DISCLAIMER: See Part 1
'Is he okay?' Torres asked, striding forward to where Paris was tending to the fallen Delta team member.
'I don't know…' Paris admitted, taking the thermometer from his pack and placing it in Chapman's mouth. The leader of the team looked down and grimaced. Chapman's face was pasty and grey, and red blotches covered the exposed skin of his lower arms. Sweat was pouring off the poor man, and he groaned in pain.
'I thought you said the wound wouldn't get infected?' She asked, crouching down as Paris rolled up Chapman's trouser leg to examine it. The area around the bite was red and swollen, skin flaking away from the bloody wound.
'What the…' Paris mumbled, slipping on a pair of latex gloves and gently feeling the wound.
The others in the room gathered around them, and Torres heard the shorter scientist gasp.
Before anyone could stop her, she'd grabbed Chapman's shotgun and was bringing it to bear on the fallen man. The woman with brown hair leapt forward before Torres could, grabbing the barrel of the gun and flinging it toward the ceiling just as the redhead's finger found the trigger.
The gun went off, the recoil sending the weapon into the soft flesh of the scientist's belly. Plaster rained down, a large chunk of it hitting the brunette who'd stopped the scientist and sending her sprawling across the floor, knocking her out.
'What the hell do you think you're doing?' Torres roared, leaping to her feet.
Kathryn had recovered quickly and pointed the gun again, but this time Lanna was in the way. 'Move!' The scientist begged. 'You don't understand!'
'I understand that you are pointing a weapon at a member of my team!' She said, taking a step forward.
'Was he bitten by one of the zombies?'
'Was he bitten by one of the zombies!' Kathryn yelled, the gun starting to shake. 'He's been infected!'
A look of horror stole over Lanna's features as she turned to look at her downed team-member. His breathing had become shallow and his pallor worse still. 'No…' She said, shaking her head in disbelief.
'It's true,' Annika said quietly, moving to Lanna's side. 'I'm sorry but it's true.'
The Delta team leader turned to her, for the first time in her command feeling lost. 'So I'm just supposed to…?'
Torres felt a warm hand wrap itself around her own. 'It's the only way.'
She stood silent for a moment, staring at Chapman, and then in a sudden movement ripped her hand out of Annika's grasp. 'No! There has to be another way!'
'There's no antidote!' Kathryn said, her grip tightening on the gun as she took a step forward.
'I will not kill a member of my team!' Lanna snarled.
'Is…it…true?' A voice croaked. Everyone turned their attention to Chapman, who licked dry lips and let his eyes rove over all of them. 'Is…it?'
'Yes,' Kathryn said, her voice low and pain-filled. 'It is.'
He turned his eyes to Torres, and she shook her head at his silent plea. 'I can't…' She whispered.
'You…have too,' he replied. 'I don't want to be…one of them.' He seemed about to say more, but a cough forced the words down. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. 'Please…Lanna…' He said…'I can feel it…I don't have…much time…'
She hung her head, feeling deep despair overtake her as his head lolled to one side. Paris backed off after quickly putting two fingers to the side of his neck.
'He's dead,' he whispered, pulling off his gloves and picking up his borrowed shotgun reluctantly.
Slowly, as if in a daze, she took the shotgun form Kathryn's unresisting fingers and closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. She opened them slowly as Chapman opened his, now pearly white and unseeing. He pulled himself to his feet unsteadily and sniffed, finally shuffling toward the unconscious woman on the floor.
Kathryn ran forward, slipping her hands under the other woman's armpits and pulling. 'Please, Torres!' She said as Sam ran forward to help her move her.
Swallowing, Torres took a step forward. Suddenly, a warm body encompassed her from behind. Pale hands, shaking slightly, covered her own, giving her what comfort they could as she aimed at her former team-mate. Together, Annika and Lanna pulled the trigger.
It was a long time after the noise from the shot had dispersed before anyone moved. Torres dropped the gun from nerveless fingers and leaned back into the warmth of Annika's body. The scientist turned the solider around and wrapped long arms around her strong body, pulling her close as Lanna started to sob.
The first thing she was aware of was a pounding headache, and after that she found that someone was wiping a cloth across her forehead.
She opened her eyes and saw the cloth as it was removed, covered in blood. 'What the fuck happened?' She managed, trying to sit up.
Someone helped her sit against the wall and the worried face of Kathryn appeared next to her. 'You got hit on the head,' she explained.
The woman nodded and then something caught her eye. Looking past the small woman, she saw an area of the opposite wall was covered in blood and matter, covering part of the floor as well. She followed it down and then her eyes lit upon Chapman's headless body.
'Oh god..' she whispered, turning her head away and swallowing hard. 'He was one of them, wasn't he? That's why you went after him.'
'Yes,' Kathryn said, her throat tight.
'We have to get out of here,' the woman said, meeting Kathryn's almost grey gaze with her almost green one. 'Before that happens to you, or Annika, or anyone else.'
'You're right,' Kathryn nodded.
The woman, casting about for anything to take her mind away from Chapman, suddenly thrust out a hand. 'We haven't been properly introduced,' she said, 'I'm Nadia, and you are?'
Nadia smiled as Kathryn's hand slotted neatly into hers. 'I guess you used to work here then?'
'Yes,' Kathryn said. 'You too?'
'I used to work in the outhouses and gardens. I wasn't allowed near the house,' she said. 'What the hell is this place?'
'I can't…I…' Kathryn trailed off and Nadia looked intrigued.
'I mean, what would scientists be doing all the way out here?' She continued, watching Kathryn's face as the poor woman shook it once more, looking apologetic.
'Never mind,' I'll find out later. Nadia ran a hand through her dirty and tangled hair and looked across the room. Annika and Lanna were huddled together, the soldier showing the other woman something that looked like a letter. 'They seem to be getting on well,' she said, smiling at the pair, suddenly aware how close she and the red-haired scientist were sitting.
'You don't understand, Annika...what happened was...' She took a deep breath. 'We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for me...I fought for this assignment…I didn't think it would turn out like this…' Lanna admitted, shame painting her face red.
'What do you mean? Because of the letter?' Annika reached out and touched the other woman's arm, trying to convey her willingness to listen.
The darker woman nodded once. 'I couldn't believe my luck…I'd searched so long and then I got the letter and heard about the mission into the forest the same day. They were going to send Bravo and Charlie…' Her eyes unfocused slightly as she thought of what might have happened to the other team …'but I convinced our boss to send us instead.'
'May I…?' Annika asked, and Lanna pushed the letter into her hands. Annika was secretly pleased that Lanna would share something like this with her.
Taking the letter carefully, Annika unfolded it and smoothed it out. The header proclaimed it had been sent through the Raccoon City Social Services Department - Family Unit, and she started reading.
Dear Miss Torres.
We are happy to announce that your contact was successful. Enclosed please find the letter we received.
Her eyes read quickly, the contents making her gasp.
When I received the letter from the RCSSD, I was really surprised. I didn't know what to say or think, and I still don't, but I'll try and write it down for you. I'm so honoured you decided to contact me, and I would love to meet you. What do you do for a living? Are you involved with anyone? What's your life like? Are you happy? I'm so amazed…I have a sister!
'You have a sister?' Annika gasped.
'Yeah…I found adoption papers one day at my mothers house…turned out that she'd had two children, not just me...but my father, he discovered that she wasn't his…so he…' Annika felt her heart contract as Lanna's tough façade cracked a little more, her voice breaking. 'Anyway, I went to the RCSSD and they helped me track her down…I sent her a letter and I got that in return.'
Annika gently rubbed Lanna's arm and then turned her eyes back to the letter.
I wish I could give you my phone number, it read, but I've just started a new job and they won't let anyone ring off the grounds. It's a very well paid job, for what it is, and I get my own room in the 'servants' quarters. But, we're not allowed to leave except on weekends and we're not allowed to give out phone numbers...I'm not even allowed to tell you where I am!
'Weird…' Annika mumbled.
'When I first got the letter, I went to the RCSSD to see if they could tell me where it had come from. All they knew was that it came from somewhere just outside the city,' Lanna said.
'So when you heard about this place…' Annika left it opened ended and Lanna nodded.
'But…look what I've dragged my team into, Annika,' she said, her voice rife with guilt. 'If I hadn't of been so selfish…'
'Hey…' Lanna looked up into sincere blue eyes. 'How could you know what was going to happen?' The scientist said, gently cupping the side of Lanna's face. They stared at each other for another few seconds until they realised what they were doing. Annika reluctantly removed the hand and immediately missed the warmth of Lanna's skin. Silence descended for a few more seconds as Annika re-read the letter, until her eyes lit up as an idea hit her. 'Do you think she would know her…?' She asked, pointing to the woman that Kathryn was deep in conversation with. 'If they both worked here…'
'I don't know…' Lanna pulled a face. 'I don't think she'd be too willing to help.'
'Of course she would,' Annika said, pulling the soldier upright. The sight of the rough and tough woman looking suddenly shy was enough to make Annika grin. 'C'mon.'
Kathryn and the other woman looked up as Annika and Lanna approached.
'Kathryn…can I talk to you?' Annika said, extending a hand to help the other woman to her feet.
'Of course,' Kathryn said, looking a little bemused.
Torres looked down as the other woman looked up. She still looked faintly angry, and Lanna started to think that maybe this wasn't such a good idea.
She shook her head and mentally pulled herself together, crouching down before the other woman. 'I was wondering if you could help me,' she said.
The woman shrugged, 'I guess.'
'I'm looking for someone, I think she used to work here…I was just wondering if you knew her?' Torres said, feeling unaccountably nervous.
The other woman looked interested, 'I might do. Any idea whereabouts she worked? If it was in the house I probably wouldn't,' she saw Lanna's face fall, 'but one of the scientists might. What's her name?'
Lanna took a deep breath, fighting the urge not to ask in case she didn't like the answer. What if the woman didn't know her? Or worse...what if she did...and what had happened to Chapman had...She took another breath and blurted, 'Nadia, Nadia Williams. Do you know her?'
For a moment the woman's face was completely open, a picture of shock, and then it closed again. 'What do you want with her?' The woman asked.
'So you know her?'
'You could say that,' the woman said, leaning forward, suspicion warring with curiosity in her eyes.
Torres sighed and sat down next to the other brunette, a move that made surprise flicker across her features, but the soldier didn't notice. She was too busy thinking how to phrase her next sentence.
'Are you always this paranoid?' Lanna asked finally. 'If you must know…here.'
She thrust the letter into the woman's surprised hands and watched as she unfolded it. 'Oh my…'
Lanna suddenly found the letter thrust back into her hands while the woman desperately rifled through her own pockets, pulling out a battered and ripped piece of paper. 'Here…' she managed.
Lanna took the paper and opened it, careful not to damage it as it had obviously been through a lot, the paper torn and bloodstained. The first thing that caught her eye was the familiar RCSSD logo at the top of the page, followed by her own very familiar handwriting scrawling down the page.
'Nadia?' She managed. Looking up, her brown eyes wide, shocked and hopeful.
'Lanna?' Nadia said, a grin stealing across her face.
Lanna let out a half laugh, half gasp as Nadia shot forward, grabbing her round the middle and hugging her fiercely. Lanna wrapped her arms around Nadia and squeezed back, letting out a little laugh.
'What's going on?' Sam asked, standing over them and looking bemused.
Lanna stood and dragged Nadia up with her. 'Sam,' she said, grinning, 'this is my sister, Nadia.'
Sam's mouth fell open and a crooked smile appeared. 'Huh?'
'It's a long story,' Nadia said, smiling.
Soon, everyone was gathered around the pair, congratulating them on their reunion.
'I hate to be the one to break up the lovefest,' Paris said, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively at the last word. The women groaned. 'But shouldn't we be thinking about getting out of here?'
'For once, you're right Paris,' Lanna said, earning a grin from the others. 'But we need a plan. We can't just go rushing back out there.'
'The heli-pad,' Kathryn said. Annika nodded as the others looked at them expectantly. 'Annika and I were both trying to get to the heli-pad to send up an emergency flare and use the radio equipment stored there. The quickest way is underground,' she clarified.
'Then why were you up here?' Sam asked.
'There was…a beast that tried to stop us. We had to use the lift to escape.'
'Do you think we could make it through?' Lanna asked, hefting her gun.
The scientists shared a look. 'Maybe…there's other things down there too…'
'What's the alternative?' Paris asked. 'Ask the zombies to let us go? Maybe if we ask them nicely they'll give us an escort!'
'Shut up, Paris,' Lanna and Nadia said simultaneously.
'Everyone ready?' Lanna asked, checking her shotgun was loaded. She'd spent a quick five minutes teaching Kathryn, Annika and Nadia to shoot and re-load a gun and had distributed spare weapons between the three.
Kathryn carried Paris's rifle that he'd fixed, while the blonde man carried Chapman's pistols and Annika was looking decidedly nervous at wielding the shotgun she'd been given. Torres had discovered that Nadia's stubborn streak ran as deeply as her own as the woman had flatly refused to leave the chainsaw behind, taking a pistol but tucking it down where she'd tied the sleeves of her overalls together.
'No way!' She repeated, putting the hand not holding the 'saw on her hip. 'We might need it!'
'In case any dangerous logs attack?' Lanna snapped, stopping short of snatching the machine away.
'Can we just get on with it, ladies?' Paris said, rolling his eyes.
The sisters stared at each other, and despite the physical differences between them everyone was suddenly struck by the similarity of their postures and expressions. Finally, Lanna threw up her hands and stomped over to stand next to the blonde scientist, who smiled at her.
'Just let her take it,' she advised. 'It might come in handy.'
Torres looked up with every intention of opening her mouth and arguing her point, but all she could when she saw those clear blue eyes was nod and say. 'Lets go.'
The six of them piled into the small lift, Nadia having to be careful not to damage anyone's legs with the teeth of the saw. She saw her neglected axe leaning against one of the corners - Kathryn had dropped it when Annika had been shot - and re-tied it to the rope on her back. Lanna saw her do it and scowled, her eyes touching on the gun carelessly tucked into Nadia's overalls.
Nadia locked gazes with her, and Lanna felt her anger drain away. She saw fear there, fear that they would never get to know one another beyond the time they spent now, fighting for their lives. I just want to be prepared, Nadia's gaze said.
She looked away, suddenly afraid of the emotions rushing through her own mind and she took comfort in the warmth of Annika's body pressed against her own in the tight confines of the lift. As if sensing the soldiers' turmoil, Annika leant forward, running her free hand up and down Lanna's back.
Kathryn was also aware something was wrong, and she looked across at Nadia's face. She was separated from the woman by Sam's body, and couldn't offer any comfort when she saw Nadia's tight, nervous expression.
It seemed to take an indeterminable amount of time for the lift to get down to the third level basement, and when it did a wave of fear and tension passed through the room. Everyone subtly straightened and readied the weapons as the doors opened.
They were immediately thrust into a world of artificial light and grasping hands. Zombies filled the corridor, all of them turning toward the people as they looked on in horror.
Finally, with Lanna and Paris in the lead, the six of them left the lift fighting, clearing the way ahead step by bloody step and making good time.
'Which way!?' Lanna yelled as they reached a junction, hallways stretching away left and right and double doors facing them.
'Go left!' Kathryn called, firing wildly back the way they had come.
Moving in sync, the group started down the left-hand path. The zombies they met were, luckily, few and far between, and it seemed to them that they were doing really well when Sam paused, looking over her shoulder.
'Did anyone else hear that?' She whispered.
Kathryn and Annika shared a look, aware that what had attacked them before could not have possibly missed all the noise their group had made so far. Noise travelled well in the concrete confines of the underground facility.
The rest of them slowed, peering back into the dimness of the corridor. Just as Nadia's lips formed the words 'I can't hear anything,' a long, low hiss reverberated around them.
'Sounds like some sort of gas leak,' Lanna mumbled.
The hiss sounded again and again, sounding closer each time. The group had reached the end of the hall and had their backs against a pair of solid metal doors. Annika moved and turned around, searching for the keycard reader and sliding her card through the slot. The machine squealed and the light blinked red.
'My card's not working!' She hissed, looking worried.
Kathryn frowned and pulled hers out of her pocket. She tried it once, twice and a third time, only to get the aggravated mechanical beep and flash each time. As the scientists stared at the lock, they heard a voice behind them.
'Um…' Paris managed.
Slowly, the pair turned around. At first they couldn't see anything, except something seemed to be blocking the hallway back the way they had come, filling the corridor and blocking out the lights behind it. Kathryn squinted as the 'something' moved, resolving itself into a giant obstruction.
'What the hell is it?' She whispered.
Annika opened her mouth to say she didn't know when they realised the thing was moving toward them. As they watched it passed under another fluorescent light, being framed by an orange glow.
'Oh…' Lanna managed, watching the giant snake as it lifted its head and hissed at them, the noise so loud that it made them want to cover their ears.
'Suggestions?' Someone squeaked.
Sam and Lanna were desperately checking doors nearby, throwing themselves against the solid steel as the snake continued advancing. Paris was feverishly re-loading his guns and checking that everyone else's were ready to go. Nadia snatched the hatchet from her belt and cocked her arm back, letting it fly. It bounced over the giant animals' scaly hide, the snake not even seeming to feel it.
Running back, Sam and Lanna checked the double doors again. They were electronically locked, and there seemed to be no way to open them without the proper access card. In desperation, Lanna shot out the keycard reader, but all that happened was the door made a funny beeping noise and stayed resolutely shut.
'That always works on films!' She screamed, giving the doors a kick.
The snake was only twenty feet away, huge fangs revealed as it hissed at them again. At the close distance, the hiss was more like a deafening roar and they drew together, raising their weapons.
As one, they braced themselves and started firing, sending shot after shot toward the advancing beast. Suddenly, Nadia dropped her gun and started the motor to her 'saw, pushing back toward the doors.
Before anyone could stop her, she'd thrust the weapon toward the tarnished steel, making the machine scream in protest.
'What are doing??' Paris yelled.
She didn't answer him, forcing the whirring 'saw into the thin join where the two doors met. Having figured that they opened like lift doors, into the walls, she tried again and again to force the chainsaw between them. She yelled in victory as the machine pushed the doors the same width apart, affording her a little glimpse of the room beyond.
Having figured out what she was doing, Lanna was silently urging her to hurry, as though the shots were doing damage, the beast was still approaching slowly and inexorably.
The chainsaw was being forced in the gap it had made and Nadia was throwing her weight from side to side. The doors groaned as they were forced open inch by painful inch. The end of the chainsaw started to bend, teeth snapping off and the motor smoking. Nadia screeched and stuck her foot in the gap, planning to use her axe instead as the long haft would not bed as easily. She pulled the 'saw free and then, unexpectedly, the doors tried to snap shut again, trapping Nadia's foot between sharp edges.
She screamed as her legs gave way, dumping her in the legs of the others. Someone one else shouted something unintelligible, and Nadia looked up.
The snake was on them, its head bobbing and weaving above their own upturned ones. They were still firing but all the snake did was roar its pain at them, unable to back away. It opened its mouth and they saw a huge tongue in-between two glistening fangs.
Kathryn was trying to pull Nadia's foot from the door and they watched in horror as the snake appeared to be choosing its victim. At least the shots were now making a visible effect, green blood spraying across the sterile grey walls.
Suddenly it shot forward and everyone leapt sideways, flattening themselves against the walls. Nadia found herself nose to forked tongue with thirty feet of angry snake. The large beasts' eyes were mesmerising, large and gold flecked. The mouth opened and she was surrounded by its harsh breath, making her gag and try to move back.
Paris felt the sweat trickle down his neck as the snake inched forward, closing in on the immobile woman. He looked across the wide body and caught a glimpse of Kathryn, Lanna and Sam, horrified and frozen, and something inside him snapped. Drawing his knife from his boot, he took a deep breath and leapt.
As if his movement had broken some spell, the others raised their weapons and started firing again. At such close range the bullets tore chunks out of its body, covering them with its thick blood. Paris fought for handholds as the creature started to buck, thirty feet of pure muscle thrashing in the confines of the corridor. He crept forward slowly, slipping as the beast suddenly realised the tables had turned. It was trying to turn its head to get at the people hurting it and failing, its huge head banging against the walls. Cracks appeared in the thick concrete.
Nadia looked up at the beast as it roared, staring right down its throat. It fixed her with a baleful glare as gunshots ripped apart its body, and she revved the 'saw one last time. As it lunged for her, she screamed and threw the machine straight down its throat, watching as the battered 'saw was swallowed by the monster.
It let out a scream like none so far, and Paris took the opportunity to pull himself onto its flat head, raising his knife in both hands and thrusting it down into the soft matter of its eye. If they thought it had been thrashing before, it was nothing to what happened now. Paris was thrown into the wall, slumping bonelessly to the floor just out of Nadia's reach and the others started to panic as they were dangerously close to being flattened against the walls by the snakes body.
Finally, with one last spasm, the snake was still.
'Paris?' Sam crept forward toward the still form of her team-mate as the others made their way past the dead monster's body.
While Kathryn helped Nadia to sit Lanna and Annika took the axe from the other woman's back and put it into the gap being held open by her foot. Together, they forced the door open far enough open for Kathryn to pull the woman out. Working together, the soldier and the scientist managed to open the door and wedge it with the axe.
'He's alive,' Sam said, relief evident in her tone as she crouched over the blonde man.
Lanna bent down next to her and helped her to drag the surprisingly heavy man through the gap, resting him against the wall. Nadia slumped unceremoniously next to him, groaning as Kathryn prodded her foot.
'Are you okay?' Lanna asked softly, watching as the scientist pulled the boot from her sisters foot.
'I'll live,' Nadia said, smiling even as Kathryn carefully peeled off her sock.
'You threw away the chainsaw,' Lanna said.
'Told you it would come in handy,' Nadia replied, winking. 'I was right and you were wrong.'
'Is that all you can think about?' Lanna threw up her hands in mock indignation but a grin was sneaking onto her face.
'Just admit it,' Nadia laughed. 'Say I was right, come on.'
'No way,' Lanna placed a hand on her shoulder and Nadia's retort died on her lips. 'I'm just…'
Raising a hand to cover the other woman's, Nadia nodded, 'I know.'
'Someone give the hero some sympathy?' Paris groaned, opening his eyes.
The women grinned and leant forward, kissing him on both cheeks. He was too stunned to think of a response.
'Your foot is fine, just bruised,' Paris said, replacing his medical supplies into his pack. 'It's going to be a little painful, but I don't think there's any permanent damage.'
Nadia nodded and then looked past him. The others were at the other end of the relatively small room, which seemed to be some sort of briefing room. It was dominated by a large table surrounded by comfortable chairs, and filing cabinets were placed around the edges of the room, a small side door in shadow on the right.
Paris put her arm around his shoulders and helped her upright and they hobbled over. The conversation did not seem to be a happy one.
'What the hell has been going on down here?' Lanna said, waving a file at Kathryn and Annika.
Sam, buried in another filing cabinet, suddenly popped up with a thin file clasped in one hand. 'Boss…I think you'd better see this.'
Lanna turned and snatched the file, skimming through its pages. 'It's just a personnel file for something called…' she turned it over …'Tyrant. Weird name.' She shrugged and tried to hand it back, impatient to question the scientists again.
'Torres,' Sam said, 'look who is on the list.'
Lanna angrily re-opened the file, reading quickly. 'Sam, I don't…oh…' She showed it to Paris, who went pale and said,
'It's got to be some sort of mistake.'
Torres rounded on the scientists, 'do you know Albert Wesker?' She asked. They both nodded.
'He's our boss, the lead scientist on the project,' Annika added.
'What's the big deal?' Nadia asked, perplexed.
'Albert Wesker can't be your boss,' Lanna said, 'Because he's our boss. He's the captain of S.T.A.R.S.'
'What?' Kathryn said. 'That can't be right!'
Lanna didn't say anything, but she opened her jacket and drew a pouch from the waterproof inner pocket. Opening it, she pulled out a crisp white sheet. 'Here.'
Annika took it and unfolded it. In bold black ink, the S.T.A.R.S logo dominated the top of the page.
'It's our official orders,' she said as Annika and Kathryn read. 'Look at the signature at the bottom of the page.'
Sure enough, the scientists saw a familiar signature scrawled underneath the orders, with the name printed in block capitals underneath. Albert Wesker.
'What is going on?' Kathryn asked, not really expecting anyone to have an answer.
'Maybe I can help,' an unfamiliar male voice said from the side door.
'Chakotay?!' Lanna and Paris said simultaneously. The leader of Charlie team nodded and then broke into a grin.
'I'm so glad you're alive,' he said, walking forward and encompassing the three remaining Delta team-members in a hug, 'and I see you've picked up some survivors.' He smiled at them.
'What about…' Lanna's throat constricted and Chakotay's face hardened. 'What about the rest of your team?'
As if on cue, another man backed into the room. 'I think we're…' He said, before turning and catching sight of the others, 'clear.'
'Harry?' Paris said. 'You made it!'
The young man looked as bloody and exhausted as they all felt, but the mood had lifted considerably. Harry came forward and greeted them all individually as Paris threw an arm over the man's shoulders and grinned. 'We're gonna make it, Harry,' he said. 'We're going to get to the helipad.'
The newcomer smiled, happy to be part of something that might get them out of there. 'The others will be looking for us by now,' he agreed, 'but we also have to get in touch with them to tell them not land near the house.'
The others nodded and started to talk among themselves as Chakotay pulled Lanna to one side, his face grim.
'I think you should see this,' he said, handing her a battered file. She opened it curiously and her eyes widened.
Inside, neatly filed by date, was a backlog of communication between Umbrella Corporation, a large company that had it's fingers in many pies, and various people…the Mayor of Raccoon City, The Chief of Police…
'My god…' she whispered, the words painting pictures inside her mind. From what she could gather, the facility they were in was some sort of lab run by Umbrella, and Raccoon City had welcomed it. The lab was kept hush-hush with the full co-operation of the Raccoon City officials…was it possible they knew what went on here? What had gone wrong? And if so, why send them out? Why not quarantine the area?
'Read the last one,' Chakotay said, his voice tight.
She flicked through, finding a piece of paper that looked out of place, as if it had just been shoved into the nearest file which had happened to be this one. Where-as the others had all had 'Secret' plastered across the top, this one had it printed diagonally right down the middle in red ink.
From: UC HQ
To: Wesker, A.
Priority Message as follows: Stages one and two complete. Waiting for confirmation of test subjects arrival. Will expect full details concerning the combat capabilities of all involved. Will alert CoP to the unfortunate demise of S.T.A.R.S members.
'He wouldn't…' Lanna whispered, her eyes begging for her old friend to back her up.
Chakotay wanted to agree with her, but he had to say, 'He did. This is a set-up.' He got closer, his dark eyes brimming with indignation. 'Lanna, Harry and I…we got lost down here…we saw rooms full of, of things, being grown…they were playing God out here!'
'Are you saying they're behind everything? The missing hikers, the attacks?'
'Everything,' Chakotay confirmed. 'It was a trap to get us out here. To see how we measured up to what they…made.'
'They infected their own people?!' Lanna hissed, unbelieving.
'They thought the scientist were…expendable,' Chakotay practically spat the last word, his voice cold. 'Speaking of which…' He threw a pointed glance toward the two stood with the others.
Lanna's shoulders shook with rage as she stormed across the room and threw the file at them. 'Did you know about this? Did you?' She yelled.
'What do you mean?' Kathryn asked as she bent down for the file.
'Don't give me that!' Lanna snarled, advancing. 'You knew what you were growing down here! You knew!'
Nadia put a hand on her sisters shoulder. 'Lanna, please, what's going on?'
'Haven't you wondered what's going on down here?' The soldier snapped, whirling round. 'Why you weren't allowed near the house? What happened to all these people?'
'They know!' Lanna pointed an accusing finger. 'They infected the rest of you on purpose!'
'What?' Nadia said, her eyes narrowing as she thought of the friends she'd lost.
Annika's eyes were wide with shock as she stared at Lanna. 'What are you talking about?' She asked.
'Annika…' Kathryn said, pulling on the other woman's sleeve as the older woman read the file.
'No!' For the first time, since the nightmare had started, Annika's face was twisted in anger. 'How dare you!' She cried, advancing on Lanna. 'Do you realise what we've been through?! Trapped down here, fighting for our lives! It was an accident!' She poked the surprised soldier in the chest, punctuating each word with an angry jab as she yelled, 'How dare you think I could do that!'
'Annika!' Kathryn pulled her back and thrust the last piece of paper into her hands. 'Read it!'
The blonde ripped her eyes away from Lanna and dropped them to the paper. For a few seconds she seemed completely frozen, and then she looked at Kathryn. 'Kathy…' She whispered…'Did you know?'
The redhead didn't answer her colleague, instead addressing the group. 'Annika and I worked in the DNA labs. We weren't allowed full access to the facility, so no, we didn't know what we were growing…or rather, she didn't know. As her superior, I was allowed more access, and I did know we were doing something to do with a new type of genetic growth programme. But I swear, I did not know anything about that,' she pointed toward the paper, 'and I would've tried to stop it if I had.'
No-one spoke for a moment, and then Lanna was in Kathryn's face. 'I don't believe you,' she said quietly, her voice cold and steady. 'But I believe her. Get ready to go.'
Five minutes later, the sombre and frightened group were quietly making their way through corridors that all looked the same. The zombies they met were few and far between, and they were managing to traverse the facility more quickly than they had expected.
'Wait!' Kathryn called quietly. The rest of the group paused and looked back. The redhead was standing by a door that, to them, looked like any other, staring at it thoughtfully. Using her keycard, she opened it up and waved Sam forward.
'I remember seeing an emergency schematic for the building once, and this stuck out because it seemed odd at the time. I couldn't figure out why a lab would need an armoury,' she said, and Sam waved the others forward.
Inside, it was a veritable pick and mix of powerful weaponry, shelves filled with an array of guns and other things. A computer station was set into one wall and a stone chest by another. ' Weird,' Chakotay murmured, tapping it.
'Grenade launchers!' Paris said, looking like a kid in a toyshop. Harry smiled at him and hefted one of the weapons.
'They have different kinds of rounds too,' he said. 'Check it out, acid rounds.'
Paris grinned and they started to fill their pockets. Nadia took a functional looking shotgun, as did Lanna, leaving her rather battered one on a shelf.
No one was paying much attention to the scientists, so when they heard Annika cry, 'Kathryn!' they whirled, surprised.
The smaller woman was working feverishly at the computer station set into the wall, shrugging off Annika's attempts to pull her away.
'What's going on?' Lanna called, running over.
'You were right!' Kathryn said, turning on her suddenly. 'This needs to stop!'
'She's trying to set the self-destruct,' Annika said.
'It's the only way!' Kathryn said. 'You've got fifteen minutes as soon as I set it up, but you have to go now! The helipad is about seven minutes away, and if you run into anything, you'll need that extra time!'
'You can't stay here!' Sam argued.
'I'm staying too,' Annika turned to her colleague.
'No!' Kathryn and Lanna said at the same time.
'Someone has to lead them to the heli-pad!' Kathryn clarified, pushing Annika away. 'Just go!'
Chakotay was the first to leave, nodding once to Kathryn and heading out. Harry, Paris and Sam followed, each acknowledging the slight woman.
Lanna looked like she was going to speak, but she changed her mind, instead grabbing the woman's hand and pumping it furiously. As she left, Nadia pulled her to one side.
Annika was a different story.
'You don't have to do this!' She said, 'There has to be another way!'
'You know there isn't,' Kathryn said. 'The explosion will decimate the area. Without it, one of the zombies could make it to the city and infect someone else, who in turn would infect another, and another. And what if one of the other things escaped?' She shook her head. 'Please, just go. I'll catch you up, I promise. Go.'
Annika's eyes filled with unshed tears, but she did as she was bid, leaving quickly.
'She's right.' A quiet voice said. Nadia was leaning against a shelf full of grenades. 'You don't have to do this…alone.'
Kathryn saw what she was thinking and shook her head. 'No…you can't. You've just found your sister!'
'If it were Annika, I think she'd do the same,' Nadia shrugged. 'But you can't stop me. You see, I think we'll make it. If we set it and run after them, we won't be too far behind.'
'But your foot-'
'Is fine,' Nadia interrupted. 'Besides if you really were planning to follow behind them, you wouldn't want to be alone in a place like this. You'll need someone to watch your back. I'm staying.'
'Already knows,' Nadia said. 'I told her we'd be two minutes behind them, tops. She said she's going to time us, and if we're not, she's coming back to get us. Now, how do we set this thing?'
'Pick up the pace, people!' Lanna ordered, running at the back of the pack.
They were already about two minutes running time away from the armoury and picking up speed all the time. As unhappy as she was about leaving Nadia - and indeed Kathryn - and as much trouble as she'd had justifying the action to herself…no, bugger that, she was just pissed off that they'd stayed. But, knowing that her sister had her stubbornness, she had known that there was no way she'd of convinced Nadia otherwise, and the other woman had had a point - this was no place to be alone.
'Right!' Annika called from the front as the reached a junction.
'What's the hold-up?' Nadia asked, pacing impatiently behind the redhead.
'Something's wrong…' Kathryn mumbled…'one of the connections isn't firing up…the relays must have blown.'
'And we fix this by…?'
'Manually re-connecting the relays,' Kathryn said.
'Right,' Nadia said, grabbing her shotgun. 'Which way?'
'You can't! Not on your own,' Kathryn said, turning from the console.
'You got a better idea?' Nadia asked.
'You don't know how,' Kathryn bluffed. 'Please…'
'What do you mean 'I don't know how'? It's what I was paid to do on the grounds!' She raised an eyebrow and grinned slightly. 'What you have to do is, the moment you see the connection is fixed, set the destruct.'
Three zombies and one and half corridors later, the group stopped to catch its breath. 'Something's wrong,' Annika muttered into Lanna's ear. 'They should have done it by now.'
Lanna felt her heart rise as the chance to go back for them appeared, but she looked at the assembled faces, dirty and frightened, and shook her head. 'No, we keep going. They'll get it done.' She looked at the scientist, wanting to reach out to the other woman. 'If she's anything like me, she'll get it done.'
'Fuck!' Nadia ducked as the creature swung for her again, elongated toes holding it fast to the grates that made up the ceiling as it used huge claws to try and decapitate the young woman.
She'd found the generator room with no problem, following Kathryn's easy directions, and the first monster had taken her by surprise in the dimly lit room, digging deep into her shoulder with its viciously sharp claws. She'd retaliated, and two shotgun blasts later had found herself surrounded by them, drawn from the dark corners of the room by the noise. She'd tried crawling, but they'd dropped to the floor, running on four legs like mutated dogs, snapping at her ankles.
The only option was to stay ahead of them, which was going to be a problem when she had to stop and re-wire the relays. Perhaps coming on her own had been a bad idea.
No, she couldn't think like that, she had to keep going. She ducked into the rows of machinery, trying to find the specific panel before they caught her. Risking a glance over her shoulder, she saw them swinging like apes from the grated ceiling, only a few feet away. She fired two wildly aimed shells and then realised she'd run past the panel she needed to access. Turning down the next row, she ducked and weaved through the shadows, trying to loose her hunters. Dark generators and computer terminals flashed past her as she ran, including...no, it couldn't have been a typewriter, could it? Now her eyes were playing tricks on her! Rubbing a hand across them quickly, she made her way back to the panel and dropped to her knees. With hands shaking from adrenaline and fear, she started to work.
'We're nearly there!' Annika panted, running next to Lanna.
Suddenly, a voice startled them all, coming from a hidden com-system.
*self-destruct in seven minutes, repeat, self destruct in seven minutes. Please evacuate the area* The recorded female voice said.
They looked at each other in horror. 'Seven?!'
'Seven?' Kathryn gasped. She'd seen the relay become active and had quickly finished typing the commands to set the self-destruct, expecting it to be on the default setting of fifteen minutes.
'Nadia,' she whispered, 'what did you do??'
'Oh fuck!' The woman yelled. 'Seven!?'
She fired a few shots in the general direction of the ceiling and then, head down and legs pumping, sprinted for the exit. She felt a claw cut through the vest she wore, cutting into the skin of her back and she gritted her teeth, diving for the door.
'Annika! C'mon!' Lanna pulled the scientist through the emergency exit so hard she nearly pulled them over. Regaining the balance they'd lost, they ran forward to the middle of the heli-pad. Paris, Sam and Chakotay were in the small control room on the edge of the pad, working the radio, and Harry was sweeping the sky with his binoculars after having just shot an emergency flare into the sky above them.
Lanna raised her eyes to the overcast skies, seeing the first light of dawn appearing and dispersing the darkness, and found herself praying for someone, anyone to fly overhead. So focused was she on looking up, she almost leapt out of her skin when a hand slipped into one of hers.
'We're going to make it,' Annika whispered in her ear, making the soldier shudder.
She turned to look directly into the blue eyes of the scientist and found herself drawn into a world of blue eyes and blonde hair. She was about to lean forward when a shudder ran under their feet.
'What was that?' Harry called. 'The destruct isn't due for another five and a half minutes!'
The ground shook again, and Lanna's eyes widened. She hadn't thought about it before, but was it possible the other two wouldn't make it?
'Nadia!' Kathryn fell into the bloody woman's arms. 'I was…'
'Shhhhh,' Nadia placed a finger across the scientists' lips. 'I know. We have to go though!'
They headed out as the recorded voice called out five minutes to go. They were halfway down the corridor when an angry screech echoed behind them. They turned and saw a figured, hunched down at the other end of the hallway.
'What is it?' Nadia asked as Kathryn began to shake.
'That's what stopped us before...that's why Annika and I had to escape into the house,' she said.
Nadia raised her gun and reached across for Kathryns hand as the beast stood and began to walk forward, its claws tapping on the cold concrete floor. It screamed at them, daring them to challenge it, and they turned and ran.
'S..R…Alpha tea…to Charlie and De..a…can you hear us?'
Chakotay was almost shaking with hope as he raised the radio to his mouth. After sending distress calls for over three minutes, they'd got a reply! 'Loud and clear, Alpha team! Chris, we need immediate retrieval! I repeat, immediate retrieval! We've got four minutes before the whole place goes up!'
'We're on…ur way, Chakotay!' They heard. 'Our ETA is two minutes. Hold on!'
Sam ran out on the 'pad, over to where Harry, Lanna and Annika were waiting. 'Alpha team are on the way!' She said. 'We're goin' to make it!'
Big smiles split the faces of the three of them, and Lanna felt arms wrap around her as Annika hugged her in joy.
Just then, the shaking started again. The floor under their feet seemed to be trying to make them fall as they danced this way and that, trying to keep their balance. Cracks appeared, spider-webbing the concrete under their feet. Lanna felt the floor dissolving under them as they fought to get to safer ground and saw Annika only a foot ahead of her, nearing the safe part of the pad. As the floor caved in, she used all of her strength to push Annika out of the way.
The blonde scientist fell to the ground just outside the radius of the hole being created, and she watched in horror as the soldier slipped into the inky blackness beneath.
She looked up, tears forming, and saw Chakotay and Harry looking shocked, staring into the blackness of the hole. Suddenly, the sound of a helicopter made the men look up, and Sam and Paris ran out of the control room as the 'copter appeared out of the clouds. They started to wave, shouting at the top of their lungs as the 'copter circled them. But for some reason, it wouldn't land. A ladder started to descend from the helicopter, seeming to be lowered at a snails pace. Paris and Harry were jumping up and down impatiently as Sam came over, helping the other blonde upright.
'Come on,' she said, 'we have to go.'
'No,' Annika mumbled, 'she might be down there…injured…' she started to fight against Sam's grip and, in one massive pull forward, she broke free, sprinting toward the door that led back down and desperately trying to work out where-about in the complex Lanna would have fallen.
She was nearly there, ignoring the shouts behind her, when the ground started to shake once more. She ignored it until Sam screamed behind her, and when she did turn she could not believe her eyes.
What was climbing out of the hole was like nothing she'd ever imagined in her entire life. Its strange skin was blue and white and red, its face disfigured and its head devoid of hair. A few of its organs appeared to be on the outside of its body. As it pulled itself out, they could see it was at least eight feet tall, possibly more, and although one hand seemed normal, the other was a nightmarishly oversized claw. Once it was on the helipad, it roared at them all, throwing its head back and issuing its challenge.
Paris and Harry worked quickly, loading their grenade launchers. Chakotay drew its attention toward them as Sam once more went for the scientist. She pulled Annika back toward the rope ladder, her movements suggesting that should the other blonde try and run again, Sam would knock her out and tie her to the damn thing.
'All you do is hold on real hard, right?' Sam was saying. 'Just hold on and they'll winch us all up. It's best to tuck your leg over a higher rung and close your eyes.'
Annika nodded dumbly, not able to believe they were leaving without Lanna.
'How long Harry?' Sam yelled.
In between shots, the young man looked at his watch. 'One and a half!' He yelled.
Sam sped up, dragging Annika behind her. As they reached the rope ladder, Annika's eyes once more strayed to the hole. Did she just see…?
'Like I said, hold on and do not look down!' Sam said. She looked up and gasped as the monster filled her vision.
It was advancing on them quickly, the men's shots going wide as the monster sprinted across the 'pad. Annika looked up into it's disfigured face as it approached, and then back to the hole. A hand!
Taking a deep breath and clutching at her gun, she ripped her arm out of Sam's grasp and ran straight toward the monster.
It was as if he hadn't been expecting that, and he paused for a fraction of a second. It was enough for her to dance around him, missing the deadly swipe of his huge claw-hand by millimetres. It was also enough for Paris and Harry to catch up to him and start firing again, giving her cover as she sped toward the hole.
She slid to a stop, dropping to her knees before she'd finished moving and taking the skin off them. Leaning out over the pit, for a moment all could see was blackness, and then. 'Lanna!'
The soldier was hanging precariously from an overhanging piece of concrete and the scientist dove forward, stretching out flat. 'Hang on!'
'What do you think I'm doing!' Lanna ground out.
Annika scrabbled forward, dangerously close to falling herself as she strained to get a grip on Lanna. For a moment, her face betrayed her as she realised she couldn't get a decent hold on the dark haired woman.
'Just…go!' Lanna managed.
'No! I'm not leaving without you!' Annika said, trying to reach down further still.
'It's too late! You don't have time!' Lanna looked up, dark eyes begging the other woman to just go.
Reaching the absolute limit of her reach, she managed to grab Lanna's wrist, holding on tight. 'I'll pull you up!' She cried.
'You'll fall! Please…Annika, please!' Lanna wanted so much to grab the woman's arm, but she knew if she did, they would both fall. She couldn't allow that.
'I'm not leaving without you!' Annika screamed.
For a second, they hung there, eyes locked, and then a second and third pair of hands reached down.
'Neither are we!' Nadia yelled over the noise of the fight.
They pulled the woman onto the pad in one huge effort, helping her stand and running toward the ladder. To their left, they heard the scream of the huge monster as an acid grenade round exploded across his chest, eating into his engineered flesh.
With ten seconds to go, the chopper pulled up, dragging the survivors up and away from the nightmare. They watched as the house and helipad started to crumble in on themselves, almost imploding. Then, with a noise like the world was falling apart, the whole area exploded. The pilot fought for control as the shock-wave hit them like a hammer blow, rolling the 'copter and making the ladder whip out over the forest. A huge mushroom cloud appeared behind them, heat washing over them and the explosion so bright they had to turn their heads away. The silence afterwards was a shock, their ears ringing as the pilot got control of the craft and evened out the flight. Slowly, the ladder started to rise toward the belly of the helicopter.
Three months later:
'Lanna! Are you ready? They're going to be here soon!' Annika Hanson wandered through the house, holding a large bowl of salad in one hand and a basket of rolls in the other.
She found Lanna Torres slumped on the bed, grimacing at an item of clothing. 'What's wrong?'
'Can't I just wear my jeans?' Lanna asked, throwing the offending item down on the bed and giving Annika a plaintive gaze.
Hanson laughed and put the food down. Approaching the dark haired woman, she playfully pouted and pulled her upright, wrapping her arms around her. 'Are you sure you won't wear it? Not even for me?'
Lanna looked ready to argue, and then her grimace melted away, replaced by a smile. 'I'm whipped, aren't I?' She asked, leaning forward and gently capturing her girlfriends' lips.
'Yes…but if it's any consolation, so am I,' Annika grinned.
'Does that mean I don't have to wear it?' Lanna asked, looking hopeful.
'Oh no, you still have to wear it.' Annika laughed, kissing her once more before leaving her to change.
Just then, the doorbell rang and Annika smiled to herself. Opening it wide, she saw Chakotay and Sam stood on the doorstep, holding hands.
'Annika!' Sam said, hugging her tightly. 'You look wonderful! I hope Torres has been treating you well.'
'Oh, yeah,' Annika said, unable to hide a slight blush. Chakotay chuckled at her and followed his girlfriend through the house to the back garden, where the barbecue was to be held.
Just as she was shutting the door, a voice called out. 'Wait!'
A grinning Tom Paris pushed his way through the door and into Annika's arms, and she welcomed him gladly. Since he'd found Harry, he'd been a lot more bearable. She would even admit liking the man now since he'd settled down.
Following behind his exuberant boyfriend, Harry greeted the blonde with a kiss and a bottle of expensive wine. She led them through to the back garden, where they mingled with the others.
'I hope we're not too late?' A familiar low voice said.
'Kathryn!' She turned to find the other woman standing behind her.
'Your front door was open,' the woman explained, smiling.
Annika hugged her and then held her at arms length. 'You look great,' she smiled.
'So do you,' Kathryn agreed.
'Gone to find her sister.' Annika frowned. 'What? What is it?'
'Oh, nothing…it was just supposed to be a surprise for everyone,' Annika shook her head, her frown being replaced by a grin and a devilish twinkle in her eyes.
'What are you planning?' Kathryn asked.
'Oh, nothing,' Annika repeated.
Suddenly, raucous laughter echoed through the house. Annika's smile grew as Nadia practically fell around the corner roaring with laughter and struggling to find her breath. Everyone stopped talking as the youngest sister stumbled into the garden, almost collapsing in Kathryn's arms.
'Price…less!' She managed. 'Absolutely…priceless!'
'I don't see what's so funny,' Lanna said, walking out into the garden.
At first, no one moved. Then, a titter ran across the table, slowly growing into a chuckle, and then laughter started to sweep through the seated guests.
Lanna Torres, the battle hardened and experienced solider, looked down at the pink sundress and scowled at them. 'What?'
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