Chapter 5: Prisoners

Wesker grinned when he saw the stricken Claire hiding under the less-than-adequate cover of the lab table.

"I was going to knock, but I didn't figure you'd answer."

Oh fudge, what am I going to do now?! Claire's mind raced. She'd seen Wesker in action first-hand back at Rockfort, and then again at the Antarctic facility. At Rockfort, he'd tossed her around out front of the Ashford palace a bit while grumping about how much he hated Chris. She had thought he was going to kill her on the spot, but instead he'd turned away, saying, 'I'm going to let you live a little longer.' Somehow, the way he'd said that hadn't done much to cheer her up.

The second time she'd encountered Wesker, he'd kidnapped her to lead Chris out into a sort of docking area for the submarine. He'd let her go, of course, but only to fight Chris.

But he had just been toying with her, using her to get to Chris. Claire had no doubt at all that he'd kill her if it struck his fancy. Even worse, Chris wasn't here this time, and Claire had no idea how she was going to escape--or fight--someone with the strength and speed of Wesker.

"What's the matter dear? Surely you didn't think you'd seen the last of me." Wesker's voice was calm. Cheery, even.

Claire wasn't sure what to say, she just wanted out of there. Without warning, she darted out from under the table and made a run for the door to the hall. Maybe the dogs were gone, and maybe they weren't, right now she just didn't care.

She never made it that far. Two steps and she felt like she'd been hit by a bullet. The next thing Claire knew, she was lying face down on the floor with Wesker hovering over her.

He fastened one gloved hand around the base of her neck and lifted her up, taking no concern whatsoever in her comfort or basic well-being.

It was tight! Claire felt the air being chocked from her lungs. Oh no, he's got me! He's got me and he's going to kill me! Was all Claire could think just then. She was scared. More scared than she wanted to admit.

She reached up and tried to pry his hand free, or at least loosen his hold, but it was no use. Wesker was simply too strong. She couldn't budge one finger, much less his whole hand.

Wesker turned Claire around to face him. "That was just rude. What's wrong, Claire? Don't you miss me?"

"Like a toe misses a hangnail." She spat. She considered hitting him across the face, decided against it. That move might work on a normal person, but it'd probably only enrage Wesker. She didn't quite know exactly what he was capable of, but she did know that she had a snowball's chance in hell of outrunning him. This guy could move like Roadrunner on the Saturday morning cartoons. Even if she did get free, she wouldn't get far.

"I missed you too." Wesker said without feeling, and she could hear the sarcasm dripping from his words. "But I'm afraid I'm going to have to take you someplace a little more comfortable before we can catch up."

He raised his free hand a brought it down on her head with just enough force to knock her unconscious.

He didn't want her dead. Not yet.

Steve couldn't help but feel like he was wandering around in circles like some type of disoriented lab mouse.

I just came this way, didn't I? He was standing in something resembling a library of sorts with books and files spanning the many shelves filling the room. It was like de' ja vu.

Since he'd searched the lab room he'd first occupied he'd found an old trunk in the corner full of some type of military garb. He had no idea what it was doing there. In fact, he didn't even want to know. After going through the various garments he'd found a shirt and pair of pants about his size that he could halfway stand. They were green-and-brown camouflaged army clothes, but they'd do. In such circumstances he couldn't afford to be picky.

By now Steve had pretty much concluded that he was being held prisoner in some type of mad-scientist base. Weather or not it had anything to do with Umbrella remained to be seen. They must want to study that virus Alexia injected me with. He thought spontaneously.

The idea made him queasy. He remembered mutating into some kind of butt-ugly green monster and nearly killing Claire. His mind had just become so muddled that he hadn't been able to think straight. He had given in to the monster's urges. It had wanted to slice Claire into fettuccini. And he almost had, too. But you came through, he reassured himself, you came through and you didn't do it. You helped her.

That was some comfort, at least. But what about his virus? Did he still have it, and if so, would he change into that thing again?

"What is wrong with me? Why am I being punished?" Steve said aloud, to no-one in particular.

"Is someone there?" A voice whispered. At least, it sounded like a whisper--it was probably coming from another room.

Steve's heart skipped a beat. There was someone else here! If only…

"Yeah! I'm here! Where are you?" He wasn't sure if the person would actually hear him, so he'd spoken kind of loudly.

"Over here." The voice pleaded, "I'm trapped in a cage! I need help." By the tone of the voice, Steve could tell it was a girl. And she was in trouble. It didn't sound like Claire, exactly, but then again; why would Claire be in this Hellhole? In any case, he'd barely been able to hear her.

"Listen, I'm coming. But I don't know exactly where you're at, so if you could make some kind of noise to help me find you it'd be nice."

"Alright. I'll hum." The voice agreed.

Seconds later, Steve heard a soft humming coming from the right-hand side of the wall. He followed it, creeping along the wall until he got to a door.

This led into a stony hallway, almost medieval in appearance.

Ok. Definite creep-factor. Why would a seemingly modern faculty have a stony hall right out of an old English castle? It made no sense.

Then again, Steve was starting to find that fewer and fewer things were making sense anymore.

He could hear the humming closer now. He was sure it was coming from the big, wooden door on the right. He approached the door, then paused.

That tune…I know that tune!

An icy chill ran through Steve's blood. Whoever it was, they were humming the very same tune Alexia had been humming when she had captured Steve back at the Antarctic base.

It all washed over him in vivid detail: sitting strapped in a big chair with a giant battle axe over it in a gloomy hallway, Alexia humming as she grabbed a syringe from a metal tray. He had threatened her, pleaded with her, begged her to let him go. All to no avail.

Alexia's heart was as icy as the Antarctic itself.

She had informed him that she was going to do the same experiment on him as she had on her own father. She had said that they all would pay for the death of her brother. She had cackled gleefully when she had first pricked his skin with the dreaded needle.

He had taken it bravely, not saying a word as he slowly slipped into unconsciousness, not letting her see him afraid. But inside he had been screaming.

He tried to push the memory of her frozen touch aside. That was over.

And it was time to see who the damsel in distress was.

Carefully, Steve opened the door and stepped into the room. He was almost unable to believe his eyes!

This place was a regular dungeon! Just like in the old horror flicks. The torches on the left-hand side of the room cast the stony expanse in flickering light. There were instruments of torture everywhere: hanging on the wall, protruding from the floor--even the ceiling was laced with chains. There were iron maidens and electric chairs. Sharp saws with dried blood caked on their teeth. A regular guillotine was in one corner, and, just like the one at Rockfort, this one too was coated in blood. There was even a huge blood stain on the floor in front of him, like someone had been killed there. The stench of death filled the air.

But there was something else in here, too. Over to the farthest right corner of the room sat a big iron cage. It was shrouded in shadow for lack of torchlight in that area, but it was most definitely where the prisoner would be.

"Oh, you're here. Thank goodness." The voice greeted.

Steve grabbed a torch and headed over to the cage.

What he saw when the torch played it's flickering light among the bars totally surprised him.

At first glance, he thought he was staring straight into the icy blue eyes of Alexia! When he looked a little closer, he realized it wasn't Alexia at all but someone who looked a lot like her.

The young girl--Steve didn't think she looked any older than sixteen, maybe--had almost all of Alexia's features.

Flowing, straw-colored hair. Eyes as blue as sapphires. A pretty face. A beautiful figure.

Obviously she was a lot younger than Alexia, but Steve was willing to bet they were related.

The girl smiled when she saw him. " Hello."

Steve felt his heart flutter. She had such a soft voice.

"Hi." Steve answered, "I'm Steve. Who are you?"

"Alexis." The girl replied.

Alexis?! That sounds a lot like…Alexia! Steve resisted the urge to back away. This was insane!

"Are you an Ashford?!" He demanded.

Alexis narrowed her eyes and cocked her head slightly to the side, strands of blonde hair dripping down her face.

"Actually, yeah. I'm Alexis Ashford. Daughter of Alfred and Alexia Ashford. Is something wrong?"

Oh yeah, there's definitely some wrongness here. Steve was thinking. His face was drawn into a deep frown. Alfred and Alexia, what creeps!

Then something else occurred to him.

"But weren't they…twin brother and sister?"

It was Alexis's turn to frown. "Yes. What you say is true. I'm inbred. But look, we don't have a lot of time here. Any minute now that man with the sunglasses will return, and if he does you're dead. I think they want to torture me. You have to get me out of here!"

Steve made a face. "Your parents were killers! How do I know you're not?!"

Alexis was taken aback. "I'm not! I swear, I wasn't even raised by my real parents!"

"And I'm supposed to believe that just because you say so?"

Alexis was stunned. "Do I look evil to you?"

"Well, no." Steve admitted, "But then again, neither did your mommy. Alexis, how can I believe anything you say?”

Alexis bit her lip nervously, but Steve could still read the frustration on her face. When she spoke, it was calm and her tone was soft. "Look, I don't know what happened between you and my parents, but you have to believe me. I don't want to hurt anyone. I just want out of here. Wouldn't you?"

She did sound pretty desperate.

Steve considered this. Well, I suppose she can't help her heritage. And she does need my help…Alexis didn't particularly look threatening. And if she had some type of super-virus--those seemed to be going around--she probably wouldn't have ended up in the cage in the first place.

And considering the time the reports had said Alexia had spent hibernating in her capsule back in Antarctica…Steve did the math. If this was Alexia's daughter--and he had no reason to believe it wasn't--she was roughly around 15 years old.

"Alright." He said after a pause. I sure hope I'm doing the right thing. Judging by what he'd seen back at Rockfort, and all the documents he'd read while on the run there, evil seemed to run in the Ashford family.

"The key to my cell is over in that wall." Alexis gestured to the wall right across from her cage.

Steve's eyes swept over bare stone. "I don't see anything."

Alexis actually giggled. "That's because it's hidden Silly! See that stone brick with the chip in it? Push your finger into the chip."

Steve went over to the stone and did as he was instructed. There was a mechanical 'whoosh' sound, and the brick just opened up. A large wrought-iron key was inside the hidden compartment.

Steve grabbed it and set about putting it to work in the padlock on Alexis's cell.

It came free with a loud snap.

Alexis rushed out and actually hugged him.

"Thank you." She cooed.

Steve retracted from her touch. He didn't exactly like being hugged by people he barely knew.

"We have to get out of here." Steve said matter-of-factly, "Any input you have on that would be nice."

Worry registered on Alexis's fine features. "You mean you don't know how to get out of here?"

"I was a prisoner too. I don't even know when I am, much less where I am. And it's not like I saw any yellow brick roads on my way over here."

Now Alexis was really worried. "Did you run into anyone? Guards, personnel, anyone?"

"If I had, do you honestly think we'd be having this conversation right now? I didn't see anyone. This place is as quiet as a classroom on a Saturday morning."

"Or a graveyard." Alexis murmured, "Look, there's always someone around in this area. I can hear them. I've been here for five days, and I always hear someone. Around the clock."

Steve's frown deepened. "You're saying there could've been an emergency?"

"Worse. There could've been a spill."

Ash took one more look down the corridor just to make certain he wasn't again being followed.

He mentally kicked himself for laughing out loud at the display in the hangar. Wesker had heard and followed him.

He had tried various rooms and hallways to throw his pursuer off his scent, but only when he entered a room full of zombies did he truly lose him. Of course, the zombies had been much too slow to catch the lithe young man who had darted across the room, but their frustrated moans of displeasure had provided excellent cover noise so Wesker hadn't been able to hear exactly which doors were being opened.

Nevertheless, it had been a close call. The mistake had nearly cost him his life.

Ash now stood by the airstrip, rifle in hand. He had heard an aircraft fly over earlier, and now he could see the black jet parked hap-hazardly in the landing strip. The sunlight glinted off huge metallic gashes in the side.

It looked like some monster or monsters had opened it like a tin-can, Whoever had been in there was most likely either dead or hiding away somewhere.

I wonder if those creatures are still around…the thought made Ash bitter.

Originally, he had intended to find his sister and then release the T-virus onto the island. But then some 'situations' had come up, and he'd been forced to release the B.O.W.s prematurely.

Of course, it hadn't taken long for the zombies to start to emerge. He'd had a hand in that too, of course, and had managed to lock a large number of HCF executives and employees inside some of the buildings while he had purposely spilled T-virus into the ventilating system.

They were vermin, and they deserved to die like vermin.

Of course, the virus stopped being contagious by airborne means after about six hours, and it'd been well over that. But by the time the island's unaffected population knew what was happening, it was too late.

Most had died from the B.O.W.s or been mauled by zombies. A few had managed to escape. But Ash had made sure no one had been able to activate the triggering system.

Not yet, anyway. It wouldn't do to have him and sister blown to bits before he could carry out his tasks.

From somewhere behind him, a door opened.

Ash turned to see a zombie stagger out the front door--it's emotionless face searching for it's next meal. It caught sight of Ash, decided he looked tasty, and started forward with all the swagger of a drunk, all the while moaning it's sad melody.

One shot to the head, and the walking corpse's feeding days were over. Forever.

I should probably search the lower levels. She might be down there. Ash found himself thinking. After all, most complexes usually kept prisoners in the basement. Didn't they?

Ash was about to head back inside when a distant rumble caught his ear.

He looked up to see a jet streaking across the midday sky, heading straight for the island. He waited as the rumble got louder and louder; the jet closer and closer.

Now the roar was almost deafening. The aircraft was definitely coming in for a landing.

And even at this distance, Ash could make out the emblem of the hawk grasping the halberd. He almost couldn't believe his eyes.

Was it possible that Philip had managed to succeed in his task?

Ash felt a sudden surge of joy.

He watched the gray jet land next to the black one.

The engine finally died, and two figures stepped out of the plane.

Ash recognized them immediately. Alfred and Alexia!

They started on their way to where Ash was standing, but he didn't bother waiting. Overwhelmed with joy, the young man sprinted across the field to meet them.

They kept walking even as Ash sided up with them. "Hi Mom. Dad. I'm glad you made it!"

Alexia smiled wickedly. "Ash my son. How you've grown." She stopped a moment to stroke his soft, blonde hair.

Ash stopped to savor the moment, electrified by her touch.

"I was just telling your mother what a good boy you've been." Alfred supplied in that familiar heavily-accented voice of his.

The three Ashfords continued on their way.

"I'm so glad to see you!" Ash went on, then stuttered. "But…they've got Alexis. I've been trying to find her."

"I know." Alexia reassured her son, her voice as cold as the Artic tundra, "We'll get her back. Then we're going to show them what happens when you mess with the Ashfords."

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