Disclaimer & Notices:  See Chapter 1.

Resident Evil: Phoenix
by Red Hope

Chapter 4

Claire was bent forward in a wood chair, her elbows on her knees, and her head slightly hung forward. She toyed with her ball cap’s brim and gave a low sigh. She straightened up though when she heard movement coming from the hospital bed. She wasn’t surprised to find Jill’s sleepy features on her. It caused Claire’s heart to speed up, but she gave a half smile.

Jill Valentine shifted in the bed then hoarsely asked, “Have you… been there long?”

Claire shook her head. “Not too long.”

Jill nodded and sat up better in the warm bed. “What time is it?”

“It’s about quarter of six,” Claire informed. “How are you feeling?”

Jill seriously considered it and replied, “Better.” She assured the leader with a smile. But her eyes traveled over to the open door when an armed man passed her door. Now her smile slipped away.

Claire followed the Umbrella agent’s gaze and had a brief glimpse of the passing guard. She looked back at Jill and explained, “It’s a precaution.”

Jill considered this and her pale features slightly dimmed at such words. “A precaution?” She met Claire’s gaze. “Because I’m not one of you.” She wasn’t dumb.

Claire sidestepped it by offering, “Because we’re not sure who you are, yet.”

Jill couldn’t find an argument since she wasn’t sure herself. She had many clear memories then others were fragments and in some spots there were holes. She shook her head and rubbed her forehead. After a tedious breath, she asked, “How do I know you?”

Claire carefully handled the question, but she felt she owed her presence to Jill. She was worried for Jill and even a little scared. Despite Claire had regained her memories, she could tell that Jill had suffered from the P30 much longer. There could be permanent damage.

“You and I went to high school together,” Claire finally revealed.

Jill was at a loss now. She’d expected many things, but that particular piece didn’t cross her mind. She let out a low breath and stared at her lap. “And Chris too,” she murmured. It seemed as if Claire’s tidbit had triggered her mind.

“Yes.” Claire leaned back in the chair and crossed her legs. “But I didn’t really meet you until your senior year… through my brother.”

“Chris is a S.T.A.R.S. member,” Jill recalled. She watched Claire nod at her. “We were partners after finishing the academy.” She brushed back a loose strand of blond hair. “Then Chris was transferred out to LA… to here.”

Claire was impressed that Jill had already recalled large pieces about her past. She was thankful though because it was a good sign. “Is there anything else you remember?”

Jill was thoughtful but old memories were slowing down despite Claire had charged some of it. She furrowed her eyebrows and checked, “The T-Virus.”

The leader couldn’t control the chill that skittered down her back. She would never become comfortable with hearing the virus’s name.

“I remember it broke out in Raccoon City… first.” Jill had a distant expression, and she pulled hard at her memories. They kept slipping out of her grip despite she tried so hard. “I was there too when it happened.” Yet she shook her head because it became fuzzy other than screaming and blood.

“It’s spread all over the world,” Claire told her friend. She found worried blue eyes back on her.

“Are there any survivors?” Jill hastily asked. She was clearly distraught.

“Not many,” Claire softly told.

Jill clenched her jaw and shook her head, but she considered her current situation. She had a nagging thought and stated, “You’re leading a group of survivors.”

“Yes.” Claire loosely crossed her arms in her lap. She tilted her head slightly and carefully regarded her old friend. “This ship has over two thousand survivors onboard.” She frowned though and admitted, “I can’t imagine there are any others left on the west coast.”

Jill huffed and muttered, “Jesus.” She had ugly memories about Umbrella from when the infection broke free. “Those assholes.”

Claire silently conceded, but she decided it was enough for now. She got up from the chair just as the nurse came in for a check. “I think tomorrow we’ll see how you’re doing.”

Jill glanced at the nurse, who was getting the clipboard at the foot of the bed.

“Maybe you’ll be discharged by tomorrow afternoon or so.” Claire felt fairly good about it after talking to Doctor Gable only an hour ago.

Jill didn’t comment and only nodded because there wasn’t much she could do otherwise. She silently admitted she was still worn, but she didn’t plan on voicing it. She hoped the aches would be gone by the morning.

Claire started to the door but called, “Get some rest.”

“Claire,” Jill called to her old friend.

Claire paused in the open door and gazed back at Jill.

“Thanks for still lookin’ after me.” Jill had a sincere tone and soft features as if she recalled previous times that Claire had done so.

Claire grinned and reminded, “I gotcha back.” It was an aged promise from their days in high school. She quietly left and decided on whether to go directly to dinner or not. She debated if she should seek out Alice, but Claire decided not since Alice hadn’t contacted her first. She inwardly sighed and started up the stairwell to get to the galley’s level.

Claire reached behind and freed her VHF radio. She turned the volume back up after adjusting it earlier so it wouldn’t startle Jill. She’d switch it hours ago to the regular channel that everybody on the ship was using for communications. She didn’t heard too much traffic on the channel, but she didn’t want to miss anything either.

Finally at the galley, Claire entered and saw it was fairly busy at six thirty. She scanned about the faces, which were a mix of familiar and still new. Claire prided herself on learning each individual’s name and something about them. She had an excellent memory when she wasn’t under the P30 chemical. Claire greeted a few survivors on her way over to the food line.

Claire was humbled by having tilapia fish, peas, and rice for dinner. She’d learned to stomach down canned food after so many years. A survivor learned that they eat anything when it came to ebbing their hunger and getting nutrition to live another day. Claire enjoyed the aroma coming from her plate, but she focused on finding a spot until her eyes locked on Luther West’s backside. But she didn’t become charged until she saw who sat with the former basketball player.

Alice continued acting like she was entertained by Luther’s presence. She forced a few smiles, but they were meager and faulty. She wouldn’t be questioned by Luther because he was careful with her, even more careful now that he’d seen her powers. Alice was displeased that it’d slightly altered his treatment of her, but she couldn’t blame him. He was just playing it safe.

“Hey,” Claire greeted the pair at the round table.

“Hey, Claire,” Luther warmly returned. He indicated an open seat. “We got plenty of room.”

“Thanks.” Claire’s tone though lacked warmth as she pulled out the seat. She set her plate down then her glass of water. She fished out her utensils that were wrapped in a linen cloth then finally sat down.

Luther wasn’t an expert on female emotions, but he easily picked out how a wall of tension built up between Claire and Alice. He was completely uneasy. He wasn’t sure who to try and talk to, but he decided Claire was his safest bet since Alice barely acknowledged Claire earlier.

“The fish is quite good,” Luther commented. “It beats the prison food by tenfold.”

Claire had a thin smile at his compliment. “I try my best with what little I have.” She hoped he caught how she was mocking him.

Luther weakly smiled back. He then looked at his empty plate and saw that Alice was done her meal too. “You want me to take your plate?”

Alice hadn’t eaten much, but she nodded and handed her plate to him. “Thanks.”

Luther decided it was his best chance to make an escape. “I’ll see you ladies tomorrow.” He was on his feet after stacking the dirty dishes. He moved away but hesitated and looked at the pair. “I hope you two get your little… spat worked out.” He felt better about poking them after how awkward it was. He quickly walked off before either of them could argue him.

“Jerk,” Claire muttered under her breath after he left.

Alice clearly heard the leader. She held her tongue and instead considered whether to go too. But she’d feel bad if she left Claire alone at the table. However, it probably wouldn’t take but a minute for others to sit with Claire. The only reason nobody was taking one of the three empty seats was because Alice was at the table.

“But…” Claire finished a mouthful of the fish. “He’s right about the fish.” There wasn’t anything better right now than the special meal on her plate. She noted Alice’s continued silence so she looked over at the older woman. “You’re not a ghost, ya know… I do see you there.”

Alice raised an eyebrow but still didn’t have anything to say.

Claire sighed, but she reached up and removed her cap. She hooked it on her right knee then continued cutting up her fish. She decided on another tactic. “I visited with Jill briefly.” She actually saw the curiosity in Alice’s eyes now. “She seems to be remembering things… more so from her distant past, before the infection.”

Alice nodded twice then looked at the people around them. “She will remember the rest… soon.”

Claire quietly considered it and posed, “When is soon though?”

“Very soon,” Alice murmured. She saw how Claire was bemused by her response. She folded her arms on the table and leaned against them.

Claire had finished off her fish and was starting into her side dishes. She mixed the peas and rice a little but ate slower now that her stomach was busy with the fish. She looked over at the line of people, who truly needed the healthy food. It made her feel good to see it.

Alice studied Claire’s profile. She could see the leader that Claire Redfield had become, most likely in a short period. But Alice concluded that Claire was born for it and probably could sing a siren song to the survivors if she wished to do it. Alice could also tell that Claire had a deep care for the people.

Claire went back to her meal after taking a drink of water. She sensed her friend’s soft green eyes on her, and she could only guess what was on Alice’s mind. She wouldn’t pry since Alice had spilled her guts only hours ago. Today had been hard for them, but especially Alice.

“When I was a kid…” Alice quietly started but let her words hang in the air for a minute. “I use to get really upset when my father picked on me.” She wasn’t looking at Claire but instead at the people in the food line. “Like if he made fun of me at the dinner table, I’d stop eating and run upstairs to my bedroom… hide there until he or mom came for me.”

Claire couldn’t imagine her friend being such a withdrawn child. She’d been the opposite in such a situation.

“I was closer to my mother though,” Alice continued telling her friend. “If she upset me then I wouldn’t speak to her for days until she came to me first.” She shook her head and looked down at the table. “I guess some things don’t change about me.”

Claire understood what her friend was telling her. It was hard for Alice to handle upheaval in her close relationships. It was no wonder Alice resisted getting close to anybody and stayed on the move constantly. After putting her thoughts aside, Claire reached over and gripped her friend’s bare wrist.

Alice finally met her friend’s tender gaze. She lost her cold attitude and mirrored Claire’s smile.

Claire released her friend’s arm and went back to the last of her meal. She could tell they were okay again. She hoped in time that Alice would come to realize that Claire wouldn’t betray Alice.

“I am tired,” Alice softly confessed to the leader. Her voice was so low she wondered if Claire had heard her after a minute.

“You’re probably still recovering.” Claire thoughtfully glanced at the older woman then set her dirty fork and knife onto the empty plate. She drank more of her water but rested in her chair. She was quite content after a wonderful meal.

“I don’t know.” Alice leaned forward against the table. She stared hard at the wood grains but didn’t find any answers there. “I think it’s something else.” She couldn’t put her finger on it, especially when her mind was worn out.

Claire studied her friend for a moment before speaking again. “You think it has to do with your powers?” She picked up her clean spoon and just played with it on the table.

“The virus,” Alice murmured. She peered up at the leader with her green eyes. “Something is changing… in me.”

Claire lifted the spoon off the table then set it back down. It gave her a few seconds to think. “Your telekinesis seems stronger,” she whispered. She looked up from the spoon to her friend. She rested her right hand closer to the edge of the table. “I remember you passed out after killing the infected crows in Nevada.”

Alice dipped her head in acknowledgement. She recalled that morning too after just destroying her motorcycle the night before in the desert. She drew back from the memory and focused on Claire’s dirty plate then the lonely spoon. Alice focused her mind on the spoon.

Claire nearly jumped when the spoon moved an inch, seemingly on its own. She looked at Alice, who had a soft, blue hue ring around her eyes. She returned her attention to the spoon, which was slowly spinning on the table like Claire had done earlier.

“It’s become…”

“Easier?” Claire softly suggested. She hesitantly stretched out her right hand towards the turning spoon.

Alice continued playing with the spoon as if it was a normal occurrence. “Yes… but it’s becoming…” She tried finding the right word for Claire’s sake.

Claire waited for her friend to figure it out. She instead touched the lively spoon and watched in fascination when it lifted up and floated on her fingertips. She knew she wasn’t balancing it as it spun on her middle finger. It seemed magical and even beautiful.

Alice was intrigued by Claire’s own curiosity and comfort with her powers. She allowed the spoon’s handle to sink into Claire’s fingers.

Claire felt the spoon’s weight, and she easily started twisting it through her fingers.

“It’s becoming natural,” Alice finally explained.

Claire set the spoon down then looked at her friend, who now had normal eyes again. She canted her head and decided to bring that up with Alice. “Have your eyes always glowed blue?” After Alice gave her a bewildered look, she had her answer. She better explained, “Your eyes glow anytime you use your telekinesis.”

Alice sunk back in her seat and stared oddly at Claire. “Glow?”

“Yes… light up,” the leader further clarified. “They glow a bright blue like…” Claire shook her head and compared it. “Like one of those nice LED blue light car effects.”

Alice was stumped and stared at the space between her and Claire. Then her mind processed Claire’s example, and she had to laugh.

Claire shrugged and didn’t bother justifying her choice. She was a mechanic at heart and a leader in her soul. She just traded a grin with Alice.

Alice sighed, shook her head, and started getting up. “Come on.” She took Claire’s plate after grabbing the lonely spoon.

The leader took her glass and finished off the water as she stood up. She followed her friend to the dirty dish rack then they left the galley. Claire had to say goodnight to a few people on the way. But she agreed that she was tired too after all the recent traveling, fighting, and worries. On the Arcadia, she was relatively safe and especially with Alice at her side.

Claire entered the captain’s quarters, which had a single light on by the bedside. She didn’t bother with any others and instead started getting ready.

Alice disappeared into the head while Claire got changed for bed. Shortly she and Claire were ready for bed. Alice was glad to be laying down and still quite thankful for warm accommodations. She wondered whether or not Claire would give her private quarters, but Alice wouldn’t ask for it. Alice had grown accustom to her friend’s constant company after traveling from Alaska and spending time in the prison.

Claire was settled in bed and switched off the lamp. She sighed contently and stretched before turning on her side towards Alice. “Tomorrow we can start removing the plane.”

Alice stayed on her back and allowed her usually wired body to actually relax. “As you wish, my queen.” She nearly made a threatening grab for Claire after being smacked hard on the left arm. She let out a low breath after her coiled muscles calmed down again. She was thankful she had enough control not to accidentally harm Claire. Alice was only use to having enemies in her personal space.

“Keep it up, funny girl.” Claire held warning in her tone. She finally turned onto her stomach, which was her most comfortable position. She started dozing off but managed, “Sleep well, Alice.”

“You too,” Alice softly returned. She wasn’t far behind Claire. Alice slept fairly well tonight since she was tired from whatever changes were affecting her body. But late into the night, she was startled awake by Claire’s cry for her. Alice hastily sat up after Claire painful called for her, but she didn’t need her handgun from the nightstand. Instead she discovered her friend battling a nightmare.

“Claire,” Alice tried. She grabbed for the leader’s shoulder. She caught the reflection of a tear trail under the low light. But she tried stirring the sleeping woman from her horrid dream.

“Alice!” Claire screamed as her head jerked up from the pillow. She was still on her stomach and sharply flipped over. Claire was hastily sitting up until a firm hand stilled her frantic reaction to the nightmare.

“Hey, hey,” Alice softly called. “It’s alright.” She squeezed the taut shoulder under her hand. “You’re safe, Claire.”

The leader sat up further and broke her physical contact with Alice. Claire bent forward and cupped her hands around her sticky face. She inhaled deeply and waited for her heart to end its marathon. “Shit,” she muffled through her hands. She raked her right hand through her red locks and stayed hunched forward.

Alice had sat up but didn’t touch her friend, yet. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah.” Claire nodded too but wouldn’t look at the older woman. “Sorry I woke you.” She cleared her hoarse throat and added, “Try to go back to sleep.”

Alice frowned at her friend’s attitude and made another attempt. “What was it about?” She knew she was included in the nightmare.

Claire shook her head and replied, “It was just a dream… don’t worry.” She finally looked at Alice but only to repeat, “Go back to sleep, please.” She started moving to get out of bed until Alice’s firm hand was on her shoulder again.

“Hey, talk to me.” Alice was confused why Claire was resisting her help.

Claire shook her head and replied, “It was a dream. No big deal.” She wanted to escape to the bathroom for a minute. Again she tried moving but Alice’s hold kept her in place.

“So you’re only allowed to comfort me, but I can’t return it?” Alice countered. She felt Claire’s stiff shoulder actually fall. “I thought we were friends.” She hoped her words played on Claire’s emotions well enough to break whatever barrier had built up.

Claire looked over her shoulder at her friend and realized how right she was about it. She crumbled at Alice’s words and slightly turned back in the bed. She felt awkward and lost because she frowned upon being comforted by others. Claire believed she had to be the strongest so she could lead her people. Now she wasn’t sure where to find her strength to be able to lead so many people. She was only one mere human against a dark, hungry corporation.

Alice detected Claire’s apprehension at their switched situation. She took command of things by first grabbing Claire’s sides. She twisted Claire around then laid down and pulled Claire with her. Alice rested her head on the pillow just as Claire’s temple rested on her shoulder. Now she felt the slight dampness of Claire’s cheek against her bare skin at her shoulder and neck.

Claire snaked her left arm across Alice’s solid stomach. She shut her eyes tightly and clenched her teeth. She clung to her friend, who was the strongest human walking the Earth now. Then she felt Alice’s arms wrap around her waist and upper back. Claire dug her right hand into the pillow above Alice’s head. She fought off her emotions from the nightmare, fears for the future, and her lonely past.

Alice was relieved that Claire sank into her. She could sense Claire’s internal struggle and deeply felt for her friend. She swallowed hard and soothingly promised, “I gotcha.” She massaged Claire’s upper back where her left hand rested over Claire’s shoulder blade.

Claire thought of all the people that were following her. She saw their countless faces and knew the faith they rested on her. She wanted to be their godly leader that could take them back to normality despite the infection and Umbrella. But Claire only saw a gigantic, black abyss in front of her and nothing else as an option. There was no way to go around it or cross it without being swallowed by it. Despite her people had hope, Claire had yet to find any herself. Why was she chosen as their leader when she was the one lost?

Alice realized that Claire’s grip was getting stronger. She found it hard to breathe, but she quickly tried talking again in hopes it’d get Claire to calm down. Alice wasn’t the greatest talker, but she hoped something would sooth Claire’s mind.

“I’m right here, Claire.” Alice kept her voice gentle. “You’re safe.” She ran her hand down Claire’s back, which was covered by a tank top. “I promise you that you’re safe.” She knew whatever dream Claire suffered from earlier had to be a near death experience.

Claire took a deep breath then withdrew her face from Alice’s neck. She loosened her grip on the pillow, which was now wrinkled in that one spot. “I can’t…” She pressed her brow against Alice’s temple. “I can’t lead all these people.”

Alice hadn’t expected such a statement despite she understood her friend’s large responsibilities. She briefly squeezed Claire tighter before arguing, “You were born for this, Claire.” She was confident in her words.

“I’m leading these people to their deaths,” Claire argued. “I can’t stop Umbrella, and they will either kill or use all of us.” She clamped her jaw down.

Alice was thinking hard and quickly about her friend’s fears.

“I don’t know what to do,” Claire weakly admitted. “I’ve considered so many options but…” She left her sentence unfinished.

Alice understood the weight on her friend’s shoulders. She knew that humans’ final stand was coming, very soon. And the results were not in humans’ favor by any means. Alice sighed and brought her left arm across Claire’s upper back. She held Claire a bit closer.

“I don’t think we’ll solve it tonight,” Alice whispered.

“There is no solution,” the leader stated.

Alice had a few ideas of her own, but she didn’t voice them. She instead promised, “There are always options.” She sighed and closed her eyes. “I promise we’ll find the solution.”

Claire was too tired to argue about fate. She only saw a dead end tonight. But in the morning maybe the new day would bring about a new option for them. She wouldn’t hold her breath on it though.

Alice freed her right hand and grabbed the bedsheets that’d gotten away from them. She pulled them back up and adjusted them over their linked bodies. She hoped it’d warm Claire and relax them both.

Claire debated whether to go back on her side of the bed, but she decided that Alice didn’t want her moving anyway. She found that Alice’s comfort was sweet to the taste after not having any for years. It broke down more of Claire’s resolve.

“I dreamt… we were in the desert again,” Claire whispered.

Alice shifted from her relaxed state and paid mind to Claire’s words. She asserted her attention by rubbing Claire’s back. “Nevada?” she murmured.

“I… think so.” Claire wasn’t totally sure because the air had seemed different, but it was a dream. “My convoy was sleeping, but you and I were outside on night watch.” She recalled the rest of her dream and told, “We were attacked by infected wolves.”

Alice thought how charming it would be to get attacked by zombie wolves. She couldn’t stand the Cerberus and infected wolves would be far more fun for all.

“There were just too many,” Claire murmured. “We couldn’t stop them from ripping us apart.” She still pictured Alice using her powers to ward off the wolves, but it wasn’t enough. “There must have been hundreds of them… two more appeared for every one we killed.”

Alice was glad she hadn’t come across any infected wolves. She imagined it would be a nightmare but not impossible either. “Luckily they don’t know how to swim.”

Claire chuckled at her friend’s joke. She appreciated Alice’s attempt at making her relax after her story. She knew they didn’t have to worry about zombie wolves on the ship. And nightmares were, after all, merely one’s imagination in overdrive.

“Odd thing though,” Claire softly mentioned, “was you looked a bit different.” She felt Alice’s head shift slightly. “Your hair was slightly longer… down to your shoulders.” Claire recalled her friend in the dream. “And also blonder than it was when we first met. More like a sandy blond shade.”

Alice had slowly opened her eyes when Claire described her features. “That is not odd.” She had a furrowed brow. “That is how my hair was before we met.”

“Really?” Claire hadn’t expected such news. She wondered why her mind had altered Alice’s appearance during the dream.

“Yes.” Alice closed her eyes but still had the wrinkle in her brow. “My hair was a true blond when I was working for Umbrella.”

“It’s darkened over time,” Claire decided.

“Mmmm.” Alice had a thin smile and teased, “Along with my personality.”

“Please,” Claire muttered, “I’m not fooled by your dark exterior.” She squeezed Alice for a beat.

Alice had a grin now and playfully warned, “Don’t ruin my image.”

Claire chuckled and smiled but swore, “It’s our secret.”

“Good.” Alice was content that her friend wouldn’t divulge her tender side to anybody, hopefully. She didn’t like showing it often and sometimes found it hard after years of being isolated from humans. Her mixed blood didn’t help the situation either.

Claire considered whether to move off her friend, but she decided it wouldn’t be acceptable by Alice’s standards. They were in fact comfortably snuggled up against each other. Claire hadn’t done this with anybody since her days in high school. Briefly an old girlfriend’s face flashed past Claire’s mind, but she jammed it back down. It was a lifetime ago. Since then, Claire had only been in bed with a few select chosen to satisfy certain desires, but Claire never held or allowed to be held by any of her brief one night stands. There’d been one night in Nevada that Claire had been close to giving into her needs for comfort, but she denied Carlos once she cleared her mind. That’d only happened a couple of days before Alice’s grand appearance into her life.

Alice listened to Claire’s breathing slowed down. Once she was certain that Claire had slept, Alice started allowing herself to drift back into her dreams. She still mulled over Claire’s earlier reaction to the nightmare, but Alice was glad she’d broken through to Claire. Alice greatly admired what Claire was trying to do for the humans. She knew she wasn’t capable of it herself despite she could easily direct people when necessary. Alice wasn’t a leader and now she’d developed into an outcast after bonding with the virus. Yet, Alice was finding a place beside Claire. As nice as it was, it also unnerved Alice greatly. If she had a place then that meant she was building a home. And homes could be killed, easily these days.

Alice tried setting aside her concerns. There wasn’t much she could decide tonight. Plus she would face major backlash from Claire if she made a bad choice. Alice wasn’t sure when Claire Redfield became a major factor in her life. Alice had no problem walking away from others like Jill, Angie, and Carlos. But Claire Redfield was sticky than fresh maple syrup and far sweeter.

Finally Alice returned to Morpheus after settling her ramped thoughts. She wasn’t disturbed again until an hour before sunrise when a thunderstorm rolled across the ocean and settled over Los Angeles’ coast. At first Alice awoke from the chest vibrating thunder, and she realized she and Claire had turned onto their sides. Alice had Claire neatly molded against her body and her arms across Claire’s stomach.

Claire was jarred awake by the next round of thunder. She lifted up in worry because she didn’t know it was a storm.

“It’s just thunder,” Alice murmured.

Claire heard her friend’s soft voice behind her. She let out a sigh and watched the lightning flash in front of the porthole window. She thought it was an attack from Umbrella again. She sunk down into the bed and pressed her back into her friend’s warm body.

Alice settled her head onto the pillow again. She thought Claire had fallen back to sleep until she heard low words.

“We need to move the airplane inside.”

Alice grinned. She couldn’t believe that was Claire’s second thought because of the rain on the already ruined airplane. “We will,” she soothed. She silently chuckled after Claire murmured an agreement. She and Claire shortly dozed off for a few more hours.

The morning brought a cooler day than the rest had been lately. It was welcoming since Claire had clearly enforced they needed to breakdown the airplane and move it below into the helicopter bay. After breakfast, Claire separated from her friend and went to the wheelhouse. She wanted to go over the reports. She wasn’t the least surprised to find Chris doing the same thing. She had a chance to talk to him about Jill Valentine. Chris had already visited with Jill this morning and found that her memory was gaining speed. He expressed to Claire that Jill was asking questions and requesting to be released from the hospital. Claire was slightly worried but conceded that she’d go to the hospital after doing the reports.

Claire went to the hospital in haste. She didn’t think about radioing to Alice about her plans because her mind was on Jill Valentine. She remained on the ship’s frequency in case anybody needed her. But when she entered Jill’s room, she turned down the volume on the radio so it wouldn’t disturb her.

“Good morning,” Claire first greeted.

Jill was out of bed, moving about, and had just come from the bathroom minutes for Claire entered her room. She still wore a hospital gown that been put on her. “Mornin’, RC.”

Claire pulled up short, and her unsteady features settled on the Umbrella agent. “I see your memory is coming back well enough.” She didn’t expect Jill to use her old nickname. She’d left it in the past with many other things.

Jill had an amused expression because she knew she’d caught her friend off guard. “Yes.” She leaned her hip against the bed. “I was hoping I could get your blessing to be released.”

Claire had briefly spoken to Helen Gable, seen the reports, and already knew Jill was well enough to go. She just had to okay it first then the doctor would release Jill. She didn’t have any reason to hold Jill in the hospital, but she did have reason to keep guards on her. She was unsure about Jill’s mental state.

“Doctor Gable says you’re nearly a hundred percent,” Claire agreed. She shifted to the foot of the bed and studied Jill, who was still pale. She recalled Alice’s words about the virus and experiments. “You’ll just have to do a few checkups with the doctor after you’re released.”

Jill nodded in acceptance to the rules. She felt well enough, and the weakness was gone finally. She’d eaten well last night and also this morning.

“Can you tell me where your memory is now,” the leader ordered. She kept the edge from her tone despite she was anxious from Jill’s presence.

Jill shook her head. Her frustration showed clearly on her face. “I remember everything until after training at the academy.” She had a deep frown. “After that there are holes… large ones.” Jill lowered her eyes and continued thinking over her recent past, but it hurt her. “I knew Alice,” she murmured. “I’m not sure how.”

Claire could tell that Jill expected her to fill the void, but she refused to do it. “It’ll come back,” she assured. She folded her arms. “I had one of those devices on me for awhile.”

Jill’s features darkened. She took a step closer and asked, “What?” She had good control over her anger, but she looked down at her own chest. She was able to move the gown enough so that it revealed some of the scarring left behind from the device.

Claire was clearly upset now and murmured, “Jill.” She found icy blue eyes back on her. “Oh my god.” She reached out and couldn’t help touching one of the scars. She tried fathoming how long the device must have been latched onto Jill to cause such wounds. She quickly withdrew her hand from Jill’s skin after realizing what she was doing.

Jill became subconscious about it now and shifted the gown back so it hid her scars. “What else have they done, Claire?” She sensed that Claire knew more.

Claire fought with her emotions. She wanted to stay objective, but this was her friend and Chris’s former partner. She bowed her head and recalled what Alice told her. “I’m not sure.”

“But you know something,” Jill pressed. She took a step closer and gingerly touched the leader’s jaw. “RC… please.”

Claire closed her eyes against the nickname. She swallowed hard then found her strength to meet Jill’s gaze. She pulled Jill’s hand away from her face. “We seem to think Umbrella experimented on you.”

Jill was confused then darkness entered her eyes. She lifted her left arm and ran her fingers across the puncture scars on her arm. “That’s what these are.” She clenched her jaw and whispered, “Those bastards.” She quickly looked back at Claire. “Am I human still?” She shook her head and confessed, “I don’t feel human anymore.”

Claire opened and closed her mouth a few times then honestly replied, “I’m not sure, Jill.”

Jill clenched her hands then lowered her arms to her sides again. Her stern features fell on her friend. “Can I be released?”

Claire gave a low sigh and considered the request. After a beat, she gave a low nod but informed, “You will have to be under guard though.”

Jill felt her blood boil, yet she quickly calmed herself after she realized how well she’d been cared for by Claire and her people. She nodded and promised, “I won’t be a problem.” She glanced at the open door, but she didn’t see the guards that she knew were there. She focused on Claire and added, “I promise I won’t hurt you, RC.” She wasn’t sure what’d caused her to earn guards. But she figured it wouldn’t take her long to earn Claire’s trust.

Claire gave a firm nod. However, she wasn’t worried about Jill hurting her. “Let me talk to Gable.” She started out of the room but ordered, “Wait here.” She wasn’t long and promised Jill that she’d retrieve clean, new clothes for her. She knew by the time she’d return that Doctor Gable will have discharged her friend.

Jill Valentine was released from the hospital in an hour. She stole a few minutes to get changed into clean clothes that Claire had brought her. She was alone in the hospital room while Claire waited for her outside.

Claire turned when the door opened up. She gave a small smile at seeing her friend’s rather plain but refreshing attire.

Jill couldn’t recall the last time she wore jeans, but they were comfortable. She had on a black polo shirt that was short sleeve. She straightened out the collar during her exit from the room. On her feet were steel toed boots that were an aged brown that matched her belt. She’d also bummed a hair tie off Claire earlier and started pulling her blond hair back during the journey from the hospital.

“Feel a bit more normal?” Claire teased.

Jill pulled her ponytail after getting her hair fixed up. She grinned and argued, “I’ll feel right after I get my haircut.”

“You look good with blond,” Claire fought.

“It’s not that… it’s the length.” Jill couldn’t stand having long hair. She knew she couldn’t have been herself lately if she allowed her hair to grow out.

Claire tugged her ball cap down. “I know what you mean.” She’d missed her hat during her time between being found by Alice and arriving on the Arcadia. But she gave K-Mart the hugest hug after receiving her cherished ball cap back.

“You still have that damn thing, RC?” Jill reached over and made a grab for the cap.

Claire was faster and ducked away from her friend’s hand. “Lay off,” she fairly warned.

Jill smirked at the threat. She recalled plenty of battles between them when she’d won Claire’s cap. She shrugged and decided she’d make another try later. “So how about a tour of your boat?”

“But of course,” Claire agreed. She immediately started it by explaining the ship’s layout. She decided they first go to the wheelhouse. Briefly she considered how Alice was making out with K-Mart’s help.

Alice cursed under her breath but stopped herself from just yanking the wing off the fuselage. She’d get shot dead by Claire if she made it any worse.

K-Mart was in the cockpit and working on any interior things that she could reach. She was small enough to squeeze into the cockpit after the sliding bubble canopy was damaged from the crash. She’d made it inside with a few tools and fussed with the cables. K-Mart hadn’t been very good at mechanical work until she met Claire.

“K-Mart,” Alice hollered, “Can I burrow your wrench?”

K-Mart sighed because she didn’t want to wiggle out from the hole, but she’d do anything for Alice. She wiped the sweat off her brow then carefully worked her way out from under the dash. But she stilled when she spotted something under the pilot’s seat. She reached under the seat, and her fingertips grazed the item. K-Mart gritted her teeth and stretched her arm further until she got the silver item. She pulled it back and realized it was a digital camcorder. “What,” she murmured.

Alice stepped up onto the wing and peered into the cockpit. She spotted K-Mart’s hunched form down in the footwell.

K-Mart snaked out from under the dash and held up the prized wrench. “Can you get it?”

Alice reached into the opening and grabbed the tool. “Thanks.” She didn’t wait for anything else and returned her aggravation to the wing.

K-Mart pulled herself out of the footwell after setting the camcorder on the seat. She climbed out of the cockpit after deciding the screwdrivers could stay behind for now. “Alice…” She pulled herself out of the cockpit but nearly lost her grip until two sure hands had her.

“Be careful.” Alice helped the young woman out of the plane.

K-Mart was hot, sticky, and just relieved to be out of the plane. She stood on the damaged wing next to Alice and held up the digital camcorder. “I found this.”

Alice received the camcorder and murmured, “I’ll be damned.” She had a small smile. “I can’t believe it survived the crash.”

“It’s yours?” K-Mart checked.

Alice nodded. She decided to inspect it and was impressed it powered up like normal.

“Where did you get it?” K-Mart inquired.

“Best Buy,” Alice teased.

K-Mart rolled her eyes then shifted closer to Alice so she could see the screen too. “Where’d you get the plane?”

Alice shrugged and replied, “Russia.” It seemed obvious to her since it was a Yak-52 Soviet trainer plane.

K-Mart’s lips parted, but she held her question because she heard Alice and Claire’s voices on the camcorder. She was too curious and inched closer to Alice. She grinned at the two women talking at the camera together.

“LA is at least another two days, Alice,” Claire argued.

Alice was obviously holding the camera, but she looked at Claire. “The plane is faster than that.”

“Headwind,” Claire reminded. She had a smug look.

Alice clicked her tongue once at her friend, who was still gaining her memories. “We’ll see.” She focused back on the camera.

K-Mart giggled at the two fussing at each other. To her, she decided that they were meant to meet each other. She hadn’t seen Claire get close with too many people but Alice was one of the few.

Alice sighed and shut the camera’s small screen, which sent the camera into standby mode. She then handed it to the younger woman. “It’s all yours.”

K-Mart suddenly went shocked and peered up at Alice. “Seriously?”

Alice took her friend’s arm, lifted it, and placed the camera in her hand. “Seriously.” She now hopped off the wing and went back to her spot.

K-Mart turned the digital camera around in her hands but paused and looked up when she heard her sister’s voice in the distance. She glanced at Alice, who had also stopped working.

Alice shifted closer to K-Mart but more in a protective manner. She set the wrench down on the wing so she wouldn’t be tempted to use it in a bad way. But the tool was still close by.

Claire adjusted her ball cap after the breeze disturbed it. She guided Jill to the airplane and started explaining, “We’re going to try and salvage it.”

Jill hastily jerked her head around and asked, “Salvage it?” She came to a stop a yard away from the wing’s tip.

Claire had her hands on her hips and visually assessed the ruined plane. “Yeah… fix it up.” She regarded her old friend.

Jill was shaking her head and declared, “You’re still nuts, RC.”

Alice gradually inclined her eyebrow at hearing the odd nickname for Claire. She quickly concluded the two had a longer history than Claire had told her.

K-Mart jumped off the wing and followed Alice closer to her sister and the Umbrella agent. She had to admit that Jill Valentine looked less menacing now that she dressed like anybody else.

“Jill, this is my sister K-Mart,” the leader properly introduced.

K-Mart made herself be cordial and stepped forward. She held out her hand and shook Jill’s larger one. “Nice to meet you.”

Jill had a curious expression but commented, “I just won’t ask.”

K-Mart took it as a tease about her nickname. She shrugged and explained it anyway. “That’s where Claire found me.” Despite Jill’s friendly manner, she still didn’t like Jill. She’d saw what’d happened to Alice after the fight in the hangar.

“And of course you remember Alice,” Claire suggested.

Alice wasn’t about to offer hands until Jill offered hers first. She inwardly sighed and took the Umbrella agent’s hand. Instantly she was flooded by old memories from Jill’s past.

“Angie!” Jill hollered. She swept past Alice and fell next to the girl. “Shit, shit.” She tried stopping the bleeding, but she was too late and her hands were coated in the girl’s blood. She growled and furiously turned on Alice, who was standing in the doorway with the smoking gun.

Alice had shiny cheeks from tears. But she sadly regarded Jill Valentine. “I’m sorry, Jill.”

“You, bitch!” Jill went for her gun until a barrel was pressed into her forehead. She stiffened and looked at Alice. “What have you done?” she hotly whispered.

Alice pulled the hammer back on the revolver. “Something I’m going to never forgive myself for.”

Jill released Alice’s hand and stepped back to Claire’s side.

“I’ve been showing Jill around,” Claire told Alice.

“I think it’s the dollar tour,” Jill teased the leader.

Claire traded a grin with her old friend then looked back at Alice, who was rather neutral despite the situation. She lost her grin and remembered why they were all here. She wasn’t in high school with Jill anymore. Today she was a leader of thousands of humans, whom were being hunted by Umbrella. And Jill was still an agent in everybody’s eyes.

“Good,” Alice coolly replied. She nodded at Jill then indicated the plane behind her. “I have to get back to work.” She shifted her features to Claire. “The plane won’t move itself.” She recalled a certain somebody promising Alice she’d help dismantle the plane.

Claire opened her mouth to renew her promise from earlier this morning. But she failed because her VHF radio gargled loudly.

“Claire, Claire this is Luther.”

Claire growled at who was calling for her. She should have known of all people to interrupt her. She jerked the radio free and brought it up. “Go ahead, Luther.” She used every bit of her patience to keep her voice polite.

“You need to come to the wheelhouse.”

Claire licked her lips and silently cursed his demand. “What’s the problem?” She hoped he’d give her some clue on what was going on but the long pause made her wonder.

“There’s a transmission we’re picking up that you should hear,” Luther replied over the channel.

Claire hit the mic but quickly released it after she reworked her response. She knew that two of the ship’s radios were dedicated to scanning the channels for any transmissions. “Alright,” she started, “Alice and I will be up there in a minute.”

Alice had already picked up the wrench, but she set it back down after hearing her marching orders. She focused on K-Mart and asked, “You going to keep working on it?”

K-Mart looked at the plane and considered what she could do while Alice was gone. “I think so.”

Alice gave the young woman an appreciative smile. “Be back shortly.” She turned back to Claire and Jill then took Claire’s right side as they started across the deck.

“I’ll have to show you the rest later, Jill.” Claire was hooking her VHF on her back.

Jill nodded. “I understand.” She suspected the guards at the door would follow her.

Claire turned the radio’s volume down some because Luther was calling Chris too. She needed to ask the guards to take Jill to her quarters for now. She and Alice left Jill with the guards then they were rushing through the ship to get to the wheelhouse.

Alice didn’t say anything on the quick trek to the wheelhouse. She went to the door first, opened it, and allowed Claire through it. She caught Claire’s all business attitude when they entered the wheelhouse.

“What’s going on?” Claire demanded again. She saw her brother and Luther next to the radios.

Chris waved his sister and Alice over but said nothing because he was listening. He grabbed the radio’s volume and turned it up much louder.

“I repeat this is Leon with…” His voice faded but came back, “survivors. We are located at thirty-two degrees, forty-six minutes, thirteen seconds…” His transmission cut out then returned again. “One hundred seventeen degrees, fourteen minutes, thirteen second west. Please if there’s anybody listening, we need hel-” Leon urged until his transmission was cut off again. Then his voice didn’t return.

Chris watched the radio leave the emergency channel and continued scanning the other VHF channels. He looked up to his sister.

Claire let out a low breath and started over to the radio. She reached for the microphone but paused until her hand fell back to her side. She wasn’t sure what to do. For once, it wasn’t so natural to just respond to help right away.

Luther had jotted down the coordinates, but he didn’t comment on Claire’s actions. He instead went to the touchscreen table and woke it up. He wanted to find out where Leon and the survivors were located.

“They may not be able to pick up our transmissions,” Chris softly reminded his sister.

Alice came up behind the leader and gently touched her lower back.

“I found their location,” Luther announced. He’d put in the coordinates and waited for the map to hone in on the spot. He looked at the group after recognizing the location. “They’re in San Diego… right on Vacation Isle.”

Chris had only vague knowledge about San Diego, but if Luther meant an island then it may not be so difficult to get the survivors. He started over to the touchscreen table.

Claire and Alice followed over and studied the map until the flashing indicator pointed out Leon’s location. Indeed it was an island in Mission Bay that had one major road that traveled through it and connected it to the mainland to the north and south.

Luther looked at Claire Redfield and seriously stated, “We should leave now. We can make it there by nightfall if not sooner.”

Claire touched her brow but continued staring at the map. Her mind was spinning with the details about other survivors just south in San Diego. She was uneasy about picking them up because they could be infected, but she also couldn’t deny helping them.

“Claire?” Chris softly tried. He grew concerned by his sister’s distraught features. He hadn’t seen her like that before. His sister was always confident and sure about her decisions and options in life.

Claire cleared her throat and straightened up after weighing their options. She figured it had to be worth checking out if anything. She let out a low breath, which helped calm her nerves. She looked at her quiet friend. “What you think?”

Alice met the leader’s gaze and read Claire’s uneasiness about picking up the survivors. She glanced back at the map and pointed out the mouth of the bay. “We can get in close to them.” She lowered her hand to the table’s edge. “We can do it safely.” She focused on Claire again. “I think we should go for it.”

Claire gave a small nod then looked at Luther. “Let’s get the anchor up.” She stepped away from the table after pulling her cap’s brim down. “It looks like we got our heading now.” She marched out of the wheelhouse.

Chris was about to follow his sister until Alice stopped him. He frowned at Alice and was about to side step her.

“She needs to clear her head,” Alice commented to the concerned brother.

Chris knew that Alice was right so he relented and decided to help Luther out.

Alice listened to the two men go to the radios. She heard them giving out orders over the radio, but she remained rooted by the map on the screen. She narrowed her eyes at the two bridges on the south and north end of the island. She could only imagine what condition those survivors would be in after being trapped on an island and probably locked in by hungry undead. Alice didn’t look forward to finding out soon.

To be continued.