It was a sunny, tranquil day at sea on the tanker Arcadia, off the coast of California. A lovely day, really. Occasionally a bit of fog caressed the white caps of the blue waves, and then drifted away. Could have been quite restful, a day like this, if the Arcadia were a yacht, in the days before the world started dying; before humanity started eating itself alive.
Alice was standing near the aft on the steady metal deck of the Arcadia, reveling in the cool breeze. She watched as a group of figures—freed experimental subjects, all dressed in white—milled about on the deck of the enormous, retrofitted tanker ship, trying to reorient themselves to this new reality.
She could imagine what they were thinking—all but hear their voices in her head.
“I heard the radio transmission—that there was safety in Arcadia—no infection, no Undead to attack me—that there was food and shelter. Finally I found the ship.
“The men in black commando togs grabbed me, slapped the mechanical scarab onto me, and then... nothing. Nothing else till I woke in the high-tech hold of the ship, in a tube... like an insect on display in a bottle.
“The woman—Alice—led me out into the open air... But what now? The Undead are still out there.
“What happens now?”
What now, indeed.
They had taken this ship—for the time being. She and Chris and Claire had killed Albert Wesker—and Wesker had been the most powerful individual in Umbrella, as far as she knew, now that Lord Spencer was gone. Maybe Wesker’s death would keep them safe for a while, throw the enemy into disarray.
If Wesker is really dead...
How could she doubt it? She’d riddled his body with bullet holes. She’d left his corpse limp, bleeding out on the deck of a hold, far below. No, he was dead.
He had to be.
The breeze sighed in the superstructure of the converted tanker. Test subjects murmured to one another, milling and talking, gazing at the horizon. The waves whispered against the hull of the big ship. In the distance, on the shore, she could make out some of the Los Angeles skyline—or what remained of it. Downtown Santa Monica was charred, smoking, many of the buildings just skeletons of girders. But it wasn’t deserted. There were still throngs of Undead plague victims, crowding the streets, savaging anything that moved—except, oddly, one another. They craved fresher meat than that.
First thing to do, Alice figured, would be to get up to the Arcadia’s bridge and work out how to safely pilot the ship. Maybe it was so computerized it could almost pilot itself. If it was fueled up, it could take them anywhere in the world.
An island, she was thinking. Catalina, maybe, an island twenty-two miles off the coast of Los Angeles. Catalina itself was less than twenty-three miles long, eight wide. There would be Undead there, sure, but not that many. She could take a team out, methodically sweep the Undead from the island. Exterminate them... like they were insects.
Except that the Undead used to be people. Men, women, grandmothers and grandfathers, children— even children were Undead. Alice often wondered, could there be a spark of humanity left in the Undead who roamed the streets, moaning and growling, dripping bloody saliva?
She’d never seen the slightest hint of it. The Undead seemed more mindless than rabid wolves. Probably all vestiges of human feeling—perhaps even the soul— departed the victim’s body when they died. And once reanimated, they were soulless things, caricatures of human beings.
Still, that spark had glimmered in what was left of Matt, though he’d been transformed into a different kind of monster. Turned into a hideous super soldier by Umbrella researchers using a variant of the T -virus.
If there was anything human left in the Undead, it was helpless, she supposed. That tiny speck of inward humanity had been hijacked by the virus; at best, it was forever along for the ride. And it must suffer terribly in there, trapped inside a monster.
So if she exterminated them, she was doing them a favor.
Keep telling yourself that, Alice.
Catalina. Once she cleaned up the island, they might be safe from the Undead for a long time. The zombies weren’t known to swim...
It was some kind of plan, anyway. So she decided to find Chris Redfield, ask him if he knew how to pilot this ship.
Alice glanced over her shoulder at the people she’d set free... and sighed. She felt responsible for them, now. Somehow, she kept falling into that role. She’d tried to avoid it, wandering in the deserts of the Southwest—and then she’d got drawn in again.
Life had been so much easier when all she had to worry about was security at one of the world’s most powerful corporations. She was exquisitely trained in martial arts, in the use of every weapon. She’d been a person of confidence and strength.
And then she’d seen what the Umbrella Corporation was doing, in the Hive. Her conscience had forced her to turn against Umbrella; against all that she had been. Maybe this new burden of responsibility was the karma, biting her on the ass for her time with Umbrella.
Still, she was still young and strong. Men found her beautiful. If she got everyone on the ship to safety, maybe she could settle down, even find a mate among the survivors. Chris seemed attracted to her. And he was a ruggedly good-looking guy. Impressive, if a bit grim. But... could she live like a normal human being, ever again? With a lover, a child—a family?
She had to believe there was a chance. Somewhere, someday, the dark journey had to come to an end.
“What’s that?” Claire said, as she walked up to Alice. She pointed at the sky.
With a stab of dread, Alice looked up.
“It’s trouble,” Alice said, dully. A fleet of flying vehicles was blotting the sky, bearing down on the Arcadia.
Of course. There was no end to the nightmare. Every time there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel, it turned out to be a guttering, forgotten candle... a tiny flame that sputtered, and went out in a wisp of smoke.
Alice recognized the silhouettes against the northern sky.
“V-22s,” she said, her voice hoarse. Why couldn’t she have time to breathe, to think—just one real chance to help these people? “Umbrella’s version of V-22s, anyway,” she added, almost casually. “Based on the Marine Corps’ Ospreys—they’re helicopters and planes in one.”
“Oh, no...” Claire breathed. As she did, Alice checked to make certain her shotguns were secure in the holsters on her back, then began to move.
Umbrella’s V-22s were more advanced than the Corps’ Ospreys. The black choppers could tilt their rotors forward to fly like planes, or tilt them upward to hover, and were even more armored than Ospreys. There were auto-cannons mounted in the snouts.
And there was a whole aerial fleet of them coming her way, so many that they quickly darkened the sky. They were probably packed with Umbrella troopers, too.
Alice reached the survivors and started to shout. “Move!” she said. “Head for cover!” Had Wesker sent for those troopers, before he’d died?
Good chance he had, and the Corporation had responded instantly. Like any multinational, they wouldn’t want to surrender all the tech, the test data, and the experimental subjects on this ship.
She had to get them to safety.
But V-22s were fast. Seeing them head-on was deceptive, and before she knew it, the big black choppers came hurtling in, rotors roaring, gunners firing as they came. Shells burst on the decks, instantaneous blossoms of fire and shrapnel. Alice ran, shouting at the others to get back, get under cover, but the vast deck was like a football field, open and flat and broad, and there was no cover.
They’d tumbled from tranquility into chaos, in the space of a few heartbeats.
She scanned the area, looked for Chris, and Claire—and saw several of the white-garbed people they’d rescued, caught in a detonation and tossed into the air by shell blasts that made the deck ring like a sledgehammer on a giant bell.
She groaned at that, cursed in frustration, her stomach churning—then heard the drumming of the choppers steadying, felt the wind of their rotors as they hovered over the deck, and she skidded to a stop, near the rail.
Turning, she saw Umbrella troopers rappelling down from the V-22s. They were all in black, armored, faces covered in gas masks, weapons strapped to their backs—black to the white of the survivors she’d freed.
Not freed for long.
The first three troopers to hit the deck quickly unstrapped capture guns, non-lethal weapons looking like small bazookas, that fired compressed nets at their targets. The net capsules opened and engulfed a number of the survivors, as if in gigantic spider webs.
Alice looked up again, and saw a familiar face. Jill Valentine rappelled down, her face unmasked, her dark blond hair fluttering in the wind. She fired with a submachine gun as she came. Bullets strafed up the deck in Alice’s direction, whining off the metal, and she threw herself aside, the rounds narrowly missing her.
She came to her feet tugging the automatic pistol from her waistband, and returned fire. But she missed Jill—was it intentional? This was the woman who’d once fought beside her.
Alice thought she caught a glimpse of one of the mechanical scarabs, on Jill’s bosom.
Then she emptied the clip, tossed the pistol aside, and lost sight of Jill behind a cloud of smoke, She smelled engine exhaust, felt the rotor wind, and a shadow fell over her. Craning her neck, she realized she was being targeted by a V-22 that was tilting down to fire at her. She drew her sawed-off shotguns from the holsters. Pulling the triggers, she felt the weapons buck, and the silver quarters she’d packed into the shotgun rounds smashed through the windshield of the V-22. They blew the pilot’s head off.
But the V-22 was a little too close. Alice turned to run as, pilotless, the big chopper nosed down and crashed into the deck.
Cannon shells were packed into the front end of the V-22, and there was a fuel line not that far behind the shells. The impact of the chopper on the deck detonated a half-ton of explosives, ripping the V-22 apart from within, so that fifty-pound chunks of jagged metal, like fragments from a giant hand grenade, ricocheted across the deck. Flame gouted, consuming the remainder of the chopper, the blast tearing the rotors off so they spun through the air and sliced through another V-22.
And Alice just wasn’t fast enough. The shockwave from the explosion slapped her with punishing force, so that she thought her back might break. She was lifted off her feet and flipped bodily over the railing. Suddenly she was spinning end over end, down toward the sea, gasping—the shockwave had knocked the wind out of her.
Sky and sea changed places; sea and sky spun round again, and then, before she could take a breath, she was flung headlong into the face of a big, pretty, blue wave, while blazing debris hissed into the water all around her. The water closed over her as chunks of the V-22 rained down close by, helicopter parts plunging into the sea trailing streamers of bubbles.
The fuel sprayed by the spinning, falling fuel tank coated the waves, blazing up as it was struck by fiery debris.
Instantly Alice was sinking, seawater burning her lungs. She was in shock, stunned, maybe paralyzed— she didn’t know. She just knew that the thudding pulse she heard, her own pulse sounding in her ears, was slowing... slowing....
Above she could see the wrinkled, translucent surface burning, water seething as fuel burned off it. Darkness from below rose up to swallow her, as blue and orange flames consumed the rest of the world, overhead...
She was detached, fascinated by the sight, that ceiling of flames, even as her pulse became irregular, skipping a beat. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she might have blurrily glimpsed a sling, dipping toward her, lowered from a hovering V-22
Were those arms, grabbing for her, to pull her to the sling?
She hoped not.
She’d rather die than be their prisoner. Their slave...
Delirium swept over her, and she seemed to see the mechanical scarab—the one that she’d taken off of Claire. Something between jewelry and insect, the scarab was as big as her hand, climbing up her like a living thing, looking to sink its needle fangs into her; to numb her with the drug that had taken control of so many others...
No. It wasn’t really there. Just the cold wet darkness.
Her thoughts sank away, too. There was just one thought left.
She had failed to protect all those people who counted on her; all those dazed people she’d brought to the upper deck of the Arcadia, where they were shot or captured. She’d failed them.
It was too much to bear, that final, aching thought. Much easier to let her pulse slow, slow...
So much easier to just drift downward, downward...
My name is Alice. And this is my story... ...the story of how I died.