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I Never Passed A Cry for Help

Chapter Text

To say the situation had gone from bad to worse was a fucking understatement. Their target, the slimy smuggler Ricardo Irving, sitting pretty and surveying the evil he’d put on the world. Their men were dying in droves, a new breed of B.O.W. made of Lovecraftian nightmares taking the stand, and the endless waves of villagers-gone-rabid were alarmingly familiar in a way that made Chris Redfield feel sick to his stomach.

These things— the villagers were losing it in grand style, and they were showing a level of autonomy that wasn’t T-Virus, nor were the mutations Veronica Virus. There was only one other thing that Chris could think of that would allow these people to brandish weapons and show organized pursuit of enemies, capable of taking orders and holding public executions. Chris had never seen the early stages of that particular virus, but he knew the man who had. A part of Chris felt like it was necessary to reach out to said man— to Leon S. Kennedy— and get an in-depth report on what the early stages of infection looked like, but Chris knew well enough already. He’d watched Leon’s slow decent into uncontrolled madness. It had taken over twelve hours. And yet this— these villagers in Kijuju Autonomous Zone. They were turned in what seemed like a matter of minutes. And the creature they had just been fought—

God, what had that thing even been? Leeches or something worse, black eels from the depths of the ocean. Possibly T-Abyss related? The movement and abilities and make up hadn’t been at all similar to the behemoth mounds of flesh he’d come across on the Queens Zenobia and Semiramis, but what other comparison could he draw? Eels or leeches, squirming and writhing in the darkness of the depths of the ocean. These things took over the bodies of Alpha Team and used them for— sustenance? Energy? Chris didn’t understand how it worked, didn’t understand what he’d seen. What he did know was that Captain DeChant had been good man and an even better soldier and he hadn’t deserved to die like that. As a Captain himself, even though he hadn’t let himself have a team in ages, Chris’s worst nightmare was to outlive the men on his team.

“We need to contact HQ.”

Sheva repeated herself, almost like she thought Chris hadn’t heard her before, back in the underground with that, that thing. Chris had heard her, he was just hesitant to reach out to BSAA HQ at all. He’d long ago learned that the fat cats weren’t to be relied on. Their mission handler, a nameless man that Chris knew had never seen genuine combat outside of a drone screen, wasn’t exactly the most sympathetic type from what Chris had gathered so far. He knew they weren’t going to get the help Sheva was hoping for. “Alright,” he said anyways, knowing she wanted a verbal confirmation. The woman was strong, very strong, and Chris was happy she was at his side. She knew the area, knew the game, and she knew the risks. She was more than useful— she was his partner.

Light broke through the industrial elevator they were riding up from the bowels of the underground, and the lift stopped at the hangar level. Chris and Sheva both broke from the small confines and scanned the area, peaking around the blindspots the various parked HUMVEEs created for their inconvenience. With Alpha team dead below their feet, there was no telling what had broken through in what should have been a secure rendezvous point.

“Clear,” Sheva whispered as she checked the west end.

“Clear,” Chris replied tersely when the east was surveyed. They met eyes across the expanse of the hangar and gave each other sharp nods before getting back to the center, to Captain DeChant’s ride, where his ToughBook was kept. He peered through the glass and saw the container. “I’ve got it,” he told Sheva as he opened the door and grabbed the computer.

“What was that thing?” Sheva asked, sights still up, covering Chris as he got ready to send the necessary data to HQ. He knew she was talking about the leech creature, but Chris was still a little more preoccupied with the villagers themselves. The change they’d all undertaken had been near immediate and nothing Chris knew about B.O.W.s allowed for the level of sentience the infected villagers had coupled with the infection rate itself. Still. Sheva had asked a question and he’d do his best.

“A B.O.W. that scumbag Irving left behind to set us up,” he told his partner, certain of that, at the very least. He opened the laptop and logged in. “Considering what it did to Alpha team, I think we’re lucky to still be breathing.”

“If only we could have gotten there sooner.”

A bleeding heart— Chris felt the same, but logic was his master now. If all of them kept being so eager to die for one another, there’d be no one left to fight. One man couldn’t handle the war on biohazards alone. “If we had, we’d probably be dead too,” he pointed out, seeing no reason to be gentle about the truth. Sheva did’t answer. She understood.

Chris finished off with the data and stood, pressing a finger to the comms piece in his ear. Static jarringly filled his sense for a moment and he spoke through it. “Chris to HQ, do you copy?”

“This is HQ,” came an almost robotic voice, the mission handler as asshole-ish as always. “Excellent work out there. We’ll analyze the data immediately.”

“This whole town’s gone to hell,” Chris told the man, figuring he’d give Sheva what she wanted, even if it meant they’d be faced with an ugly reality. And HQ needed to know the situation, needed to know Chris’s opinion on what was happening. He swallowed hard and readied himself for a name. “The people here— they’re acting like those Ganado detailed in the Kennedy report.”

Behind him, he heard Sheva turn sharply, the name meaning something to her too. The Kennedy report wasn’t public, but quite a few people in the BSAA had read the thing under the namesake. Chris was hoping dropping the rare name would help this handler understand just how shit everything was here, especially since even Sheva understood the gravity of the name itself.

But god, the name. He wanted, needed, he needed someone to reach out to Leon and ask him about this, because Chris was terrified he were facing the Plaga again and he didn’t feel ready. But god forbid and save anyone who actually did reach out to Leon, because there was no way in hell Chris wanted Leon to be anywhere near this disaster again.

“And aside from that,” Chris continued, pushing past the anxiety of not being enough, not being able to handle this without Leon at his side. “There’s something new here, something we’ve never encountered before.”

“Our transportation has been taken out too,” Sheva chimed in, sounding eager for HQ to extend some sort of aid. “Requesting a mission update.”

There was static. Then, “The mission stands. Capturing Irving is your top priority. We believe he may have fled to the mines on the other side of the train station.”

Chris wasn’t surprised the mission still stood, but— “Wait, we’re the only two left!” he barked. He’d have expected some sort of backup or something. “You want us to go in there alone?!”

“Delta Team has been dispatched and are on their way along with a secondary party operative due that will be able to give some insight into the situation. They will assist you in locating and apprehending Irving.”

Sheva looked to Chris, her eyes pleading with him to say something and argue. “But wait, we can’t—”

“I repeat,” the cold, detached voice interrupted. “Your mission still stands.” Chris stared into the other woman and felt sorry for her. It had to be a cold dip in the deep end to get her first taste of how careless the BSAA was with its operatives. “We can’t afford to let him get away. Proceed to the mines beyond the station. Over and out.”

The static died and Chris’s chest was heavy.

“This is insane!” Sheva cried out.

Chris slammed the HUMVEE door shut, expression grim. “You ever get the feeling you’re expendable?” Sheva looked to him in something like dawning horror, and he wished she hadn’t had to face this reality in a moment like this. The Plaga was bad enough— a new B.O.W. was a worst case scenario. Realizing she was just another grunt to the organization she’d give her life for? Definitely a bad day. “They said they’re sending an outlying operative that may be able to help. We can only hope that whoever that is is worth their snuff.”

“And if they’re not?” Sheva asked. “What are we even looking at? You said this was like the Kennedy report, but from what I read, it took three days for victims to become completely infected. Do you know something?”

Chris’s throat closed up for a second as blue eyes gone red flashed through his memories. He breathed past it. “The Kennedy report did detail that it took three days to reach complete infection and loss of control to the Plaga, but there was also an instance of infection taking just over twelve hours to reach a critical point.” Agent Kennedy— safety in anonymity— had nearly lost himself to that fight with Krauser. While the Plaga had taken days for the Ganado, Agent Kennedy had nearly succumbed in less than a night. “It’s entirely possible that the strain that person was infected with was the one we’re dealing with now, as the victim then was… tenacious. And very stubborn. Abnormally. They had pre-existing conditions in their life that made them extremely resilient. They could have lasted the twelve hours against this strain out of their outlying factors.”

“I’ve read the report,” Sheva said cautiously. “And I don’t remember reading a lot of that.”

Chris looked away, mouth a grim line. “I have some unofficial experience with the Plaga and the Kennedy report itself is confidential. The people involved in rescuing the United States President’s daughter were kept anonymous for several reasons.”

Sheva’s bright eyes bored into him. “And was one of those anonymous rescuers you?”

Chris met her curious gaze. “Officially? No. Unofficially? It’s a need to know basis.”

“Judging by what’s happening here, I think I need to know.”

Chris absolutely agreed, but there was still a worry in the back of his mind of a certain agent’s name being thrown around. Leon S. Kennedy was special ops and not a public acting figure. Judging by the BSAA’s treatment of him before, the fewer BSAA operatives that knew of Leon, the better. Chris’s hands itched for a cigarette. “I will tell you what I know as the information becomes pertinent to the situation,” Chris told her. “But the second anonymous operative will remain anonymous.”

“It’s Kennedy, isn’t it?” Sheva asked. “That’s their name.”

“That’s all I’m willing to give on them.”Sheva frowned. “What happened to them?”

A lot. Too much. He thought of how Claire had been the last to see Leon and how she’d struggled for the words to describe the vacant state Leon had been in. “They’re alive,” Chris replied cryptically. “That’s all I’m willing to disclose.”

Sheva’s eyes narrowed, but he could tell she knew better than to push. The BSAA itself had just proven it didn’t give two shits about its own men. Sheva was smart, Chris knew she’d be able to connect the dots. Chris was leaving out the details on Leon for the man’s safety. It wasn’t personal, it was proactive. Chris didn’t trust anyone with Leon’s name anymore. Fool him once, right?

“For now, our only choice is the complete the mission and hope they’ll evac us once we’re finished,” Chris said calmly. “Capturing Irving down is the top priority, for more than just taking him down. He’s our ticket to safety.”

“Right,” Sheva agreed, her movements a little more stiff. Maybe Chris’s unwillingness to disclose information had put a wedge of distrust between them, but Chris couldn’t care less. Leon S. Kennedy was more important. “We can’t let Irving get away. We have to get to the station.”

Thank god she could prioritize. He nodded his agreement, not seeing much more reason to talk. They had their orders— their tentative death sentence— only thing they could do now was be brave and face it head on. Chris gave one last glance into the HUMVEE and was glad he did when he spotted a weapon case tucked beneath the bench in the back. Chris bent down and grabbed it by the case handle, drawing it out and finding an H&K MP5, a familiar and welcome sight. As far as he knew, Sheva only had her handgun while Chris had Matilda and a shotgun. Chris stepped aside and nodded to the automatic. “You grab it.”

The relieved smile she gave him said a lot. Sheva grabbed the H&K and secured it across her back after doing a weapon check, clearing the gun for use. “Thanks,” she said, her tone warm and sincere. Chris only nodded again and broke away, heading for the exit. He pushed open the metal door that was the only way out and grimaced as he was treated with a sight of the sea stretching out in front of him. After the island in Spain and the Queens, Chris was pretty much done with open water. To his right were stacks and stacks of shipping containers. They were in the middle of a shipping port with no idea of what they would be facing next. The only thing Chris was certain of was that they were dealing with the Plaga. Beyond that, he was in the dark.

“Gotta say,” Sheva said from behind him. “It’s relieving to be working with someone who has as much experience as you do.”

If only the relief was mutual. Chris grimaced and began to navigate the shipping containers, unhappy with the maze they made, stacked two or even three high, impossible to look over and cheat his way through. They didn’t get far before shouts in Swahili broke through his concentration. At least their enemy didn’t know the meaning of a sneak attack. Chris brought Matilda up, rounded a corner, and slammed two bullets into the head of a man brandishing an axe. Parasitical tendrils bursts from the brain and flailed about before the man dropped dead.

“It’s the Plaga,” Chris said to himself. “Jesus, Leon.” It was dangerous to say the name aloud, especially with Sheva right behind him, but the name was a comfort and Chris was as fucked up as they came these days. “Aim for the heads,” he told Sheva. “Sometimes they come back up even after you’ve destroyed the brain. Just keep firing at the head until they stay down.”

“Got it,” Sheva said. “Eyes up, Redfield.”

The phrase had Chris flinching even as he followed the order, ducking aside to let Sheva send her own bullets flying into a Ganado that came around the corner. The man dropped dead under the barrage, joining his friend on the ground. Chris visibly shook himself. “Let’s move.”

They pushed through the waves of Ganado together, Chris covering Sheva between reloads and Sheva doing the same. Situation aside, Chris was a delicate kind of grateful for being here at all. Sheva Alomar was proving to be a truly dependable and worthy partner, something Chris had thought he’d lost for good after Jill’s death three years ago. Chris was scared to rely on her, though, scared to actually allow himself to connect with this woman. He lost everyone that mattered to him eventually in his life. His parents, Forest Speyer, his once trustworthy companions, Leon S. Kennedy, even his sister who as far too busy with TerraSave to be able to give him her time— and then Jill Valentine, tackling Wesker down a cliff side, saving his life and ending her own in a display of selfless loyalty Chris didn’t deserve. How could Chris comfortably attach himself to Sheva Alomar when everyone he’d ever cherished in his life had inevitably been torn away from him, one way or another?

Chris was yanked from his thoughts by a sudden yelp, familiar and chilling. He was thrown to the ground by a heavy weight before he could even turn and see if his fears were confirmed. Chris hit the dirt hard and struggled as paws dug into his back and dog slobber smattered down the back of his neck. He cried out and threw his fist back, trying to connect with a leg or a body or a head, but hit nothing. Teeth were suddenly at his neck, too close to his jugular, about to sink in and tear through the artery, about to gouge into his flesh and end—

Sheva cried out like a warrior and there was the sound of something solid connecting with flesh before the weight was gone. Chris quickly clambered to his feet, stumbling back and recovering, bringing up Matilda to fire three shots into the dog Sheva had kicked off him. “Thanks for the help,” he breathed once the thing was dead. Sheva only had time to give him a sharp smile before the sound of claws on the ground tore them back to the fight, more of the dogs sprinting into them. Chris cursed under his breath and unslung the shotgun from his back, spraying shrapnel into the dogs, closing his ears to the sounds of pain the infected made. It was easy to demonize another human being in his mind, if only to make peace with the killing Chris was forced to do— it was hard to see a dog as anything but a victim.

Sheva was smart and stayed behind Chris, crying out, “Nice shot!” when Chris was able to take down two dogs with a single slug. Finding ammo wasn’t too difficult in this place thanks to the militia-status of their adversaries, but wasting ammo still left a pit in Chris’s gut. He led Sheva deeper, finding the containers navigable thanks to explosive traps set up by the Ganado. The things set up to kill them only acted as a trail of breadcrumbs for them to follow through the maze.

Chris put one last bullet into a dog that trembled and died just before they broke through into a clearing. “That gate,” he said, looking beyond to a metal, sliding gate at the other end. “C’mon.” He and Sheva jogged through, both of them tense. It seemed like their enemy operated in waves, hoping to overwhelm the BSAA operatives with sheer numbers alone. When the wave was cleared out, Chris and Sheva were given a breather. But they both knew the next wave would only be worse.

They reached the gate and pushed it open together, moving into a blocked off area that seemed like it had once been an effort to quarantine. Their only option was to cross an iron bridge to their left. The bridge itself had crumbled away on their end, an expanse of cracked concrete dropping down into the waters below. Chris leaped across the gap first, landed cleanly, and then groaned as he heard a horn blare at the other side of the bridge. He looked up, seeing the delivery truck barreling towards him, being driven by an infected maniac.

“Look out!” Sheva shouted behind him. She hadn’t crossed yet, one less thing for Chris to worry about. He lifted Matilda, let the gun reassure his panicked thoughts, and aimed at one of the red barrels full of gasoline. Just as the truck passed the barrel, Chris opened fire. The barrel exploded and the truck was thrown onto its side, its wild advancement abruptly ended. It skidded past Chris on its side, useless. Chris strode past it, not even sparing it a second glance as he fired at the Ganado that were sprinting down the bridge after the truck, weapons and torches in the air. He made clean shots, busting open their heads and exposing the parasite cleanly. In a matter of moments, ten of them were dead and the bridge was cleared.

“Oh my god,” Sheva gushed as he ran up behind him, her smile reminiscent of childlike glee. “Nice shooting!”

Chris let himself feel a moment of pride, satisfaction brimming inside of him to know Sheva was impressed. “You said it first— I’ve got the experience, don’t I?”

“I know of experienced soldiers that still can’t shoot for shit,” Sheva shot back as they crossed the last of the bridge and headed into what could have been a slum area, the buildings and homes falling apart before their eyes. “Experience doesn’t always add up to skill.” She winked playfully at him and said, “Looks like I’ve got some catching up to do.”

It was hard to tell himself he couldn’t afford to be attached this woman. Chris swallowed and looked ahead, not allowing any more of the banter that would effectively ruin his resolve to stay at arm’s length. He had a bad habit of caring too much.

“That way,” Sheva said, jerking her head to the right to where a set of stairs led down into what were probably the underground sewers. Chris fought back a grimace, telling himself he really needed to just accept that running around in sewage was just part of the job. He almost wanted to suggest Sheva leading the way. It was her jurisdiction and her people, her town. She’d know where to go. But then the part of Chris that insisted he was the captain and he was the first one to face down danger reminded him of exactly what happened if he didn’t lead. As point, he was the first person to take the aim of the enemy.

“Thanks,” he said, taking her directions and heading into the darkness, somewhat relieved to be out of the sun again. The sewer itself was tight corners and closed in, water up just above their ankles and splashing, ridding them of any possibility of maintaining stealth. They came to a metal door that Chris easily kicked in without a thought, the sewage system becoming industrial and square, maintenance tunnels that ran beneath the city overhead like veins beneath the skin. Overhead lights made the wet, concrete walls shimmer like scales and the humidity got under Chris’s clothes. There was another door at the other end of a room that seemed like the finality of this underground mess. Chris and Sheva both checked the other was ready with a nod before Chris threw open the door and burst into the next area, sights up.

They were in a wash, dirty and stagnant, the sun overhead— bodies collapsed in the water, laying like they’d just been tossed in haphazardly. “My god,” Sheva said in quiet horror, the woman staring at the bodies that had been so carelessly disposed of. Chris grimaced and looked down the other end of the wash, squinting in the sunlight. He saw a grating, but no way out on this side. He turned and headed the other direction, Matilda still in the air, his eyes on—

“Oh what the—“

The bodies began to writhe as something squirmed beneath the flesh, like a butterfly turning over in its cocoon. “Something’s coming,” Chris said, his voice low, eyes on the corpses. “Watch out.” There was the sound of flesh and bone being torn before the corpses heaved before something burst from the bodies and spun into the air, flaps of meat and muscle, twisted creatures that looked almost like demented stingrays with split wings darting high into the air, flapping powerful, mesozoic wings to keep their elongated, grub-like bodies in the air, the tips of their tails hooked like a pincer with a terrifying leatherback-mouth in the center.

The things thrashed wildly in the air, jerky movements making it hard to get a good shot. Chris fired, but missing more shots made him fear for his ammo. There were three of them in the air, screeching like vampires, and one swooped forward, going lower, wings blocking out the sun as the pincer swung forward for Chris’s throat.

“Get down!”

Chris dropped to his knees as Sheva leaped high and vaulted herself off the angled walls of the wash, slicing at the body of the creature with her knife as she flew overhead. The creature shrieked and writhed and stalled in its movements, giving Chris time to slam three bullets into the face-less head, the shots tearing through vital skeletal structures and crippling the thing. As Sheva landed back in the water, Chris whipped out the shotgun again, jogged forward and close, right beneath the last two, and fired straight into the air, into the mouths, closing his mouth to the splatter of diseased flesh and laying shells into them until the things dropped from the air, lifeless and broken.

“Why didn’t you warn me of these?” Sheva demanded, her voice high pitched and strained. “Seems pretty need to know, if you ask me!”

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Chris said stiffly, panting, staring at the corpses of this new breed of freak and feeling distantly ill. They were twisted and veiny and raw, disgusting creatures that were wet with the blood of the carcasses they were bred inside. Chris’s stomach turned over and he stepped away from the monsters that smelled of rotten meat and swallowed down bile. “Jesus,” he said to himself, looking away from the awful sight. He was reminded distantly of the overgrown locusts that had plagued Salazar’s castle. “We have to keep moving.”

“Following this still is the fastest way,” Sheva assured him, casting her gaze at the high walls surrounding them. They could climb out, but Chris wasn’t keen to be in the midst of the raging infected again. Sheva shot the lock off a door that was at the other end of the wash, and Chris drove back into the darkness again. He moved through the tunnels, deciding he preferred the smell of sewage over the rotting bodies. A ladder stretched into the town above before Chris’s eyes had time to adjust to the darkness again. He glanced back to make sure Sheva was behind him— thought of blond hair and blue eyes and Jill Valentine— and then climbed up first, confident she’d follow.

Up top, they came into what seemed to be a trading bazaar, stands with old goods still untouched despite the affliction that had befallen Kijuju. There was a dock that stretched out into the waters beyond, a way out if Chris ever thought they’d need to make an exit. “There’s someone here,” Sheva whispered, which Chris agreed to. He could hear footsteps, scuttled feet, whispers and hisses, but he couldn’t see anything. He looked around and confirmed his fears— whatever they were heading into, it was out of their hands.

“Let’s go,” he ordered quietly, moving between stalls and coming upon high walls of rubble, difficult to get around but not impassable thanks to the slumped rooftop beside the shotty blockade. Chris looked back to Sheva and saw the woman was on the same page. She nodded to Chris and took a few readying steps back as Chris went down on his knees and threaded his hands together. Sheva took a running start and when her foot landed in Chris’s palms, he threw her up. The woman arched gracefully in the air and landed atop the roof with ease, turning and laying flat across the tiles to offer him a hand up.

“Oh geez,” She grunted as she lifted Chris’s weight, struggling only a little. “All muscle, isn’t it?” He managed to crack a grin at her teasing, but wasn’t comfortable for anything more. Sheva rolled onto her butt and peered down into the streets below. Far away, at what could be a hotel or a hospital, indistinguishable in its ruin, were warm lights that were the wrong shade of gold to be the sun. Fires, they had to be fires. Sheva winced and Chris knew that, again, they were on the same page. “That’s an ambush,” she said.

“Yep,” Chris affirmed grimly. “How’re you on ammo?”

“Ten bullets. The MP5 is empty. You?”

Fuck. “Thirteen in Matilda, four in the shotgun.” He took in a shaky breath. “Need some of what I’ve got?”

Predictably, she shook her head. Then, impossibly, Sheva smiled. “Matilda? That’s an odd name.”

Chris’s throat clenched. “I didn’t name it.”

“Oh?” She cocked her head to the side, undeniably curious as they both took a breather and delayed the inevitable. No one went into an ambush like that with the ammo they had and made it out. “I’d ask if it was a story for another time, but judging by the circumstances, who knows if that’ll happen at all.”

“An old friend,” Chris said, staring at death awaiting them. It was odd to face his mortal doom in the daylight. “He— he’s gone now.”

Sheva’s expression became solemn. She stared ahead with Chris. “Well, maybe you’ll see him again soon.”

She thought Leon was dead and that Chris was going to see him in whatever afterlife awaited them. Chris would rather face death a thousand times before he let Leon suffer death ever again. Once was more than enough for Leon to survive.

“Any last words?” Sheva asked him, her tone grim.

“I refuse to die here,” Chris said.

Sheva nodded. “I like that.” Then she slid down the roof, landing in the dirt, holding her gun up that had ten bullets left. Chris followed her down, admiring her despite the adrenaline that was pumping fear into his chest.

They darted to a line of houses and shacks, backs to the walls, peering down the street that led to the glow. Chris’s gut sunk as he saw that they’d been right. Twenty, thirty, forty, it didn’t matter, there were more Ganado than they had bullets, and Chris didn’t see any way to sneak past. The infected villagers screamed fury into the air as a molotov cocktail was thrown and flames splashed about just a few feet away. Chris met eyes with Sheva and the somber understanding of partners about to face their end together passed between them— too many regrets and not enough time. Chris brought up Matilda, cocked the faithful weapon, thought of Leon one last time, and—

“You two okay?”

Static filled his ear, followed by a voice, a voice Chris knew—

“Kirk,” Chris breathed, relief bleeding though him. “God, am I glad to see you.”

The thrum of a helicopter overhead answered Chris’s admission. Above, a Black Hawk swung into their line of sight, and Sheva let out a whoop of excitement, the thrill of knowing she was going to live another day boiling over.

“HQ sent me in to provide air support. It’s gonna get hot down there, so watch out!”

“Light ‘em up, Mathison!” Sheva crowed as the copter moved up and laid down heavy fire. “Looks like you aren’t dying here after all, Captain!”

“It’s Chris,” Chris told her with a grin he couldn’t tamper down before darting forward and heading into the thick of it. “Didn’t think HQ actually cared.”

The helicopter began a tight circle of the area, the gunner taking out the infected with prejudice. Only once the mob that had been storming them had been torn apart by a barrage of artillery fire did Chris and Sheva drop out from their cover, heading into the thick with their weapons up.

The confusion of the fight with dust flying and Chris only taking a shot if he knew he had a clean decimation of the skull had his nerves on edge, the constant drone of bullets and screaming and dying sending his brain into a broken part of himself that operated only as a soldier. He stopped seeing the infected as victims and nothing more than targets in a shooting range— get behind cover or lose points, make the perfect shot or risk failure, prove he was capable lest he be grounded. And most importantly, above all else, never ever let anything get past him to the woman that was at his six. Sheva Alomar was his partner and he wasn’t going to lose a partner ever again.

“Nice work!” Sheva cried out as Chris blew open the cranium of another target, the Plaga writhing in the crater left behind.

“Let’s go!”

Kirk gave the order into Chris’s ear, and Chris followed it, moving up, deeper into the line of shacks and homes and businesses. Kirk cleared the way, showcasing the same skills he’d proved back on the Queen Zenobia, helping Chris and Jill take down that behemoth of a creature, taller than skyscrapers and uglier than sin. Chris glanced to the skies, saw the copter dip and weave and lay down more cover fire. Chris was reminded of another pilot as well— a young man in Spain, Mike from Boston. Chris had saved his life. Kirk had saved Chris’s. Chris hadn’t saved—

“Get down, get down!”

Sheva grabbed Chris by the back of the shirt and yanked him down even as he was dropping to the dirt on his own. The ground shook beneath them, an explosion rattling Chris’s teeth in his skull. He came right back up when he heard a battle cry and slammed Matilda’s last bullet between the eyes of an infected that came sprinting for them both with an axe waving in the air. Individual taps of skin like the huge petals of a flower of paradise writhed in the ruined neck before the body dropped.

“Here!”

Sheva’s shout had Chris turning. He stared at the box of bullets she was holding out to him, the box itself red but covered in dust and chipped at the edges, bearing a local brand that Chris couldn’t hope to pronounce. His first thought was: “You need it more than I do.”

Sheva, alarmingly, grinned. “You’ve the experience, yeah? Make those shots.”

There wasn’t time to argue. Chris took the bullets and slammed a fresh clip into Matilda, felt the girl slide into place again, ready to carry him through this just like every other hell before. Chris went up and into the thick again, his shots remaining steady with Sheva right behind.

“Stay frosty down there,” Kirk said from above, a trail of light leaving the copter, an entire house being blown into pieces mere seconds later. Chris flinched from the wave of heat as Kirk said, “You’re almost at the station.”

“That way,” Sheva directed. Chris took a sharp left to a huge gate that sectioned off this area from the deeper slums, the entire town of Kijuju giving off that familiar war zone vibe. They pressed deeper, the homes shoved closer together, everything becoming a maze of tight corners and hiding places for enemies. Chris ducked through a claustrophobic press of walls and came out into a street that led to another fucking DMZ-worthy gate and another huge building beyond. There was a moment of peace as the thrum of the helicopter came back into hearing range, but the next clip of static and Kirk’s panic slammed adrenaline right back into Chris. He stopped in his tracks and pushed his finger into the device in his ear, trading a look of trepidation with Sheva as Kirk finally became understandable.

“What the fuck are those?! Mathison to HQ! I’m under attack by flying B.O.W.s!”

Chris looked up into the balmy, hazy sky and saw the helicopter careen past, out of control as the winged freaks from the corpses before slammed themselves into the craft, covering the cockpit windows with their meaty bodies, tearing at metal and machinery and blinding Kirk. As Chris watched helplessly from the ground, he realized in an instance that he couldn’t save the man and felt the worst part of himself insist he needed to move on before the man was even dead.

“I’m losing engine power! Oh shit— I’m out of control!”

Chris took a step back, shut his eyes, and made himself listen to the fear that always rang in the voices of dying men.

“I’m going down! Mayday! Mayday!”

“Kirk, what’s going on?!” Sheva cried out into the receiver. “Kirk! Kirk!

There was dead silence for a long moment. Then, another voice— the cold, unfeeling voice of their BSAA handler.

“This is HQ. The helicopter has been downed. All nearby units proceed to the crash site. Repeat, all nearby units proceed to the crash site.”

Chris took in a deep breath and started moving again, his heart clenching with loss that he refused to let himself feel. These men and women put their lives on the line for the mission— Chris had to accept that and not feel a damn thing unless he wanted to sabotage the mission itself and fail to complete every soldier’s dying wish.

For now, to overpower the pain, Chris yanked out his shotgun and laid into the coming waves of infected, turning that ache into rage and making it fucking useful. He slammed into the ranks, not bothering for keeping a safe distance, expending the last of the shotgun ammo in the bloody faces of these bastards. Sheva was shouting something in the background, but Chris couldn’t hear her, not right now, not when the hate was lacing through him, poisonous and mind-melting like a heatstroke. Hands grabbed at his clothes and skin with how close he was to the monsters, but he barely felt it, and when he ran out of bullets, he switched to his fists, driving his knuckles into flesh and bone and reveling in the crack the skeleton made as it shattered to his rage.

Nothing stood in his way like this— not the countless Ganados, not the flying freaks from hell, not even the fucker with the sack sewn into his head and the chainsaw in his grip. The anger made Chris’s hands shake and someone kept feeding— Sheva, Sheva kept feeding him ammo, his partner and the only person he could trust right now, the person he needed to keep alive. Sheva fed him ammo and Chris stayed out of range of those metal teeth, thirsty for blood, thirsty for the shrieks of the dying infected.

Kirk Mathison had been a good man. He hadn’t deserved to die like that— along and afraid, fighting desperately to survive with monsters sabotaging every single last effort he could make. Kirk Mathison had saved countless lives and he’d deserved for someone to save his.

“He could still be alive.”

One of the few things that got through the rage, and one of the most bullshit suggestions he’d ever heard. Sheva was a dreamer. Kirk Mathison was dead. Even if he survived the crash, the things that brought him down would tear him apart. He’d be falling into a combat zone as the enemy. Kirk Mathison was dead and the only thing that made Chris feel better was the sensation of his fists breaking through bone.

There was smoke high in the sky, a pillar higher than all the other fires they’d seen, black because something or someone was still burning. Sheva was silent as they sprinted through the ruined streets, past carnage and squalor and death of his own making. A distant part of him that was beginning to cope with the loss said that Sheva shouldn’t have seen that side of him, that no one should have, that he’d land himself in a psych eval with no way to fake his way into normalcy because he didn’t care enough to hide this side of him at all. The anger and hate and loathing, the disgust for the viruses and monsters that killed his people. Maybe, impossibly, Sheva could understand. The BSAA was Chris’s family. He couldn’t keep losing family. Maybe she felt the same way.

“We’re almost there,” Chris said, his first words in ages and his voice raw. With the rage finally dying, Chris found out his hands hurt like they were this close to broken and that his skin felt tight and unfamiliar, a sensation of disassociation. Sheva didn’t respond behind him, quieted by what she’d seen. Maybe she didn’t understand as well as Chris could have hoped. Or maybe she was so used to blood-blind soldiers that she knew not to push anything. Part of him wanted to apologize regardless, but the other part of him knew that he’d done what he’d had to.

The closer they got to the smoke, the worse the smell got. Oil and flesh, destruction and decay, and not a single gunshot to be heard, no one defending their self or their position, a final damning strike for the argument that Kirk was dead and gone. Chris brought Matilda back into his grip and found comfort in her reassuring weight, thought of the man that was Chris’s reason for doing all of this, and hoped Kirk had found peace in death in knowing that he’d died defending the world from monsters.

There was a gate and a high, stone wall in front of them, only the huge column of smoke beyond visible, black like a bruise against the wide, dust-polluted sky. “Over there,” Sheva said, her two simple words saying a lot. She understood. She knew what had happened. She knew how to direct someone lost in their rage. Good. She was a good soldier and an even better partner.

Chris nodded, let out a gruff sound of gratitude even though he had seen the smoke as well, and stormed forward to the sliding gate to try and push it open. Sheva joined him immediately, and the two of them pushed it along its wheels, exposing them to the crash site. Sheva ran forward and Chris followed, but—

The skeleton of the helicopter was swathed in flames, burning beyond a fire from the crash. The fire had been fed with something to make it burn the way it was, hot and encompassing every inch of the craft. Chris stared into the fire itself and tried to find that hate inside of himself again, tried to be useful, but he could only feel the loss.

“Oh my god.”

Sheva’s quiet horror had Chris reluctantly looking to his right, where Kirk Mathison was strewn out across a tower of rubber tires, his body black and charred, the flight suit and helmet melted to his skin, absolutely dead, and had been for a while. Kirk was stretched out on his back, spine bent at an unnaturally sharp angle inwards, and his mouth was open in an endless scream. Chris felt sick just looking at it, but looking away would be an injustice to what this man had done for them. “Kirk,” he breathed, taking a step towards the body, wanting to pull it down from where it was exposed to the elements, almost purposeful like someone had put him on display.

There was a sudden influx of sound and shadows fell over Kirk’s body, crows circling high above like vultures, flailing and dropping through the air erratically. And unlike everything else Chris had come across that turned him into a killer, the crows themselves only made Chris afraid. He stepped away from the body, stepped closer to Sheva, tried to track the crows but found himself overwhelmed by their black bodies. And beneath the cawing, beneath the mad flapping of wings, there was something else.

A low hum, something like a motor or a drone, far away but coming closer, and from all directions. Sheva looked to him in a panic and Chris felt the same. He spun about on his heels and tried to make sense of the underlying noise, but the crows were furious and he couldn’t figure out the source, the sound echoing off the city walls and bouncing around them, indefinable and impossible to locate. Chris’s heart pounded in his ears and Sheva reloaded her MP5. The sound got closer and closer, louder and louder, but there was too much of it and from all around, Chris didn’t know what was coming or from where, they were trapped, this was a trap, they were—

Motorbikes shot into the sky from the other side of the wall, a metal chain whipping through the air, arching for them, arching for Sheva—

“Look out!” Chris shouted even as he dove and body slammed Sheva into the ground with him, the chain cracking and missing Sheva but getting Chris by the ankle and before he could even think, he was dragged face first across the dirt, unable to get free. His skin was cut and burned by the ground beneath and he couldn’t kick off the chain, writhing and thrashing about uselessly, trying to see past the dirt in his face, the pain of the friction, the fear—

There was a gunshot and Chris was skidding and slowly down, rolling across the ground and coming up to his knees as fast as he could. Hands clamped around his arms and Sheva pulled him to his feet, concern blatant across her expression. She’d made the shot— she’d made the shot. “Nice work,” Chris gasped, needing her to know he was grateful even as more motors burst into the area— a car lot, this was a car lot, they were caged in by metal yet left with no place to hide— and they were surrounded by the bikes, chains rattling as they were spun overhead, the infected laughing as they corralled Sheva and Chris like cattle. Chris couldn’t get his sights on one, couldn’t get a shot, everything was too close and his aim wasn’t this good with the flayed skin on his arms from being dragged, and these things were too fucking fast.

Two bikes reared up, came at them with one wheel in the air, and as Sheva and Chris both laid shots into the fuckers, the bullets only ricocheted off the bodies of the motorbikes. Seconds before disaster, Chris dove to the side with his arm around Sheva’s waist, getting her out of the way with him. They hit the ground hard, shoulders aching, bodies bruised. Sheva clambered to her feet and Chris was right behind her, the two of them going back to back as the bikes circled them again. A chain was twisted into the air and Chris didn’t know if he’d be able to figure out who was the target before it was too late—

A shot rang out, high caliber and decimating, smacking into the head of the forefront bike driver, the machine careening out of control as its operator smacked into the ground, dead. Chris whirled around, eyes up at the rooftops, and saw a man dressed in BDUs with a long-range rifle. There were two more shots and then two more were dead, another driver speeding across the body of its fallen infected and getting flung into the air. The thing spun and went high and came down on the propeller of the helicopter, blood spurting from its mouth as it was impaled. Chris stared at the body and felt a little like Kirk had gotten his revenge from the grave.

The tables had turned. Chris grinned as soldiers flooded the area in a defensive position. The drivers were momentarily distracted, a new range of targets coming in to split their attention. Chris took an easy shot, sending an infected underneath its own front wheel. The final driver revved its engine and sped towards Sheva with murderous intent. Chris didn’t turn, he had faith in her shot, knew she would be—

There was a click of a gun coming up jammed. Chris’s eyes went wide in panic and he was turning as quickly as he could, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to make the shot, not in time, Sheva was—

There was the quick rain of automatic fire and Chris turned around in time to see the infected collapse to the ground and the bike swivel and crashed into a junkyard car. Beyond was the man who had saved Sheva’s life, a tall man with dark skin and a closely shaved head.

That was the last of them.

Soldiers jogged forward to Sheva and Chris’s position, and relief flooded Chris like nothing else. Barked orders were given, brisk information and a status report. Chris and Sheva nodded along, knowing they had to move fast. The soldiers escorted them quickly through the streets to the designated safe house. once out of the sun and the heat, Chris stood tall, letting himself take a breather as the soldiers guarded around the small house and things finally felt like they were going the way of the good guys.

“Man, am I glad to see you guys,” Chris said as he moved into the main room of the safe house, a table in the center with maps and files. The man who had saved Sheva was waiting for him. Chris and the man traded a brisk salute as the man introduced himself.

“Delta Team, Captain Stone,” he said, and wasn’t that music to Chris’s ears.

“Chris Redfield,” Chris replied, reaching out to shake. The man’s grip was firm and confident and he didn’t seemed bothered that Chris left out his rank.

Captain Stone turned from Chris to Sheva and smiled, saying her first name and saying it so familiarly. Chris wondered if they knew each other, and his question was answered when Sheva smiled brightly. “Thanks, Josh,” she gushed. “I owe you one.”

“You guys know each other,” Chris said with interest, wanting the story.

Sheva seemed more than willing to give it, eager even. “I trained under Josh. He taught me everything I know.” She seemed so proud to know Josh and looked up to him so blatantly that Chris’s heart clenched.

“Sheva became the little sister of the team,” Captain Stone explained to Chris, his eyes swimming with affection. The clench started to hurt and Chris had to remind himself why he didn’t currently have a team. Jill was gone and Chris wasn’t ready for more than one person relying on him. All he was good at was getting people killed, even if a huge part of him yearned to have a family like this of his own. He swallowed it down and nodded along with the narrative. Stone switched to the mission and that was— that was good.

“Now Sheva,” the man said, brisk and commanding. “You must continue your search for Irving. According to the data we retrieved from the hard drive, we believe he has moved on to the mining area.” Captain Stone looked to Chris as he held a small flash drive in the air. “There’s more info inside.” Stone handed Chris the drive and then turned back to Sheva. “We will follow after taking care of business here. And keep your radios handy just in case.”

“Thanks Josh,” Sheva said with a nod.

The Captain turned away and left the room, living Chris and Sheva alone in the small room. Chris pulled out his phone and fed the drive into the bottom, scanning the information that was given to him. Information on the Plaga, the situation, names and dates and numbers like shipment ID codes. A lot of it was useless, most of it didn’t make sense, but there were pictures too, and one of them—

Chris froze, stopped breathing, stopped thinking. He stared into the face of Jill Valentine with bleach blond hair, her expression slack and somehow older than last he’d seen her. Disbelief bled through him as he whispered, “Jill…”

Memories flashed past his eyes, the Spencer mansion and the lightning, Wesker’s awful smile and his bruising grip, Jill’s final action on this earth being saving Chris’s life. The shattered glass and Chris’s empty hand reaching uselessly into the darkness below.

The funeral.

“Chris?” Sheva called out. “Are you alright?”

Chris’s awareness snapped to the woman beside him, his new partner. “This picture, it’s…” But was it wise to tell her? This was Jill, this was a Jill Chris wasn’t familiar with because she had aged, which was something corpses didn’t do. He didn’t know how or why, but he could only assume that Jill was somehow, inexplicably, alive and Chris suddenly had a very different mission than Sheva. Irving be damned, if Jill was alive, then the world could burn for all he cared. And he didn’t know if Sheva could stand by that. “Forget it,” he said quickly. He didn’t have proof, only a picture. It wasn’t worth throwing everything away for— yet. “It’s nothing.”

He looked down at the table after taking his phone away and saw a file labeled “Type Two Plagas.” Now that was useful. A quick scanned revealed that some of Chris’s assumptions had proven correct. This was a new breed of Plaga, working much faster than its original strain, overtaking a victim in mere seconds as opposed to days. This new Plaga was administered orally and was already matured by the time it was implanted in its new host. An awful way to go, if Chris was being honest. But then again…

He thought of Leon and how the man had suffered to the slow growth of the Plaga inside of him, the blood and the loss of self, the way he’d trembled apart in Chris’s arms. A cold shudder laced through Chris at the memory of Leon’s pain. He was— so fucking grateful Leon wasn’t here for this. Chris had a habit of viewing a mission in two different ways: if he wished Leon were with him versus being relieved that Leon was somewhere else. This assignment with the Type Two Plaga was definitely proving to be an assignment of the latter. The infected— now called the Majini— were suffering for only a few seconds compared to the days it had taken for others. Chris was just glad Leon wasn’t here so he wouldn’t have to relive the horror of infection.

There was a plan in the notes as well. Infect ten people, see how it spread, and then see how the BSAA stood up against the infected. This was a test. They had been dropped into a war zone that proved to be an experiment. Jesus Christ, Chris had a hard time believing just Irving was behind all of this. A field test of this scale was something almost corporate and not something a lowly virus peddler was capable of on his own.

And that was the crux of the matter— there was more than just the virus. Something big was happening and it was costing good soldiers their lives. Chris thought of Kirk and told himself he’d see this through for the fallen pilot. Kirk would want justice and Chris would do his best to make it happen in the man’s memory. He owed Kirk as much for how many times Kirk had saved Chris’s skin.

He put down the file and looked to Sheva, expression grim from what he’d learned and eyes shining with determination for the decision he’d made in Kirk’s name. He was going to lose another soldier ever again. “Let’s move out. Do you know where the mines are?”

“Past the station,” Sheva replied. “Not too far from here. Follow me.”

Chris restocked on his ammo before following Sheva out of the safe house and back into the heat. He couldn’t wait for the sun to set. Behind the safe house were rail cars lined up in an orderly fashion, telling Chris they were close to a train station and some tracks. Nothing was operating and everything was covered in rust and signs of disuse. There were the scattered sounds of claws on metal and Chris braced himself for more dogs, glad he’d gotten a good amount of shells for the shotgun. “They just don’t stop, do they?”Sheva laughed. “They do seem a little obsessed with us— guess we can brag we have avid fans.”

Chris grinned, cocked the shotgun, and slammed a slug into the first dog that came around the corner, shredding its head. There wasn’t even time for the infected to yelp and Chris preferred it. More dogs came, more for them to kill, but some of them looked different— hyenas, wild and when uninfected, smart enough to stay away from humans. If hyenas were infected now, it meant that the virus had stretched far beyond just Kijuju— this entire situation had officially gone from worse to apocalyptic.

They moved quickly through the train station and surrounding mess of cars, taking down the infected that got in their way with cold indifference. It was easier than killing the T-Virus infected because, as far as Chris knew, the only cure for the Plaga had been blown to smithereens by a trigger-happy Ada Wong. Maybe if she had left the island standing, BSAA could have gone in and found a way to expedite the curing process, but everything had been destroyed by her. Now, all Chris and Sheva could do was put down the infected and hope that there was some sort of afterlife for the victims to go to. Someplace better than this.

The mountain range towered in front them, huge and piercing the sky. “This way,” Sheva directed, darting in front of Chris to drop down a ledge and land in a mine cart. The cart rolled forward, slow and useless, and Sheva shot at bombs that were lining the track that were poor excuses for traps. Chris followed her, eyes searching for more enemies as he followed her to what was a huge elevator made of steel beams that only went down into the depths below. The mine cart came to a halt in the elevator and Sheva turned back to wait for him.

“This is our ticket down,” she told him as Chris joined her in the elevator, grimacing at the tight space and the darkness below. Chris smacked his fist into a green button on a console to the side and the elevator dropped into the pitch black. The descent was quick and they stopped in front of a tunnel that seems to stretch forever. There was a soft yellow glow suddenly behind Chris, and he looked back to see Sheva was holding a lantern. “I’ve got the light,” she told Chris. “Stay close to me.”

The mine went on forever, infected springing from the darkness and trying to catch them off guard. Sheva kept the light high so Chris could make the killing shots, bursting open heads with skilled repetition. The cold of the mind seeped into Chris’s clothes and froze the sweat clinging to his skin. Their breathing echoed and the water sloshed at their feet. There was nothing about this mine that made Chris feel even remotely in control. Tight corners, blindness, infected that suddenly knew when to stay quiet. A learning curve wasn’t exactly good news for them.

“We’re almost out,” Sheva assured him as they went deeper and deeper. “I just— I’d hoped they wouldn’t have come this far from the town.” Chris knew the feeling. The Majini wouldn’t stop coming and Sheva was starting to look a little pale. Being down here, closed in with stale air— it was more than just bad for their health, it was bad for their psyches.

When sunlight filtered in from far head, Chris redacted his previous sentiment and decided he was happy the sun was still up. But the closer the got, the colder the light became, and Chris realized they weren’t seeing the sun, but floodlights, sterile and overpowering. They came into a huge open air shaft the size of a baseball field, equipment towering above and Majini littering the area. Levels were cut into the walls surrounding, a gradual ascent. “Up there!” Sheva shouted, pointing to the highest level and a tunnel that was bored into the rock there. “That’s our way out!”

Chris cocked the shotgun and grimaced. “Let’s make this quick.”

The Majini came in waves, Chris and Sheva staying at the bottom of the shaft to funnel the infected and keep themselves from being overwhelmed. When the thick of it was thinned, Sheva brought Chris forward, leading him up the winding maze of walkways and bridges to get to the tunnel above. Then it was more darkness and more poisoned air, Chris wanting to hold his breath to keep his lungs clean on instinct. The Majini kept coming and he marveled at how far the infection had spread, reaching so far beyond the town that it seemed like all of the continent had been infected. An exaggeration, but he couldn’t account for how many were attacking them and how organized the efforts were. Whoever was behind this— it wasn’t just Irving. Chris knew that beyond a fucking doubt.

“Here.”

Sheva’s voice broke through his thoughts. He saw the elevator and felt like he could cry. Chris climbed in after her and the lift ascended, bringing them back to fresh air and daylight. Chris sucked in a huge gulp of the oxygen and shook out his hands, shook out the pain. He hadn’t been badly injured so far, which meant there was no reason for one of his shots, but he wanted the morphine regardless. His knuckles were bleeding and his thoughts were fraying a little, torn between the task at hand and Jill. Was she alive? Had that been fake? Was it a cheap copy or actually her? And if she was alive, then— fucking how? She’d fallen, Chris and seen it, he’d watched her drop out of sight into the depths below with Wesker held in her arms. And if Jill was alive, then Wesker—

They came out of the caves to see a building on stilts, some kind of survey room for the mine with stairs leading up. Chris and Sheva traded glances, then nods, and Chris went up the stairs first. Sheva bounded up behind him and put her back to the door, looking to Chris for the okay. Chris took in a deep, steadying breath, then nodded again. Sheva shoved the door open and Chris dropped inside first, staying low, Matilda up.

And there he was.

“Freeze!” Chris shouted as Irving fumbled to gather files from a table. The slimy man cursed and brought out a gun of his own, aiming it between Chris and Sheva, his eyes wild and unfocused as if he was on some sort of drug. “So you must be Irving,” Chris said.

Irving wheezed a sound like a rat. “Wow, perceptive, aren’t ‘cha!” Jesus, where the fuck was this guy from and where the fuck did he get off?

“You think this is a joke?” Sheva spat, advancing. “You’re just like all the other pieces of scum terrorists!”

“Oh I’m not like them!” Irving garbled out, his voice sounding like nails and helium. He laid a hand over his chest, animated, stroking his own ego. “I’m a business man with standards.”
“Drop the weapon!” Chris ordered, stomping forward, already tired of this asshole’s shit.

“Or!” Irving shrieked. “How about you drop yours?”

As Irving whipped his gun indecisively between Chris and Sheva, Chris readying to pull the trigger, a canister dropped through the open window. Chris saw the smoke begin to poor out and quickly covered his mouth, the gas filling his lungs. He coughed and hacked and gasped for pure air as someone fell into the room via the windows, swathed in a black cloak with a plague mask covering their face, bright red glowing eyes piercing the smoke. “Hurry,” insisted a female voice.

“Suckers!” Irving shouted with a laugh as he rolled out of the window backwards, the cloaked figure— a woman— leaping after him. The smoke cleared with the open windows and Chris gagged with the last of the gas.

Fuck, Irving—

Chris and Sheva both ran to the window, getting behind the walls for cover and then peaking over the ledge to see— nothing. No one. Irving and his mysterious protector had gotten away. He heaved a sigh. “Great.”

“Looks like Irving has a partner,” Sheva said, validating Chris’s earlier suspicions.

Chris turned back into the room. “There must be something here he didn’t want us to see!” He went to the table Irving had been at, pushing through papers and folders, searching for something useful.

“What is it?” Sheva asked, coming up beside Chris.

Chris scowled when he found a map and photos of an industrial site. “Look at this,” he said, holding it up for Sheva to see.

“The oil field,” Sheva observed quietly, knowing the location. “That’s in the marshlands!”

Fuck. Chris chimed into the coms. “Delta Team, Chris here. We located Irving, but he got away.”

Captain Stone’s voice filtered through and Sheva seemed to relax minutely at the sound of her friend alive and well. “Do you know where he went?”

“We think he’s heading for an oil field in the marshlands.”

“Okay,” Captain Stone confirmed. “I’m sending someone after him now. I need you two to head back this way.”

Chris grimaced, hating the taste of failure. “Roger that.”

“We can head back through the mines,” Sheva suggested. “Or we can go around the other side of this mountain. Maybe stay above ground.”Chris liked the sound of that. “Lead the way.”

She led Chris out of the survey room, back into the heat and the layers of rock carved out into roads in the side of the mountain. Majini were spaced out sparingly, almost like they hadn’t managed to get as many infected to the mountain as intended. At this rate, Chris and Sheva would run out of ammo before ever actually succumbing to the strength of the infected. Still, the numbers were small up here and Sheva knew the way, bringing him to the ladders and letting Chris go up first for his own peace of mind. They wrapped around the mining area and were heading for the road that would lead them out of there, Chris just ready to be back with Captain Stone and his fellow BSAA soldiers.

“Gonna be a bit of a walk,” Sheva told him as they jogged for the road that scaled the mountain. “Up for a schoolyard race?”Chris pulled on a grin, considering quipping something back. The sun was beginning to set, the world bathed in a golden glow, and the earth was already beginning to cool off from the boil of the day. He was ready for something besides the heat and the light and he was ready to get to a safe area where he could pour over the info in his phone again, maybe find something more on Jill. Captain Stone would handle Irving and Chris would be able to storm BSAA HQ and demand David get rid of the handler of this op, because that man didn’t give a shit about any of them. He opened his mouth to accept Sheva’s competition when he heard something out of place and stopped in his tracks. Sheva stopped dead too, her expression washing over with worry. “Oh great,” Chris griped as he realized the sound was a horn.

Around the corner, a truck barreled towards them, its cargo end swaying dangerously with the turns. The truck suddenly skidded and slid, the front end scraping the mountain wall and shredding the Majini inside, while the tail end swung over the cliff side, leveed by the weight. The truck ground to a halt and Sheva and Chris brought their guns up, getting close to the worse end of low on ammo. They stood side by side, watching the end of the truck, waiting for the worst.

The backs doors raised slowly and mechanically, far beyond regular industry. It was a containment chamber, and whatever was inside was being let loose. Chris took a step forward, wanting a better look, wanting to see what was coming before it was—

There was a shrieked, grating and mind-splitting, and a fucking honest monster crawled atop the container. The head of a bat, the wings of one too, though twice as many, and the lower body was like the abdomen of a wasp, huge and bulbous and wet, dripping with some sort of naturally produced mucous membrane. Powerful flaps of those webbed wings brought the monster into the air, hah above, casting a long shadow of fear. Chris staggered back, disgusted by what he saw, and Sheva made a noise of horror. Whatever this thing was, it was engineered and deliberate and it definitely wasn’t Plaga. They were dealing with something else on top of this, something like the leeches that had taken out Alpha Team. They were in deep shit and didn’t even know the half of it. But for now—

“Stay with me,” Chris ordered. “Aim for the lower body or the eyes. If it falls, get close enough to lay into whatever spot is bleeding the most. And don’t lose your head.”

“Got it!” Sheva shouted. “On you, Captain!”

Chris lost his head to those words and missed the creature dive-bombing them. At the last second, Chris’s instincts kicked in and he flung himself to the side, hitting the ground badly but miraculously still alive. On you, on you, oh god, that had been the wrong thing for Sheva to say. His hands were suddenly shaking and he couldn’t remember how many bullets he had left. Chris swallowed down the panic and brought Matilda up anyways, firing into the creature that crawled too quickly across the ground, sprinting for them both. His shots landed in the eyes and the creature writher, but didn’t slow, not until Sheva sprayed her MP5 into the tail end and the flesh was blown away to reveal a pulsating mass of pink and red beneath.

Oh thank fucking god, it had a visible weak spot.

“The shotgun!” Sheva cried out as she laid fire into the monster to give Chris time to breathe. “Tear this thing apart!”

Chris ran forward to Sheva’s side, whipping out the gun and tearing into the quivering mass of meat with three slugs before the thing was wavering back onto its pincer-legs, moving quicker than Chris had thought something this big should be able to. It’s sickening abdomen swung over its head and thorax, the bottom shooting out sticky matter like a spider shooting web. Chris rolled to dodge the liquid that became a solid once it hit the ground, hardening before his eyes. “Don’t let it get you with that shit!”
“Way ahead of you, partner!” Sheva cried out. “Hold on!” She darted off, into a building up the winding mountainside roads, leaving Chris with this fucking thing.

He scowled and brought up Matilda as he turned and ran, the creature heaving itself across the ground after him, snapping its oversized jaw. Spit or something else, whatever was inside this thing, splattered across the back of Chris’s neck from how close behind him it was. He dug his boots in and broke into a dead sprint, getting a good few yards of distance before spinning around on his heel and laying more shells into the thing’s face as he did. It screamed at him but didn’t slow, and Chris had to turn and run again. The thundering of its steps shook Chris’s balance and the heat of its breath crawled with the panic in his chest. He turned, fired again, did little to no damage, faced forward once more and saw the ground suddenly drop into nothing straight ahead of him, the cliff side his death sentence as the thing got closer and closer with each awful lurch of its body.

Chris reached the cliff, turned sharply, took his last stance with Matilda rather than the shotgun— because he always had intended to die with Leon, so Leon’s gun was second best— and fired into the eyes as it lumbered closer and closer, its massive jaws snapping and stretching wide, eager to fit Chris inside, eager to wrap its forked tongue and draw him in and swallow him whole. Chris didn’t give up on his shots, slamming in a fresh clip when he ran out, holding his breath past the stench, thinking of Leon as the monster was close enough for him to feel the moisture out of its throat, the death and disease, the sickening virus, the sun was blotted out by the creature as—

A loud shot rang out and the creature was flung to the side by the force of the high caliber bullet, writhing on the ground. Chris ran forward without a moment of hesitation, bringing out the shotgun again now that death was no longer immediate. He squeezed his mouth shut again to the revolting spray of blood and puss as he laid into the abdomen again, the creature screaming in agony as more and more of it was blown away.

The creature turned over onto its back, then onto its front again, and flung itself into the air with those powerful wings. Chris took a step back, watching the thing soar and hover and then drop down again, nosediving for Chris. He brought up Matilda, knew he wouldn’t damage it enough, and then blinked in surprise as a shower of machine gun fire slammed into the face and the body and tore through the wings. The creature was thrown back, hitting its container hard, scrambling for purchase on the clean metal. It shrieked and wailed and screeched and then slipped, its heavy weight bringing the container down with it. The creature crashed against the side of the mountain as it fell and gave one last scream to the world before it hit the ground and stopped moving, the container exploding upon impact and hiding the body of the monster with the smoke of destruction.

Chris peered over the ledge as Sheva ran up to his side, staring down the cliff face with him, both of them stunned that it was over so quickly. And the machine gun fire—

There was the friction of rubber on rock. Chris looked up a Gambit climbed the mountain road to them, the vehicle speeding almost dangerously towards them. The driver yanked the wheel and the Gambit drifted in a complete three-sixty, facing away back down the road in a single, smooth move. Into the back, Chris could see a man in a BSAA uniform in the passenger seat, and in the driver’s—

USSTRATCOM Agent Leon S. Kennedy twisted around in his seat, sunglasses on the brim of his nose, blond hair flying about from the wind and heat, a brown leather jacket with a single stripe across the chest framing his lithe torso as he sat up, piercing Chris with his blue eyes, and yelled, “Chris, Sheva— get in!”

And that—

How—

Sheva ran past into the Gambit, but Chris couldn’t move. Cold dread washed through Chris has he realized what was happening, who that exterior agency operative was, what exactly was necessary to be considering an expert on the Plaga. Leon S. Kennedy was back in hell and Chris knew for a fact that this— this could only end ugly for them both.