died in the prime of her life, autopsy revealing that absolutely nothing wrong with her. It was possible for such a thing to happen but not probable. Especially since their parents had begun to have 'falling outs' in which the fights were both public and private, the separations between Ozwell and Verena downright scandalous and ever so damaging to the Spencer reputation. Verena was never allowed to take them with her, either of them, as children they belong TO and with their father. It always broke the likes of Verena's heart to suffer it for long; she always came back and was always made to regret it. It was seeing that venomous revenge her Father exacted on her Mother that made her mind think the stretch from a few abusive injuries to murder wasn't far. Valete was certain of it, he'd done something and it was another reason to hate the bastard, even if silently.
For the first time she realized how much her own situation RIGHT NOW paralleled to her Mother's. She'd separated, ran away from her Father but unlike her Mother she'd not come back of her own volition, even her love for Valean hadn't made her want to toe the line and come back into the Spencer family. Nevertheless, she felt a twinge of fear to be going to face her Father, would he be angry with her as he had been with Verena? It had been five years, such a short time but before she left she'd been 'out of touch' with her father and now those five years seems like a chasm of time, time enough for them to be 'utter strangers'. In a sudden instant her bravado had shrunk down into nothing, she really didn't want to do this but the choice was made for her. Apparently her escort had taken her inaction to mean that she wasn't cooperating, one of them grabbed her arm with one hand and opened the door of the room with the other, opening it just enough to push her inside and shut it before she could think of turning around to escape.
At the sound of her name, she turned in the direction of the voice. By the door a short, narrow hallway led into a spacious office with light shining at the end. Cautiously stepping forward she tried not to be or appear timid, she had to remind herself that she didn't regret her stint of freedom, her Father was simply that intimidating. Ozwell Spencer was not a man to be denied and she'd done just that until now, "Father."
"I suppose I should be grateful to hear that out of your mouth rather than find ourselves on a first name basis," his mouth twisted into a wry frown of disappointment, "we've got to talk, Valete, we've got to come to an understanding. You've got to come to an understanding about what it means to be a part of this family, the Spencer family."
"I do understand, I understand enough to know I didn't want it, I wanted out so I ran away."
"Like a child, you ran away like a common child when you should have been growing into a woman, a responsible young lady. Was it the Ashford boy? If it is than you need not worry about him, the engagement betwixt yourselves was called off a long time ago because of Alexia's death and your foolish escape. It was clear neither arrangement was going to happen."
"I wasn't even that, that was only a small part of the entire picture."
"Then what is the rest of it?"
"You and being YOUR daughter," she couldn't stop herself, she was so sick of the media circus that followed her and Valean and their mother, their whole damn family, every damn movement and every damn step, "I could never be the RIGHT way, be the right daughter to you under the scrutiny of the media looking glass."
"You'll never escape from it, Valete, especially not now. I was surprised when you avoided being found when so heavily sought. I exhausted every media avenue, trying to mold it into a tool of benefit when it came to finding you. It is hard to hide from Umbrella but you knew that so you sought refuge where we were least likely to look, amongst ourselves. Charles Ashford is an employee and his brother, Edward was a good friend of mine, I never thought to find you there, right under my nose," somehow her Father managed to sound both like he was congratulating her and disappointed, "I am generously not pressing charges against Mr. Charles Ashford for the incident, for 'aiding and abetting a minor' in escaping their legal guardian. However, things can't go back the way they were, Valete. The media will never let you disappear, not after the scandal of your 'flight', the way you just ran away and vanished off their radar as well as my own. Thus you might as well get to used to it sooner rather than later. You want them to leave you alone? You settle down, lay low. They'll always be interested in you and Valean especially as you grow up to take roles in the company and expand its legacy with your own accomplishments but it will fade into the background. In time the attention the media will give you will be polite and modest, not intrusive. You will get used to it."
But I don't WANT to get used to it, she thought but her Father was right and on multiple accounts. It had been hard enough to escape notice of the media OR Umbrella to escape and run away the first time, now that her race was run and she'd been found out it wouldn't happen again. She might as well make the best of what was left to her. Valete was only too relieved that Ashford would not pay for the likes of her defiance, "So now what is left?"
Her Father smiled, it wasn't really pleasant, it wasn't happy because she'd been found 'safe and sound' he was happy that she agreed with him, saw the wisdom in his words, and was resigned to fall back in line. He mistook her resignation to think she'd do exactly what he wanted to do, she had every intention of haggling for a better deal, it was in the blood after all.
"I would like to announce that you have been found and are returning home with me to France, if you cooperate we can spin this tale to our advantage if we work the angles just right."
"No, I, I don't want to return to France. I like it here…," it was an utter lie, but she didn't want to be close to him, not close enough for him to start controlling her life again.
"I see…you wish to resume your education, get your college degree," he made it sound like it was her FIRST college degree. It was predictable; he didn't know her or what accomplishments she had.
"I got my degrees in Computer Science and Law at age 12, I graduated college before I ran away," she informed him, to most parents having their kids complete a college program at such a young age would grant instant bragging rights but for her? It still left her LEAGUES behind Alexia who had been plain BETTER, perfect in fact. Alexia made her accomplishments seem like nothing special because they weren't next to what SHE'D accomplished. It was hard to muster any sort of sadness at hearing about her death, it was one less things Valean had to worry about and she didn't have a model of perfection to follow and always fall short of, "but ideally, yes, I would like to finish my degree in Biochemistry."
"Biochemistry…," his tone almost sounded approving, it threw her off guard, "and after that, you will need employment. I recall that your current employment is on hold. You were acting as a research assistant to Dr. Ashford in an unofficial capacity."
"It is hard to do it now since you've taken OUR research."
"I took what I was entitled to, the virus in question is the property of the Umbrella Corporation and thus it belongs to me. I funded your research and Dr. Ashford agreed to the terms laid down at the time the contract was made."
"His daughter couldn't walk! You think he was seriously going to say 'no' to any chance to fix that fact? To give Angela Ashford a normal life, the normal life of a girl in her age group?"
"His research isn't over, it isn't done but according to the terms of the contract the virus is returned to our keeping and any further research is done under strict scrutiny. Taking into consideration the dangerous nature of the T-virus I would think you understand why we wish to take account of our assets and see to its containment ourselves."
That argument silenced her; she had no reply for that, it made SENSE. Charles Ashford might be careful with the sample but anyone could make a mistake and when he did the research right out of his home well he endangered the whole of Raccoon City's 853,000 populace. If it was inside the company….maybe an outbreak could be isolated, contained. Valete hated it but she agreed with her Father. Another smile curved at his lips, wrinkles of age showing in abundance where before she'd left she'd not seen them. It took her a moment to recall his age of now 67 years, her Father had been so involved in the company's start that he had married and sired children at the very late age of 50 years. Perhaps her earlier thought of him getting his affairs in order before, before he passed on wasn't so farfetched though truthfully Ozwell Spencer didn't look like he was going to do them the favor of dropping dead any time soon.
"Now…I have a vacant position that will make use of your biochemistry degree as well as your computer science. A new underground complex named the Hive is in need of computer expert for the interim, an artificial intelligence is being constructed to take care of the Hive in the future. The T-virus is going to be moved down there, isolated. I want you to move down there and see to its security yourself. I have a feeling you'll be grateful for the seclusion the Hive offers, no media."
Valete looked up, knowing that shock showed on her facial features, "None?"
"None, the nature of the work down there is not for the likes of the press," his tone clearly brooked no exception on this fact and she wondered what her Father was hiding behind that veiled tone, "Valete, I don't want to after what you've done but I NEED to trust you. Can I?"
It seemed like an odd question, if she failed in securing the T-virus than it would only hurt others. Her father could trust her to take the work serious, he could trust her as far as that so when she spoke it wasn't a lie, "You can, Father."
"Good, then let's get you settled in after dinner, I don't suppose you'd object to sharing your evening meal with myself and Valean."
"Don't you have to go elsewhere?" she was sure that her 'escort' had told her that her Father was only available for a short while.
"I can cancel the rest of my appointments for the day and evening, it will be no trouble," still he made it sound like he was doing a special favor for her, that she should be grateful. It certainly was a good thing that she had NO life, like dates or engagements or nightlife activities because it meant she didn't have to clean her schedule to work around his. It was only too apparent he expected her drop anything and everything on his whims. A childish part of her wanted to refuse him, just to get a reaction out of him but she easily quelled it, it wasn't worth the progress she'd gotten out of tonight.
For now she might regain some of the cherished freedom she lost. No longer promised to the likes of Alfred, her Father wasn't dragging her home, she was left in America to her own devices and beholden only to this new 'job' of hers. It was more than she'd ever hoped for.
The dinner was a private affair; blessedly her Father had not made it a public affair by taking them to a restaurant in the media-infested public domain. Clearly a persistent few had picked up the fact that the overall President of Umbrella Inc. was not only out of France, stateside, and more importantly present in Raccoon City for the evening and it was of interest for everyone to find out why. The meal was relatively pleasant, her Father's silence matched her own and Valean provided a steady stream of conversation about what had been going on since she'd left. It was informative but dull, Valean didn't have the ability to captivate an audience so she politely endured dinner, already looking forward to the fact that tomorrow they were both returning to France. Valean was a bit put out by the fact she was not returning with them and his upset seemed genuine enough that she felt sorry about it. Then it was over, the dinner was abruptly ended when a faceless drone of a man, complete with suit and sunglasses came into the room, "Mr. President, we are ready, the Arklay facility is prepared to greet you."
Her father pushed himself out of his seat and rose, he didn't even so much as pay attention to Valean, he had eyes only on her and they were eerie as hell in that moment, carefully she brought her own to his as she polished off the last of her desert, "Come, Valete."
The way he singled her out like that made her very uncomfortable, not only because it drew Valean's attention in a very BIG way but from the fact it wasn't going to be any pleasurable trip, his tone hinted at least that much. This was business and like it or not she sold herself to the devil and she was going to get in the thick of it, get involved but just what that entailed was the question. What was she truly getting herself into?
Scarcely able to hear the scrape of her chair pushing out against the floor or her footsteps, she followed her Father but she stayed back as far as she was able to without them losing her. In the car, she sat in the back seat with her Father. The both of them were stiff, for him it was out of habit for looking austere and for her it was sheer unease. They were also silent, just as they'd been at dinner, as silent as the dead.
They drove out of town, into the mountains until she came to the familiar sight of a mansion, she'd seen it once and a long time ago they'd spent a few brief days upon its premises while her Father was there for business. From what she remembered of it, her Father had paid for from brilliant architect, George Trevor, to 'stretch out his legs' so to speak and create a true wonder of marvelous and puzzling proportions. As soon as the car stopped her Father got out of the car, barking out a single order for her, "Get out."
She obeyed instantly and this time she stuck close to her Father and his escort, for one she had no clue where they were going and two she really didn't want to get lost in this mansion which was possible. From what she remembered it was a maze, its passages and rooms labyrinthine. The mansion was grand but its dark interior did nothing to reassure her, the place seemed cold. There was no lived in feel to it, it was a place built to be admired not used. If Mr. George Trevor was still alive she wasn't sure how he'd feel to know his work was admired but that it wasn't truly of any use to anyone.
The Mansion as it was turned out to hold a secret, it was an entrance into a huge underground complex which her Father had already named the Hive, apparently named thusly because its architectural blueprints showed it was shaped like a bee hive. For the time being until the 'Red Queen' was ready to take over management of the Hive she was to move down here. Truthfully the job sounded pretty dull, she was simply to make sure that the scientists followed carefully laid out protocols and sets of rules to keep an viral outbreak from occurring, she was the Head of Viral Security, "All this, it seems to be a bit much, I mean I understand all the numerous stringent safety measures but is this whole complex necessary to house and experiment one virus?"
The way her Father froze suddenly made her wish she'd never said it, ignorance had truly been bliss. In truth she'd been a fool, the T-virus WAS NOT the only virus, it was far from it. The T-virus was the latest in a series of viral strains which originally evolved from the 'Progenitor' virus. She had no clue that her Father's interest in biological weaponry went so far back though frankly she was put off because unlike the T-virus some of them had no practical medical use yet he continued to fund research for them, even though they showed that some strains were solely destructive in intent and nature. All along, she'd been right, she hadn't wanted to come with her Father or get caught up in his web but now she was caught up in it and there was no real way to escape, "Father, what is this?"
They were overlooking experimentation on the T-virus at work, every bit of her didn't want to know but it was the kind of thing that once you saw it, you couldn't possibly in good conscience ignore it; you couldn't turn your back on it and pretend you never saw it. Certainly she wished she hadn't, deep down she'd always known the T-virus was a plague but she'd comforted herself by saying the ONLY reason her Father bothered with it was because of the 'good' it could render as a cure to the infirm, the deformed, the incomplete but now before her eyes she saw the opposite. Her father was funding experimentation on the ills of the viral strain, as if it held more interest if it was dangerous. If she knew her father its capability as a biological weapon was of more interest because it was more profitable. It made her sick, it took everything in her not to walk away and take what she saw with her underneath the veil of sleep straight into her nightmares.
"This is Umbrella's TRUE purpose, Valete; the rest is just a front. This is my life's work, making the market of and a profit off viral weaponry. This is where our fortune comes from; this MORE than supports the cost of running the company. I need you to do what I know Valean cannot; I need YOU to see that it continues, safely uninterrupted for the sake of the company, its legacy, our family, for me."
How very foolish it had been for her to think her Father just wanted her to oversee Valean, to see Valean survive a business action or his first skirmish within the political arena. He didn't care about them, it was ALL about the company and how they could serve its interests.
Her Father clearly expected her to not only condone it but continue it…she wouldn't.
The resolve to stop it made the lie flow easily between her lips when it came, there was an intense promise in her gaze as she brought her eyes resolutely to his, the resolve was to stop it as soon as she could and make that happen by any means possible but he mistook it that she'd do the opposite, that is certainly what she 'said' she'd do, "I shall."
A/N: The Sad Story of THIS Fan Fiction
This UNFORTUNATE fan fiction has been written three times (including this time). This is the LAST time I am going to bother re-writing it and I am going to try really hard to NOT give into the urge to delete it. Initially this fan fiction was written because I wanted the outbreak to be told from the point of view of someone who was heavily involved in Umbrella (like they had to gain from the company's successes but didn't because they chose the 'right' path) someone who was more brains than brawn (hence a scientist-like character) AND I wanted the character to not be entirely human for reasons other than genetic or viral experimentation.