quick edit: Changed William to Billy. For some reason my Word autocorrects Billy to William.

Chapter 6

Zero Hour 1.1

July 23, 1998

Raccoon Forest Outskirts

7:35 pm

The Helicopter flew above the dark forests of the Arklay Mountains, pushing through the light drizzle of rain as the Bravo Team made their way to investigate the supposedly abandoned Spencer Estate.

Rebecca Chambers forced herself to calm down, her hands unconsciously squeezing the straps that served as the seatbelts when she looked outside and saw lightning flash. Of all the days to conduct a search, it had to be now of all times.

The atmosphere inside the chopper was solemn and tense as they all wondered if they truly were prepared enough to fight against the infected. Animal or otherwise. That was the underlying issue that everyone had with this mission.

This... New virus. It was horrifying. It was something out of a horror movie.

What this thing basically does is turn the aggression of some poor soul up to eleven, where the infected would attack anything that wasn't infected, as evidenced when she used a sample of the blood from the bloody knife on a lab mouse.

The thing basically went rabid in just seconds, tearing through the other mice with abandon... She had no choice but to kill the poor thing and sterilize everything that she had used in the experiment with fire.

If this thing could really affect humans like that, then it was entirely possible that those cannibal killings were done by those infected with this virus... Whether they were aware of their actions or not, she didn't know.

When the other Bravos heard about this, they were horrified. This virus was potentially creating rabid humans that are out and about in the forest, possibly stalking through the woods. That alone raised the danger level of this mission to the red.

Captain Marini tried to postpone the mission, asking the Chief for a better, more optimal time where conditions would be more suitable for a proper sweep. But the fat man staunchly refused, saying that whatever they were worried about was probably nothing as evidenced by the fact that the Cannibal Killings and the Animal Attacks had stopped since last week.

He again reasoned that the press had already reported that they were to conduct a search for the perpetrators at the Arklay Mountains and it would make the RPD look bad if they were to just cancel it for another date.

So he says, but all of them knew that what he really was saying was that it would make him look incompetent, especially after that grand speech that he did on the news.

Thankfully though, the good captain managed to convince the fat bastard to let them use the SWAT equipment. She didn't know how but talk in the office states that it involved threats from the usually calm captain of the Bravo team.

So here they were, out in this damn rain and above forests that may or may not contain extremely dangerous diseased animals or people. The lightning and thunder also didn't help in calming everyone in the chopper down.

A sigh escaped her lips and unconsciously, she put a hand over her heart. A habit that she developed back when she was just a little girl suffering from asthma.

Briefly her mind went back to the ambush at her apartment and instantly her mood soured.

Everything had been a blur before her... new friend came through her apartment's entrance and began to comfort her. All she knew was that she had managed to wrestle the gun out of her assailant's hand and had turned it against him...

She shuddered in the helicopter's seat when she remembered the man's blood pooling onto her carpet. The red viscous liquid seeped into the gift that one of her friends from college gifted her.

Had Jaune not been there to keep her strong, she would have broken down to a sobbing mess... It was just that sudden.

Jaune Arc...

Quite a name, his parents must have gotten it from the Maid of Orleans herself.

He was kind, compassionate and wasn't afraid to show who he really was. In the short time that she spent with him, she had already considered him a good friend...

He kept visiting her the following days after that, despite being detained by the RPD for vigilantism after saving her. It was a good thing that the charges were dropped a little bit later when video evidence surfaced a few hours later. Three men had indeed attacked him first but amazingly, Jaune was able to apprehend them by fighting dirty.

Chris had actually joked that the guy must've been a mixed martial arts fighter prior to his job as a cleaner and she was inclined to agree when she later found out that he had essentially broken his assailant's bones.

Still, even after being manhandled by the police and spending a night in jail, he still came to hang out with her from time to time. Even watching some movies in the various cinemas that dotted the entertainment district.

In all honesty, she was really, really glad that he did, since she had been so stressed by work lately due to this virus business and the times where he wasn't available, she found herself becoming more restless than usual due to her mind just going on autopilot and never really stopping to relax. Essentially overworking herself. So yeah, she was glad that he was there to distract her from all of it.

Sighing in her seat, she wondered what he was doing right now. She hoped that he was okay... Prior to this mission, they did talk about some heavy stuff. She bit her lip when remembered that she accidentally mentioned the truth about her research and the truth attacks in the forest. She couldn't help it back then, the two of them were alone in one of Raccoon City's parks and spent the majority of the time talking about random things... Personal things… so she just… got caught up in the atmosphere and blurted it out.

He was understandably spooked by what she had to say.

But thankfully, he did promise to never tell anyone about it and she believed that he wouldn't. She had come to know that Jaune was probably the most sincere guy she knew. It was quite a shock to her when she found out that he didn't have a girlfriend of all things. But she digressed, the point was, Jaune was someone she could trust.

What worried her though, was that the fact that she was directly working on the case might have him stay away from her because of the disgusting nature of it. Which was pretty stupid now that she thought about it, since the guy probably worked on nastier things when he delved into the labyrinthian sewers of Raccoon city.

Hopefully, once this was over and after her findings were sent to the FBI, both she and Jaune could go out in a binge watching session. She'll have to show him the glory of old Harry Haussen monster flicks.

She smiled as she closed her eyes, finally calming down with thoughts of him enjoying movies with her.

And then she heard something exploding from the back.

'Great.' She groaned. Of course, something had to ruin her peace. The whole cabin shuddered and shook as the several machinery that composed the Helicopter's rear gear began to emit smoke as they spluttered and sparked. She held onto the straps of her seat as the helicopter began to dip and bob wildly.

"What happened?" Captain Enrico shouted on the onboard radio.

"Engine failure! Something's happened to the rear rotors!" Kevin yelled out, trying to stabilize the chopper as they descended. "Hold on! I see a clearing! Attempting an emergency landing now!"

Everyone did as they were told and held onto their straps, others held onto the struts that hung above them. To her side, she saw Sully holding onto a rosary with such focus that she wondered if he was praying for all of them, to the front of her, she saw Richard and Forest, nervously looking at the back of the chopper as if they were trying to see if the back was gonna get torn off or something. The Captain issued some orders that she could barely hear due to the sound of grinding metal.

As for herself, she sat on her seat. Thinking of her loved ones. The chopper began to spin in the air, making things worse for everyone inside the cabin. As the sound of machinery began to get louder and louder. The smell of burnt rubber permeated throughout the cabin as smoke began to fill it up.

She honestly thought that she was really going to die on her first mission. The others seemed to think so too…

…Until suddenly, everything stopped. Just like that. She heard the sound of the primary rotor powering down and once it turned off, the whole cabin was silent.

A collective sigh of relief was heard once they realized that they were safe. Forest laughed in his seat while Richard moved his head to the side and puked. Sully made the sign of the cross before kissing the rosary in his hand, as for her, she just took a deep breath and rested her head onto the back of her seat.

"That was some damn good flying, Kev!" Forest yelled over at the pilot's seat and she saw Kevin give him a thumbs up. The others agreed as a chorus of agreement resounded inside.

"Everyone alright?" Captain Marini asked, looking around and taking control of the situation.

Everyone all seemed to be accounted for and none of them were harmed. After confirming that, the captain then asked Kevin about what just happened.

Kevin, for his part, tried to flip some switches and press some buttons but nothing seemed to work. "Everything's fried." He sighed, shaking his head.

"Was it the lightning?" Sully asked, looking over.

"Probably. We didn't get hit, if that's what you're thinking. If we did, the cockpit would have exploded too." He chuckled nervously. "It's most likely that we got too close to one and something at the rear got affected. It happens from time to time."

Edward then spoke up right beside Kevin. "The Transmitter fried too."

"Richard. Can it be fixed?" The captain asked their resident communications expert.

"I can try. But if what Ed said was true then it would probably be useless without the transmitter." Richard shrugged.

The Captain could only nod slowly and stroke his mustache as he thought about their options, thankfully he did manage to do one thing before they crashed. "I called in when we were hit, but I don't know whether it went through or not… though they will have our coordinates. If we don't make a report soon, the others will come looking."

"For now though, secure your weapons and gear. We'll have to see where we are and make a perimeter check to fortify our position." He said as he slid open the sliding door.

They all found themselves in pitch black darkness as they all filed out of the chopper. The rain had stopped, leaving the ground muddy and wet, making it hard to move the heavy boots that they all wore. The air was damp, and sticky with how humid the whole forest around them was. She heard a couple of rustling leaves behind her and she pointed a flashlight to the direction. She didn't see anything but she supposed it must have just been a possum or something.

"Hey there kid. Are you doing alright?" Ken "Sully" Sullivan walked up beside her with a disarming grin on his face.

"I'm good. Nervous, but hanging in there." She smiled, gripping the MP5 that was slung over her shoulder. The SWAT gear that she wore felt heavy now that she was walking around with it, but she knew that it was essential just in case they encountered one of those dogs. "Hell of an entrance, though. Do you guys do this with all the new recruits?"

He laughed, "Actually, yeah. Waste of choppers, but we do have a reputation of being badasses to maintain."

A few of the other Bravos near them laughed along with her, effectively lightening the mood as they surveyed their surroundings.

"Alright, people. Let's fan out and investigate the surrounding area." Their captain called out to the rest of them. "Kev, you, Ed and Sully stay with the chopper and do what you can with the communications equipment. The rest of you keep close. I want this place secured." He then looked to the distance and frowned before continuing, "Remember the tactics that we devised for those dog things. Keep Em away and move around. Check for crossfire and never let those things reach your comrades."

"What if we encounter the infected people?" Rebecca asked, nervously swallowing.

"Same tactics. If this thing really does act like rabies, then be sure to keep your distance… and if they become hostile… then do not hesitate to put them down. This isn't a training mission, Rebecca. This is hostile territory." He then began to walk towards her, causing her to flinch back. Stopping just in front of her, he put a hand to her shoulder and squeezed it. "Can you handle it?" He asked with a grim look to his face.

Rebecca swallowed her nervousness again and nodded, giving him a determined look. "I can."

Captain Enrico Marini nodded and smiled. "Good. Prove to us that you're STARS material."

He turned to the rest of them and told them to check their gear and after that was said and done, the Bravos began to make their way throughout the forest around them.

Beams of light from their flashlights cut through the darkness revealing the thick foliage and trees. They all moved forward, each member being accompanied by another. To her side was the captain, slowly inching along the thick grass as they trudged along the canopy.

"I found something!" Richard called out, causing every beam of light to zero in on him. They then congregated at his location where they saw Richard pointing his light to something big and metallic on a dirt road of all things.

As they all got closer, Rebecca couldn't help but gasp when she saw it.

Just to the side of the narrow road was an overturned jeep. The vehicle was mostly intact and aside from the bent chassis, the only thing that seemed to be broken was the windshield at the front where she could see-...

"Oh god…" She gasped again, though this time she swung her MP5 at her back and began to pull out a first aid kit from one of her hip pouches. Just over by the driver's seat was what looked to be an arm that still wore what looked to be green clothes. A survivor of this crash maybe? She had to help, so she began to jog over to do so.

"Rebecca, wait!" Captain Marini called out to her and she stopped in her tracks. She turned with a confused look but the captain only turned to both Dewey and Richard.

"Make sure it's safe." He said and the two Bravos nodded wordlessly. The two then raised their own guns as they passed her.

Rebecca was forced to hang back and watch as the two men separated, each taking the two opposite sides of the jeep. Dewey was the one to check the front, where he inspected the body the arm was supposedly attached to. Richard on the other hand, checked the back and judging from how he recoiled… he must have found something bad.

"Clear." Dewey said, sighing. He turned to her and shook his head, silently relaying to her that there was nothing more that they could do.

"Also clear. Though you might want to check this Cap." Richard said, his face and tone grave.

Captain Marini nodded and then turned to Rebecca. "Come on."

Rebecca felt herself shudder as the sudden feeling of dread began to build up in her, but even still, she followed her captain towards the jeep. The feeling was completely justified once she'd seen what was actually behind the crashed vehicle.

Bodies. Four of them. All wearing fatigues… shit….

Two were mangled, thrown away by the force of the crash, one was crushed under the side of the jeep… the last one was the driver, neck bent unnaturally… It was instant.

"What the hell happened here?..." She heard Richard mutter. He bent down and picked up what looked to be a briefcase that miraculously survived the crash. Rebecca paid no mind to that, leaving the inspecting of the thing to him. She instead looked at the bodies more and it was there that she noticed that some of them were wearing armbands, the 'MP' lettering clear when the beam of her flashlight came onto them.

"Military Police? Is there a camp nearby?" She asked her colleagues.

"Could be from Ragithon. It's the nearest military camp to the city." Richard answered as he tried to pry the briefcase open.

"No." The captain said. She saw him bending down and prodding the outstretched arm of the driver with a stick. "Look at the insignia…. These are Marines."

"Marines?... That can't be right. That means they're what, a hundred miles away from their base?" Dewey said to the side. He stepped closer and inspected the body that was crushed underneath the jeep where he also saw the same 'US Marines' insignia proudly stitched onto their military fatigue's shoulder. "That doesn't make sense. These are from Donnel. I recognize that eagle symbol from anywhere… used to know a guy who's stationed there."

"What were they doing here, then? And what the hell happened to them?" Rebecca asked.

"Ain't that the million dollar question…" Captain Enrico huffed.

"I think I can answer that." Richard said, catching all their attention. He approached them with the briefcase now open in his hands. A clipboard was then given to the captain in which he read from.

"Looks like they were transporting a prisoner to Ragithon." He said. "Ex-lieutenant Billy Coen. Twenty-three years old and already on his way to death row."

Rebecca caught a glimpse of the file where a picture was clipped onto the document. She saw a young man that had handsome features, dark hair, dark eyes and was wearing plain civilian clothes… she noticed that none of the corpses here matched his description… that was troubling.

Captain Marini gave the clipboard back to Richard and sucked in a breath. "His death sentence was supposed to be held yesterday."

"So what? Did the guy do this?" Dewey asked, now on edge at the thought of a murderous ex-marine prowling in the forest.

The Captain began to stroke his mustache as he pondered. Looking at the bodies once more, his eyes narrowed. "Rebecca, those wounds on the bodies. Do they look normal to you?"

Rebecca hummed as she knelt over the driver. She inspected the lacerations all over his neck and found that something wasn't quite right about it… sure there were clear signs of vehicular injuries, but these looked like-...

"Teeth marks…" Her eyes widened as the realization set in. She stood back up alarmed at what she saw, causing the others to jump back in surprise. Dewey asked what was wrong but fell onto deaf ears as she hurried to the ones that were thrown away.

And to her utter horror, all of them had signs of being mauled.

"Dogs… the infected dogs were here!" She yelled over.

"Shit." Captain Marini cursed, his face set onto a scowl. The issue with the escaped prisoner was set aside as the captain swept his MP5 around the crash site. "Regroup with the others." He ordered. "Rebecca, stick close."

"Yes sir!" She, along with the others yelled out as they began to hurry back to their helicopter.

As they ran through the forest, Rebecca felt as if something had changed. Sounds of leaves rustling began to surround them as they forced their way through the shrubbery. Looking from side to side, she could make out silhouettes coming out of the shadows, slowly inching their way towards them. The others didn't seem to notice so she tried to tell them.

"I see something!" She yelled out as she ran with them.

"What is it?" Captain Marini yelled back.

"The forest! Something's in the forest!"

"I see them! But don't stop! We need to regroup!" He said.

Just then, moans began to resound all over the forest. Causing her heart rate to quicken.

'Just what the hell was going on!?' She gritted her teeth.

They all managed to reach the clearing where Kevin, Sully and Forest were still working on the chopper. A startled Forest was the one to notice them first as they walked closer with labored breaths.

"Guys? What happened?" He asked with concern on his face.

"Get your guns ready. We found traces of the infected dogs just a couple of meters away from us." The Captain ordered.

"Shit. Alright, guys. Come on!" Forest called out to them, tapping the chopper to make a point of it.

Both Sully and Kevin nodded and readied their guns, positioning themselves inside the chopper itself.

Everyone, including her, began to make a circle formation around the helicopter. Their flashlights trained on all sides.

Sweat ran down Rebecca's face as she began to sweep her flashlight's beam from left to right, but all she could see was just thick foliage… the others too, there seemed to be nothing coming out of the forest around them. As a tense three minutes passed, Rebecca had begun to think that it might have been a false alarm. She might have just been wrong and that she was imagining those silhouettes inside the forest…

…Until something really did come out of it. Just over by the trees, her flashlight caught sight of someone slowly shambling out of the bushes. A man wearing what looked to be a white shirt and red tie that was paired with khaki pants, the typical attire for a desk jockey or a salaryman. What alarmed her though was that the man was covered in blood. Several parts of his clothes were torn to shreds, leaving exposed flesh on the inside that seemed to have been ripped out.

The man groaned as soon as he saw Rebecca and began to stumble towards her as if the sight of her excited by the prospect of grabbing her. She might have labeled the guy as a pervert but judging from the milky-white eyes that were filled with animalistic hunger, she figured that it probably wouldn't fit.

"Freeze!" She called out, but the man only continued with his hurried gait. "Stop! Or I'll shoot!" She warned.

"Contact!" She heard Sully yell out, but she was too focused on the person a couple of meters away from her.

"Here too!" Edward called out next.

"Here as well!" Richard added.

"We're surrounded." The Captain cursed.

"What do we do?" Rebecca asked, never taking her eyes away from her target.

She was then taken aback once she heard the Captain's gun fire of a single shot, where she saw the bullet hit directly into his target's thigh. But his target didn't even flinch from having his leg shot. Instead, his target only seemed to become more enraged and began to quicken his pace.

"They're infected! Fire at will!" He ordered, but the others hesitated.

More and more of these people began to walk out of the foliage, all sporting various signs of grave injuries and crippling lacerations.

"I said!" He shot his target again, now straight into the chest, causing it to fall to the ground. "Fire at…will?..." His voice trailed off.

Looking over, Rebecca saw the confused and wide-eyed face that their Captain was making. She turned to where he was looking, curious as to what got him to make that expression…

And no sooner than she did, did she make the same expression.

That man that he shot clearly had a hole in his chest… it was supposed to be fatal, a one hit kill… but then the man stood up, continuing his path towards their captain…

"Jesus Christ…" She muttered as a horrible thought crossed her mind, turning back to her own target. She noticed that her target was now accompanied by three more of them, all shambling right behind him.

She tried her best to push down her hesitation and squeezed the trigger, firing off a single bullet from her own SMG. The bullet hit her target square through the shoulder and that barely did anything to him…

Another shot was fired, hitting him in the stomach… and yet only yielded the same result.

Her mind went back to all of the movies she saw, all of the lore she's managed to consume…. She knew what these things were despite the impossibility of it.

"Oh shit…" She breathed, eyes wide with utter denial at the existence of such a thing…. Rabid humans? Sure, Crazed lunatics? Yeah, okay… but these things?...What the hell?! Was this some kind of cosmic joke?!

"They're- fuck! They're not staying down! No matter how much I shoot them! They're not staying down!" Dewey yelled, voice now panicked.

"Fuck! How do we kill these things?!" Kevin added out as he shot the things approaching him at center mass.

'…They won't die because they're already dead…'

"These things…" Her voice was small as the reality of the situation bore down on her.

"Shit! Come on! Die already!" Sully angrily yelled as he took out the legs of some of his targets.

"These things…"

"Keep firing! Don't let them come closer!" Captain Marini ordered, gritting his teeth…

'Aim for the head… it's the only way to be sure…'

"THESE THINGS ARE FUCKING ZOMBIES!" She yelled out, aiming high and pulling the trigger.

Splat!

A red gush of blackened blood bloomed out from the back of her target's head. The body didn't rise up again, proving her conclusion.

"Aim for the head! Aim for the head!" She yelled out to her comrades and they followed suit.

And soon enough, the entire area was drowned out by gunfire as each Bravo team member began to fire upon the incoming horde, all following the example of their junior member.

And they saw that what she said was true, aiming for the head did work as the walking corpses fell to the ground unmoving.

And in just a few more minutes, the entire forest went quiet as the last of the zombies died by her gun.

Rebecca's breaths were ragged and the others were no better too. Even after seeing it for real, she still had a hard time actually accepting it.

"What the hell was that?! What the fuck happened to these people?" Dewey spoke, with a panicked tone. The others looked like they were in shock too. Especially Sully, the man was practically praying as he sat in the helicopter.

Captain Marini was the one to approach her. "Chambers, how did you know that would work…"

She looked at her captain for a moment before answering, knowing full well how it sounded.

"Movies, sir. Movies." She answered.

"Movies? This ain't a movie Rebecca!" Kevin yelled. "This shit is… this is….Fuck!" He punched the chopper's chassis in frustration.

The captain didn't mind him though, instead he just raised an eyebrow and signaled for her to explain some more.

"These things… no matter how you look at it, these things are zombies." She gripped the handle of her MP5 as she stared at the blank, rotted face of the undead that she had killed. "I've watched enough Romero Movies to know how to deal with these things… and judging from how they moved, I'd say that those depictions of him were accurate."

"But how is this possible?... I mean- real zombies? It's-" Dewey tried to rationalize but only drew a blank as he did.

"The virus." She said, her face hardening. "You guys all saw how it affected the lab mouse that I tested it on. At first I thought that it would just be like the rabies virus… but I was wrong… or maybe I was partially right." Rebecca then began to pace as she continued on with her explanation, "This virus might affect different animals in various ways. For mice and dogs, it turns them rabid, aggressive and downright vicious…. But for us.. it turns us into them."

The others looked at the bodies all around them, mulling over what she just said. The implications were… horrifying.

Captain Marini pursed his lips and hardened his look. He then turned to Kevin.

"Can the chopper be fixed?" He asked.

"No. Most of the parts on the rear rotor are unsalvageable." Kevin shook his head. That just soured everyone's mood.

"What about a jeep? Can you fix a jeep?"

Kevin looked confused, "I… can certainly try. Why? Did you find some jeep laying around?"

The whole entirety of the Bravo team cautiously scanned the surrounding forest as they made their way to the dirt road that Richard had found. Carefully watching both above and below as Rebecca states that sometimes, zombies like to crawl around on the ground so it was better if they made sure that they watched where they walked. It was sound advice as it proved useful once they actually found a crawler just skulking over by a bush. Had they not checked, it would have gotten to Richard's leg. A quick headshot from Sully was all that was needed to dispatch the thing.

Eventually, they all made it to the upturned jeep with no issue other than the crawler that they encountered. However something was different when they arrived.

"So they were infected too." The captain muttered.

Three of the previously dead marines were now up and about, howling as they spotted them. Captain Marini made short work of them however. The SMGs were proving to be the right decision. They had to thank their captain for managing to get permission to use them for this mission. Had they just used their standard issue berettas, things could have gotten a lot worse.

With the last shot being sent to the one that was trapped under the jeep, their Captain turned and ordered them to help him flip the jeep over, and after quite a bit of effort, they managed to do so.

Kevin immediately began to pop the front open and checked the engine while the others stood guard.

Rebecca herself, was checking her ammo count and sighed in relief when she found that she still had four thirty-five round magazines with her. The dogs were out there after all and it won't help to be unprepared.

Though a question kept bugging her head. Something they all missed after all the excitement…

Just where the hell did those zombies come from?...

/-/

A/N: Here we go. Sorry about the time skip. Had to get things moving along. Edited the prologue though. Changed the time to 7:00 instead of 10.

For those wondering what happened after the assassination attempt, it basically just boils down to Irons just downplaying the incident and officially branding it as a case of criminals trying their luck at going after STARS members. Irons tried to detain Jaune but unfortunately for him, he has his superhackerman of a partner to provide him with exclusive footage.

Just a note: No, the things I described in the prologue weren't slugs. It was just what the person, Andrea, saw them as. They're just mutant hive-minded leeches.

So… yeah, More A/Ns to be added later along with the review replies. Too sleepy right now. Seeya!