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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.

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