ONE

“GO, GO, GO!” DAVID SHOUTED, AND JOHN Andrews hit the gas, whipping the minivan around a tight corner as gunfire thundered through the cold Maine night. John had spotted the two unmarked black sedans only a moment before, which had barely given the team enough time to arm themselves. Whoever was on their ass – Umbrella or the S.T.A.R.S. or the local cops – it didn’t matter, it was all Umbrella. “Get us lost, John!” David called, somehow manag– ing to sound cool and controlled even as bullets riddled the back of the van. It was the accent -he always sounds like that, and where the hell’s Fal-worth?

John felt scattered, his thoughts racing and jumbled; he kicked ass on a mission, but sneak attacks bit the bone –

–right on Falworth and head for the strip – Christ, ten more minutes and we would’ve been gone

It had been too long since John had been in combat,

and never in the midst of a car chase. He was good, but it was a minivan. Bam bam bam!Someone in the back of the van was returning fire, shooting out of the open back window. The nine-millimeter explosions in the tight space were as loud as the voice of an irate God, pounding at John’s ears and making it even harder to focus.

Ten more goddamn minutes.

Ten minutes from the airstrip, where the chartered flight would be waiting. It was like a bad joke – weeks of hiding, waiting, not taking any risks, and then getting tagged on the way out of the damn country. John hung on to the wheel as they shot down 6th Street, the van too heavy to outmaneuver the sedans. Even without five people and a shitload of artillery, the bulky, boxy knockoff mini wasn’t exactly a power– house. David had bought it because it was so nonde-script, so unlikely to be noticed, and they were paying for it – if they managed to shake their pursuers, it’d be a small miracle. Their only chance was to try to find traffic, play some dodge. It was dangerous, but so was getting run off the road and shot to death. “Clip!” Leon shouted, and John shot a look in the rearview, saw that the young cop was crouched at the back window next to David. They’d taken out the back seats for the trip to the airstrip, all the more room for weapons, but that also meant no seatbelts; take a corner too fast and bodies would be flying… Bam! Bam! Two more blasts from the sedan ass– holes, maybe from a.38. John gave the shuddering van a little more pedal as Leon returned fire with a Browning nine-millimeter. Leon Kennedy was their best shot, David probably had him trying to draw bead on the tires –

–best shot next to me, anyway, and how the hell am I going to get us lost in Exeter, Maine, at eleven o’clock on a weeknight? There is no traffic -One of the women tossed Leon a mag, John didn’t have time to see which one as he jerked the wheel right, heading for downtown. With a smoking squeal of rubber on asphalt, the mini teetered around the corner of Falworth, heading east. The airstrip was west, but John didn’t figure that anyone in the van was worrying much about getting to the plane on time.

First things first, gotta ditch Umbrella’s hired goons. Doubt there’s room on the charter for all of us. John saw red and blue light in the mirror, saw that at least one of the sedans had put a flasher on the roof. Maybe they were cops, which would really suck.

Umbrella’s job of spin control had been thorough –

– thanks to them, every cop in the country probably believed that their small team was at least partly responsible for what had happened to Raccoon. The

S.T.A.R.S. were being played, too – some of the higher-ups had sold out, but the agents in the trenches probably had no idea that their organization had become a puppet of the pharmaceutical company –

–which makes it a hell of a lot harder to shoot back.

No one on their makeshift team wanted innocents to get hurt; being misled by Umbrella wasn’t a crime, and if the sedan teams were cops… “No antennae, no warning, not cops!” Leon called, and John had time to feel about a second’s worth of relief before he saw the barricades looming in front of them, the roadwork sign propped next to the blocked street. He saw the white circle of a man’s face above an orange vest, the man holding a sign that said “Slow,” the man dropping the sign and diving for cover…… and it would’ve been funny except they were doing eighty and had maybe three seconds before they hit. “Hang on!” John screamed, and Claire pushed her legs against the van wall, saw David grab hold of Rebecca, Leon snatching at the handle –

–and the van was screeching, jerking, and bucking like a wild horse, spinning sideways…… and Claire actually felt open space beneath the right side of the van as her body was compressed to the left, the back of her neck crunching painfully against the tire well.

– oh hell

David shouted something but Claire didn’t hear it over the squealing brakes, didn’t understand until David dove to the right, Rebecca scrambling right next to him -and wham, the van dropped back to the ground with a terrific bounce and John seemed to have it under control again, but there was still the piercing screech of locked brakes coming from…

CRASH!

The explosion of metal and shattering glass behind them was so close that Claire’s heart skipped a beat. She turned, looked out the back with the others and saw that one of the cars had barreled into a roadwork barricade – a barricade they’d probably come within a second or two of bashing into themselves. She caught just a glimpse of a crumpled hood, of broken windows and a stream of oily smoke, and then the second sedan was blocking her view, shrieking around the corner and continuing the chase. “Sorry ’bout that,” John called back to them, sounding anything but; he seemed wired with adrenaline-pumped glee. In the few weeks since she and Leon had joined up with the fugitive ex-S.T.A.R.S., she’d discovered that John would make jokes about anything. It was simul– taneously his most endearing and most annoying trait. “Everyone alright?” David asked, and Claire nod-ded, saw Rebecca do the same. “Took a whack but I’m okay,” Leon said, rubbing his arm with a pained expression. “But I don’t think…”

BAM! Whatever Leon didn’t think was cut off by the powerful blast that slammed into the back of the van. Still most of a block away, the sedan’s passenger had fired a shotgun at them; a few inches higher and the pellets would have come in through the window. “John, change of plans,” David called as the van swerved, his cool, authoritative voice rising over the noise of the screaming engines. “We’re in their sights…”

Before he could finish, John took a hard left. Rebecca fell backwards, nearly crashing into Claire. The van was now headed down a quiet suburban street. “Hold on to your butts,” John called over his shoulder. Chill night air whipped through the van, dark houses flying by as John picked up speed. Leon and David were already reloading, crouched behind the metal half-door. Claire exchanged a look with Rebecca, who looked as unhappy about their situa– tion as she felt. Rebecca Chambers was ex-S.T.A.R.S., she’d worked with Claire’s brother, Chris, as well as undertaking a recent Umbrella operation with David and John, also ex-S.T.A.R.S. – but the young woman had been trained as a medic with a background in biochemistry. Marksmanship wasn’t her forte – even Claire was a better shot – and she was the only person in the van who hadn’t had any real training… unless you count surviving Raccoon. Claire shuddered involuntarily as John took a hard right, veering wide around a parked truck, the sedan gaining ground. Raccoon City; the scratches and bruises on Claire’s body hadn’t even faded yet, and she knew that Leon’s shoulder was still giving him pain… BAM!

Another shotgun blast from behind, but it went wide and high.

This time… “Change of plans,” David said, his crisp British accent calming, like the voice of reason and logic in the midst of chaos. It was no wonder he’d been a

S.T.A.R.S. captain.

“Everyone brace for an impact. John, just past your next turn, bring us to a stop. Hit and run, alright?”

David brought his knees up, wedging his feet against the van’s wall. “They want us so badly, let them have us.”

Claire slid over and pushed her feet against the back of the passenger seat, knees bent and head down. Rebecca moved closer to David, and Leon sidled back so that his head was close to Claire’s. They locked gazes and Leon smiled faintly. “This is nothing” he said, and in spite of her fear, Claire found herself smiling back at him. After mak– ing it through the madness of Raccoon City, skirting the murderous Umbrella creatures and crazed hu– mans – not to mention their extremely narrow escape from explosive death when Umbrella’s secret facilities blew up – compared to all that, a simple car wreck was like a Sunday picnic. Yeah, just keep telling yourself that, her mind whis– pered, and then she didn’t think anything at all, because the van was swerving around a corner and John was pumping the brakes and they were about to get hit by about a ton and a half of fast moving metal and glass. David inhaled and exhaled deeply, relaxing his muscles as best he could, the squeal of brakes coming up fast from behind…… and wham, violent motion, a sense of incredible vibration, a second that seemed to stretch for an endless and silent eternity…… and the noise coming immediately after – break– ing glass and the sound of a tin can being crushed amplified a million times. David was jerked forward and back, heard Rebecca emit a strangled gasp –

– and it was over, and John was already hitting the gas as David rolled to his knees, raising his Beretta. He shot a look out the back and saw that the sedan was motionless, skewed across the dark street, the front grill and headlamps smashed all to hell. The slumped, shadowy figures behind the spidered glass were as still as the ruined car.

Not that we fared much better…

The inexpensive green minivan he’d bought specifi– cally for their ride to the airfield no longer had a bumper, tail lights, a rear license plate – or, he imag– ined, any possible method for opening the back gate; the door was a warped and crunched-up mass of useless metal. No great loss. David Trapp despised minivans, and it wasn’t as though they’d planned on taking it to Europe. The important thing was that they were still alive – and that – for the moment at least – they’d managed to avoid the infinitely long arm of Umbrel– la’s wrath. As they sped away from the wrecked car, David turned and regarded the others, reflexively putting a hand out to help Rebecca up. Since the ill-fated mission to the Umbrella lab on the coast, he’d grown quite attached to the young woman, as had John. The rest of his team hadn’t survived… He shook off the thought before it could take hold, and called up to John that they should circle back toward their original destination, staying away from major streets. A bad break that they’d been spotted just as they were leaving, but not all that surprising, however. Umbrella had staked Exeter out two months earlier, right after they’d returned from Caliban Cove. It had only been a matter of time. “Nice trick, David,” Leon said. “I’ll have to re– member that next time I get chased by Umbrella goons.”

David nodded uncomfortably. He liked Leon and Claire, but wasn’t so sure how he felt about two more people looking to him for leadership. He could under– stand it with John and Rebecca, they’d at least been part of the S.T.A.R.S. before – but Leon was a rookie cop from Raccoon and Claire was a college student who just happened to be Chris Redfield’s little sister. When he’d made the decision to break from the

S.T.A.R.S. after finding out about their connection to Umbrella, he hadn’t expected to continue leading, hadn’t wanted to –

–but it wasn’t my decision to make, was it… he hadn’t asked for their allegiance, or offered himself up as decision maker and it didn’t matter, that was just the way things had turned out. In war, one didn’t always have the luxury of choice. David glanced around at the others before staring out the back, watching the homes and buildings slip past in the cold dark. Everyone seemed a bit subdued, always the aftermath of an adrenaline rush. Rebecca was unloading clips and repacking the weapons, Leon and Claire sitting close together across from her, not talking. Those two were usually joined at the hip, and were still as tight as they’d been since David, John, and Rebecca had picked them up just outside of Raccoon less than a month earlier, dirty and damaged and reeling from their run-in with Umbrella. David didn’t think there was a romantic connection there, at least not yet; it was more likely their shared night– mare. Nearly dying together could be quite a bonding experience. As far as David knew, Leon and Claire were the only survivors of the Raccoon disaster who knew about Umbrella’s T-Virus spill. The child they’d had with them had only had the faintest idea, although Claire had been very careful to shield the little girl from the truth. Sherry Birkin didn’t need to know that her parents had been responsible for the creation of Umbrella’s most powerful bioweapons; better that she remember her mother and father as decent people…

“David? Anything wrong?”

He shook himself out of his mental wanderings and nodded at Claire. “I’m sorry. Yes, I’m fine. Actually, I was thinking about Sherry; how is she?”

Claire smiled, and David was struck again by how she brightened when Sherry’s name came up. “She’s good, she’s settling in. Kate is nothing like her sister, a definite plus. And Sherry likes her.”

David nodded again. Sherry’s aunt had seemed nice, but beyond that, she’d be able to protect Sherry if Umbrella decided to track the girl down; Kate Boyd was a fiercely competent criminal lawyer, one of the best in California. Umbrella would do well to stay away from the Birkins’ only child.

Too bad the same doesn’t apply to us; wouldn’t that make things quite a lot easier…

Rebecca had finished reorganizing their rather im– pressive cache of weapons. She scooted over to sit next to him, brushing a loose strand of hair off her forehead. Her eyes much older than the rest of her face; barely nineteen, she’d already lived through two Umbrella incidents. Technically, she had more expe– rience than any of them as far as the pharmaceutical company went. Rebecca didn’t speak for a moment, staring out at the passing streets. When she finally spoke, she kept her voice low, her sharp gaze studying him intently.

“Do you think they’re still alive?”

He wouldn’t bother feeding her a sunny picture; young as she was, the girl had a knack for seeing through people. “I don’t know,” he said, careful not to let the others overhear. Claire wanted desperately to reunite with her brother. “I doubt it. We should have heard from

them. Either they’re afraid of being traced, or…”

Rebecca sighed. Not surprised, but not happy.

“Yeah. Even if they couldn’t get through to us – Texas still has the scrambler up, don’t they?”

David nodded. Texas, Oregon, Montana – all open channels with S.T.A.R.S. members who could still be trusted, and they hadn’t gotten a call in over a month. The last message had been from Jill; David knew it by heart. In fact, it had been haunting him daily for weeks.

“Safe and sound in Austria. Barry and Chris track-ing lead at UHQ, looks promising. Get ready.”

Ready to join them, to call in the few waiting troops that he and John had managed to network. Ready to storm Umbrella’s real headquarters, the power be– hind it all. Ready to strike against the evil at its source. Jill and Barry and Chris had gone to Europe to find out where the true leaders of Umbrella’s hidden purpose were secreted, starting at internation-al HQ in Austria – and had promptly disappeared. “Heads up, kids,” John called from the front, and David looked away from Rebecca’s unsmiling face, looked out to see they were already at the airfield. Whatever had happened to their friends, they’d find out soon enough.

Contents