There was darkness for an indeterminate time, silent and complete and then there were voices, drawing him up through the black depths of his limbo, voices that his floating mind couldn’t identify at first. From somewhere far away, he heard sirens.

he’s been hit oh my God see if it’s clear wait I can ‘t find the wound help me-Barry? Barry, can “Barry, can you hear me?”

Rebecca. Barry opened his eyes and then closed them immediately, wincing as the throbbing pain wrapped around his skull. There was another pain in his left arm, sharp and insistent but not as complete as the ache in his head. He’d had acquaintance with both kinds of pain before.

Got shot, met up with a tree… or some asshole with a baseball bat.

He tried opening his eyes again as small hands moved across his chest, lightly searching. It took hima second to focus on the worried faces looming over him, Jill and Chris and a frightened-looking Rebecca, her fingers probing his shirt for the wound. The sirens had fallen mercifully silent, though he could hear the cop cars pulling up his street, their powerfully revving engines echoing through the wooded park. “Left bicep,” he mumbled, and started to sit up. The dark woods wavered unsteadily, and then Rebecca was gently pushing him back down. “Don’t move,” she said firmly. “Just lay there a second, okay? Chris, give me your shirt.”But Umbrella…” Barry started. “It’s clear,” David said, kneeling next to the others. “Be still.”

Rebecca lifted his arm carefully, looking at both sides. Barry flexed his arm slightly and scowled at the burst of pain, but could tell it wasn’t bad; the bone was still intact. “Right out the deltoid,” Rebecca said. “Looks like you’re gonna have to lay off the weights for awhile.”

Her tone was light, but he could see the concern in her gaze as she studied his face. She started wrapping Chris’s T-shirt tightly around his arm, watching himintently. “You’ve got a nasty bump on your temple,” she said. “How do you feel?”Though his head was still pounding, the pain had subsided to ache status. He felt light-headed and a little nauseous, but he still knew his own name and what day of the week it was; if it was a concussion, he wasn’t impressed.

I’ve had worse hangovers… “Pretty much like shit,” he said, “but I’m okay. I must’ve hit a tree on the way down.”

As she finished the makeshift bandage, he sat up again, this time with better results. They had to get moving before the cops decided to search the woods, but where could they go? It seemed unlikely that Umbrella would attack twice in one night, but it wasn’t a theory worth testing. None of their homes would be safe. At least his family was out of harm’s way visiting Kathy’s parents in Florida. The thought that they could have just as easily been at home, his girls playing in their rooms when the shooting had started. He staggered unsteadily to his feet, finding strength in the rage that he’d lived with since that night at the estate. Wesker had threatened Kathy and the girls to force Barry’s cooperation in Umbrella’s coverup, using him to get to the underground laboratories. Barry’s guilt had blossomed into fury in the days since, an anger that transcended any he’d ever known. “Bastards,” Barry snarled. “Goddamn Umbrella bastards.”

The others stood up with him, Chris’s bare chest pale in the faint light, all of them seeming relieved that he wasn’t badly hurt, except for David, who looked as unhappy as Barry had ever seen him. His shoulders sagged from some unknown burden and when he spoke, he wouldn’t meet Barry’s gaze. “The man who shot you,” David said. He held up a nine-millimeter with a suppressor attached, blood spattered across the barrel. “I killed him. I… Barry, it’s Jay Shannon.”

Barry stared at him. He heard the words, but was unable to accept them. It wasn’t possible.

“No. You didn’t get a good look, it’s too dark…”

David turned and walked through the trees, leading them to the body of the shooter. Barry stumbled after him, his head suddenly aching from more than just smacking it on a tree trunk. It can’t be Shannon, there’s no way, David’s rattled from the attack, that’s all, he made a mistake…… except David didn’t rattle under fire, he never had, and he didn’t make mistakes that easily. Barrygrit his teeth against the pain and followed, for once hoping that his friend was wrong. The man had collapsed on his back or David had rolled him over. Either way, he stared up at them with lifeless eyes, a random pine needle stuck to one of the glazed orbs. The semi-jacketed round from David’s Beretta had punched a hole directly over his heart; it had been a lucky shot. Looking down at the shooter’sashen face, Barry felt his own heart turn to stone.

Jesus, Shannon, why? Why this? “Who is he?” Jill asked softly. Barry stared down at the dead man, Unable to answer. David’s reply seemed hollow, toneless.

“Captain Jay Shannon of the Oklahoma City

S.T.A.R.S. Barry and I trained with him.”

Barry found his voice, still looking at Jay’s still

face. “I called him last week, when I called David. He was worried about us, said he’d keep an eye out for Umbrella…”… and we shot the shit for another couple of minutes, catching up, telling old stories. I told him I’d send pictures of the kids, and he said that he had to get off the phone, that he wanted to talk but he had a meeting…

Umbrella must have already got to him, and the realization was cold and brutal and suddenly, horri– bly complete. Umbrella may have been behind the attack, but the S.T.A.R.S. had carried it out. Barry’s home had been blown to hell by people they knew, and he’d been shot by a man he’d thought was a friend. The solemn quiet was broken by the barking of dogs, faint through the shadowy trees. From the number and location, it sounded like the RPD K-9 unit had just reached his house. Barry looked away from the corpse, his thoughts returning to the imme– diate situation. They had to move. “Where can we go?” David asked quickly. “Is there somewhere Umbrella wouldn’t think to look, a cabin, an empty building… someplace we can get to on foot?” Brad! “Chickenheart’s lease isn’t up for a couple of months,” Barry said. “His place is empty. And it’s less than a mile from here.” David nodded briskly. “Let’s go.” Barry turned toward the park’s playground, leading the others across the moonlit clearing. There was a small trail that let out two blocks away, hopefully far enough away from the action that the cops wouldn’t follow. Barry had walked through the park a million times, his wife at his side, his children dancing at their feet.

… my home. This is my home, and it won’t ever be the same again.

As they ran through the warm, peaceful night, Barry felt the hole in his arm start to bleed again. He clapped his right hand over the sticky dressing with– out slowing, letting the pain fuel his determination as they tore through the scrubby trees and headed for Brad’s house.

No more. No more of this. My girls aren’t going to grow up in a world where this can happen, not if I have any say in it.

So much had already happened, and this was only the beginning of their fight. There were still people working with the S.T.A.R.S. he trusted, that they could count on, and he wasn’t going to be caught off his guard twice. The next time Umbrella came knock– ing, maybe they wouldn’t have to run. And if Rebecca and David could pull off the Maine operation, they’d have what they needed to take the company down, once and for all. Umbrella had messed with the wrong people. Barry planned on being there when they figured that out. Jill picked the lock expertly, using a bent safety pin and one of Rebecca’s earrings to open the door to the small cottage. Rebecca had swept Barry off to the medicine cabinet, while Chris went searching for a shirt. David and Jill checked the small house thor– oughly, David’s satisfaction growing with each pass– ing moment. He couldn’t have imagined a better hideout, and it was comforting to know that Barry and the two Alphas would have a safe spot to work from. The two– bedroom home shared a backyard with a security– conscious family; bright lights snapped on when Da– vid opened the back door, flooding the small lawn brilliantly and from the sight of the neighbor’s side, they definitely had a rather large dog somewhere on the premises. There were houses close on either side of the rental, and the front window looked out on an open schoolyard just across the street. There would be no cover for an approaching team. The house was furnished simply, if untidily; it was obvious that the occupant had fled in a panic. Person-al items and books were strewn randomly across the rooms, as if Vickers had been unable to decide what to take in his hurry to flee Raccoon City.

With what happened tonight, I can’t say I blame him for running…

Mr. Vickers had obviously been in the wrong line of work, but that didn’t necessarily make him a coward. Risking one’s life on a day-to-day basis wasn’t for Everyone and considering the recent developments, it was wisest for someone like Vickers to remove himself from the situation. They could have used the help, but from what little Barry had told him, the Alpha pilot wasn’t someone they wanted to work with. Even if he didn’t get himself killed, he’d lost the trust of his teammates, and nothing could be worse when it came to crisis situations. David sat in the dark, cramped living room on a rather hideous green couch, collecting his exhausted thoughts as Jill dug through the kitchen. He’d found a blank pad of paper and a pen, and had already scribbled down the names and home numbers of his team and various contacts, as well as Brad’s phone number to take with him. He gazed blankly around the shadowed room, fighting off the adrenaline slump that so often followed battle. He didn’t want to forget anything important, any detail that needed to be discussed before he and Rebecca left. If they wanted to make their plane, Barry, Jill, and Chris would have to deal with the aftermath of the attack on their own.

The S.T.A.R.S., Trent’s poem, objectives and contacts.

It was hard to focus after such a draining experi-ence, and it didn’t help matters that he’d been tired to begin with. He hadn’t slept well in days, and thinking of all that lay ahead of them only made concentration harder. Rebecca’s information about Dr. Griffith was disconcerting, to say the least, and though he was no less determined to carry out the Caliban Cove opera– tion, it was just one more concern to add to a seemingly endless list. Chris walked into the room wearing a faded blue sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off and fell into a chair across from David, his face hidden in shadow. After a moment, he leaned forward, enough light filtering through the closed blinds so that David could see his expression. The younger man’s gaze was tired, thoughtful and apologetic.

“Look, David… the last couple of weeks have been rough on all of us, you know? Waiting to see what Umbrella was gonna do, the suspension, feeling like our friends died for nothing…” Chris stopped himself, then started again. “I just wanted to say I’m sorry if we got off on the wrong foot earlier, and I’m glad you’re on our side. I shouldn’t have been such an asshole about it.”

David was surprised and impressed by the sincerity behind the words; when he was in his twenties, he would’ve rather had his fingernails pulled out than display any emotion, except anger of course. He’d had no trouble expressing anger. Yet another legacy from dear old Dad…

“I don’t think you have anything to be sorry for,” David said softly. “Your concerns are more than justified. I-I’ve been under a bit of strain myself, and I didn’t mean to come across as domineering. The S.T.A.R.S. are, that is, they mean a lot to me, and I want us… I want for them to be whole again…”

Jill walked in from the kitchen, saving David from continuing with his fumbling speech. Much to his relief, Chris seemed to understand; he met David’s gaze evenly, nodding, as if to say that the air had been cleared between them. David sighed inwardly, won– dering if he’d ever be able to overcome his awkward– ness with expressing emotions. He’d done a lot of thinking since Barry had first called, about himself and his almost obsessive anger over the S.T.A.R.S. betrayal and had come to the unsettling realization that he wasn’t happy with the way his life was turning out. He’d thrown himself into his career in an effort to avoid dealing with a dysfunc– tional childhood, something he’d always known, but now, facing Umbrella and the treachery of an organi– zation that he considered his family, he’d been forced to really think about the implications of his choice. It had made him an excellent soldier, but he didn’t have any close friends or attachments… and having his “family” taken away had come as a cruel wake up to the fact that he had based his life on running from human contact.

Brilliant for me to have figured it out this late in the game. I suppose I should thank Umbrella for that much; if they don’t kill me, they’ll at least have managed to send me into therapy.

Jill had brought out a pitcher of water and several mismatched glasses which she passed around as Barry and Rebecca joined them. Barry wore a clean bandage on his arm and seemed pale in the dim light, certainly shaken by their discovery of Captain Shannon. David felt bad about killing Shannon, though he’d recon– ciled himself long ago to the realities of combat; in a war, people died. The captain had made his choice, and it had been the wrong one. They drank in silence, the four Raccoon S.T.A.R.S. (ex-S.T.A.R.S., he reminded himself) pensive and somber, perhaps aware of the ticking clock. He and Rebecca would have to leave in a few moments. There was a convenience store a block away where they could telephone for a cab. David wished he could think of something encouraging to say, but the truth was the truth: they were going on a dangerous mis– sion, and there were no guarantees that any of them would survive to meet again.

“Have you thought about what you’ll tell the local police?” David asked finally. Barry shrugged. “We won’t have to lie much, any– way. The three of us were at my place, a buncha guys broke in and tried to shoot us. We ran.” “Irons will probably try to play it off as a botched burglary,” Chris sneered. “If he’s in this as deep as I think he is, he won’t want to call attention to anything Umbrella’s doing.” “Just be careful not to mention actually seeing any bodies,” David said. “They may have had time to clean up. And you should say that you were chased

into the park. It would explain your leaving the scene, as well as Captain Shannon’s body…”Barry smiled tiredly. “We’ll handle it. And I’m going to make some calls first thing tomorrow, get us some backup. You just worry about your end, okay?”

David nodded and stood up, as did Chris. David shook hands all around and then turned to Rebecca, uncomfortably aware that he was taking her from her teammates and trusted friends. The girl looked at the others in turn with a thoughtful expression and then grinned suddenly, an unaffected and purely wicked smile.

“Sure you guys can hold down the fort for a couple of days? I hate to think of you flailing around all directionless while me and David go clean up this Umbrella thing.” “We’ll try to limp along without you,” Chris shot back, smiling. “Won’t be easy, what with you having the brain and all…” Rebecca punched him lightly on the shoulder. “I’ll send you a postcard with instructions.” She nodded at Barry. “Take care of your arm. Keep it clean and dry, and if you spike a fever or get dizzy, get to a doctor ASAP.” Barry smiled. “Yes, ma’am.” Jill embraced her lightly. “Give ’em hell, Becca.” Rebecca nodded. “You, too. Good luck with Irons.” She turned to David, still smiling. “Shall we?” They walked to the front door together, David wondering at the girl’s easy demeanor. They’d just barely survived a serious attack, carried out by people who’d probably trained her, and she was leaving with a man she hardly knew to embark on a life– threatening mission. She was either putting on an act or was amazingly optimistic and if she was faking the casual bravado, she deserved an award. He watched her carefully as they stepped out into the small, unkempt yard of Brad Vickers’s house, and saw her smile fade, quickly replaced by a look of vague sadness and beyond that, the same kind of focused intensity that she’d had when she’d told them about Dr. Griffith and his research. Whatever she was thinking, he could see in that look that she was perfectly aware of the risks, but that she refused to be cowed by them. The perfect definition of bravery… David was satisfied with his decision to enlist Rebecca Chambers for the operation. She was smart, professional, and committed, as superior in her field of study as the rest of his team members were in theirs. He could only hope that their combined skills would be enough to get them in and out of Caliban Cove in one piece, bringing with them proof of Umbrella’s experiments, an objective that would lead to the ruin of the company that had corrupted the S.T.A.R.S., and perhaps let him sleep peacefully again. David nodded, and the two of them set off to make the call.

After rereading the information on Caliban Cove, Rebecca folded the papers and carefully tucked them into the overnight bag under David’s seat. He’d bought three bags at the airport, one for the weapons, currently in cargo, the others to carry on so they wouldn’t attract attention. Rebecca wished they’d thought to buy some snacks while they were at it. She hadn’t eaten since lunch, and the packet of nuts she’d swallowed after takeoff wasn’t cutting it. She reached up to switch off the reading light and then settled back in her seat, trying to let the smooth hum of the 747 engines lull her into a doze. Most of the other passengers on the half-full plane were asleep; the dim “night” lights and the steady drone of the engines had already worked for David. But even as drained as she felt by the evening’s events, she gave up the effort after a minute or two. There was too much to think about, and she knew that she wouldn’t be able to sleep without at least sorting through some of it.

I feel like I’m dreaming already anyway; this is just another weird tangent, a subplot that came out of left field…

In the past three months, she’d graduated college, gone through S.T.A.R.S. Bravo training, and moved to her first apartment in a new city-only to end up one of the five survivors of a man-made disaster involving biological weapons and a corporate con-spiracy. In the past three hours, her life had taken yet another totally unexpected turn. She thought about what she’d wished for earlier, a chance to get out of Raccoon City and study the T-Virus; the irony of the situation wasn’t lost on her, but she wasn’t so sure she liked the circumstances. She rolled her head to the side and looked at David, crashed out in the window seat, dark circles of ex-haustion beneath his closed lids. After briefly filling her in on a few details about the cove and outlining their schedule for the next day, he’d told her to try and take a nap (“have a lie down” had been his exact words) and then promptly taken his own advice-not falling asleep so much as lapsing into an instant coma.

He even sleeps efficiently, no tossing or turning…

Like he willed himself to get as much rest as possible in the time allowed. He struck her as an extremely competent and intelligent man, if something of a loner, for as cool as he was under pressure, he seemed to freeze with small talk, leading her to wonder what kind of life he’d had. She was impressed with how quickly he’d come up with a plan to get them out of Barry’s house, and was glad that he was leading the operation to Caliban Cove-though it was hard to think of him as a captain. He didn’t really project authority, and didn’t seem to want to, practically insisting that she call him David. Even when he’d stepped into a leadership role during the attack, it hadn’t felt like he was giving them orders so much as offering instruction.

Maybe it’s just the accent. Everything he says sounds polite…

He frowned in his sleep, his eyes flickering through uneasy dreams. After a few seconds, he let out a soft, child-like moan of distress. Rebecca briefly consid– ered waking him up, but already he seemed to have got past whatever troubled him, his brow smoothing. Suddenly feeling like she was invading his privacy, Rebecca looked away.

Dreaming about the attack, maybe. About having to kill someone he knew…

She wondered if she’d be haunted by the image of the man she’d shot, the shadowy figure that had crumpled to the ground next to Barry’s house. She was still waiting for the guilt to hit her and thinking about it, she was surprised to find that her mind wasn’t racing to rationalize the matter. She’d shot somebody, he could very well be dead and all she felt was relief that she’d stopped him from killing her or anyone else on the team. Rebecca closed her eyes, taking a deep breath of the cool, pressurized air hissing through the cabin. She could smell the musky odor of dried sweat on her skin, and decided that taking a shower was first priority when they hit the hotel. David didn’t want to risk going back to his house on the off chance that someone on the strike force had recognized him, so they were going to grab a couple of rooms near the airport somewhere after they changed planes. The operation briefing was set for noon at the home of one of the other three team members, an Alpha forensics expert named Karen Driver. David had mentioned that Karen could probably lend her some clean clothes, though he’d actually blushed while saying it.

He was a quirky one, all right…

… and after the briefing, we get our equipment and go in, just like that.

The thought knotted her stomach and sent a chill through her, telling her the real reason she wasn’t able to sleep. Only two weeks after the Umbrella night– mare in Raccoon City, she was facing the same nightmare again. At least this time, she had some idea of what they’d be getting themselves into, and the plan was to get out of the facility without ever facing the T-Virus creatures, but the memory of Umbrel– la’s Tyrant monster was still fresh in her mind, the massive, patchwork body and killing claw of the thing they’d seen on the estate. And the thought of what someone like Nicolas Griffith might have come up with using the virus… Rebecca decided that she’d thought enough, she had to get some sleep. She cleared her mind as best she could and focused on her breathing, slowing it down, counting backward in her mind from one hundred. The meditation technique had never failed her before, though she didn’t think it would work this time…

… ninety-nine, ninety-eight, Dr. Griffith, David, S.T.A.R.S., Caliban…

Before she reached ninety, she was deeply asleep, dreaming of moving shadows that no light had cast.


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