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Character musings

...or something like it.


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[AU: Jill, Chris, Wesker] You're not my favorite mistake; you're just a simple regret
Gun it up, At the ready
zerosuitjill wrote in transgenicprose

Reaching the door at the end of the hall, Jill shifted her M92F to her right hand, gripped the handle, and listened. Everything was, for the most part, absolutely still. A low breeze, the slight rhythmic rustling of cloth, the scurry of tiny rodent feet somewhere further beyond -- small sounds, things she wouldn't have noticed just a few years ago. Now each one caught her attention, just like the particularly strong scents of wood, dust, something earthy, and what smelled like a fading whiff of stale alcohol. It might have been akin to a sensory overload for anyone not used to it, but Jill had adapted, like always, taking the small things for what they were and deciding not to waste time with bitter thoughts.

Fairly confident that it was safe to move, she turned the handle and stepped inside, her gun immediately sweeping the area and joined quickly by her small flashlight.

The room was as empty as the rest of the compound. Larger than any other so far, it was about a third the size of a typical storage warehouse. Discarded sheets and tarps littered the cement floor; tables, overturned chairs, dusty beer bottles, a few playing cards, and some shell casings were the only things that stood out. Overhead, a tattered hole in the ceiling, where fresh flakes from the snowfall outside drifted down to gather in the growing mound in the middle of the room. Other than Jill, it was empty.

A loud, solid, and echoing creak gave warning, and she sidestepped just in time to avoid another wooden beam as it dropped from overhead in a startling clatter of noise. It landed hard enough to disturb the thick coat of dust covering the ground, producing a small cloud that threatened to make her sneeze before she moved further in.

She touched two fingers to her headset, pressing it closer to her ear. "It definitely hasn't been used recently," she affirmed, glancing back towards the hallway. "The building isn't more than a few years old, though, so it shouldn't be falling apart like this. I guess they left a few surprises for anyone who might come snooping around." With just enough natural light to go by, she pocketed her flashlight and, with gloved hands on her gun and gun at her side, she ignored the cruel drop in temperature and kept moving, eyes and ears alert.

It was frustrating, hitting another dead end. From the looks of things, the group had cleared out long before now, which at least meant that the local town could rest easy. All the same, it just meant that another town, wherever they decided to hole up next, would be suffering shortly if it wasn't already.

Dammit.

Jill had to give them credit. Zhizn wasn't the most run-of-the-mill terrorist organization out there, even if its methods, mindset, and intentions were just as self-centered and cold-blooded as any other. They'd managed to keep the B.S.A.A. running in circles for months now, at least, which was a feat in and of itself.

Zhizn was actually the first case Jill had been assigned upon her return to duty. That had been over a year ago, and while terrorists were hardly ever cut-and-dry cases, this one was getting more complicated as time passed, not less, despite all their efforts and intel. Based in Russia, the group was said to have had direct ties to Umbrella in the past; even that was shaky information, as the group had proven particularly difficult to penetrate. Even the latest tips the Alliance had received were more rumors than anything, and if not for a couple B.O.W. corpses that had turned up in the nearby woods, the claims may well have been disregarded entirely by the higher-ups. Resources were stretched thin these days, after all, and false alarms were becoming progressively more detrimental to the B.S.A.A.'s cause. Most governments in the first-world countries were feeling the same strain, but the Alliance, as stretched as it already was, was definitely something near overburdened lately.

The thought made Jill exhale a little sharply, her breath visible in the freezing air for a couple seconds. "Pretty sure I'm just finding dust and cobwebs here," she went on, but kept her voice just low enough to prevent much of an echo. "Any luck on your end?"

  • 1
"Dust and cobwebs is about right."

The echo from Chris' side of the headset was threaded taught with frustration. He still had his gun out but the weapon was learned instinct, not gut. His gut said that the quiet of the second location-- a sister town to Jill's, twenty miles apart and bordering opposite sides the forest where the B.O.W.s had been found-- wasn't the quiet of nefarious things... there was just nothing here. Chris pushed an ajar door in with his hip and the rust holding the hinges screamed at him. He ignored it. His gun pointed at one side of the small, empty office, and then the other. Fingers touched his headset.

"There's nothing here. You think they bothered setting traps? This region gets a lot of snow; could just be rot." Chris looked up at the ceiling and watched a crow perched on an exposed beam, a dark blot against the diffuse white of the winter sky. "I'm not getting the sense that these places were exactly constructed for longevity. We're too late. Again."

The frustration of the wasted effort was easy to hear even though Chris tried to keep it down. Would have kept it down if it had been anyone but Jill on the other side of the comm link. A good leader had realism and optimism in the right amounts-- no one could fight the sort of monsters they did without hope. If it had been anyone else with him today he would have been letting them know that an empty house was good because it meant they were still on the right track. That Zhizn was running.

With Jill he was more Chris, less Agent Redfield... but today he couldn't chalk it all up to that. Having Jill out in the field with him-- better for her to hear his frustration than his worry. It had been a long year. And the five before it--

It made him sick to think about it. For her, for what she'd been through. Some nights Chris dreamed of him still, just a man in the end, bloated by the water that had claimed him, dead like all the things he'd spent his life creating. It should have helped in some way, but never having found a body after the jet went down in the ocean was just a cold comfort and nothing that truly helped heal the scars that Wesker had left behind. They were doing that themselves but it was a slow process. One day at a time. And until then, well. Chris was going to worry.

"I've gone soup to nuts on this place," Chris said with a shake of his head that Jill couldn't see. He slipped his gun back into the holster under his arm; the chill of the barrel leaked through fabric to his side faster than his body heat could warm it. Stepping out of the office he gave the rundown building another glance over. There were a few partitions but nothing that truly hid any space from view. It was like corrugated walls had been erected to give the illusion, rather than the actuality, of privacy. "There's nothing to even use as evidence."

He toed a long-empty bottle of beer, the label proclaiming it 'Rocky Mountain Smooth.' "Somebody's gotten in here between Zhizn and us," Chris said. "Either that or we're dead wrong about this one."

Edited at 2012-03-28 04:41 pm (UTC)

Jill listened without comment as she moved on, finding one more door beyond the current room: a bathroom, as it turned out. Or more like a closet that only just managed to fit a sink, toilet, and a dirty, cracked mirror above the former. She exhaled quietly, making sure her mic didn't pick up the sound.

"However you look at it, something's not right," she replied finally, stepping into the restroom to double check. She lifted the shattered mirror frame and she glanced behind it; nothing. "We've been going on their collective profile so far, and this fits, but..." Her fingers ran along the sink edge, feeling for anything out of place -- too much time around Spencer's taste in decor in the past, maybe, but either way she found nothing.

"At the end of the day, someone was either transporting or holding B.O.W.s around here, and they got out of hand. Usually that kind of mistake would leave plenty of evidence -- bodies, bloodstains, a local outbreak among the forest animals. Something. The snowstorms around here could probably hide some of it, but that doesn't explain these hideouts." She stepped back into the previous room, now letting her voice carry at full volume. "Not to mention the only casings I see look like standard nine-millimeter. This wasn't a site of high activity, and they don't match the ballistics found in the corpses. And then there's the fact that whoever was here last has been gone a long time. So -- yes," she agreed, a little heavily. "It doesn't look good for us either way."

The story of their lives, especially recently. Jill's hopes of seeing a drop in bioterrorism activity after Kijuju had been dashed all too quickly, almost to the point of being depressing. If anything, the world was seeing a startling increase since the Uroboros case, and that was partly why she'd cut her "recovery" two months shorter than what had been professionally recommended. The Alliance needed all the people it could get, and at the end of the day it was still her job, her place, her role, her responsibility; staying home, knowing that her teammates and friends were out there fighting for her -- in Jill Valentine's world, that put a considerable wrench in any effort to take it easy. She could rest, she'd argued, when dozens of innocent people weren't being savagely murdered or worse every day by the people she knew how to stop.

Physically speaking, she was fine, never in better shape.

Psychologically -- well. No amount of rest would cure that, she figured. Only time would make a difference, and at the rate things were progressing on the bioterrorism front, the world didn't have much time to spare. So against all arguments, Jill had suited up and gone back to work like she'd never been away from it. Since then, though, it felt like she'd gotten little to nowhere for her efforts. Some days were like that, but lately...

"Maybe we can try asking around the towns again," she suggested, letting her gun arm relax by her side. "We might've missed something. A detail somewhere." Somewhat empty optimism, she knew -- there had only been a handful of witnesses stepping forward, and they hadn't seen much. Nothing vaguely incriminating, even, should any Zhizn members actually be found in the area. The trail had started with the B.O.W. corpses, led them here -- and ended.

"Yeah, we can try." Chris fought to push a little of his own optimism into his voice. "Maybe the first time around shook something loose, jogged some memories." Stranger things had happened. Far stranger.

"Wait--" He looked toward the south, as if he could see Jill and her building all those miles away. "You've got ballistics?" Chris had swept the space here twice, once quick and then once slow. He'd even stuck his fingers into the muck of dirt and snow that had fetched up in the corners between wall and floor. Nine-mil was still nine-mil; if it were just locals using the buildings as gathering places there'd be something else-- hunting rounds, maybe, rifle ammo. Not handgun. Not that it answered any of their questions.

"At least it's something. I've got nothing here." Chris eyed the graffiti on the far wall. He'd assumed it was relatively fresh but walked back over to it with a more critical eye. Raising a hand he scratched at it with a thumb. Flakes of black chipped free and lodged under his nail. "In fact it looks more like this is the spot for the local teen contingenancy to come blow off some steam." He sighed noisily through his nose.


"Let's get out of here; we aren't going to find anything fresh by standing around and going over it until our eyes glaze." Chris wiped his hand on his leg and cracked his neck. "You want to take the towns separately or together?" Would he have asked the question before... Before? Maybe so. But it sounded different now. Overprotective. Good thing Claire wasn't around to let him know what he was doing. Chris knuckled his forehead. "I want to head back into the forest too, but we don't have a whole lot of daylight left."

Jill considered Chris' commentary as she headed back into the hall. "You're probably onto something. Hell, who knows -- it really could be a couple coincidences all at once." With the bottom line being that Zhizn was nowhere to be found at the moment.

Back outside, her recent footsteps were already nearly invisible beneath the freshly fallen snow, now a light tint of orange with the steadily declining sun. Behind her, the building remained as silent, empty, and unmoving as when she'd arrived, the only sound the creak of the heavy front door as she closed it.

"We'll cover both areas quickly if we stay separate," she replied easily. "I've got my perimeter down, don't worry." There was nothing in her tone to give away what, if anything, she thought of his question; no rejection, no suspicion, no curiosity, no patronizing reminder of simple protocol. Just reassurance that she'd be fine, like she always would have done in the same situation. It wasn't that she was ignoring Chris' concern; now just wasn't the time to address it, if there was a time at all. Then again, between the two of them, there never seemed to be enough time -- ironic, considering how much time they spent together on the job.

Then again, there was the keyword there: job.

Snow crunched under her boots as she moved towards the clearing's edge, and Jill paused as she studied the path she'd taken before. "On the way here, I took the trail the locals recommended -- but there's another one that branches off of it. It adds about twenty minutes to the walk, but it should give me some new ground to cover heading back, at least. I might as well take it." She hadn't exactly been warned against it as much as she'd been advised; the footing was much trickier, they'd told her, and the path disappeared altogether in certain areas because of the overgrown brush. It wasn't ideal for poor hikers or those with a bad sense of direction -- luckily, Jill was neither.

"I'll still be back before sundown, at any rate."

Chris bit his tongue. He didn't like it but he knew the procedures as well as she did-- and he knew Jill. Every now and then he wished that maybe things were different between them; she was one of the most important people in his life but his life was just this... and there was less than time for anything else. Jill was the same way. It wasn't something that he dwelled on, no need to. He had the best partner in the business and they did good work. Great work. Chris wouldn't want anyone else covering his back.

"Copy that," he said as he headed for the door. "Know I don't have to say this, Jill, but be careful." The building hadn't exactly been insulated but stepping outside was like getting knocked in the face with the cold. He sucked in a breath and regretted it as it burned his lungs. His cap was pulled further down onto his head against the flurries coming down. "Not exactly a winter wonderland out here. And don't go off that path-- we'll get the woods more thoroughly tomorrow, together." This time it wasn't to protect her. He wouldn't have gone in alone, either. Not when B.O.W.s had been found out there.

"I'll drive over to your side to pick you up. By six." The sun would set about thirty minutes later, more than enough leeway.

"Roger that. Rendezvous at six."

With her heavy coat as tight and sealed as it could be, Jill started back down the first path, still alert, watching and listening. Her gun stayed drawn, although she kept it lowered and her shoulders weren't as tense. Aside from any (unlikely, at this point) terrorists, there was only wildlife to consider, but even some of the larger carnivores in the region were said to steer clear of humans most of the time. That didn't apply for any infected wildlife, she was aware, and so she kept her eyes and ears open.

The break in the path was about a third of the way back: veering off to the east at a nearly ninety degree angle, it immediately took a sharp dive downhill, where stray branches and fallen trees began to clutter and choke it. Minding her footing, Jill picked her way down it at a decent pace, unable to help the echoing snap here and there as she stepped on a hidden twig. It sounded unnaturally loud to her above average hearing, but it couldn't be helped except to try and pick her footing a bit more carefully.

For about five minutes, the most she saw were a couple birds that took flight when she approached; after that, the woods became considerably quieter, and it took her another five minutes for her instincts to pick up on a nagging feeling.

It was too quiet. On the way to the compound, taking the other path, the surrounding trees had been abuzz with those subtle sounds of life: wings, rustlings, birdcalls, mammalian squeaks, something -- now everything was as quiet as that abandoned building had been, excepting Jill's movements. Stopping, she frowned, and turned slowly in place to examine the area around her. Without paying much attention, it would be all too easy to get lost -- everything all but looked the same in each direction, bare trees and a carpet of snow. After some half a minute of this, she finally turned to continue on--

--and then stopped, her head turning sharply back to the right. It had been quiet -- extremely quiet, maybe she'd misheard it--

No, there it was again. A low, smooth, thumping sound -- Jill quickly searched her memory and identified it, but that was a bit of a stretch, wasn't it? Either way, it was coming from just beyond where the ground dropped off into a steep ridge a little ways off.

Don't go off the path, Chris had said. Wise advice, but she wasn't going far; the path was just visible enough for her to find it again, she figured, as long as she remained within a few yards. Slowly, carefully, and quietly, she stepped off the trail and onto the ledge of a large, smooth stone -- precarious, but it would make less noise. From there, she stepped onto a fallen trunk, and from there onto a stump, until she could begin to see over the ridge ledge.

It was a twenty-foot drop, give or take, or rather a slide if you worked your way down the bank. For a few heartbeats, Jill saw nothing, and was considering moving closer when a small movement caught her eye and her breath froze. Less than a stone's throw away was a figure: male, going by the physique, dressed in white camo and crouching with his back to her, luckily. An assault rifle was slung across his back -- AK-47, it looked like -- and as she watched, he holstered another weapon at his side, and Jill caught a glimpse of an elongated barrel -- a silencer, as she'd guessed. The man was preoccupied with something in front of him, but she couldn't make it out around his bulk; after a tense few seconds, he suddenly stood, and Jill ducked back a bit. It was unnecessary, as he was preoccupied with a satchel he was lifting, grunting and swinging it over his shoulder in a way that said it had considerable weight. He took a step forward with his burden, and any intention of calling out to him died in Jill's throat.

He'd been concealing a large bloodstain in the snow. He stepped carefully around it and continued on, struggling to keep a hold of the satchel. Under other circumstances, Jill would have figured him to just be a hunter from the town -- but who went around hunting with a silenced handgun and an AK? So she hesitated, quickly considering her options. She needed to contact Chris, but to do that she'd have to wait for the man to be out of earshot, and by then she might lose him. Any footsteps would be concealed within the hour, let alone by tomorrow. She could step out and order him to freeze, but on the chance that this was a lead, giving herself away might ruin any chances they had of getting more information, especially if this guy proved as tight-lipped as some of the others.

Jill bit her lip. The man was getting further away, already harder to see between the growing flakes.

Trust me on this, Chris. Still careful, she made her way silently down the bank, glad to find that snow hadn't yet stuck to much of it and that stray roots provided decent enough footholds.

3/4 YOU SAID YOU LOVED DEERS, REMEMBER

Tracking him without being seen was, at best, difficult and time-consuming, but Jill managed, and she didn't have far to go. At one point the man passed over a river, not yet entirely frozen, and its noise helped cover some of Jill's as well as provide her with more snowless ground to walk on. She wasn't sure what to expect, but it wasn't what she found. The man led her to the base of one of the mountains, and at that point she figured he would head into some kind of hidden cave entrance.

She didn't expected him to lead her down a path, into the beginnings of a ravine, and around to a small plateau on which there was... nothing. Just a blank wall, with a couple large boulders leaning against it. Crouched behind one of the large rocks littering the area, Jill watched: the man set his burden down, and then leaned over to push aside the branches of one of the small, thorny bushes. Without warning, there was a low, piercing beeping sound, making her tense and look over her shoulder -- and when she looked back, she could only stare as the two boulders abruptly and smoothly slid apart, as easily as if they were on a track; and given the kinds of things she'd seen in her life, that was all too likely.

Diving in after him would have been suicidal. Tensed but knowing her limits, Jill waited, and the man stepped into the open entrance -- a hidden cave entrance -- and he'd only just disappeared inside when the boulders slid back into place.

Ties to Umbrella? That was looking more and more likely.

Jill counted to sixty before coming out of her hiding place, glancing around the area. There were no other people or security cameras in sight; as good a time as ever to contact Chris. She touched her headset, still watching her back as she spoke in a low voice.

"Jill to Chris, do you copy?"

Silence.

Frowning, she repeated, only to have the same lack of a response. She tried adjusting the frequency slightly with a fingernail -- only to jump and cringe as squeal and thundering white noise slammed into her ear. She quickly tuned it back, sending around another glance to make sure she hadn't been heard.

Signal disruption? Possibly. If whatever place was beyond this entrance had more technology than what its front door was made out of...

"Shit," Jill breathed, even as she moved over to investigate the bush that the man had. Parting the branches, she found a small, square panel at the base. There was a lock, but a simple one, and she was past it in under five seconds and opening it. Some type of security identification device -- fingerprints, most likely, meaning she'd never get past that way.

Jill chewed her tongue briefly. By all rights, she should have saved the location to memory, headed back to town, and told Chris everything so that they could investigate the next day. It was logical, but...

Voices. Jill tensed further and looked back -- they were coming from the path she'd just descended, which meant she had nowhere to go. Neither was there anything to hide behind.

Shit, shit--

Options flickered across her mind. She chose the first one with the best chance of not getting her killed or captured, assuming these men were indeed Zhizn.

Reaching into the pouch on her hip, she withdrew a screwdriver, wedged the tip under the screen of the identification device, and pried it -- it took some careful effort, but it popped from place and she quickly opened it, praying the inner network wasn't some ridiculously complicated computer system.

Luck was with her. It was a simple set-up: your basic nodes and wires. With the voices getting closer -- speaking Russian, she could now tell -- Jill set to work at high speed, crossing the wires and reworking some of the nodes and Open, open, open--

Rarely had she heard a sound so sweet as the low rumble of those boulders sliding apart. Clicking the screen back into place, she shut the panel, stood, and as soon as she could fit into the opening, she slipped through.

It was dark inside. She could make out a long hall, punctuated every few yards by a fluorescent lamp. She didn't have long to look, though -- the voices behind her, now heard through the open door, suddenly paused. One spoke, and then again, louder, as if in a call.

Time to move.

Jill hurried down the corridor, taking the first right to try and break the line of sight with those back at the entrance. A safe assumption, considering the hall was empty--

--until a door a yard to her right suddenly opened. A man stepped through, saw her, and stared -- there was a split-second pause between them, and then both went for their guns: Jill for her sidearm, the man for his. Jill, already having her drawn, was faster.

"Freeze!" She settled her mental crosshairs on the man's throat. He obeyed, stopping with one large hand on the butt of what looked like a Samurai Edge, if she had to guess. "Hands up. Name. Now," she ordered, but she'd only gotten halfway through the last word when there was a sound to her right. Sparing a glance, she saw two men round the corner, and they reflexively raised their AK-47s before she could even begin to speak. Shit.

One of them spoke to her, in Russian. When she didn't act, he tried again, now in a thick accent:

"Put down weapon!"

Jill gritted her teeth, thinking fast, but to no avail -- and in the meantime, the man at gunpoint proved to be surprisingly quick. His hand snapped up to catch her dominant wrist, forcing it down. Jill fired, missed, and then her center of gravity was thrown off as she was pulled forward, undoubtedly meant to be pinned either against the man's bulk or between him and the nearby wall. She didn't give him the chance.

Her elbow came up between them in a display of considerable flexibility, slamming hard into his nose. He yelled, but held tight -- but Jill wasn't done, and drove a short but solid kick into the side of his knee as her arm came back on its momentum to hit him in the face again. At the same time, she pitched backward, and it was just enough to wrench her thin wrist from his grasp. She turned, bolted, and right on cue automatic fire began peppering the walls and floor around her.

One of the men shouted again, and while Jill's Russian was barely enough to hold a conversation about the weather and ask for directions, she knew enough to recognize the word "kill."

Down the hall, into another, praying again and again that she didn't run into a dead end. She was light on her feet, though, and her stamina was well-earned: even as more men fell into the chase behind her, she managed to outstrip them a little more at a time, barely keeping a hallway corner between her and fatal gunfire. Down some stairs -- and deeper into the compound, no less -- into another hall lined with chrome and white tile. It was emptier down here, at least, but her heart dropped when she realized: she'd run right into a solid hall. It ended several doors down, and from the looks of it, those doors only led to rooms. She'd more or less hit a dead end.

Exhaling sharply, Jill tried the closest door -- locked -- and the next -- locked, damn it all to hell--

Heavy boots sounded on the stairs she'd just come down -- growing more desperate, she tried the next door, and thank God, it opened -- she hurried in, did a brief sweep, saw no one, and closed the door behind her and locked it. Her heart was pounding, her breath ragged, but she couldn't stop yet. There were no windows into the room -- not even on the door -- but it wouldn't take them long to find her.

5/5 EVEN LJ IS LAUGHING AT ME ;;

She'd leapt into a laboratory, it seemed. A pretty large-scale one, littered with tables and various machinery, some of which she recognized but most of which she didn't. She couldn't see the entire room for that reason, but no one seemed to be present. Walking quickly, Jill made her way through, searching for...

...anything, at this point. She tried her radio again, but still received nothing but silence.

For a falsely comforting few seconds, everything was quiet except for the hum of machines -- and then voices out in the hall, and the sound of adjacent doors being forced open.

She was low on time. She moved along the edges of the room, and only just now noticed the familiar, liquid-filled tubes lining one wall. They were empty, at least, which luckily meant there was no chance of something breaking loose and jumping her on top of her pursuers. In the backmost corner was a gathering of tables armed with leather holding straps, and considering how used she was to the screwed up sights these types of labs contained, she almost didn't look over -- but as she passed one, she spared the briefest of glances at the body tied down--

Only to stop dead in her tracks, her rapidly pounding heart stalling and her breath catching.

No.

No, no, nononono--

Shit, no--

Is this what...

Very few times in her life had Jill been startled into silence, let alone paralyzed. Now, she was both as she stared at the startlingly familiar -- too familiar face of the only other person in the room.

Through the darkness there were footsteps.

It wasn’t uncommon. They came to cut away at him, to drain him, to ask him idiotic questions and ply him with even more moronic platitudes. He never acknowledged them. The buzz of speech like flies to be swatted. This was not his world. His vision. These sterile walls. This stiff slab. The heavy impotence of his limbs and his thoughts. When the fog pressed in too thickly he’d dream of that place. Blood, darkness. Perfect order.

And then he would wake to pain that would burn all those things away. And he would forget. He would scream and tear and rage for the loss of it, for the memories of perfection that he couldn’t reach like picking up sand slipping through his fingers and he would kill them all for it he would make them pay with their shitty little lives...

There was no counting days. The fog came in regular waves, numbing the pain and the anger. Time was intervals, regular and untouchable. Sometimes, though. Sometimes between the fog and the pain there was clarity like thin ice under his fingertips. Brittle. Crystalline. And he would think.

Cyrllic. On the walls.

Thick leather and metal neck, biceps, wrists, thighs, ankles.

Cultures for tests.

The chill in the air was damp. Underground.

A pinch at the back of his hand, his elbow, tubes for nutrients. Sedatives. Blood. In and out.

Mostly it was just the fog.

The footsteps meant fog.

When he opened his eyes he thought he was dreaming. Maybe he was. Her hair was wrong, the expression on her face. He’d taught her better. Culled it out of her or, controlled it. Fixed her. The memories of her were docile and cold, deliberate... most of them. But there were others that slipped through. Naive and young, warm, and so ready to fix the world in an image that would never sustain. The thread of arm to arm and him before everything would shift, tumble down, over and over. Insects in bread, maggots in a wound, an infection. Him.

His arm tried to raise but a finger twitched instead, the muscles of his shoulder spasmed, screamed. Not a dream.

Albert Wesker smiled.

....GDI, Jill [1/2] B(

Somewhere in the back of Jill's mind, hidden beneath stubbornness, optimism, and present concerns, she had always known, maybe, that Wesker wasn't truly dead.

His apparent end off the coast of Africa -- it hadn't been convincing, for one. Not entirely. Not for her. Jill didn't like to make assumptions when it came to danger, and considering Wesker had been one of the greatest dangers the world had ever known, something about his disappearance never sat well with her. It had been too convenient, too open-ended; only the sight of his corpse would have really, fully put her fears to rest.

It hadn't been convincing, but more than that, even, was that kind of end -- it hadn't... it hadn't been him. However she chose to describe it, however she chose to look at it, the fact of the matter was that Jill knew Wesker. She knew him personally, physically, as both an ally and an enemy; she knew him better than anyone still alive, possibly better than anyone who had ever lived, period. Wesker was a man who lived, breathed, and killed for his ideals, for himself, and nothing he ever did was without purpose or emphasis on what he tried so hard to be: above everyone and everything else, better, a superior breed and definition of life, always prepared to prove it -- or not, depending on whether he deemed it worthwhile.

Knowing that, knowing him, Jill had had more than a little difficulty accepting the idea that someone like him could just fade away like that -- the Wesker she knew would go down fighting, taking anyone and anything with him in a passionate rage in the event that he was bested. A solitary death by sea, by something like chance, with no one around to witness the end of the supposed next step in human evolution?

No.

Wesker wasn't the divine creature he fancied himself to be, but he had more control over his fate than that.

So seeing him now -- it wasn't shock that slammed into Jill's gut as much as it was dread. Dread at being right, at finding her worst fear confirmed; it was the kind of dismay that made her heart skip several beats, her blood run cold, and her nerves promptly forget how to function other than keeping her on her feet.

She wasn't sure how long she stood there in frozen unease, but heavy sounds in the hall outside quickly snapped her out of it and she blinked, pupils dilating back to something near normal as her brain started working again.

She took in Wesker's state and the pieces fell together without even trying to think too hard. He'd survived. Zhizn had found him, managed to abduct him, was holding him here to do God knew what -- and while any pain on his part would certainly earn no tears from Jill, it still managed to prompt a troubling new train of thought even through her nearly mind-numbing surprise.

If they have the power to hold him here like this... what else are they planning?

Looking back to his face, Jill met his red gaze readily, easily, without fear, and held it, for a tight couple seconds not reacting to his expression.

And then it felt like something in her simply snapped.

[2/2] I cannot help that her anger thrives on the deerz ;;

Not a small, quiet snap, either, but the kind of violent, blood-pumping, thought-clouding explosion of rage, remorse, frustration, anger, guilt, hurt, disappointment, doubt, anxiety, fury, memory--

The logical, collected side of Jill wanted to shrink back and away and let her emotions take over, forgetting her present danger and giving in to every sense of base, primal instinct that came with being human.

The part of her that remembered those horrible, helpless three years wanted to sneer and ask him how the fuck it felt to be on the other side, wanted to demand if the ends justified the means now and whether all his pain and suffering would be worth it simply because someone stronger than him believed it would make him better--

The part of her that still woke up shaking, sometimes crying in the middle of the night was willing to sacrifice any chance at escape if it meant making sure he died this time -- could he handle a clip full of bullets to the head at point blank range? Coupled with a slit throat and wrists and a battle knife plunged as deep into his heart as possible?

The part of her that still tensed when Chris drew too close, that remembered all the people she'd killed and hurt and tortured and torn from their families, that held so much of her memory secret because no one else deserved to know what all she'd been through, that sometimes couldn't stand to look at her scars or even her own face in the bathroom mirror -- they all wanted to show this self-serving bastard exactly how well he'd taught her, that she agreed wholeheartedly that some people were better off dead once they'd outstripped their usefulness, and that power was at times just a roll of the dice and this time she had come out on top -- where were his Goddamn Darwin theories now--

It was physically dizzying, all the impulses and emotions that raced through her, doubling her pulse and darkening her expression into something just above animalistic. Jill had tensed without realizing it, shifting her weight and readying the muscles in her shoulders, her breathing quickened but quieted, eyes narrowed and observing him in short, darting motions -- taking in the smells (chemicals: primarily antiseptic, a hint of sterilizing reagents), sounds (the men outside and their voices and movements -- she estimated a dozen of them now, not yet at her door -- the humming machinery; Wesker's heartbeat was too low and calm for her to make out at this range, but her own pounded in her ears), sights--

Reflexive reactions, motions she fell into unconsciously because they'd been drilled into her that effectively, that deeply. Even a year and a half later, she couldn't shake that training, as closely bonded to both DNA and unconscious thought as it was.

Jill became aware of her body's programmed response after a couple seconds, but she didn't force herself to relax like she normally would have. She didn't have time.

Sifting through the maelstrom of urges and thoughts and feelings rushing through her, she managed a quick, logical train of thought in response to the most pressing matter -- what she needed to do versus what she wanted -- and a short list of priorities formed itself in her mind.

Focus. Breathe. Think.

Survive.

Easier said than done at the moment, but she managed.

Finding her voice, she said the first, only thing that came to mind, her words flat, low, and taut with barely strangled impulses and suppressed emotions.

"Looks like you should've died when you had the chance."

*pets the deerz fondly*

It was clear, despite the smile for her presence in his shifting version of reality, that Wesker was not lucid. He didn't react to that startling unhuman shift of her facial features that otherwise would have delighted him to see break to the surface as instinct-- instinct he had given her. His bright eyes unfocused and closed and the fingers of his right hand curled into as tight a fist as he could manage. His arm felt like fire and the pain cleared some of the fog.

"Jill." Her name was tasted. Savored. It was intimate even in the battered rip of his voice pushed through a torn and dry throat. Wesker opened his eyes again and fought to focus on her face; the smile had faded into a concentrated grind of teeth. "Why? Are you here.

Are you here to end my misery?" The laugh at the floating thought came unbidden, a low roll like thunder that lasted only a moment before breaking into hacking coughs that would have racked his body were it not so held down to the table. The pain was like razors and with the fog so thin it took time to conquer; he couldn't just crawl into unconsciousness. There were slow, deep breaths through his nose before he could speak again. "Hard, I'm sure. To destroy their science project would mean showing me mercy. And after all I've done for you..."

Wesker trailed off with another cough. He tried to lift his right arm but the bright shock of pain prevented him from flexing any strength he might have left against the bonds. His eyes closed. With his hand in a fist he could feel how close Chris was, must be. The warm sensation of skin splitting under his knuckles as he smashed his fist into the ape's face, not as easy to crush his idiotic hope as it was to crush bone. And his little dark-skinned partner; she was more pathetic than Jill. Human, flawed, nothing redeeming as he grabbed her thin neck and tried to squeeze the unearned life from her...

A thick pounding turned the memories to dust and a bitter taste that sat at the back of his throat. He couldn't lift his head to see where the sound was coming from. He shifted his legs. Remembered straining against the same bonds. Had they given way or had that been a dream? The bright red of fresh blood on white walls was a necessity, a triumph, memories of a life served that was indistinguishable from now. From whatever now shifted to be at any moment. From dreams.

He dreamed of red often.

The stings of tape holding bandages to flesh were less than nothing. An annoyance as he shifted in his bonds, given mere millimeters and nothing to work with. The pounding renewed, the hollow, heavy ring of metal groaning.

Still set in her tense poise, Jill didn't react to his words -- just watched, observed, thought, and considered. Wesker didn't look terrible by average standards, but compared to his standard, the effect of whatever he'd been subjected to was obvious. His mental state aside, the bonds, the cruel lack of clothing, the bandage from where they'd done something unpleasant -- they painted a clear enough picture.

Wesker was miserable. This was, probably, the very lowest he could sink in his eyes -- even in death, at least no one would be holding him like this. Overpowering him.

There was, admittedly, some bitter and petty satisfaction at the sight -- Jill wasn't above it -- but her present situation was ever buzzing at her mind. There were questions she wanted to ask, things she wanted to say, but time was short. Even if Wesker was out of it enough to answer her, it meant nothing if she died a minute later.

She scanned the room again. Nowhere to run, no place to hide -- Wesker might just give her away, anyway -- which meant her only options were to make a last stand that she'd never survive, or surrender. Assuming they didn't shoot her on sight, they certainly would once they realized she was B.S.A.A.

Dead end, dead end, dead end. Even the air ducts in the room were far too small for her to try.

Jill looked at Wesker again, still unmoved -- and then after a second stepped closer, resting her hands on the side of his slab but avoiding contact with him, the straps, or the wires attached to the latter. She leaned over and close enough that her face would be in the center of his field of vision, and so that she didn't have to speak too loudly to be heard.

"Wesker." Her voice was still tight, tense, hating his name in her mouth, but it was even. "I've got a minute tops before these bastards break in here. You want them to pay for this?" A brief pause. It almost hurt to go on.

"Then help me. Tell me--"

A thundering slam against the door, making Jill look back. Another bit of fortune: apparently the hired guns didn't double as scientists, otherwise they'd have the room key.

She returned her attention to Wesker. "Think. Is there any other way out? Anything I can use?"

A long shot, for more reasons than one, but Jill was entirely desperate.

It took a moment for Wesker to focus on-- pain and the groan of metal and the smell of laboratories and Bill could have been standing there with his nay-says and his shaking hands as he couldn't pull the trigger and Wesker had to take the gun, warm from sweaty hands, and aim at that spot just between-- determined eyes. Blue eyes.

Look how close she was, voluntarily. His own impotence galled suddenly and violently and Wesker snarled, his arms jerking in bonds that groaned and held as his body stiffened against the current being pushed into it. Muscles on his neck stood out with the strain and then sagged down as the cycle disarmed and he could breath again; his eyes closed. His pulse beat in time to the thunder against the door. The door. Cyrillic.

"Sergei's bastard," he breathed out. He fought to stay here with the pounding instead of slipping back into the waiting arms of his memories. His muscles were still slightly spasmodic in the afterglow of the electricity, twitching. Think.

With effort, Wesker's eyes turned to Jill. Think. She had asked... asked. Asked him. His nostrils flared; could it be the smell of desperation? It was a rope to clutch. He groped for her question, thoughts sliding around in the fog. Help me.

You bastard.

Think.

"Let me out." His eyes held hers through a sheer force of will, cold and-- for this one moment-- alert. "Let me out, Jill."

Jill retreated slightly when a buzz shot through the bonds, tightening already tight straps even closer to Wesker's skin.

Electricity. Zhizn wasn't in the habit of underestimating -- also seen in how thick the door was, which was now working in her favor.

At his words, Jill slowly stood up straight, holding the stare.

"No," she said flatly, calmly. "I'm trying to survive, Wesker. Adding you to the mix isn't helping." That, and other reasons, but again, time was of the essence.

Anyone else -- anything else, and Jill would have complied in a heartbeat as long as she felt she could trust them, or at least overpower them. Wesker -- even drugged, she knew he could likely take care of the same small battalion that would kill her in seconds, but that wasn't an option. For too many reasons.

No, she couldn't even consider--

Another slam; the door shook on its hinges.

"I need a way out, Wesker," she repeated, hoping to return his unsteady attention to her previous offer. "Tell me and I'll make sure to nail these guys--"

Slam.

His laugh was low and dark, sliding under the blows raining on the door. Wesker closed his eyes and turned his head away from her.

Wait. Patience. He forced his shoulders to relax. His hands. Pictured her in the tube, floating and serene, her pale body almost green through the wash the nutrient-rich fluid around her. Her long hair unbound, whispering, bleaching out day by day as the virus ate away at her nervous system. He enjoyed that particular outcome. It suited her.

The woman who had been in that tube would not even promise him mercy; not by her definition or any other. A way out and she and the B.S.A.A. would swarm and he'd be flushed like an unwanted pregnancy. No. There were options. He had options. She-- unfortunately for her moralistic pride-- was the one running low.

So Wesker waited. Slipping out through the seconds only to have the increasingly loud jars against the door bring him back up to the surface of lucidity. He didn't open his eyes again.

He waited for her. Her demented sense of do-good ran deep; after all, Jill had sacrificed herself for Chris. So determined. But what would her death now give the world? Wesker might still live without her. If nothing else, his genes would. Her death wouldn't even be a sacrifice, just another stain on the floor to be scrubbed away.

"Poor Chris," Wesker murmured at the first audible screeching buckle of the metal door. "To have to live through your death a second time."

Jill's glare burned into him, her pulse picking up as each second ticked by.

She couldn't. She couldn't. Not after everything they'd gone through to beat him -- she couldn't undo all of that and set him free. Of course, even if she didn't -- even if she died here and now to keep him in place -- there was no telling what Zhizn would do with him. They were keeping him for some purpose, and that could have been for anything. Chances were he'd do more damage to the world before he died, whether directly or otherwise.

The only solution to that was to kill him, and then die herself -- but as stubborn as Wesker was, there was no guarantee he would die. One thing Jill didn't know was the extent of his healing factor, and there were any number of things that his captors could have done to him -- hell, they could've improved his physical resistance for all she knew.

Nothing was certain, except for one simple, aggravating fact: on her own, Jill was screwed, as good as dead. With Wesker, she at least stood a chance, however small and uncertain.

She all but silently snarled at his reply, casting another look over her shoulder before hissing between her teeth and leaning over him again.

"I don't have any reason to believe you won't kill me first," she snapped. "If I'm going to die either way, I might as well make sure you stay down." She was stalling. There was nothing he could say to make her trust him, no promise he could make when his word meant absolutely nothing.

No, that much relied on her own predicament. Even if she was willing to lie down and die personally, she couldn't -- she was the only one who knew about this place, who could get word back to Chris and the others to let them know and stop whatever God forsaken plan was in the making here.

But was it worth this? Was it worth possibly undoing everything they'd done in the last decade?

Tick tock.

The door was coming loose; she could hear their voices more clearly.

Those bright eyes reopened slowly. Wesker turned to focus on Jill.

"You kill me and you die-- and Zhizn wins." Terrorism wins. Wesker jerked an arm against his bonds-- and let his eyes rolled back, lidded slightly, as the snap of electric current buzzed through his muscles. It cleared the haze clinging to the edges of his vision. Brought her into sharper focus. "Do you want to be responsible for the destruction they will cause, left unchecked?"

As much as Jill knew him, he knew her. Wesker didn't need to beg for his life, only appeal to her better nature. To her blind moralist sensibilities. If it meant saving lives then Jill would take the gamble against absolute loss. She'd beaten him once, hadn't she?

She'd think that she could do it again. He made no promises in her favor or against the contrary.

Jill...

Jill had always proven more useful to him alive.

[1/2] ....obvs Jill is going for a record in this post

Jill went on glaring. He was playing her, and as well as anyone could.

She exhaled sharply, glanced aside. She needed to live -- it might have sounded selfish, but it was the truth -- and all things considered, she didn't find it likely that Wesker would kill her right away. No faster than the men behind her, anyway.

It was true that Jill, physically speaking, was worth something to Wesker. Even so, that was far from comforting, and only raised the familiar question of which was worse: death, or being at his mercy?

The labs in Africa had been searched, stripped clean, and destroyed. Unless Wesker had planned that far ahead and stashed back-ups of all of his work, his Uroboros plan was shot, which meant he would have to start over.

Including, most likely, isolating the key component that had made the virus so successful in the first place -- the thing that Jill and Jill alone carried, even now: the secret of her DNA, permanently mutated with the genetic coding that would stimulate the production of T-Virus antibodies more or less upon command. Another scar she'd bear until her death.

To that extent, Wesker choosing to spare her was no favor, if it happened, because it only meant that he had another use for her. If that was his intention after the present situation was taken care of -- if he got his hands on her again -- then everything really would be back at square one. Only this time Wesker would be more aware of his shortcomings, would know better than to underestimate both Jill and Chris as much as he had, the ultimate cause of his previous downfall.

It would be worse than Africa.

It was a lot of ifs, buts, and maybes, but the fact still remained that Jill was seconds from death, maybe worse. Wesker, for all his treacherous shortcomings, was still one man, and one man she knew well. The men coming for her blood were many, they were an unknown, and, for the moment, they were the most pressing danger in both the short and long term.

Jill needed to choose, and she needed to do it now.

Certain death -- or take a chance on someone guaranteed to backstab her.

The decision was a logical one, and only her personal bias kept her ambivalent.

Another second, another shuddering impact against the door--

--and then logic won out.

...I'm so sorry, Chris.

Cramming her gun into its holster and turning aside, Jill quickly looked over the large, humming machine that the electroshock wires threaded back to. She swept her hand over several switches, turned the key by the primary operation panel, and powered it down; the generator died with a high-pitched, drawn out whine.

Before it was done, she'd turned back to Wesker, now addressing the steel buckles that bound the leather straps. She started at the lowest one, intent on keeping his arms restrained until last to prevent any surprises. It turned out that the buckles alternated -- one on his left, the next on his right -- and Jill had to free one, lean over him to get the one after it, and then pull back again, and repeat. Another wise design: it would considerably slow the efforts of any idiot -- like her -- trying to free him.

Nimble fingers worked swiftly, having to put some arm strength into it here and there as she pulled and forced the strips free, deep indents in the material saying they'd been in place for quite some time. She'd just started on the one across Wesker's shoulders when there was a ear-piercing screech of grinding metal, a final, thundering slam, and then she heard the door burst off its hinges and crash noisily to the tile floor. Jill immediately ducked, crouching beside Wesker's table; with all the machinery and things crowding the lab, the men would have to make their way through most of it before they saw her.

The band came loose. The only obstacle left was the metal ring clamped down around Wesker's neck, which was -- again, wisely -- fastened with a heavy padlock. Jill whipped her lockpick from her pocket, threaded out the pick, and then slipped the tension wrench up and into the keyhole, working by the familiar touch and feel of the pins and plug.

Footsteps, at least three pairs.

Jill ignored them, focusing, her lockpick feeling out the padlock's invisible workings: one pin -- clack--

One set of footsteps was closer than the others -- much closer--

Second, third, fourth pin, done--

It sounded like only one row of shelves separated Jill from the gunman, and any second now he'd round the corner--

The fifth and final pin snapped into place, only seconds after the first. The lock opened with a subtle, metallic click. She pulled it free, hissed "Done" in a whisper mostly hidden by the remaining buzz of machinery--

--and then Jill hit the floor fast, drawing her gun in one hand even as she silently slipped away from where Wesker, thanks to her, was now free.

[1/2] oh noes, teal deerz of wesker's own

Honestly, she overestimated him in the most basic of ways-- Jill, being a person with emotions, granted him the same through the lens of her human bias. Oh, it may have not been any emotions that she would consider good, but certainly assumed that things like jealously, greed and hate would color his actions and reactions. The truth that had kept him steps ahead of her was that she was wrong.

Wesker viewed people in only terms of potential and usefulness. Jill and Chris, the B.S.A.A., even the younger Redfield's attempt to combat bio-terrorism with protests instead of guns, it all made a difference to him only when they decided to mount their white horses and ride to his doorstep. He didn't linger on thoughts of vengeance, didn't waste time as they did contemplating the eventual destruction of enemies. If they'd let him be, Wesker would have been content to forget about them wholly unless they proved to mean more to his New World. He didn't need to see B.S.A.A. destroyed-- they served a unique purpose, just as the S.T.A.R.S. had. Results did not happen in a vacuum.

Which was where Jill fit into his picture. Jill and her antibodies. Jill and the only true, natural, organic synthesis of the T-virus into a human host-- aside from himself, but to a uniquely different end. Jill's body had succeeded where years of his staged attempts had failed, and had succeeded in direct relation to the ongoing counter-measuring that the B.S.A.A. was attempting. If Jill had died in the Arklay Mountains she would have been a piece of data. If she had turned her back on his work she might be just another human living a cheap, meaningless existence. She hadn't done either of those things, however. She had persevered and in persevering, become a perfect, singular specimen of the very something that she was fighting against. A new step on the chain of evolution. And she could thank her morals.

Life was fantastic. Complex. Completely serving of it's own ends-- which was why Wesker had allied with that process. All he was doing was taking the chaos theory of natural evolution and life and speeding it up. Fighting against him was, ultimately, useless.

Proving that fact was that he was here. Alive. With Jill. And with each passing moment she was opening his bonds. She had no power in the equation. She never had.

When the door blew inward, Wesker closed his eyes. Without the hum and prick of electricity it was going to be hard to clear the fog back; Jill's footsteps had been an abberation in the the pattern. The drugs were still in his system. He breathed quietly and felt the loosing pressure of the cuffs; Jill was, after all, commendably intelligent when she wasn't being led around by her internal moral compass-- the locks were pried open but the cuffs themselves left closed, light against his skin. The soldiers-- and they were, he could tell by the commanding beat of their feet-- would have noticed. They were paid to notice danger. Wesker was quiet and still, just another experiment; it was easy enough. He'd started to drift into memories of another facility, always the same shuffle of feet what Bill must have heard as Umbrella came, dark against sterile white halls, for his work...

Done.

The work, no. The work was never done.

One man, close enough that the heat of his body was there, and Wesker's arms rose. The cuffs fell back with the soft clack of leather and metal hinges. The scream of his shoulders-- stiff from lack of movement, stiff from fighting his bonds, stiff from death-- was louder than the sound of those cufffs. But over the hum of machinery the only sound was the sharp snap of the soldier's neck breaking.

It was good that Jill hit the floor. The first man slumped in a puddle next to her, his gun loud on the tiles when it fell from lifeless fingers, as Wesker exploded up and sent the table careening back over her and her dead friend and into shelves that rained fragile glass samples. Two more men, guns forward, rounded a bank of machines and froze with the sudden cacophony of noise and motion. Wesker's body was nothing but a red haze of pain but it made him feel alive in a way he hadn't felt since Africa. Skin that had ripped with the exiting tug of tape and IV needles bled, dripped across the floor, was lost in the deluge. He stumbled as his body failed to respond perfectly to his command and the report of a bullet near his head was deafening but he was already moving on, up, wrapping fingers around the metal warmed by the spark of gunpowder and death denied. The gun was plied against conventional expectations and broke teeth and cartilage as it was smashed into the face of its owner. The second man was turning in response to the spray of blood but he was already too late. Wesker's foot forced his knee backward at an angle that nature never intended. The scream never left his throat as enough force was applied from a hand to completely cave in his larynx. Less than seven seconds. One dead, two more struggling silently toward that blackness at Wesker's feet.

He could hear others, coming.

He turned back to tell Jill to stay-- he would protect his investment, his work, the only sample he had left-- but lost his balance. A nearby piece of equipment saved him from collapsing and Wesker hauled a heavy breath against the sudden vertigo.

would that make them zombie deerz? ...or Uroboros deerz?

Jill had been half-crabwalking her way across the tile with her free hand, but she had the sense to go completely flat when she caught the blur of Wesker's movement, a reflex that saved her a broken nose, at the very least, as the table all but skimmed over her head.

An instant later she was already moving, instinct and habit mixing with the fact that she wasn't content to just cower in a corner and let Wesker do anything for her, or even vaguely in her favor; she rolled onto her side, up into a crouch, and pulled the AK-47 from the dead man's fingers. She preferred small models, preferably SMGs when possible, but she could use an assault rifle all the same. She checked the magazine, slipped the strap over her head to hang the weapon across her body, looked up--

--and the other men were already on the floor, judging by the sounds -- or lack thereof, rather. Jill only sent Wesker a flat glance as he wavered, her hands searching the corpse's belt and pockets; all that turned up were a box of cigarettes, an extra clip, and a radio, the last two of which she took and shoved into her own pockets as she stood.

The good news was that she was -- they were? -- situated in an advantageous position, all things considered: the heavy counters provided decent cover and a clear shot at the door, so she -- they -- could potentially hold the position, at least until the ranks thinned enough to move into the hall.

Setting her elbows on the countertop, the assault rifle primed and ready in her hands and aiming for the entrance, Jill sent Wesker another glance, this one not making it all the way over.

"Give me a heads-up if you start to pass out," she said flatly. Only, of course, so she would know if she needed to shift strategy.

uroboros deerz. the perfect deerz.

His laugh to her assertion was nearly silent, and without any humor at all. Wesker closed his eyes for a moment and listened to the men coming on, the sharp cock of Jill's new gun, the skirl of blood against his ears. The fog made the black behind his eyes a miasma and for a moment Wesker found himself fighting nausea. Such a human, fragile response, angered him-- but it also made him finally take stock of himself, or at least as much as his present state would allow.

He was not a quick as he had been. Those men should have been dead before they could pull a trigger. His arm... was still bleeding. Sluggishly, but there was no denying the soft patter of blood on the floor beneath the crook of his elbow. What had they done to him? That they had saved him was inconsequential and Wesker refused to believe that he couldn't have found a way out of the crash himself. That he remembered nothing of it-- that made no difference. The test they'd run, he wanted to know. What they'd taken out, what they'd put in.

First thing was first. The pings of bullets off of metal cabinetry drew attention and begged to be quieted so that he could think. Red handprints were left on cream plastic when Wesker stood. He breathed. "If you try to shoot me in the back after all this," he said as he took a step forward over one of the dead men, "I will be very displeased."

.....I'm picturing Bambi with Wesker!eyes

A brief round of her bullets answered the new assault, taking down two more soldiers in a more conventional mean than that which Wesker had used. In the pause after, Jill exhaled sharply through her nose -- not quite a snort, but enough to be dismissive. It was just as humorless as Wesker's laugh. "Never even crossed my mind." The deadpan remark was a quiet one, but she didn't care whether he heard it or not.

It's not like you won't do the same, first chance you get. Only he wouldn't be so literal.

"We're sitting targets here," she went on, eyes fixed on the door. "We need to clear this group and move, ASAP." Before they became organized, before more showed up and overwhelmed them with sheer numbers alone. She wasn't telling Wesker anything he didn't already know, she figured, but he obviously wasn't at one hundred percent, which meant this wasn't going to be as simple as if he were.

Memories of the slaughtered personnel at Spencer's estate flashed briefly across her mind, and for an instant Jill wondered if it wasn't better to have him powered down some, circumstances aside.

More footsteps drew closer, louder, and another two men rounded the corner. Jill pulled the trigger half a second before they stepped into view, peppering one in a cloud of crimson that immediately put him down. His partner leapt back, but not before taking a couple shots in the shoulder with a cry.

Ultimately, people were still people in Jill's eyes. Even the lowest, most despicable criminal was still human, a man or woman with a life that could be ended as quickly and easily as any other. Bad decisions made them susceptible to the law, and the law made them susceptible to neutralization when push came to shove: for all the B.O.W.s Jill had destroyed and wiped out, she also had her share of human deaths on her hands -- willing or otherwise -- and one thing she'd quickly learned was that it wasn't wasy, never would be for her, even if reflex had made her lethal trigger finger faster.

The things she'd been made to do in Africa had left more than their share of scars, but in the end that experience hadn't tilted her already solid morals one way or the other. After Chris and Sheva had freed her and Josh had found her, Jill hadn't hesitated in raising a hand against the Majini mobs. It was the basic, simple, founding rule of the jungle: kill or be killed.

Now was no different. An enemy trying to kill her was just that. Necessary evils, as any soldier or person in law enforcement could testify -- but considering who she'd just set loose on the world, it seemed today was all about crossing boundaries.

Jill didn't like taking the lives of these men she didn't know -- but she wouldn't hesitate to do it, either.

Suddenly there was a burst of blind fire from the right side of the doorway and she ducked, bullets chipping at countertops around her and glass behind her. Without pausing, she leaned around the counter's side, staying low, and quickly took aim at the space of plaster between her and the gunman, and fired her own small burst. Bullets tore through the wall like it was paper; the blind fire ceased.

Edited at 2012-04-03 07:27 pm (UTC)

the hunted hunting the hunters

Death was necessary. It was a means of culling the strong from the weak-- on any battlefield. Economics. Politics. War. Genetics. Being born gave no one inalienable rights to survive; Wesker couldn't understand how those people who fought for human rights could be so blind to the larger picture: overpopulation and limited resources on an ever-widening scale of disparity until the only option left-- death-- was no option at all. In the end the strong would still inherent the world... but the world would have nothing left and then, extinction. It was a paradigm that was not only viable but impossible to subvert on humanity's current course. With humanity's current cause.

Fools. None of them with the ability to look past their own small scope. Wesker watched Jill for a moment, watched her react. It was all she and the rest of them were. Reactionaries to a blind cause.

His lips pulled into a sneer. He had given her perfection and she had fought it tooth and nail. He had allowed her access to his new world and she had shed it as soon as she was able. "Listen to you," he murmured to himself, putting a shoulder to a shelving unit as the spray of bullets renewed, "and here I remember the days when you needed a man to save you."

Not that he wasn't doing that right now.

Wesker didn't wait for her response-- he dodged out from behind cover, away from Jill's line of fire... he didn't need to give her any easy excuses, after all. His footing wasn't as precise as it could have been but the adrenaline was clearing his head for the moment; he'd have to know the drugs they'd put in him to know if his raised metabolism would burn them away as well as the symptoms. Considering that he still felt off-balance, he would bet that it was unfortunately not going to be the case.

Coming up behind a man resulted in a dislocated shoulder and a scream that was cut off as Wesker turned his temporary shield into a round of bullets. He threw the man's dead weight into his neighbor and then moved in to crush his throat with a heel as he hit the ground. The man gasped and choked but Wesker was already turning away to the next fight. Jill might have only killed to avoid being killed, but Wesker thought it simply more prudent to end the threat entirely. He left no one breathing in his wake. The soldier that Jill had wounded was taken off guard, his head cracked loudly against a wall.

Wesker was gauging his strength.

The only reaction of Jill's was a slight narrowing of her eyes, her expression darkening slightly -- but she didn't look over, didn't try to respond, only moved to her feet again to resume her place behind the counter. In a matter of a few chaotic seconds, the lab had been considerably decimated: glass, wood, and tools littered the overturned tables and things, machinery had been caught in the crossfire and now stood sparking. A small fire had caught near one of them, slowly feeding off a curtain quarantining some small area in the back.

While Wesker went at it, she didn't fire; she wouldn't have minded hitting him, accidentally or no, but it was a reason to save bullets, for one, and considering how fast he still was, there didn't need to be anymore tension between them than was necessary.

Of course, any and all existing tension was solely on her part.

As the enemy number declined -- all except one -- Jill moved quickly but carefully, following but making sure to stay near potential cover if something went down. Nothing did, of course; any hopes that Zhizn had managed to screw up something permanent in Wesker's biochemistry were swiftly fading. Even if he wasn't the exact blur that he had been in the past, he was still plenty fast enough, well beyond anything Jill could handle by herself, once it came down to it.

Once. Not if.

When she and Wesker seemed to be the only two still breathing in the immediate proximity, she nonetheless put her back to the wall beside the door, scanning the hall before moving into it. Crimson stains and dark corpses now lined the otherwise pristine floors and walls, things she took in with the lightest of frowns. The next glance she sent Wesker was a dark one, but then again, if she ever managed to look at him and not let some emotion show...

...well. She'd either be dead or not herself.

Suddenly, belatedly -- although in an instant of hindsight, it couldn't have been more than five minutes since she first entered the lab -- an alarm sounded, loud and shrill enough to make her wince briefly even as her head immediately twitched towards the source, tension again reflexively rippling through her shoulders and back before she relaxed some.

"I only saw one way out of the labs," she called over the wail, reluctantly taking a few steps closer to make sure she was heard. "I guess you don't--"

Without warning, Jill was suddenly hauled backwards, meeting the solid wall at her back with a nearly blinding collision between it and her skull. She hit the floor long before the sounds or sights registered, and even then she wasn't sure what had happened -- she was, for a crucial couple seconds, effectively stunned, for some reason unable to put thoughts and the immediate present together. Memory had to make up for it, equating the thundering rumble, the flash of red and white, the wave of heat over her skin with an explosion -- from back down the hall, judging from the way she'd been thrown, and the same backup thought that told her that much also abruptly remembered the laboratory: shot to hell and back, maybe something combustible had caught?

She would have cursed, but that would have made her head vibrate, and it already hurt enough as it was -- the alarm was making sure of that. Up ahead, what had been the wall to that one laboratory was -- mostly gone, electric wires hanging loose and sparking from between the ragged, singed plaster. The labs beside it and across from it had taken damage, doors, windows, and parts of their walls blown clean off. Fortunately, Jill didn't see any flames besides those still flickering from the main lab -- no immediate chain reaction, at least.

How would he possibly know the way out?

It was the question he hadn't asked her earlier, deigning not to answer such an idiotic inquiry at all. Even he, for all his intellect, skill and power, was not psychic.

It seemed that he was never going to get the chance to remind Jill that he was not the absolute monster that she very obviously gave him the credit of being; the world spun out from under his feet and pain flared outward from his shoulder and back, hot and bright enough, that for a moment his consciousness flagged entirely and the world slipped into rocking tones of grey and black. A high-pitched whine trilled in his ears.

Despite his intent to get a pair of pants from one of the downed soldiers, he'd followed Jill into the hallway to make the obvious comment that the alarm meant that the main doors would be locked down. In retrospect he'd think that following her had saved something of his life-- as annoyingly fragile as it seemed to be at the moment-- but of course she deserved no credit for the decision he made. After all, she had been helping to blow the fragile and combustible items in the lab to hell and back.

Wesker blinked into the sliding haze of his vision and found floor under his cheek. His fingers. Smoke gathered in his lungs and was expelled with thick coughs that hurt enough to threaten another blackout. Sparks snapped near his face and the ozone sizzle of the live electricity made him move. His back was a blaze of pain as he climbed the nearest wall to get him to his feet. His back, the back of his thighs. He was snarling without realizing it, teeth locked and bared.

Something seeping down his back. Touching was... unadvised after the first shock of pain under fingertips that came away red. Wesker leaned against the wall. Shouts echoed down the hallway.

Jill shook her ringing head, blinked the dizziness from her eyes, and looked down. No burns that she could see, although the skin on her face and arms felt raw; hot air, it seemed, was all she'd caught, although there was a shallow cut below her left wrist, enough to barely bleed through her two sleeves.

She looked up next, past bodies and debris -- to Wesker, who was... standing.

Damn.

Moving unsteadily to her feet, Jill readied the assault rifle in her hands again as she moved up the hall, towards him, forcing away the lingering shakiness in her limbs. She, too, heard the voices, and faced their direction with only that same frown from before. How much worse could it get?

"You look like shit," she commented apathetically. It wasn't any of her concern whether he did, either -- if he ended up needing support, he could give it to himself for all she cared. She was about to ask him how well he could still move, if at all, but another high sound cut her off -- and made her heart skip.

Jill had already placed the source by the time it showed itself a second later: through the remains of one of the nearby rooms, a shambling movement scurried quickly across the ceiling and into the hall. A Licker, as big around as Jill was, at least, and packing much more muscle on its misshapen limbs, paused and sniffed the thick air. She didn't move, but a second followed the first down on the floor, turning an equally blind head in her and Wesker's direction.

It had gotten worse.

Another cry further back in the room, and she could only imagine how many there were total -- but rather than guessing, she took a slow step backward, gun ready but still silent--

--right as the shouts grew louder, and the first of the approaching group rounded the corner nearest the Lickers.

The B.O.W.s wasted no time: moving on sound, no less, the one on the floor instantly threw itself at the men in a sailing leap, catching two and knocking them to the floor. Panicked screams, random gunfire that missed its target or hit comrades -- the second Licker joined, and all Hell broke loose at the head of the hall.

Jill shot Wesker a look even as she backstepped into the nearest intact doorway -- after a quick glance showed her a large supply closet, a walk-in freezer at the other end -- in case the slaughtering yards away wasn't an effective enough distraction. She didn't ask if he had any better ideas, but she was open to suggestions, which was what the look was for.

"Death will have that effect on a person," Wesker murmured without emotion. It wasn't to remind her that he'd died-- but that he was still standing after the fact. He leaned on the wall with one hand, taking in the pain. It was lingering, which was unusual. His unbraced arm was lifted... the tear in the skin from the IV was red but closed.

Small favors.

Wesker had opened his mouth to speak when he heard the same thing that Jill did-- and knew as instantly as she did what was causing it. He watched the first Licker crawl out of the sparking debris, and then the second. He didn't have the same reaction Jill would; the Lickers were considerable, deadly, but they still posed little threat to him the way he was now. Ah, well. Not in peak condition. Perhaps caution, then.

He watched the slaughter for a moment after Jill had backed into a doorway behind them. They really were outstanding predators, perhaps one of his favorite outcomes. Wesker turned and, dropping his hand from the wall, followed her-- one eye still on the fight down the hall. "If they are trying to repeat Umbrella's successes-- with whatever knowledge they've gotten from my body," there had been no marking of time, who knew how long they'd had with the HCF proteins that had helped the virus blend to his DNA, "then we might have a problem."

Jill was scanning the shelves inside the small room, but as expected, there was nothing immediately useful. Laboratory supplies, some chemicals, the latter of which seemed to be primarily for medical care. It wasn't like she'd been hoping for an armory, but all the same, there was a brief flash of disappointment.

"We don't know the extent of their research, or how much they might have bought off the black market," Jill replied without looking back at him. "They haven't been tied to any kind of B.O.W. that we haven't already seen, but..." That didn't mean they couldn't be packing something considerably more dangerous than Lickers, Hunters, and the average zombie. Especially if they'd had access to Wesker all this time.

The unmistakable sounds of claws on tile, the wet tearing of flesh, and cries -- both Licker and human -- continued outside, but she did her best to ignore them, unless they drew any closer. These people had known the kinds of dangers they were dealing with, had been fine with unleashing those same monsters on innocent people; if that backfired on them, it wasn't Jill's responsibility to pull them out of it. Especially not when they'd return any help with a bullet to her head, anyway.

"These are the first B.O.W.s I've seen in this compound," she went on, glancing at Wesker again -- couldn't he find some freaking pants already? -- with a serious look. "So I don't know what to expect. For now, it looks like we'll have no choice but to push through to the head of the hall -- and hope we can get through any lock-down mechanisms that have been triggered." They had no alternate route that she knew of, no explosives, and if the Licker population was too large to stand around and mow down, they wouldn't have time to search the soldiers' remains for any keys or whatnot. Neither could they just stand around and hope more soldiers would enter, especially if they were more aware of the chaos that had broken out down here.

"I might be able to hack through it," she considered after a moment, "but that would take time, and we'd still have enemies in front and behind us." Her eyes narrowed slightly. "Either way, how well can you move, and how many do you think you can handle at once? Lickers and soldiers."

Please, Jill, point him to the nearest wardrobe. Or perhaps he should try to venture back into the room that she helped destroy to ply some trousers from a burned shell of a corpse?

"Bullets have to be taken into consideration," Wesker said, standing at the door's edge and watching the quickly downspiraling fight instead of paying attention to Jill's condescending looks. "I may be able to move past them as I am, but you cannot. Hacking a door will leave you a still target." Which he wouldn't defend any more actively than he had to in order to survive alongside her. "The Lickers will pose... less of a challenge." They were smart but he knew them well enough. They went for blood, for body heat. Easily distracted.

Wesker finally turned to look at his brunette companion. His back was still a bloody mess but the blood already looked old, dark, congealing. Underneath raw skin was forming. His balance was off, grew worse as he stood and gave his sympathetic nervous system time to rev down, but it was combatable. "I can handle a considerable amount of obstacles right now.

Anything short of a Tyrant, I suppose."

His thin lips curled into a sneer of a laugh that wasn't voiced.

Considering that, Jill was silent for a couple tense beats. Wesker gave her a bit more flexibility than she would have had with anyone else, there was no denying that -- but the complete lack of trust between them was enough to set back that advantage.

Still, options were short and time wasn't on her side.

"If you go first, I can follow," she offered finally, heavily. "Assuming any survivors notice, you should be the primary threat and draw most of the fire. If you can deal with it like you say, you should be able to neutralize anyone left."

A pause as she listened to the cries and sounds outside. "Lickers are easier to work around. I'll need ten seconds, fifteen max to get through, unless Zhizn has thrown a technological wrench into the system." Judging by the security at the front entrance, Jill doubted it.

She regarded Wesker again, now less anger about the look and more controlled consideration as the situation continued to weigh down on her, reorganizing her priorities. Distrust was written in every area of her expression and body language, but there was an inner competition of judgment going on, regardless.

"...I'm not expecting you to watch my back," she told him stiffly. "I won't ask, and I wouldn't trust you, anyway. But I'll need those ten seconds, as well as you're able. We both will."

It was the closest she'd come to asking him for anything -- and the reminder that his way out was potentially riding on her as well was no accident on her part.

Jill's body language was regarded and immediately forgotten: nothing less than what he would have expected of her and he had more pressing matters to attend to than her paranoia. That Jill Valentine didn't trust him rated here nor there on his list of things to give a shit about.

We both will.

It was that press of her assumed dominance of the situation that finally turned Wesker fully toward his ex and once again temporary companion. Through the swim of his vision his body straightened at the same time he seemed to leer toward her without doing anything at all-- but his full height was intimidating, his body bare but for the smears of blood and death. His focus was her for that moment-- only her.

"We both need nothing," he said quietly. "You need me to get out of this place-- if I snapped your neck right here, Jill, do you think I wouldn't find my way free? Do you honestly think that these idiots could subdue me?" Wesker's smile was a menacing promise of destruction.

Jill caught and translated his poise as easily as he did hers -- that meant-to-be-intimidating, alpha male bullshit that she was content to let roll off her shoulders like water. It was nothing new, even if there was simply more power to back it up in Wesker's case.

She didn't back away, didn't blink, but there was that slight narrowing of her eyes again, and some of her more subtle muscles shifted just so, more a poise of return challenge than any fight-or-flight response.

"What I think," she said slowly, pronouncing each word as clearly as if she were dealing with either a child or a particularly irksome upstart of a subordinate, "is that you could have killed me back in the lab as easily as you killed the others. You didn't."

Her hand gripped her hip, loosened, and then she drummed her fingers once. "I know you like to think you're invincible, but a year and a half's a long time for them to do things to you," she pointed out calmly. "You don't know what they did, exactly how it's affected you, or how long it'll last. You can obviously take damage, but you admitted yourself that you're not up to par."

Jill held his eyes, subduing the growing sense of disgust that came with looking at his face. "Those are a lot of risks to take, Wesker, and I'm sure you're cocky enough to think you can plow your way out of here, no problem. But that doesn't change the fact--" Her eyes hardened, a familiar but uncharacteristic blankness to them. "--that I'm still standing."

Whether it was because he thought he could use her to better his chances, or because he was thinking ahead to after he got out -- either way, he hadn't killed her immediately. That meant, for the moment, that he wanted her alive; Jill wouldn't swear by the notion, not when he could replicate her valuable genes as easily as he could work alongside her, but the odds were already stacked against her enough for her to bank on the chance.

"We're wasting time," she went on in the same stiff tone, "so either get over your superiority complex and work with me here, or we can part ways now."

Of course, if Wesker opted for the latter option, that wouldn't bode well for her, as she sincerely doubted he'd let her walk out of this room.

Warring emotions in the wake of her little speech saved Jill from violence. His initial instinct to hurt her was overrun by curiousity first-- her physical response made lips peel back from teeth in the start of a smile-- and then shock.

A year and a half?

The new knowledge quieted him, almost withdrew his thoughts from the conversation entirely. Jill went on but Wesker was only listening with a half an ear. Could he have possibly been in some suspended state of consciousness for that long? It seemed unlikely. Which meant that Jill was lying or there was an another answer. Unfortunately, Jill was more than likely to use the truth both as shield and weapon than resort to lies, even in front of him. Annoying. Which left the obvious fact-- his body had been more or less shut-down for an extended amount of time in order to heal. Or be healed. The longer the time the longer the healing...

Death seemed a probable conclusion. Not an enjoyable one, but the most likely out of a limited pool.

"While I give you credit for your annoying tenacity," Wesker murmured, pinching the bridge of his nose and trying to gather his focus and his thoughts, "I doubt you'd make it past the first corner without my help." His jaw jumped as he clenched his teeth. "But perhaps you're right about some things."

She was, after all, still standing.

He started to turn-- to lead the charge, so to speak-- but stopped with his hand on the doorframe. His eyes stayed forward to red-splashed tiles but he spoke back to her. "Your body still reacts so quickly, Jill. A year and a half, you said?"

And then he was moving.

That Wesker was being cooperative, that she'd gotten him to at least lower his hackles -- Jill didn't take either as any sort of personal victory. It was just one more challenge she'd passed for the moment, and with that done it was the next issue on the list.

Business, survival, not personal -- whatever she called it, it was the same until terrorists and B.O.W.s weren't breathing down her neck.

At his final remark, though, Jill's next step came up short and she half-jerked to a stop. Whatever vague, temporary shadow of something like tolerance that the situation had been beginning to build up in her mind immediately pitched and nearly shattered -- and all it took were those few simple, seemingly unassuming words.

Her lips parted slightly, startled, and she had to refrain from spitting any of the venom building up on her tongue.

Not now. Not now.

Not ever, if she could help it, but--

No. No time to consider it now. It took her only a second to snap out of it, and by then Wesker had moved on. Readjusting her AK, Jill moved to the wall beside the door, listened, leaned around -- and then followed, moving as quickly and quietly as possible, staying low while keeping her balance and then some. Her goal was the door; unless Wesker was overwhelmed or something slipped past him, she was determined not to give herself away before then.

He heard the shuffle-halt of her steps and smiled as he walked away. So she had noticed it, too.

The Lickers didn't generally eat much of their prey-- their stomachs were relatively small compared to their capacity for violence. They were all thought, in a perfected way. It was why they'd had to use humans; it was much harder to build an animal that sought violence for violence's sake. The apes, the dogs, they had all been driven by baser instincts, chemicals to heighten aggression via territorial and alpha urges. Not the Lickers. The Lickers sought violence. It was rather beautiful poetic though Wesker was sure that none of his underlings in the S.T.A.R.S. had appreciated the irony of the human mind.

By the time he'd reached the far corner of the hallway the men-- what was left of them-- had been shredded. His bare feet squelched over the blood on the tiled floor and the Lickers, milling now, tongues flicking through cooling red puddles, hissed and raised their blind heads.

Wesker smiled. He'd get no enjoyment out of killing them, but he was happy enough to destroy proof of the work that had been stolen from him.

The first Licker sprang.

New blood was added to the walls and the high squeals of death echoed sharply. Wesker wasn't without injury; the creatures were just too perfected as weapons and he not as balanced as he could have been. But the eventual outcome of the fight was clear from the beginning. The scales would not tip out of Wesker's favor.

He relished the fight. The movement. The clarity.

Jill hung back as far and long as she was able, but once the second round of bloodshed started, she picked up her pace. She watched the skirmish in the corner of her eye, her attention divided between Wesker and his opponents, any Lickers that hadn't yet engaged him, and the surrounding doorways -- and tried her best to ignore Wesker's movements, the ease with which he made them, even if he wasn't at his best. Just another reminder of what she'd done to save her own skin.

As she went, she used every loud noise she could -- the sounds of strikes landing, Lickers shrieking, blood splattering, sinewy flesh smacking against the tile -- to mask her footsteps, but there was relatively little need. Lickers weren't the smartest B.O.W. around, and as long as there was life to destroy and sounds to lead them to it, that would be their focus. Unless Jill fired off a round or landed on top of one of them, she was probably safe.

She sped up. At first, she tried to avoid any blood on the floor, not wanting to track the smell with her -- but it was soon impossible. The Lickers had made a literal bloodbath of the soldiers, and Wesker's progress certainly wasn't helping. So she kept going, having to pause here and there as a Licker scrambled across her path, or step around some mutilated mound of flesh or bone or whatever was left of the terrorists; at one point she slipped sharply on a particularly thick puddle of scarlet, but recovered her balance in a fraction of a second and kept going. As focused as she was, the motion was all but unconscious and she didn't even loosen her grip on her gun.

At the door, Jill immediately located the security panel and crouched beside it, letting her gun hang at her side and fishing in her hip pack for the screwdriver. As predicted, the entryway was locked down tight, bars twice the size of her bicep holding the door in place on top of whatever internal locks it had. Another glance over her shoulder, and then she set to work -- she hadn't mentioned that she needed another ten seconds max to get the plate off before she could actually hack the system, but it was a moot point now. Wesker was holding up his end of the process.

She set the metal cover aside silently but swiftly, shifting in place as she reached into the vaguely organized mess of wires. Like she'd predicted, it was nothing terribly complicated -- more or less a replica of the one she'd gotten through at the entrance, so hopefully the whole compound would be wired on the same basic set-up. It would definitely make her life easier.

[2/2] I like fight scenes, okay ;_;

Nine seconds, it turned out, was all she needed. There was a low, confirming beep from the panel -- making her look towards the Lickers again, just in case, but nothing was headed her way -- and the door hummed, clicked, and vibrated as the locks began to slide back. Standing, Jill back-stepped quickly towards the nearest obliterated doorway, wanting a direction to move in if any Lickers caught on.

Okay. Now we hope there's not a whole damn army waiting on the other side. She glanced over her shoulder, habitually checking the room she'd backed partway into for any surprises -- and not a second too soon.

The movement was quick, but not so much that she couldn't react by turning around -- but that was all she could do, aside from giving a startled cry, and in the next instant she hit the stained tile hard beneath the weight on top of her. The smell of blood and bile and other fluids hit her even harder, nearly overwhelming at this level, but her focus was on the Licker pinning her down and the way it was already rearing back, claws raised to tear her apart--

Again, purely on reflex, Jill moved -- she still had the screwdriver in her left hand, and she quickly plunged it as hard and deep as she could manage into that exposed heart beating on the Licker's chest. It screamed, bent further back, flailed, and hot blood spurted onto the front of her coat -- but Jill kept digging, kept wrenching, until there was a telling pop of something beneath the screwdriver's head. The Licker reeled, giving her just enough room, and Jill jerked a leg up between them in a motion of above average flexibility, twisting her hips sharply to clip the underside of the B.O.W.'s chin with a hard heel. It was enough, and the Licker flopped off of her with a dying hiss, its heart still leaking blood beneath it.

It all happened in less than six seconds, but her adrenaline would never know it. Jill stood, panting slightly -- the door was almost unlocked. She shot a look behind her, figuring her scuffle had already given her away to any Lickers that might still be living.

"Wesker!"

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