Summary: The story of what Jill actually did before joining S.T.A.R.S.

Characters: Jill Valentine

Notes: The protagonists of games like these always have ridiculously inflated résumés despite their young age. I've seen several discussions about how, once you really think about them, they don't add up.

o0o

Fake it 'til you make it.

That had been her mother's advice to Jill as a shy fifteen year old moving to a new school in the city, having to make new friends at that most awkward and difficult time in her life. She'd taken the advice to heart, going to school with a smile, looking to start conversations and pretending to be far more interesting than she was. She was good at it too, never exactly falling in with the wrong crowd, but taking unnecessary risks and making friends based on how interesting they were rather than how much she had in common with them.

She and her friends had been into urban exploration way before it was a thing, sneaking into abandoned buildings, of which there was no shortage of. Mostly they did it to see what was there, but to drink and smoke as well because that was what you did in places like that.

Or what most of her friends did.

Jill joined in to fit in, of course, already good at blending and saying the right things, but she did it for the thrill.

New school, new start. No one had to know that she was really a shy, bookish girl who'd never had so many friends before. Friends who believed her stories about a farm out in the country rather than a little house in the suburbs where she'd only read books on horses, never seen one in real life.

Her new friends didn't know any of that.

It was exciting to pretend to be someone else, to go places that she wouldn't have imagined before moving.

In its own way it was addictive.

Climbing over or sneaking under fences, looking for broken windows or unlocked doors, seeing what was inside – usually trash from the last bunch of kids to do the same as she and her friends were, but sometimes more interesting things.

A verse of an Emily Dickinson poem scrawled across a graffiti covered wall in what had probably been an office building. She knew because she committed those cryptic lines to memory and asked the librarian about them the next day at school.

Bottles and beds and metal implements that she could only guess at the use of in the old hospital.

Running from a homeless man who'd been living in the apartment building they'd snuck into to drink and smoke.

The terror of that night, the wild look in his eyes as he screamed dire threats as they fled, had made it real. It had been the closest they'd come to being caught.

That night had been the most fun she could remember having in her life. Knowing that there was danger only added to the thrill. Telling stories about horse shows and riding dressage had no risk. No one cared enough to pick apart her stories and discover her lies.

She had been the one to suggest that they sneak into the old factory, because no one they knew had done it before.

To get in there they'd had to wait until after dark, squeeze through a place where the chain link fence had started to fall down and then pry some boards off of a broken window. It had been the most effort they'd put into getting into a place and even after all that, as soon as they turned on their flashlights they saw they weren't the first.

Cigarette butts, broken bottles, but also graffiti covering every wall in garish colors. They'd been disappointed, but at the same time awed, especially by the crudely scrawled signature near the roof of the place. None of them could figure out how someone had gotten up there, but they all agreed that they wished they could figure it out.

They agreed that they'd return to leave their marks as well.

And they did, half a dozen hastily sprayed signatures.

From there things changed.

It stopped about finding places to hang out and more about getting into hard to get places.

A construction site at midnight, climbing over the equipment, joking about how cool it would be if something had been left unlocked, keys inside.

Not all of her friends agreed and the group she explored with grew smaller. Four regulars rather than the usual half dozen or more.

They went back to the apartment building with the goal of making it all the way to the roof.

The condemned Methodist Church became a special project for her. There was a deadline to that one with the place scheduled to be torn down less than a month after the idea came to her.

The new fence around it was topped with barbed wire, hardly a challenge when their preliminary efforts revealed a place where the fence was loose enough to be lifted just enough to crawl beneath.

It was how high up the windows were and the chains and padlocks on the doors that stopped them their first time. Her friends tried to figure out other ways in, breaking a window and climbing in, bringing something to cut the chain, while to her the answer was obvious.

None of the doors in the house she'd grown up in had real locks, just a button you pushed that sometimes engaged itself. The one to her room had been backwards and when she was little there were times when she found herself locked inside, needing to use the inside of a broken pen to get back out.

The padlocks were different, more complicated, Jill knew because in passing she tried the ones on the fence around the church, just to test.

They defied her efforts with a pen, a bobby pin and a carefully bent paperclip. There was more to it than that so she went to the local hardware store, thinking that maybe there was some sort of key, a skeleton key like in the books she'd read, that could open any door.

There was no such thing, but she did see a sign next to the doorknobs that they rekeyed locks and asked what that meant on the off chance there was a way to make any key work for any lock.

It turned out that locks had a bunch of little pins inside them that got pushed into place by the key, which was shaped to push the right pins the right amount. She'd never thought about that before, but she guessed it made sense.

Making up some story about having lost the key for her bike lock while out riding, she asked if there was a way to unlock it without the right key and when the answer turned out to be the, by that point, expected no, she bought a padlock that looked as close to the ones on the church doors as she could find.

Jill spent a whole week practicing, first with a paperclip bent, as best as she was able, to resemble the key and then, when that failed, experimented, trying to find the pins that she knew were there by feel. Tapping them into place once she found them was easy enough, but more often than not they fell right back out of position as soon as she moved the paperclip away.

It still took a whole day, a Saturday she normally would have spent with friends, playing with the lock until she found the trick of applying pressure to the lock with one piece of paperclip while feeling for the pins with a second. The tension seemed to hold them in place and by the time her mom called her out of her room for dinner she could consistently open the lock.

When she was done eating she called her friends to tell them that tomorrow she wanted to meet up, that she had a way into the church.

All the effort was worth it. The church was in horrible condition, anything of interest long since removed, a large hole in the floor off to one side revealed a basement with standing water in it.

Things were floating down there and in the light of their flashlights they could swear that there was something moving.

When a bubble broke the surface they all jumped back. One of them screamed and they all had a good time accusing each other of being the one.

They spent what they all agreed was less than an hour exploring the place, because there wasn't that much to see, but when they went their separate ways and went home they learned, getting yelled at by their parents if they weren't able to sneak in unnoticed, that they'd been gone for hours.

It was the first time she'd lost track of time like that.

As high school went on her teachers wondered about her, a good enough student when she applied herself, spending so much time with a group of troublemakers. Her parents warned her again and again that she was going to get into trouble if she didn't find a better group of friends.

Like when the cops showed up at the house they were having a party in.

Not an abandoned house, but a house in a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city, right where suburbs and urban sprawl met, whose owners had left for the winter.

A neighbor heard the noise, called the cops and like that the party was over.

Hanging on the fringes of the group, having only had one beer, Jill was able to slip away unnoticed.

Watching at the party was broken up, she had been horrified that someone would mention her name, she'd been the one that made it all possible after all.

But it seemed that everyone cared more about who had brought the beer, the weed, the pills that she hadn't even known were being passed around. Several kids, some she knew, some strangers to her, didn't show up for class the next day and there was one guy where the rumors alternated between him being spending the night in jail and spending the night in the hospital getting his stomach pumped.

Names were named, fingers were pointed and plenty of the partygoers got in trouble.

Jill herself was grounded for a week because her parents knew, despite not having any proof, that she'd been there.

She kept waiting for the other shoe to fall, but it never happened. That was the most trouble she got in because it seemed that everyone had bigger concerns or didn't remember who the girl who opened the door and then stood in a corner, watching the fun, was.

After that there was a lull for a few months where none of her friends were willing or able to do anything.

Jill and her boyfriend at the time, though by this time she had plenty of friends, many of them boys, were the first to go back to their antics, him going so far as to ask her to show him how she opened locks.

He didn't have the patience to learn and then went and ruined everything by getting caught trying to break into the school after hours, something she'd done herself countless times, just because she could.

If there was one good thing she could say about him after that it was that he didn't rat her out.

Once again she was warned by her parents that she needed to shape up or there'd be trouble.

So she did.

Or at least pretended to.

By this time it wasn't the parties or the popularity that mattered, it was the adventure and there were times when exploring alone was better, safer. If she went alone there was no danger of someone else messing up and getting in trouble, or getting her in trouble by mentioning her.

Construction sites were her favorite places. She'd search for interesting, inaccessible places, leaving messages written on beams and walls that would never be seen once the building was done.

Jill had more patience than her friends, scouting out the places she wanted to go, figuring the best way in and then treating it as a puzzle to be solved.

Spending less time with friends gave her more time for her hobby where she figured out new tricks.

Just because a place was roped off with caution tape or 'No Trespassing' signs didn't mean that you couldn't get in there during the day.

All it took was confidence and acting like you were supposed to be there. Wearing the right outfit and tying her hair back so she looked a few years older made her unnoticeable. Carrying a clipboard also helped. It was how she managed to walk around the grounds of the water treatment plant for nearly an hour before anyone thought to approach her to ask what she was doing. On the spot she spun some story about a school project and instead of getting in trouble she ended up getting a tour of the place.

Using the same trick got her a tour of the railyard and by pretending to be an inspector of one sort or another Jill managed to get on and off of construction sites with no questions asked. It was amazing the official looking hats and shirts you could find at secondhand.

Getting her driver's license and first car meant freedom and more places to explore. Sometimes she'd plan whole weekends around places she wanted to go and wander around.

A part time job at a grocery store meant she had money for gas and saving up she eventually got a camera to take pictures, souvenirs of the places she went to. There was a practical aspect to the camera as well, something she only learned after getting it.

People tended to be a lot more polite to someone with a clipboard and camera, especially if she did her research beforehand and knew the right things to say to sound like she was supposed to be there.

If there was some place that she really wanted to see, but couldn't think of a way to get in or justify being there if she got caught she'd simply show up in the middle of the day and claim that she was there for a job interview. Most of the time Jill was turned away when she didn't have an appointment, but there were times when it worked.

A few of those times follow up interviews were scheduled.

She never followed through, but it made her wonder, how far could she go? How crazy a story could she make up and have it be believed?

Graduating high school meant that she had more time to explore, but with her friends going off to college or having jobs of their own, it got harder and harder to find time to get together with them for adventures or just telling stories.

Which was a shame, because what was the point in having stories if she didn't have anyone to tell them to?

Work was boing, just a means to an end and she still didn't know what she wanted to do with her life.

Maybe try and become an author like her mom suggested, but she didn't have that kind of story to tell and she couldn't think of a way to put her interests into words on a page.

Besides, the stories she wrote back in high school English class, were all about what she'd do in different situations, imagined versions of her in increasingly absurd predicaments. It was fun to imagine, but there was no plot or logic to it.

On the other hand doing research for those stories was plenty of fun. She'd always loved reading after all, and it gave her yet another story for why she was in the places she ended up, an author doing research for a book she was writing, trying to make it as accurate as possible.

It was fun and really let her use the eclectic knowledge she'd gathered.

Of course she kept up with her other hobbies as well.

Even though she wasn't going to college the university was a favorite place for her to hang out, especially during the first weeks of a semester. Then she had the chance to sit in on some of the classes and listen rather than just wandering the campus. The classes were all boring in her opinion, but wandering the buildings afterwards was fun, especially when she discovered that most of the buildings were connected by tunnels in their basements. Maintenance tunnels by the looks of them, but they provided her with hours of exploring. There was no telling what she might find behind a locked door. Usually an empty room, but sometimes those rooms were used to store the most random of things.

She'd run screaming from one of them when, amid boxes of musty science textbooks, she found a glass jar of cloudy liquid, the indistinct shape floating inside, the heart of a sheep according to the blurred label.

Afterwards she decided that the fear had been fun and kept looking, hoping to find more creepy stuff like that.

It didn't take her long to explore every inch of the areas of the campus that were supposed to be off limits to the students.

There were plenty of other places though, and she was constantly looking for them, like the new wing of the hospital, still under construction. It would be open next year if budget constraints didn't get in the way and she wanted to take a look, see how far things were. The newspapers even had a diagram of the floor plan, making getting in and wandering around even easier, despite there being security. Jill ended up spending half the night hiding from security guards, but it was worth it to run through the empty halls, in and out of rooms where surgeries would eventually be performed.

She didn't usually leave graffiti anymore, the experience was far more important to her, but she did leave a stylized signature in one closet that she spent several minutes hiding in, waiting for it to be safe to leave.

Newspaper articles on new construction projects, old eyesores being purchased for renovation or demolition, even estate sales meant that there was no end of places for her to go and wander.

Not to mention all the growth and restoration projects Umbrella Corporation was working on. Countless warehouses and abandoned buildings were being purchased, new construction was happening all the time.

And then there was what was already there.

They had all sorts of buildings in all sorts of random places, the purposes of which she couldn't figure out.

Even more intriguing, they were nearly impossible to get into. Security was too tight.

They were a challenge to her, and she made it her goal to eventually get into one, not an office building or anything like that, she'd been to those plenty of times, but one of their research centers, or one of the other buildings where no one knew what was done.

Every time Jill approached one she was turned away, even when she tried to claim that she was there for an interview, going so far as to come up with impressively feigned credentials and sneaking in was out of the question.

The places never seemed to close for the night and there was always at least one car in the parking lot.

So Umbrella was a lost cause until she found a better story, the perfect story.

It occupied her time until something far more interesting caught her eye as she was reading the paper.

Mayor Warren was really pushing with his Bright Raccoon project and was looking to expand the police force, making some sort of special team to deal with 'the increasing dangers of urban crime and protect businesses', whatever that meant. The article itself wasn't that interesting, other than giving her a list of construction sites to go check out and a few buildings to walk around before their official grand opening, but she remembered it during a phone conversation with a friend.

The friend, currently working as a secretary at the city hall, made some joke about the article, how a quiet little city like Raccoon barely needed a police force, let alone its own Special Forces team. The whole idea was a joke.

Jill remembered that the article there had been vague mention of employing specialists with nonconventional skillsets and it gave her an idea, the perfect punchline to the joke, so to speak.

She was going to sign up for the Special Tactics and Rescue Service. She had no skills that made her a candidate for the position, but no one knew that.

Like she always did, Jill did her research, coming up with a background in the army, a rather exceptional one where she managed to catch the attention of Delta Force. What that meant exactly she wasn't too sure of, but saying that she had training in bomb disposal sounded good and saying that she specialized in breaking and entering was half true. Finding information on guns was far easier and gave her something else she could safely talk about should it come to the point where she ended up in an interview.

For all her efforts Jill never expected that her hilariously inflated résumé would get past whoever was screening applicants. It was just too much, even for her.

Two weeks later a letter came in the mail. She was to call the RPD for an in person interview.

She managed not to stammer or laugh during the call, though it was a challenge.

To think that her silly joke of an application was something worth following up on.

Either she'd done a better job than she'd thought or everyone else who applied was worse than she could have imagined, which wasn't too much of a stretch given that Raccoon was downright boring as cities went. Nothing ever happened there.

So she'd gotten a new outfit from a secondhand store for the interview, the most professional thing she could find. At worst it would serve as a memento for the greatest bit of faking she'd ever managed to pull off.

Or that was what she assumed, never really believing that she'd get the job.

The guy who gave the interview, if it could be called that, was a handsome blond guy of indeterminate age. Captain Albert Wesker, as he'd introduced himself as, had seemed distracted during most of the process, flipping between the pages of her application and several other papers on his desk. Jill had expected trick questions, him trying to catch her in a lie, something other than what amounted to casual conversation, but it came across as no different than any other job interview she'd been through.

That she'd gotten a little flirty to better hide her nervousness might have helped.

Or it might not have.

Captain Wesker was kind of inscrutable, except at the end where he smiled broadly, held out his hand and welcomed her to the team.

And just like that everything changed.

It was a good thing that as part of her research for things she'd looked into rifle ranges in the area. There was one that offered lessons and let you rent guns. Jill figured that she'd need to go there some time in the following weeks if she didn't want to get caught in her own lies and see how far things would go.

Fake it 'til you make it and Jill wanted to see just how far she could make it this time.

Besides she was curious what the rest of the team would be like. How many of them would be real professionals?

And how many of them would be just like her?