Claire Redfield strikes a Faustian deal with Albert Wesker and suffers the consequences of her selfless sacrifice.
Twenty computer screens saturated the room in a pale glow. White screen glare illuminated the chiseled profile of a well-coifed man, swathed in midnight black from his neck to the toes of his custom made boots.
“Not quite what you hoped,” Ada said. She slapped a disc into a gloved hand. “A recovery team was dispatched to WhilPharma. Downing, however, is another matter. He’s been taken into custody. Extraction will be difficult.”
“Do not dare presume to know what I hope, Miss Wong.”
“If that will be all?“
The man spun his chair around to face her. “Not interested in the show?”
She shook her head. “I was there, for most of it.”
An eyebrow arched upward over the rim of polished sunglasses. “Admiring Kennedy’s work?” It was Ada’s only sore spot and he loved massaging it.
“None of your business.” She retreated to the door. “And Kennedy went down an old road last night.” She paused in the doorway. “With a red head. Maybe you’ve heard of her? Her last name is Redfield.” She smiled a snakelike grin. Right back at ya, you son of a bitch!
She watched with satisfaction as he clenched his fists into a ball, and slowly released them. The Redfield name was poison to his ears. The door closed with a hiss that matched the exhale of his breath when he said her name.
Wesker leaned back in the chair and waited for the data to download. He thought about the last time he had been close to Claire on Rockfort and smiled. What fantastic fun it had all been using the Redfield girl to draw her Neanderthal brother into the open. A shame the timing of events on the base had not allowed for prolonged amusements. He found the younger Redfield to be quite an entertaining distraction.
He allowed her full access to his mental pathways during his few quiet moments of restful solitude, and in those moments he designed scheme after scheme in which he used her to torment Chris.
None of the ideas had ever evolved beyond the foundation of a rudimentary plot due to his constant preoccupation with other, more pressing, matters, and because it had been simply as effective to spike Christopher’s steroidal hormone rage by sending him constant reminders of what he could do if the mood suited him. Anticipation and suspense, the surprise of the unknown, were surprisingly effective mental predators.
A phone call here, an e-mail there, a detailed letter describing what he would do physically to the younger Redfield if he were fortunate to have her in his company once again.
Did Christopher share the entertaining notions with his younger sibling or did he keep them a well-guarded secret? Wesker opted for the latter.
He snorted in disgust. The brain dead mass of brother muscle didn’t have the first clue about his lovely, and definitely more intelligent, better half. She was stronger-in character-than Christopher could ever imagine.
He wondered how much rage he could provoke if he sent Christopher some of his surveillance footage. Cameras, installed outside the Redfield residence and photos taken of Claire when she dated Kennedy, indicated there was more to the Claire-Leon relationship than holding hands and eating ice cream while Pat Boone cooed sweet nothings in the background.
Wesker removed his glasses. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and his eyes. Eyestrain. He’d been staring at the screens for two solid days. He raised his boots onto the desk. Five minutes. He closed his eyes, and let the girl creep in...
Raccoon City Park. A sunny spring day. The meeting place had been arranged through a third party. Plenty of open space and plenty of people in case either party decided to behave foolishly.
Wesker crested a grassy knoll and strolled around a man-made concrete pond filled with ducks and ringed by two-seat benches. He checked his watch. His contact was late. The designated bench was unoccupied.
There was a tug on the coat tails of his long jacket. He turned to face a young girl. He estimated her to be around eight or nine years of age, with red hair swirled the colors of mahogany and fire embers and gathered into a high ponytail on top of her head. She stood in his shadow.
“Can you help me?” the girl asked, her large aqua eyes made rounder in excitement, and almost too large for her small, delicate face.
Wesker glanced in several directions. Where were her mother and father? “Young lady, didn’t your parents teach you not to talk to strangers?”
She pursed her lips together while she concentrated on how to answer his question. “I don’t have any parents, just my older brother.”
“And where is this brother?”
The girl pointed to a young man some distance away. He threw a Frisbee to a dog.
“You should ask him to help you,” he said curtly as he turned to walk away.
Another tug on his jacket forced Wesker to give her his attention, yet again.
“I don’t want to walk all the way over there to get him.” She pointed in the direction of a tall tree nearby. A kite was stuck high up in one of its branches. “Can’t you help me get it? You are closer.”
Without giving him a chance to object, she grabbed him by his hand and pulled him toward the tree. It was a powerful reminder to Wesker as to why children irritated him. They always placed their needs before your own.
Wesker looked up. The kite was too high for him to reach it for her. “I am afraid I cannot help you.”
He wondered what she would do next. He would love to break her heart by telling her he wasn’t going to climb up and get it for her if she asked him. It would serve her right for bothering him.
She didn’t ask. She had a plan of her own. “I’ll climb up and you...” She pushed him directly below the branch on which the kite rested. “You stand here and catch me in case I fall, okay?”
Wesker almost smiled at the child’s resilient nature. He could appreciate ambition. “A sensible plan.”
The girl nodded and started up the tree like a monkey, expertly weaving between the tree limbs. When she reached the branch that cradled her possession she got down on her stomach, locked her legs together below the branch, and slowly inched her way across. She was doing well until a loud shout from behind them startled her.
Her Frisbee throwing brother raced toward them. “Claire! What’re you doing! You’ll fall!”
Word proceeded deed. The girl slid sideways and was now hanging on upside down. She looked at Wesker. “I think I’m going to fall,” she said, without any of the normal hysteria that he suspected a child might produce in her situation.
He nodded. “I would agree.”
“Could you put your arms out, please?”
“How do you know I will catch you?”
“Because you smell like my brother and he wouldn’t drop me.”
Wesker was astounded. The child determined good people verses bad people based on scent. He made a mental note to always at least smell like the good guy.
He sighed at the absurdity of the whole situation and held out his arms. The girl plopped into them like a rag doll.
The young man was upon them when Wesker set her on the ground. “Thanks Mister,” he said, out of breath. He pulled the girl close to him. “What do you think you’re doing? You could’ve hurt yourself.”
“Getting my kite.”
“Perhaps if you had kept a proper eye on this child she would not have placed herself in a situation to break her neck,” Wesker admonished.
The boy looked away, his cheeks streaked candy apple red in embarrassment. He patted the girl on the back. “I’ll get it Claire,” he said, and started up the tree.
The girl stamped her foot. “I could have gotten it myself.” She looked up at Wesker. “He never lets me do anything.”
“Yep.” She turned to join her brother. As an afterthought she walked back to Wesker and held out a dirty hand. “Thanks anyway, Mister.”
“A pleasure, Claire.” He extended his hand and shook hers.
Break time was over. Wesker lowered his feet. He tapped several keys and brought up the data from all the surveillance cameras at the terminals of Harvardville airport up onto the multiple screens.
He rolled the video and zoomed in and out, replayed, and fast-forwarded indiscriminately. “Hello Senator,” he said under his breath while staring at the first monitor.
Screens two, three, and four were wide angles of the arrival and departure gates. He panned the camera past the man in the Hawaiian shirt and straw hat. Jehovah’s witnesses were congregated in the far corner. Reporters were to the right, eager for a Senator barbeque. A woman with a wide, genuine smile displayed on her face being greeted warmly by an eager child. A...Wesker returned to the previous frame. Replayed the scene. He zoomed in closer.
“Dear Heart,” he muttered. “What an interesting surprise. Whatever were you doing at Harvardville?”
A genuine smile spread across his face. He zoomed as close as possible. The words TerraSave were etched onto a backpack she had slung over her shoulder. “Were you planning a visit to my associates at Wilpharma?” he asked the screen as though he were asking her directly.
Screens five and six looped footage of the airplane barreling through the terminal. There! Infected emerging from the aircraft after it crashed. It had been a two-tier attack. One virus released, his samples, on the aircraft. One virus released in the terminal prior to the aircraft’s destructive arrival.
Wesker reached for his cell phone. “Senator, we have a problem.”