Notes: Sorry it took so long. This was a big one and as such took quite some time to proofread. To everyone who's read this, thank you so much! I hope that you enjoyed my strange and horrific little story.
When she walked back past the apartment building, she nearly stopped and went back in when she realized that she'd left her collection of all the little bones she'd lost. Leaving them behind felt wrong, but there was no point in taking them, and the idea of walking around with a bunch of bones in her backpack, albeit her own bones, wasn't a very smart one. There was no reason that anyone would ever know, but there was no reason for her to bother with them.
She'd worry about it later, when she came back to the city to get her belongings after everything cleared up. It would take time, but she'd get them back. Then she'd figure out what to do with them long term. She'd been meaning to figure out a better hiding spot than a box in the closet, but there hadn't been time.
It was something she could worry about later, when there was time.
The chaos hadn't quite reached where she was yet, but it was close. The streets were full of cars with nowhere to go, and people shouting and angrily honking their horns. There were surprisingly few people on the sidewalks, and those that were carried suitcases and backpacks and bags just like her.
Except, they were different from her in countless small ways. The majority of them wore dazed expressions, as they struggled to haul overly large suitcases and too many bags, others traveled lighter and moved with rapid, nervous purpose. A small, but noticeable number of them moved cautiously, keeping a hand in their pocket or against their side on something hidden by loose clothing. She wasn't as good at reading body language as some of the other S.T.A.R.S. members, but she could recognize the look, one that so many of her teammates had possessed. These people were people with plans, they knew what they were doing and would make it out of the city. A good number of them were leading their families, which made her think of Barry. He'd known something was coming and gotten his family out just in time.
Most of the people she passed were simply walking with no destination, other than away. Some were even going in, what she thought of as, the wrong direction, back towards the fire and chaos and zombies, not that any of them knew about the zombies. Not yet at least. That would likely change before the night was over, but she had no way of warning them. If she said anything, they'd just dismiss her as crazy. Better to keep walking and focus on getting away. She took the bus all over the city, enough that she had a fairly good idea of where she was going. A map would have helped, but she didn't own any street maps, just ones of the woods, because until tonight she'd been able to rely on public transportation.
As if in response to her thought, she saw a bus ahead, stuck in the middle of an intersection where the cars were too tightly packed for anyone to get out of the way. Even if they'd been willing to try backing up, the cars behind them would keep them in place, with more and more gathering behind, drivers unaware of what was ahead of them.
Farther on, she stopped to orient herself, looking at street signs and buildings.
Until two months ago, she'd passed all of them every day, but that was as a passenger on a bus. She hadn't paid much attention then, letting it all turn into a blur as she let her thoughts wander. Walking was different, a different, slower point of view, where she had to remember which way to turn and what street to take, rather than it happening automatically, as someone who knew what they were doing drove her to wherever she was going.
Until recently, she hadn't really considered how heavily she and everyone else relied on other people, but even in her determination to deal with things on her own, she'd sought out others, friends and acquaintances from college, people who knew what they were doing like Professor Rice, Barry in the end, when it was too late and he'd already left. Now, she really was on her own.
The leeches in her backpack squirmed, as though to remind her that alone wasn't really a thing for her anymore. They were always there.
The window of the car she was standing next to rolled down, the woman in the passenger seat smiling reassuringly at her, "Hey, you look lost."
"Just thinking," Rebecca replied, "Trying to figure out if I'm going the right way. I'm not used to walking."
That wasn't true, not exactly, she'd gotten very used to walking, just through the woods.
The driver, the woman's husband judging by the twin boys, Rebecca could see fidgeting in the backseat, leaned over, "Do you want a ride?"
"I – " she nearly took him up on the offer, her hand was actually on the car door when she looked, really looked at things. The streets were packed with cars, none of them moving. A few drivers had even come to the same realization that she had, and were getting out and abandoning their cars, adding to the problem, "No, I'm fine. I just…"
She trailed off looking at things, really looking. For two months, she'd been working to stop Umbrella, waffling back and forth between trying to be a hero and being terrified of taking on that kind of responsibility. Now, she had a chance to actually do something, something small, but still something.
The leeches clinging to her ribs squirmed in anticipation of her taking a deep breath, nearly making her laugh with how perceptive they were. They didn't just respond to her thoughts, they knew her.
"It's alright, you're going the same way we are," the husband reassured and then turned to the two children, "Move over guys, give the girl some room so she can get in."
"No," Rebecca repeated, trying to sound more confident than she was, "It's not going to work. If you want to get out of here, walking's the best bet. How long have you been stuck here?"
"About half an hour, but traffic's bound to start moving soon," the woman reassured, "We'll just wait it out."
Her husband grimaced, but said nothing looking to be in actual, physical pain as he stared at the traffic ahead.
Gunshots rang out somewhere behind them. Rebecca thought that it sounded like a pistol, something small, but anything more than that was beyond her. She didn't know guns. Back in S.T.A.R.S., she'd barely been competent enough to manage her own weapons. On the range, she'd given all the members of Alpha and Bravo a good laugh when she forgot about recoil being a thing and…
"We're safer in the car," the husband said grimly. Turning to Rebecca, he gave her a worried smile, "Are you sure you don't want a ride?"
Realizing that there was nothing more for her to say, or do, she shook her head and went back to walking. Turning back to look at the couple in their car, as well as all the other people in their cars, she hoped that she was the one who was wrong.
Only time would tell.
For now, they were all stuck, waiting.
The only reason she'd left her apartment in the first place, was because of how close the fires were. Finding a place to wait things out seemed like a good idea. Waiting for help was always safe, just like in the mansion. She'd hid in the servants' quarters, waited safe and comfortable for help to come.
Except, it hadn't.
She'd died waiting and hadn't known it at the time. If she hadn't gone out and started looking, she could have sat there and waited until the place blew up. That wasn't a risk in this situation, but how long would they have to wait for help to come? Chief Irons hadn't listened to her and the others, had been determined to turn their story into something that it wasn't in an effort to protect Umbrella. Now that everything was out of control, would the police be able to do anything, or would Irons attempt to hold them back, ignoring the situation around him to maintain the lies he'd built? Even if the police acted, they didn't know what they were dealing with, wouldn't be able to figure things out until too late.
So they'd have to wait for help from, what? The military? How long would that take? Could they hold out that long in a zombie infested city?
More importantly, would Umbrella interfere in an attempt to buy time to cover up its involvement? The company couldn't possibly accomplish that, but it was sure to try.
Around her people were starting abandon their cars and walk, which served to guarantee that the roads would remain blocked. It wasn't the worst thing though. The jumble of cars would help slow the zombies if they made it that far. As for the people in their cars, they'd probably be safe. Rebecca didn't think that a zombie would be strong enough, or smart enough to get into a car. As long as people waited quietly, and didn't try to get out waiting would probably work out fine for them.
Somewhere not too far away, an ambulance siren wailed uselessly.
Car horns honked constantly now. An unending, angry drone that made her ears ring and the leeches squirm irritably.
Lost in thought, she nearly walked right through where another family was struggling to pick up the spilled contents of a wheeled suitcase.
It was easily one of the most absurd things she'd ever seen. The father was holding a machete, as he stood guard over two other, larger, wheeled suitcases, while his daughter picked the scattered items, an odd mixture of essentials like food, clothing and hygiene items, but also books, toys and trinkets.
"I'm sorry," Rebecca apologized, taking a step back when the man with the machete glared at her, "Do you need help?"
"Don't worry about it," the girl gave a worried laugh, as she picked up a book and shoved it into the suitcase, "I didn't realize I hadn't zipped it all the way. I was in kind of a hurry when we were getting out and…"
"Really, I can help," Rebecca couldn't help feeling sympathy for her, "If you don't mind."
The father gave Rebecca a hard look, one that made her distinctly uncomfortable. When she started backing away his expression softened.
"You look like you're the one who needs help," he looked past her, at the fires in the distance, "Are you meeting up with someone, or are you on your own?"
"On my own," she said nervously, not sure if saying that to him was the right thing or not. Even if he was traveling with his daughter, he was more than a little intimidating and the machete was only part of it.
He continued to look her over, then looked at his daughter, still working to pick up what she'd dropped.
"Leave the books, they're too heavy."
His comment earned him a reproachful look from the girl, but she did as told and finished getting everything back into the suitcase and zipped it up.
"Alright, we're good to go," giving the suitcase one last look over to be sure that it was shut tightly the girl stood up.
As she rose to her feet, Rebecca immediately noticed that her father wasn't the only one who was armed. She had a large kitchen knife in a sheath attached to her belt, and her untucked blouse shifted just enough to reveal a small pistol she was trying to keep hidden. They were better prepared for whatever was out there, even if they didn't know what it was. It made Rebecca wonder what the father was hiding under his unseasonably heavy jacket.
Their interactions seemingly over, Rebecca got ready to walk around them, maybe even cross to the other side of the street, only for the father to speak up.
"Don't go that way. It's where we came from and…"
He trailed off.
Nothing more needed to be said, the looks on his daughter's face made it clear what they'd encountered.
She wasn't sure why, but she felt the need to say something, explain what was really going on, "What the news is calling rioters aren't. They're infected with a virus. Umbrella made it. It makes people…crazy."
She couldn't say zombies, but crazy worked.
The man frowned.
"We should be safe," she continued, "It's not airborne, it's spread through bites, and maybe contact with contaminated fluids."
"It doesn't just make them crazy, just so you know. I –" the daughter started to speak only to be silenced by a glare from her father.
Rebecca could guess what that was about, and could understand why it was something they didn't want to discuss. At least they knew that the zombies were hard to stop, even if they didn't know what they were.
"It's connected to the cannibal murders, isn't it?" He asked, still glaring at his daughter.
"Yes," Rebecca said quickly, relieved that even at this late point in things, people were figuring out what was going on. It meant that even if Umbrella tried to cover things up, there would be people who would connect the dots and figure out the truth.
"Tell me what you know about it, we can talk as we walk," the man offered.
She followed him, not because being part of a group made her feel safer, to the contrary, she didn't trust him at all, even though he was traveling with his daughter. The one positive thing was that the daughter seemed relieved to have company, and she listened intently, eyes wide as Rebecca did her best to explain what she knew.
"I don't know too much," she said quickly, not wanting to give the wrong impression.
"You've seen enough to know what people are doing out there, and you say it's a virus. Start by explaining how you know that, or are you just guessing?" He didn't sound skeptical, so much as convinced that she didn't know as much as she thought she did.
She was used to that sort of thing, because of how young she was, it was something she could take in stride and not worry about.
"It's a long story, so I'm going to start at the beginning, okay?" She warned, figuring that she should give as much information as possible, before moving on to the really unbelievable parts, "You know how Mayor Warren wanted S.T.A.R.S. to have representatives from all sorts of different fields? I was their most recent hire, brought on as a medic, but also because of my knowledge of chemistry and science in general, or at least I was until…we were disbanded after what happened at the Spencer Estate."
The man nodded, "I thought you looked familiar. When the mayor was trying to justify that program, there were pictures of all of you on the news. I remember seeing you and thinking that it was proof of what a joke the whole thing was."
She couldn't really argue with that, S.T.A.R.S. had been designed to fail, but that hadn't been why she'd been brought onto the team, or at least not the entire reason.
"You said the virus makes people crazy, and that you get it from being bitten," the girl interrupted, sparing her the difficulty of trying to justify her being part of the elite team, "The Cannibal Murders, you were investigating them when everything happened, right? Is there a connection?"
"Yes!" Relief threatened to overcome her, the girl at least got it and had made explaining things a lot easier, "There sure is. You know how money was a big concern when Mayor Warren was getting the program off the ground?"
The man nodded, "It sounded like a huge waste of taxpayer money, then out of nowhere the majority of the project got funded by a private donor. But what's that have to do with anything?"
"Umbrella was the one who contributed the money, because they wanted to have a say in the program. That way, they could get one of their employees leading the organization. Captain Wesker headed S.T.A.R.S., but he was working for Umbrella first and foremost," Rebecca explained, "When…things happened, Umbrella had what was left of the team disbanded."
She stopped, not sure what to say next. How much of the story would be necessary and how much would be too much? It was a fine line and she was terrified of crossing it. If she couldn't make two people in the middle of it all believe her, then what chance did she stand convincing the world of Umbrella's involvement?"
"So you knew something was going on, but until this happened you didn't manage to put things together," the man finished for her, "I don't blame you though. A pharmaceutical giant making a strain of super rabies sounds like a crazy conspiracy theory, but I guess it makes sense. They'd release the virus and then make a vaccine, right?"
He couldn't have been much more wrong about the company's motivation, but she wasn't going to correct him, not when it would require her to explain things that she wasn't sure how to explain.
So, she'd managed to convince two people so far, which was a start.
Now if they managed to make it out of the city, it might actually mean something.
Having said as much as she could think of, Rebecca fell silent. It didn't take long for the man to start talking, not about anything in particular, just talking to pass the time. Despite everything, and much to the embarrassment of his daughter, he was surprisingly talkative.
Rebecca soon learned that he had a wife and two sons, who were safely out of the city, having left town to visit relatives. The last he'd spoken to them had been at the start of it all, telling them not to bother getting back to the city, that they'd meet up there with her, and probably spend time at their summer house until things settled down, if they settled down.
He didn't seem very optimistic about the situation in the city, and Rebecca couldn't blame him.
As he talked for the sake of talking, Rebecca thought over what she'd be doing when they reached safety.
Once they got out of the city proper, they would go their separate ways. Then, there would be a lot that she'd need to do and, if she wanted to try and look on the bright side of things, everything that was going on would certainly make it easier for her to get the truth out. News networks were bound to be reporting on the situation like crazy, and would want interviews with people from the city. If she was lucky, she could be one of those people and tell everything before Umbrella got the chance for damage control. Afterwards, they'd probably do everything they could to make her sound crazy, but there would be too many witnesses to what happened, who had seen firsthand what Umbrella's bioweapons did, and it would be only a small jump for people to believe that Umbrella was making monsters once people started talking about zombies.
The further they went, the fewer people they saw. Most of the cars in the streets had been abandoned, and the ones that still had people in them, Rebecca realized that they weren't really people anymore, when she got too close to one and the occupant lunged at her, repeatedly slamming their face against the closed window, as they tried to attack. Zombies, trapped in cars. They must have been bitten before they tried to escape, and then succumbed as they tried to escape. If people had been dying and changing in their vehicles, that explained why traffic accidents had been an issue from the start, and if first responders showed up and were bitten…
By the time anyone figured out what was going on, there might not be anyone left who could do anything about it.
The few people they did see in passing were all like them, hurrying along with backpacks, suitcases and whatever they could carry. Everyone else was probably safely hunkered down in their houses and apartments, waiting for things to pass. If not for the fires, she'd be doing the same thing.
One thing that she noticed about the people walking, was that they were all heading in the same direction, to the highway and out of the city. Knowing that others were attempting the same thing was reassuring, not so much because of safety in numbers, but because it suggested that maybe she wasn't making a terrible mistake.
Once she was out of the city, everything would be fine. She could walk down the median until things were safe, or she reached members of whatever disaster relief organization was overseeing the efforts being made to help, because things had been going on for long enough that by now, someone had to be starting to do something.
There it was again, the reoccurring theme of someone doing something. Short of Umbrella's private soldiers, what organization was equipped for something like this though, who would even know how to handle it? Zombies weren't exactly something that FEMA had a plan for as far as she knew. Maybe the CDC had some zombie contingency, but that was probably only for a hypothetical accident in one of their labs.
That was an idea, send one of her leeches anonymously to the CDC with a letter, telling them that it was possibly infected with the same virus that had been released in Raccoon City. That way they'd have a sample, something to work with. It might start a panic, they might try and find who sent the letter, but she didn't think that they'd have any luck. The most they could do would be check the note for fingerprints, and she was pretty sure that she didn't have those anymore. As far as she could tell, the leeches were using their tails to make up the tips of her fingers, so the most that she'd leave would be sucker marks.
She was looking at her hands, thinking that over when she heard screaming in the distance.
The man froze, his daughter getting behind him. They watched as a man covered in blood ran past them down the street. He was still alive, but not for long if all of the blood was his. Zombies in front of them, and depending on what happened to the man, there'd be at least one zombie behind them as well.
They were getting into the middle of things, but they had to keep going. The man took a map out of his pocket, checked it and reassured his daughter that they only had three or four more miles to go. It sounded like a long way, but Rebecca knew it wasn't. It wouldn't even take that much time, provided that they didn't encounter any difficulty.
It went without saying that they weren't that lucky.
Eventually, they got to a point where there weren't any other people in the streets, just zombies, though none were close enough to notice them. Just like in the training facility and mansion, the zombies didn't seem to be aware of much past twenty feet from them. Being on the opposite of the street was enough, especially since the zombies always tried to come at them in a straight line, getting stuck against all the abandoned cars in the road. The commotion they made would occasionally draw others in, but they were moving fast enough that it wasn't too much of a concern.
Some zombies noticed enough to sort of follow them, but they'd only be a problem if they slowed down. The man stopped talking, let go of one of the two suitcases he'd been pulling. His daughter dragged hers for a few more meters, and then abandoned that as well.
Being quiet and not stopping worked, until they reached a traffic circle.
The circle itself was jammed with wrecked cars, but it had worked to concentrate a large group of zombies in a single area. Going around would, in theory, be safer, but going across would be faster. Speed versus safety was an important thing to consider, and they stopped to discuss things. What was on either side of the circle was unknown, but past it, the streets looked relatively zombie free.
The man took out his map and scowled. Rebecca understood his thought process exactly, there was no telling what was down any of the side streets, if things were better or worse in the distance. One detour could lead to another, to another, and while they might not end up lost, they could easily end up in a much worse situation.
Rebecca could see a clear path through the circle, the only obstacles in it were the zombies trying to get to them. Making her decision, she pointed it out to the man and his daughter, "I'm going to distract them. As soon as they're all following me, you start moving."
She wasn't sure if she should have been pleased, or upset when he didn't even try to argue with her, "S.T.A.R.S. was made to deal with urban crime and disasters, so I guess you can trust your training. Catch up with us if you can, otherwise, good luck."
Rebecca nodded, not sure if she should try to agree, or disagree with what he'd just said. She did have some training, but none of it had been for anything like this, and out of everyone, she'd consistently preformed the worst during every exercise. The only thing she had going for her was the leeches, and they were something she couldn't mention.
Then he offered her his machete, saying that it was good for limbs, tree limbs, he corrected with a laugh, explaining that he used it for yardwork in their summer home, then he mentioned that he had a gun and some ammo for her too, and started to open up his suitcase.
She took the machete, but refused the gun, and started walking out into the middle of the traffic circle.
He called out to her in a loud whisper, not asking her to come back, but reminding her of the rout he planned to take, so that she could catch up with them.
Focused on the actual human survivors, the zombies ignored her. In her worry about getting out of the city, she'd managed to forget that the zombies had ignored the leech men and would ignore her in favor of live prey. That was easy enough to fix though.
Carefully making her way between two cars, she looked around for something to throw, found a bottle laying on the ground, and threw it at the nearest zombie. They might not respond to her presence, but they reacted when attacked, and sure enough it let out a gurgling moan and in her direction. The sound drew the attention of the others, and they began to converge on her.
The leeches in her backpack, which had been waiting patiently for a signal from her, began to move. She willed them to hold back and hoped that they understood. She was far enough away and the leeches were small enough that it was unlikely they'd be seen, but she didn't want to have to gather up a swarm of leeches, even a small one, before she could continue on her way.
The leeches understood, mostly. Some of them slithered out of the backpack to cling to her shoulders and crawl down her arms, but at least they didn't do anything more.
She knew how to use them to kill zombies, and while helpful, it was slow enough that it was best to use it only as a last resort. Besides, her goal was to draw the attention of the zombies in the area and keep them distracted, not kill them all. Though, as she climbed up onto a car to avoid the zombies, she realized that killing some of them might be necessary.
The man and his daughter were about half way through the circle, making good progress as he'd discarded his remaining suitcase to break into a slow jog. Only a few of the zombies were trying to get to them, and not having much luck thanks to all the cars in the way. If she was going to manage to rejoin them, she'd need to do something about, at least, some of the zombies closest to her, unless she wanted the whole swarm of them following her.
It wasn't like she was unarmed, the machete was a formidable weapon as far as gardening implements went, but she'd never been all that strong to begin with, certainly not strong enough to swing a machete with enough force to cut through bone, and she doubted that she'd be able to line up a strike along a joint with the way the zombies were moving. A strike to the skull would work best, crushing bone and maybe doing enough damage to kill one, but it would depend on where she hit.
She tried to think back to the medical training she had, where was the weakest point of the human skull, and was it something she'd actually be able to hit?
If she wanted to keep up with the others, she'd have to think fast.
Taking the machete in both hands, because she hadn't managed to figure out if she was stronger than she'd been before the leeches, or if her efforts to repair her broken bone would hold, she swung, aiming for the region of the pterion, because she was pretty sure that part of the skull, where four bones met, was one of the weakest places. If she recalled correctly, the bone there was pretty thin as well.
There was a crunch when the blade struck. Bone had broken for sure, though the zombie didn't stop, and she could feel the leeches in her arms and shoulders shifting in place from their attempts to dampen the impact.
When she pulled the blade back, she could see that there was a good sized dent in the side of the zombie's skull, an injury that would kill a human, but apparently not a zombie. It confirmed what she'd noticed during her previous encounters with them, they didn't need much more than their brainstem to keep functioning.
Knowing that didn't help her though, there was no way she'd be able to swing hard enough to accomplish that without damaging herself as well. It looked like she was going to need to rely on the leeches, but maybe she could help them along, save them the time of burrowing in through the eyes and all the way back. Brain tissue was soft enough, that they could damage it just by thrashing around, it was getting there that took time.
Picking up one of the leeches from her shoulder, she put it on the side of the machete blade, and waited for it to latch on with both its mouth and tail sucker. Hoping that her idea would work, she struck another zombie with the blade. The leech understood exactly what it needed to do, it was just a matter of seeing if it was possible.
Another jarring impact, and once again, she failed to kill the zombie. The leech crawled off the blade to remain behind when she jerked it free of the zombie's skull. It immediately crawled forward, and began to try and squeeze its way into the injury, between fragments of shattered bone.
Not wanting to risk losing any more leeches until she saw if her idea worked, she waited, watching as the zombie continued trying to get to her. She didn't have to wait long. Just like the zombies she'd dealt with in the woods, once the leech got in deep enough and did enough damage, it fell to the ground and didn't get back up. It worked faster than she'd expected, but not enough so that she'd be able to catch up with the man and his daughter before they were out of sight. Still, it worked, and if she kept track of how many leeches she used, she wouldn't have to worry about leaving any of them behind. One for each zombie, and there were maybe twenty zombies that were actually able to get near her, only eight of them having made it to where she was.
She took another leech and swung again.
Break bone and leave a leech behind to do the work.
Umbrella had been making weapons, and in ignoring Marcus' leeches, they'd made a mistake on that front, something she was thankful for, not because of what it meant for her, but because of what it meant in general.
If Captain Wesker had known what the leeches were capable of and had gone after them instead of the Tyrant, he might still be alive.
Or he might have ended up something like her.
She wasn't sure which was worse, him having his hands on a potent bioweapon, or him ending up an unkillable monster.
Two more strikes and two more zombies fell. She was almost halfway through.
The next swing was at a bad angle, the way the zombies were moving made it hard to hit the right spot each time, and this time she failed, instead hitting too high. The blade skidded across the thick bone of the top of the zombie's skull, and she felt the impact in her wrists. Little bones ground against each other, the leeches letting go of them and squirming. Her grip weakened as several small bones fell away, leaving her wrist feeling oddly loose. The leeches worked to compensate, gathering together and wrapping around the handle of the machete, a swarm of them covering her hands and helping her hold on. Later, there'd be time to assess the damage, for now she had to stay focused.
She was more careful with the next swing, and managed to hit where she'd been aiming, delivering a leech to burrow into its brain.
Five leeches were out, four zombies were down.
The leech she'd left on the one she'd struck a glancing blow, had managed to get in either through an eye or the nose, she wasn't sure which. Either way, the results were the same as it reached the zombies brainstem and went to work.
Yes, it was a very good thing that Captain Wesker hadn't known what the leeches were capable of. If he'd gotten a swarm of them and managed to replicate what Marcus had accomplished, there was no telling what might have happened. If Umbrella had been able to breed the leeches, sell them for use, or use them on people to make a group of unkillable soldiers, the consequences would have been dire. She wasn't sure exactly what they'd be, but she knew that they'd be bad. The leeches were dangerous, and not just because they might carry the Tyrant virus. They'd be much more effective at killing people than they were at killing zombies, she didn't need her medical knowledge to be certain of that. The only way to kill a zombie was to destroy its brain, but there were so many other ways to harm a person.
After she got out of the city, she was going to need to be extremely careful about who she went to for help. The fact that Umbrella was as big as it was proved that there would be people who would see them as a potential weapon as soon as they found out about them. Those sort of people would be able to think of uses for them that she'd never be able to imagine.
Three zombies to go, as long as she dealt with them quickly enough. There was a chance that the zombies that had yet to get to where she was might ignore her if she didn't attack them.
The last two zombies trying to climb the car and get to her, weren't being cooperative. Neither of them was staying still long enough, or moving in a way that let her get a good angle to hit them in the side of the head. She settled for hitting one across the face with the flat end of the blade, in an attempt to shove it away. It worked, the zombie, not terribly dexterous to begin with, staggered half a step back and tripped over one of the bodies on the ground. For a short time it thrashed in place, clawing at the dead bodies until something must have clicked with whatever instincts it possessed, and it rolled over and began to eat. That was a good thing to know, that given certain circumstances the zombies would eat prey that wasn't freshly killed. There was probably some explanation for it, one that linked up with why they ignored her most of the time, but could be goaded into attacking.
The last zombie she didn't even bother trying to hit, she just moved over to the side of the car opposite it and slid off the roof. Dropping to the ground, she rolled under the car to hide from it and called the leeches back to her.
One by one, they left the dead zombies as the two that were still alive lost interest in her and wandered off.
The leeches were covered in slime and gore, the last one to come back taking its time, enough so that she reached out and grabbed it as soon as it was near enough. The leech had been eating, they all had, but this particular one had been hungrier than the others, and had wanted to get a few more bites before heading back. While the other leeches went into her backpack, the one she'd grabbed joined the ones making her hand. They moved to make room for it and she could feel them continue to move as they cleaned the blood and matter from it.
They were licking it clean.
Because to them, it was covered in food.
The leeches were disgusting, and that would never change.
Backing away from the zombies, she got out from under the car and began to make her way in the direction her temporary companions had gone. She wanted to run, get away from the zombies and back to the relative safety offered by numbers and being around someone who knew what they were doing, but she was afraid if she went any faster than a brisk walk, she'd draw the attention of the zombies.
Apart from a group, she was frightened again. The zombies wouldn't hurt her. Maybe they couldn't hurt her, but that didn't make what was going on any less frightening. She could still hear sirens in the distance, but they were far fewer, the same with the honking of car horns. What was getting more common was the crack of gunfire. The city sounded like a war zone, and with the smoke rising from the burning buildings, it looked like one too.
Up ahead, the streets were dark. It shouldn't have been a surprise that there would be sections of the city without electricity, given what was going on, but it was something that she hadn't planned for.
Reaching an intersection, she squinted up at the street signs. It was dark enough that she couldn't see too much, but she was pretty sure that she was supposed to make a left here or at the next intersection. She'd try here and if she didn't see any sign of anyone by the time she got to the next intersection, she'd turn around and try again.
The problem was, she didn't like the dark any more than the leeches liked bright light. She couldn't see, and while the leeches had ways around it when they were on their own, it wasn't something she could use.
To keep from tripping over anything, she had to divide her attention between the zombies in the streets and the ground in front of her.
If she'd been thinking, she would have brought a flashlight, but in all her time in the city, she'd never needed one before. Walking out in the woods had been one thing, she'd expected it to get dark there, but she never thought about the lights going out anywhere in the city itself.
Motion down the road drew her attention, and scrambling around pile of wrecked cars that blocked off the entire street and most of the sidewalk, she saw a pickup truck that was laying on its side, half on and half off the sidewalk. Three zombies were clawing at it, trying to get in.
She didn't think much of it, just seeing it as evidence that she'd gone the wrong way. If the man and his daughter had been through the area, the pair of zombies would have at least tried to follow them rather than continuing to try and get into the car. Her biggest concern was trying to decide whether she should press on and try to figure out where she was, or if she should turn around and try to figure out the right way to go, it didn't even occur to her to try and figure out why the zombies were trying to get into the truck, until she heard an out of place sound, a terrified whimper and watched as the zombies redoubled their efforts to get into the truck.
Someone was trapped inside.
Three zombies she could deal with easily enough, especially when they were distracted.
Taking a leech and placing it on the side of the machete, she got ready for what would hopefully be a very short, one-sided fight against the zombies. Having already figured out how things worked, two more leeches had emerged and were visibly clinging to the back of her hand, ready and waiting for when she needed them.
The first zombie never even turned to face her, before she struck it.
The second nearly grabbed her while she was readying a leech, prompting her to swing wildly.
The blade grated against bone, twisting and falling from her hand. At the same time, a frightened male voice called out from the cab of the truck.
"Is there someone out there? Help!"
Reassuring as it was to hear that they sounded unharmed, it wasn't as though they were in a position where they could help her, and she was very much in need of help.
As she scrambled for the blade, the third zombie grabbed the back of her jacket, causing her to fall face first to the ground. She rolled over, tried to shove it away from her with one hand, while continuing to reach for the machete with the other. The zombie moved much faster than she'd anticipated, and she ended up pressing her open hand against its face. Her fingers slipped against the gore, coating it and she felt teeth close around them. The leeches squirmed, letting go of each other to avoid being bitten in half. More bones were lost as her hand disintegrated into a writing mess of leeches, mouths facing outwards as they attacked. They'd learned from her, but they'd also noticed what Marcus had done when he had pursued her through the training facility.
The zombie continued to bit and claw ineffectually, leeches parting like water to avoid injury.
Her fingertips brushed against handle of the machete. Immediately, leeches stretched their bodies, crawling over each other to wrap around it.
After repeatedly being used to break bone, the blade's edge was badly bent, but even if it hadn't been, the zombie was too close for her to have the room to swing it. Instead, she adjusted her grip and repeatedly slammed the back of its handle against the zombie's face, until she felt bone break, first its jaw so that it couldn't keep biting her, and then, as she had with the others, the side of its skull. The writhing black mess of leeches that was her hand, pulled chunks of flesh from its skull, exposing bone. She could feel where it was broken, an area when were was some give instead of solid bone. The leeches grabbed onto it, feeling for the edges and pulling. More leeches pushed their way in.
The zombie shuddered and died, falling heavily on top of her.
Rolling it off of her, she called the leeches still on it back to her, before they could start to wander.
"Hello?" the person in the truck called out again, "Is there anyone out there? Are they gone?"
"Yes," she spoke as loudly as she dared, hoping that he'd hear her, "But keep quiet or more of them will hear you."
"Please, let me out," he was quieter this time, still speaking too loud for her comfort, but no longer shouting.
"I will, I just need to…" she watched as the leeches making her hands rearranged themselves, and returned to creating the illusion of normalcy. She rubbed her hands together, relieved that she didn't feel teeth when she did. The last thing she needed was to worry about them accidentally biting someone. Satisfied, she went over to take a look at the truck.
There was enough light for her to see that the windshield and passenger window weren't broken. That was good, no broken glass meant that it would be safer, but it also made things harder for her.
How was she going to get him out?
"Are you alright?" she asked, starting to work on a plan, "Can you move?"
She could see him, laying on his side, still in the driver's seat, and she needed to know if the reason he hadn't moved was because he was injured. He didn't sound hurt, just frightened, but there was no telling what she couldn't see.
"Yes," a pause, "No, my seatbelt's stuck."
"Alright," that complicated matters some, but it wasn't unexpected, "Does the window at the back of the cab open? If it does I've got a knife I can use to cut you free."
"Oh, a knife?" just talking seemed to be working to calm him down, "I've got a pocketknife. If I can get it, I can probably handle that myself."
By the sound of his voice, he wasn't much older than her, if he even was older than her. It was just as likely that he was a high school kid with his learner's permit. That would certainly explain the situation he'd managed to get himself into.
She watched as he wiggled in place, pulled the knife out of his pants' pocket and begin to work at freeing himself. Not being in a state of panic worked wonders in most situations. He talked as he cut and she listened, pacing back and forth in front of the truck, as she kept an eye out for zombies. There were none so far, but she could hear them a street or two over.
"I was driving along, had just gotten out of the traffic jam when there were these guys standing in the road. Just standing there," he explained as he cut himself free, "I slowed down, honked the horn and they just stood there, well actually, one of them ran at me. I tried to turn, get out of the way before I hit him, or he hit me and I jumped onto the curb. I wasn't going fast or anything, but the way he was running or something, maybe it was just bad luck, but when he hit the truck it was just enough to tip me over. I called for help, but they just stood around, hitting at the truck and making horrible noises. What's going on?"
"It's a virus," having explained once, it was easier this time and she suspected that with each retelling it would continue to do so, because it was a story that she had a feeling that she'd be repeating a lot in the near future, "It makes people go crazy and attack each other. Umbrella made it. I don't know how it got out, but there are infected people all over the city."
"Oh, so that's why those guys were…"
It was hard to tell if he was in shock, or just taking what she said remarkably well. Then again, he'd spent who knew how many hours trapped while three zombies tried to get to him, so he'd had plenty of time to come to terms with what the virus did to people.
"It's pretty bad, but if we get out of the city we'll be safe. Someone's got to be working on a way to stop the virus by now, and they'll probably be on the outskirts of the city," she didn't know if that was true, but it made sense. It wasn't like they'd let the city burn and the virus spread.
"Got it!" he interrupted her as he finished cutting the last section of his seatbelt, and managed to twist and turn until he was able to stand up. The cab of the truck was small enough that it was easy for him to stand up and reach the door. Unlocking it, he pushed it open and started to pull himself out.
Rebecca went over to offer him a hand, only to realize that she was a mess from having a zombie land on top of her. The mess wasn't a problem for her, but it wouldn't look good if they encountered anyone else. The last thing she needed was for someone to mistake her for a zombie and shoot her. It wasn't like it would kill her or even hurt that much, but it was something that she didn't want to have to explain.
Putting down her backpack, she pulled off the jacket. It was mostly her hands and arms that had been bitten and clawed at, and the zombie's blood hadn't managed to soak through yet, so her shirt underneath was mostly fine, which was good since she hadn't thought to bring a change of clothing, just a knife, water and, of course, the leeches.
The boy managed just fine without her help, hopping out and landing on his feet. He looked around, at the orange and black streaked sky in the distance, where the fires were still burning, then he looked at the dead zombies on the ground and froze.
"Don't worry," she said quickly, when she saw that he was staring at the bodies, "They're like animals, working on instinct alone. They don't think, they don't respond, they just attack."
"You…you killed them?" his eyes were wide, his face pale.
"I had to," as she spoke she recalled how it had been when she killed her first zombie, frightening, horrible, but she'd gotten used to it. Knowing that they weren't really people anymore had helped, as had the fact that it was either them or her. She still wouldn't have been able to imagine getting to the point where she'd be able to kill one more or less with her bare hands, if directing leeches to dig into a zombie's brain counted, "If they got to you they would have killed you."
He took a step closer, looked at the bodies and saw the condition they were in. Torn clothing, bite marks, but also the injuries to their skulls.
How much had he been able to see while he was trapped?
It was dark enough that he couldn't have seen the leeches, and he didn't know how the virus was transmitted, so it didn't matter that he'd seen her get bitten repeatedly.
"Where are we going?" he asked, looking at her expectantly.
"To the highway and away from here."
It was an answer he was willing to go along with, and between the two of them they were able to figure out where they were and where to go.
Traveling with him was easy enough. He was more than happy to run from any zombies they encountered, and it didn't matter that he was faster than her since the zombies weren't a danger for her and she was always able to catch up. Neither of them was one-hundred percent sure about exactly what streets they had to take, but between the two of them, they managed to figure things out until they started seeing signs for the highway, then it was simply a matter of following them.
Further proof that they were going in the right direction was that occasionally they'd see other…survivors. At this point, she was willing to think of them as survivors. None of them had any interest in banding together, though she couldn't blame them. It was clear from looking at her that she'd been in a fight, and anyone who'd made it this far had probably figured out how the zombies worked, and knew that anyone who'd been bitten was a danger. No one was shooting at them at least, which was a relief. Occasionally, she'd see zombies or hear gunshots nearby, reminding them that, though they were closer to safety with every step, they still weren't out of danger.
By the time they reached the highway, the two of them were part of a large, loosely held together group, united only by the fact that they were all heading in the same direction. The only conversation taking place was between people who had been together to begin with. That changed when they reached the roadblock.
There were no relief organizations waiting at the highway when they made it there, no rescuers, just makeshift barricades and notices posted on them that the whole city was under quarantine, and no one was allowed in or out. Whoever had put up the barricades was long gone, and had left no indication that they planned to return.
Other people had made it there before them, including the man and his daughter from earlier. They waved at Rebecca, called her over and explained what she could already see. Whoever had been there was long gone, but they'd left some supplies, cases of instant soup cups, something that had been a staple for her thought college, and bottled water. She was thankful for the water and, feeling slightly greedy, immediately drank two bottles to keep the leeches happy and slipped a third into her backpack. She still had her thermos, but she wasn't sure how long she'd be stuck away from any source of water, and she needed to keep the leeches happy. She, and they, were thankful for the water.
Reaching the relative safety of the highway and the abandoned roadblock was a start, but it didn't feel right staying there.
It was unnerving, there was no sign that the place had been overrun, no bodies or shell casings, just an abandoned roadblock. They hadn't even left an explanation of where they'd gone, directions for the survivors to follow so they could get to actual help.
A single small plane passed overhead, circling once before vanishing into the distance.
"Maybe they're elsewhere, trying to organize a push into the city, rescue the people who are still trapped?" Rebecca suggested, even though she knew that it was unlikely. Whoever had been there, had left for a reason and she didn't like that she couldn't figure out what that reason was, "The signs say to wait, but maybe we should keep going."
Because there was no telling when they'd return, or if they'd get there before the zombies that were sure to come. Yes, the city was supposed to be under quarantine, and she felt more than a little guilty about ignoring that when she was one of the things that they were probably trying to keep from getting out, but this was a matter of life and death for other people too, people who could still be killed by zombies.
At this point, the only thing she knew for sure was that the further they got from the city, the safer they were.
So she left the abandoned roadblock and kept going, enough people following along behind her that she didn't feel bad about it. Occasionally she'd look behind, stare at the city in the distance. The fires had spread, a hazy orange glow showing their progress. No one was there to put them out and they'd continue to spread until they burned themselves out, because she didn't think that any firefighters would be coming any time soon. No rescue efforts, no teams to help the people who managed to make it out, just the plane, which had made a second pass.
Rebecca didn't know what to make of it, but she wanted to take it as a sign that someone was going to send help, that the plane was part of some larger effort being organized. The problem was, it was too dark to make out any details of the plane.
It was a mystery that would be solved in time, when they got to safety, wherever that was. Maybe the rescuers had pulled back to the nearest rest area on the highway to better organize.
As far as she could tell, the highway was clear of zombies and none of the people walking down it were infected, so that wasn't a concern, but the road itself was cluttered with wrecked and abandoned cars, some of which had been pushed out of the way. She and the other survivors followed that cleared path, left from either the arrival or departure of whoever had set up the barricade.
There were conversations taking place, all of them hushed and since she wasn't a part of any of them, Rebecca ignored them. Everyone had worries of their own and so did she, hers were just different. She didn't have friends or family in the city to fret over, just the contents of her apartment, so her biggest concern was getting stuck outside during the day. The weather channel had said that it was going to be a bright and sunny day, and she hadn't brought a watch so she didn't know how many hours she had left until dawn. Even then, she wasn't sure how far she'd have to go to find a place to stay. She could always wait it out in the woods, she supposed, but would mean losing most of a day when every second counted. The world needed to know about Umbrella and its Tyrant project.
So she kept going, hoping that she could make it those last few miles to the rest area, and the safety she imagined was there. She tried to imagine what would be there. Medical tents of course, they'd want to make sure that none of the people arriving were infected. She'd have to find a way to avoid any examination that would reveal that she wasn't alive, but just by looking at her they wouldn't be able to see that anything was wrong, so she might be able to do it. There'd be hot food most likely, and maybe tents and sleeping bags set up in the parking lot. If she needed to, she could spend the day in one of them. There might even be busses, taking the survivors further away from the city, to some place where they could get in touch with relatives and figure out where to go next.
When she got there, she'd see about calling her parents, letting them know that she was alright. Maybe after that, she'd call Professor Rice and figure things out with him, because she still had the leeches and winter to worry about.
Several people in the group stopped, looking up and listening. One of them pointed skyward.
Rebecca heard it before she saw anything, the drone of engines.
Lights came into view not long afterwards. Three more planes were approaching, flying higher and faster than the first. They slowed down as they approached the city.
Something was about to happen, she just didn't know what and wasn't sure how to ask. If Chris Redfield, or Barry, or anyone else from S.T.A.R.S. was there, they might have known, but she didn't and for that reason she kept quiet. Watching and waiting would be enough.
An older looking man stopped watching, turned around and slowly lowered himself to the ground, face down, hands folded over his head. A few other people followed suit.
The conversation that had started when the planes had first been spotted began to die off, dropping down to nervous whispers.
Several people started running as fast as they could.
"What are you guys doing?" someone, Rebecca couldn't see who or where they were, wondered.
It was a good question, probably one that everyone still standing and watching had on their minds. No one answered, but the answer presented itself.
A flash lit up the sky, the city itself seemed to tremble and the glow of the fires vanished, blotted out by thick, black dust.
By the time the sound of the blast reached them, the next bombs had been dropped.
The sound echoed off the mountains like the end of the world, going on and on like it would never end.
Dust rose into the sky and slowly began to settle, fires continued to burn, but Raccoon City was gone.