Disclaimer & Notices: See Chapter 1.

 


Resident Evil: Phoenix
by Red Hope

Chapter 6

Claire Redfield adjusted the throttle so that they were going slower now that Vacation Isle was just ahead of them. She gazed down at the island, which was the only thing left with green grass compared to the surrounding wasteland to the south.

Chris had a view of the south and informed, “The south bridge is intact but barricaded.” He shook his head at all the zombies that pooled at the concrete barricade. “There must be thousands.”

Claire spotted the north bridge at the other end of the island. “The north bridge is gone… probably blown up.” She was glad for one positive aspect. “I’m going to do a go-around,” she announced to her brother over the intercom. “See if you can spot the survivors.” She tilted the stick and started banking to the left to loop around the island.

Chris straightened up and pointed out the window. “Eleven o’clock.”

Claire pinpointed the large swell of survivors on the south-east portion of the island. They were congregated just next to the island’s tiny lake. “Great. They’re right next to that parking lot.” Just maybe they were in luck for once.

Chris was starting to unbuckle his seatbelt. “I’ll get everybody ready to unload.”

Claire nodded but ordered, “Be careful, Chris.”

Chris winked at his sister then removed the headset. He carefully stood up but used the handles to help him.

Claire circled around once more but aligned the helicopter with the parking lot that once was used by a restaurant. She focused on her task of safely landing the large bird. Her eyes flickered across all the flight instruments then cut to the window’s view before going back to the instruments in a constant cycle. Her moist hands stayed locked on the stick as if it were an extension of her arms.

Chris signaled for the soldiers to get up and prepare to disembark. He traded a brief smile with his former partner. He was glad to see Jill on the mission.

After unbuckling, Alice made her way over to the door. She prepared to open it once the Osprey touched the ground.

“Five hundred feet!” Claire hollered to the team.

Alice forced the lock handle down, but she didn’t open the door yet.

“Three hundred!” Claire reported back to them again. She ignored the beads of sweat going down her temples. She concentrated on making her landing perfect like she’d been taught long ago. She watched the altitude indicator eat up the last few hundred feet then she carefully hovered ten feet over the ground before she settled it with ease.

Alice shoved open the door and quickly jumped off with the rest of the team flowing out behind her. She instantly spotted  the mass of survivors coming from the right. A faint smile touched her lips at knowing they’d make it out of here with new survivors.

Chris hurried to Alice’s side and actually felt hope refill him upon seeing the survivors. He couldn’t believe there was still beauty left in this world. But Chris honed in on who he believed was the leader of the survivors.

“You must be Arcadia,” the young man started. His kept his voice louder over the helicopter’s noise. He held out his hand first to Chris.

“I’m Chris Redfield.” Chris shook hands with the young man, who was probably closer to Claire’s age.

“Leon Kennedy,” the young man introduced. He then offered a friendly smile to the woman next to Chris Redfield.

“I’m Alice.” Alice firmly gripped Leon’s hand and shook it.

“I can’t thank you all enough,” Leon sincerely spoke. He looked at his people being helped onto the helicopter. He brushed back his short, brown hair then traded his shotgun to his right hand. “I’ve got thirty-six people. Can we all fit on there?”

Chris shook his head. “I’m afraid we have to make two trips.” He pivoted on his foot and pointed at the cockpit. “My sister is the pilot, and she’s fast.”

Leon nodded.  He imagined that was Claire Redfield, who he’d spoke to on the radio. “Great.” He noted that the helicopter was nearly filled by the survivors plus two soldiers from the Arcadia team.

“Chris!” a soldier called out from the Osprey’s open door.

Chris broke away from Leon and Alice. He spoke to the soldier, who reported that Claire was taking off with the loaded helicopter. He agreed and helped the soldier shut the door. He backed off like other team members and watched the Osprey take off.

“Alright,” Chris hollered to the team. “Form a circle around the survivors.” He returned to Alice and Leon, who were in the center of the remaining twelve survivors. He slowed though when Jill joined him on the walk. “Claire will still reprimand you for disobeying her,” he softly informed Jill.

“I know.” Jill expected as much from Claire. But she had to go. There was something in her gut that told her it was important. She was going to say more until a ghost’s voice tickled her ear.

“For three years,” Leon told Alice. He was going to tell Alice more until his attention went behind Alice.

Alice watched how Leon’s features shifted into pure confusion. She slightly turned and followed his stare towards Jill Valentine.

“Jill?” Leon started towards the ghost.

Jill slowed down and stared in shock at the young man. “No.” She covered her chest but carefully approached Leon. She started shaking her head and hoarsely whispered, “Leon?” She blinked back the sting in her eyes. “But you were…”

Leon opened and closed his mouth a few times until his mind caught up. He clenched his trembling hands then sadly smiled. “I thought you were…” He didn’t waste another second and closed in the short distance. He scooped up Jill into a strong embrace.

Jill was amazed and fiercely hugged back her former police partner. She withdrew after several seconds and stated, “They told me you were dead.”

Leon sadly smiled and shook his head. “It was a cover story.”

“What?” Jill rested her hand on his left arm. “Why?”

“I was recruited by the FBI… kind of last minute,” Leon revealed, “before the outbreak in Raccoon City.” He noted that Chris and Alice were joining them. “I was added into an ongoing investigation on Umbrella.” He faltered but explained, “There was some kind of group that was trying to divulge Umbrella’s research and…” He was cut short when a survivor called his name.

“Leon,” he hollered again. The survivor pushed his way through the group.

Leon Kennedy turned on his heels when Tom grabbed him. “What is it?”

Tom shook his head and replied, “Lauren and Will aren’t here.”

“Did they get on the helicopter?” Leon checked.

“No.” Tom bowed his head and ran through his memory of the survivors getting onto the helicopter earlier. “They didn’t board it.” He met Leon’s steady gaze. “I think she and Will are still at the safe house.”

“Damn,” Leon murmured. He knew that Will wasn’t doing well since their supplies were dwindling. There were other survivors not doing well, but Will was having the most trouble. “I’ll go get them.”

“No,” Alice cut off. She grabbed Leon’s arm and held him back. “I’ll retrieve them.”

Leon Kennedy hesitated but argued, “I know where the safe house is.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Alice released him but shifted closer. “Tell me where it’s located.” She had the map of the island and surrounding area memorized. After only looking at the map once, she had it committed to memory like a computer. “What street?”

Leon hesitated but when Alice asked him again, he quickly replied, “Near the intersection of Vacation Road and Ingraham Street… near the old north bridge.”

“I’ll come with you,” Jill offered to Alice.

Alice shook her head. “You need to stay here and help these people get out of here.” She took a step back.

“Wait,” Leon called to Alice. “The safe house is the old Paradise Point Resort.”

Alice quickly thanked Leon then hurried off before anymore time passed them. She pushed through the people then disappeared out of the parking lot. She ran at top speed, which was faster than what humans could go. She followed her mental map of the island that was exact despite some of the toppled or burned homes sprinkled about on the island.

Alice entered a deserted, small development that was overrun by weeds and other plant life. She imagined it was once a nice getaway location. She briefly slowed near a swimming pool that now only held dirty water down at the last three feet. Otherwise it was cracked and slimy thanks to the earth slowly reclaiming it.

A short run across the island’s main street called Vacation Road brought Alice to the entrance of the former Paradise Point Resort. The resort sign at the main entrance was no longer pristine and welcoming to vacationers. Ivy had grown over it and palm tree’s leaves mostly covered it.

Alice entered the parking lot for the resort. She spotted an abandoned white van off to the left that looked like it once picked up guests. She visually scanned the three buildings, but she determined one was a lobby while the other two had rooms for guests. Alice couldn’t be sure which building was the safe house if not both of them.

Alice neared the closets one and paused as she smelled the air around her. She first picked out the scent of the overgrown fauna, but she filtered it out. Slowly the smell of human’s blood lingered in the air, and she knew she was headed in the right direction. Alice entered the first building and hastily followed her senses along the invisible trail that humans left behind. But she could tell that the humans had left the building hours ago by how faint the scent was in the building.

Alice exited the building and hastily approached the next one. She nearly reached for the metal door’s handle until her blood tingled all over. Alice paid mind to her blood’s warning so she silently knelt down in front of the door. She came closer to the thin opening between the doorframe and the door. She bent down and inhaled the air coming from in the building. There was no mistaking the T-virus or its carrier in the last safe house.

For a moment, Alice considered whether to seek out Lauren and her son if they were indeed still alive. She knew as soon as she entered the safe house that she would alert the undead of her presence and most likely encourage it to forget its meal and seek out the other humans on the island. But against Alice’s logical judgment, she decided to investigate the safe house for any hope that Lauren or Will was still alive.

Alice selected one of her revolvers and extracted it from her right hip holster. She cocked the hammer now instead of later then proceeded to silently open the door. Now the smell of human blood washed over Alice and sent her bonded blood into a frenzy. Alice shook it off and focused on her mission to find any survivor.

Alice moved silently through the hallway that was lined with open doors to rooms. She didn’t bother looking in them because she didn’t detect any life. Instead her blood guided her and her nose followed the metallic odor drifting through the safe house. Alice felt a hypnotic haze wash over her as the smell of human blood grew stronger. Gradually sounds of eating and flesh being ripped echoed down the next hallway. Then a bone sharply snapped and the feasting continued carrying through the safe house.

There were three rooms left at the end of the short hallway, and Alice knew it was the next room. She eyed the small blood trail that led into the open hotel room. She made the next cautious steps to the door while raising her revolver. Alice inhaled the tantalizing scent of human flesh, but she paused and shook it off. She’d never once been invigorated by it until now. She forced down her unnatural pleasure in the human’s death. Alice clenched her jaw and reminded herself she wasn’t one of them.

Carefully Alice knelt down and inched closer to the open door with her shoulder pressed against the wall. She placed her left hand on her holstered revolver’s handle. But she edged around the corner and cautiously peered past the doorway to get a slight view of the situation. She swallowed and watched an undead continue ravaging a female human’s stomach. Alice could tell it was the first time the undead had eaten any human flesh.

He was hasty and unaware of his surroundings. He let his tentacles at his mouth caress the dead human’s untouched legs. Soon he planned to move lower and try the still warm blood in her calves.

Alice curiously watched the undead feast on the woman’s spilled intestines. She decided the woman, most likely Lauren, would probably not get a chance to be reanimated by the T-virus. She suspected the undead would crush her skull and eat her brain matter as well. Alice continued observing the undead, who was completely unaware of his audience behind him. Alice’s empathy for the creature started to surface, and she almost withdrew until her mind caught up with her body.

There was no boy in the dark room. No tiny body lying around or a different scent of blood. Instead it was just Lauren’s carcass being feasted upon. But the boy couldn’t have been that far from his mother.

Alice tried sniffing the air, but she couldn’t come up with the boy’s scent. She only picked out the mother’s and wondered if the boy had in fact gone someplace else. She doubted it since the other survivors mentioned that Will wasn’t in good health. Alice lowered her eyes to the blood stain on the carpet in front of her. She decided to tempt fate so she warily stretched out her hand. Her fingertips pressed into the soaked carpet fibers and instantly Alice was hit by memories from Lauren.

“Oh god,” Lauren whimpered. She stared in horror at the undead at the other end of the hallway in the safe house. She should have known to leave with the others, but she didn’t want to push her sick son.

Lauren screamed and scrambled back into the bedroom when the undead humanoid ran after her. She slammed the door shut, locked it, and raced over to her son. She scooped up Will from the bed and carried him to the open closet.

“Mom, what is it?” Will heard the banging at the door, but he couldn’t see well despite the candlelight.

“Ssssh,” Lauren urged her son. She put him in the closet and started closing it. “I want you to be quiet and stay in here no matter what you hear.”

“But-” Will heard the banging getting louder then there was a crack of the door.

“Promise me?” Lauren demanded her son.

Will simply nodded and curled up in the small space. As the door started to close, he called, “I love you, Mom.” But his mother didn’t return the sentiment. The door clicked shut and hid him away.

Lauren backed up from the closet and faced the door just as it was forced open. She stared in fear at the undead’s white eyes before his mouth flared open wildly and came at her.

Alice jerked her hand away from the blood and the memories were cut off before they went uglier. She retracted her hand and focused back on the undead creature’s back. Her green eyes quickly cut to the closet door that was indeed still shut and left alone. Alice realized that the undead didn’t know the human boy was in it.

Alice made her choice and started her surprise attack on the eating undead. She tore out her left revolver while she fired her other one at the undead. She sunk the first bullet in his neck then shot her next bullet into his head. Alice fired twice more and landed the bullets in the creature’s head for good measure.

Alice knew it was dead, but she couldn’t help sinking her boot’s heel into the zombie’s skull. She took in the T-virus stench that the undead gave off. She found it as disgusting as the devoured human, who’s guts were strewn across the room. Alice decided the creature was immature by how messy he ate and rather unaware he’d been of her presence. He was either immature or incredibly starved for clean blood.

Alice hurried to the closet, put away a revolver, and squatted down once the door was wide enough. Quickly her eyes adjusted to pitch black closet, and she discovered the boy balled up in the corner.

“Hey,” Alice softly tried.

Will trembled in the corner and attempted moving back further, but there was no place to go.

“It’s okay,” Alice insisted. She kept her tone gentle in hopes it’d coax the boy. “My name is Alice.” She offered him a smile. “I’m from the Arcadia.” She could see he was calming down. “Leon sent me here to get you.”

Will lifted his head from his knees and whispered, “My mom… she…” His voice broke and shook more than his fragile body. There were clearly tears on his face.

Alice swallowed hard and weakly explained, “Your mom is gone already.” She stretched out her hand but didn’t touch Will. “I have to get you out of here… so you can get off this island.” She held out her hand in offer. “Please.”

Will faintly nodded then put his trust into the stranger. He took her hand and was helped to his feet in the tall closet.

Alice now could see how pale the boy was because he nearly matched the closet’s white walls. She also realized she couldn’t smell his blood. It was quite faint when she was close to him. Alice figured it was why the undead hadn’t picked up on him. Thank god for small miracles.

“Tell you what, I’m going to carry you back so we can get there faster.” But Alice needed her hands free in case there was more trouble. The way her blood still danced under her skin, she knew trouble wasn’t far away. “I’m going to turn around. I want you to wrap your arms around my neck and your legs around my stomach. Do you think you can hold on that way?”

“Yes.” Will held a note of confidence in his voice this time.

Alice was relieved and quickly turned around, but she made sure to block the boy’s view of his dead mother. She felt him climbing onto her back. “I want you to hide your face in my neck and not look around until we get to Leon and the others. Okay?”

“Okay,” Will weakly replied.

Alice wasn’t totally convinced and had to be sure he wouldn’t see his mother’s shredded body. She also worried he’d see other undead creatures once they exited the safe house. “Swear it?” she asked in a more strict tone.

Will pressed his face into the woman’s warm neck and muttered, “I swear it.”

Alice was assured and adjusted the boy on her back then stood up. She hooked her left arm under his one leg but kept her revolver at the ready. She wouldn’t have very good access to her other weapons on her back like her kukri or shotguns, but she didn’t rely on them either. She took a deep breath, which made her draw in Lauren’s sweet blood that lingered in the air. Alice was charged by it, and she didn’t fight it this time because she needed all the exhilaration possible so that she could get them back to the pickup zone in time. All her senses were alerting her that trouble was coming closer each second.

Alice cocked the revolver’s hammer and darted down the hallway towards the entrance. She heard the boy’s heavily beating heart. She could feel his weaken blood rushing through his veins. She hoped his weakened blood would not draw any undead to them just like his mother’s killer had missed him.

Alice slowed at the door and cautiously went outside into the beautiful day. She scanned the parking lot, but it was empty. She detected another undead though despite it wasn’t in her vision. She trusted her senses so she slowly descended the few steps. Sharply her bonded blood made her turn on her heels and stretch out her gun at the undead creature several yards to the right.

The undead stood there and staring at the unusual female. He canted his head because he’d never encountered one like her. He didn’t smell any sweet blood coming off her, but there was something else about her. He curiously approached her.

Alice walked backwards through the parking lot and headed for the resort’s main entrance. She kept her gun trained on the undead. She knew to run since she’d be much faster than him. Yet she too found herself curious about the undead creature and what was translating between them. Alice flexed her grip on the revolver when another undead joined the first one. She noted he was damp and wet foot prints on the pavement behind him.

“Damn,” Alice softly cursed. It struck her that the undead were swimming across the bay from the mainland. They were desperate to feed on humans, and they knew the island had fresh blood.

Alice came out of her thoughts when the boy shivered against her. She recalled her task at hand and better lined up her sights with the nearest undead. She pulled the trigger and watched the speeding bullet fly. She retracted the hammer and fired on the second undead. She pleasantly watched the two zombies topple to the ground.

But her victory was rather short lived because six more dripping undead appeared at the other side of the parking lot. They were not simple, slow zombies, but fast and with higher brain function. They gave out low cries to their companions, who were still crossing the bay or just stepping onto the island. The six decided that Alice was an enemy despite her unusual scent. They charged her like a wave as others behind them hastily followed.

Alice fired again but decided an escape was a better plan. She bolted at a speed that the undead couldn’t match despite they were as fast as humans. Alice prayed that the undead weren’t coming ashore from different locations. But either way, she was leading them right to the survivors with little choice. If she could get Will to the group then she’d be freed to hold off the undead attack.

Will shook and trembled against the woman’s back. He didn’t cry though, kept his face in Alice’s neck, and held with all his strength. Despite he couldn’t see anything, he felt the undead after them for his blood. A few tears escaped and moistened his savior’s neck.

Alice holstered her revolver on her right hip. She hooked her arm around the boy’s leg like her other arm. She felt she had him secure now and could perform better. Alice darted towards the tiny development and spotted the pool. She didn’t bother going around it this time and instead ran right towards it. Alice launched off the pool’s cracked ledge, soared over the pool, and neatly landed in the grass on the other side. She sprung up and continued the race back to the pickup zone. Off in the distance she heard the V-22 Osprey’s rotors chopping through the air then it became louder so she gazed upwards.

The Osprey circled the island but noticeably slowed down. The pilot, Claire Redfield, trembled with fear when she spotted the wave of undead rising up from the shore on the north end of the island. She then followed the trail of undead that led her to Alice’s figure running across the lake’s small parking lot. Her heart jumped into her throat. It explained the sudden panic sensation coursing through her body when she spotted Alice fleeing from the undead mob.

“Shit,” Claire snapped. She couldn’t believe it, but she didn’t have any time left either. She hastened to set the helicopter down on the pickup zone. She ripped off her headset and tore her marine VHF radio off her belt. She started yelling into the radio.

“Chris, there are undead coming from the north!” Claire started maneuvering the helicopter down to the parking lot. “There are undead coming!” She briefly saw the Arcadia team scrabbling, but her view was blocked by the helicopter. She tossed the VHF radio into the co-pilot’s seat and focused on her landing.

Alice broke through the couple of trees and entered the pickup zone. She scrambled to hand off Will to another survivor. Gunshots rang in her ears as the Arcadia team advanced on the wave of undead. Alice gave Tom the boy then she spun on her heels. She tore her blades free from her back and raced back to the fight.

“Get them on the helicopter and get them out of here,” Chris yelled at his sister over the VHF radio.

Claire grabbed the radio again. “You and the team need to get in the goddamn helicopter, now!” She rehooked it to her right side.

Alice was listening to the siblings arguing over the VHF radio that was hooked to her right hip. She sliced through two undead, but she was looking for Chris. She glanced over her shoulder and saw the remaining survivors were nearly loaded.

“There are fucking hundreds of them getting on the island,” Claire reported. “Get into the damn chopper!”

Chris nearly responded until Alice was at his side. He was impressed when Alice sliced two undeads’ heads off with her kukris.

“Get back to the helicopter,” Alice snapped at him. “Get the team back now.” She spun her kukri and drove it behind herself when an undead tried sneaking up on her. “I can hold them off.”

“Alice-”

“Do it!” Alice growled. She needed the room so she could deal with the undead with her powers.

Chris didn’t argue further and instead hollered for the team to retreat to the helicopter. He backed up but kept firing at the zombies closest to him.

Leon Kennedy was at Jill’s side and protected her back from an approaching undead. He hastily reloaded his shotgun with more shells and continued back stepping to the helicopter. “So how you been, Jill?”

Jill kicked an undead and sent him crashing into three others. She didn’t expect her kick to have that much power. “A little under the weather, I guess.” She slammed another magazine into her Glock’s handle. She unloaded the bullets with perfect aim. “So did the FBI dump you here on Vacation Isle for some R&R or what?”

Leon smirked at his partner’s joke. “Something like that.” He looked behind and saw the helicopter was only a few yards. “How did you cheat death?”

Jill was confused and looked at Leon beside her. “What?”

Leon briefly caught her stare, but he continued shooting until he needed his handguns. “I was told you joined some group that was fighting against Umbrella. But you got killed… shot in the chest.” He furrowed his eyebrow. “The weird part was the group lost track of your body. I thought maybe you…” Leon didn’t want to imagine or even say that Jill had turned into an undead.

Jill felt nearly light headed after Leon’s words. She pushed away her emotions and didn’t say anything else.

Chris Redfield made it to the helicopter and ordered the team to get on with the survivors. He remained near the door and fired on the undead that came closer. But he couldn’t be fast enough as one of the team members was taken down. Then another was attacked and killed by two zombies.

“Hurry up!” Chris yelled at them. His head snapped to the right when a loud grinding started further away in the parking lot. He held his breath and watched the parking lot peel off the ground. The pavement rose up like a tidal wave and crashed down on several undead. Chris knew it was Alice.

Jill went still after she witnessed what Alice had done. She was amazed, and it deeply jarred her mind. She suddenly snapped back to the present when two zombies were shot next to her thanks to Leon.

“Let’s get in the helicopter,” Leon told his former partner.

Jill silently agreed and hurried to the chopper. She fired a few more rounds and took out two undead that was sneaking up on another soldier. “There’s too many of those damn things.”

“Get inside,” Chris ordered Leon and Jill. “We need to get out of here before we’re surrounded.”

Jill waited until two soldiers got in then she jumped in next. She got out of the way when Leon boarded behind her. She inched back into the door way and continued firing on the fast approaching zombies. “Get in, Chris!”

Chris took his chance thanks to Jill covering him. He climbed aboard but also joined Jill in the shoot out. He called out to his sister. “Get us up, Claire!”

“Where’s Alice?” the leader hollered back.

Jill Valentine paused and watched Alice hurtling at least ten undead through the air. She couldn’t understand how Alice did it. “She’s closer to the restaurant,” Jill called to Claire.

“We’re out of time!” Chris yelled at his sister. “Go!”

Claire couldn’t endanger the survivors so she pushed in the power. She quickly felt the Osprey lift off, but she wasn’t planning to leave without Alice. She had an idea in mind so she tilted the stick to the right and held the altitude at fifteen feet above the ground.

Jill quickly realized what Claire planned to do so she clung onto the door’s edge and peered over. “She’s about three yards to your right, Claire!”

Claire heard the direction and easily maneuvered over the sea of undead. She then heard Jill holler at her to now hover in place. She tightly gripped the stick and carefully directed the helicopter down closer to the ground, but only by ten feet or so.

Jill hung out the window and yelled for Alice, who was fighting off the undead. She called out again and Chris joined her too. But her next breath hitched in her throat when bright blue eyes gazed up at her.

Alice listened to the chopping blades near her head. She then looked back at the undead all around her and shot off a telekinesis blast. She sent undead spewing all over the destroyed parking lot. It gave her enough time to sheath her weapons and take two running steps at the helicopter. Alice launched into the air and snared the helicopter’s landing skid.

Chris dropped down to his stomach and held out his hand. “Come on!” He tried reaching further as Alice grabbed for his hand.

But Alice was shaken when the helicopter was rocked by a new weight. She looked over her right shoulder at the undead creature that’d catapulted onto the landing skid too. But he was dangling off by one of his mouth’s tentacles and fighting to get on the helicopter.

“Take it up, Claire!” Jill ordered. She turned to the door again, but she stumbled back when a tentacle nearly grabbed her. “Shit.” She dug out her gun and shot at it.

Claire hit the throttle and the momentum pressed her body down into the seat. She pushed the stick forward, which sent the Osprey careening northward past the island and towards the mainland.

Alice growled as she fought to stay on the landing skid. Another glance at the undead told her that he may get onboard and attack everybody. She instinctively reached to her lower back and grabbed the bowie knife that she’d meant to give to Claire. Alice gave a yell then jumped for the undead.

The undead roared when the unusual female latched onto his body. Then he gave a low cry when a hot blade tore through his tentacle that was wrapped around the landing skid. He couldn’t grab onto the helicopter fast enough. He went tumbling down to the ground with his enemy wrapped around him.

“Alice!” Chris hollered. His view of Alice was broken by the helicopter’s sharp left turn. He heard everybody’s screams, and he clung to the door’s edge.

Jill tumbled backwards, but Leon grabbed her before she hit the opposite side.

Claire was cursing until she had control of the helicopter. She knew what happened and barked, “Can anybody see Alice?”

Chris was scanning the ground, but he’d lost track of Alice. “No… no I can’t find her,” he called back. He got onto his feet now that the helicopter was stable again. He hurried to the cockpit. “We need to get these people back to the ship.”

Claire was shaking as she thought about her friend down on the ground with all the undead. She shook her head and argued, “We can’t leave without Alice.”

Chris got into the copilot’s seat. “These people need safety, Claire.” He grabbed his sister’s shaking arm and suggested, “We can come back for her.”

Claire had set the Osprey into a large circle above Mission Bay’s Crown Point and kept the altitude at two hundred feet. She considered Chris’s idea, but she started shaking her head. “I can’t do it, Chris.” She was taking off her harness and lap belt.

“Claire…” Chris realized what his sister might do.

“Your controls,” Claire ordered her brother. She didn’t wait for Chris and started getting up.

Chris snapped out of it and grabbed the controls after the helicopter bounced from the wind. He hotly fought, “I won’t land it.”

Claire checked her weapons but took Chris’s submachine gun. “You just have to get me low enough.” She touched his shoulder and leaned closer to him. “Get these people back to Arcadia then come find me and Alice.”

“Claire… I can’t…” Chris was distraught, yet still maneuvered the helicopter well.

Claire squeezed her brother’s shoulders and confidently stated, “You got this.” She left him to it and hastened to the helicopter’s open door.

“Claire…” Jill was standing in the bay since the seats were full. “What are…” She lost her question once she saw the warning look on the leader’s face.

Claire readied her submachine gun as the Osprey rapidly sank down to the Earth. She leaned out some and gauged the distance to the ground. It was still too high.

“She can save herself,” Jill hotly fought. She’d seen what Alice was capable of in the parking lot. “This is insane.” But she backed off when Claire pointed the gun at her.

“I’m not leaving her down there alone,” Claire swore. She was satisfied that Jill wouldn’t stop her. When she looked out the door, she saw the ground was close enough so she took a deep breath and jumped off. Claire swallowed her cry because she didn’t want to alert the undead of her location among the trees. She took a few scrapes from the palms’ branches, but she landed on the soft ground safely.

Claire realized she’d lost her ball cap. She hastily scanned the grass nearby and spotted her cherished hat. She grabbed it up, put it on so the brim hid her face from the sun, and she picked up the submachine gun with both hands. She listened to the helicopter climbing up higher, finally. She was alone in the one city she wanted to see years ago. But now it was devastated city filled with flesh eating, crazed undead. Claire understood what it meant to be careful about what one wished for. This wasn’t exactly what she had in mind when she wanted to see San Diego.

To be continued.