Disclaimer & Notices: See Chapter 1.

 


Resident Evil: Phoenix
by Red Hope

Chapter 5

Claire Redfield came out from under the belly of the Yak-52 after dissembling the tail from the empennage. She looked at her friend, who had been holding the tail up for her while she unbolted the tail. She tossed her screwdriver on the deck when she saw the tail wanted to get away from Alice.

Alice fought not to let the empennage fall to the deck. She was relieved when Claire grabbed the empennage, and it allowed Alice to slide the tail free from the plane. She easily carried the tail and set it down next to a separated wing.

“We might get it done in time,” Claire commented. She removed her ball cap, which was on backwards. She wiped her brow clean then put the hat back on with the brim behind her head. She was coated in grease and dirt wherever her skin wasn’t covered by the tank top or jeans.

Claire had set to work after getting the ship underway for San Diego. She needed the mechanical work because it helped clear her mind. She loved to work on machines and this gave her a chance to forget about the world.

Alice debated how they’d get the plane down into the hole. The easy part was moving it into the helicopter bay. But she was unsure about getting it down below.

K-Mart joined her sister and held out a large bottle of water. “So exactly how are we getting this thing down in the White Room?”

Claire grinned at K-Mart’s nickname for the bay. “I’m not quite sure yet.” She turned to Alice. “Any ideas?”

Alice folded her arms and argued, “I thought that was your department.” She caught how Claire was amused. “I’m just the muscle.”

Claire chuckled and handed her friend the water next. “Hurry up, old mule.” She caught Alice’s brief glower, but she returned to work. She didn’t have much left to do on the right wing, which was still attached.

Alice helped Claire unhook the right wing after K-Mart undid the cables that went to the ailerons. She was impressed by Claire’s ease with the plane’s mechanics. She would have sworn that Claire was a certified mechanic for airplanes. Alice knew her fair share from when she first started to fly general aviation planes. But she only had maintenance knowledge that was allowed of aviation pilots.

After they were done dissembling the major parts of the Yak-52, Claire seriously considered how to get it down into the bay. She wanted to get it done before sunset, and it was already pushing two o’clock. If they wanted all the pieces below then it’d take awhile to accomplish it.

Claire stood beside the destroyed nose but looked towards the upper deck. “Are the bay doors near a cargo hole?” She indicated all the covered holes before them that could be opened up for containers to be stored in the haul.

K-Mart wasn’t totally sure and imagined where the bay doors were located from where they were standing on the deck.

“I think so,” Alice replied. She turned to her friend and smirked. “Probably this one we’re standing on.”

Claire peered down at her feet and seriously considered it. “No… it’s further back.”

Alice didn’t lose her grin despite her attempt failed. She turned on her heels and looked at the cargo doors further back towards the bridge. “I think second closest one to the bridge.”

“Well, let’s get started,” Claire stated. She nodded once then grabbed her VHF radio. She ordered a crew member to open the second hole.

Alice soon had her answer to what Claire planned to do about getting the plane down below. She ended up down in the hole while K-Mart and Claire handed her each major piece. It didn’t surprise her that Claire relied on her superior strength to handle each airframe piece one by one. Eventually Claire and K-Mart came down and helped Alice move everything into the helicopter bay.

K-Mart was exhausted from the long day of work and decided she wanted to get a shower before dinner. She received a warm thank you from Claire before she left the pair in the White Room.

Alice leaned against the wall and watched Claire do a last couple of things with the plane.

Claire brushed off her hands on her jeans then came over to her friend. “Did I wear you out?”

Alice grinned in response and teased back, “I’m exhausted.”

Claire chuckled but she looked back at the poor Yak-52. She wasn’t sure what she was thinking in trying to save the plane. Tomorrow she could be dead if fate willed it. She sighed and cut her eyes to closets Osprey in the hangar. “I should check over those soon… make sure they’re operational.”

“I’m sure they are,” Alice debated.

Claire shook her head and looked at her friend. “I don’t want to find any Wesker surprises in them.”

“He does seem to fancy bombs.” Alice straightened up from the wall.

Claire smirked at her memory of Alice making sure she saw Wesker blow up in the Osprey the other day. It was the first time she was excited to see a bomb go off. “I’m sure he appreciated getting a taste of his own medicine.”

Alice softly laughed and took a step towards the sealed doors. “He’s cursing my name in Hell.”

Claire had to admit that Alice’s keen insight was perfect. She was grateful that Alice had stowed away the bomb in Wesker’s getaway helicopter. “Let’s go wash up.” She wanted to be clean before dinner then they’d have a meeting about Leon and his survivors.

Just as planned, Claire and Alice returned to the wheelhouse and discovered they were gaining a clear view of San Diego off the port side. Claire went to the window and studied the growing city. “I’ve always wanted to see San Diego.”

Chris remembered his promise about taking Claire there once he was settled from his transfer to Los Angeles. He grinned and offered, “I told you we’d see it someday.”

Claire shot a weak glare at her brother. “Thanks.” She glanced over at Luther, who was captaining the ship with another crew member named Jonathan. “How much longer?”

Jonathan, the skipper, glanced at the plotted course on his screen then at his leader. “I would say another fifteen minutes and we’ll be at the mouth of Mission Bay, ma’am.”

Claire stole the binoculars nearby and studied the quiet city in the sun’s last light. “How close can we get to the island?”

“I don’t believe very close,” Jonathan reported. “The soundings into Mission Bay are too low for the ship.”

Claire lowered her binoculars and looked at the skipper. She trusted Jonathan’s judgment because he was a ship captain back on the east coast. She had no experience with freight ships by any means.

“I think we’re going to have to fly in,” Chris suggested to his sister.

Claire set the binoculars back down and leaned against the console. “Probably so.” She was staring out the window. “But I want to make contact with this Leon before we go in there.”

“We should be able to communicate fine now,” Chris agreed.

Claire nodded and glanced at the radios. “Let’s give it a shot.” She headed over to the radios and freed a microphone. She hit the emergency channel button and saw it was on sixteen now. She considered how to hail the survivors but decided she’d be heard regardless. “Leon, Leon this is the Arcadia.” She was met by static.

Claire waited a minute then hailed Leon again. She still didn’t receive any response so she gave a last attempt. She hoped for the best until a long minute passed without an answer. She shook her head and rehooked the microphone. “Let’s just go over the plans,” she suggested to the group.

Claire and Alice took one side of the touchscreen table while Luther took the right side and Chris opposite from the women. But Jonathan remained at the helm and navigated the freight ship through safe waters.

Claire was drilling the map down to Mission Bay and the surrounding area. “So this is Vacation Isle.” She marked the island with an ‘X’ through it. “It has two bridges on the east side connecting the north and south end.”

“That’s if they’re still standing,” Alice debated.

“They could be drawbridges,” Luther argued.

Jonathan cut in and informed, “The two bridges to Vacation Isle are fixed.” He was looking at his digital NOAA charts on the screen. “There is also another fixed bridge at the channel of Mission Bay.”

Claire looked over at the skipper and asked, “What’s the depth of the channel going into Mission Bay?”

Jonathan was focused on steering the ship, but he replied, “The center of the channel is fourteen feet but that was a number of years ago. It could be shallower since it hasn’t been dredged in years.”

Claire’s lips thinned as she considered this detail. But she checked, “What’s the ship draw?”

“Fifty-three feet, ma’am.”

“Jesus,” Luther murmured. “We won’t get that close into shore.”

Chris folded his muscular arms but kept his attention on the map. “It doesn’t matter since we can take an Osprey in there.”

Luther was skeptic and challenged, “Who can fly one of those things?” He was surprised when Chris and Alice looked at Claire Redfield. He furrowed his features at the leader. “You can fly that thing?”

Claire flashed a devilish smile at the former basketball champ. She wanted to say something smart but the VHF radio cut her off.

“Arcadia, Arcadia this is Leon.”

Claire scrambled over to the radio and yanked the mic free. “Leon this is the Arcadia,” she hastily reported.

“Thank god,” Leon responded in relief. “I’ve nearly given up on getting out of here.”

Claire felt the twinge enter her chest. She understood his feelings, and she knew she had to get him out of there. “My name is Claire Redfield,” she reported to him. “I’m the leader of a freight ship picking up survivors along the coast.” She released the mic but hit it again. “We’re coming for you.”

Like the others, Alice hadn’t moved but carefully listened to Claire’s conversation with Leon. She caught a glimpse of confidence refill Claire Redfield, and it made Alice feel good. She preferred Claire this way, but she understood why Claire was feeling disjointed lately.

“Thank you,” Leon replied over the radio. “There are thirty-six of us total. We’re on Vacation Isle in Mission Bay.”

“We received your coordinates,” Claire agreed. “I will be sending out a team for you. Be prepared for our arrival and take only what is absolutely necessary.”

“Roger that, Arcadia.” Leon hesitated but promised, “We’ll be waiting for you. Leon out.”

Claire was relieved that she’d contacted him. She clicked the mic and reported, “This is Arcadia standing by on channel sixteen.” She slid the mic back into the bracket and rejoined the group.

Chris switched the map over to a satellite image of Mission Bay. He and Claire were both looking for the same thing on the satellite imagery of the island. “These are good spots.” He pointed at the parking lots on the island. “It’s just going to depend on where they’re all collected.”

Claire counted six adequate parking lots that could hold the Osprey. “And that’s under the assumption that there are no undead on the island with them.”

“If there are,” Alice started, “then our job just got a lot harder.”

“The survivors will be prepared though,” Claire argued. “Gathered together and waiting for us to show up.”

“Maybe we should do some recon before we land on the island,” Alice suggested.

Claire started shaking her head and looked up from the images. “If we do that then we’ll just draw more trouble to the island.”

“Those undead are like flies to shit,” Luther agreed. He tapped at the bridges and offered, “The bridges could be gone too. Maybe that’s how they’ve been surviving all this time.”

Claire sighed then murmured, “We just don’t know until we get there.” She softly swayed when the freight ship started slowing down. She looked over her shoulder at the skipper. “Are we there?”

“We’re approaching the channel to Mission Bay,” Jonathan reported. “We will be dropping anchor shortly.”

“Get us as close as you can.” Claire saw Jonathan’s nod so she went back to the meeting. “Chris, can you get together a good team?”

“How many?”

Claire considered her brother’s question and also debated the size of the Osprey. They needed to take enough men for safety but also still ferry the survivors back. She then touched her brow and realized an issue. “We’re going to have to make two trips.”

“How many can the helicopter carry?” Alice checked.

Claire lowered her hand to the table. “It can seat twenty-four but we can jam thirty-two people in there if everybody is standing up in the cargo bay.” She knew the chopper fairly well after being educated as a kid by her father. She looked at her brother. “You think you can fly a second one?”

Chris seriously considered the risks, but he shook his head. “I don’t have enough training, Claire.” He wasn’t confident in his skills with rotorcrafts.

Claire felt otherwise, but she didn’t want to press her brother. She knew he’d make more mistakes under pressure, especially with lives on the line. She relented and decided aloud, “We’ll make two trips then.” She considered how many men to take on the mission. “Organize ten men for the team.”

“I’m in,” Luther declared.

Claire shook her head and ordered, “I want you here to handle the ship.” She then considered another aspect and added, “Plus I need you to start the quarantine process for the new survivors. We can’t have anybody coming on this ship that’s infected.”

Luther understood and planned to find out more about the quarantine process that Claire had in mind.

“Alice, Chris… you’re both going,” Claire stated. She pressed her palms against the table’s edge. “I’ll fly the chopper.” She stared at the map of Mission Bay. “We’ll go first thing in the morning at six o’clock. I rather do this in the daylight.”

“I guess Doctor Gable will handle the quarantine process?” Luther inquired.

Claire nodded and better explained it. “I’ve had her working on quarantine procedures and policies for exactly this reason.” She straightened up and placed her hands on her hips. “I need you to help her make sure everybody listens to her. I don’t expect the survivors to quarrel about it since it’s for everybody’s safety, but I want to make sure it goes smoothly.” She expected a few kinks in the system since this was their first try. “How about we meet with Gable afterwards?”

Luther agreed and was pleased that Claire wanted to show it to him.

“I’ll preflight the helicopter tonight,” Claire announced. She planned to preflight it again in the morning, but tonight she’d go over it in greater detail. She didn’t want to miss anything or deal with surprises tomorrow.

“That helicopter’s systems are liable to be directly link to Umbrella,” Alice brought up.

Claire shrugged at the observation. “Let it be.” She had planned to check the flight systems too, but she didn’t care if Umbrella knew they were saving people.

Alice nodded, but she hoped it didn’t mean that Umbrella would take another crack at them tomorrow. She doubted it and yet she wouldn’t put it past them either.

“If you think of anything, give me a call on the radio.” Claire reached behind and double checked that her radio was in fact on and loud enough. She looked at Luther West and suggested, “Let’s go find Gable and get that sorted out.”

“Can you use some help?” Alice asked Chris.

Chris accepted it but first checked with Jonathan on how he was making out with the ship. He didn’t bother Jonathan long though because he was busy getting the anchor set, which was an arduous task. He and Alice shortly left Jonathan alone in the wheelhouse.

Claire helped Gable and Luther get organized for tomorrow’s quarantine process. She could tell that Doctor Gable was well prepared for it. She didn’t think there’d be many issues tomorrow once they started bringing survivors to the ship. Claire was confident in the doctor’s abilities. After she left Luther with the doctor, Claire decided to take care of the Osprey next.

Claire found her way to the helicopter hangar in the White Room. She felt her skin crawl, but she brushed it off. She just didn’t like being alone in the bay after what’d happened here. Claire boarded the nearest Osprey and started checking over its systems from nose to tail. She had to make sure it was fully operational and safe if she wanted to safely transport everybody back.

After spending a lot of time in the cockpit, Claire felt rather familiarized with it. She’d started the rotors but didn’t increase their rpm so that it’d lift off. She shut off the engines then turned off the electrical system. She didn’t plan on tilting the rotors tomorrow since it was a short trip to the island.

Finally confident about the cockpit, Claire moved into the cargo bay and inspected all the handles to make sure nothing was loose or weak. She eventually made it to the rear cargo door and went to the switches for the door. She reached for the open switch, but she paused when a soft burn started at the back of her neck. She went for her Glock and spun around with it aimed at her target in the copter.

Claire had nearly pulled the trigger until she saw Alice in front of her. “Goddamn it,” she cursed at her friend. “You can’t be louder so I know you’re coming?”

Alice grinned and approached the leader, who was putting the gun away. “I prefer to sneak around.”

Claire sighed and returned to her earlier task. “You’re too damn good at it.” She punched the button with more force than necessary. She watched the door go down.

Alice took her friend’s side and peered out the door. “It seems to work.”

Claire shot a dark look at the older woman then hit the up button. She started out of the V-22 but mentioned, “You wanna help me climb onto this thing? I want to check the rotors.”

“Did you start them?” Alice inquired. She followed Claire out of the helicopter.

“Yes, but I just want to make sure.”

Alice silently conceded and went to the copilot’s side. She watched Claire mount the side of the rotorcraft by using foot pegs and handles. But she could tell Claire would run out of them shortly so she wondered what Claire planned to do from there.

Claire could touch the top of the cockpit, but she wouldn’t be able to lift all her weight up. She silently cursed and considered another plan until Alice called up to her.

“Lift your left foot up like you’re going to climb another step,” Alice suggested.

Claire was confused, but she did so and started noticing an invisible surface under her boot. “What the…” Then it occurred to her so she glanced down at Alice, who had bright blue eyes glowing up at her. She realized what Alice was doing for her, but she still was unsure. “Can you really hold my weight?”

“Yes.” Alice didn’t feel any strain. “Keep climbing up.” She continued supporting Claire’s left foot as the right one went up. She created an invisible step under Claire’s right foot against the airframe. She now fully held up Claire’s weight against the side of the V-22.

Claire was amazed, yet she didn’t waste time. She hauled herself up onto the top after receiving a gentle boost from Alice’s telekinesis. She carefully shifted across the airframe and made her way to one rotor. It didn’t take her long to inspect it.

Alice remained under the wing and kept her glowing blue eyes centered on Claire Redfield. She had an invisible aura drifting around Claire in case Claire lost her footing.

Claire felt how the air around her was electric, but she didn’t comment on it. She stayed focused on her task and ducked out from under the rotor after she was sure it was sound. She made her way across to the other wing.

Alice walked around the nose and stood under that wing too. She carefully stood guard until Claire was done her job.

“Everything looks good,” the leader reported. She brushed the grease onto her jeans then came out from under the blade. She neared the spot where the fuselage and cockpit joined, but she considered how to get down. The pegs were far too low for her to easily step onto again.

Alice came beside the V-22’s pilot side and tilted her head back.

Claire stared at Alice’s striking blue eyes and seriously wondered what else the T-Virus was giving Alice. She didn’t ask it aloud though.

“Just gently jump off,” Alice told her.

Claire was unsure, but she gave it a try because she trusted her friend. She bent her knees then hopped off only to have her fall slowed until her boots neatly touched the white floor. She shook her head and looked up at her friend. “Nice trick.”

Alice’s lip tugged with a grin. Slowly the blue glow in her eyes faded away to the sea green that they were normally. “Everything check out with the chopper?”

“Yes.” Claire felt better that she’d spent the last two hours with the V-22. “It’ll be safe to fly tomorrow.”

Alice nodded. But she became more concerned and softly asked, “How are you feeling?”

Claire sighed but because her friend was starting to see through her. “I’m not really sure.”

“I’ve sorta noticed this,” Alice stated. She’d kept a careful eye on the younger woman.

Claire stepped around her friend but mentioned, “I’m just not sure I’m doing the right thing.” She waited for Alice to come with her. “There just aren’t many options for the survivors… not when Umbrella is out looking for test subjects.”

Alice walked along side her friend out of the White Rooms. But she stopped when they came to the last door, which drew open and held like that for them to pass. “Let me take care of Umbrella, Claire.”

The leader studied her friend for a long moment before shaking her head. “You told me you took out their headquarters in Tokyo.” She couldn’t imagine how Alice did it, even with her powers. “I’m sure you can do it again.”

Alice moved in closer and argued, “I can’t hide here on this ship, Claire.”

“I’m not asking you to hide,” Claire whispered. “These people need you as much as they need a leader.” She frowned and explained, “They need protection from Umbrella.”

Alice silently agreed that Umbrella was far less likely to touch Arcadia so long as she was here. She shook her head and reminded, “I’m not these people’s hero.”

“Maybe they don’t see it that way… right now.” Claire understood the survivors’ apprehensions about Alice, but she also believed in time that would fade away. She reached up and removed her ball cap because she needed a better view of Alice’s face. She held her cap by its brim and kept it by her side. “But you’re my hero, Alice.”

Alice couldn’t accept such an honor from her friend. She looked away and shook her head until a soft touch under her chin made her focus on Claire.

“And you’re not my hero because you have all these powers,” Claire revealed. “I admire your ability to continue after what’s happened to you.” She read Alice’s disbelief, but Claire continued her case. “You could have gone down a darker path after what’s been taken from you. But you don’t do it and still help humans when you don’t fit in with them.”

“I owe so much,” Alice quietly confessed. She took Claire’s hand from her face and held onto it.

“And I think in time you will come to terms with that.” Claire wasn’t worried that Alice wouldn’t find her way.

Alice hoped it was true too. She wasn’t sure right now. She glanced at her right hand holding onto Claire’s. She then threaded her fingers through Claire’s fingers. “After Tokyo I had to find you.” She looked up from their hands and held Claire’s steady blue eyes. “You’ve been the only one I’ve felt like I could find a place with.”

Claire smiled in return and promised, “You do have a place with me.” She squeezed Alice’s hand before releasing Alice and starting out of the bay.

Alice’s eyes followed Claire then she decided she should go too. She kept repeating Claire’s words like a mantra until she caught up with Claire.

Claire had put her ball cap back on and flashed a warm smile at her friend, who took her side. She led the way out of the hole to get to the upper levels. “I’m going to check on Jill.” She hesitated but asked, “Did you want to…”

Alice shook her head. “No thanks.” She planned to prepare her weapons for tomorrow. “I’m going to head to our quarters.”

“Alright.” Claire came to the top of the steps and knew she had to go in the opposite direction than Alice. “I’ll see you shortly.” She reached behind to her VHF and tested the squelch.

Alice nod then separated from the leader. She retired to the captain’s quarters and retrieved her black roll that contained her weapons. She untied it then opened it up on the table then freed her VHF radio and placed it on the table. She slid out the flintstone, sat down, and unsheathed her one kukri. She started the familiar habit of sharpening it. She always found peace when sharpening her blades, especially before a battle. The rhythmic stroke of the stone down the blade’s edge soothed Alice’s mind and body.

Alice considered her future on the Arcadia and also at Claire’s side. She felt she was failing the world by remaining on the ship. Yet the survivors needed protection from Umbrella’s likely attacks. Anger fed into Alice at the thought of Umbrella luring humans to Alaska under the pretense it was safety. K-Mart and Claire had been baited but only because Alice suggested they go to Alaska. If she’d gone with them then Alice could have protected them from Umbrella. Instead K-Mart was taken and Claire suffered in the wilderness with P30 soaking in her veins.

For a moment, the quarters became silent after a thought occurred to Alice. She hadn’t seen it until now. Wesker knew that Alice would seek out Claire in Alaska. He’d left Claire there to be found, like a breadcrumb. And now was she playing into Umbrella’s hands by staying on the Arcadia? Alice shook her head and continued sharpening the weapon.

After a few more minutes, Alice tested the blade by running her thumb across it. She happily watched it cut through her skin. She curiously watched the blood ooze from the thin cut, but something caught her eye. Her eyebrows drew in together after the overhead light reflected off her blood.

“What,” Alice murmured. She noticed her wound was already healed over, but her blood remained on the pad of her thumb. She carefully put her weapon and whetstone on the table then got up. She went under the overhead light and curiously watched the violet hue reflect off the surface of her red blood. It reminded her of how gasoline reflected colors when it spread out on water. Alice didn’t recall this before Wesker gave her a dose of the anti-virus. She knew the anti-virus’s beautiful color, and it wasn’t the color her blood shined at her.

“What the Hell did you do, Wesker?” Alice hotly murmured. Some part of her wished he was alive so she could beat the answers out of him. She set aside her violent thoughts and instead focused on her blood. She brought her thumb near her lips, but she smelled it first. There was nothing metallic about her blood like a normal human. Then her tongue snaked out and tasted the unusual blood. Alice was hit by sour that made her pucker. She cleared her throat and couldn’t recall anything far sourer in her life.

Alice went to the bathroom and turned on the sink. She washed out her mouth to get rid of the sour taste. She shook her head after the watering in her eyes faded away. Something had definitely changed in her blood since Wesker pumped the needle’s fluid in her months ago.

Alice lifted her head after staring at the small sink. She studied her face in the mirror. She recalled Claire’s words last night about her eyes so she decided to find out. She brought her telekinesis alive and instantly a blue ring glowed around her pupils. No longer did her pupils dilate like before. As she continued increasing her telekinesis, the glowing grew in intensity until all of her eyes were fiery blue.

“Damn,” Alice muttered and closed her eyes after dropping her head. She thought of Wesker, who had flashed his red eyes at her multiple times. He’d also mutated into something else other than human. He was capable of healing faster than Alice had been after she received the T-virus. Something wasn’t right, in Alice’s opinion.

Alice put aside her thoughts and returned to her earlier task. She went to her other kukri that was still sheathed beside the door. She grabbed the handle, freed it from the sheath, and started to go to the table. But Alice faltered when panic suddenly flared up under her skin. She gripped the weapon’s handle and looked back at the door. She hastily went to the door but only grabbed the handle and waited for something.

Alice focused on the panic jarring her body, but she realized it was an external source. It wasn’t her panic but somebody else’s. She’d had the initial reaction to find Claire. But Alice forced herself to stay fast, and she dissected the sensation. It wasn’t the kind of panic that one felt when they were near death. It was a trapped panic that was laced with a thin layer of anger.

Alice struggled with her natural desire to find Claire. She logically concluded it had something to do with Jill Valentine. Slowly Alice’s eyes went over to the VHF radio and an idea came to mind. She went over to the radio and grabbed it quickly.

“Claire, Claire this is Alice.” Alice fought hard to keep an edge from her tone.

“This is Claire,” the leader answered after a long pause.

Alice detected the hidden panic in her friend’s voice. She still fought with her body and remained in the quarters. “Is everything alright?”

Claire was grateful for Alice’s interrupting transmission when Jill had pressed her too far.

Jill stared darkly at the radio in the leader’s hand. She swore that Alice somehow planned that out. She walked away from her old friend and went to the small porthole that was dark.

Claire brought the radio back up and replied, “Everything is fine. I’ll be leaving in a few minutes.”

Alice sensed that Claire’s panic had minimized a great deal. “Alright. I’ll be waiting up for you.” She hoped Jill Valentine heard her too.

“Thanks. See you soon.” Claire put the radio back on her belt and studied Jill’s tense back.

“I can help, Claire,” Jill stated. She kept her back to the leader and continued imagining what San Diego must look like through the dark porthole.

“The team is already organized.” Claire held her ground.

Jill faced her friend but didn’t go to her. “You know I can fight better than you or Chris.” She eyed the leader. “You take advantage of your resource, but you refuse to take my help.” She now approached Claire Redfield, who was definitely the leader. Jill could feel Claire’s firm strength that attracted followers to her. “What have I done, Claire?” She silently cursed the P30 that’d robbed her of her memory. She’d pieced together something had recently happened that caused Claire not to trust her.

Claire’s skin crawled when Jill came closer to her. She wasn’t blind to what was in Jill’s veins. Nothing was as simple as it use to be before Jill and Chris were shipped off to the academy. “I can’t allow it.” She restated her decision to Jill’s earlier request.

“Damn it, Claire,” Jill hotly cursed. “What the Hell is going on here?” She was frustrated, angry, and trying to hide her hurt from Claire’s choices. “You know me, but you treat me like the enemy.”

Claire lifted her chin slightly and didn’t argue Jill’s observation. She clenched her jaw when she saw that Jill caught onto her.

Jill became lost and shook her head after a minute. “No.” She took a step back. “What happened after Raccoon City?”

Claire hid her emotions behind a strong mask. She folded her arms in a standoffish manner despite she knew this was hard for Jill. “You’re an agent, Jill… for Umbrella.”

“No,” Jill fought. “Those bastards…” She feverously shook her head. “They killed my partner after I joined the city police.” She recalled what’d happened to him a week after she’d joined the Raccoon City Police. She’d left S.T.A.R.S. after the commissioner offered her a position as a detective. Jill had only accepted because Chris had gone to Los Angeles, and she needed a change. “I knew then those bastards were up to something. I would not have joined them.”

Claire didn’t move closer to her friend. She wasn’t sure what Jill was capable of and if it was remotely anything like Alice’s powers. “That device brainwashed you… you had no control over it.”

Jill couldn’t believe what she was hearing from Claire. She walked away and neared the small bed. She struggled with her emotions and stared at the scars on her left arm. “What happened to me?” she painfully murmured.

Claire hung her head and wished she could make it easier for Jill. She steeled herself and informed, “You arrived here with countless Umbrella helicopters… loaded with soldiers. We were able to scare them off.”

Jill was still staring at her left arm. Her mind was hit by a recent memory of a green vile inside of a case. But it was a broken memory that faded away. “The anti-virus,” she whispered in realization. She looked at the leader. “The anti-virus is here… that’s why Umbrella sent me.” But she felt like she was half right. There was another reason she’d come to the Arcadia.

Claire didn’t confirm or deny Jill’s knowledge about the anti-virus. She instead asked, “Why would you be after the anti-virus?”

Jill lowered her arm and considered the question. But she had no knowledge about why. “I’m not sure.”

Claire accepted the answer, for now. She’d allow it until more of Jill’s memory surfaced. “It’ll come back in time.” She hoped so too because they needed the information. “I have to get some rest.” She shifted to the closed door.

Jill didn’t follow her friend and merely watched her go to the door.

Claire paused after opening the door slightly. She looked back at the agent and sincerely offered, “I’m sorry, Jill.” She quietly left and went directly back to her shared quarters. When she arrived at her quarters, she paused and thought about Jill for a moment. She imagined that Alice was waiting on her.

Inside the quarters, Alice lost her concentration on the kukri and stared at the door. She sensed Claire on the other side after hearing a faint footfall coming from outside. She watched the handle drop down then there was Claire.

“Hey,” Claire greeted.

Alice returned to her sharpening. She didn’t have much left. “How was Jill?” She already had an idea after what’d translated from Claire into Alice earlier.

Claire had shut the door and leaned against it. She honestly confessed, “Upset.” She felt Alice’s sharp green eyes on her. “I told her she’s been involved with Umbrella.” She pushed off the door then went to the bathroom. “She wants to come with us tomorrow.”

Alice wasn’t the least surprised by Jill’s offer. She’d seen Jill’s self sacrificing actions in motions before, especially with Angie. Alice had kept a certain space between herself and Angie because Angie’s T-virus hit home for Alice. She just wasn’t ready to face her own demons at that time. Angie had better accepted her place and the infection that kept her mobile. And Jill had grown close to Angie during Alice’s absence because Doctor Ashford was gone.

Claire reappeared from the bathroom and was toweling off her face. She took a seat on the other side of the table. She studied the assortment of weapons on the table.

“Where are your weapons?” Alice inquired. She was now cleaning and preparing her 10-gauge double-barrel shotgun.

“Down in the bottom drawer,” Claire replied. She leaned back in the chair and felt the last of her tension wash away. Her visit with Jill was hard.

“I’ll check over them tonight,” Alice offered.

Claire looked over at her friend and sadly smiled. “Thanks.” She removed her ball cap and set it on the table. She dropped her head back against the wall.

Alice set her sawed off shotgun down then picked up the other one. “So what’s your story with Jill?” She didn’t look at Claire and continued cleaning the shotgun with her oiled rag. She planned to get quarters organized next thanks to Luther’s kind donation.

“What you mean?” Claire shifted some in the seat and rolled her head so she could see Alice’s profile.

Alice bit her bottom lip for a second then offered, “RC?” She glanced briefly at the younger woman before returning to her task.

Claire rolled her eyes at the old nickname. “Yeah… Jill’s nickname for me.” She closed her eyes and explained, “I was big into RC cars when I was younger. I use to build them as a kid so I had a collection of them in the garage.”

Alice had a faint grin at the picture painted for her.

“Plus RC is my initials… backwards.” Claire shrugged and looked at Alice. “Jill liked to tease me about my RC cars when we were in high school. I was the tomboy, and she was the girly girl.”

“You knew each other in high school?” Alice hadn’t realized that part. It explained their comfort with each other.

“Yeah.” Claire straightened up and added, “We met through Chris, became good friends, and then dated for awhile before she went to the academy after graduation.”

Alice paused and checked that she heard Claire correctly. “Dated?”

Claire stood up with the towel in hand. “We were girlfriends,” she confirmed. She enjoyed how Alice stared at her with a very intense expression.

“I… I didn’t…” Alice was unsure what she was trying to say to Claire.

Claire strolled away but finished, “You didn’t realize I was a lesbian?” She smirked to herself during her short trip to the bathroom. She imagined Alice’s dumbfounded look.

Alice was dry mouth and felt idiotic now. She silently cursed for acting this way. “I just thought…”

Claire was quickly brushing her teeth, but she heard Alice’s attempt at continuing the conversation. She wanted to laugh yet held back because it’d make Alice uncomfortable. She switched off the light after finishing her nightly routine. “You thought what?” She enjoyed Alice’s anxious manner.

“I thought you… and Carlos…” Alice felt her cheeks go warm. She couldn’t believe it and couldn’t recall the last time she’d blushed over anything.

Claire shrugged but went to the dresser. “We did… a few times.” She knew exactly what went through Alice’s mind at that point. “I just liked confirming why I still prefer women.” She shook her head and yanked open the drawer. “And I didn’t have many choices to pick from in the convoy.” She shrugged and nonchalantly added, “He was handsome enough… for a guy.” She didn’t voice how mediocre he was in bed, but that was her lesbian opinion she decided long ago.

Alice softly cleared her throat then set her shotgun down on the open roll. She barely managed to get her revolver. “I’m sorry… I’m not sure what to say.”

Claire removed her red vest and put it away. She pulled out her sleeping attire. She grinned at her friend and replied, “You’ll figure it out.” She returned to the bathroom so she could change for bed.

“I guess so,” Alice murmured. She took care of her revolver in her hands then cleaned and checked her second one that she had in her jeans’ waistband. She said goodnight to Claire, who went to bed after switching the overhead light off. Alice didn’t need much light to do work. She discovered her night vision was greatly improving lately.

Alice kept her promise and took care of Claire’s weapons too. She admired Claire’s choice in weapons, but she felt Claire needed a small weapon for hiding. She planned to give Claire her extra bowie knife tomorrow since Claire had lost the other one during their fight against Wesker.

After doing her last chore of loading the shotguns with quarters, Alice prepared for bed. She estimated that Claire had already slept for an hour. She hoped tomorrow would go smoothly as it sounded to their ears. But Alice knew better. Nothing was simple anymore.

Alice crawled under the cool sheets after setting her revolver on the nightstand. She found Claire already on her stomach. She’d thought a lot about what Claire told her earlier. She wasn’t the least bothered by Claire’s preference. But she couldn’t admit that she was bothered by Claire and Jill’s intimate past. She’d set it aside for later.

Claire shifted from her dreams some and looked at Alice since she had her head turned in that direction. She adjusted the pillow under her arms and closed her eyes again.

“Hey,” Alice softly called to her friend.

Claire fought off her sleep again and focused on Alice’s dark features. She briefly tensed when hands were on her hips.

“Come ‘ere.” Alice gently pulled on Claire.

Claire hadn’t expected a repeated offer from last night, particularly after their conversation tonight. She thought Alice would keep her distance. She had to agree with Chris that Alice was definitely straight looking.

Claire’s thoughts fizzled away. She moved over and become comfortable against Alice’s side. She sighed contently after laying her head down on Alice’s pillow. She could smell the soft scent from Alice’s hair mixed by the faint hint of oil.

Alice adjusted her arms around her friend’s warm body. She mimicked Claire’s earlier sigh and closed her eyes. She didn’t give a damn what it meant to be comfortable with Claire against her. She and Claire had slept better last night after they were curled up together. This was one of Alice’s few pleasures in life, and she could tell it was for Claire too.

But six o’clock came too soon for the friends. Alice had woken them up at four thirty in hopes it was enough time. She had learned that Claire was anything but a morning person. She disliked taking Claire from the comforts of their bed, but they had a mission.

Claire muttered something that the survivors could wait a few more hours. But she grudgingly got up but only because Alice’s warmth was gone. She couldn’t stand getting up early and even more so when the sun wasn’t up. She got ready rather quickly once she was in motion. She and Alice were fully armed before they left their quarters. Claire went to the galley with Alice, but she shoved down something quick. Alice didn’t have anything only because she didn’t need it.

“I’m going to get Chris,” Alice told the leader.

Claire nodded. “I’ll meet you all down at the helicopter.”

Alice knew that Claire wanted to prep the Osprey. She grabbed her VHF radio and flicked it on. She set the channel before hooking it to her belt at her back. “I’ll see you there.” She separated from Claire and went on a hunt for Chris.

Claire arrived at the helicopter bay. She went to work and preflighted the Osprey in good time. She checked all the systems and toyed with the GPS. She could tell it was using Umbrella’s satellites, but she didn’t care. She decided Umbrella owed human survival. Claire stepped out of the V-22 and went to the bay doors. She hit the button to open the one for the helicopter she planned to use this morning.

The helicopter bay’s entrance door slid open and revealed a small group of well prepared men. Chris Redfield and Alice were in the lead and instructed the ten soldiers to board the Osprey. One by one the soldiers hurried to the open door of the helicopter, but they each received an appreciative word from Claire Redfield.

Chris adjusted the submachine gun’s strap on his chest. He softly smiled at his sister. “You ready to fly this bird?”

Claire glanced at Alice then back at her brother. “You ready to ride it?” She smirked at him.

Chris reached out and quickly yanked on his sister’s brim. “Let’s go.” He headed into the large helicopter.

Alice briefly watched Chris go then she looked at the leader. “You’re sure about this?”

Claire understood what her friend was asking her. She seriously considered it then nodded. “Yeah… I’m sure.” She gave a reassuring smile. “Come on.” She and Alice walked together and boarded the plane.

Alice took an empty seat among the other members. She buckled up after briefly recalling her prior helicopter rides. She hated helicopters.

Claire took the pilot’s seat while her brother was already buckled up in the copilot’s seat. She adjusted the chest strap then started going through the checklist to start the plane. She called out each item on the checklist in her lap. She hollered clear through the bay then turned over the engines, which roared to life. Claire adjusted the RPMs so that it was idling and warming up.

Chris was calling out the engine instruments’ readings. He then nodded at Claire that everything looked good.

Claire started setting the flight instruments like the heading indicator, altitude indicator, and artificial horizon. Finally she and Chris put on their headsets and set the channel to the emergency frequency.

“You think you can get it out of here?” Chris teased his sister.

Claire flashed a grin and decided demonstrating her skill would be answer enough. She reached for the throttle, but she backed off when the hangar’s entrance door drew open.

Chris was confused too and leaned forward. His right hand shifted towards his handgun on his leg. He was surprised to see Jill Valentine strolling through.

Jill wore her casual street clothes that Claire had given her. She walked in front of the helicopter, stood there, and placed her hands on her hips. She wasn’t about to move unless it was onto the helicopter.

“Shit,” Claire cursed over the headset. “That stubborn son-” Her words were cut short over the intercom because she’d ripped off her headset. She was getting out of the seat and was thankful Chris took the helicopter controls.

Chris decided to stay out of it because his sister was absolutely pissed off at Jill. But he couldn’t hide a smirk after Claire stomped off.

Alice had immediately caught onto what was happening. She could sense Jill’s presence in the hangar bay. It took much of her will not follow after the fuming leader, who went to confront Jill. She decided to count to ten, several times.

“What the Hell do you think you’re doing?” Claire yelled over the helicopter’s noise.

Jill dropped her hands from her hips and faced the pissed leader. “You need my help, Claire.”

“The fuck I do,” Claire snapped. “Where the Hell are your guards?” If Jill had harmed them, she planned to put Jill in the brig for a few days.

“They’re still catching their beauty sleep,” Jill smartly replied. She held up her hands. “I didn’t touch them on my way out the door.”

Claire planned to chew out Chris for assigning lazy guards on Jill. “You are going back to your quarters.”

“I don’t think so,” Jill argued. “I’m going on that helicopter with you.”

Claire stepped closer to her friend and ordered, “You are not.” She narrowed her eyes and threatened, “I can have this done the hard way, Jill.”

Jill didn’t back off because she knew Claire under the leader mask. “I just want to help, Claire.” She also moved in closer and explained, “If I have been working for Umbrella then that means I owe people something.” She glanced at the running helicopter then back at Claire. “Let me fix that.”

Claire stared hard at Jill and seriously weighed Jill’s words.

“Please, RC,” Jill added. But her attention was drawn behind Claire.

Claire almost looked over her shoulder until she felt familiar warmth at the back of her neck. Then a warm hand was on her shoulders that soothed away some of her temper.

“Let her come with us,” Alice encouraged her friend. She squeezed Claire’s shoulder.

Claire didn’t take her eyes off Jill. She still viewed Jill as an Umbrella agent until she was certain that Jill had her memories and still chose the survivors over Umbrella. Claire mostly believed that Jill would stand beside the survivors, but she didn’t like chancing anything. She leaned on Alice’s request then finally ordered, “Get on.”

Alice took a step back when Claire went past her.

Jill approached the familiar but strange woman that’d help her win Claire over. “Thanks.”

Alice merely nodded then returned to the helicopter.

Claire was back in the helicopter’s cargo hole. She told the soldiers to donate a few weapons to Jill Valentine. She then grabbed her ball cap, pulled it off, and put it on backwards. She glanced at Jill and Alice boarding the helicopter. She didn’t comment and went to the pilot’s seat.

Alice sealed the door and waited for Jill to claim a few guns for herself. She indicated to Jill an empty seat then returned to her own. She hastily buckled up because the helicopter was lifting off the hangar floor.

Claire carefully maneuvered the Osprey out of the ship’s haul then increased the power once they were free of the ship. She hastily climbed up in altitude but decided on only fifteen hundred feet. She pushed the throttle in more and flew towards Mission Bay. She already felt her heart pumping and her tension growing in her muscles. She prayed the rescue mission would go as smoothly as possible despite the infected wasteland that was rising above her.

To be continued.