Rebecca Chambers rode her mountain bike through the dark, winding streets of the Cider district, the late summer moon swelling in the warm, clear night sky overhead. Although it was relatively early, the suburban streets were deserted, the citywide curfew still in effect; no one under eighteen was supposed to be out after dusk until the murderers were caught and put safely behind bars. It had been a tense and quiet summer in Raccoon City, at least on the surface....
She glided past silent houses, the faint glow of television sets spilling out across well-kept lawns, the distant drone of crickets and an occasional barking dog the only sounds in the air that whipped past her. The uneasy citizens of Raccoon dwelled behind those locked doors, waiting for the announcement that the killers had been apprehended and that their city was safe.
If they only knew....
For just a moment, Rebecca envied them their ignorance. She'd come to the rather disheartening conclusion in the last couple of weeks that knowing the truth wasn't all it was cracked up to be -- particularly when no one believed it.
It had been a long, merciless thirteen days since the nightmare at the Spencer estate. The surviving S.T.A.R.S. had escaped treachery and death just to run up against a massive brick wall of scornful disbelief when they'd tried to tell their tale. Jill, Chris, Barry, and herself had been labeled drug addicts and worse in the local papers, undoubtedly at Umbrella's urging -- and after their suspension, even the RPD had refused to believe them. Now, with Umbrella taking over the investigation of the fire, undoubtedly getting rid of the last of the evidence...it was as if everywhere the S.T.A.R.S. turned, Umbrella had been there first, greasing palms and covering tracks, making it impossible to get anyone to listen to their story.
Not that it would have been that simple anyway. One of the biggest, most respectable med research and pharmaceutical companies in the world -- not to mention the primary source of income in Raccoon -- conducting bio-weapons research in a secret lab, creating experimental monsters -- if I didn't know better, I'd probably think I was crazy, too.
At least the absolute worst was over. With the lab destroyed, the attacks on Raccoon had stopped -- and though the people responsible hadn't been held accountable yet, she figured it was only a matter of time. Umbrella was experimenting with dangerous stuff, and wouldn't be able to hide it from a S.T.A.R.S. investigation. She and the others just had to watch their backs until the home office sent backup.
Speaking of -- ouch...
The pancake holster was poking into her ribcage. Rebecca adjusted it through the thin cotton of her shirt, hoping that after tonight she wouldn't have to carry the weapon anymore -- a snubnosed .38 revolver from Barry's collection. She couldn't speak for the others, but she hadn't had a decent night's sleep since they'd escaped the Spencer estate, and walking around armed all of the time wasn't her idea of safe.
Sighing inwardly, she took a left on Foster and pedaled through the shadows toward Barry's house, reminding herself that he'd probably called the meeting because he'd heard from the home office with orders. He would only say that there had been a "development" and to show up ASAP -- and though she was trying not to let her imagination run away with her, she couldn't help the steady pulse of excitement that had knotted her stomach since he'd called.
Maybe they'll fly us to New York to brief the investigation team, or even to Europe for when they storm Umbrella's headquarters....
Wherever they were sent, it had to be better than staying in Raccoon. The strain of looking over their shoulders had been getting to all of them. Chris seemed to think that Umbrella was waiting until the public eye was off the S.T.A.R.S. before making their move, though it was only a theory -- and not exactly the most reassuring thought to fall asleep by. Chickenheart Vickers had skipped out of town after only two days, unable to take the pressure -- and although Jill, Chris, and Barry had condemned Brad's cowardice, Rebecca was starting to wonder if maybe the Alpha pilot didn't have the right idea. It wasn't that she wanted Umbrella to walk, there was no question that their experiments were morally reprehensible and certainly illegal -- but until the S.T.A.R.S. sent help, staying in Raccoon City was dangerous.
Not after tonight; just a little bit longer, and this will all be over. No more guns, no more locked doors -- no more worrying about what Umbrella will do to us for knowing the truth.
When they'd first made the report, their superiors in New York had told them to stay put. Assistant Director Kurtz himself had promised to do some investigating and get back to them -- but it had been eleven days, and still no word. She had no intention of running away as Brad had done, but she'd come to hate the feeling of that holster, the weight of the deadly steel against her side every waking moment of every day. She was supposed to be a chemist, for chrissake....
And once the reinforcements come, maybe they'll move me to one of the labs, let me study the virus. Technically I'm still a Bravo; there's no way they'd want me on the front lines....
There was no question that it would be the best use of her talents. The others were experienced soldiers, Rebecca had only been with the S.T.A.R.S. for weeks. Her first mission had been the one to Raccoon Forest that had wiped out over half the team and clued the rest of them in to Umbrella's secret. Since then, she'd spent a lot of time brushing up on the molecular architecture of viruses, trying to determine the T-Virus replication strategy. The S.T.A.R.S. didn't need field medics right now, they needed scientists...and if she'd learned anything from the Spencer estate disaster, it was that she belonged in a lab. She'd held her own that night, but she also knew that working with the T-Virus was the greatest contribution she could make toward stopping Umbrella.
And you may as well face it, her mind whispered, you're fascinated by it. The chance to study an unclassified emerging mutagen, to find out what makes it tick -- that's what makes you tick.
Yeah, well, there was no shame in enjoying her work. She'd joined the S.T.A.R.S. in hopes of just such an opportunity -- and with any luck, after tonight's meeting she would be packing a bag and getting the hell out of Raccoon City, heading into a new phase of her life as a S.T.A.R.S. biochemist.
She pulled to a stop at the end of the block in front of a huge, two-story remodeled Victorian painted a pale yellow, checking all around for anything suspicious before getting off her bike. The Burtons lived next to a sprawling suburban park, heavy with trees. Even a few weeks ago, she might have wandered through the silent park, enjoying the balmy summer night, looking at the stars; now it was just one more dark place for someone to hide. Shivering slightly in spite of the warm, humid air, she hurried up the front walk.
Dragging her bike onto the porch, she wiped sweat from the back of her neck and checked her watch. She'd made excellent time, only twenty minutes since Barry's call. Rebecca leaned the bicycle against the railing, praying that he had good news.
Before she could knock, Barry opened the door, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, his heavily muscled body filling the door's frame. Barry lifted weights. With a vengeance.
He smiled and stood back to let her inside, taking a quick look out at the quiet street before following her into the front hall. His Colt Python was tucked into a hip holster, making him look like an overgrown cowboy.
"You see anybody?" he asked lightly.
She shook her head. "No. I took back streets, too."
Barry nodded, and though he was still smiling a little, she could see the haunted look in his eyes, the look he'd had ever since their narrow escape. She wished she could tell him that nobody blamed him, but knew it wouldn't make a difference; Barry still held himself responsible for a lot of what had happened at the estate that night. He looked as though he was losing weight, too, though she figured that had more to do with him missing his wife and kids; he'd sent them out of town immediately following the incident, terrified for their safety.
Just one more way that Umbrella has damaged our lives....
He led her through the spacious hallway past the stairs, the walls decorated with framed drawings in crayon that his daughters had made. The Burton house was rambling and spacious, filled with the scuffed and well-worn furnishings that epitomized family.
"Chris and Jill should be here any time. You want some coffee?"
He seemed tense, scruffing nervously at his short red beard.
"No thanks. Maybe some water...."
"Yeah, sure. Go ahead and introduce yourself, I'll be back in a minute." He hurried off to the kitchen before she could ask him if anything was wrong.
Introduce myself? What's going on?
She walked through the hall's arched opening into the cluttered, comfortable living room and stopped, a little startled to see a strange man sitting in one of the recliners. He stood up as she entered the room, smiling -- but she could see by the way his dark gaze narrowed slightly that he was sizing her up.
Even a few weeks ago, the careful scrutiny would have made her horribly self-conscious. She was the youngest S.T.A.R.S. member ever to be accepted for active duty, and knew that she looked it -- but if anything positive had come from the incident at the Umbrella lab, it was that she no longer cared much about things like social embarrassment. Facing down a house full of monsters tended to put things in perspective that way. Besides which, being stared at had gotten pretty routine since then.
She gazed back at him impassively, studying him in return. Jeans, a nice shirt, running shoes. He also wore a hip holster with a nine-millimeter Beretta, the S.T.A.R.S. standard-issue sidearm. He was tall, maybe a full foot over her five-foot three-inch frame, but slender, with a physique like a swimmer's. He was almost movie-star handsome, a high, weathered brow and finely chiseled features, short, dark hair and a piercing gaze that sparkled with intelligence.
"You must be Rebecca Chambers," he said. He had a British accent, his words clipped and somehow polished. "You're the biochemist, is that right?"
Rebecca nodded. "Working on it. And you are...?
He smiled wider, shaking his head. "Forgive my manners, please. I hadn't expected...that is, I..."
He stepped around Barry's low coffee table and extended his hand, flushing slightly. "I'm David Trapp, with the S.T.A.R.S. Exeter branch in Maine," he said.
Rebecca felt cool relief wash over her, the S.T.A.R.S. had sent help instead of calling, fine by her. She shook his hand, stifling a grin, knowing that her appearance had thrown him. Nobody expected an eighteen-year-old scientist, and while she'd gotten used to the surprised looks, she still took a kind of mischievous pleasure at catching people off guard.
"So, are you like the scout or something?" she asked.
Mr. Trapp frowned. "Sorry?"
"For the investigation -- are there other teams already here, or did you come to check things out first, the dirt on Umbrella..."
She trailed off as he shook his head slowly, almost sadly, his dark eyes glittering with an emotion she couldn't read.
It came out in his voice, heavy with frustrated anger -- and as the words sank in, Rebecca felt her knees go watery with a sudden anxious dread.
"I'm sorry to have to tell you this, Ms. Chambers. I have reason to believe that Umbrella has gotten to key members of the S.T.A.R.S., either by bribery or blackmail. There is no investigation -- and no one else is coming."
A look of confused terror passed through the girl's brown eyes and just as quickly was gone. She took a deep breath and blew it out.
"Are you sure? I mean, did Umbrella try to get to you, or...are you positive?
David shook his head. I'm not absolutely certain, no -- but I wouldn't be here if I wasn't...concerned about it."
It was a bit of an understatement, but David still wasn't past the shock of seeing how young she was, and felt an almost instinctive desire not to alarm her any further. Barry had mentioned that she was something of a child genius, but he hadn't really expected a child. The biochemist wore high tops and cut-off denim shorts rolled at the knee, topped by a shapeless black T-shirt.
Get past it; this child may be the only scientist we have left.
The thought rekindled the anger that had been burning in David's gut for the past few days. The story that had been unfolding since Barry's call wasn't a pretty one, filled with treachery and lies -- and the fact that the S.T.A.R.S., his S.T.A.R.S., were involved...
Barry walked into the room with a glass of water and Rebecca took it from him gratefully, swallowing half of it in one gulp.
Barry shot him a glance and then turned his attention to Rebecca. "He told you, huh?"
The girl nodded. "Do Jill and Chris know?"
"Not yet. That's why I called," Barry said. "Look, no point in going through this twice. We should wait for them to show up before we get into specifics."
"Agreed," David said. He generally found that first impressions were the most telling, and if they were going to be working together, he wanted to get a feel for the girl's character.
The three of them sat, and Barry started to tell Rebecca how he and David had met back in S.T.A.R.S. training when they were both much younger men. Barry told a good story, even if it was only to kill time. David listened with half an ear as Barry related an anecdote about their graduation night, involving a rather humorless drill sergeant and several rubber snakes. The girl was relaxing, even enjoying the story of their childish prank --
-- seventeen years ago. She would have been celebrating her first birthday.
Still, she had put her questions on hold at Barry's request, even though David knew she had to be anxious about what he'd told her. The ability to retrain one's focus so quickly was an admirable trait, one that he'd never fully mastered.
He'd been able to think of little else since his own call to the S.T.A.R.S. AD. David's devotion to the organization had made the apparent betrayal all the more bitter, like a bad taste in his mouth that wouldn't go away. The S.T.A.R.S. had been David's life for almost twenty years, had given him all the things he'd lacked growing up -- a sense of self-worth, a sense of purpose and integrity....
And just like that, the lives of dedicated men and women, my life and life's work simply tossed aside as if it meant nothing. How much did that cost? How much did Umbrella have to pay to buy the S.T.A.R.S.'s honor?
David shook the anger, focusing his attention on Rebecca. If all he'd learned was true, time was short and their resources were now severely limited. His motivations weren't as important right now as hers.
He could tell by the way she held herself that she wasn't the shy or submissive type, and she was obviously bright; her eyes fairly sparkled with it. From what Barry had told him, she'd acted professionally throughout the Spencer facility operation. Her file suggested that she was more than qualified to work with a chemical virus, assuming that she was as good as the reports said --
-- and assuming she has any desire to put her life in further danger.
That was going to be the sticking point. She hadn't been with the S.T.A.R.S. for very long, and knowing that they'd sold their people out probably wasn't going to overwhelm her with feelings of confidence for the job ahead. It would be just as easy for her to step out of the game now. For that matter, it would be the intelligent choice for all of them --
There was a knock at the door, presumably the other two Alphas. David's hand drifted down to the butt of his nine-millimeter as Barry went to answer. When he walked back in leading the S.T.A.R.S. team members, David relaxed, then stood up to be formally introduced.
"Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield -- this is Captain David Trapp, military strategist for the Maine S.T.A.R.S. Exeter branch."
Chris was the marksman, if David remembered correctly, and Jill something of a covert B&E specialist. Barry said that the pilot, Brad Vickers, had skipped town shortly after the Spencer incident. No great loss, from what he could gather, the man sounded distinctly unreliable.
He shook hands with both of them and they all sat down, Barry nodding toward him.
"David's an old comrade of mine. We worked together on the same team for about two years, right after boot camp. He showed up on my doorstep about an hour ago with news, and I didn't think it could wait. David?"
David cleared his throat, trying to focus on the facts. After a pause, he began at the begining.
"As you already know, six days ago, Barry placed several calls to various S.T.A.R.S. branches to see if any word had come from the home office about the tragedy that occurred here. I received one of those calls. It was the first I'd heard about it, and I've since found out that the New York office hasn't contacted anyone about your discovery. No warnings or memos. Nothing has been issued to the S.T.A.R.S. regarding the Umbrella Corporation."
Chris and Jill exchanged looks of concern.
"Maybe they're not done investigating," Chris said slowly.
David shook his head. "I spoke to the assistant director myself the day after Barry called. I didn't tell him about the contact, only that I'd heard rumor of a problem in Raccoon, and wanted to know if it had any merit...."
He looked at the assembled group and sighed inwardly, feeling like he'd already gone over it a thousand times.
Only in my mind, searching for another answer...and there isn't one.
"The AD wouldn't tell me anything outright," he continued, "and he told me that I should remain quiet about it until official word came down. What he would say was that there had been a helicopter crash in Raccoon City -- and what he implied was that the surviving S.T.A.R.S. were trying to lay blame on Umbrella, angry over some sort of funding dispute."
"But that's not true!" Jill said. "We were investigating the murders, and found -- "
"Yes, Barry told me," David interrupted. "You found that the murders were the result of a laboratory accident. The T-Virus that Umbrella was experimenting with was released somehow and it transformed the researchers into mad killers."
"That's exactly what happened," Chris said. "I know it sounds nuts, but we were there, we saw them."
David nodded. "I believe you. I have to admit, I was skeptical after speaking with Barry. As you say, it sounds 'nuts' -- but my call to New York and what's happened since has changed all that. I've known Barry for a long time, and I knew that he wouldn't be looking to place blame for such an unfortunate incident unless Umbrella was, in fact, responsible. He even told me about his own unwilling involvement in the attempted cover up."
"But if Tom Kurtz told you that there was no conspiracy..." Chris said.
David sighed. "Yes. We have to assume that either our own organization has been misled -- or that, like your Captain Wesker, members of the S.T.A.R.S. are now working for Umbrella."
There was a moment of shocked silence as they absorbed the information, and David could see anger and confusion play across their faces. He knew how they felt. It meant that the S.T.A.R.S. directors had either been manipulated by Umbrella or corrupted by them -- and either way, the survivors of the Raccoon team had been hung out to dry, left vulnerable to whatever Umbrella might do.
God, if only I could believe that it was all a mistake....
"Three days ago, I picked up a tail on my way in to work," he said softly. "I wasn't able to make them, but, I'm assuming that they're some of Umbrella's people and that my call to New York was responsible."
Have you tried to get hold of Palmieri?" Jill asked. David nodded. The S.T.A.R.S. national commander was the one man he knew was above taking bribes; Marco Palmieri had been with the S.T.A.R.S. since the very beginning. "I was informed by his secretary that he's leading a classified operation in the Middle East and won't be available for months -- and word has it that arrangements are being made for his retirement while he's away."
"You think Umbrella's behind it?" Chris asked.
Oavid shrugged. "Umbrella has made substantial donations to the S.T.A.R.S. over the years, which means they have the contacts. If they're trying to turn the S.T.A.R.S. away from investigating them, getting rid of Dr. Palmieri would be to their advantage."
David glanced around the room, trying to assess their readiness for the rest of it. Barry's fists were clenched and he stared at them as if he'd never seen them before. Jill and Rebecca both seemed lost in thought, though he could see that they had accepted his story as truth. It would save them time, at least....
Chris stood up and started to pace, his youthful features flushed with anger. "So basically, we've got no credibility with the locals, no backup coming, and we've been branded as liars by our own people. The Umbrella investigation is dead and we're screwed, does that pretty much sum it up?"
David could see that the anger wasn't directed at him, just as the anger that he felt wasn't for the young Alpha. The thought of what Umbrella had done, what the S.T.A.R.S. were involved in -- it made him sick with rage, with feelings of helplessness that he hadn't felt since his childhood.
Stop thinking of yourself. Tell them the rest.
David stood up and looked at Chris, though he addressed all of them. He hadn't even had time to tell Barry yet.
"Actually, there's more. It seems that there's another Umbrella facility on the Maine coast, conducting experiments with this virus of theirs -- and just like what happened here, they've lost control."
David turned to Rebecca, taking in her wide, horrified gaze as he finished. "I'm taking a team in, without S.T.A.R.S. authorization -- and I want you to come with us."
Copyright © 1998 by Capcom Co., Ltd.