Chapter 15: Screwed!

Steve sighed and leaned back against Kitty.

To his side, Claire cloned the motion.

They'd stayed down here for what had seemed like hours, both agreeing that they probably should be getting a move on, but neither wanting to leave Kitty. And it wasn't only because they had no major weapons with which to defend themselves, though that was definitely in the ballpark.

It seemed like murder to leave a friendly creature down in the basement when they knew the facility was going to have to be destroyed. And if they could somehow manage to get her out of there, Kitty would be major protection against monsters and certainly Albert Wesker.

Wesker could do many things, but he could not fly.

Now Kitty was lying down again with her two human friends slumped into a sitting position against her massive side. Eyes half closed, and with a low throaty purr, she was feeling quite content.

Claire wished she could borrow some of that contentment.

For the millionth time, she looked around the room, puzzling.

"It doesn't make any sense." She said at last, her tone tired and weary, "I mean, they must've had to move Kitty at least some of the time."

From beside her, Steve sighed his agreement. "You're right. Otherwise, how would they know she was a good flier? Plus the picture I'd seen…it didn't look like it was taken in this room. It looked like it was taken outside."

At the sound of the word 'outside', Kitty opened her eyes and perked her ears up. Without missing a beat, she stood up and trotted over to the shallow depression in the cave wall.

Steve and Claire watched, mystified.

"Was it something I said?” Steve wondered, only half joking.

"Probably." Claire agreed. She stood up and watched the Kiticore.

Kitty looked back and forth anxiously between them and the wall.

"What is it? What is it girl?" Steve asked in way too serious a tone.

"Little Timmy fell down into the well!" Claire laughed. My god, he's treating it like a dog! She thought.

Steve shot her a poisonous look, shutting her up instantly. Okay, touchyyyy.

He turned his attention back to Kitty. The Kiticore gave a high-pitched yelp, almost like a puppy, and began pawing at the side of the cave wall.

"Is that it? Is that the way outside?" Steve was quick to run over and examine the depressed area in the wall.

Kitty sat back on her haunches and twitched her tail with excitement.

Unable to resist, Claire joined them.

Steve was feeling along the dirt when his fingers brushed over a button almost the same color.

"Claire! Claire there's a door here!" He announced, voice thick with barely contained excitement.

"Where?" Claire was feeling around now, too. Pressing her fingers along into the dirt, she was able to feel a very real creasing , like the edge to a door.

Steve slapped the button several times. There was a faint mechanical moan, like the sound of a door trying to open but too feeble to quite make it, then nothing at all.

"What's the matter?" Claire asked.

"It's stuck. Most likely there was a cave in or something." He sounded as if his last hope had been dashed.

"Cave in?" Claire said thoughtfully. If the door was made of nothing more than tightly-packed earth, and the cave in itself would be most dirt and rock…her gaze fell on Kitty's gigantic paws. The claws were retracted right now, but she had no doubt they'd make effective digging equipment, especially when combined with the sheer raw power a creature like Kitty must posses. Who knows, there may not even be much to move.

"I have a plan," Claire declared suddenly, "And the plan is: dig." She directed that last part almost exclusively at Kitty.

Steve cocked an eyebrow as if she had just suggested they try and jump to the moon. "Come on, Claire, you've gotta be kidding…" He stopped mid-sentence when Kitty started clawing the door, pulling away chunk after chunk of dirt.

Claire gave him a smug look.

Steve tried not to flush with embarrassment. "Oh," He gushed, "I suppose that works too."

Chris's short search for Claire had proven futile, so he had opted to go ahead and go to B-1. Once he got into the main room, it was very likely he could use the supercomputer system to learn her whereabouts and probably even page her.

So here he was, standing by the door to the Main Systems Computer Center, and thinking about just how weird it was that he was trusting the son of his worst enemy.

I knew there was something up with him from the start, Chris thought reflectively, His eyes were too shifty, and he kept acting like he had something to hide. He even looks like Wesker. It's a good thing he doesn't act like him.

Chris dreaded to think what might have happened if Alan had lead him into that trap. And it was definitely a good thing Alan had been on his side in the Automatic Supplies Room.

More than anything, Chris wanted to see Wesker pay for the crimes he had committed. The trusts he had betrayed. The suffering he had caused. The lives he had ruined. The lives he had taken, either directly or indirectly.

But his last two encounters with his ex-boss had nearly cost him his life. The ex-captain had simply gotten too powerful. So now, if he wanted to beat him, Chris was going to have to start playing the game a bit differently, because there was no question as to who would come out ahead in a smackdown.

He crossed his arms as he waited, a nervous habit he'd become accustomed to in such situations. Briefly, his eyes flitted to the refrigerator, and he resisted the temptation to take a peek inside. With a refrigerator in an odd place in a building run by mad scientists, the odds were ten to one he wouldn't like what he'd find inside.

He was so caught up in the fridge situation that he nearly jumped ten feet when the elevator doors suddenly whooshed open and a soggy, slightly bloody Alan rushed into the room with the ship crest and a new rifle.

"Wow." Chris raised both eyebrows, "You look like you've had an adventure or two."

"Tell me about it," Alan muttered, "Here, hold out both hands."

Chris did as he was instructed, and Alan dropped the ship-crest into one hand, and Chris's missing gun into the other.

"Thanks," Chris beamed, reloading his Beretta, "And I don't think I've said this before, but thank you for saving me back there. Even if your technique was a bit…unusual. I would've been toast if it wasn't for you."

Alan smiled, and for a moment hid blue-green eyes sparkled with gratitude.

"I guess that balances it out, then. I would've been toast too if you hadn't saved my bacon from the Tyrant."

Chris actually laughed a bit. "Geez, what is it with Weskers and tyrants? Your father had the same problem back at Spencer. After the thrashing he took, I'm very surprised he survived."

Alan cast his eyes downward unhappily. "Yeah, well, I don't think my father worries about tyrants anymore. Heck, he is a tyrant. More or less, in the traditional meaning of the word."

Without a word, Chris turned towards the painting on the door and placed the ship-crest into the indentation. It fit perfectly. There was a metallic 'click' when the picture was completed.

"Time to look for Claire." He stated, "By the way, nice rifle."

Alan perked up a bit. "You like?" He held it up in proud display, as if to shoot some imaginary bird, "Courtesy of Ash Ashford: the snob I had to beat up for the crest. You know, the guy who was with Alexia?"

Chris opened the door to the Main Systems Computer Center with a frown. "Another Ashford? That can't be good."

"No, for you, I don't suppose it would be." A female voice that Chris recognized all too well announced.

He and Alan spun around to see a quartet of blondes step from the elevator they hadn't even heard open.

"Man, I swear I'm going to look into Miracle Ear!" Alan gasped, beginning to wonder if there really was a problem with his hearing.

"I'm right there with you buddy!" Chris blurted, his face beginning to pale at the sight of Alfred, Alexia, and Ash.

Neither he nor Alan knew the fourth blonde, but she definitely looked like an Ashford. In fact, she looked kind of like Alexia, only younger and without the evil smirk.

Ash gritted his teeth and pointed to the rifle Alan held. "That's mine!" He sounded positively bloodthirsty, and his posture indicated he was ready to lunge out for the attack at any moment like a rabid dog.

Alfred had his sniper rifle cocked and aimed at Alan.

Alexia was smiling wickedly at Chris like a big cat about to pounce.

As for the fourth, Alexis, she just stood her ground, looking like she'd just lost her best friend.

"But I killed you!" Chris pointed to Alexia like he'd just seen a ghost.

Alexia nodded slowly. "Yes, you did. And now I'm going to return the favor!" She flicked her wrist in a rapid motion and sent a blazing fireball hurtling towards him.

Chris dodged through the open Odyssey door and into the main computer room, the fireball missing his head by inches, coming so close it singed some of his dark hair.

"Wait for me!" Alan bolted after him, not the least bit interested in facing down four Ashfords, two of which were armed and dangerous.

The Main Systems Computer System was true to it's name: the whole room was nothing but a giant square of computers lining all four walls and with a big cylindrical computer right in the middle of it all, stretching halfway up to the ceiling. There were monitors, hundreds of tiny TV camera screens showing various rooms all throughout the complex, and thousands of blinking lights all over.

It really was a shame they didn't have time to stop and look. At the moment, all they wanted was a safe place to hide.

"Would it kill your dad to be here right now?" Chris shouted over his shoulder as he came to the next door. Where's Wesker when you really need him? Granted, I only need him to distract Alexia…

"Possibly!" Alan admitted, following Chris's lead out the next door and onto a huge, wobbly metal bridge suspended no less than a hundred feet up in the air in a vast cavern.

The cavern itself was easily big enough to play three games of football in simultaneously, and looked like it had been halted halfway through construction. Huge earthmovers lay desolate and abandoned far below, and several metal bridges just like the one they were on now laced the gaps between numerous suspended platforms. It went without saying that there were plenty of pipes, I-beams, paneling, cords, and a smorgasbord of other supplies and equipment laying around all over the place. The place even had that construction smell of wood and paint, which was a bit weird considering the walls, floor, and ceiling were all pure dirt that had been hollowed out by the earthmover and there was no sign of any painting going on. Whatever room this was going to be, it was obviously still in very early development.

Their particular bridge continued straight for about 150 feet before ending abruptly in an electrical lift descending all the way to the bottom.

It was a wild race for that lift, and somehow Alan managed to get in the lead.

"Cowards!" Alfred called as he, Alexia, and Ash chased after them.

Right, Chris thought glumly, So easy to say when you have Super Psycho #%*$ on your side.

Alexis froze inside the main computer room and just watched as her family went chasing after those two poor souls. She couldn't stop them from whatever they were going to do out there, but she could stop them from setting off the triggering system until she was ready.

Great, now all I have to do is find the triggering system. She thought anxiously, And I'm going to have to be quick.

Her eyes swept the room, looking for anything big and/or important.


She spied a bank of computers to the right hand side of the wall with a small red label reading 'Triggering System' in bold black letters under a blank screen.

Doing her best to ignore the sounds of chaos coming from out the door everyone else had run through, she searched the console until she found the 'on' switch and flicked the monitor on.

"Hello, and welcome to the Self Destruct System for your local HCF base!" A cheerful female voice said even as the words appeared in white against a blue screen. "Before you make that all important decision about blowing this current establishment to smithereens, you must be warned that activating the Triggering System is very dangerous and should only be done in the most extreme of circumstances; for instance, if all the Bio Organic Weapons and/or test subjects get free, or if there is a viral spill, or if it comes to light to the local authorities the true nature of this establishment and they are about to investigate."

This is the craziest thing I've ever heard! Alexis thought, totally surprised at such an honest lecture and the cheeriness with which it was dictated, I can't believe they programmed it to do this! This must be a joke!

"Please click on the appropriate link. And remember, don't mess with the Self Destruct option unless you really mean it!"

Okay, now I've heard everything. Alexis's eyes flew over the few links, but she was in a hurry so she only noticed and clicked on the 'Triggering System Safety Feature' link.

The screen changed to show a larger than life size picture of a little metallic screw-like cylinder fissured with lines and indentations and tapering down to a fine wedged point.

"This particular Triggering System is equipped with a built-in safety feature. Removal of this cylinder from the I-5 shaft will prevent the Self-Destruct mechanism from going off no matter how many times you slap, stomp, sit on, or even jump up and down on the little red Self Destruct button. This is especially important, as, once activated, the self-destruct sequence is sadly irreversible. Removal of this cylinder is a very good idea, especially if you don't want to risk being blown up by a thoughtless co-worker who may forget to warn you when they are going to activate the system."

"Yeah, that would suck." Alexis said aloud as she searched for the I-5 shaft the computer had described.

A handy pop-up appeared on the screen of the current terminal with the I-5 shaft highlighted in green.

"Wow!" Alexis giggled as she found the shaft and removed the cylinder, "The Self-Destruct System For Dummies! What will they think of next?"

"I-5 cylinder has been removed." The computer voice announced happily, "Thank you for using caution!"

Alexis stuffed the cylinder into the pocket of her jeans. Now nobody was going to blow this place up without her permission, whether they liked it or not.

Alexia threw another fireball at Chris. The S.T.A.R.S. member saw it coming and dodged out of the way, only to trip over a loose cable he hadn't seen in his rush to move and slide over the side of the bridge. Now he was hanging there precariously by his hands from the ledge, hovering right over a hundred-plus foot drop to certain death.

"Crud!" He cursed bitterly. He'd definitely been in better situations.

"Chris!" Alan looked helplessly back at his new friend, but he was unable to do anything about Chris's predicament because he was being chased by Alfred and Ash.

Not to mention the fact that Alexia was closing in on the helpless Redfield.

It's not like I can just hack my way through all of these Ashfords and come to his rescue, Alan thought, terrified for his friend's safety, On the other hand, even if I make it to the lift I'll still have these two losers to deal with. I owe it to him to at least try!

Alan turned around and was about to try and fight past Alfred and Ash when a huge flapping sound caught the attention of all three.

Flying up in the air almost level with the bridge was a massive creature with huge, leathery wings and the body of a lion. Twin saber fangs gleaming a pearly white jutted from it's mouth, each one almost as long as an arm.

Alexia was so startled that she momentarily forgot about Chris and backed against the wall.

"Chris! Hang in there and…"

But Chris didn't see Claire and Steve riding on the back of the Kiticore. All he saw was this huge monster with red eyes and big teeth, and whatever courage and hope for survival he had drained from his body.

He was so surprised and scared he ended up losing his grip on the metal bar, and down he fell--hearing Claire's voice too late.

In a fantastic aerial maneuver, Kitty swooped down and came up underneath Chris, catching him on her back just between Steve and Claire.

"What the…?!?!" Chris yelped.

"This is impossible!" Alexia snorted, regaining her bearings. She threw fireball after fireball at Kitty, all of which the genetically engineered Kiticore was able to dodge with graceful ease. It even managed to keep it's riders from falling off during these maneuvers.

Enraged, Alexia turned to Alfred, who was just staring and gaping like an idiot at the scene before him. "This isn't a bloody spectator sport!" She spat, "Shoot it! Shoot them! Just shoot something!”

As if wakened from a trance, Alfred raised his sniper rifle and began sniping at the creature.

Ash just stood there, his eyes glued to the drama unfolding before them, and Alan who had more sense about him, used the distraction to reach the lift and head down.

He didn't know where he was going to go or what he was going to do, he just wanted to put as much space between him and anyone with the last name of Ashford as possible.

"I'm beginning to think your years of target practice were wasted, Brother." Alexia growled when Alfred kept missing, "How could you miss something that big? It's like a flying elephant!"

Alfred was too nice to his sister to point out that she wasn't faring any better with her fire.

"Aarrreeeeeeee!!!" There was a hideous inhuman squeal of pain as some of Alfred's bullets found their mark and hit Kitty in her side and on one of her black wings.

She faltered a bit in the air, and Alexia was able to hit her other wing with a burning ball of fire.

"Aaaareeeeeee!!! Rrreeaeaaaeae!!" Kitty was finding it increasing difficult to stay airborne with all of her pain.

"Kitty! Land!" Claire commanded even as Alfred and Alexia continued their unrelenting rain of fire. Now that Kitty was wounded, and a bit clumsy in the air as a result, more and more of their shots were hitting their target.

"Kitty?! You've got to be kidding me!" Chris spewed, in a total state of shock over the whole thing. This is crazy! This is insane! This is so much way beyond crazy and insane! His brain told him, This is complete madness!

Kitty glided down to the floor just as Wesker--followed by the few surviving HCF members--spilled into the cavern from a side entrance on the ground.

Wesker had been well aware of what had been going on, what with his increased senses and all. His earlier wounds had completely healed, and now he was ready for a piece of the action. The other HCF personnel were meaningless, and the only use Wesker could figure for them was to help in the fight against the Ashford filth.

Kitty came to a rather rough landing on the ground not more than a hundred feet away from Wesker and team.

Not to be cheated of her prey, Alexia threw herself over the side of the bridge and landed firmly on her feet on the ground after falling more than a hundred feet.

The fall hadn't even fazed her whereas most people would've broken every bone in their body.

Chris, Claire, and Steve slid off a bloodied Kitty and studied the spectacle around them.

Wesker and his goons to one side, Alexia to another, and Alfred and Ash were already hurrying down a second lift they'd discovered just after the door that had led them out to the bridge in the first place.

"All right, all reports are in." Chris said wryly, "We are officially screwed!"

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