Disclaimer & Notices: See Chapter 1.

Resident Evil: Phoenix
by Red Hope

Chapter 9

Claire awoke an hour after Alice, and she eased back to life. She felt Alice’s warm body against her back just like the prior nights. But this time, Alice had tucked one hand under Claire’s shirt and against her stomach. She suspected that Alice knew she was awake, but she rested there and enjoyed her good morning. Memories from last night drifted back to Claire, and she smiled to herself.

Their night together wasn’t about self-fulfilling passion or heated sex late into the night. Instead they’d immersed themselves in their bond. Claire still didn’t comprehend all of it, but she suspected in time she would learn what it meant for them.

They didn’t speak a single word all night. Every thought and emotion passed through their connection. It’d been the most beautiful experience in Claire’s life. An experience she didn’t know she could describe to another human because she and Alice had reached a level beyond humans. Claire knew it was uniquely shared between her and Alice.

Alice kept her eyes closed, and her forehead against Claire’s head. She’d been thinking hard about last night. She felt she poorly acted and allowed the T-virus to get to her. She should have been stronger than the T-virus. Alice knew Claire had been scared by what the virus may be doing to Claire. She shouldn’t have pushed Claire into intensifying their bond so soon.

“Claire…” Alice murmured in a hesitant tone.

Claire was charged fully awake thanks to alarms from Alice’s tone. She felt Alice’s deep regret through their bond. She hastily started turning over when Alice continued speaking.

“We shouldn’t… I shouldn’t have…” Alice faltered after stern blue eyes locked on her. “I shouldn’t have pushed us that far.”

Claire was propped up on her right elbow and gazed down at her new partner. “Seriously… don’t.” She pressed her palm against Alice’s cheek. “Don’t ruin our morning.” She lowered her head closer and whispered, “I loved it.” She read Alice’s concern and whispered, “It wasn’t too much for me. I didn’t…” Claire couldn’t get a handle on how to express what’d transcended between them. “I didn’t know something like that was possible.” She lightly kissed Alice’s cheek. “You shouldn’t regret any of it.”

Alice slid her arms across Claire’s back. She resisted the hum under her skin and focused on how Claire made her feel at ease about their night. She softly smiled and murmured, “Thank you.”

Claire chuckled now, but she knew she won Alice over. The regret she detected fizzled away from Alice. “Oh my pleasure.” She lowered down onto Alice’s warm, clothed body and found her favorite spot.

Alice shut her eyes and took a deep breath that helped dissipate her excited blood. She thought back on how everything started last night then something occurred to her. She grinned and playfully stated, “Yes, by the way.”

Claire blinked her eyes open twice then lifted her head. “Yes what?” Her brow was deeply furrowed and confusion misted her eyes.

“Yes, I am attracted to your blood,” Alice replied to Claire’s question last night out on the deck.

Claire groaned and rested her head on her friend’s shoulder. “I’m glad you finally answered me because I just wasn’t sure after last night.” She listened to Alice’s deep laugh in her chest.

Alice was smiling and gently drew her nails up Claire’s back despite the tank top in the way. She enjoyed Claire’s soft hum in appreciation.

“What time you think it is?” Claire was clueless about the time other than it was daylight outside thanks to the porthole.

“I would say around ten or later,” Alice answered. She stiffened when Claire tossed her head up.

“Shit,” the leader cursed. “I don’t sleep this late.” She was going to move off until Alice seized her. She focused down on her partner.

“Don’t ruin the morning, Claire,” Alice mocked. She drew the leader into her body again. “The ship is still floating without you.” She grinned at Claire’s low grumble.

Claire relaxed against her partner and slowly her eyelids slipped shut. She listened to Alice’s low breathes, which were soothing to her. She considered her plans for today that included handling Jill Valentine and further acclimating the new survivors. She also thought about Leon’s place since he was the leader of the Vacation Isle group.

“You met Leon?” Claire quietly asked after a few minutes of silence.

“Yes.” Alice realized that Claire probably hadn’t really spoken to him. “His full name is Leon Kennedy.” She chewed on her bottom lip but further divulged the rest about him. “He was Jill’s partner at the police department.”

Again, Claire’s head shot up from Alice’s shoulder. “What?” She read that Alice was quite serious. “She joined the police?”

“Apparently.” Alice studied her partner’s curious features. “It sounds like she joined the Raccoon City Police just before the outbreak.”

Claire was dumbfounded and murmured, “I wonder if Chris knows.”

Alice half shrugged under the younger woman.

Claire rested back against her friend and processed the new information. “Well… I’m glad Jill is among plenty of friends.”

“And her murderer,” Alice jabbed.

Claire took it quite seriously and shifted off her partner. She propped her upper body up with her arms. “Listen, I understand your guilt about what happened between you two.” She couldn’t quite read Alice thanks to her stoic expression. But Claire sensed Alice’s inner turmoil that was very dark. “But Umbrella had control over you… just like they did in Vegas.”

“It was still my hands, Claire,” Alice softly reminded. “Their blood is on my hands.”

Claire softly sighed then placed her left hand on her friend’s cheek. “And you’ve saved thousands of others.”

Alice took the leader’s hand into hers and whispered, “I’ve also infected millions of them.”

Claire frowned deeply at her friend’s dark thoughts. She leaned forward until her brow touched Alice’s. She could feel their emotions freely passing through them. “I guess that still makes you pretty damn human.” She referred to Alice’s imperfections and emotional attachment to the outbreak and lives lost.

Alice closed her eyes and absorbed Claire’s soft words. And there was no argument to what Claire said about her. She instead placed her freehand against Claire’s cheek and absorbed the care that Claire had for her. She only had brief fragments of such care and acceptance from when she was with her family. But those fragments were very slim and barely alive after so many years.

Claire withdrew slowly and murmured, “I need to get moving.” She found warm green eyes on her. “I got a lot to deal with today.”

“I know,” Alice replied.

“I could use your help too.”

Alice softened at the leader’s offer so she faintly nodded. She then allowed Claire to get up first. She noted that Claire was a bit stiff from yesterday’s mission. Alice also honed in on Claire’s long scab that ran the length of Claire’s left arm. Alice held down her displeasure about Claire’s injuries and instead sat on the edge of the bed. She watched her new partner go to the bathroom.

Claire turned on the light and glanced back at Alice. “I seriously thought you were straight…?” Her tone was playful and eyes sky blue. Why that had come to mind all of sudden, Claire wasn’t totally sure. She and Alice had shared numerous kisses and sweet caresses last night, but earlier she was convinced Alice was straight.

Alice raised a thin eyebrow into a perfect arc. Then a dark smirk crossed her full lips. “I’m not straight.”

Claire sharply lost her amused expression. “What?” She shook her head and argued, “I remember you hanging all over Carlos.”

Alice shrugged and reminded, “I was exhausted after killing the crows.” She knew that wasn’t what Claire really meant, yet she was enjoying this thoroughly.

“But the looks you gave him…” Claire was mystified now.

Alice chuckled and her eyes darkened a shade. “And you didn’t see the looks I gave you behind your back.”

Claire couldn’t hide the instant flush against her cheeks. Her next words stumbled out of her mouth. “I just thought… I didn’t realize…”

Alice gave a deep laugh and finished, “You didn’t realize I was bisexual?”

Claire had a beautiful flush across her face, but she patted the door frame once. She murmured, “Touché.” She disappeared into the bathroom after being well matched by Alice.

Alice listened to the door click shut. She chuckled and got to her feet. She decided to get prepared while Claire took a fast shower.

Shortly Claire was headed out of the quarters with Alice right at her side. She was rather famished and caused her to walk quickly so she could get to the galley. Claire thought about the new dynamic to her relationship with Alice. She was unsure what it meant for them in the long run, but she knew better than to question it right now. Everything was too uncertain and also risky. All she had to rely on was her unusual connection with Alice.

“Alice?” Claire saw her friend’s faraway features sharpen back to the present. “Do you remember much about your past before the outbreak?”

Alice seriously considered it, but paused at the stairwell and grabbed the rail. She took the first step then looked at her partner. “Not much… some things.”

Claire wondered if Umbrella’s experiments robbed Alice of her memories from when she was a normal human. “Your family?” She climbed the stairwell slowly.

“I think my parents died when I was young… my brother too.” Alice was working her mind, but it was still broken and jumbled while some spots had holes. “My grandmother raised me.”

Claire swallowed hard and felt deeply for her friend. “How did they die?”

Alice tried hard grabbing at the memories so she could answer the questions. “I think maybe an accident.” She glanced at the leader but paused in front of the door to the next hall. “Car accident.” She opened the door and held it for Claire.

Claire passed through and waited for her partner. “Your brother too?”

Alice toyed with her dark locks and briefly saw her brother’s face. “Probably.” But she just wasn’t completely sure. “I don’t remember too much from my childhood or even before I worked for Umbrella.”

“Do you remember your time at Umbrella?”

“Yes… pretty clearly, actually.” Alice saw the galley’s doors just ahead. “The further I go back, the less I can recall.”

Claire decided to get the door this time, but she checked, “How long did you work for Umbrella?”

“About four years,” Alice revealed.

“Were you always in security?”

Alice first nodded as she followed her friend to the food line. “I was initially hired because of my martial arts skills.”

Claire had thought Alice’s skills came after Umbrella and the outbreak. “Where did you learn to fight?”

Alice picked up a clean plate and handed it to Claire before getting her own. “My grandmother had me learn martial arts when I was young.” She saw Claire’s surprised glance. She grinned and explained, “I was a quiet and shy kid so she hoped it would boost my confidence.”

Claire had a soft smile. She was sure that learning martial arts did help Alice at a young age.

Alice followed her partner down the short food line. She filled her plate like Claire because her appetite was suddenly apparent now.

Claire grabbed her utensils at the end then a glass of water. She waited until Alice was walking with her to an empty table. “Do you think you can teach me some technique?”

Alice quickly looked at her friend. “Martial arts?”

Claire found an empty table for them but faced her friend. “Yeah… I think I could use it.”

Alice seriously considered it then gave a faint nod. “Alright.” She could show Claire a few things, and it would be good for Claire.

Claire sat down across from her partner. She wanted to ask more about Alice’s past, but she held back her conversation. She saw K-Mart coming over to them so she greeted her sister with a smile.

“Hey, K-Mart,” Alice offered. She kicked the right chair out in invitation.

K-Mart slid into the seat after setting her breakfast down. “Sleep well?” She looked between her sister and Alice, but she furrowed her eyebrows at Claire’s faint flush. “What?”

Claire cleared her throat and indicated the half eaten pancakes on her plate. “They’re still hot… watch out.” She bought more time by drinking her water. Yet, last night’s memories continued washing over her and flushed her cheeks.

K-Mart glanced at her syrup pancakes then noted how Alice ate hers without a problem. She opened her mouth, but Alice cut her off.

“We slept well,” Alice answered. She revealed a smile when K-Mart looked at her instead of Claire. From the corner of her eye, she saw Claire’s relieved expression because K-Mart’s attention was drawn away. “Have a good night too?”

K-Mart returned the smile then nodded. She started cutting her pancake up and let go of Claire’s odd manners. She mentioned that her memory was improving and felt better today than the last few days. Alice also asked her about her wounded leg, which had healed well so far. Eventually she noticed that Claire wasn’t talking much, and it was strange.

“You alright, Claire?” K-Mart checked after ten minutes of silence from her sister.

Claire half smiled at her sister and gruffly reminded, “You know me… not much of a morning person.”

K-Mart suspicious eyed the leader, who glowed warmly this morning. She was use to a grumpy but focused convoy leader back in Nevada. Instead Claire was off-key and generally distant. K-Mart pointed her fork at Claire. “You’re acting weird.” She knew her sister after spending countless hours together during the convoy days.

Claire brushed off her sister and continued eating her breakfast.

K-Mart didn’t give up and sharply looked at Alice “Isn’t she acting weird?”

Alice was finishing off her small bowl of apple sauce. She shrugged and replied, “Claire is weird all the time.”

“Hey,” Claire snapped at the two. She put on her best annoyed face and shot a warning look at K-Mart. “Let it go.” She then shifted her features to Alice. “And you, don’t forget who saved your ass in the prison bathroom from that fugly Executioner.”

Alice pointed her spoon’s tip at her chest and stated, “Myself.”

K-Mart looked between the pair and questioned, “Prison bathroom?” She smirked and teased, “That sounds kinky.”

Claire rolled her eyes and glared at her sister.

Alice leaned towards the teenager and softly mentioned, “You shoulda seen the jail cell we shared together.”

K-Mart smirked at her sister now. She recalled Claire’s sexual preference. She bet that Claire’s close quarters in a jail cell with Alice was too much for Claire.

Claire quickly followed her sister’s devilish thoughts. She growled and warned, “Don’t even say it.” She picked up her empty plate and decided the pair could visit together. “I have things to do.” She swiped her glass off the table and nearly knocked the water out.

Alice bowed her head so her smirk was hidden from Claire.

K-Mart leaned towards her friend and mentioned, “She’s fun to tease.”

Alice peered across to the teenager and revealed a grin. She couldn’t agree more, but she lost her amusement when she noted her plate was empty too.

“So what happens now?” K-Mart softly asked.

Alice pushed her plate away then folded her arms on the table’s edge. “I’m not really sure.” She studied K-Mart, who was finishing her breakfast. “Claire hasn’t decided on anything.”

K-Mart considered many aspects then mentioned, “I guess it’ll depend on what Jill tells her about Umbrella.” She sighed and played with her last pancake morsel. “What’ll happen to Jill?”

Alice only shook her head.

K-Mart didn’t press it and instead ate the last piece. She leaned against the chair and thoughtfully studied the older woman. She kept her voice low when she asked what’d been worrying her for awhile. “Do you plan to leave?”

Alice stared at her dirty plate for a long minute.

K-Mart bit her bottom lip and realized she had her answer. She hung her head and wished she could make Alice stay with them. She thought back to Nevada when Alice separated from them. She understood now why Alice chose her path then, but now it was different. K-Mart had hoped Alice could find her place with them.

Alice snaked out her longer fingers and played with the plate’s trim. She softly explained, “If I leave then Claire will…” She couldn’t finish her thoughts aloud because it was scary enough thinking about leaving Claire.

K-Mart couldn’t hide the hurt from her features. She leaned forward and kept her voice low so they weren’t overheard by the other survivors. “You can’t disappear on us again.” She found hesitant green eyes on her. “Claire… she’s…” She dropped her eyes and attempted putting together what she saw between Claire and Alice. “She keeps everybody at arm’s length. She did it with you in Nevada.”

Alice had downturned lips and considered K-Mart’s words.

“That’s why she let you go,” K-Mart explained. She shook her head and warned, “She won’t let you go this time.” She saw the changes between Alice and Claire even though she didn’t understand the finer details of it.

“I know,” Alice murmured. She tapped the plate’s edge then added, “I can stop Umbrella though.”

K-Mart’s eyebrows hiked up at the statement. She shifted closer to Alice and argued, “You’re not Supergirl.” She watched Alice’s challenging glance. “You’re not faster than a speeding bullet.” She couldn’t imagine how one individual, with or without powers, could take down a corporation like Umbrella. There had to be Umbrella facilities all over and their manpower only matched by a few former militaries. It sounded like suicide to K-Mart.

“You’re going to get yourself killed,” K-Mart declared. She shook her head and muttered, “And destroy Claire in the process.”

Alice’s eyes fluttered shut after she realized K-Mart was right. The odds and risks were not in Alice’s favor by any means. And even if she did succeed, she wasn’t sure that Claire would forgive her for leaving. She and Claire had quickly developed a bond, but it was still fragile and needed time to develop deeper. Alice would sever it immediately if she walked away from Claire. That alone scared Alice more than facing thousands of undead.

Alice was jarred from her dark thoughts when K-Mart’s gentle touch was on her arm. She studied K-Mart’s small hand near her colorful bracelet that K-Mart made for her. She lifted her eyes until she found K-Mart’s passionate features.

“Please stay.” K-Mart held her friend’s eyes. She was being read by Alice, and K-Mart welcomed it. She was sincere and honest with her words.

Alice placed her left hand over top of K-Mart’s and squeezed it. She hadn’t made a home since she worked for Umbrella. She vowed not to make one after Umbrella took her life away. But slowly her rules were breaking and revealing a new life. Alice found good friends and a safe haven from Hell. Then comfort started sneaking up on Alice here on Arcadia. There were a few humans that wanted her here and soon others would follow suit. It was hard not to welcome her new life.

Since Alaska, Alice had allowed Claire to slip through her guard and found it healed an open wound in her. Alice didn’t ask for it and couldn’t control it because it’d been so natural. Then a bond started growing between them that allowed Claire and Alice to share emotions. It also provided them with a sixth sense about the each other. They didn’t understand yet how it was triggered or how far it would go, but it was extremely useful and hard to refuse. Alice was nearly positive that the bond alone wouldn’t allow Alice to walk away from Claire.

Alice had stared at her hand over K-Mart’s left one. She gradually inclined her head after Claire’s soft promise echoed back to her. Her place was at Claire’s side. A smile played with her lips, and Alice whispered, “I’ll stay.”

K-Mart tightened her grip on Alice’s arm. Her happiness showed in her eyes, and she mirrored Alice’s smile.

Alice patted her friend’s hand then started moving out of her chair. “I need to go help Claire.”

K-Mart understood and cleared her dirty dishes too. She followed the older woman to the dishware return location. She took Alice’s side on the way through the galley. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

Alice placed her hand on K-Mart’s back once they were in the hallway. “Thanks, K.” She appreciated the teen’s support.

K-Mart had a small smile at hearing her nickname from Alice’s lips. She admired Alice a great deal despite what she knew about Alice’s past. She only knew of one other person as strong as Alice. “My turn.” K-Mart indicated the left hallway with her thumb.

Alice said goodbye and took the stairwell that’d get her to the wheelhouse. She’d followed the inner beacon that guided her to Claire. She felt it grow stronger as she came closer to the wheelhouse. Then when she made it to the closed door, she detected Claire’s distinctly strong scent that her blood gave off. Alice felt more aware of it now than before last night. She also sensed one other human in the wheelhouse with Claire.

“How far?” Claire asked Jonathan again.

Jonathan was estimating from a straight line on the NOAA chart. He rechecked his calculation.

Claire had her back to the main door, but she lifted her head from staring down at the digital NOAA chart on the surface table. She knew it was Alice coming in so she flashed an appreciative glance at her friend.

“It’s roughly two thousand one hundred seventy-five nautical miles,” the skipper computed. He straightened up and noticed Alice for the first time. He offered her a polite nod then focused on his leader.

Claire folded her arms and looked at her partner at her side. “I’m entertaining your suggestion.”

Alice had a smirk but studied the distance between San Diego and Hawaii.

“You gave her this idea?” Jonathan directed at Alice.

Alice rocked on her boots and shrugged at the skipper. She didn’t see a point in replying to the obvious.

Jonathan shook his head but looked at Claire Redfield again.

“How long will it take?” Claire asked next.

“About four to six days to get there,” the skipper informed. “The ship travels at about twenty-three to twenty-five knots per hour.”

Claire shifted her weight onto her right foot. She looked at Alice, who was still examining the NOAA chart. “Do we have enough fuel to get there and back?” Claire didn’t want to assume that Hawaii was a safe haven from the rest of the Hellish world. If they had to come back to the mainland, she wanted to be sure there was enough fuel to do it.

“Yes.” Jonathan was plenty confident. “We could easily make the trip twice.”

Claire nodded. She folded her arms and stared at the Hawaiian Islands in the Pacific. What separated them was a lot of open water. She already checked the supplies inventory and estimated that they had two months worth to hold them over. She had to admit that the former crew had organized a mini city on the Arcadia. The ship holes were filled with containers, which were loaded with all types of supplies. But it wasn’t an indefinite situation and especially with over two thousand survivors.

Alice peered up at her partner and murmured, “What you think?”

Claire sighed and cut her eyes over to Alice. “I think it’s worth a try.” She stared back at the islands. “These people need a place to go that’s safe.” She still wasn’t a hundred percent yet. There were too many questions about Jill Valentine for Claire to declare a trip to Hawaii. Claire also worried Umbrella would follow them there. An idea skirted through Claire’s mind that they needed to warn Umbrella not to follow them. But executing such a warning seemed impossible against such a massive corporation.

“The journey out there is doable,” Jonathan spoke after a minute. “We have the manpower too.” He was confident that his crew was competent. He and Chris had handpicked the crew members after everybody was awaken from stasis. Some survivors suffered from different levels of memory loss due to the P30, but many were never given the P30 because Umbrella’s experiments had only begun before Alice and the Redfields arrived onboard.

Claire felt assured, but she turned to the skipper. “Keep this under your hat for now.” She didn’t want rumors spreading about Hawaii. “Nothing is definite right now.”

“I understand,” Jonathan promised. He respected his leader’s wishes.

“I think we’ll have a meeting later about plans,” Claire softly mentioned. She was looking back at the NOAA chart. “Get our thoughts together.” She focused on Alice, who stayed at her side. “You think you can help me get the Osprey back in the hangar?”

Alice dipped her head in agreement.

Claire thanked the skipper again then quietly left the wheelhouse with Alice.

“How are you feeling?” Alice asked the leader.

Claire nodded and seriously considered her body. “I’m rather sore,” she quietly admitted.

“Are you sure about moving the Osprey?” Alice checked.

“I rather get it docked in the hangar,” Claire answered. She brushed a loose red strand behind her right ear. “Then I need to check on the survivors.”

“You should get checked by Gable too,” Alice insisted.

Claire shook her head and promised, “I’m fine.”

Alice eyed the leader, who fought to be the strongest among the survivors. She hoped it wouldn’t bring Claire down one day. “How’s your left arm?”

Claire recalled how it looked this morning during her quick shower. She knew Alice had seen it all last night when they were together. “It’s healing over fine. I put the Neosporin on it and wrapped it.” She had on a long sleeve grey shirt that hugged her muscular body. She’d tucked the top in her black pants. “How’s your back?”

“Better.” Alice didn’t have any pain, and she imagined the scar was nearly gone.

“Lucky,” Claire teased her friend.

Alice grinned but only briefly. “How you want to get the Osprey below?”

Claire paused beside the main steps that moved people up and down the ship. She faced her friend. “Can you go down to the hangar, get the door open, and direct me in?” After Alice’s nod, she started down the steps with Alice. “You’ll have to give me a few minutes to preflight the chopper.”

Alice understood and was about to keep going down the steps while Claire went to the door at the platform that’d go out on the deck. But Claire called her name so she paused at the top of the next set of stairs. She gazed back at her partner.

“You do know the hand signals, right?”

Alice grinned and raised her right hand. She had the flat of her palm facing the ground and cut her hand across her throat. “Stop engine.” She grinned when Claire chuckled at her.

Claire was amused by Alice’s demonstration of cutting the engine, which was a proper air traffic control hand signal. “Great.” She jerked open the metal door and called, “See ya shortly.”

Alice shook her head but continued down the stairwell to the lower levels. She hurried to the white hangar and opened the door for Claire. She only waited fifteen minutes before she heard the Osprey’s movements from above. Alice poked her head out of the hangar and watched Claire maneuvering the helicopter closer to the ocean about a hundred yards away from the ship’s haul.

Alice centered herself in the opening of the door then backed up carefully. She waved with both arms for Claire to approach the safe hangar.

Claire aligned the V-22 in the center then slowly approached the ship’s haul. She cautiously eyed all four sides as she neared the hangar’s mouth. She checked her instruments then glanced back at Alice, who perfectly worked her into the hangar. Claire lowered her altitude by ten feet when Alice waved her down lower. She then carefully inched forward and passed the door.

Alice had moved over to the Osprey next to her. But she checked Claire’s space and signaled Claire to spin the tail counterclockwise so that the cockpit would face the hangar door again. She eyed the tail passing the wall without incident then she neared the cockpit so Claire could see her better. She gave the hand signal for Claire to land.

Claire let out a breath after safely landing the Osprey. She was amazed it’d gone so well. She wiped the dampness off her brow after she removed her backwards hat. She put her hat back on after turning it forward again. She properly shut down all the systems then exited the V-22.

Alice waited nearby and compliment, “Nice flying.”

Claire grinned and adjusted her ball cap. “Nice directions.” She appreciated Alice’s help. She wasn’t sure she’d docked the helicopter otherwise.

Alice hit the hangar button and listened to the door’s low whine as it slid shut. She met Claire by the entrance and quietly left the White Rooms.

“You know,” Claire mentioned, “I think I may just have a nap before our meeting.”

Alice canted her head and asked, “When is the meeting?”

“Three o’clock.” Claire had Jonathan informing the other crucial members. She planned to have Leon Kennedy there. “I need to visit with Jill before then.” She wasn’t sure she was ready for it, but she needed to handle the situation sooner rather than later.

Alice didn’t comment despite she was on edge about Claire seeing Jill. She knew it’d happen at some point, but it made Alice’s skin crawl.

Claire decided on the hospital for the next stop. She and Alice checked over the Vacation Isle survivors, who were all in excellent spirits after a good night’s rest. Claire felt more upbeat after seeing the rescues were doing well. She noticed that their fifteen minute visit with Will had shaken Alice somewhat, but she didn’t ask why right now. Claire would find out later when they were alone tonight in their quarters.

Together they left the hospital and went directly to the main stairs. Claire mentioned she was going to the brig and confront Jill about Umbrella. Alice pulled Claire away from the open stairwell and drew her into an alcove in the hallway that led to the hospital.

Claire sensed her partner’s concerns so she insisted she’d be careful.

“She’s angry, Claire,” Alice reminded her partner. “And I don’t think she likes that you’ve sided with me instead of her.”

“Well I don’t pretend to know her anymore,” Claire argued.

Alice stood close to the leader in the small alcove. “She doesn’t see it that way.” She studied her partner’s tense features. “She expects you to side with her because you two have been friends since high school.”

“I know… I know.” Claire shook her head at Alice’s reminder. But they weren’t the same people since those days. RC had died years ago with the outbreak. She was now Claire Redfield, who was a leader among the few surviving humans in an infected world.

“She’s the black sheep here,” Alice explained to the leader. She hesitated but argued, “Maybe if she feels comfortable with you again then you’ll get your answers.”

Claire glanced off to the right and considered what Alice was really saying to her. She couldn’t fake that she sympathized with Jill over Alice. She did feel for Jill, but Claire knew she’d only stay at Alice’s side. “No,” she murmured and shook her head.

Alice slightly frowned and wondered what Claire was thinking.

Claire focused on her partner again. “She’ll give me the answers… somehow.” She started out of the alcove until Alice pulled her back.

“Let me go with you,” Alice insisted. She now was worried it’d turn ugly since Claire had obviously stated her opinion on the situation.

Claire immediately shook her head. “No, she won’t talk then.” She felt Alice’s protective streak through their bond. “She won’t hurt me.”

Alice knew it was true, but she still didn’t like Claire being alone with Jill. “If she…”

Claire placed her hand against her partner’s cheek and whispered, “Jill already knows that.” It was becoming plainly obvious to those around Claire and Alice that they guarded each other. Claire had clearly made that statement yesterday when she jumped off the helicopter into an infected city.

Alice gave a soft sigh. She still didn’t like it, but she accepted Claire’s decision. “Alright,” she murmured.

Claire silently still relied on Alice to be there if for some unforeseen reason Jill attacked her. Claire didn’t believe her friend would do it, yet she wasn’t still alive because she took stupid risks. She suspected that Alice wouldn’t be far away while she visited with Jill.

Alice released her friend and started out of the alcove, but Claire grabbed her wrist. She was drawn back and instantly warm lips were against hers. A moan escaped her before Claire’s tongue entered her mouth. Her bond with Claire brought them even closer.

Claire ended the kiss with heavy breaths, and her cheek molded against Alice’s warm one. She leaned in a bit more and whispered, “Thank you.”

Alice was at war with her excited blood. She barely heard Claire’s words, but she realized Claire appreciated Alice’s care for her. In Nevada, Alice had summarized that nobody in the convoy looked after Claire but only because Claire deemed it that way. Claire was the leader and therefore was the strongest. But now, Claire was slowly allowing Alice to stand watch over her. Alice took it quite seriously.

Claire straightened up but held onto Alice’s hips. “I’ll try not to be too long.”

Alice faintly nodded then shifted into the hallway with the leader. “I won’t be far.” She followed Claire to the stairwell, but Alice went upstairs while Claire went down.

Claire’s boots echoed for awhile until she ducked through a guarded door. She smiled at the guard then went down the empty hall. She approached a sealed gate that was guarded by a security member at a desk.

“Hey, Claire,” the security officer greeted.

“How are you, Patrick?” Claire remembered his name right off the bat. She’d helped her brother pick out competent survivors to form the security teams. “How’s our guest?”

Patrick stood up from his desk. “Valentine has been quiet.” He plucked a pen from his mug then turned a black logbook around for Claire. “I had that fella from the rescues wanting see her.”

Claire took the pen and started putting down her information. Chris required a track record on the brig visitors. “Leon Kennedy,” she supplied.

“Yeah… that guy.” Patrick leaned his hip against the desk. “He really wanted to see her.”

Claire returned the pen to Patrick. “Was he a problem?”

“No, not at all.” Patrick returned the pen to its home then walked Claire to the locked gate. “Chris only briefly visited Valentine.”

Claire expected as much from her brother. She hadn’t authorized anybody else to see Jill. “I’ll talk to Leon Kennedy about it.”

“Thanks, Claire.” Patrick gave her a quick smile. He then slowed at the third door on the right that had another guard seated beside it.

“Evening, Miss Redfield,” the guard politely offered.

Claire had a small grin at the young man’s polite manners. “Hello, Gary. How’s it going?”

“Quiet,” Gary echoed his team member’s earlier observation.

“That’s what I like to hear,” the leader agreed. She waited for Gary to open the door.

“Will you need…” Patrick hesitated because he didn’t want to insult Claire.

Claire shook her head, but she touched her lower back. She felt the gun’s handle that protruded from her waist band. “Thanks though, Patrick.” She didn’t need a guard in the brig nor wanted them hearing her conversation with Jill.

Gary pulled the door open and allowed Patrick to escort their leader into the brig.

Claire entered first. Quickly her eyes found Jill Valentine seated on a bed mounted to the ship’s wall. She signaled Patrick to leave her alone with Jill.

Patrick studied Jill only briefly and decided she seemed calm. He quietly left but stayed outside the cell with Gary.

Jill watched the door seal then heard the lock catch into place. Her dark eyes flickered over to Claire Redfield. She flexed her hands in her lap twice then smartly commented, “You decided to grace me with your presence.”

Claire didn’t react to the jab. She wasn’t here to squabble or spar with Jill, who always had a sharp tongue. She walked over to the opposite wall and casually leaned her shoulder against the steel wall. “So… I take it you got your memory back.” She noted that Jill’s wounds were nearly gone and only some bruises were visible. Claire had asked Gable to check over Jill yesterday.

Jill threaded her hands together then quirked an eyebrow at her friend. She smiled but with thick venom in her voice. “You mean about the murderer you’re harboring.” She saw Claire was about to refute her so she informed, “I think it was her that caused the virus to escape the Raccoon facility.”

Claire shook her head and ordered, “Don’t throw shit together when you don’t know the truth, Jill.”

“Oh and you know the real story because she told you?” Jill smirked at the leader.

“It was five years ago, Jill.” Claire folded her arms. She couldn’t let Jill get to her temper or emotions. “It was a long time ago and a lot has changed since then.”

Jill stood up quickly and snapped, “Five years ago I was human.” She approached Claire but stayed a few yards away. “But instead of being dead and at peace, I was brought back and experimented on like a goddamn lab rat.”

Claire swallowed hard yet managed to stay neutral.

“I don’t know what I am anymore, Claire.” Jill walked away and stared at the only door outside. “What am I?” she murmured to the silence.

Claire pushed off the wall and shifted the topic so that Jill wouldn’t dwell on the past further. “Listen…” She found Jill looking at her again. “You don’t have to like Alice or forgive her.” She worked hard to keep any coldness from her voice. “You just have to be civil with her.”

Jill studied Claire and only saw a leader in front of her, not a friend. She hid her upset at realizing Claire’s position with her.

“I can release you if you can do that,” Claire promised. “Otherwise, I can’t have you freely among the survivors.” She seriously considered what could happen if Jill wasn’t cordial with Alice. “Next time, I don’t think Alice will just let you pummel her for shits and giggles.”

Jill expected as much from her murderer. Alice had freely given her the rare chance to attack Alice without any resistance. Jill wouldn’t be given that gift again. And she knew that Claire would surely shoot her if it happened again.

Jill fought down her anger for Alice and nodded at Claire’s offer. “I can be… friendly.” She nearly choked on the word.

Claire bit her bottom lip and mentioned, “You broke your promise last time.” She pulled her hat’s brim. “If you can tell me about Umbrella then I’ll feel better about this.” She strolled away and reminded, “We’re all on the same side.” She turned on her boots once she was beside the wall again. “Or so I think we are.” She pressed her shoulders against the wall and folded her arms. “Where do you stand, Jill?”

Jill secretly admired Claire’s ability to separate her emotions from the situation. Indeed her friend was meant to be a leader. “Umbrella controlled me, Claire.”

Claire stared hard at the Umbrella agent then poked, “I recall somebody else saying the same thing to you.” She puckered her lips in thought then added, “Funny.”

Jill slotted her eyes at the leader’s smart reminder. But she wasn’t baited and instead answered the earlier question. “I’m on your side, Claire.” She watched some tension leave the leader. “I’m with the humans.”

Claire released a soft sigh then nodded. “Tell me about Umbrella.” She crossed her legs and leaned against the wall. “Why are they after us?”

Jill went back to the bed and sat down. “Umbrella is having problems.” She stared at her hands as if they were foreign. She then peered up at Claire. “Big problems.”

Claire didn’t expect such news. She canted her head to the side and curiously studied Jill under the brim of her ball cap.

Jill couldn’t control a small smirk before explaining, “Wesker has defected from Umbrella.”

Claire narrowed her eyes and softly shook her head. “He’s left Umbrella?”

“Yes… gone rogue,” Jill revealed. “He and the CEO have had a difference of opinions lately.”

“Over what?”

Jill hesitated but whispered, “Project Alice.” She watched the tension rise in Claire. To Jill, it was obvious how close Claire was to Alice. “The CEO wants to terminate Project Alice.”

“What’s Wesker want?” Claire wasn’t sure she really wanted to hear it.

Jill studied her friend. She watched for any apparent emotions from Claire, but it was hard to read her. However, Jill knew the truth. “Wesker wants to… continue Project Alice to the next stage.”

“What?” Claire was confused because she recalled what Alice had relayed to her one evening in the prison. “Wesker told her that Umbrella was taking back their property.” She straightened up and stared hard at the former Umbrella agent. “He pumped her with antivirus… or so we thought.”

Jill silently agreed that whatever Wesker put in Alice it wasn’t the antivirus. But it sharply dawned on her what Wesker had most likely done. “Oh my god,” she murmured. She stood up and approached her friend. “There’s another company, like Umbrella, out there that’s been getting the leg up on them.”

Claire shook her head a few times because she wasn’t following Jill. “What company?”

Jill neared her friend and continued explaining what she believed had happened to Alice. “An organization… they don’t know its name, but it’s strong and covert.” She shook her head. “Umbrella only refers to them as the Organization.”

Claire absorbed the new information about Umbrella’s competition. “So what does… the Organization have to do with Wesker?”

“Everything,” Jill whispered. She stood a few feet away from the leader. “They designed a new virus. Wesker had hired a spy, who was able to steal two vials from the Organization.”

Claire was growing more worried as Jill talked about recent events. “What’s the virus?” She caught the darkness filling Jill’s eyes.

“It’s called the Gene-virus… the G-virus.” Jill brushed back a strand of long, blond hair. “Umbrella’s scientists were trying to figure it out. But Wesker wanted to inject it into a test subject despite the boards’ rejection.”

Claire realized where Jill was going with it. Her heart sunk into her stomach then her knees shook. She was suddenly cold all over.

“He stole a vial of the G-virus from Umbrella.” Jill caught the upset surfacing in the leader’s eyes. “I was sent to recover it and the antivirus from Arcadia.”

Claire bowed her head and fought with her emotions, but the anger was hard to ebb. She worried that Alice would come for her if she didn’t calm down. She inhaled deeply then focused on Jill again. “What’s the G-virus do?”

Jill shifted back a step after she gauged Claire’s rising temper. “I’ve heard it mutates the carrier.”

“Mutates?” Claire gritted her teeth, and anger thickened her tone. “Like the T-virus does?”

“Similar… but differently too,” Jill replied. “The carrier constantly mutates while a T-virus carrier just mutates once.”

“Oh my god,” Claire breathed out. She walked away with her hand on her forehead. Her fingertips slipped under her hat and pushed it off her brow.

“But there’s no telling what the G-virus and T-virus will do together in Alice’s case,” Jill mentioned. “Her blood bonded with the T-virus and most likely will do the same with the G-virus.”

Claire was shaking her head and hotly whispered, “You’re only guessing.” She couldn’t think right after finding out about what happened to Alice. She calmed herself by toying with her cap’s brim yet hotly murmured, “That fucking bastard.”

Jill felt for her friend despite she didn’t give a damn what happened to Alice. But, she knew how greatly Alice impacted Claire’s life, now.

Jill carefully neared her friend. “There’s nothing that can be done to reverse it, Claire.” She cautiously inched closer to Claire’s tense backside.

The leader kept her back to Jill and composed herself quickly. She opened her eyes after gathering her emotions. She faced Jill and asked, “Why were you after the antivirus in the White Room?”

Jill stayed calm and evenly replied, “It’s the last of the antivirus. And Umbrella hoped the G-virus was with the antivirus. They expected him to sell the G-virus to the highest bidder.”

“I guess he forgot the case on his way out,” Claire muttered.

Jill now had certain confirmation that Claire had the antivirus at some point. If Claire knew the antivirus was in a case then she’d taken it after Jill fought Alice in the White Room.

Claire shook her head and checked, “It’s the last of the antivirus?” That didn’t make sense to her. “Doesn’t Umbrella have the… formula?”

Jill ran her fingers through her blond hair then sighed. “All the data on the antivirus was located at the facility outside of Vegas.” She watched flickers in Claire’s eyes as she explained what happened with the antivirus. “Wesker attempted to transfer all the data from the facility to the Tokyo headquarters, but the transfer was cut very short.” She folded her arms and shifted her weight to her left foot. “All of Dr. Isaacs’ research was lost including the molecular structure of the antivirus.”

Claire narrowed her eyes and softly revealed, “Alice went into that facility… killed Isaacs.”

Jill suspected so and also knew that Alice cut off the facility’s external communications. “Umbrella abandoned the facility and rendered it useless.” She went over to her cot and sat down again. “Wesker stole the last few vials of the antivirus after the Tokoyo facility was destroyed.” She peered up at Claire, who joined her on the bed’s side. “I was sent to obtain it.” She looked at her hands. “And to capture you, Chris, and Alice too.” She clenched her hands a few times then sat up straight.

Claire huffed and glared at the floor as if it were Umbrella. “Why are they specifically after Chris, Alice, and I?”

“You’re a serious threat to Umbrella.” Jill held her friend’s gaze. “They’re afraid of what could happen if you and Alice join together.”

Claire was surprised by Jill’s information. She couldn’t imagine what there was to fear if she and Alice were together.

Jill carefully explained, “You’re one of the few surviving humans that can rally and lead the humans.” She grinned at Claire. “That’s a very dangerous thing.” Then her grin went darker. “And it’s even more dangerous if you have a powerful hybrid protecting you from Umbrella.” Now Claire caught on and Jill chuckled at Claire’s smirk. “They had hoped to lure Alice in by using you, but that kinda back fired… a lot.” She leaned against the wall. “Wesker took control of the Arcadia, which wasn’t a part of the plans. They don’t know how he survived the plane crash.”

Claire bowed her head and considered Wesker’s plans. “He injected himself with the T-virus… he was eating humans here on the ship.”

Jill sat up quickly and murmured, “That explains it.”

Claire stared at her hands and recalled the fight in the White Room. Then something came to mind and caused a frown on her face. “He knew.”

“Knew what?” Jill softly asked.

Claire looked at her friend. “He knew Chris and I were siblings.” She hadn’t thought about it until now. It made her skin crawl.

Jill’s eyes wandered across the brig. “What could that mean?”

Claire just shook her head.

“That’s not good,” Jill muttered.

Claire let it go for now. She instead raised an eyebrow much like Alice would have done. “Does Umbrella know about the G-virus in Alice?”

“I don’t think so,” Jill confessed. “I wasn’t made aware of it before I was dispatched. They were assuming that Alice still had her T-virus powers.”

“Jesus,” Claire murmured. She couldn’t believe what was happening and how complex it was becoming now. “Why does Umbrella need human test subjects?”

Jill wasn’t sure but had a simple guess. “Most likely to test for a new virus. Something bigger and better than the T-virus or G-virus.”

“Of course,” Claire muttered. She got up after deciding she’d heard enough for today. “I’ll talk to Chris after I leave here.” She started to the door but faced Jill. “You’ll probably be released within the hour.”

“Under the condition I don’t start trouble,” Jill summarized.

“You got it.” Claire edged over to the door and knocked on it. “Just play nice, Jill.” She stepped aside when the door was unlocked. “The real enemy is Umbrella… that’s why we’re all here.” She left the cell after Gary opened it for her. She briefly saw Jill’s distraught manner, but she gone through enough with Jill lately.

Right now, Claire wanted to find Alice and talk to her about the G-virus. She couldn’t deny how spooked she was after learning what Wesker had most likely done to Alice. Claire was angry that Alice continued to be targeted, prodded, and experimented on without any regard. To Umbrella, Alice’s body was just a test tube that they owned since Alice’s first day of employment. And most likely Wesker had found it quite amusing to execute the latest test on Alice.

Claire thanked the guards on her way out of the brig. She picked up the pace because her urgency intensified. She entered the stairwell and followed her internal bond to Alice that took her up several floors. She paused at the level that would take her outside to the deck. Claire went to the metal door and shoved it open with her body.

Claire spotted her friend only a hundred feet away. She already read the faint alarm on Alice’s face and felt it between them. She took a few steps towards Alice but waited for her friend.

Alice’s wide stride ate up the distance quickly. She had her kukris in her hands after doing some solo practice on the deck. She needed it to keep busy while Claire was with Jill. She sheathed them when she approached Claire. She already knew something was very wrong and had struggled not to go down to the brig.

Claire lifted her chin some when Alice came up to her. She clenched her jaw and held her friend’s concerned gaze.

Alice had to touch Claire on the cheek. She was instantly hit by one of Claire’s most recent memories.

“So what does… the Organization have that Umbrella doesn’t?” Claire felt her heart still and wait for Jill’s reply.

Jill hesitated but whispered, “A new virus.”

Alice’s hand slipped from Claire’s face. She shook her head and worriedly asked, “What’s happened?”

Claire scanned about the deck, which had a few survivors enjoying the day. She took her partner’s hand. She didn’t want to discuss it here in the open. “Come with me.”

Alice mutely nodded and followed the leader into the ship. She was on cruise control as her mind replayed the brief flash from Claire’s memory. She didn’t know what it meant for them, but she was certain she wouldn’t like it.

To be continued.