“I can’t believe they thought that thing was real!” Jill beamed as Noelle victoriously held two pale beers in cheap plastic cups. A roar floated through the crowd as the opening riff to “Barracuda” rang out through the concert speakers.
“Feel a bit silly using it when I’m only a couple months away from being legal.” Noelle laughed as Jill drew herself up alongside her. Noelle wrapped her arm around her waist as Jill craned her neck, Noelle turning away as she tried to kiss her.
“Not that I don’t want to Jilly, wait for your birthday.” She said softly into her ear as she leant her head against Jill’s. Jill stuck her tongue out at her as she feigned taking offense.
“Then stop being such a fucking tease!” Jill laughed as she held her drink to her lips, Noelle shaking her head, a reluctant smile breaking over her face. “Oh, the bouncer came through checking stamps; I think he bought mine, but he seemed naturally suspicious of me; the fucking prick.” Jill said as Noelle frowned as she watched one of the bouncers standing next to a member of event staff. They talked quietly to one another before the event staff member began to walk towards them through the crowd.
“He played it off well, go Jill. I’ll meet you in the bathroom ok?” Noelle said taking Jill’s drink as she glanced over her shoulder, the staff member getting closer. She smiled at Noelle, biting her lip slightly as she whispered in her ear.
“Don’t keep me waiting.” She said as Noelle shook her head laughing. Jill fought quickly through the crowd, turning down a dark hall leading to the restrooms. It was oddly clear as she pushed open the door, half of the bathroom’s lights where out, the remaining flickering with a sporadic hum of fluorescent. Jill rounded the corner and clamped her hands over her mouth, suppressing a scream of horror. There was a person at the far side of the bathroom, slumped over on the ground, a long blood streak running down the wall. Their face was so mangled it was hardly recognizable. As Jill’s muffled screams rattled off the walls, the figure stirred, letting out an inhuman groan. Jill turned and ran back into the hall as the corpse rose. She emerged into a darker hall then the one she had entered, rain pattering off the windows as her feet landed hard on creaky wood. She heard a loud crash, the patter of broken glass on the floor as she ran, rounding the corner to see a massive figure turn to face her. Its face was hidden by shadows and it carried a massive weapon.
“STARRRRRSSSS…” It bellowed as it raised its weapon towards Jill. She turned and bolted as flames leapt down the hallway, singeing Jill’s coattails as she ran, her feet clanging on hard metal as cold, salty air blew through a shattered porthole. She kept running turning into a dark promenade, a loud thud coming from a café in front of her.
“May day, maaaaay… daaaaaay.” A gravelly, inhuman voice shouted through the corridors as Jill panted, refusing to stop. She leant on the corner of a doorway, breathing ragged and deep as she rested. She looked up to a see a man in a dark coat and sunglasses before he struck her hard in the center of her chest, landing an immediate second strike on her temple. Jill hit the floor and groaned, trying to raise her hand to her head. Her limbs refused to respond as she looked up; her arms held above her head, bolted into some kind of medical brace. She struggled as she heard voices from an observation room, a clean room suited technician standing in front of one-way glass.
“I want to see how her vascular system reacts to oxygen deprivation after enhancement strain 034, paralyze her diaphragm.” A low, sly male voice came through the intercom as the tech input something into the terminal in front of them. Jill suddenly found herself unable to draw breath, her lungs not responding as she screamed at them to inhale. She desperately moved her jaw, unable to scream or draw breath as she felt as if someone was strangling her beneath her skin. She felt her lungs burn as her vison pulsed in and out of focus, her eyes watering.
“Hmm, an improvement but we can further enhance on the next scheduled strain. Let’s try a stimulant threshold. Start at fifty percent power on every other vertebra.” The voice called out as Jill felt her lungs suddenly respond again, taking a huge gasp of air, her chest heaving as a sudden heat built up along her spine. It rapidly burned hotter, morphing into a searing pain along her back. She pressed her eyes closed as she still fought to catch her breath; an involuntary scream escaping her as it felt like someone was tearing her flesh apart fiber by fiber. The pain peaked and slowly began to fade as she began to sob, still short of breath.
“Progress, still not a bad chart considering the short timetable. I’d say we are ready to begin P30 injections. Have that administered after blunt trauma tests to her bone structure.” The voice returned as Jill shook her head, tears falling past her nose.
“No more, please no more… its been weeks, no more!” She sobbed as she clenched her fists, feeling her blankets ball up in them as she jerked awake. She opened her eyes wide, a hand stroking her cheek gently as she focused on the figure sitting over her.
“Hey… its ok Jill, you’re safe at home. I’m right here, I’m not going to let anything hurt you.” Claire’s soft voice soothed as Jill fought past the disorientation of coming out of the vivid nightmare. She let out a short breath as she felt anguish wash over her, the muscles in her face straining as her eyes misted over, tears spilling from the corners as a sob escaped her throat as she fought against it, the overwhelming stress breaking her composure.
“It’s ok, don’t fight it my love, you’ll feel better. You’re going to be ok, I’m right here with you, I won’t let anything happen to you.” Claire continued to console, reaching her arm across Jill as she let herself cry. Jill clutched Claire’s arm as she shook gently in her grasp, letting the wave flow until thin and distant as the memories causing it. She sat up, throwing her legs of the side of the bed; her arms outstretched on either side of her, clutching the edge of the mattress. She took a series of long, deep breaths as she hung her head, tears dripping off the end of her nose. Claire sat behind her, brushing the strap of Jill’s top off her shoulder, the mottled white scars running over her back visible in the moonlight. Jill’s shoulders heaved with her deep breaths as she felt a comforting warmth spread over her; Claire gently moving over her back, pressing her lips to each flaw.
“It’s been a little while since we had one of these.” Claire said gently as she wrapped her arms around Jill’s waist; resting her chin on Jill’s shoulder. Jill nodded as she leaned her head against Claire’s, placing her hands over Claire’s as she hugged her.
“Couple months I think… thank you for being so good to me.” Jill said as Claire smiled, kissing her neck.
“You say that like it’s a chore.”
“I am a chore.”
“When you tell me I can’t take the girls for milkshakes past ten, or that teaching Valerie how to avoid speeding tickets is not being a good role model; yes you are. But not like this my love.” Claire said, laughing a little as she tightened her grip on Jill. Jill grinned as she held her right hand to Claire’s cheek, running her fingers down to her chin and guiding Claire’s lips to hers. She let her fingers linger for a moment before parting and opening her eyes.
“I love you, my angel.” Jill said nearly a whisper as Claire squeezed her tighter again. “I think I need a bit of air before going back to sleep.” She added, standing and heading over a pair of French doors across their bedroom; a pair of dark curtains drawn across them.
“You want me to go make you a cup of chamomile?” Claire offered as Jill opened the door, the scent of grass coming through a cool summer breeze.
“If you don’t mind.” Jill said softly looking back as Claire stood and headed out of the room. Jill stepped out onto a small balcony overlooking a wide field of tall grasses holding the soil of former farmland. It had been five months since Claire, Jill and her two daughters- Valerie and Edelie- had moved into the thirty-acre property in Talbot County, Maryland. Jill had needed something bigger than her apartment in Baltimore to accommodate the girls and the idea of living in a neighborhood made her claustrophobic. She drew a deep breath as a fresh wind flowed off the bay, a hint of salt on the earthy air in the rural county. It had been a month since her last update from Veronica of Blue Umbrella. All seemed well at the BSAA; having a report from BSAA agents, DSO, CIA and Blue Umbrella report Ada Wong as dead meant they actually believed it. Being a part of a conspiracy to keep her hidden didn’t sit well with Jill, but the progress they had made did. Ada was currently pursuing one of the Oligarchs in Syria, Helena and Leon where in Romania closing in on another fast. Veronica had suggested that the BSAA try to lay low while the fallout of the attacks and poor responses in Ankara settled.
Jill had spent most of that time helping with the liquidation of Philadelphia, simple tasks such as collecting air, soil and water samples; guarding recovery teams and engineers trying to help cleanse and rebuild the vacant city. She Chris, Claire and Rebecca where holding off while Veronica looked for a lead on another player in the Family’s main competitor. They would start on the outer reaches of the circle and slowly move in closer, taking down each layer until the found the head.
Jill caught the warm, herbal smell of chamomile and anise as Claire appeared at her side; a thin wisp of steam rising from the cup she handed to Jill.
“Thank you love.” She said taking the cup as Claire leant on the railing next to her.
“You doing ok?” Claire asked softly as they listened the wind and the crickets humming through the summer August night.
“Yeah, its been easier to come off of these things since…” Jill trailed off as she smiled at Claire. Claire returned the sentiment by looping her arm through Jill’s, laying her head against her shoulder.
“You want to play a late-night game with the girls? Help banish any lingering bad memories?” Claire perked up a bit, sounding more excited then she meant to let on.
“We can’t do that every time I have a nightmare.” Jill laughed as Claire pouted.
“Yeah… thing is I may have already told them yes; they’re waiting with Mario Party in the playroom right now.” Claire winced as Jill looked firmly at her.
“Claire, I seem to remember you going to great lengths to convince me to put them in school despite my reservations about quality and security and the night before their first day you want to keep them up all night playing video games?” Jill laughed as Claire groaned playfully.
“They’re only going to be getting things for you to sign and telling everyone their names tomorrow anyway. They know when you have your episodes Jill; they want to help you too and doing this helps us all I think.” Claire pouted, waxing serious as Jill turned towards her and sighed.
“Fine, but no pouting when I pick Rosalina and kick your ass again.” Jill teased as Claire stuck her tongue out at her.
Rebecca rubbed her eyes as she felt them begin to tear up; she had been staring at her computer screen for hours in the lab well into the night. She had been analyzing the progress of Blue Umbrellas study on mutamycene structures withing the E-type genome. The genetic puzzle still baffling her and the Umbrella scientists as they struggled to search for something that could help alleviate Evangeline’s condition as well as potentially cure advanced stage infections of human hosts.
Rebecca leaned back in her desk chair, running her hands over her face as she stared at the sequence again. She stood and began to pace, hearing heavy footsteps come up behind her. She glanced at her watch, reading two twenty-seven in the morning. She reached into her shirt, undoing one of the top buttons as she gripped the small pistol she had kept under her arm.
“Relax Rebecca, I’m no assassin.” A deep, West African accent broke the silence of the empty lab as Rebecca turned to face a tall, dark-skinned man with a bald head and three-piece suit.
“You gave me a ridiculous call sign years ago Gabriel, you could at least use it.” Rebecca replied, releasing her grip on her gun and fixing her shirt.
“As you wish, Source Prodigy.” Gabriel said softly as Rebecca scoffed at the name.
“What brings you out to visit, I never get any at work.” She said sitting back down at her desk.
“I wanted to thank you personally for how you brought Wong back into the fold.” He said flatly as Rebecca laughed.
“I didn’t bring her back into the fold Gabriel, I kept her from lighting a powder keg which would have killed her, me and a whole host of other good people. She knows I’m just as jaded as she is; I’m just a constructivist and think the Organization is the best hope to unfuck this place.” Rebecca said in a forlorn tone.
“Hmm. Nevertheless, Industry reports that Blue Umbrella is pursuing a host of Russian Oligarchs that are trying to fill the power vacuum left by the Family.” Gabriel continued as he paced around the lab with his hands clasped behind his back.
“Yes, they have enlisted Leon Kennedy from DSO, Helena Harper from CIA and Agents Chris Redfield, Claire Redfield and Jill Valentine of the BSAA. They have a good coverage, but Industry has already informed you, correct?” Rebecca returned as Gabriel nodded.
“She has, including your name.”
“Any particular reason we are keeping her in the dark about me still?”
“She has only been part of our mission for a couple of years Rebecca, no need to give her the whole host after the failed recruit. We are trying to be more cautious.” Gabriel replied with a darkened tone.
“Torres, right? I haven’t been able to pick up on her trail yet, but she hasn’t really been a priority at the moment. I’ve been focusing on helping Umbrella hold up on their end of the deal they made with Wong.” Rebecca said gesturing at her computer.
“Yes, she has cropped up on our radar with Tricell lately, but she has only been acting through proxies, I don’t know how much longer she can use them before she has to shed them for another group to manipulate. She seems to have failed to notice us closing in around the Oligarchs and their heavy use of Tricell.” Gabriel pondered as he stepped behind Rebecca and glanced at her screen. “She really wants to try and cure the E-type?” Gabriel asked as he glanced over the sequence on the screen.
“It would be a valuable drug to have in our arsenal, regardless the research we will get will be useful. She actually made a compelling case for keeping E-101 alive.” Rebecca said looking up at him.
“She never bothered to share it with me.” He mused, stepping back into his pattern of pacing.
“You aren’t always the best listener with her, you know.” Rebecca laughed.
“Wong has always needed a firm hand, continues to need one if we are to keep her in line.” Gabriel responded firmly as Rebecca continued to laugh.
“Look at who she has surrounded herself with in the world Gabriel. A rookie cop with stars in his eyes and a little girl who needs her more than anyone else in the world. She needs something far more delicate and she will never let anyone see that.” Rebecca said sympathetically as Gabriel sighed. “You made her into a potent weapon, a force to be reckoned with but she is still human. She needs everything that the rest of us need too.” Rebecca said standing as Gabriel hung his head.
“I know; its where I failed her the greatest.” He said softly as Rebecca put her hand on his shoulder.
“Letting her find her own way, pursue the things she wants is the right call. I know it’s hard, but you are doing the right thing. Besides, the second you backed off of Evangeline, she turned around and joined Blue Umbrella. She’s laying low in Damascus right now trying to set up a deal with one of the outer circle as we speak.” Rebecca said stepping back to her desk.
“Her death was bought by all parties?” Gabriel asked as his typical demeanor returned.
“As far as it seems. Should buy her some weapons smuggling street cred. This is her specialty though. She’ll be feigning the sale of E-101 and that should bring even the sceptics calling. Kennedy and Harper are tracking the Tricell group you clued Umbrella into in Romania, we think we have another outer circle member there and Harper should be getting him on camera and tape for the CIA; and us. You sure you’re going to be able to keep all these parts straight and coordinated?” Rebecca asked as Gabriel smiled.
“Rebecca, that is what I do best. You seem well settled, please reach out should you need any assistance.” Gabriel said as he stepped off towards the lab’s exit.
“You too big guy.” She said softly as she returned to her work.