The Umbrella helicopters swarmed around them, coming at the Arcadia from every direction. The air screamed with the sound of their approach and Alice closed her eyes wearily as the heavy cloak of responsibility settled across her shoulders once more.
Moments before she had been relaxed and hopeful. With Claire standing at her side smiling up at her, Alice had been happy. She was on a ship full of survivors, they had supplies and for the first time in a very, very long time, Alice had allowed herself to contemplate the future. She had allowed herself to imagine having friends again, having a home, having clean clothes, and a large comfy bed that she shared with Claire, and it had been beautiful. Now, icy dread trickled down her spine once again and her mouth formed a thin, grim line as she stared up at the darkening sky.
“Come with me,” Alice said, her voice steady and strong as she turned to face Claire.
“Where are we going?” Claire asked, glad to have an excuse to turn from watching death approach them.
“You’ll see,” Alice breathed out, reaching for Claire’s hand then squeezing it comfortingly. “It’ll be okay,” she breathed out when their eyes met, and despite herself, Claire smiled.
“Only you could say that at a time like this,” Claire murmured even as her hand squeezed Alice’s, instinctively accepting the comfort Alice offered despite her sarcastic words.
Her memory was still disjointed, more a series of tableau’s and vignettes than a true remembrance of her life before being tagged and drugged by Umbrella. However, Alice’s face featured prominently in the movie montage of her life. Alice’s perfect, sunburned, dirt streaked face stood out like a shining beacon. Alice was a spot of light in the dark memories of the last few years of her life, and Claire knew that she would always follow that light.
“I figure one of these days I’ve gotta be right,” Alice husked, her lips curving up in a rueful smile, before she tightened her grip on Claire’s hand and then looked past the redhead to her brother who was watching them with equal parts interest and impatience.
“This way,” Alice said nodding her head towards the hatch they had come through to watch Wesker explode into a hundred million psychopathic little pieces. “We’re going all the way down,” she continued, stroking Claire’s hand with her thumb before reluctantly letting it go.
“What’s in the hull?” Claire asked as Alice moved towards the hatch and she and Chris fell in step behind her.
“A faint, fluttering ray of hope,” Alice murmured, glancing over her shoulder to meet Claire’s eyes before she turned back to the hatch door, yanked it open and disappeared into the darkness beyond.
It didn’t take long to reach the hull, but by the time they reached their destination and Alice began to use the data pad she’d taken from Wesker to open the door in front of them, they could hear gunfire erupting on the top deck.
“We have to…” Claire began, turning back towards the stairs they had just descended.
“There’s no time,” Alice replied as gently as the urgency of the situation would allow. “I’ll do what I can for them, but right now,” she continued, pausing for a moment to push a button which made the doors in front of them slide open, “you two inside.”
Claire turned to look inside of the room and discovered that it wasn’t really so much a room as it was a small escape pod. There was a navigation console at the front of the pod, two single beds built into the side walls, a chest which Claire assumed contained supplies, and a small sectioned off area that Claire guessed was some sort of rudimentary head.
“The two of us?” Claire asked, glancing over at Chris for a moment before focusing her eyes on Alice once more.
“It’s a two person pod,” Alice responded steadily as she looked Claire straight in the eyes.
“No,” Claire stated instinctively.
“Yes,” Alice breathed out sorrowfully.
“We’ll squeeze in,” Claire countered, her voice tight with emotion.
“The pod isn’t designed for the extra weight and there aren’t enough supplies for three people to make it,” Alice sighed, before glancing quickly behind her.
The siege sounds from above were getting louder. The Arcadia had been boarded and the survivors on the deck were disoriented and without the necessary equipment to put up any sort of defense. It wouldn’t take long for the Umbrella forces to make their way into the ship.
“Make it where?” Chris asked as Claire stared at Alice with shimmering eyes, too caught by emotion at the moment to speak.
“You should be able to make it to B.C.,” Alice said to Chris. “Go into the mountains. Lay low, regroup, and look for survivors when and where you can. Make a stronghold so that when I get us out of whatever hellhole those Umbrella assholes are going to put us in we’ll have somewhere to run.”
“Come with us,” Claire pleaded. “We can manage the supplies Alice, and you know the weight of one more person won’t sink the pod,” she whispered, reaching out to grasp Alice’s hand tightly.
“They’ll come for me,” Alice breathed out, eyes squeezing shut and jaw clenching in pain. “Somehow they’ve been tracking me. I led Wesker to the citadel and until I know how I can’t …” she paused as her voice began to crack. “I can’t go with you,” she rasped, eyes shimmering with unshed tears as she squeezed Claire’s hand tightly. “Listen to me. I found you in an ocean of sand, and in the wilds of Alaska,” Alice stated, straightening her back and forcing her voice to steady. “I’ll find you again,” she promised, staring directly into Claire’s eyes as she spoke.
Claire blinked rapidly a few times to hold the tears building in her eyes at bay, and then she nodded once. Alice smiled at her sadly, and then she took Claire’s face in her hands and leaned forward, kissing her soundly; kissing her for all of the days and weeks they would be apart when Alice would not be able to kiss her.
“I’ll find you,” Alice whispered fiercely as she pulled away from Claire’s lips. “Go,” she added a moment later, her voice cracking again despite her best efforts to seem in control of her emotions. “Go,” she repeated nodding her head towards the interior of the pod.
“Come on,” Chris said gently, placing his hand on Claire’s shoulder, trying to encourage her to move as she continued to stare at Alice. “We’ve gotta move.”
“Go on,” Alice breathed out, blinking rapidly.
Claire released a shuddering breath, nodded once more, then after one last lingering look at Alice’s face, she turned and marched into the escape pod.
“I’ll take care of her,” Chris promised Alice as Claire seated herself at the navigation station.
He didn’t really know anything about their relationship. He had no idea where they had met, when, or how long they had been together, but the fact that they cared deeply for each other was plain to see. Alice was tough but she was human and Chris could see the pain in her eyes at the prospect of having to leave his sister. He knew his words weren’t much but he hoped it helped Alice to know Claire would be with someone who loved her and would fight to the death for her.
“I know you will,” Alice replied, her voice raspy and choked as she blinked a few more times in an attempt to keep the tears welling in her eyes at bay.
She didn’t want to have to be separated from Claire again, but at least this time she could take some comfort in knowing that she wasn’t leaving Claire unprotected. Chris was well-trained, he remained calm in stressful situations, he had a strategic mind and he clearly loved his sister. Alice knew that the two of them would make a formidable team, as she was sure they had for most of their lives. They would look out for each other, they would defend each other to the death, and they would never abandon each other.
Chris clasped Alice on the shoulder and squeezed. When she looked over at him, he gave her a quick nod, and then he headed into the escape pod as well. As Chris entered the pod, Claire turned around in her chair and her eyes caught Alice’s and they gazed at each other until the doors to the pod slid shut, separating them for the second time in their short history together.
Alice closed her eyes, allowing herself one last moment of weakness, and then she forced them back open, straightened her back, reached for the shotgun strapped to her back, and headed for the stairs.
She knew that she wouldn’t be able to win against the Umbrella assault teams attacking the Arcadia, but she wasn't going to let them take her or anyone else without putting up one hell of a fight.