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Until the Levee

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The waters far below rise and fall with a choppy cadence, the sea a foreboding shade of blue tinted with a steelish grey, surface so dark as to be impenetrable, which did not help the wandering imagination, envisioning virally enlarged leviathans lurking just beneath, fingers grasping for prey.

The erratic rise and fall of the waves is only spurred on by the wind displaced by rotors of the BSAA transport steadying itself in the air, clearing for landing at a makeshift helipad constructed at one of Lanshiang’s ports.

“This your first rodeo?”

Rebecca Chambers looks away from the tides flowing and ebbing at the shores of Lanshiang, her thoughts redirected from the opaque waters  and the secrets (and B.O.W.S.) the sea might hide.

Her cabin mate- one of eight on the flight, altogether comprising a small squadron to be dispersed to aid in rescue and relief around Lanshiang once they touched down-  is geared in the standard combat fatigues of the BSAA, olive and hunter green camo slightly modified, though whether the man- she searches for a nametag, cursing her short lived ability for retaining names (and he had been so personable!)- is SOU or lower rank escapes her, and she wonders again on the severity of the containment operation.

Hopefully the reports hadn’t been as bad as they had seemed.

She finally answers him quietly, a rueful smile on her face. “Not by a longshot.”

“A career soldier, huh? In it for the long haul, then.”

“It’s certainly not what I set out to be, growing up. But life leads you down the roads less traveled, sometimes,” Rebecca replies as she checks the compartments of her Unit One backpack out of habit. She’d already done a precursory equipment check before departure to make sure nothing vital had been left out of her field kit.

She’d continued to check her pack every two hours and mentally inventoried its contents; emergency trauma bandages, small amounts of sick call meds, morphine, a reusable splint, taking care not to jostle some of the more fragile pieces of equipment.

It might’ve crossed over a little into the area of paranoid preparedness, sure, but Rebecca would rather be safe than sorry. Better to have excess supplies she never had need of than be left deprived at a critical moment. Besides, the BSAA higher ups had been quite lenient in alloting how much she could pack so Rebecca tried to preemptively counter any medical emergency she might deal with .

Besides, Rebecca wasn’t 18 anymore, and she had promised to never be as ill prepared as she was that night all those years ago.

The BSAA might tolerate the occasional incident outside of their contingency plans , but they weren’t as hard on her as she herself was.

No one was going to die on her watch.

Before Rebecca can uncomfortably dwell longer her thoughts are jarred- quite literally- as the landing brakes of the CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter engage and settle on the pavement of the helipad. The blades slowly desist in their whirring through the air before finally stopping entirely and Rebecca and the man opposite her (she still couldn’t remember his name) prepare for departure or from the aircraft.

Her legs are cramped from sitting for so long and she gamely tries to shake out the numbness in her limbs as she steps out of the aircraft. She smooths out any creases in her uniform as she digs out her BSAA identification badge for the commanding officer standing just outside the landing zone.

“Consultant Chambers?”

Any unkindness or distrust Rebecca might’ve expected in the officer’s voice seems to be buried under a tone of weary exhaustion, as if simply asking the question required much effort. His cheekbones are jutting out of his face in stark contrast to the deep, hollow set of his eyes, underscored by purple shadows. The man’s voice is hoarse, gravelly, and Rebecca wonders how long it’d been since this man had slept decently or had a meal that wasn’t an MRE.

The salt tinged air whips at her cheeks and she nods an affirmation.

“Medical tents are set up just south of here,” he points, “outside the quarantine line.”  

“Miss Chambers!”

Rebecca turns on her heel at the sound of her name and sees her personable friend waving a goodbye before falling in line, and out of long ingrained habit she instinctually snaps into a salute before softening her stance and waving at his retreating figure.

His boyish good looks and enthusiastic, infectious nature remind her of Richard Aiken, and suddenly she’s reminded of her first day on the job as a member of S.T.A.R.S., how Richard had been the one to firmly shake her hand and call her by name rather than “rookie” or “new kid” and a pang of guilt hits her, tingling at the base of her neck as she still can’t summon his name from the recesses of her memory.

She hoped that young man wouldn’t join the list of people she had said goodbye to only for them never to come home.



Rebecca had barely unshouldered her backpack of supplies before she hears a commotion, loud enough to spread over the background noise of intermittent police sirens and bursts of machine gun fire echoing across the streets of Lanshiang’s port streets that lie just beyond the police barricade.

“Please, you can’t do this!” A desperate voice reaches Rebecca’s ears and out of the corner of her peripheral vision Rebecca sees a small group of people enter into the tent designated as the staging ground for the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s operations.

“I find that you are in no position, Miss Birkin, to tell me what I can and can not do.” A voice cold and thin enough to crack ice responds and Rebecca turns to see the cause of the argument.

A Chinese woman, hair blacker than the smoke drifting above the ruined landscapes of Lianshang in the background,  is staring down her nose, an imperious expression of someone unapproachable  evident as she regards the shorter blonde woman who had presumably questioned her.  

She must be an executive, Rebecca notes. The woman couldn’t have been far into her thirties, presence tall and commanding, slender legs and thin frame accentuated by a pencil skirt and a crisply pressed blazer and blouse with no wrinkle in sight. Her image is sharp, not a single strand of hair falling out of place of the low bun that is secured by a jade hair clip. She is clearly put together, a woman who is unperturbable.

This in sharp contrast to the distressed woman in front of her. Her clothes are positively tattered, the shirt that might have once been a white color caked in dirt and blood, ripped and torn, the cargo pants she is wearing similarly ruined.

The young woman’s  face is the picture of outrage, big blue eyes narrowed in anger as her fists clench at her side.  Her  hair is unkempt and ragged and covered in what Rebecca thinks is a filmy layer of ash- had she been through the fires of Lanshiang?   Miss Birkin’s face is similarly marred with a layer of grime, small abrasions, bruises, and blood- and Rebecca is unsure if it is because she’s exhausted from the flight but she sees small scratches on her cheeks disappear, bruises lightening to a sickly shade of yellow before giving way to healthy skin tone in mere seconds.

“You’re detaining him without any respect towards due process, no explanations, nothing at all! And after what he went through- after what we both went through!”

Rebecca hurries her pace, stepping towards  closer to the commotion as the Chinese woman steps into the tent that served as the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s field headquarters. She  ignores the voice in her head that tells her she’s overstepping, that she should focus on finding Chris first and verifying his status to reconcile it with current BSAA reports, but the compassionate side of her quietly squashes the prudent side.

We’ve waited six months, we can afford to wait a little longer.

“Excuse me? Is there something I can do to help?” She asks, stepping closer through the wind swept sand.

The shorter blonde woman, Miss Birkin, whose balled fists had uncurled and dangled helplessly at her sides, turns around to face her. Her bright blue eyes take a while to focus completely on Rebecca, her mind obviously elsewhere.

The younger woman tightens the ragged blue scarf around her neck as she speaks. “I’m sorry you had to see that.” Her voice is tired, not quiet sounding so much as it is weak, brittle enough that it might snap should it take much more abuse.

Her hands- Rebecca picks up on their smoothness, slim, delicate, not worn callous from years of experience-reach into the back pocket of her cargo pants in a practiced motion and she procures an i.d. badge.

“Sherry Birkin, National Security.” Sherry’s voice is particularly devoid of pride, or really any tone at all.

Sherry seems to note Rebecca picking up on this, and self appraises her tattered clothes and grime covered body, and laughs, smiling ruefully. “A perfectly inspiring picture of someone who holds that title, I’m sure.”

Sherry doesn’t offer her hand but Rebecca instinctively reaches and takes her hand in both of hers, grasping them warmly, a part of her, the part that constantly feels she still has something to prove, even though those rookie days of S.T.A.R.S. are long behind her, instantly feels both protective of the younger woman and a sense of connection to her.

“I think we both might have stories to tell about people underestimating us due to our looks. My name is Rebecca Chambers, chief medical consultant deployed here in Lanshiang to aid the BSAA.”

Sherry immediately brightens up at the last part of Rebecca’s sentence. She beholds the BSAA patch on Rebecca’s sleeve alike to a beacon of hope and genuinely smiles , a hopeful, beautiful thing amidst the chaos of the deteriorating city of Lanshiang and its foreboding seas.

“Even an offer of help is more than I expected to get. Thank you.”

Sherry leads Rebecca further down the quarantine line in the opposite direction  of the medical tents and the CCDCP staging area, filling her in as they go, the sound of the BSAA radio chatter drowned out by the gunfire and screams lessening in the background.

“Jake and I had just barely escaped  from an underwater testing facility disguised  as an oil field. When we reached the surface we were met with a full complimentary armed guard; ground troops, helicopters, you would have thought the People’s Liberation Army had come, not the Center for Disease Control.”

“That sounds excessive for two people.”

Sherry puffs out her cheeks, exhaling in frustration as they draw closer to their destination. “Even considering Jake’s... colorful past, there was no precedent for such a showing.” 

There’s definitely a story there , Rebecca thinks.

Sherry stops then, halting Rebecca with a cautionary wave of her arm. The duo stop just clear of a smaller tent, constructed unceremoniously between several abandoned market stalls stretching outside of the outskirts of Lanshiang.

The clearing is beyond the infected zone of the city but just as indicative of the chaos further in the city, Rebecca imagines. Days old spoiled food and produce clutter the concrete, itself covered in soot and debris from collapsed buildings, some destroyed  in the preventative bombing authorized by the BSAA and others simply dilapidated from age. Signs written in hanzi  powered by dying generators are sparking and dimming with equal frequency .

Rebecca grimly notes the smears of blood the forebodingly snake across the ground, beneath and beyond the quarantine zone several hundred meters to their right, and is at least thankful there aren’t corpses of the still or walking variety.

Not yet, anyway.

“When Jake and I reached the clearing, a whole escort of armed men surrounded us. That woman you saw me pleading with? She said something in Cantonese, some kind of order, I think, and six armed men- six!- surrounded Jake. We were both too tired to put up any real resistance, though that doesn’t mean Jake wasn’t willing.”

Sherry’s mouth curls upwards in a fond smile at this point and her cheeks color just enough for Rebecca to notice.

“The executive of the CCDCP insisted that with Jake’s full cooperation, neither of us would be harmed- contingent on him capitulating to their demands, of course.” Sherry’s angry scoff showed just how much she believed that as she watches the guards stationed outside of the tent stand, impassive and expressive as statues..

“Code for a lot of bullshit, I think,” Rebecca says as she smiles grimly but not without sympathy.

“First detaining Jake with no legal precedent nor authority to do so,  no doubt intending to carry  out medical tests and experiments without his express consent or not, then making veiled threats against the both of you, one of which is an agent of the NSA, no less!” Rebecca sighs in derision and pushes her hair out her face in frustration, the expression of one long accustomed to dealing with bureaucratic by-blows and the scheming (or simpering) directors behind them.

“The upper echelons of the BSAA would normally suffocate under the red tape they would have to navigate to clear this up without any damage to interests of the involved parties.”

“And they have no regard to the people caught in the crossfire,” Sherry says quietly, and there’s weight to her voice, something leaden and heavy, and Rebecca gathers there’s painful familiarity there for Sherry, but does not pry.

“Innocent people caught in the middle are the ones in need of the most help.”

Rebecca’s gaze meets Sherry’s and holds it for several seconds; Sherry’s bright blue eyes are so much clearer than the steely-gray blue of the smog unfurling from the rubble of Lanshiang, of the foreboding waters of the southern sea. Something in her eyes convinces Rebecca that despite the odds, there is hope.

Sherry indicated where Jake had been taken with an incline of her head, hair blowing ever so slightly in the breeze even as the air around them hangs heavy with apprehension.  Even though Sherry is the only one of them armed- with what looks like a cattle prod holstered at her hip- protective instincts urge Rebecca to take point.

“Any kind of strategy, Sherry?” From the looks of her battered state Sherry didn’t seem especially keen on any further conflict, and Rebecca was banking on the fact that the CCDC didn’t want any inter organizational conflict that could possibly devolve into physical violence.

Years of working with men with hundreds of pounds and years of experience on her, who saw Rebecca’s diminutive stature and soft features and immediately dismissed her as any kind of party worth paying attention to, worried at the back of her mind to tell her otherwise, because when were the inner workings of parties privy to the events of bioterror outbreaks not complicated?

But Rebecca had the fallback of training with Jill Valentine on self defense since her days in S.T.A.R.S. and her advice on carrying small, but effective weapons for her size, should things come to a head.

Even so, I don’t relish the thought of getting into an all out brawl if it can be avoided , she thinks, lips downturned at the possibility of a such a scenario.

Her fingers twitch as they linger in the space around her own empty belt  and, despite her own aversion to violence except when strictly necessary, she sorely misses the comforting heft of the Raysun X-1 stun gun she carried with her in most situations. Her status as an advisor to the BSAA came second to her presence in a medical capacity, and so, her means of self defense, non lethal though they were, had been confiscated and placed into storage lockers once she’d disembarked from the flight.

“Do you think we could possibly renegotiate Jake’s release into BSAA or DSO custody?” Sherry says as she nervously fidgets with the untucked hem of her white shirt, blemished with stains of dirt and blood.

“I still  have standing orders from six months ago to serve as Jake’s protection detail until we can rendezvous with the proper higher ups in the government. I’m…” at this moment Sherry’s face  stilled, mouth in a tight line as she spoke, “pending an assignment to a new supervisor to report to, but my job is technically still ongoing.”

Rebecca motions to Sherry and steps into the tent ahead of her, nodding in affirmation. As a long term advisor, she had a fair amount of pull with the executive offices in the BSAA; Rebecca could also order Jake released into her care for immediate medical attention while Sherry checked in with the DSO for a debrief.

It might chafe the relationship with the Chinese Center for Disease Control, but there was no legal precedent for their detainment and isolation of Jake-

“Jake!” Sherry’s voice rings out in both surprise and concern and Rebecca’s mental train comes to a screeching halt as she and Sherry step into the tent proper and find three unconscious agents crumpled in the sand and a tall, black clad young man with sheared red hair breathing heavily in the center of the room.

“He’s the one we’re here to help?” Rebecca’s voice wavers with the tiniest bit of uncertainty, and despite Sherry’s unwavering trust she feels a little like she is occupying the room with an uncaged panther.

“Yes, this idiot,”  Sherry’s rueful concern breaks through the tiniest of smiles, the edges of her mouth curling up just slightly even as she shakes her head in the manner of someone asking herself, “What am I going to do with you?”

She takes a cursory glance at the men on the floor just long enough to ascertain they’re just unconscious before taking stock of the man Sherry had asked her to aid.

Her first observation was noting his injuries; while Sherry seemed largely none the worse for the wear for their ordeal (of which she made a mental note to definitely double check with her later), Jake was suffering from shallow cuts on top of scratches on top of dirt ruddying the blood both dried and fresh on his face and upper torso uncovered by the thin black henley he wore.

Rebecca roots through her belt pack for the gauze, bandages, and antiseptic  as Sherry hurries to the side of her protective charge.

“What did they do to you? What happened?” Sherry asks, her hands skirting close to his skin, hovering about him in a worrying manner as if to check for damage she couldn’t see.

“Not  a whole lot- nothing that won’t heal, anyway,” Jake says evenly despite his face presenting all evidence to the contrary, the start of a smile forming on his face, able to find humor even in this situation; he pointedly avoids answering Sherry’s second question.

“It rather looks like Jake happened, Sherry,” Rebecca says softly.

Jake eyes the supplies in Rebecca’s hands warily with blunt distrust. His eyes dart to Sherry and they share a look of those who were familiar with cold, clinical sterility and being treated like test subjects rather than people before Sherry gives him an encouraging nod.

He gives a curt nod of affirmation of his own and Rebecca reaches forward and up to begin cleaning the blood off his face.

“Whoever this mysterious stranger is,  I like her already,” Jake says, smiling through  his bloodied mouth and nose, right side of his mouth tugging upward in a confident, cocky half-grin.

“This is Rebecca Chambers. She’s a medical consultant with the BSAA; she’s here to help.”

Rebecca would normally be a little off-put by such a display, but there’s something oddly charming about how utterly honest and upfront Sherry’s partner is even with blood streaming down his face. Rebecca assesses the mottled purple-yellow of his left eye starting to blacken- thin cut up above it is too shallow to require sutures- and concedes that he’s even a little handsome, in a craggy  way.

Judging  by the stern set of her face- steely gaze,  lips in a thin line- Sherry had seen this expression many a time before and wasn’t particularly in the mood for it this time.

“Really? Of all the times you had to go and pick a fight, you had to  do so now?” Even with the accusatory nature  of her words, Rebecca picks up on the fact that Sherry’s voice is all resigned, worried relief.

“I was jus’ fine being their prisoner till they started making threats,” Jake says in his defense, holding his wrists, cuff dangling loosely from his left wrist, jingling as if to make a point, and Sherry backs down a little.

“They started threatening you?”

“No,  not me.”

Jake doesn’t so much glare daggers at the prone forms of the agents sprawled unconscious on the sand as he does full length broadswords.

Rebecca takes the moment to search through the pockets of the prone guards for keys to Jake’s handcuffs as he crosses his arms across his chest; the right cuff appeared to have broken loose during the fighting and Rebecca shoos away the painful twinge of nostalgia that accompanies the image. “They spouted a whole lot of nonsense, at first. At first it was nice to just not be called a ‘test subject’ or ‘escapee’. They started talking about isolating me, putting me in quarantine.”

“But of course they didn’t mention your consent to cooperate,” Sherry says quietly, and something behind her tone is knowing, aching with the old pain of someone who had long been denied a voice in anything that happened  to her.

“Then there were mutters about ‘navigating’ proper channels and routine blood tests, analysis; I know the both of us have dealt with more than enough of that to last a lifetime. I was about to tell them where they could shove their proper channels, but...”

He is quiet then, and despite the scant minutes Rebecca had been in Jake’s presence, for someone as so cocksure and mouthy as he came across, the silence spoke volumes.

“They threatened you, Sherry. Said things about how you weren’t the important one, about how you were disposable, and I- well, that’s when things got handsy.”

“So you decided to assault them?”

The look on Jake’s face is an incredulous one, and he squirms out of reach of Rebecca’s hands.

“Gee, supergirl, sorry for the concern on your behalf. Next time I won’t bother!”

“That’s not what I meant, Jake, and you know it,” Sherry expels a frustrated breath. “I’m touched, Jake, I really am. But you can’t just brawl your way out of your problems-”

Jake scowls at the floor at this, and mutters an aside as Rebecca applies a bandage to the cut above his brow. “It’s not like it was hard.”

“Okay, my point? Flew right over your head.”

“So what, I was just ‘sposed to sit here and listen to them make threats on your life?”

“Big talk from three armed guards surround an unarmed and exhausted escapee, Jake. We have no assurance they would have followed up on them.”

“Are you really giving these people the benefit of the doubt, Sherry? After what we’ve been through? After what YOU’VE been through?”

Rebecca takes the keys and unlocks the cuff circled around Jake’s left wrist and lets it plummet into the sand.

Jake and Sherry are glowering at each other, and Rebecca takes the moment to tread lightly on the thin ice  threatening to break under the tension to seize upon something she’d noticed.

“These men had you cuffed and you were still able to incapacitate them with your legs?”

Jake’s scowl instantly vanishes and he perks up visibly at Rebecca’s point.

“Oh yeah, nothing like taking on those J’avo in the testing facility when Sherry and I escaped-”

“Which I’m sure Rebecca will be interested in hearing about once we know you won’t get detained in another one, Jake.” Sherry’s voice is pointed, but not unkind, and the almost childlike glee on his face dims a little bit as he’s brought back to the present.

“Aw, you never let me tell the story,” he puffs out dejectedly, but he seems to recognize the relative gravity of their situation and straightens up. “What now, doc?”

He fully holds her gaze, then, and with a head on look at his face Rebecca gets an uncomfortable twinge in the back of her mind, and she’s reminded of someone in a not altogether pleasant way.

Rebecca motions with her head for Jake and Sherry to follow her as they exit the tent.

“You said you were pending assignment of a new supervisor to directly report to with the NSA, right, Sherry? Is there anyone on the ground in close proximity you could give a sitrep to?”

Sherry’s eyes widen as the proverbial light bulb flashes above her head. “Leon! Oh, of course, I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me before to contact him, and after he helped Jake and I at the Kwunlung building in Koocheng…”

She digs through the battered pockets of her cargo pants and withdraws a cell phone, her fingers a blur as she makes the phone call.

“I wonder if that’s the same Leon I know?” Rebecca asks as she looks to Jake, who answers with a shrug.

“One of her best friends, she said, man helped her escape Raccoon City. Met him twice now and he’s…” Jake frowns, but only slightly, “he’s a good guy, I guess. Hair’s pretty dumb, though.”

Rebecca’s mouth curls slightly at Jake’s words, “Yep, they always mention the hair. That’s definitely the Leon I know.”

She looks out at the steely gray waters of the coast and the oil rig in the distance offshore, and her brow furrows in thought. She’d read up a bit on the surrounding area’s history before the chopper had touched down- Lianshang had built a healthy import/export business in industrial materials from its factories,but its main draw was the offshore oil refinery.

But given the area’s close proximity to the center of an outbreak, her own personal experiences, and the news reports of terrorist activities both in China and Eastern Europe over the past half year from an organization claiming the name of “Neo-Umbrella”, Rebecca was certain the oil refinery was likely a front for experimentation of some kind.  

She catches snippets of Sherry’s conversation as Jake idles next to her like he isn’t quite sure what to do with himself.

“Leon? Can you hear me okay?... I knew the two of you’d be alright, of course, it doesn’t make me any less relieved to hear it.. was wondering if the DSO could act as a proxy since the NSA’s authoritative structure has been compromised… You’re what?”

Sherry pauses for a moment as Leon repeats himself on the other end of the line. The shift on her face is nearly imperceptible, and her voice is still mostly steady, but it wavers slightly  at her next words, and Rebecca wonders if she is on the verge of tears.

“You’ve done nothing you need to apologize for, and you know it. But…thank you. It matters that you thought to say it. I’ll see you soon, alright?”

Sherry ends the phone call, stowing away her phone and quickly rubbing at her eyes before approaching Rebecca and Jake.

“Leon S. Kennedy and his partner, Helena Harper, have an ETA of about 10 minutes from the quarantine zone. He served directly under President Benford not only as a bodyguard and field operative but as a friend. He was the NSA’s direct liaison to the oval office in nearly all operations that concerned such high level security clearance.”

Rebecca nods, the seeds of a plan already taking root in her mind. “Leon’s our direct line in FOS. The NSA has collaborated often enough with FOS, right? With how long he has been working so closely with such important figures, he should have enough pull to help us out.”

“Or at least enough charm to make it look like he does, certainly,” Sherry gives a wry smile that is still fond, and Rebecca can’t help but laugh.

“Besides, the director of this branch of the CCDCP didn’t seem entirely… unreasonable…” Sherry falters a little, grimacing, and Rebecca remembers the aloof, imperious woman who looked down her nose at Sherry’s pleas, her high heels kicking up sand as she turned her back on Sherry as though she didn’t merit a second glance.

Any ground they would win in negotiations for Jake’s safe release would be hard fought.

“Entirely frigid, ‘s more like it,” Jake crosses his arms, “made me think of the woman who sent Ustanak chasing after us all this time.  What’s her name? Ada Wong?”

Sherry nods in response, face falling as she recalls an obviously unpleasant association.  At that, Jake’s eyes narrow and his mouth steels into a thin line. “Yeah, fuck her,” he spits into the sand at his feet and grinds angrily with his heel, likely relishing in imagining this woman’s face beneath his boot, “And fuck Ustanak, too. Glad we finally blew that asshole to bits.”

“I figure, long as that ugly bastard isn’t chasing Sherry and me around trying to kill us for the hundredth damn time, any situation we’re in is better.”

Better? Rebecca thinks.

The trio stood  on the edges of the Chinese coast line, mere hundreds of yards from a quarantined city that had been targeted for a bio terrorist attack, out of which the ruins threaten  to spill zombies and J’avo mutated too far to have anything left defining them as human. Two of them had just mere hours ago fought for their lives against an overpowering behemoth hellbent on taking either their blood or their broken bodies for Neo-Umbrella, and on Jake, at least, the damage showed. Upon escaping that nightmare, they been thrown into another.

Rebecca still had to help ascertain the whereabouts of BSAA Alpha Team Captain Chris Redfield and his second in command Piers Nivans, and the radio silence she’d had since touching down was deafening, and despite her attempts at staying positive, she still feared the worst.

Better was certainly one way of putting it.

She doesn’t have much longer to ruminate on all the positives and negatives of their situation- she had done enough of that on the flight over- as sand is kicked up and away. Helicopter blades that churn the air slow their pace as the aircraft lowers closer to the ground and the pilot and copilot step clear.

“Leon’s here!” And Sherry is smiling, truly smiling, her face lighting up despite the smudge of dirt and sweat, so effusive it could possibly split her face in two. She takes off into a run to meet the pair, completely unrestrained in her joy and relief, forgetting about the hardship of their situation for a moment in light of the fact that he’s here, he’s here and he’s alive , still alive.

Jake arches his elbows, palms up and out and shrugs, a look of fond resignation on his face- one that mirrors Sherry’s earlier, Rebecca notes- suggesting he wanted to say “ What else can you do?” He then proceeds to lazily lope after Sherry, in no great hurry as if he hadn’t just minutes earlier been handcuffed under armed guard.

Rebecca turns away from the waters of the South China Sea to follow them, to brief Leon on the specifics of their situation and see if he might, in turn, have any knowledge of the BSAA’s activities in the area.

But not before her hands reach up to the old, familiar comfort that hangs around her neck, the stainless steel long since having lost its sheen, the raised text on the dog tags worn down and faded, and grasps it tight.