Disclaimer & Notices: See Chapter 1.
by Red Hope
Hot light plumed loudly followed by a rush of extreme heat once the rocket collided with its final end. A rhythmic pounding tailed behind the explosion then the scream of chopper blades that nearly collided with the adjacent building’s glass. A fireball roared past the front of the helicopter that flew on its side, hanging by its rotors in midair.
Inside the cockpit, Jill Valentine was confessing every sin she’d ever done against mankind, along with highlights of cuss words. Her hands were tangled in handles above her head and barely kept her in the cockpit. A stolen glance at the pilot renewed her faith in God.
The pilot, Claire Redfield, was in her glory as she demonstrated her airmanship. Both hands were wrapped securely around the stick, and she was a part of the helicopter. She forced the helicopter to become aerobatic, and together they fought the impossible g-forces that compressed against them. Claire waited for the opening then suddenly slammed the throttle in, and her body molded into the chair. Sharply the helicopter shot forward after the fireball vanished past the nose. The helicopter still hung on its side between two skyscrapers.
Once free of the tight airspace between the buildings, Claire rolled the helicopter onto its belly again and rapidly climbed up into the nightsky. They were all safe, bruised but safe. Not able to help herself further, Claire turned the helicopter to the left and spied Alice on the rooftop below them. She clenched her teeth at the ensuing battle.
“Are there guns on this goddamn thing?” Claire hollered at Jill.
The detective gasped yet again after discovering her heart still worked somehow. She considered Claire’s question then breathlessly answered, “This is an evac helicopter.” Seconds later she realized what Claire wanted to do so she ordered, “We have to get out of the city… before it’s nuked.”
“We can still help Alice.” Claire continued circling the rooftop. Her eyes flickered between the battle below and the helicopter’s instruments.
“Do you want to get these people killed?” Jill snapped. She hadn’t gone this far to let civilians die. And she had promised Alice to get Claire out too. After a moment, she wasn’t sure if she’d talked some sense into Claire or not. Jill was dangerously close to grabbing the control stick until the helicopter banked to the right.
Claire sent a silent promise to Alice. She would come back for her, after she got the others to safety beyond the city.
Jill visibly relaxed in the copilot’s seat after the helicopter started out of the city. She glanced at the overhead compass, which indicated they were going due north. Off in the distance, the moon glowed on the treetops like a silver ocean. Jill tore her attention off nature’s beauty and looked over at Claire.
“Where are you going to land this thing?” the detective inquired over the headset’s microphone.
Claire smirked and glanced once at the detective. “Right on Route 23.”
Jill blew out a breath but decided it was good as any spot. It would be behind Umbrella’s lines and that was most important to her. Once her boots were on the pavement, she planned to call one of her friends and get the passengers in the helicopter hidden away from Umbrella. She didn’t doubt that Umbrella would want to quarantine survivors, or worse.
“There’s a good spot,” Claire remarked and pointed at it. “Just after that billboard for Umbrella.”
A low huff came from Jill, but she agreed that it was a good, clear landing spot.
“Here we go.” Claire maneuvered the helicopter overtop of the landing spot. Slowly, she drew back on the throttle and allowed the helicopter to descend at a controlled rate. Once she was fifteen feet over the ground, Claire let it gently sink the rest of the way until the landing skids settled onto the grass next to the billboard.
Detective Valentine was already undoing the seat harness.
“Get everybody out while I shut ‘er down,” Claire loudly suggested. She caught Jill’s nod before Jill was gone from the cockpit. Within twenty seconds the buzzer for the side door alerted Claire that the others were departing the aircraft. Claire unhooked herself from the chair and left the helicopter running in a parked position.
Nervously, Claire edged out of the cockpit but stayed somewhat concealed from the others in the bay. She carefully watched everybody exit the aircraft from the side door, the last being Jill Valentine. Hastily Claire rushed into the pilot’s seat then hit the throttle, which forced the helicopter to jump up into the air.
L.J. stumbled away a few steps while twisting his head upwards. “Holy fuck!” He shielded his face from debris. “What the Hell is she doing?”
Jill repeated half the cuss words from earlier. She should have known that foolish mechanic would go back after Alice Abernathy. “Damn her,” Jill hissed and glowered at the retreating helicopter.
“Is she going back?” Terri Morales asked the detective.
It dawned on L.J. too, and he shook his head. “She fuckin’ crazy.”
Carlos placed his hands on his hips. “She’s got some guts.”
“Try some balls, yo,” L.J. corrected the former Umbrella solider.
Jill still shook her head but right now she could do nothing for Claire or Alice. Instead she could take care of the others with her. She retrieved her cell phone and was amazed that it had any bars out on quiet Route 23. Finding the name she needed, she called her friend.
Off in the distance, a helicopter’s lights dissolved into the darkness of Raccoon City. In the aircraft’s pilot seat, Claire Redfield was navigating through the climbing skyscrapers that reached into the sky like fingers. She needed to get to center city where she’d left Alice Abernathy on a rooftop, desperately fighting a monster. From so many miles away, Claire spotted a rooftop that lit up from a small explosion. She growled and nearly hit the helicopter’s controls despite it would do nothing to make it go faster. Nothing.
The explosion rippled through the air, and the heat washed over Alice despite she’d jumped and rolled out of the way. She flung her head up while her left hand shot out and snared the dead Umbrella solider. Sergeant Nicholai Ginovaef’s blade would come in handy now that Alice had a plan in mind. She gritted her teeth and popped onto her boots
Alice glared at the monster, Nemesis, who was just as strong as her. Alice knew Nemesis had suffered under Umbrella’s needle, like her. But somehow she’d adapted to the virus much better than him. Now it was Alice’s chance to prove just how well.
At her top running speed, Alice blurred across the rooftop and came right at Nemesis. She watched his hands hurry for the Gatling gun again after dropping the rocket launcher. His finger molded against the trigger and prompted Alice into a high jump after two more wide steps. She soared through the air while bullets swept around her, missing by centimeters. Her fierce cry overtook the Gatling gun’s roar.
Nemesis lost track of his enemy after she rolled over his head. Suddenly the Gatling gun jammed and the last shell fell to the ground. He roared in protest and started turning with his left arm stretched out, prepared to strike Alice. Sharply he halted from the cold steel that sliced through his skull and pierced his brain. His roar faded out, and he remained motionless.
Alice gritted her teeth and attempted pushing the blade deeper into Nemesis’s head. She stilled though when blue eyes locked with hers. Dark memories from Umbrella’s Hive hit her hard and made her gasp in pain. “Lisa,” she breathed out, in horror. Alice read the recognition in Nemesis’s eyes.
Alice stumbled away several steps, the bloody knife in her hand.
Nemesis fell to her knees. The Gatling gun slipped from her fingers and loudly boomed against the rooftop’s concrete.
“Oh god,” Alice whispered in agony. “No.” She stared at Nemesis’s profile, and the memories of her and Lisa’s escape from the Hive rained on her. They’d barely escaped with their lives until Umbrella scientists swept them away from the mansion. Then there were the experiments for days, weeks, or maybe a month. Alice had no idea how long it could have been for her and Lisa.
Alice crumbled to her knees and yelled, “Nooooo!” She dug her nails into the rooftop, which broke apart under her strength and rage. After all she’d done to save and protect Lisa, now Alice had killed her.
Nemesis remained on her knees, breathing raggedly. Slowly her brain started shutting down until a charge rippled through it. Eerily the Umbrella logo flashed in her blue eyes then vanished even faster. Nemesis wanted to rest, but her mutated body was no longer hers. Her left hand stretched out, going for the rocket launcher that had one last round.
Alice gasped again and slammed her fist into the concrete rooftop, which cracked in several directions. With tears on her face, she looked up until she could see Nemesis again. She rasped several times, her emotions still so raw. The rocket launcher’s movements made Alice’s emotions retreat and a last gasp sparked fear in her throat.
“Lisa,” Alice whispered, pleadingly. “Don’t do this,” she hollered and struggled to her feet. She reached for her guns, but she’d tossed them awhile ago after the bullets ran out.
Nemesis climbed to her feet while turning towards Alice. The rocket launcher lifted up higher and mounted onto Nemesis’s shoulder.
Alice knew to strike her enemy. But her mind refused to attack somebody she viewed as a friend. She’d made so many promises that were now broken. What was she worth anyway if not worth more dead than alive. She fisted her hands, the bloody knife nearly breaking under her grip.
Nemesis lined the sight onto Alice Abernathy. Her finger danced on the trigger as she fought not to fire on her friend. But the forced command from her brain was so strong on her body. Her apology and sorrow showed on her twisted features.
Alice gave a yell and demanded Nemesis to kill her until her attention jerked to the left. Her eyes widened in shock at seeing a helicopter screaming across the rooftop.
Nemesis withdrew her trigger finger and twisted in time to take in the rotorcraft blades a few feet from her face. She snarled in reaction and braced for the pain about to assault her. Nemesis cried out when the first blade cut into her chest. Then the rest went black once the explosion hit her.
The impact was loud and hot after the eruption of fire. Alice was thrown across the roof and slammed into the roof’s ledge apron that kept her from being rolled off. She shielded her face as the flames ballooned out over the roof. “Claire,” Alice uttered in worry. Once the light faded, she got up and stumbled several steps.
“Claire!” Alice called out. She frantically scanned the wreckage and hastened to the crash site. Low coughs caught her ear, and she darted over to the huddled, black leather mass tucked under smoking metal airframe. She tossed aside the metal sheet, ignoring its heat. She was relieved to find Claire Redfield.
“What the fuck were you thinking?” Alice demanded.
Claire groaned and rolled onto her back. She was greeted by Alice’s beautiful features. “That did not require any thinking… only skill,” she answered and smirked.
Alice shook her head and knelt beside her savior. “It’s amazing you have your rotor license.” She check over Claire to make sure she was okay. “Can you get up?”
Claire knew they needed to go and escape the city. “I think so.” She took Alice’s help and was standing in seconds. She brushed off the dirt from her leathers while looking over the wreckage. “I guess I got him.”
“Yeah…” Alice frowned and whispered, “She’s dead.”
Claire cut her eyes to Alice and checked, “She?”
Alice sheathed the knife between her belt and jeans. “Her name was Lisa.” She met Claire’s confused stare. “We need to go.”
Claire didn’t ask questions, for now. She instead ran her fingers through her disheveled locks. “Since I crashed our ride…” She looked at Alice again. “How we getting out of here?”
Alice licked her lips and decided on a plan. “Your motorcycle.”
“They have the roads blocked off,” Claire reminded her friend.
Alice now was smirking and emphasized, “The roads.”
Claire slotted her eyes. Whatever Alice had in mind had to be a good plan, or else. Her eyes darted over to the left after movement started on the other side.
Alice also saw it and went for the knife again. She gritted her teeth when Nicholai, now an undead, rose up and started for them. But before Alice could throw the knife, Nicholai went down from one bullet to the head.
Claire kept her arm stretched out, the Beretta 90two handgun still pointed at the threat. She released a low breath then put the gun back in her waistband.
“Nice shot,” Alice complimented.
Claire gave a weak smile but made no comment after her first kill. Well it was an undead kill, she concluded.
“Let’s go,” Alice ordered. She took Claire’s hand and hurried them to the roof entrance.
Claire made a grab for the door’s moving latch until Alice sharply jerked her backwards. She gave a yelp until her next breath caught in her throat as an undead tumbled through the opening door. “Fuck!” she hollered and stumbled away from the approaching danger.
Alice swung Claire away, let go, and performed a roundhouse kick that sent the undead flying backwards into the others. “Not an exit!” She snared Claire by the wrist and hurried across the roof, hopping and jumping over wreckage.
“Goddamn those things!” Claire seethed. She glanced over her shoulder and caught a glimpse of the undead spilling out of the roof access door. “There has to be another way.” Why did she have to destroy the damn helicopter? An inward groan made her shake her head.
Alice came to the edge of the roof and smacked the ledge when she didn’t find what she hoped for seconds ago. “Damn,” she snarled.
Somehow Claire realized what her friend may have in mind. She hastily scoured across the roof’s edge until she found it, their escape. “Alice!” She waved frantically. “There’s a fire escape over here.” Yet her hopes paled once she realized how many feet below the fire escape’s landing was located from their position on the roof.
Alice raced over to the mechanic and peered over the side. “Perfect.” She brightened, greatly.
However, Claire wasn’t so sure anymore, especially once she realized the undead were closing in on them. “Unless you’re Superman’s cousin, I don’t think we can make that jump down there.”
Alice followed her friend’s worried stare towards the undead then back down at the landing, which had to be nearly thirty feet down. “Time to find out, I guess.” Without warning, she scooped up Claire and jumped onto the ledge.
“Alice!” Claire desperately pleaded. She gripped Alice’s shoulders, the hot skin burning Claire’s palms. “Are you insane!?”
Alice decided to answer by taking a simple step off the ledge. She ears rang with curse words from Claire’s nearby mouth. She sent a silent prayer that her body could really handle this. She mentally braced herself just before her boots connected loudly against the fire escape’s metal grading. The harsh vibration rattled up Alice’s legs and quickly faded once she bent her knees.
Claire gasped for air after everything went silent. Once the low groans caught her ears, she dropped her head back until she could see the undead gathering at the roof’s ledge. “Suckers,” she muttered and slid out of Alice’s arms.
“Let’s ggg…” Alice went quiet and gripped the rail after a soft but important sound caught her ear.
Claire had gone a few steps towards the steps but looked back at her friend. “What was that?” She visually searched for what she heard too. “Oh god,” she whispered. “Please no.”
Alice grew wide eye and hollered, “Grab the damn railing!” She and Claire lunged for the rail just as the rusty, old bolts whined one last time and gave out from the side of the building.
“Holy fucking shit!” Claire cried out. She clutched harder as her boots lost their footing against the falling fire escape.
The fire escape’s bolts popped out one by one and continued peeling off the side of the building. Then it suddenly halted, and Alice’s head jerked, harshly. She tightened her grip and inhaled sharply.
Claire was panting and trying to hold on as she dangled in midair alongside Alice. She peered over her shoulder and absolutely regretted it. “Oh my… god,” she shakily gasped. “We’re going to fuckin’ fall, break our legs, and get eaten alive like fuckin’ corn on the cob by those ugly, pale mother-”
“Claire,” Alice cut off. She was relieved to get a moment of silence to think. But it was short lived because the current bolts groaned in protest, another warning. On pure instinct, Alice launched over towards Claire and hooked Claire’s waist.
Claire gave a cry of protest and couldn’t hold their combined weight. She screamed louder when her hands slipped from the rail. She shut her eyes during the fall that was oddly so warm. Claire braced for all the upcoming pain, her body clenched in apprehension. Yet, it wasn’t as bad as she expected it to be, and the concrete was rather soft too. After a few rolls, she came to a stop on her side. Several deep breaths helped her gain control now that everything seemed semi-okay.
But the heavy groan from behind Claire made her sit up some. She peered around and noted Alice spread eagle on her back.
Alice covered her chest with both hands in hopes it’d somehow calm her heart and rid of the pain in her back. She stared, wide eye, at the fire escape that still hung lopsided off the building. She took deep breaths that helped refill her, little by little.
Claire was about to comment until a boom overhead made her look upwards. She was dumbfounded to see undead stepping off the roof, falling, and hitting the half fallen fire escape. “Um… that’s… not good.” She realized how serious it was getting as the new weight forced the weak bolts to let go.
Alice sighed dramatically. “I hate those things,” she growled. She rolled onto to her side then quickly got onto her feet.
The next falling undead’s boom caused the fire escape to come crashing down to the street below. Several cries followed but the fire escape missed the two women that jumped away in time.
Claire stumbled a few steps then spun around, relieved to see Alice safe too. She glared at the fire escape that saved and nearly killed them. “Aren’t there safety regulations to inspect those things?” She blew out a breath.
Alice brushed her unruly hair out of the way. “Apparently not at the police station does the regulation apply.” She straightened up fuller then turned to Claire. “We need to get to your motorcycle.” She was about to say more, except a low, grotesque scent went under her nose. She grabbed her friend’s hand. “Right now.”
Claire drew near Alice and slightly jumped, closer to Alice. She looked more to the right where an undead had fallen from the roof top. She tilted her head back in time to see several more undead simply stepping off the roof, desperate to eat her and Alice.
“Let’s go,” Alice softly ordered. Their time was short before Umbrella planned to nuke the city.
Claire nodded then was drawn down the street with Alice. She shook her head, ridding of the images of the undead falling from the roof.
Claire had a good sense of direction. She wrapped around the block until they were able to get around the police line. But a good jerk to her wrist made her halt.
“Undead,” Alice warned after they came near the police line.
Claire retrieved the handgun. “I’m so sick of this.” She walked past Alice, raised the gun, and fired on the first undead that neared her. She knew her motorcycle was only a few or so yards ahead.
Alice raised an eyebrow then a grin slid across her features. She decided to join in and retrieved the knife from her waistband. Once they were on the bike then they probably wouldn’t need as many bullets. She helped Claire clear the trail to the motorcycle.
The mechanic switched the safety on then shoved the gun into the front of her waistband. She dug out the keys from the leather pants and hopped on the bike.
Alice stayed nearby yet had her eyes open for trouble. She visually scanned while turning in a circle. The motorcycle’s loud roar was a comforting sound.
“Hop on!” Claire hollered. She kicked the stand out from under the bike and settled it between her legs.
Alice popped onto the motorcycle and put the handgun away. She sat and grabbed Claire, who also sat down. She waited until Claire had the bike turned around then she hollered, “Go to the nearest subway station.”
Not about to ask why, Claire simply nodded and turned the throttle. Like her friend, she knew every second mattered to them. From a mental map, she was able to make her way to the subway entrance on Raccoon Street. She braked the bike alongside the sidewalk, prepared to shut it down.
“Just drive down there,” Alice loudly ordered.
Claire turned her head sidelong. The surprise was obvious on her face, and she stuttered with her next words. “Y-y-you want me to ride down there?”
“We don’t have much time,” Alice reminded the mechanic. “Your bike will be faster than walking down the subway tunnel.”
Suddenly everything made sense to Claire once Alice explained it better. She blew out a breath and realized a rough ride was in her future. Most likely the motorcycle would be trashed by the end, but better her bike than their lives. She gave a firm nod then did a one eighty and drove onto the sidewalk.
Alice retrieved Claire’s handgun and flicked off the safety. She was uneasy about whether or not they’d run into undead down in the subway station. It was in their best interest if Claire could focus on the steering through the confined space. Her left arm tightened across the mechanic’s waist just before the Honda VTX teetered over the edge and went loudly down the steps.
Claire worked the brakes on the bumpy ride down the steps. Once level again, the motorcycle’s headlight revealed a few hungry faces that waited in the dark. She tensed out of reaction until three sharp pops echoed behind her. Once the undead fell, Claire assessed the pedestrian entrance to the subway ramp.
“Fuck it,” the mechanic blew under her breath. She throttled the engine, tires squealed. The Honda motorcycle plowed into the small commuter entrance, which nearly ripped off the bike’s front bumper but left it twisted upwards.
Alice hissed when sharp metal caught her right leg. She sighed once the brief pain faded away. Another two undead on the platform caught her eye so she took them out.
Claire jerkily halted the motorcycle in the middle of the platform, her eyes switching from side to side. “Which way?” She wasn’t sure what direction would take them away from Raccoon City.
“This way!” Alice pointed to her left. “That tunnel will take us west.”
With full trust, Claire nodded and tightened her grip on the throttle. “Hold on!” She wasn’t planning on a pretty jump and especially not a great landing. But she carefully revved the engine and gauged the amount of necessary power. Taking a guess, Claire shifted the bike into forward gear and went for it.
Alice snared the mechanic with both arms and prayed her ass didn’t fall off. She let out a strong moan after the bike slammed into the track below.
Claire let her breath and waited until the dust cloud settled some. After a deep breath, she twisted the throttle.
Alice groaned and wondered if this was such a good idea. Her teeth were clanking each and every time the motorcycle rolled over another wood railway sleeper. Thank God Umbrella had shut off the city’s power or else she and Claire would be in a finer mess. The only other potential obstacle they faced would be a train that was shut down in the middle of the tunnel. However, Alice suspected it was unlikely since the transportation authority probably returned the subway trains to their depot. Or so she surely hoped they did that.
Ahead, Claire noticed another platform just past the turn. She tried recalling how many stations there were in the subway before it went above ground, outside the city. But a rough estimate of six more to go sounded pretty damn good in Claire’s mind. It also didn’t comfort her so she picked up the speed even though it was harder on the motorcycle and them.
Alice was impressed by the mechanic’s persistence to get the Hell away from Raccoon City. It was a rough ride, and if Alice only came out with a headache at the end then it was a great ride too. She counted the fifth platform wiz past them. Her senses started spiking as they neared the last platform that was underground. Distantly yellow light greeted her over Claire’s leather shoulder.
Excitement charged Claire once she saw the light beyond the tunnel’s mouth. She felt safety and freedom only yards away until finally the cool night’s air welcomed her. Overhead, yellow lights lit the track that continued west, north-west from the city. Claire maneuvered her bike off the railway and onto the grass and stones beside it.
“There should be a road not far,” Alice loudly informed.
Claire nodded. She was certain too because she often saw it when she took the subway into the city. Then a car’s distant headlights going past off to the right caught her eye. Claire carefully drove across the grassy median that separated the railway from the parallel road. Once on the road’s shoulder, Claire took a second to breath and get her bearings.
Alice did the same until the far off sound of helicopters tickled her ears. Quickly it became louder and was coming directly towards them.
Claire heard it too. She twisted her head skywards, scanning for the trouble. She flinched when two loud helicopters flew past at top speed. She looked over her shoulder, down the road.
“They’re headed towards to the city,” Alice realized aloud.
“To nuke it,” Claire seconded.
Alice agreed and patted the mechanic’s leather hip. “We better move.”
The mechanic grumbled at the ruin motorcycle, but she would get over it. She went onto the right side of the road and sped down the quiet road. Claire didn’t pay attention to the speed limit since greater distance from Raccoon City only mattered to them. She silently counted the passing seconds and waited for the destruction of the city.
Alice canted her head and peered in the rearview mirror. There was nothing until a bright, white light started in the lower part of the mirror. But then it grew higher and brighter with such intensity. Shortly a roar followed it and heat was chasing it.
Claire spotted explosion in the mirror. She went paralyzed with fear when she heard it next.
Alice felt the mechanic’s physical response to the danger. Just as the motorcycle’s wheels were taken out by the explosion’s strength, Alice firmly hooked Claire’s waist. Her superior strength launched them off the tumbling motorcycle, and they went a few feet across the asphalt before they hit the ground. Dirt, heat, and sweat coated their bodies as they rolled into the grass beyond the road’s shoulder. Once the heat and noise receded, Alice checked on her friend.
Claire was limp, face scratched up, and her leather jacket mildly shredded from the asphalt. She rested, peacefully in Alice’s arms.
Alice pressed her fingertips into Claire’s neck and sighed in relief. She gently patted the mechanic’s flushed cheek. “Come on, Claire.” A few moans encouraged Alice so she continued rousing the mechanic.
Weakly, Claire lifted her head and groaned from the pain. “That’s… what I get… for no helmet.” She wasn’t sure how she was alive other than Alice somehow protecting her.
“Anything broken?” Alice checked. “Can you feel everything?” She’d done her best to use her body as a shield for Claire. But that didn’t mean Claire wasn’t injured at all.
After an inventory check, Claire moistened her dry lips and nodded. “I’m alright… I can get up.” With her friend’s help, she was on her feet but still in Alice’s arms. For a few seconds, she held Alice’s blue gaze and slowly lost herself in it, forgetting about their current problems. Yet a loud boom drew Claire’s eyes to the city down in the foothills of the Arklay Mountains. “Oh my god.” She was stunned by what was happening to the city. “How can they do this?”
“They’re Umbrella,” Alice simply answered.
Claire shook her head, several times. It was unbelievable what was happening to the city, which was filled with thousands of people. Yet none of that mattered to Umbrella or even the government.
Alice swallowed then focused on the mechanic. “You have a cell phone?”
Claire jerked out of her thoughts and quickly searched her jacket’s inner pocket. She fished out the cell phone and wasn’t surprised by the now cracked screen. Hopefully it still worked at least. She unlocked the touchscreen then handed it to Alice.
From memory, Alice dialed a phone number and was relieved that it rang. She was even more thankful when she heard Jill Valentine’s voice on the other end. “Jill, it’s Alice.”
“Where the fuck are you?” Jill started, too harshly. “How the fuck are you still even alive?” Her sighed was loud enough on the phone. “You lucky SOB.”
“Yeah… lucky,” Alice weakly agreed. She ran her fingers through her hair. “We’re on that road that goes through the Arklay Mountains.” She couldn’t think of the road’s name off hand.
“Seriously?” Jill replied in a rush. “That’s not far enough!”
“Not far enough?” Alice repeated in worry.
“Umbrella is going to set off another set of nukes with double the tonnage to make damn sure they wipe out the virus,” Jill hastily explained. “You need to get the Hell out of there!”
Alice locked eyes with Claire, who was frozen in place after hearing Jill’s loud words.
“You don’t have much time,” Jill further revealed. “Maybe thirty minutes tops… closer to twenty.”
Claire suddenly came to life and raced over to the motorcycle. She tried lifting it, but her body was weakened by the accident. She growled and bent forward, breathing hard.
“Get to safety, Jill,” Alice advised. “I’ll see ya later.”
“I damn well better, Abernathy!” Jill snapped. She hung up first.
Alice shoved the cell phone into her pocket then hurried to Claire’s aid. Unlike Claire, she was able to pick up the motorcycle with no effort.
Claire didn’t ask questions and instead got onto the bike. She hoped the Honda VTX would start up, but it was being difficult the first two times. The third time was a charm and the beat up motorcycle roared back to life.
Alice shook her head, getting the hair out of her eyes. She held tighter to the mechanic when the motorcycle sped down the road. In her head, she was doing the math and wondered if they really had the time to get far enough from city. Silently several curses went through her head, and she made a choice. There was only one good chance they could make it far.
A strong tug on Claire’s shoulder made her slow to a stop in the middle of the road. She turned her head sidelong.
“Go to the airport,” Alice ordered.
“What?” Claire grew bewildered.
“We’ll get further away by air than ground,” Alice explained. She knew how the roads in the Arklay Mountains wound every which way.
Claire blew out a breath but didn’t contest the new plan. She floored the motorcycle again and recalled that the next junction would take them south to the airport. It took ten minutes, but they made it to the airport, which was empty of any life.
“Tell me the plane is done,” Alice hollered over the noise.
Claire nodded and pulled up alongside the plane on the tarmac, next to the mechanic’s shop. She hadn’t hangared it since she was working alone earlier today. Thankfully the new cylinder’s break-in had been performed, and they could take off safely.
Alice was off the bike and already untying the plane. Along the way, she did a visual inspection that everything looked fine. The plane required a thorough check than a visual one, but Alice couldn’t waste time. If the plane failed within the next twenty minutes then it wouldn’t matter anyway. Quickly she and Claire hopped into the plane and located the keys.
Again, a short version of the checklist was performed then the engine roared to life. Alice prayed that they had enough time to get further from the city. She rushed the plane off the tarmac, down the taxiway, and did two important checks for the engine plus one for the controls.
Claire shook her head and muttered, “This is insane.”
Alice reached over and jerked on the harness strap across the mechanic’s chest. “Tighten up and hang on.” She pushed in the throttle and didn’t even bother setting the compass. Instead she flicked on the navigation lights, landing light, and put in ten degrees of flaps for faster takeoff. She shoved the throttle in full and used the pedals to keep the plane centered on the runway.
Slight panic raised in Claire’s chest, and she held her breath. But she was the mechanic and trusted her own work that’d been performed on the Cessna 150.
Alice noted the plane reached the rotation speed so she pulled back on the yokes. Just like any other time, the plane hopped off the runway. It was eager to take flight and climb into the nightsky. Once at three hundred feet, the flaps rolled up. Alice then looked past the trees, towards the city, which glowed in flames.
“This wasn’t what I had in mind for our next date!” Claire hollered over the engine’s noise.
Alice grinned, but she remained focused on turning the plane. She put the city behind them and kept the throttle mostly in so that they were moving at full airspeed. “What did you have in mind?”
Claire ran her fingers through her hair. “Something slightly more romantic!”
Alice gave a hearty laugh and teased, “I thought saving your life was romantic.”
Claire flashed a grin at her friend. “Who is saving who?” She gave a smug look and reminded, “I got you out of that damn city.”
Alice was amused but didn’t reply. She instead straightened out the airplane in level flight. Next, she set the heading indicator according the compass.
For a few minutes, Claire just drummed her fingers on her knees. She felt like she was waiting for water to boil, like Hell. It seemed as if her wait was over when minor turbulence started in the airplane. She gripped the chest harness then looked behind, only to be reminded that the old airplane didn’t have rear windows. Several curses popped out.
Alice narrowed her eyes when the turbulence increased, her grip tight on the yokes. Even though she and Claire couldn’t see the city being nuked again, they could feel it had begun. A stolen glance at Claire told Alice how scary things had become for them.
Claire had shut her eyes, strangled the chest harness, and prayers were spilling from her lips. She grabbed the door’s handle with her left hand when a harsh wake turbulence made the airplane drop down like a rollercoaster.
But that was the gentlest part of the flight as the turbulence increased like a storm. A sudden shockwave of air had rolled across the Arklay Mountains like a tidal wave. It crashed into the small Cessna airplane and put immense strain on the airframe.
Alice gave a cry when she lost control over the airplane. The yolk went limp in her hands, and she realized how right her flight instructor had been years ago. Indeed if the airplane lost its wing then she would have to kiss her ass goodbye. And her airplane just lost its left wing after the turbulence wake tore it off like a weed.
Claire’s screams overpowered the engine noise. She’d already tucked forward, in hopes to survive somehow. She nearly puked from the airplane’s whirling three sixties through the nightsky.
Every bit of fight was still in Alice. She used the rudder pedals at her feet to at least maneuver the plane somewhere towards the ground. The spins slowed only two hundred feet above the ground, and it gave Alice a chance. She aimed for the treetops, which caught the plane, temporarily.
Alice looked over at the mechanic, who was unconscious and with a red spot on her forehead and blood. She nearly reached for Claire until the Cessna airplane teetered forward then the supporting branch broke. Alice couldn’t help her scream as the plane nosedived forty feet to the ground below. For a minute, she remained passed out until the smell of fuel roused her again.
But Claire hadn’t stirred since the initial crash in the trees. She was slump in the seat and had blood crawling down her temple.
“Claire?” Alice tried. Her attention was drawn away when the smell of fuel came to her again. She hissed because she knew fuel and dangling electrical wires were not a great combination. She reached for the master switch to shut off the electricity, but it was jammed. “Fuck!” she snapped.
Every second mattered to them. Alice unbuckled then nearly fell out of the plane. She rushed to the other side and tore the door right off. Claire’s lap belt was a short setback until Alice ripped it off. She then unhooked the chest harness then extracted Claire from the plane.
A quick scan of the area made Alice realize just how much wilderness was around them. It wasn’t a great place to land, but it was perfect for a crash since they survived it, mostly. Alice darted away from the plane with Claire in her arms.
“Alice,” Claire weakly muttered. She raised her head and peered up at the older woman. She noted the frantic look on Alice’s face. For a second, Claire was confused by everything. Parting her lips, she was about to ask what happened to them. But a boom cut her off, and Claire threw her left arm across Alice’s shoulder. Again, she and Alice were airborne.
Alice cried out after she lost her grip on Claire. Straight in front of her was a large tree, which she hit head on. Then immense pain started in the center of her back and made her pass out.
Several yards away, Claire had landed on her side and was unconscious again. Her beaten body had turned into a voodoo doll today. She remained still for over twenty minutes until she came to after her body recovered from the blast. Weakly, Claire got onto her feet and stumbled a few times.
“Alice,” Claire emotionally called. A moan made her look to the left, and in the darkness, she made out Alice. She gathered some strength and hurried over to her friend only to stop a few steps away. “Oh my god,” she whimpered, her hand over her mouth.
Alice’s fought off her eyes rolling up. She dug her nails into the tree in hopes it’d keep her awake. Her boot tips just touched the ground, but Alice didn’t know that since her legs were numb.
“N-n-n-no,” Claire breathed out. She went closer and stared in horror at what’d happened to Alice.
The airplane’s explosion had caused every piece to go flying, not just Alice and Claire. The propeller had also been airborne again and found its mark in Alice’s back after its dangerous spin through the air. The prop had perfectly pinned Alice against the tree.
“No!” Claire grabbed the prop and tried pulling it back out. But it only caused further pain to Alice, who screamed. Claire backed off a few steps then spotted the prop’s other end exposed on the opposite side of the tree. There was no way to free Alice. “Fuck no!”
Alice leaned her head against the tree. Blood dripped from the corner of her lips. “You have… to go… Claire.” Her breathing was shallow.
Claire shook her head, again and again.
Alice fought off the darkness in her head. “Take your cell phone… call… Jill… go.” Yet Claire didn’t move so she harshly barked, “Take your cell phone!”
Claire was stirred from her lost state. The cell phone could still help them both. She took two wide steps then frantically searched Alice’s pockets until she had the smartphone. Somehow the damn phone had powered down and hopefully not from a dead battery. Claire growled and pushed the power button with more force than necessary.
“Claire,” Alice whispered. She found worried green eyes on her. “You were… the best date… I ever had.” She attempted breathing deeper, but it was more shallow than last time. “Thank you.”
Claire looked up from the slowly booting phone. She was lost on words and instead reacted to Alice. She leaned in closer until her lips molded against Alice’s in a kiss that tasted of metal, and it reminded Claire of her life as a mechanic.
Alice smiled after the first kiss between them. She hadn’t had one sweeter. Weakly, she leaned her head against the tree again. It was obvious the phone hadn’t finished booting up so Alice distracted the mechanic by asking about the Mechanic’s Creed. “Tell me… the creed.”
Claire looked up from the smartphone and questioned, “What?”
“The Mechanic’s… Creed. Tell…” Alice shut her eyes. “Please,” she murmured. Her fingers were tingling now.
After a headshake, the creed jumped into Claire’s mind. She recited, “Upon my honor I swear that I shall hold in sacred trust the rights and privileges conferred upon me as a certified aircraft mechanic.” She paused when Alice’s head slumped further forward. “Knowing full well that the safety and lives of others are dependent…” Claire faltered once Alice’s eyelids slid down. “Dependent upon my skill and judgment,” she prematurely ended. “Alice?”
But Alice didn’t respond to her name or Claire’s touches. Instead she’d drifted off into death where the pain was gone. She couldn’t hear Claire’s raw screams for her.
“No!” Claire hollered a fifth time. There was nothing to be done for Alice now. Claire tripped backwards a few steps then looked at the cell phone to see it’d finally connected to the cell phone tower and satellites. Hastily she pulled up the last number that Alice had called and broke down when she heard Jill’s voice.
“Alice is dead,” Claire gasped. She was rasping hard and stared over at Alice’s motionless body hanging from the tree trunk. “She’s dead!” She frantically shook her head after Jill spoke and asked questions. “I don’t know,” Claire snapped and looked upwards. “West from the city… in the woods.” Tears started down her cheeks. “She’s fuckin’ dead, Jill.” Then the phone shut off after the battery went dead.
Claire looked at the phone and grew even angrier. She threw it as far as possible. “Nooo!” she screamed until her throat hurt. Falling to her knees a few yards in front of Alice, Claire cried even harder and continued repeating, “Alice is dead.”