CRIMSON HEAD ELDER

Survival Horror Community Site & Podcast

バイオハザード ローズ・ブランク

Crimson Head Elder translation by BSAArklay & Joseph Natale

BIOHAZARD Rose Blank, was authored by the Japanese writer Tadashi Aizawa, and became a 'Silver' winning entry, when submitted for Capcom's official 'Biohazard Grand Novel Prize' competition, in 2001.

Consequently, the book received its official public release, on March 25th 2002, with illustrations by Yuko Tsukishiro. It was published by MediaWorks, only in Japan, , as an official Biohazard novel, alongside 'Gold' winning entry, 'BIOHAZARD to the Liberty'. 

Translated into English for the first time, by BSAArklay & Joseph Natale, exclusively for Crimson Head Elder.

A shrill electronic sound permeated the forest. Reena Mittford begins to move with floating motions, because the air had an almost water-like viscosity and had to be literally ousted. She reached out to touch the branch that appeared above her head. So far, so good.


She could feel the wood, which was hard to bend, in the palm of her hand. But when she let go of the branch, it shot back with unreal verve to its original position and swung for a while, as if it were made of rubber. She stood cautiously on the floor. It felt different than soft earth; it was more like she was stepping on hard rubber. Similar to the way the branch had felt, she was even more aware of the feeling that it had to have something artificial to do with it. She felt like that American on his walk across the moon's surface. Her step, too, was wavering; she drifted through the forest more than she walked. Between the trees, in the darkness, she could see the malicious ridge of the Agua volcano shining in the distance in a silvery light.


The background noise in the headphones became abruptly louder, and Reena instinctively pressed her hands against her ears. Her amateur reaction caused her lips to form a faint grin. As long as she kept her ears covered, the noise wasn’t too bothersome. The constant noise was an inherent problem with this device, a chronic disease, so to speak. For six months, Reena had been involved in this project as a technician. She had daily use of the machine, but as much as she was familiar with its operation, there was no way to stop it. As an operator, she had reached a dead end.


"Liquid Sensory Virtual Reality Mechanism" was the name given by the manufacturer to this basin, which was filled with high-viscosity bearing fluid. It was connected to three supercomputers that were responsible for controlling the machine. The staff of the facility simply called it "Tank".


Anyone who saw it ​​was initially overwhelmed by the imposing sight of the tank, whose clumsy, cheap form derived the name. A metal cube with a side length of five meters.


One-third of the VR space was occupied by the huge structure; countless cables ran from it to the high-performance computers embedded in the wall. They were the brain of the monstrous machine, and the mathematics operations occurring within brought the virtual world to life. The movements of the person who slipped into a special suit were recorded by means of the sensors mounted in the Tank, which also measure the flows within the suspension fluid. The three supercomputers processed the data in parallel with each other and calculated all changes, as well as interactions with environments and objects in real time. The results were projected onto the VR glasses without delay.


In addition to all the visual elements, the Tank was also able to play noises over the audio device used for its storeroom exchanges. In addition, it was able to pump appropriate amounts of air into the suit by compressors, which were incorporated in various places, so that the human body interacted with a world that felt quite real.


The subject was under the illusion of actually being in the mountains of Guatemala.


The mountain range, the forest, the moonlit highlands - all that Reena's eyes showed was based on satellite data. She had accurately scanned the topography of the Guatemalan highlands - even before this research station had been built. A faint sound that sounded a bit like a whipping wind made the dark silhouette of the trees shiver, taking on Reena's entire field of vision. It looked as if the forest was laughing while being tickled.


The rough resolution of the monitors was due to the virtual world itself, which had been deliberately created this way. If one increased the precision too much, the noise became even more intrusive. Reena was an operator and did not know the details of the operating system. However, she knew that the program would automatically submit the compression of the sound data as soon as the upper limit of process able data was exceeded, and that the more the graph was downgraded, the better the sound quality became.


For example, the extremely complex trees consisted of just twenty fractal patterns, and if one watched the night sky a little more attentively through the gaps between the branches, they would be able to appreciate the amount of stars embedded in the dark background. Air pollution was not present here, making the stars were alarmingly clear to discern. This precision came with a price – a reminder that the vast space wasn’t real or explorable, but more of a fancy wallpaper out of reach.


Even the moon, which plastic-ally staged the dense, labyrinthine forest with its rich, dull white light, was about 380,000 kilometers from the earth, but merely a light source fixed by the program.


Since the pressure on the respiratory system at this facility was a serious problem, one could not experience the same carefree and refreshing sensation as walking in the real world in a breezy mountain landscape. Due to the unstable positional feeling and the fact that the treaded ground had an unnatural elasticity, the test person was guaranteed to feel weird, if he was not used to the machine. However, for Reena it was a fantastic feeling to immerse her body in this digital sea, which she could hardly escape.


The stressful everyday life gradually fell away from her, and she could enjoy moments she had all to herself. Just let your mind wander, free yourself from all thoughts and fully enjoy the created world... In here, in this quiet and peaceful space, detached from the outer world, the curse-laden "Project Rose" had no meaning, just like the arguments with her superiors. Reena hid in the secrecy of the virtual world.


In the distance rose a mountain range and over her head the pale light of the moon shone. Everything that this world offered was unique to Reena's eyes and existed solely for her.


Huddled, she floated in the tank with her eyes closed, merging with the sea of ​​illusions. Whole swarms of bees whirred past her ears. When she focused for a moment on what was beyond the electronic storerooms, at that very moment she heard a sound effect that somehow seemed inappropriate. A lark-man singing an opera song would certainly sound more passionate in nature...


It reminded her of her home village in Cornwall. The village gave a simple and idyllic impression, the people knew each other, and a familiar face was never more than a stone's throw away. At the bottom of her heart she had spent every single day there with a certain impatience and restlessness. Later, she graduated from the university and left home to work as a technician in a demanding profession. But her true self might still be asleep in that home village.


And this tricky illusion, commonly referred to as "memory," gave itself access in this closed sphere to capture Reena. Nobody could escape that.


Reena opened her eyes. Underneath all of the noise and static, she could hear… something else. What could it be? Mozart? Or maybe her senses played a joke on her and made it just sound like a melody?


No, that was the "requiem". A smile crossed over Reena's lips, but in the next moment that expression froze.


"You cannot go out! There’s an outbreak out there!"


There was no doubt about it, it was a clear voice.


The torment of the noise had eaten into the deepest windings of her brain and raged there. Still, she was sure she had just heard a voice.


When she raised her right hand to call the virtual keyboard for communication, the scenery changed suddenly. The textures on the tree models had suddenly disappeared and what had only just been a forest now became a tangle of lines: the grid of the backdrop, which gradually faded away.


The image of a city beyond the mountain ridge appeared in front of Reena like a mirage from nowhere. The city was on fire.


This new environment image was so clear, as real as it could possibly exist in a virtual world. Then the flames took up the entire field of vision, and suddenly Reena was in the midst of the blazing houses.


She wanted to scream, but her voice drowned silently behind her oxygen mask. The sight that presented itself was incredible. People were killing each other, there was a terrible mess - people... were hunting for people!


It was not just one or two. Everywhere in the streets indescribable horror unfolded. Cannibalism dominated the scene.


Countless cars were left on sidewalks and burned to wrecks. Homes and other buildings were caught in the conflagration and towered like giant torches, emitting fat dark smoke. Under the black sky, countless groups of people wandered about. The City shook from screams that pierced all the streets, and the ear-splitting noise mingled with a merciless roar and raged in Reena's headphones.


Panic-stricken, she did not rationalize the situation – only listening to the most basic of her instincts which were screaming at her to escape the Hell before her. Protocol was to initiate an emergency shutdown of the virtual reality machine.


She tried desperately to run, but as in a sadistic nightmare, she just stayed on the spot. Tears came to her eyes, and she tried to push the sticky air masses away from her, paddling wildly and haphazardly. The image that the computer displayed on the monitors of the glasses blurred through the tears in her eyes to a contour less, red-black mud. Beyond her dull sight, she saw a small basketball hoop. Her world filled with loud reverberating laughter that seemed to echo directly through the earphones into the brain.


Emily Ran had just finished her late lunch and was on her way back to the lab when she noticed that something was not right in the virtual reality room. She heard the alarm siren coming from behind the door. She tilted her head skeptically and carefully opened the sliding door. The next moment she could hear the alert coming from the machine room.


"The recommended maximum stay for VR subjects is exceeded. Stop the simulation immediately!"


She looked from the entrance from one end of the room to the other. What she saw was a square area that had a side length and height of about ten meters each. But in this simple room, with walls of raw concrete, there was no sign of human presence.


There was only this colossal tank and a table next to it. A small alarm light flashed on the cream-colored computer terminal indicating the VR simulation had been aborted prematurely. The 20-inch monitor flickered for a brief moment, looking like a city dipped in red - but the image vanished immediately afterwards.


“What... was that?”


Emily stood there in shock, staring unbelievably at the blackened monitor. Then she snapped out of it and shook her head excitedly.


“Someone’s in the tank!” The thought raced through her brain like a bullet.

She stormed into the area, dove to the wall-mounted intercom and called hastily: "Carmen! Give a warning through the net!"


"Process is being executed" answered a feminine-sounding electronic voice from the speaker. Emily climbed the ladder by the side of the tank, opened the round hatch, and looked in. Inside, she saw an impotent person swimming in the abundant sustenance. Had it not been for the oxygenation of the suit, Reena Mittford would have suffocated like a fish on the surface.


There were loud footsteps coming from the entrance. A blue-uniformed security guard stormed into the room. Emily called to him from above, from the edge of the tank: "Get someone from medical NOW! There was an accident! "


The man hastily turned on his heel and ran back out into the corridor.


"Use Carmen!" Emily told him, but he did not seem to hear her anymore. She let out a sigh and looked inside the tank. In order not to fall in, she stood with legs apart so that she had the best possible position. She stretched out her hands to Reena, grabbed tight and pulled with all her strength. Her hands and sleeves were bathed in yellowish-green fluid. Emily shifted her body weight forward to lift the load up straight, like a weightlifter. She finally managed to lift Reena from the tank.

While Emily tried to catch her breath, she looked at Reena lying on the floor in front of her. She quickly removed her VR glasses, mask and half the suit. The fluid that had soaked Reena's long hair dripped stickily to the floor.


Emily put her hand on Reena's cheek and wanted to address her. At that moment, Reena grabbed Emily's arm, her fingernails dug deep into Emily’s skin. Emily clenched her teeth and only just about managed to suppress a scream. Gently, she reached for her hand, and pulled it away from her arm and said, as calmly as possible: "Reena Mittford, it's me. Do you know who is speaking to you? I’m Emily Ran."


"Mrs. Project Manager ..." Reena's eyes were glassy and showed no emotion. "Alma is in the VR simulation. I am Alma..."


Reena kept repeating the same fragments of words, nodding steadily, her expression was emotionless.

Chapter 1


The soft ticking of the stopwatch breaks the silence. An invisible bloodbath taking place in a microcosm.


What is the best way to tell?


Since memory and reason are inextricably linked, there are always wrong memories - you never remember the right thing. Not when you need to.


I put my finger on the trigger and look into your glassy, empty eyes.


Out of a gap in the alley, a black cat comes bobbing and leaves a gaping hole in my field of vision - it matches its silhouette exactly.


I actually thought I was familiar with the small winding streets, but now I feel like I have not walked them for a long time. What if you had swapped the left with the right side?


I thought I found the school here, the hospital there, the supermarket. If I went in that direction, the park would be there...


The picture in my head is crazy and I'm at a loss. Under the blue sky of this city, the white, human skin stands out especially well. The calm of night begins to take over. The neon lights of the streets are shining, and the buildings inside them are degenerating into deep black outlines. People are looking forward to their after-work hours outside. Some neon signs flicker and scatter flashing light. The city slowly sinks into a ritual evening scene familiar to any night owl who spent time in urban areas.


Thus, even in the healthiest city of this country, the day becomes night.

I walk from the gap where the cat had snuck out of, towards the city center, and as if I were a small cat, whose sight radius reaches only a few centimeters over the ground, I stray further.


Lonely wandering people in spite of modern means of communication - tick.

Under the mantle of the crowd alone on its raft of moving people - tock.

The unnerving strum of a cash register in the food market - tick.


The designer bag, which is given more value than the children playing on the street - tock.


The rhythm of the city since grandfather's time?


Tick Tock.


Right up to the small pharmacy, the city is under the care of the gigantic pharmaceutical company, which has become the epitome of health. The city is organized and divided like a computer hard disk with proper partitions. The fountain in the park with its curly sculpture is perfectly placed and almost purifying.


The last cry of American civilization, a spawn of cleanliness and health - Raccoon City. Above all else, a beloved health paradise.


All the fortunes of the city are managed by Umbrella, the giant pharmacy 

corporation that owns large numbers of foreign companies.


Anyone who renounces the protection of the company is excluded from the company and ends up as a loser on the street.


Umbrella has gradually stretched its reach and created a model city according to its ideas. The makers understand how to degrade health to the merchandise. Those who want to stay alive in this city have to put their health above everything else. Stop smoking, eat organically grown vegetables and always stuff your face with the latest vitamin preparations. Violation is penalized with no remorse, which means that the family's diet can no longer be guaranteed.


All of them became like moths whose only purpose is the deadly light. Like Jonas, who endured for three days in the belly of a whale. Umbrella's employees believed - in their left hand, the hope, in the right eternal love - to their well-being. The mistake they recognized only when it was already too late. Below, in the remote corners of the city, there are many such outcasts.


I run to the subway track, past graffiti walls, into the train station. I like the subway. Here is the otherwise covered by white plaster pulse of the past open.

The next station of the train is hidden in the deepest darkness, and the rolling noise of the tracks reminds me of Indians who knock with bones of dead animals on the tracks as I know only from legends and theatrical performances. This is the subterranean rhythm, the subterranean "tick - tock" of the city, of which time is counting down in a deep hole.


My head sways back and forth, along with the wagon. Sweat drips slowly down my head from my nightmare. The bad stuff that I let Alex get over me is still buzzing in my skull. Time and space - both appear dark, and I feel empty.

I press my body firmly into the seat and try to count slowly to myself while I look over the almost empty car.


A clown covered with colorful pompoms holds a bundle of balloons in his hand, but there is no one here who would buy something from him. On the edge of a dirty bench squats a tired couple, gently nestled together. The woman staring at the couple has painted two new ones over her shaved eyebrows, giving the impression that she has four of them. Behind her, my face is reflected in the window. At the slightest excitement, the stinking smell of my own body rises into my nostrils. I stink. I was sweaty under the velvet coat. My health and appearance have reached a low point.


I scratch my nose and the fat sticks to my fingers. I'm really fed up.

My father's picture haunts my head. No matter how far I wanted to get away from home, in the end I did not achieve anything. I get the feeling that the further away I am from there, the more urgent I am to get back there. He is no longer able to eat his own food. I sigh and look around absently in the car.


At that moment, I notice a woman. Without noticing her before, she suddenly stands near the wagon door. Her hair looks white in the flickering electric lights, and it looks as if some of the dried-up blood is stuck to her green jacket.


Her head is lacking any features, only a shapeless gray blur where a face should be.

I hastily turn away and look at my own reflection in the glass. I feel, however, that she constantly looks at me and I find no peace. I do not want to have anything to do with her, but she's approaching my seat.


"You are ..." she speaks to me and stops abruptly. I look up at her. Truly, there is no face. No eyes, no nose, no mouth, just a surface that resembles a gray board.

How can she speak without face? Is it through my mind?


"Do we know each other ...?" I cannot manage to say more. The woman bows her head in puzzlement. "Are you going to tell me your name?"


The alarm bells are ringing in my head. This must be the evil, man-eating spirit of this city, which kidnaps small children. Most likely, her memory is engraved with the names of his victims. The names of the many children who have disappeared instead of me are no longer alive.


"Go away."


"Tell me, who you are?" She becomes more impatient. The train slows down, but the body of the woman is also slowing down. Outside, my stop comes in sight. I get up and walk past the woman.


"Alma ... Alma Hartline. And who or what are you? Are you human?"

I want to look at the woman sharply, turn around... and am astonished when I no longer see anyone where she was standing.


After walking for half an hour, I reach the housing estate where my house is located. It is already pitch dark there. With both hands stretched over my head, I protect my face from the low-hanging branches of the tree-avenue. I'm bumping into one after the other, feeling that anyone watching me would assume I’m either drunk or a monster from a horror movie.


In fact, I'm already a terrifying run-away. Although I ran away from any unrequited problems, I always moved in circles.


Grandfather's old antique shop downstairs is now lonely and deserted. The two-story brick building shimmers blue in the moonlight. I pull on the old, rusty door, which makes a squeaking noise, and enter the shop. Since Grandfather's death, all the antiques are lying around unkempt, and nobody cares about them anymore. Everything is a mess, and the store gives the impression of an abandoned house. In such a case the objects, no matter what value they may have had, degenerate into worthless junk. I stop in front of the junk and for a few moments I am frozen.

In grandfather's lifetime, I often played here and was repeatedly berated for it. Mother often came home late because of her work. Although she was in charge of a research group in a drug company, she got infected with an unknown flu virus and died terribly and suddenly, when I was only seven years old. Father was constantly working in the lab and almost never came home after mother’s death. 


When I asked about his field of work, he always had only one response “Not any of your business.”


My grandfather was the only one who cared about me, and he taught me everything I know. For me, the stories he told about the treasures - and what was associated with them - was the most important thing in the world. Grandfather's collection and his knowledge were so extensive that a second world opened up for me, a world as fictitious as it was real that offered a contrast to the reality of everyday life.


There was, for example, the armband of General Custer, who had irrevocably made this continent what it was today. Or the oldest rug contaminated with smallpox, which killed more aborigines than any cavalry had been able to do. Then the now blackened typewriter, on which (probably) the infamous Hemingway had once typed ... the entire twentieth-century monstrosity, neatly arranged like sliced salami, immortalized in magazines, or whatever.


Grandfather's collection is almost exclusively replicas, imitations or just terribly worn things; on some the writing is faded or the picture pages are torn out.


"Do you understand, Alma?" Grandfather laughed mischievously at his words. 


"These are all wrongdoings. I have percolated this imaginary world, piece by piece."


One morning, Grandfather's "Ticktock" sank into the sea of serious historical remnants - for all time.


Driven by a strange convulsive desire, I dive into the mess of rubble, of which the shop is filled. Pottery scattered all over the place and various metallic objects reflecting in all directions and causing tinkling noises at the slightest touch. The wristwatch flies away, the blanket whirls up dust, the typewriter keys independently print letters and the magazine mountain collapses. The sight which Grandfather has commanded to the end has remained unchanged except for the situation of some objects.


Outside, a dog barks, startled by the noise of everything falling over. The shadowy figures living in the neighborhood move slightly, causing a quiet noise.


In front of my eyes is a shiny silver firearm, in the course of which my distorted face is reflected. The revolver is part of Grandfather’s collection, and people used to call it the "Peacemaker" - a peculiar name for a weapon.


At that time Grandfather often put a chair next to the big grandfather clock and polished the revolver with obvious joy. Was he doing this to demonstrate his last remaining strength?


So I finally returned. Like that embryo that I once saw in a textbook, I crouched huddled there.


Why am I actually here?


"Tell me ... who are you?" Was the question of the faceless woman from the subway? Like the sphinx's riddle: what has four legs in the morning, two at noon and three in the evening? Tapp, Tapp.


When I notice my own grinning face in the barrel of the weapon, I get shivers. As often as I rub, the grin does not disappear.


Awakened by the noise, my father is in the back room. Immediately I have again the picture of his scarlet body in mind.


What about him?


I am looking for answers to my questions.

 

October 2, Emily Ran's private room


On the screen of the telecom appeared the face of a middle-aged man. Emily lowered her cheek to her hand and absently stared at the potted plant on the monitor, an artificial Geranium. A never-dying fake flower in every room from the start that scolded the interior and was nothing but tacky.


For the first week, everyone who worked here had thrown away those things, only Emily had missed it somehow. She was unable to organize her life. Since she had moved into the room months ago, the decor had remained unchanged.


In the white-papered, rectangular room stood a table, a yellow imitation leather sofa, a cabinet, and last but not least, a two-legged black cane chair with no backrest-that was all about decor. There were also the things necessary for daily life, such as a refrigerator and a microwave, which were haphazardly placed in the room. Nearby was the desk for work. The bulky, cumbersome cable lines were hidden inside the desk, making the front appear clean and tidy. On it stood two simple monitors, one of which, the Telecom, was for correspondence purposes.


From the wall-mounted speakers, the man's voice sounded. However, it did not penetrate Emily. There was up-to-date information about the experiments and references to older files, so things that Emily was already aware of.


She had been itching for a cigarette for quite some time. The non-smoking individuals at the Virus Research Institute of the Umbrella Group was at a staggering ninety-eight percent. Of the fifty-three employees, only Emily smoked. Should she smoke near Christian Selfridge ... well, what did he have to say about that? Certainly something extremely useless. No one had questioned her about it, but over time she had come to smoke only when she was truly alone.


When she was unable to control herself, she left the square in front of the telecom and opened the window wide-open. The speakers continued to announce the report. Since the camera could not see her, she did not care. The image transmission of the in-house information service did not run in real time, but only transmitted recorded images. Using the telecom, the server automatically recognized the ID, and the predefined image of the individual with whom they were communicating appeared on the screen.


The branches of the crimson trees in the courtyard moved in the evening breeze. At noon, illuminated by the bright sun, the trees shone in a crimson light, and in the evening one had the feeling that they were drenched with blood. The red of the trees, the black of the night merged into weird scenery.


The wind swept pleasantly through Emily's hair. Satellite imagery showed a square, a strange building in the center of the institute, with a hole in its center. The almost square courtyard surrounded by white walls had a side length of about fifty meters. There were the same square windows all over the walls as in this room, and the lines between them made a grid pattern.


The whole thing had the appearance of residential buildings. The small apartments were used as lodgings for researchers; each of them had a room with a separate kitchen and faced the courtyard.


The drops of water in the evening rain ran from branch to branch, producing a background rhythm that was pleasing to the ear. In the courtyard there was a pipeline through which water flowed from the forest. This water was prepared in a facility under the Institute for Daily Use within the building complex.


Emily leaned against the windowsill and turned back to the monitor. The wind coming from the forest breezed onto her bare arms. The ceiling mounted ventilation system began with a humming sound to regulate the air temperature in the room independently.


Emily rolled down her rolled up sleeves of her cardigan and looked up at the ceiling. "And what's the condition of Reena Mittford?"


"Does that mean she is imprisoned?"


"Temporarily imprisoned. Because she fools around otherwise."


The distorted image of Robert Prasch sometimes twitched left and right. His coarse-pale, expressionless face was sunken and flat. The picture was probably from around the time he took the job, and no matter how you looked at it, it looked like nothing else than a dried-up mummy.


Emily took a cigarette from a crumpled box and lit it. She took a deep breath and blew the smoke out the window. "Mrs. Project Manager?"


"Yes I'm listening."


Recently, her ability to concentrate has lessened, and sometimes she had nausea for no reason at all. After reaching the mid-thirties, the body, mind, and expectations change rapidly. It’s just how it goes.


"If she relaxes for a while, she'll probably feel fit again soon," Emily said.

It sounded as if Prasch was laughing to himself, when he replied, "I'm a bit skeptical. It seems that the technician Mittford has been hurt considerably. I suppose in this condition she will need treatment for several months. "


Several months ago. There were some colleagues who took several years' leave after successfully completing projects, but Emily's was still in full swing.


"What a misfortune ... Reena is the only one who can use the tank?"


"That's the way it is."


"If you inform the head office and request a new technician, what do you have to 

expect?"


"Pardon? Do you mean money or time? "


"Time. It’s self-evident, right? I'm not Selfridge. "


Prasch thought for a while before answering. "At least two weeks. If you want someone in their class, it can take a month. There are hardly any technicians in the company who specialize in virtual reality, it’s a very specialized field. And of course you cannot entrust this thing to anyone outside the company."


Emily was silent for a moment, and then she said, "No you can’t. Anyway, tonight I'll mess around with the manual and try to get the tank running. Please do not report the matter to Reena for the time being. We are still watching Reena's condition, but she is improving rapidly by the day. "


"Is the gas going? And Mr. Selfridge ...? "


"It’s alright. The team was placed under my care. Do not worry so much. "


"Sorry" The voice over the intercom mumbled.


When Emily started her work at the institute, Prasch had been there for a long time, he was somewhat of an old fox. He was also at least ten years older than her. It was half a year now that she had taken over this new project as the chief executive, but never in all that time had she experienced this man opening up to anyone. Even over the little things there was always a conflict between them.


Emily frowned slightly and took a puff of her cigarette. She carefully prepared her next words. "And what was the reason?"


"Currently under investigation. It looks like its technician Mittford's private project. "


Recently, Reena Mittford seemed a bit strange. Little things made her angry, and she hissed at Emily.


Yet, how was it possible for such an experienced technician to make such an amateurish mistake like losing consciousness while simulating?


The blazing city, briefly seen on the monitor, shot through her mind again. "I am now up. We'll do the rest tomorrow. I will learn more about the matter with Mittford from Mr. Selfridge then."


"Absolutely."


The image on the screen disappeared, and the room became silent. Only the sound of rain was still audible.


Emily walked away from the window and drank the liquid in a coffee mug on the desk. The bitter taste made her smile.


The only thing Carmen could probably never do right was to make a decent coffee. The barbaric cappuccino was more frothy than liquid, and too cold. Of course this wasn't Carmen's fault, she served only from the coffee machine.


Emily pulled a stray bottle of medicine out of the desk drawer and three tablets rolled into her open hand. The capsules flew into her mouth, and a sip of lukewarm coffee followed. She replaced the empty cup on the desk, ran her thumb over her mouth, and a smile appeared on her lips. At the sight of patients who were drinking their medicine with coffee, every doctor had probably rolled his eyes.


Emily looked at the photograph of her daughter Ann. The cute little girl of Spanish descent was laughing. Her looks came from her father’s side, and the only thing Emily had given her was broken genes.


Her eyes fell on the book next to the picture. "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" it was supposed to be a gift to Ann, which Emily exceptionally obtained through the in-house order service. It was not possible to say that it was a book especially for girls, but Emily had gotten it from her parents. Her father, out of sheer interest, had developed a text-generation program that was completely lacking. The memory of the time when she sat on his lap and read Huck Finn's adventures with her made her heart beat faster today.


Ann was born when Emily was in her late twenties and had an affair with one of the employees back then. Today she could not remember his face; only a vague image remained, which she was reminded of when she looked into Anna's face.


Her parents had said nothing when their only daughter returned unmarried with a child. Without a grunt, they welcomed the new family member. Ann, like Emily in her childhood, was very ill. It must have seemed to her parents, as if their own daughter had once again slipped into her children's shoes and returned home.


No matter how many times she had advised them to move out, her parents were still clinging to Los Angeles, holding on to their cramped apartment.


Ann was now sitting on her father's lap and typing on the keyboard. The words typed in with her awkward forefingers and the contextual chunks emitted by the program became the first story in their memory.


When the work is over here, I'll take the book and go to Ann to give it to her, she thought. We will then talk about the book. It will break my heart. If the work here is just over...


The wrapping paper, decorated with a floral pattern, did not look brand new. Her gaze settled on a piece of pink paper sticking to the telecom monitor, and Emily reached out to rip it off.


3rd October, 2 pm. Discussion with R.F.


When the news had arrived, Emily scribbled the memo casually, and as she looked at it now, she could barely discern the earthworm-like lines that mirrored her feelings at that time as her own writing.


The man, Richard Fuchs was considered a reporter, who had written an almost militant environmental commitment on the flag. Emily had looked at his work a few times in magazines; his articles were aimed at getting the masses to break into business, and his performances were not lacking in flashy, over-spoken words and gestures. A dangerous man. Normally an official spokesman would take such meetings, but in this remote mountain-shrouded institute there were no such people, so Emily and the director of the institute had to speak directly with the visitor.


How did he find this place?


The fat, tanned face of Selfridge hovered in front of her eyes, causing her stomach to fill with a mix of dread and anticipation.


If it wasn’t enough that she faced such a strong opponent, she also had to examine the VR machine.


"It looks like a mountain of tasks is towering in front of me. All this has to happen now ... "she said to herself.


She stood outside the window and followed with her eyes the smoke of her cigarette. Dan noticed Emily's eyes on Reena's room, which was fifty yards away directly opposite. The electric lights were off, and the window looked like a bulletin board.


The cigarette haze turned in the direction of the small demarcated forest. Emily thought of Reena, who had a white face and long hair, like a porcelain doll. She had been continuously smeared with sticky fluid that looked like it came from a living thing...


The sight grew more and more ugly and distorted, and her blue eyes were empty.

"Alma is in VR simulation. I am Alma...”


Emily shook off the vision. She took the hidden ashtray out of the china cupboard and put out the cigarette.


The work as a leader was heavy and tiring. Especially from the secret matters, which you could not trust even the members of the project team, there were too many.


The name of her daughter shot through her mind. How unfair.


She had simply left her for her parents to care for her and thus rid herself of the unpleasant part. In a difficult moment, as now, a mere thought of Ann was enough to make her feel better, so she savored the pleasant part of it all.


Carmen's machine voice suddenly sounded in the room. "A visitor."


Emily tilted her head to one side and put the ashtray back in the cupboard.


At Emily's request, Carmen made the corridor appear on the screen. Ren Sprague, director of the institute, looked intently into the camera. What had caused him to come here? Emily shrugged and touched the electronic keypad.


As he had been surprised by the loud compressed air noise of the suddenly-opening door, the director pushed up his glasses, which were about to slip from his nose.


"Mr. Director, what happened?"


"A ... ah." Sprague stammered, tearing his ruffled hair. Out of the breast pocket of his fancy checkered shirt was his bright red favorite pen, shaped like a rocket. This childish object truly suited this man. Nervously he looked around left and right, which made him seem rather odd.


"Ren, what happened?"


"Nothing special. Thought you might have been worried."


"Thank you for your concern, but I'm fine. Your concern would be put to better use taking care of Reena. I'm busy."


Sprague looked dismayed and suddenly became serious.


He crossed both arms in front of his chest, but then picked up his hands and made a V-mark. He used this gesture with prejudice; it meant something like "Love & Peace."


Sprague was a hopeless champion of the Golden Sixties.


As he liked to quote from one of his favorite novels, he was one of the generation’s latecomers. He had finished school with great difficulty, but when he finally wanted to move in, triumphantly wanted to move into the city, the hype had already settled there.


The hippies had cut their hair and the terms "Love" and "Peace" were just nostalgic memories. In his student days he had been a member of a rock band and he was proud of it. To this day he wore his hair tied back in a long ponytail, forever embodying his passion for rock and roll.


Emily considered this generation, or rather the phenomenon itself, to speak of a 'generation' in an autocratic way  extremely stingey. She was not completely against it. The views of these people, however, seemed too biased and one-sided. They had moved in their own world, in their separate reality, trying to solve the problems of this world with their fanatical love. Embrace yourself, then spread your arms, mouthing in the all-pervading peace sign...


For Sprague, this behavior meant only a "now watch out!" Emily looked him in the serious face.


Sprague suddenly smiled, rose a hand up and shouted, "Let's go look for something extraordinary!"


This man was not here to comfort Emily, no, he seemed to have come for two reasons: to pick her up and to have a look at her.


"What is there so extraordinary about her?"


"She should have been thrown out like a skinned cow into the water storage tank."


"What is that supposed to mean? Is that rhetorical - or what? "


"You heard me! A skinned cow!" Cried Sprague, who seemed quite upset by his own words, and once again shoved the spectacles, which had slipped down to the tip of his nose, with his forefinger.

 

October 2nd; 19:20 o’clock: Basement of the institute, water storage tank


After leaving the elevator they went through a white corridor and reached the pool after a little more than two minutes. As soon as the squeaking iron door opened, moisture settled on their faces; faint animal smell hung in the stagnant air.


The reservoir was a huge underground cavern. From floor to ceiling, it was an estimated five meters. The pool itself was so big that you could have a swimming competition there. The dark surface of the water, illuminated by tubes of light, was almost eerily smooth, and the engine noise of the adjacent water treatment plant made the humidity that engulfed the room tremble at regular intervals.


A few meters further, at the edge of the pool, a good ten people stood close together. Apparently, there actually seemed to be something like a cow there. Some uniformed security guards had joined the staff in private clothing.

Emily thrust both hands deep into the pockets of her jacket and reluctantly approached the crowd, prompted by Sprague. With each step, the smell of rotten meat became stronger.


Sprague berthed like a primary school child on field trip. He alternately ripped up his left and right sleeves energetically and rushed toward the crowd. When he stopped, Emily was finally able to catch up.


Trapped by the group, Emily, pushing herself forward, stuck her head in a gap through the crowd to get a better view... and at the same moment she regretted having come here.


The cow was skinned all right, and worse for wear.


Pink tendons ran over the red flesh, and in this pattern still weak blood simmered; Clotted lumps sometimes formed like grafts. From the cow, which almost lay as self-evident, water dripped down. Above the carcass there were flies that had found their way in, and with their wings they threw back the light as if reflected by metal. In the vicinity of the cow, water and blood mingled to a black-red liquid, which gradually spread. The hook used to pull it had drilled deep into the animal's abdomen. The body looked huge.


The stinking smell caused Emily a strong sense of nausea. Several flies came rushing up onto her body to taste the nectar of the swirling sweat on her arms presented to them.


Emily shook herself several times, but the flies penetrated between her fingers and stopped, swinging wildly, towards her arms.


Sprague whistled appreciatively through the teeth. "A splendid specimen, right? Somebody did it right! "


"Wait ... that was in our pool? Since when? Don’t we get out drinking water from here?!" gasped Emily, while she held her nose over the ubiquitous stench. She believed that the coffee she had drunk earlier was sure to come up. As everyone felt the same, the faces of the close associates twisted and they nodded.


"So much time has passed, I think. The smell is appalling, but the putrefaction is not too advanced yet," said Sprague, who crouched over the cow and raised his head. "The water treatment plant is interposed, so there is probably nothing to worry about."


"Yes, if it works properly."


Sprague just smiled at Emily's objection. Feeling a warm breath on her calf, she reflexively pulled her leg away. Glancing down, she noticed one guard’s Doberman acting jittery.


For a dog who explored the world with his nose, this cow was probably an extraordinary event. A spectacular meatball, incomparably more interesting than the people gathered next to it.


When the eyes of Emily and the guard, who wore a knitted sweater and held the chain tight, crossed her face, she shrugged her shoulders. "The stench makes the dog ready to attack."


"No, the flesh probably stimulates his appetite," said the dark-skinned young man, laughing.


Unconsciously, Emily gave the cow another look, and she felt sick again. The Doberman, slobbering around its mouth, looked more and more like a beast.

“How naive of me to pity the dog”, Emily thought. As it might seem, it was a waste of time.


Tomorrow was a meeting with Richard Fuchs. It wasn’t enough that the preparations had not yet been made for it, the VR machine had to be prepped. To stay here and look at the weird cow carcass ... well, it only made her feel bad, while the mountain of work to be done shrank by no means.


Emily decided to leave, but then she heard a well-known shrill voice.


"How many times should I say it? There is no particular reason!"


Somewhat away from the group, a stout Asian man and a slender, tall man chatted. The shrill, accented English was the hallmark of Hiromu Kinuta, an institute staff member.


Kinuta was part of Emily's team and was essentially Emily's real "right-hand man", unlike Robert Prasch, who hated simulation. He was one of the key employees and complex on top of that.


Kinuta wiped the sweat off with a towel wrapped around his neck, and his body trembled. His sweaty skin shone in neon light.


The man talking to Kinuta was in the uniform of a security guard whose grey hair was shaved into a square cut. Compared to Kinuta, his even lighter skin looked almost blue in the light. He glanced coldly down at Kinuta, who was frantically waving his beady arms and trying to emphasize some point.


"Who is that?"


"Our group leader, Ulysses Allam," the man in the knitted braid replied.


"Ulysses Allam, Mittford's lover," Sprague whispered after getting up.


Allam looked like a skeleton-or a demon-and his age was beyond measure. Because of his unhealthy complexion, it was hard to believe he was alive at all.

When Allam noticed Emily's gaze, a grim smile crossed his lips. It was an empty, emotionless, unsympathetic smile.


The electric lights warmed the carcass, and the stifling, decaying stench rising from it became increasingly unbearable.


Emily shuddered and looked away.


The man patted Kinuta slightly on her back - which was supposed to mean "move 

aside!" - and approached the pelvis area.


"Kinuta!" Called Sprague.


Kinuta took a deep breath.


"What’s it doing here?"


Kinuta wiped his double chin from left to right with the towel, raised his thumb and pointed behind her.


"I don’t know. This hide is stiff and firm, I was examining it."


"Do not worry about it. You look just like this cow, you have almost the same body."


Kinuta pursed his thick lips and laughed, chuckling.


”You’re exaggerating, I'm not that big!”  He patted himself on the arm "And as you can see, MY skin is still attached, unlike our bovine friend here."


"You're the one who found it. What did you do then?"


"Nothing really. I was lost for words. Just staring into the water, lost in thought. I can relax now."


"That sounds strange. You're really a nerd. And, frankly, highly suspicious."

Kinuta laughed in torment.


"You can say whatever you want, Reena's accident made me a bit mean-spirited."


"You don’t want to swim for a little and take your mind off of things?"


Kinuta waved the towel laughing as if he wanted to protect himself from Sprague's fun. His face blushed.


"Well, whose work is it then?"


"Maybe it was the locals wanting to vent their anger. I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors about this place, where humans are subjected to exterminated trials."


"Hoho, I did not know that! I guess we are unpopular. Still, with all the cameras we have, there’s no way someone could sneak in without being noticed. Right?”


Sprague and Kinuta flopped around, jokingly out of place. Nearby employees and security guards frowned watching the two from a distance.


Emily looked up at a certain man - at Ulysses Allan. Allam dipped a finger in the water and seemed to ponder something. He seemed calm, almost meditative. He was the kind of guy who could sneak up on anyone or go around without drawing attention… as long as he didn’t open his mouth. When he spoke, he was surprisingly charismatic.


“Reena's lover ... I did not know that,” Emily thought.


Kinuta and Sprague continue their cheerful conversation. "Or the cooks dropped them here and then got out of dodge."


"If that's true, then we will not be able to eat meat in the future. That would be a tragedy - I might have to sneak out!"


Emily crossed her arms and glared at them.


"Kinuta, how long are you going to make these jokes? The project is at stake. I do not think we have time for such silliness. "


Kinuta tried to say something, but then changed his mind and looked down on the floor. "Yes, yes, understood. You just wanted to say that I should go, right? I’ll get out of your hair."


Emily looked up at Ren Sprague, who had entangled her in all this. He smiled tormentedly.


"One more moment," Kinuta asked, scratching his sweaty nose. "I've thought about it. At first I was not sure. But now ... Let me get in the tank! "


"Kinuta, what are you talking about?"


"Boss, I know you are busy. But I've always been interested in it and have dealt with the tank in a little more detail."


Intrigued, Emily eyed Kinuta from head to toe. The slack chin, the bulging upper arms, the huge thighs. From crown to soles, he was a single, loser. That he could stand upright with such a body at all... His figure would not fit properly into a tight VR rubber suit!


Emily really could use the help, she had to admit that. If you did not want to take unnecessary risks, you needed somebody to get into the tank and dive into the virtual world ... and somebody who would do anything. It was not clear to her how far Kinuta's knowledge reached, but at the moment he was welcome to help.


Emily lowered her arms, from the folded position in front of her chest, and looked into Kinuta's  narrow eyes. "The online manual is stored on the server. With an ID of level B you should be able to read it. Do you know the path? "


"I know. Do you know... well, in truth I've already read through it... "


Emily frowned. This guy is about to get a shock. In this particular situation, it could turn out to be an unexpected case of luck, she quarreled with herself.


"Today we might work through the night. I'll get back to you later; get ready in your room."


Hiromu Kinuta bowed gratefully and moved his massive body away from the carcass.


Ren Sprague looked at Kinuta and whispered, "It's hard to stop him, eh?"


"What do you think, Mr. Director? Do you have any idea how to proceed? "

Sprague shrugged. "Well. Under these circumstances ..." His pupils gleamed wetly in the neon light.


Unbeknownst to his approach, suddenly Ulysses Allam stood beside them. His silver eyes peered suspiciously down at Sprague. Then he went over to the corpse and kicked it lightly two or three times with the tip of his boot, causing the swarm of flies to riot. Strangely, the flies did not attach themselves to Allam's heels, ignoring him completely. Despite the high humidity in this room, he was probably the only one who did not sweat.


"Well, Mr. Director, how do we proceed? Are we going to examine her?"


Sprague shook his head at Allam's question. "There is probably no need for that. 


The whole thing is more than fun, and we are so busy enough."


"Should we contact the local police?”


"No, if a message is to be sent, then we must first consult with Mr. Selfridge. But should I predict his answer? No way, no! This incident is certainly on account of one of our people."


The leader of the security team nodded and gave his people a few orders. A huge wheelbarrow was brought and the cow carcass heaved onto it. The blue uniformed guards went away with the dead animal. The man with the knitted cap was trying hard to control the leashed Doberman, who was whining around the wheelbarrow.


In no time the crowd had lightened. Emily looked at the faces of the few remaining employees, whispering to Sprague, "So you think one of us did it?"


He looked at her wide-eyed and nodded eagerly. "I think, it was an elaborate prank. A real piece of bone work. We should rest to liberate our body and minds from all the sadness... "He grinned widely.


Emily let out a sigh. "Please answer seriously. It could be that whoever did this is among us."


Sprague touched Emily's arm with his forefinger. ”And, how was the spectacle? Was the skinned cow interesting?"


“It was so much more than anything you’d see in a slaughterhouse. This was so much more visceral.”

He looked her in the eye, laughing. “This incident is the first of its kind here, correct?”


"No, I think somehow, having seen something like that, but I cannot quite remember under what circumstances..." Emily put both hands in her pockets and bowed her head.


“Probably in a frying pan, being prepared by one of your loved ones!”

She wanted to get away from this place as fast as possible at any cost and gave a smile to Sprague, who continued to look at her mischievously. "Me in the kitchen - is this idea so outlandish? Well, let's go. I have a lot of work to do."


A fly in search of the smell, landed on Emily's arm and shuffled off her sweat. Its wings glittered silvery, it disappeared into the dark, humming softly.

Chapter 2


My body is reflected in the window glass. Outside, the monotone landscape goes on and on. As with the Tank, the air outside and the air inside the bus are completely different.


The people who could not get hold of a seat stood in the aisle. Urban transport is overcrowded and the air in it is hot and stuffy; breathing is difficult.


Nevertheless, when fleeing to the suburbs, everyone gets off at their stop, everyone hurries through the streets in their lives and returns to their summertime agendas.


Yes, even in Raccoon City the summer comes. In the afternoons, after school, when I was on my way to Frank’s, I always felt this uncertainty and expectation, which is disturbed by sadness and joy, and terrible upset.


Outside, a colorless landscape pushes past me and I can do nothing, except just look. Completely relaxed, I feel the vagueness of my own self.


On the busy roads in the city's motorway, the bus is rocking horribly. In order not to fall or to be thrown around, I cling to the handle with all my strength.


Taking the bus is a stressful activity; all bodies pressed against each other. A miserable environment, the peaceful summer day is on the decline. The time on the bus and the time outside are obviously not in harmony. I feel like time stands still and a feeling of loneliness.


As I cling to the handle, my face in the glass window suddenly looks like a stranger's.


Frank lives in the immediate vicinity, but in his everyday environment, he is always somewhat dismissive to me. I don’t know why. Our appointments always take place in the park in the evening, which borders the cemetery.


The bus is racing and the passengers are rocking to the left and to the right. My body is also exposed to the painful bumps.


Back and forth, the bus teeters as if it were performing a Baltics dance. But the swinging also has its benefits, because I'm getting closer and closer to you.


The glass shines, and like on a screen my memories appear in it. Suddenly, someone's words haunt my mind. Who said that?


"Sex and mirrors both are disastrous - because both multiply people."


Standing at the teacher's desk, Steven Kirkwood reaches behind his suspenders with both thumbs and straightens them. Upon his head brown curls proliferate, which he has tied behind in a crinkly ponytail, which gives him a somewhat exotic look.


One of the specialties of our teacher is the behavior of salmon and trout, and he teaches his knowledge with a passion.


"Supposing we had a male salmon with good genes, one day he would spontaneously perform a variation of movements, a meaningless-action, such as, shaking his head, doing an underwater balancing act had caused some of the females to become attracted to these courtship movements and - without any rational reason - choose this male as a reproductive partner and there are many others who share this desire... The procedure became the standard and today, when spawning is about to begin, the masculine salmon and the courtship dance is a reflexive act, so the act evokes a simple procreative urge and becomes a remarkable 'love show', what do you think? And it’s not such a difference from shaky courtship dance to humans using a bouquet of roses!”


The teacher blinks and looks around the classroom. He observes with pleasure how his words are eagerly absorbed by our young ears.


As in a Western movie, he forms both hands into pistols, puts them in the air and shouts: "Shepherd, you cannot just nod your head in here! Come on, dance your dance, dance, dance!"


A humorous man, even if he does not always laugh. Kirkwood is not a dumb person. He knows that his words will die away unhindered. Regardless, he stands behind his desk and calls out loud: "Dance, dance, dance!"


That's why Mr. Kirkwood makes me nervous. What is he thinking about?


Unlike his appearance in the classroom, he always speaks softly in the staff room. Outside there is a hot summer heat. It is cool in the staff room; a cozy little island in the middle of the melting embers.


“Alma, want to catch up later? Tell me what it was like working at the UN or wherever?”


-Who does this guy think he is?-


I look out of the window. In the heat of the day, the birds seem to fall from the sky. The deep black shadow of the school building eats into the sand grains of the courtyard floor.


The voice of the teacher is not unpleasant at all, you have to say that it even sounds wonderful.


He will be singing in the music room at the weekend, as a baritone. I just know it. As soon as I close my eyes, the deep black face of Alex Snow, who is flying, appears. When I open my eyes the moment the echoing reverberation floods the narrow alley, I can really see Alex Snow hovering in the sky.


The skateboard on which Alex flies turns to the left in the air, causing a muffled sound on the battered concrete as it lands. The board does not want to come to a standstill, but Alex brings it to a halt with a foot stomp. He laughs loudly. The white teeth shine in his black face. With a kick, he flips the board into the air; he catches it with one hand, slowly allowing himself to fall on his back in this position and he looks up at the clouds.


Some guys appear to want beat him up, but he holds the board with both hands firmly in front of him and fights off their playful attacks whilst giggling.


I can’t look away. Leaning on the wall with one hand, I search between the bricks. My other hand searching for the rose embroidered on my coat.


With the body half erect, Alex, who notices me, raises a hand and shouts: "Hey, aren’t you the witch? You're late."


Of all the street children here, it’s just Alex, who calls me "witch". He once saw me in the shop, buried under all junk, and since then he calls me that.


"The teacher takes me under his wing again. Really annoying."


“If you’re looking for teacher, he’s not here. He went off to the cemetery.”


"Okay," I nodded.


Alex gets up and comes closer. "Another consultation about your future?"


"That's right," I say and crouch down.


"He cares about you."


"Frank?"


Alex nods and grimaces.


"He needs to care for himself."


Frank's face flashes in my mind's eye. I never really understood him.


If you compare Frank to Alex then – I would say - Alex is often absent-minded, lost in thought, but in the next moment, he can be vivacious.


I remember the first time I met Frank. He limped around covered in bloodstained clothes until a group of adults finally managed to heal him. His bloodshot eyes stared at me; it was fear-inspiring.


Who was Frank? This couldn’t be called love if you wanted it to.


At times, I even thought that maybe it was not just an illusion that people came up with here on the street. They sought an outlet for their frustration and unfulfilled hopes they could not trust anyone.


That's how Frank came into being.


Thanks to Alex's voice, I come back to myself.


He looks up through the gap between the houses to the sky, which can only be seen as a narrow strip.


"I really do not want to praise you, but you probably have..." Alex shrugs and continues: "...talent."


I break out in laughter. “What are you talking about, what talent?"


"What do you think?" Alex leans his head and grins.


"Your parents were both researchers?"


This was the truth, whether I like it or not, they are obviously responsible for the fact that there will always be a gap between me and the street children. I am looking for words to change the subject.


"Father, he seems to be ill."


"Ill...? Is it something bad?"


"Yeah, I think so, but he can’t see an outside doctor. An in-house medical team will be put together shortly.” Alex silently strokes the edge of his skateboard. "I'm not feeling so good lately, either, the hot flushes are frightening."


A boy approaches us laughing and grabs Alex for fun on the neck. Alex stands up and shakes his hand off. Meanwhile, the children have all formed a circle around us.


Alex's cheek suddenly twitches. I follow the look of his dark brown eyes and see a group of five or six adults who have just come around the corner and steers toward us. The inscription "STARS" can be read on their brown jackets.


It's the juvenile militia led by the boss of this neighborhood, Arthur House.


They call themselves STARS, paying homage to the city's special task force S.T.A.R.S. I heard in the news yesterday that the real S.T.A.R.S. was erased in an unclear way. This vigilante STARS, however, continues to live on.


I do not know anything about Arthur House and I do not want to know. But rumor has it that he appears to have been abandoned by his wife at a young age. He is supposed to have some children, but he forbids her to see them.


This man has a strong will for community. He knows everything about the economic situation and the family relationships of each family in the neighborhood. If there are problems, he steps in without hesitation to somehow find a solution. It is his meaning of life. As a substitute for his lost family, he established the so-called "regional society", which forms a communal, even larger "family", and in which he can quench his thirst for cohesion in his loneliness.


Arthur is trapped in the whirlwind of the cyclone sweeping through this city. An outcast failure, as well as the other natives. What distinguishes him from the rest here is the fact that he is convinced that he is superior to others, and that he has never forgotten that he was quite successful.


A youth of the vigilantes steps out of the group. "Hey, you, what are you doing there?"


Alex clicks his tongue, inaudible to the others. Another boy takes a military stance and shouts, "We are just messing around with you!"


The boys jump happily back and forth, forming a circle around the vigilantes. In the middle stands Arthur House, wordless and with his arms folded. He has straight, blond hair and wears sunglasses. The corners of his mouth show an ironic smile.


"The “STARS" They look cool!"


One of the boys extends his hand. He wants to touch the logo that is stitched on the jackets.


"Halt," says the youngster sternly, who obviously enjoys the image, but does not want to admit that.


From the corner of my eye, I see Alex's derogatory smile.


"Thanks for taking care of law and order," he whispers to himself.


Alex is said to have been caught by them during a small theft and the big punishment nearly ended in a lynching. Since that incident, he hates the vigilantes.


I stealthily glance at Arthur House with the most equable expression on my face. In the dark of the sunglasses, which covers his pale blue eyes, my face is reflected.


Suddenly, the boys who surround the vigilante defense squad throw their skateboards on the ground, whistle and shout:


"Hypocrite!"


"Hypocrite!"


"You stink!"


Every single member from the vigilante’s group froze for a moment because of the sudden change. The laughter of Alex and his friends echoes through the street. The faces of the adolescents turn blue, then deep red. The boys jump on their skateboards, push their feet off the ground and scatter into the wind.


You sit down in the meadow and wave to me. I'll go first, then I'll run to you.


As always, I try to fill the silence with words, while you hastily and strenuously try to take off my panties.


"Do not be afraid, that does not hurt a bit." You speak gently like a dentist.


It must be an unwritten law to be tender in such moments. I nod with wide eyes and obey you like a docile patient.


As far as the eye can see you only see white gravestones.


Half naked, we hug and roll in the grass, setting ourselves out from the heat of the July sun. The grass stings us here and there, and finally we reach the summit of the unification, embraced, we look into each other's eyes and struggle for breath.


The human in front of me looks like he's the first person I met in my life. We sit on a heated gravestone and breathe heavily.


And yet, no matter how much we have allowed our bodies to quake in unison, the distance between us remains the same. It is still only a courtship dance, nothing more than a courtship dance, just a courtship dance...


A hidden, invisible crotch calls out; Silver fish jump out of the small river and let the water splash.


We examine the tree shadows and close our eyes to the sunlight. Our sweat is flowing in streams. We smell pretty unique.


I brush off your arm and leap into the air, into the thin air of the distant sky and the kingdom of beyond. But since my body is made of flesh and blood, I flopped exhausted and awkward in the river - while I laugh so loud that it makes me dizzy - and in each of the splashing, countless round ripples of water reflect another world.


I clearly see Huck and Jim riding on a raft. The hundreds of years that are engraved on their faces, I also recognize clearly. But the two do not look at us. Their raft just keeps drifting down the river.


Frank's gleaming white teeth are reflected in the bus's cracked windows. Kirkwood straightens the suspenders and Alex flies through the air.


The window soon becomes the sunglasses of Arthur House, who watches me steadily. On the other side, an orange Vespa passes by.


After the fierce bus ride finally comes to an end, I get dizzy. A transport - this act of moving from one time to another - is essentially an empty span that exists between two time filled periods. That's why you feel so drunk afterwards, drunk from the void.


If one strips off this feeling during the process - which could almost be described as "warping" - one will leave no evidence of the things encountered during the movement as fragments.


The bus stops. Outside, gravestones line gravestones as far as the eye can see.

October 3, 5:40 pm, VR room


Emily leaned over the sink and washed her face. As if all the stress had been washed away with the water, the signs of lack of sleep were suddenly blown away and her head cleared.


The tightness that had stuck in her throat, however, could not be driven away. That had to be the VR-nausea, at least that’s what she told herself. The dark circles around Emily's green eyes became visible in the mirror, and her recently-cut, ash-blonde hair had become greasy; her appearance reflected the measure of her exhaustion.


The rubber suit that Emily had used for the VR simulation, it was trimmed with a yellow edge which was futuristic like ones found in classic science fiction movies. The functional design awoke sadness.


Emily wasn’t happy working a nightshift, even if she was being paid overtime. It always makes the next work day much worse, not being able to get a full night’s sleep and all.


She and Hiromu Kinuta had teamed up to work on the tank. However, both were as expected not very familiar with the operation.


Emily Ran was using experimental arrangements in which she controlled the behavior of simple "elements" and tested and recorded their interaction in countless combinations. The experiments they did find were printed in simplified form, as computer simulations. For example, programming the properties and modes of reaction of the bacteria and viruses correctly gave her results that were never so precise and fast with conventional experiments. The bacterium & viral cultures bred on the computer didn't easily die off due to external binaries, as could occur in the real world under normal conditions.


Ultimately, therefore, the experiments could be carried out at lower cost, in purely economic terms.


In the simulation system normally used by Emily, reality was what was supposed to be hypothetical. You could control them from outside and reflect on them.


In a pure computer simulation, the idea was to get as close as possible to the developers vision of “reality.” In this virtual world however, it was about bringing the participants in and getting them to feel, to believe they were in a real world.

After a night of hard-working interaction with the machine Emily was attempting to engage with the Tank and gain access to it. Emily, after some cursing, came to the inevitable conclusion that she was compatible with it. The approach was just too different from the kind of simulations she usually performed. Already the mere starting of the machine had proved to be a difficult task.


If Kinuta had not stood by her side, Emily would have given up long ago. Kinuta was a genius: it was hard to believe that he spent only one night working intensively on the Tank. Emily had let Kinuta operate the equipment while she dived into the tank. She had taken a five-minute break every hour, but that did not prevent her from becoming a victim of VR nausea.


When she came out of the locker room, she wanted to go to the VR room again, where Kinuta would most likely still be adjusting the appliances.


I should just say goodbye and then go to bed, she thought.


The VR room was on the fourth floor. Right next door was Rose's capsule room, which was closed to everyone but the project managers, Emily and Ren Sprague.


After opening the VR room, Emily saw a familiar sight. Kinuta sat sleepily at the table beside the huge tank. "Oh, boss..." He started to get up when he saw Emily come in, but was stopped by her hand.


"I really thank you for helping me with this. Without you, it would not have gone well."


"How do you feel…? Everything okay?"


"It works, but I would like to go to my room and lie down for a while. Suddenly I don’t feel very well."


Emily forced a forced smile, settling on the chair as she lowered her eyes to the floor and took a deep breath.


Kinuta’s face showed sympathy. "Is it really that bad? I would take your place in the tank. But I would not fit in..."


Kinuta's high voice echoed in her head. Emily raised a hand to her forehead - she just brushed the sweat off her face. "Well, what do you think? Can you handle it?"


"I have mastered the basics of the operation, I think. But I'm not sure..." Kinuta rubbed his tired eyes. "Why is this tank so essential to the project, boss? If I do not understand the reason, how can I continue to make sense of it all?"


"The, Project Rose" is basically a collaborative effort. On the one hand we have the simulation and VR hardware and on the other the immunology. We're in charge of the actual simulation, Reena is our usual VR operator, and then there's Robert Prasch and the rest of the clinical department. So each of us analyzed Rose within the scope of our specialty."


"I understand that already. It is about the production of a vaccine to protect the human body from the T-virus. For the division of labor. But that's all I know. We, the simulation group, only deal with the simulations group, we only deal with the simulations and the observation results of Rose, we do not understand the totality of the project. Why do we need the Tank?"


"It's not primarily the software or peripherals that make up this massive VR device - the key is the hardware in the form of three supercomputers located behind the wall. But hardware alone is useless, of course."


"So that explains the Tank."


"Yes, - in these supercomputers vision, smell, taste, hearing, and touch, that is, the human-receptive stimuli, can be processed as numerical values. And the functionality of the tank makes it possible to expose the test objects to different environmental influences."


"So that means that this VR system is also linked to the Rose capsule, right?"


"In some areas, the ability to process information exceeds that of a human. The inner workings of the system are highly complicated and have become a black box for almost everyone - a book with seven seals. The interface it serves is this whole space, together with the human operator."


As a sign of realization, Kinuta raised both arms up and his body wobbled like pudding. 


"Haha, fabulous... This gigantic tank and the room here is a single interface."


Emily nodded.


"Do you understand it now?"


"I have never used such an oversized computer. A real monstrosity." The agitated Kinuta rubbed his face two or three times with both hands. "There's something else – I have one last question." Kinuta raised a finger with a smile and small pits formed on his cheeks. "What exactly is this Rose?"


"The research material for the development of the vaccine. Why do you ask this?"


"Is the rumor true...?


"Which rumor?"


"Rose is actually a survivor from the events back in Raccoon City – or so they say."

Emily frowned and looked into the face of Kinuta.


"Who did you hear such a thing from?"


"From Reena Mittford."


That was a slight shock to Emily. It was this rumor that caused Reena the extra stress...
Emily touched her forehead. Chill out. If Sprague could see her now, he probably would react with a laugh.


"I do not know anything specific about this. For me, Rose is a data-based object for our research - a string of numbers and formulas", she said, when she had regained some composure.


Kinuta smiled. "That's a lie. You cannot or do not want to tell me. No way can you, as a factory manager, not know about it."


"You can interpret it as you wish. I'm not so sure about Reena, but you're a scientist through and through, right? No matter what tragic history a research subject may have, it has no bearing on the pending analysis. Stop the excessive questioning and concentrate on the essentials. That's the crucial element, after all."


Kinuta shrugged and stood up. "Got it..."


He staggered as if his sudden appearance made him appear to be drunk. He stopped near the door and turned around once more. "There is something I haven’t told anyone..." Kinuta fell silent, then gave a jerk and continued, "I think Reena used this machine privately now and then."


Emily nodded. She may not have known about Reena's lover. But this fact had not escaped her. Carmen, who controlled all the activities at the research facility, always provided Emily with a detailed report on her personal terminal.


As long as the project was safe, Emily had not wanted to intervene. But why was Reena - and in a way Kinuta - so fond of the Tank? Emily could not understand the drive behind it.


"Well, I'll go now. We did a really good job, you should go to your room and rest now," Kinuta said, bowing and disappearing into the corridor.


Emily was still sitting in the chair, her head resting on both hands; she looked desperate. The never-ending problems had driven them to the brink of exhaustion. Reena's accident, the cow thrown into the pool, the upcoming visit of this environmental activist named Richard Fuchs...


She wanted to get back to her quarters quickly, take a pill and sleep. Slowly she raised her eyes and looked around.


It was a grim, windowless room, and the air was stuffy. In order to avoid any external influences on the carrier fluid, there was no ventilation system. It was hot, and Emily's nausea was steadily growing stronger.


An enchanted machine - a dark grey tank with a cream-colored terminal in front of it. Emily stared at the empty monitor. Yesterday there had been the depicted, red flaming houses. The flashing alarm signal...


Wait - that's weird. Emily swallowed the strong sour-tasting saliva. Suddenly a suspicion arose in her.


At least two people were required to operate this machine - the subject and someone to operate the terminal. Although it should be kept secret, it was difficult to imagine that Reena alone could have carried out private test runs. So who had used the terminal in her accident? And why did someone not release her right away?


Or had nobody been here except Reena at that time?


The first eligible person that Emily suspected was the tall leader of the security guards...

October 3, 2:10 pm, conference room


Emily looked out the window of the conference room. The morning rain seemed to have completely dissolved the clouds, because the sky looked incredibly blue and clear that day. 


The familiar, fire-red colored tree grove stood out even more from the landscape.


The afternoon sun was far too bright for her sleep deprived eyes. Since the conference room was located on the ground floor, the view of the sky there was limited to a large rectangular 

cut-out.


From the outside, the research institute did not have a single window. It looked like a huge fortress surrounded by white walls. The windows were all inside the complex, facing the courtyard.


The official justification for this design was the protection of internals - but Emily believed that it was due to the planners' paranoid delusions; because if you wanted, you could see the rectangular building, even into the courtyard, by means of a spy satellite.


During ongoing research projects, the employees did not see any of the land - or the surrounding area and the world – their world was the square courtyard. A morbidly introverted complex of buildings that stretched the nerves of the people living there to the brim.


Renna Mittford...


Renna had secretly used the VR machine, and her partner had probably been her lover Ulysses Allam. But it didn’t make sense that Allam accepted Reena's willingness to take risks and then let her down by leaving her in the Tank?


Although Emily was happy to question him, she could not make up her mind about how to do so. And besides, there was no time for questions right now. These thoughts were useless at the moment - she shook her head and scanned the room with a quick glance.


In the conference room was a huge, oval table made of hardboard which curves were gently rounded. In front of a white board at the far end sat a young man whose estimated age was about twenty. Richard Fuchs was known to hate the media. He appeared to look very young, 


Emily had not expected that.


With his olive green jacket and orange tie, he had the look of an ambitious young business man who cultivated and performed well in the office - in the restaurant next door during lunch, he sat soberly in his chair, his posture was almost static, and he missed every superfluous movement. He kept his inclination to impulsiveness in check.


To his right sat the director of the institute, Ren Sprague, and opposite him was a bald headed man in the dark green polo shirt, the management representative Christian Selfridge. The conference room included only four people, including Emily. The large conference table seemed a bit abandoned.


“Could you get me a coffee?" It was Fuchs first words after he had used the recording button on the portable recording machine. He stared at Emily with big, dark eyes. The man must have had Spanish ancestors. His features portrayed it.


Involuntarily, Emily thought of Ann's father. The bitter end of an inexperienced love - distant past, today there was no trace of it.


Emily walked over to the wall-mounted intercom. "Carmen, can we have a coffee, please."


"Understood," the machine voice sounded.


"That's handy. A high-tech coffee maker, eh?" Fuchs whispered, leaning on his elbows.


Emily smiled. "Carmen is not a coffee machine. She is an AI and has supervision over the network of the institute. The workstations and servers here are controlled by her. She controls all the subnetworks. All programs and data packages wandering around are bundled by her. It’s all handled by Carmen."


"She created it," said Ren Sprague unexpectedly, who had been lost in thought until then. He sounded proud.


Fuchs narrowed his eyes and watched Emily with growing interest. "Artificial intelligence based on a program?"


"To be precise, Carmen is not a simple program, but a network of programs. The whole network is her body. As far as her intelligence is concerned, our conversation partner is in incredible advanced, with an unbelievable amount of digital brainpower under the hood."


"Understood. Sounds interesting. And the users, us humans, interpret this as consciousness, of course. Well, you can also think of the global ecosystem as one gigantic organism - a similar mind game..."


"Philosophical Views of an Environmental Activist?"


"No... just a generalization," Fuchs replied with a smile.


"Aha. For example, the personification of the earth by the term 'Mother Earth' to pick up on its aging process and also the idea of ​​home. I have little interest in the concept itself. It’s too sentimental to me. The simulation of the ecosystem, of course, is part of my research. I would like to deal with it much more thoroughly than before. Due to the limitations of the hardware, however, the simulation - or parts of it - falls very roughly..."


"Like the simulation of a hive?"


Emily was a little surprised. Her former colleague - later then lover and finally Ann's father - had then developed the simulation of a hive for demonstration purposes. The queen, the drones, the larvae the honeycombs... the entire interior of the hive. Everything found expression.


"For example, yes, exactly."


Emily walked to the opening door to get the coffee.


"The name Carmen is somewhat idiosyncratic for an artificial intelligence. Why this name?"


Without answering his question, Emily waited for the coffee.


"She baptized her with that name," Ren Sprague explained, "But you didn’t want to name it after your daughter?"


Emily turned abruptly and looked at the director sharply at his lewd mouth. Sprague hastily lowered his eyes, pretending to write something in his papers. But Fuchs' eyes weighed on her, and she found herself obliged to an answer.


"My daughter's name is Ann, but she was called Carmen by my parents. A nickname, or pet name, if you like."


"Oh, ok. Is the program in any way related to your daughter?"


"Maybe. When I wanted to give a name to Artificial Intelligence, I somehow thought that only this name was suitable..."


Fuchs bowed his head. Obviously he was not satisfied with this answer. Still, he said: “Well, anyway. We should gradually turn to the work. First, I'd like to write down your names and positions," Fuchs said, looking around the conference room. His eyes fell on Selfridge, who nodded in agreement.


"Christian Selfridge, Management Officer of this Virus Research Institute."


Sprague, who was focused on something in his papers, raised his head. "Ren Sprague, Institute Director."


Fuchs put on a demonstratively crafted smile. Then he turned to Emily. "And you?"


Emily stared hard at Fuchs. "Emily Ran. I lead the current project."


Fuchs touched his forehead; he was obviously trying to remember something. Two seconds later he said surprised; "Hold on. Emily Ran... Simulation... Are you possibly the Emily Ran? The genius girl who, at the tender age of fifteen, wrote a paper on viruses and computer experiments and was publicly awarded a prize by the university? The Emily Ran? - I've always wanted to know where you'd gone, and now I find you here, in such a place..."


"That is old news. I am an ordinary researcher today who can ow label herself as 'middle-aged’" Emily said bitterly, shaking her head slightly. "Why do you not find it outrageous for someone coming here to do research?"


"Sorry, I was just a little surprised. When I was a kid, the teacher had posted a newspaper article that was about you. He said we should also be diligent and learn so that we can get as far as you."


Emily shrugged. "I'm sorry to have exposed you and your classmates indirectly to such pressure."


When she looked back at the dispensary, the coffee was ready. She took the paper cup and handed it to Fuchs. "Here please."


She looked at him expectantly, while Richard Fuchs took a sip and rolled his eyes. The paper cup landed on the table, where it spilled over easily. Fuchs’ face mirrored mixed feelings. He choked down the liquid that did not seem to suit his taste. "Carmen's Everyday Things," he sneered. "Really excellent."


"Our coffee maker is certainly not the crown of high-tech," Emily replied, her lips pressed together so she would not have to let go. She walked over to Sprague and sat down. "We also had to endure a lot until we got used to it."


"That’s not a habit I would like," said Sprague, without looking up. He was completely engrossed in his scribblings. Emily glanced at it, but it was impossible to decipher any of the signs.


Fuchs pointed his finger at the wall and asked, "I noticed that when I walked in, what is it?"

On the wall hung a large wooden sign with a square of copper sheet on it, into which the shape of a cow had been punched. Under the hooves were the words "Thou shalt not treasure the cow," and directly below it was written, "In me is the truth."


Sprague raised his head and smiled. "Oh, that. That's our symbol. We had it made by a local artist. It's pretty, right?"


"Looks like the advertising sign for a steak house." Fuchs was again about to sip the coffee, but grimaced at the mere smell and rejected the thought again.


Sprague chuckled. He hugged himself, then spread both arms and made a victory sign. Fuchs looked startled.


"You know the genesis of the vaccine? Smallpox was rampant worldwide in the eighteenth century. A frightening disease that, as you know for sure, eats away flesh and skin, causes a high fever and leads to a painful death. Edward Jenner, who spent years combating this disease, finally made an epic discovery..."


"Jenner! I have not heard the name for a long time. I was once sentenced to read his autobiography and had to put my impressions on paper. He also used children as subjects, a really crazy guy."


"At that time, many people who worked in the dairy industry were infected with bovine pox. This virus variant used the cow's body as a host; it was a relatively harmless disease, with only the skin cracking a bit. In his observations, Jenner came to the conclusion that those afflicted with bovine pox are rarely attacked by the normal, deadly smallpox. So he came up with the idea to prevent the normal smallpox by vaccination with the bovine pox. So he applied the first prevention in human history using a vaccine."


One disease dispels the other... It's almost like poisoning an antidote, is not it?"


"Strictly speaking, the bovine pox viruses do not expel the pox viruses. So, what was done with the bovine pox very similar. The human immune system remembers the bovine pox as soon as it enters the body, and then moves to the source of injection and does its best to remove all foreign bodies.  This was not known to Jenner’s yet. It was only known then that the result was they were not attacked by smallpox. Only in the sixties of the twentieth century did immunology reach its colossal breakthroughs."


"That was not too long ago."


Sprague looked up at the chalkboard with the cow etched upon. "Correct. But that does not mean that this area of ​​science is still in its infancy. Rather, immunology is an important branch that redefines life. Tell me, what is the boundary between the inside and the outside of a body?"


Fuchs and Selfridge looked at the suddenly talkative Sprague and exchanged astonished looks. Their faces showed something of complicity, and Emily shuddered.


Fuchs finally regarded Sprague with a smirk. "Well, the skin, right?"


"The structure of the immune system not only expels the pathogens. It is a system that distinguishes one person from the other. The body’s own antibody cells eliminate the foreign bodies after undergoing several stages of trial and error, and are individually adapted to the particular physique.


In a nutshell, this means that the immune system is the limit of the human body. It can also be said that the immune system as such, which responds to outside influences and tries to banish anything foreign, represents the interior of man. Of course, this limit is not only present in humans, but in all living things."


"I do not completely understand this. Does this DNS, or whatever you call it, diminish?"


Sprague smiled and looked at Fuchs. "That's right. The DNA code is like a blueprint that distinguishes one individual from the other. That's the requirement. The vaccine treatment works on the basis of a successful exchange of the immune system. It is outsmarted, and the body of man secretly goes through a change. The definition of one's own body is therefore modified both in terms of inside & outside. The deception of the immune system becomes a new reality.” Selfridge tapped his index finger on the table.


"Hey, how long should this chatter go? Are we here on a coffee party? Or a lecture? Do you sing so effectively while researching? One digression after another... How about if you let Fuchs have a word?" Selfridge announced in an irritated tone.


Sprague opened his mouth in disbelief, then slumped in his chair. "Am I boring you?"

Fuchs smiled forcedly and waved. "No, that was interesting, Mr. Director. Let's talk about it another time."


"Another time, of course..." Selfridge's comment was pure irony. "Well then," said Fuchs. 


"Just give me some facts about this facility here. The area of ​​the plot, the amount of forest deforested for this place, the goals of the company..."


The decidedly arrogant Selfridge replied as if memorized: "The forest area cleared to build the complex of buildings is about one hundred acres. The company has legally acquired the land and everything is covered by a contract. As you have noticed on the way here, we are dealing with a kind of island in the middle of the forest. Rather, it is the case that the environment plays with us, not the other way round. I'm not going to talk about the exact content of our work, but you can assume that it's normal genetic research and vaccine development."


"Mr. Fuchs," Emily intervened. "I do not understand why you came here. This is not a factory, but a research institute. The environmental impact is marginal..."


Fuchs pulled at his tie and looked at the pattern on it. Ignoring Emily's words, he continued to ask questions. "This is where gene experiments are carried out. Is there a risk of biological contamination, a so-called biohazard?"


"No danger, absolutely no danger," Sprague waved both hands in an exaggerated gesture.


Selfridge ignored him. "Of course, we considered every potential threat scenario. The controls for the ventilation systems of the entire institute is prepared for the occurrence of unforeseen circumstances and has been prepped for cases of an outbreak. The risk of something getting into nature is almost impossible."


Selfridge looked at Sprague from the side, suppressing a blank stare. "The institute is the epitome of security. If you want, you can get written documents on the ventilation control system and various safety precautions. This is not subject to secrecy."


"So why are you here?" Emily asked pointedly.


"What do you really what to ask me?"


"I want to know how you found our institute, Mr. Fuchs. I already know who you are. You 

are a speculator. They seek and disseminate unpleasant information about companies and manipulate the stock market."


Fuchs raised his eyebrows and looked at Emily in astonishment. "Look, you seem really well informed. Did you do the research alone?"


“Although I worked almost the whole night, I got up early in the morning and researched a bit on the net. It obviously paid off."


"Am I to believe that there's something on the net about me? Did you find something right away with a search engine? Yes, yes, the problem of privacy protection in the age of the Internet... where is this going?"


Emily stared at his contemptuous smile. "I had access to the corporate headquarters database and was looking for information about business lines that we have. I have reviewed all of your accomplishments, Richard Fuchs. The smear campaigns at twenty-eight companies, including five pharmaceutical companies, are associated with the name Richard Fuchs. These companies are huge conglomerates and have branches all over the world. Four companies of which one month before they were accused had record high lay-offs. The ideal time to buy pharmaceutical stocks from other companies. Immediately after the scandal reports, the courses fell naturally to the bottomless pit. Of course, a single article can have no such impact on the course of things. It takes further, profound research... And it seems clear that this would go beyond the scope of an individual's activity. Yes, even that of an organization. The system behind this manipulation has the disguised form of multiple organizations operating on an international network."


Fuchs stopped the dictation machine on the table and took a deep breath. "And you... you’re conclusion is?"


Emily paused and looked around. Selfridge and Sprague had their heads up and looked at her intently.


"Mafia," Emily said.


Selfridge and Fuchs looked at each other. Sprague was stunned, watching Emily's profile. Fuch’s shoulders twitched. He laughed, and that laugh quickly became a roaring laughter. Selfridge also joined in. Even Sprague could hardly resist it. He bit his lip, his muscles shaking slightly. At that moment Emily wanted nothing more than just leaving this room behind.


After more than a minute, Fuchs wiped the tears from his eyes and said, "I see, I understand. If so, what are you going to do, all the police? The stooge of a crime syndicate is here - will you tell them that?"


"They do not understand. They will be eliminated as soon as you have been exposed as an enemy of this group."


"I know. In fact, Umbrella is an underworld organization that creates weird weapons - and this is a biological weapons testing center... If anyone here does not understand something, it’s you, Miss Ran. You will not get me out of the way. I am currently a member of this group. I was hired by some big shareholders to come here." Both elbows propped on the table, he spread his hands. "I wanted to slow down the conversation, but now it looks like we could get right to the point."


Fuchs’ face suddenly lost all expression. He drank from the coffee mug and then quietly put it on the table. Fuchs began to speak slowly. "There have been disturbing rumors lately on Wall Street. The destruction of Raccoon City was due to a biological contamination caused by Umbrella. A deadly virus had escaped from the lab and wiped out the city, it is said. If that were true, it would be an unprecedented scandal. And what that means, you can imagine yourself. In short, your 'Umbrella' is actually the Mafia. A ruthless corporation that does not even wipe its ass when they shit on corporations - well, you have such a reputation behind closed doors right now. Therefore, the price of the Umbrella share is currently in free fall, and the stockholders are all infarcted. The heart of your group, the military unit, also seems to turn away from you. This information has brought my dear middle men to light."


As if to convince himself that his words achieved the desired effect, Fuchs looked deeply into Emily's eyes. "However, I have to say that their statements sound reasonably plausible. Since its birth, the military has been demanding the best weapons, subjecting its enemies to death in the safest way possible. With a bomb without a safety device, only a suicidal effort would work. No one likes to walk with a highly explosive grenade that he does not know if and when it might explode in his backpack. There is no soldier who would gladly take part in such a suicide mission."


Fuchs got up abruptly and began to pace up and down the room.


"Just, the key question is whether or not there is a vaccine. Biological weapons prevail as the strongest weapons in humanity. A new world order with changed framework conditions emerges and, in its horror, dissolves the age of nuclear weapons. The guys who throw you the money, they just want to know. They want explanations. If these fail - bankruptcy. The money is gone. The group loses its foundation and collapses..."


"We are not authorized to make such an explanation. Negotiate with headquarters." For a moment Selfridge's face looked pale.


Fuchs kept going up and down the room. "Precisely because if this does not work… that’s why I came here. That seems to be obvious? The superiors of Umbrella have become strangely sensitive since the accident. A General Assembly and at least one Supervisory Board Meeting. My clients can no longer approve of this situation."


"No matter what you tell us, we cannot talk about the contents of this research." Selfridge shook his head stubbornly.


A generous gesture, Emily thought.


Fuchs approached the copper cow, and as he stood under the board he raised his arm and pounded his fist against the metal. "This is an institute for the development of vaccines... There is another credible rumor that the development of a serum against biological weapons is progressing rapidly in an Umbrellas research center in Central America. If that proves true, then Umbrella would be implemented again."


"Maybe yes. That would be desirable," said Sprague in a shaky voice. He scribbled a portrait of blurred strokes with a rocket-shaped pen. The lines formed first a neck and chin, then cheeks. Eyes, nose and mouth seemed more like an interwoven thing, and the head was crowned by a bushel like steel wool.


"And another thing comes to mind. Umbrella used the copy of a unique human body for its research."


Sprague's narrow shoulders stiffened with tension, and for a moment he opened his eyes. Even Emily swallowed unconsciously and looked over to Fuchs. This man - how much did he know? Selfridge gnawed his lips and finally closed his mouth. "My dear Mr. Fuchs, from here on we are dealing with corporate secrets. The good of the valued shareholders you represent and their profits are at stake."


"Hmm, all right. I probably should not publish the thing about experimenting on people."


"Y-you! So human experiments, this is strongly taboo..." Sprague cried.


"Shut up!" Selfridge harshly cut him off and made no attempt to hide his contempt. Sprague looked at him stunned.


Fuchs continued his work. "In order to get a human body, Umbrella is said to have kidnapped children from the surrounding area, it seems."


"That is a malicious assumption - completely untenable!"


"Sprague..." Selfridge held Sprague, whose hooked nose twitched nervously, he sat up for a moment.


"What else did you hear, Mr. Fuchs?"


"Is the so-called 'Project Rose' a concept?"


Fuchs words struck the conference room like lightning. Sprague collapsed in his chair. Nobody said anything. Everyone was silent in the expectation that someone else would break the silence.


Something is off at this meeting. What's happening? Selfridge and Fuchs must have met somewhere in advance and made a pact. Selfridge has launched a new goal to effectively dissociate himself from his sinking employer.


Emily turned white at the thought. You could not stop the flow of things. She did not know what they were doing, but her interpretation so far - the Mafia thing - was a big mistake. 


Her suffering stomach blocked her thinking.


"Do you even know about “Project Rose”?" Sprague slowly got up and walked around the table. When he reached Fuchs, he stopped in front of him.


"The girls name is Rose, according to the rumors, a survivor from Raccoon City," Fuchs said.


Sprague looked like he was about to cry. He lowered his eyes.


"Survivors," continued Fuchs. "A funny expression, right? She sleeps. She dreams."


"Dreams..." Sprague walked past Fuchs towards the exit. "I apologize, but I'm not feeling well. I must say goodbye..."


As he walked out, it almost looked like a sneer at the corners of his mouth, and the notes left in his deserted place suddenly seemed to Emily like a jet-black, abyssal hole.

October 3, 19:55, Courtyard


Emily strolled through the deep red grove of the courtyard. She wore jeans, a black turtleneck under her favorite jacket. The flaming trees with their red leaves were thick and eerie. The water that escaped from the distillation system evaporated to a haze that hovered above the night time wood. On the floor, which was softened by yesterday's evening shower, mud splashed on her pants. Nevertheless, it was pleasant to feel the sometimes cold wind on her face and to listen to the insects' chirp.


The small square grove with its side length of fifty meters had been created by human hands. Emily forced her hands into the pockets of her jeans and wandered aimlessly about. She had to calm down, otherwise she would explode inside!


She stopped in front of a particularly large tree and looked up at its trunk. The dangling branches seemed to be enveloped in the wind.


Emily's gaze sank into the intoxicating dance of the leaves in the wind. A sigh of admiration quietly escaped her mouth.


Surrounded by the white moors of the institute, the square night sky over her was the only thing that could be seen from the outside world. The moon was bright, the stars sparkled, and there was not a single cloud in the sky. Electric light leaked through the rows and rows of latticework.


Illuminated by this, the trees blazed up purple. Fluttering in the wind, the red leaves, flowing in the light, passed through the red color spectrum. Red, purple and orange danced in the incoming light as if they were competing with each other.


Emily closed her eyes and followed her thoughts. Like in a VR simulation, which runs strictly according to plan, there are no coincidences. Man with his interpretive consciousness perceives the play of colors as fire and associates dancing flames with it. The personal taste of the human being decides what emotions he feels when looking at them. The chaos that reigns in this institute only gains a meaning, a contour, through the respective view of man; the one spun intrigue for the sake of one's own will, the other just flees in confusion and panics at the commotion. The events always correspond only to the reality that the affected people arrange themselves, Emily thought. She was suppressing the burgeoning excitement with all her strength.


After the events in the conference room she quickly returned to her room. There she lay for hours on the bed and practiced in her mind through various scenarios. She wrestled and quarreled with all possible ways until she finally fell asleep. After waking up, she ate a light meal.


Most of her thoughts revolved around the intruder Richard Fuchs. She did not quite know whether to believe him, that he had come as a spokesman for any major shareholders. Although Emily had confidently put the word mafia in her mouth, this conclusion was no doubt more akin to a short-circuit reaction. Inside, Fuchs’ hilarious laugh haunted her mind. And while there was no evidence of a relationship between him and the management representative Christian Selfridge, it seemed too flimsy to her.


Emily could not do anything. Especially as she worried about Sprague, because she was not clear what was going on with him.


A second, weird system collided with that of the research institute - and as a result, some change is going on, Emily thought. It was a more than an adventurous conclusion, but the only thing that occurred to her.


A system called "Richard Fuchs" - the thought pleased Emily. He was a vast, huge system. 


She was able to get along well with this idea and gain some distance from her mental disorder.


What she took with him was his outward appearance and personality. Both reminded Emily of her former lover - Ann's father - and her inability to link them with each other; they were somehow alike.


This realization made her angry. Of course, she made no judgment as to whether the man was sympathetic or her type. She simply could not forgive herself for having such silly emotions.


She could feel butterfly’s in her stomach, one after the other, carefully tucking them into small drawers of her heart. Now was not the time to dig in on the unimportant. Right now, the project was the most important thing. No matter what happened, Emily's job was just that-and deserved her full attention.


Emily thought she heard soft movements. Besides, she had the uncomfortable feeling that something was moving in the darkness.


And shortly thereafter she heard a bursting noise.


She opened her eyes, but the world around was full of darkness. The leaves on the big trees had disappeared. She scanned the area quickly, but there was nothing beyond darkness. The light that had lit the courtyard through the windows was completely extinguished.


Emily was seized by uncertainty; she felt the ground disappear and sway under her feet. Her heartbeat got faster; she could hear her pulse ring in her ears. For a moment she did not know what had happened. Had there been a power failure?


This institute had a power generator and was repeatedly protected against failures. Which was necessary. In fact, in the case of an actual power failure, all the cell and virus colonies and the computer-controlled simulations were doomed to destruction.


And now that all the lights had gone out, she could not help but imagine the worst. On the other side of the darkness, perhaps everything was already coming to an end...


Should the project in which the past half a year she had invested really have taken such an unprecedented outcome? Should all the muzzles of this total darkness, which seemed to come out of nowhere, be carried away into that very nothingness?


The faces of her employees, with the slightest changes, once for joy, sometimes for disappointment had surfaced in her thoughts... and disappeared again. No, that was not allowed to be true!


She had tears in her eyes. She wanted to scream and could only control herself with difficulty. Both hands outstretched, she felt her way cautiously forward. She wanted to go to Rose.


Her foot became entangled on a tree root. It caught her off balance and she tripped. As she struggled to regain her balance, she hit a tree trunk. The inner courtyard with its base of just fifty meters had become a maze in this total eclipse.


However, her eyes became accustomed to the circumstances, and the moonlit, vague silhouette of the forest slowly gained in shape.


When Emily shook off the branch that had hit her forehead with the pressure of her hand, she noticed a movement between the trees.


That certainly matched the movements and the audible breath of a living being.


Only a moment later, she froze and thought: There are no wild animals in the courtyard?


She searched desperately through the pockets of her jacket, but something that could be used as a weapon could not be found; strictly speaking, the pockets were empty. Out of sheer fear, her own searching fingertips seemed like a strangers.


Emily started moving carefully, but her knees trembled, and she stumbled several times as her feet sank in the mud. Her legs became self-sufficient, getting faster and faster - and soon Emily started to run.


A scream broke out of her throat, and Emily ran for her life... or rather, her self-acting legs carried her away from there.


The beast noticed Emily's hasty movement, whereupon it began the pursuit.


Got to make it to the institute! Out of fear, Emily found it hard to think. She gave orders to her out of control legs to keep going with all their strength. The mud splashed, and the branches of the trees struck her face like whips. Stress, grief, fear and anger... everything was gone. Emily was nothing but instincts, hurrying out of the forest.


The institute building came closer. Only a few steps left...


But then Emily stopped again at a root and stumbled, tumbling belly-deep into the mud. The white outer walls of the institute reflected the moonlight and shone weakly. Emily was crouching on the floor full of dirt. The filth hung in her hair and had penetrated even into her shoes.


In the immediate vicinity of Emily, a dog ran excitedly around. His panting breath hit her every now and then on the neck, and sometimes lukewarm drool dripped on her face. The man with the knitted hat Emily had once given smiled. In the gleam of the white wall, his face was expressionless, almost looking like a model.


"Is everything ok? Are you hurt?"


"Can you possibly keep that dog away from me," Emily spat.


Emily could not calm down at the sight of the giant Doberman, who was walking around, snuffling. In the darkness the dog had resembled a little dragon.


"You do not have to worry, he's a smart boy. He will not harm you."


To Emily, however, the Doberman's manner was as if he were about to attack her; but when the watchman demanded, "Tobi, leave that - Tobi!", the dog calmed down.


Emily got up, but continued to give Tobi a look of anxiety. She leaned against the wall of the institute and sighed.


"Please forgive. I did not expect anyone to be in the yard," the guard apologized and put a leash on the dog.


Emily grabbed at the mud that had caught in her hair and hurled it away.


"Name?"


"Ha?... Well, Tobi," the guard said, a bit puzzled.


"No, your name."


"Ah..." He smiled. "My name is Simon. Simon Beach."


"I'm Emily Ran. Glad to meet you." Emily held out her dirty hand to him, and Simon grabbed it with both hands, whereby the end of the dog leash fell into the mud. Tobi, now free again, began again to romp around the two.


"It's an honor, Emily."


Emily watched Tobi and said, "Hold the leash tight, Simon."


Simon blushed and got hold of the leash, but the dog pulled with all his strength so that the guard lost his balance and fell. Staggering, he straightened himself up and smiled forcefully.


"He's a smart boy, believe me. Just a little bit mischievous."


Emily nodded and pointed with her thumb towards the institute. "Any idea what happened?"


"Probably a power failure," Simon said. There was a look of surprise on his face.


"What caused it?"


"Well... I do not know. A part of the Telecom seems to work anyway."


That meant that the power had not completely failed!


Emily took a deep breath and looked over the courtyard. The vision of a ghost forest faded gradually, and the usual little grove returned.


The lights in the institute had not yet been switched on again, and the only source of light was the moon illuminating the trees. The leaves rustled.


"The communication went wild. It must have been some accident. There was talk of a 'biohazard'..."


Emily did not trust her ears. More precisely, she did not want to trust them.


"A biohazard..." she whispered.


Simon nodded. "That's what I heard. But what was that exactly? It is, I believe, in the guidelines that I got when I came here..."


"Where did the contamination come from? How far has it spread?"


"The cow... the cow thrown into the water tank. Does this mean it was infected... I am not informed about the present situation, but there is definitely chaos. The report was contradictory, and ultimately I was sent on patrol in the courtyard."


At the thought of the skinned cow Emily got a goose bump. Was the virus hidden in it? Her nausea came back.


"The group leader panicked. If the cow was really infected, it must have been someone else's doing! Great... my stomach isn’t feeling well at all" Simon grabbed his stomach in disbelief.


Emily started to shake. "Maybe the virus... If that were the case, the people who live here..."


She paused and stared into Simon's face, who had tilted his head to one side... all die, she continued the sentence in her thoughts. A storm of emotions and thoughts threatened to overwhelm her. She suppressed them with all her willpower and thought.


Chill out. It may not be the T-virus. Biohazard could have many variations. It could also have broken out a far more harmless virus. In any case, the project takes precedence over everything else.


"I'll take a look around the corridor." She went to the wall, opened a door and looked behind it. Total darkness received her. Even the emergency lights had failed.


The deep darkness that filled the passage almost reached out at her. There was a sound from the speakers in the corridor. Carmen's pulse. Emily shouted into the corridor, but there was no reaction.


But it could not be that the power supply was down everywhere. It was impossible that the entire electricity network had failed. Some of the servers had to remain intact.


The supply of electricity that connected Rose might not have been interrupted...


Emily stared into the dark corridor. As expected, she could not see anything. It was scary because there was nothing to hear except Carmen's sound.


Do I really have to lead the way?


She turned and looked at Simon, who had stopped in the yard.


"You do not have to worry. Look what I've got here.” The guard waved a flashlight laughing as if he had noticed Emily's insecurity.


"I want to go to the capsule room where Rose is," she replied. "Does the elevator work?"


"Hm..." Simon hesitated. "I wouldn’t advise it. Where was that again, fourth floor?"


Emily nodded.


Simon seemed to have remembered something; he illuminated the back of the courtyard. 


"There's an outside fire-axe somewhere, I think..."


"All right, Simon, let's search for it." Emily closed the door and returned to the courtyard.


They took the dog with them and walked silently under the trees. Simon held the flashlight in one hand and the leash to which Tobi was attached in the other.


Emily clung to his vest and followed him carefully. She felt like a scared child hiding behind her father. But in this case, that’s exactly what this was.


"That reminds me of something - I think I heard music earlier." As soon as Emily uttered the words, Simon stopped abruptly. Emily's nose almost pierced his back.


Simon turned around, "What did you just say?"


"Did you not hear music? Just before, just before the power failure..."


"I did not notice." Simon scratched his head with the flashlight. "There are speakers in the courtyard. From that the music penetrates well. I did not notice anything..."


Emily looked around the dark yard. It was true, even here was a faint sound.


October 3, 19:55, Roses capsule room


The square room looked confusingly similar to the VR room. The length of all sides was ten meters. Half of the room was occupied by a huge tank. On the floor, cables meandered. Instead of a computer terminal, however, there were various measuring devices. On the accompanying monitor was the blurry picture of a pale unborn child.


In the light of the tubes the concrete walls looked glossy white. Although the sound of the basin engine sounded only lightly, it penetrated the confines of the whole room.


It was incredibly stuffy. As in the VR room it gave no ventilation.


Richard Fuchs was in the room. He was alone and leaned against the wall with his arms crossed. He spoke into the microphone there.


"Was that good?"


"Yes, absolutely perfect," he answered from the speaker.


Although the praise was nice and good, he didn’t seem happy about the situation. No muscle of his face stirred. The first act was mastered, but nothing more. Compared to what was yet to come, the previous was little more than a pinch.


He swallowed the saliva that had gathered from the tension in his mouth, lowered his arms, and put his hand to the holster to feel the hard, cold Beretta.


"Now, after going over the stage, I wonder if it was really necessary to trade them? If you want, you can take over everything here."


"Yes," it sounded from the speaker. "It's better, though, if this misunderstanding lasts for a while. That makes our actions easier."


"A distraction maneuver," said Fuchs. "Is this connection safe at all? Is the conversation not recorded by Carmen, or whatever the program is called?"


"Do not worry. There are some hindrances. But everything went well here. Almost too good. This thing with the VR technician was a bit lasting, but otherwise..."


Fuchs thought of all the days he'd invested to get there. He always saw the same moments in his nightmares.


Since that day he could not sleep. A wave of reddish-black people came around his bed night after night. They gnawed at him, biting off whole body parts. He always awoke sweaty, uplifted with unspeakable pain.


The daily injections against the T virus had upset his nervous system. Fuchs had been ordered to pursue this torture - he accepted that. However, each passing day of it drove him closer to his breaking point.


The sweat that amounted on his forehead was not just due to the stifling heat. The side effects of the provisional vaccine often attacked his body. Then his knees were shaky, and he felt an overwhelming urge to sit down...


He pulled the handgun out of the holster and pruned his forehead. The coldness of the weapon was pleasant.


"Everything is okay with me too. At any rate, Fuchs seems to trust me."


"That falls under the category of interest equality. We are only slave workers for these guys. 


Whether you are happy or not, it doesn’t matter. It's about making 'T' the global bestseller."


"I've been thinking about it all the time. Could you not tell me something about the T-virus?" Fuchs asked in a shaky voice.


"You know enough... you've seen it yourself."


"Yes, and I'll probably never forget... But ultimately I have no idea what it is exactly. The only thing I know is that it's a biological weapon from your corporation."


Fuchs pulled away the metal device sticking to his forehead, lifted his head and exhaled deeply. The attack subsided, and his body condition slowly returned to normal.


"The T-virus was created accidentally by a scientist. Once it gets inside a body, it takes possession of the immune system and changes it. The result of this invasion is that the 'human system' is now eager to transform itself. Human existence as such is questioned. The boundaries are blurred, the perception of death fades. And an unreal appetite - a craving - is awakened to eviscerate everything living that is in the environment."


Fuchs bit his lower lip. The images of the corpses in his dreams ran uninterruptedly in his head, like a roll of film unwound in an endless loop. He gripped the gun so tightly that his knuckles turned white.


"The immune system is completely destroyed. The purpose of preventive vaccine treatment is to strengthen the immune system. So it is virtually impossible to develop vaccine that would constantly act on 't', or so they say."


"But...", Fuchs started and looked around the room again. His eyes remained on the oversized Tank - the only thing that existed in this desolate place.


"Yes, right - thanks to Rose, the situation has changed."


The air was stuffy and heavy. Already from mere standing one already started to sweat.


"So here is Rose..." He slipped the gun into the holster and wiped the sweat with his fist.


"I see. You want to meet her for sure, right? ", It said from the speaker.


"In this Tank?" Fuchs asked, pointing to the water basin.


"Yes... she's in there."


Fuchs looked up at the huge cube that had a five-meter-long side. In the light of the neon tubes, she seemed a dull gray.


"For the development of a vaccine, you lock in a human all of the time? This is not the work of humans, but of... barbarians!"


"Humans are barbarians. Without batting an eyelash, the others are lynched or shot in the freezing cold. You even make weapons of mass destruction to eradicate entire nations."


Fuchs snapped his tongue. He staggered close to the Tank, his gaze lingering on the monitor placed above the gauges. The pale photo on the screen faltered.


"What is this? The unborn child of Rose?"


"That's not an unborn, Richard Fuchs. This is just a computer graphic, a simulated image, a copy for comparison experiments. If she does not simulate everything, she cannot sleep peacefully."


"Emily Ran?"


"For the experiments, samples that can be used at any time for comparative purposes are indispensable. She created that."


Fuchs remembered the woman who had been in the conference room. Her short-cut, dark blond hair did not necessarily emphasizing her femininity. The conversation had mentioned that she had a daughter.


Fuchs was of the opinion that the people who worked at Umbrella were all, like Ren Sprague, destroying their lives in some way, separating them from the ordinary, everyday, and working life...


But she was on one hand mother of a daughter and on the other hand involved in the development of weapons of mass destruction. If the production of the vaccine was successful, "T" would spread as a commodity throughout the world. Or did she believe the doctor’s spiel that they turned such scarce weapons into mere deterrents?


How did she feel about it? Or did she just do her job without thinking much about the result?


The life of this woman was probably just as out of whack as the other. She had failed to be a mother, and as her years passed, her ideals fled. Until one day, she found herself involved in the development of devastating weapons.


She had given the name of her own daughter to the AI ​​program written by her - as a sad 

touch to this real satire. Even prodigies were getting older.


"Is this woman not a genius? She is smart and has made me smart. It could be said that she is behind it all. But we have nothing to fear from this one," whispered Fuchs, leaning against the Tank.


The voice from the speaker said, "Do not worry, Richard Fuchs. I intend to put an end to everything tonight. Even if she should not survive, it does not matter. It will be over soon... very soon. Now, what do you think about meeting Rose?"


Fuchs laid both hands cautiously on the ladder attached to the tank. He remembered Sprague's words: "She sleeps. She dreams."


A girl sleeping in a steel casket. And like the fairy-tale princess, she goes to sleep. A deep long sleep. And she is dreaming. - Is it night in her dreams?


"What have you been thinking all the time since then?" The voice asked from the speaker.


"Nothing. Billing, jarring, holding them to account - it does not matter which expression I use. My thoughts are all about retribution."


He climbs up the Tank. The metal ladder squeaked under his hand like a tortured animal, wobbling doubtfully with each step.


Fuchs thought of Raccoon City, which had burned brightly that day and all the people who were looking for each other; he could not help them then. As he climbed the ladder step by step, all the beautiful images shot through his mind. So too is the picture of the broken-down girl in the greenhouse.


I'm back, Rose. This is your revenge, too.


He sat up slowly on the Tank and surveyed the room. The height was more impressive than he had assumed. If one jumped down carelessly, one would most probably break a bone or worse.


"How late is it?" Fuchs called down.


"It's exactly eight o'clock", the voice came out of the speaker after a while.


Fuchs nodded and looked up at the top of the Tank. There was something reminiscent of a manhole cover. He stretched out his arms.


"I'll open it now...!" His words went unanswered.


As soon as the "coffin lid" was opened, he was met with an intense stench. He closed his eyes and prepared for the moment when he saw Rose. He opened his eyes and petrified. Nobody was in the "coffin".


There was no sign of Rose; instead, the tank was filled with slightly greasy red muddy water. He glanced in and looked to the bottom as best he could in neon tube light. But there was only this dull liquid while the surface floated slightly back and forth.


"She's not there!"


Fuchs cowered at the edge of the tank and called in the direction of the loudspeaker: "Hey, what's going on? Nobody is here! Where is Rose?"


Fuchs closed the hatch with a bang and stopped on the tank. He received no answer.


Did this guy fool me...?!


"What's going on here? This your idea of a joke? " He was furious. He rattled down the ladder; the last step he overcame with a jump. The turret blinked red; the room was locked.


Damn it!


Fuchs took a running start and kicked the door with force. From the speaker on the wall came in noise. In the depths of the noise, which sounded as if one were tirelessly rubbing against each other, a synthetic voice was heard that produced strange vocals; they were reminiscent of laughter.


After a while, music shredded out of the speaker. Fuchs covered his ears. The charge was so loud that he was afraid he could burst his eardrums.


What is that? I've heard that before!

A sound as if something was flying through the air, sounded, and the room was submerged in darkness. At the same moment the loudspeaker fell silent, and suddenly it was quiet.


Fuchs bounced against the concrete wall in a ruckus. A cold shiver trembled down his back. Raccoon City was on fire - the scenery he had run away from before etched in front of him.


There were beads of sweat on his forehead. The power in his legs dwindled - he stumbled and fell to the ground. Trying to get himself back up, he lost his balance again and collapsed. Lying on his side, he began to crouch on the ground.


"Damn," he said. The dripping saliva left a trail in the corner of his mouth. "Damn, what now...!"


Without letting the monitor out of sight, he grabbed his gun!

Chapter 3


I've only just noticed that my period is late. How thoughtless of me. Regrettably, I had to get it on May the first. My head spins. I do not feel like talking to anyone. Of course not with Frank either.


I keep crying more and more often in my room without having an idea of what I should do now. From my window I look out to the outside.


At the intersection, men rambled about missed business opportunities... the homeless "Skater" - a local celebrity - tows his oversized luggage through the street, and his skateboard, which has separated from his feet, scratches off the floor with a dull noise... Robin plays as usual on his portable game console and proves that he has incredible skill...


My eyes and ears offer endless impressions. The clock, which only goes in one direction, shows unmistakably how irrevocably the days go by.


Father is lying in bed. His body is swollen pink, almost as rosy as a newborn, and in the places where the skin has been scuffed, the scarlet flesh comes to light. Is there not a story where people die after their bodies refuse to leave the bed? Definitely Edgar Allan Poe. The title was "Mask" or something similar, I think.


Father opens his eyes every fifteen minutes and asks for the exact time. He complains about the tormenting symptoms, and I write everything down.


After I die, he says, take this with you and go to the company. If you do, you may get money - you will survive.


Even in this condition, Dad still gives the company confidence.


Will survive?


There is almost no radio reception in my room, so I always listen to CDs by Mozart and Bruckner. I fill the empty days with music...


The sounds that Father's dying body produces are hidden. If I close my eyes, there are only Mozart and Bruckner in this world.


A small pebble pops against the wooden window frame.


"Hey, Alma, come down!"


"Alma, Alma, has anyone come?"


The bloody pink jelly wiggles on the bed in the next room.


"Not now," I answer.


I'm not allowed out - there's a riot out there.


The generous Prince Prospero, in order to escape the plague that had broken out across the country, had turned his own palace into a fortress; He gathered all the healthy and organized a magnificent masked ball.


It was on the eve of the destruction. Glorious robes covered in blood... and an intruder wearing a bizarre mask sneaking into the pompous company to seal its fate. The first rushed down to the masked intruder and wrestled the mask from him.


And there he was...


The title of the story comes to mind again: The Mask of the Red Death.


"Alma, come down! Just come out!"


As I look out the window at the street, I see someone there, who is wrapped in a blanket, calling in the deep black night for me.


"Who is there?" I answer softly.


"It's me, Alex," says the bizarre-dressed figure.


Alex. Why is he wearing a blanket? Despite my discomfort, I throw my coat on and head out for what feels like the longest time since I had done so.


Alex stands in a dark alley, only the light of neon lights fall on him. He's wrapped in a blanket and stares at me. Only his white eyes are visible, the rest of his face remains in the dark.


The blanket is embroidered with a very beautiful daisy pattern. However, since it is torn, frayed or dirty in some places, you can tell at first glance that it was picked up somewhere from the streets.


Alex looks completely anxious and makes himself as small as a dog who expects a beating because he stole a sausage.


"I'm being persecuted, they say I'm sick!"


Alex is very upset. I take him to an area of ​​the street where nobody can see us. The stink of rotten meat escaped from under the blanket.


This grief is only too familiar to me, because my father also has it. I stroke him for reassurance over the top of the blanket that covers his head, and his body trembles slightly.


"Alma, I'm sorry. I just could not think of anyone else I could go to."


"You are being persecuted? But by whom?"


Alex's eyes glitter in the darkness with hate. "Those guys... Arthur House... these vigilante STARS guys. They say I'm the root of the evil, and they beat me out of the neighborhood."


In his excitement, Alex gestures as he speaks, and one arm slips out of the blanket. The skin is partially torn off, the red flesh unbound. As expected, he shows the same symptoms as father.


"But, Alma. I'm really sick! For normal hot flushes it is too bad, it itches really intolerable. And when I scratch myself, the skin immediately dissolves. Nevertheless, it does not hurt, and I'm not feeling too bad otherwise. What is it? Surely your father would know? Please ask him for me."


"I'm sorry, Alex, I'm really sorry. I cannot do anything. Father is ill too. He has the same as you."


Alex leans against a garbage can and looks up to the sky. "Oh, that's right. Yes, you mentioned it once. At least I think... My memory is becoming increasingly unreliable. I do not know who I am anymore."


Father said the same thing.


"It is incurable," he said. "An invincible devil disease created by us. Soon someone from the company will come and take me... but... I wanted to see you again before that."


At some point someone will come and take Dad away. I was prepared for it all the time, but until today no one came, and father's body decays more every day. His character also fades. 


And now Alex - Alex has the same illness.


I cannot tell him it’s incurable - I just cannot. Alex, without a word, scratches his arm, and the skin makes fleshy noises that echo softly through the alley. He straightens the blanket again and quietly starts to cry.


"Why did this... happen...?"


I hug him. His body under the blanket is glowing hot. The smell of rotten flesh rises in my nose, but I'm so sorry. However, I also have to fight against the nausea. Alex's face is suddenly lit by a ray of light and is glowing deep red. I follow his brown eyes, protect my hand in front of my face and turn away from the bright light. Beams of light penetrate my fingers like a crosswalk pattern and burn in my eyes. Several men in brown jackets hold flashlights in their hands, but I cannot see their faces in the backlight.


"Guys! Here he is, come here!"


Alex pushes me away and wants to run, but he stumbles over his own legs and falls. More and more figures emerge from the darkness. They form a circle and surround us. The metal pipes and planks they hold do not bode well.


Arthur House steps out of the circle; his back-combed blond hair, the blue eyes, his sunken, unsympathetic face are unmistakable.


"You are... Alma Hartline? Everything OK? Did he do something to you?"


"He didn’t touch me! Why would he? Leave us alone!"


My screaming goes largely unnoticed. The young men look at each other and someone must have made a joke, because suddenly they're laughing. House is the only one who stays serious and does not make a face.


"Is he your lover?"


Frank's face comes to my mind. At my side, the downed Alex begins to writhe in pain. "No! He's just a good friend ...!"


House comes up to me and looks at me with his blue eyes. "I'm sorry, but... he's sick. We have to take him with us. You could still catch it yourself."


I want to scream. I want to riot.


“You idiot! I do not care if I'm infected - I want to stay with him!”


House goes to Alex, puts his hand on his shoulder and nods. "You’ll come voluntarily, right? You have to leave this place. If you stay here, you run the risk of infecting everyone else. You do not want to make your girlfriend ill, right?"


Alex grabs House's hand resting on his shoulder and bites as hard as he can. House rages and hits him.


"You madman! You virus spinner! Because of you we are gonna be sick...! Take him!"


Alex starts to breathe loudly but it sounds like a wild animal, but despite all the resistance, he is dragged away by the vigilantes.


"Stop! He does not want to go!"


"Help me, Alma!"


Alex's screams die away in the circle of teenagers. I can only call after him helplessly.


Alex is barely visible amongst them. One of the teenagers takes out his metal pipe and brutally hits him. A dull sound spreads in the alley, the sound of metal and bone hitting each other. Alex howls and begins to roll around, uncoordinated.


"You must stop, please!"


I cling to House's leg and implore him, but cannot see his face, fused with the darkness.


"Murder!" I yell at the group of brown-clad teenagers.


"Shut up!! Does that still look human to you?!"


Someone raises both arms and makes a scream. The number of shadows of raised arms increase.


Overcome by my impotence, I sit down on the street.


The dancing shadows with their deadly weapons move unsteadily and dimly. I watch the scene absently. Angry voices and cries of pain, the roar of tearing muscles, splintering bones, crackling metal pipes and woods...


The violent offenders were in a state of intoxication, and sentiment is rapidly turning into hysteria. Alex's voice cannot be heard from the angry roar.


One of the teenagers suddenly seems to notice something. "He is dead…"


Startled, they start to back away from Alex. All of a sudden, almost as if Alex's body was going to explode in the middle of them, the vigilantes suddenly spread out. Alex is no longer trapped by them and becomes visible to me; I reach for my throat and make a cry. Alex lies there like a tattered rag, and his legs with which he recently jumped like an aerial acrobat are completely twisted. The blanket that surrounded him minutes ago merged with his flesh and blood; he does not look like a human anymore. He looked more like a hamburger that was chewed by wolves and run over.


"What have you done?" House snaps and looks pleadingly over at me. "That... I did not want that."


My gaze wanders between House's eyes and Alex's massacred corpse. The pale young look alternately at their own hands and at the nervous faces of their comrades.


"You saw it, Alma. We did not want that."


"What, I am supposed to believe you didn’t want to kill him?" I go slowly backwards.


"We just wanted to help you?" House says, his shrill voice sounding excited.


I run and slip into the interior of our shop. I close the door behind me, put an ear to wood and listen.


It is quiet, very quiet. Only the wind sings whistling.


October 3, 8:15 pm, Roses capsule room


Emily strode across a wide corridor. Arrived in front of the targeted door, she breathed with relief, but cursed herself for not doing at least a bit of sports every now and then, keeping herself fit. Even though there was a steep staircase behind them that had brought her four stories up, she should not have been so out of breath now.


Simon certainly did workout every day. Without the slightest sign of exhaustion he made Tobi sit.


Emily watched the surrounding area. And while she was trying to get her breathing under control again, an alarm sounded.


"Initiation of countermeasures level five in the case of a biological contamination. All employees are encouraged to follow the instructions and keep calm," Carmen's calm voice sounded.


Emily and Simon looked at each other. Tobi howled. Suddenly, something - or someone - struck with violence from the other side of the door they were standing in front of... and Emily's heart rate shot up abruptly.


"There's probably someone in there," Simon said.


Emily took the flashlight from him and inspected the door. The electronic lock seemed to be out of order. At any rate, having the keys did nothing. "Only the director and I can go in here. Using speech recognition."


"Then the director must be the one in there..."


"No idea... but it sounds plausible."


Emily called out to the door, but no one answered from the opposite side. She used the flashlight alternating from right and left of the corridor, but without being able to illuminate the end of the corridor with the beam of light. Deep in the darkness, she thought she heard a soft gasp.


"What should we do?" She asked. "As long as the system does not run again, we will not get the door open."


"We should not worry about that." Simon pulled out a black box from the small bag hanging from the back of his belt. "This is a portable battery. This is a necessary utensil for all the electricians," he said, noticing Emily's questioning look.


Simon picked up the two cables that came out of the ports, rolled them out, and stuck their ends into the plug-in devices next to the control panel. He turned the knob for a moment, and a few moments later, a few lights flickered on the instrument panel that had just been dead.


"Please work!" The portable battery in hand, Simon stepped aside and told Emily to operate the switchboard. She tapped her index finger four or five times on the blackboard, which then lit up.


"Speak into the microphone." Compared to Carmen, the voice sounded stiff and even more unmodulated.


"Emily Ran..." Emily said into the little microphone.


"Voice identified. The door will be opened."


The door lock was fortunately not connected to the network. Were the case and the request for voice verification gone from the server, this would have been the last stop.


With a soft hiss of the outgoing compressor air solved the lock. Emily used her index finger to press the button to open the door. The heavy sliding door slid aside, and Emily pointed the flashlight inside the room.


The unexpected sight made her flinch.


A big man with a Beretta aimed toward them was ready to fire right at her. He squinted to protect himself from the glaring beam of light.


Richard Fuchs! What is he doing here?!


Emily froze.


"Hey, it's you. I was stuck like a pig in a pen. I was trapped.”


"How did you get in there?"


"That's unimportant now. The fact is that I was obviously fooled." Fuchs stepped out of the room in a ready-to-fire position and surveyed the corridor. "None of the guys here can be trusted... Absolute scum."


Emily stumbles with her back to the wall. She tried to smile, but her facial muscles were frozen and did not obey her. Cold sweat ran down her face, and her legs began to quail. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Simon's reaction. "Fox... Relax. Drop the weapon. We should talk in peace."


"What do you mean?" Fuchs shook his head. "I do not trust anyone anymore, no chance!"


"Drop the gun now!" Simon snorted at that moment.


Fuchs stared at the pistol - a Glock, Simon suddenly made a move out of nowhere to disarm him - from the corner of his eye Simon clicked his tongue. "Damn..." He quickly whipped the Beretta aside with one hand and was about to fire it at Simon.


From Emily's throat escaped a short, explosive scream. At the same moment, a black shadow came out of the darkness, ramming Fuchs' hand, screaming in rage and tumbling back into the room. The Beretta slipped out of his hand and slid across the floor.


When Fuchs realized that the shadow was a big dog, growling now and crouched over him, he exclaimed in rage, "Keep the beast away from me!"


Simon pointed his gun at Fuchs. "Hands behind your head!" And he called to the crouching dog, "Tobi! Here!"


"Go on, shoot! Damn! "Fuchs clenched his hands to fists and jumped angrily at Simon. Who responded with a kick knocking him to the ground. Fast as an arrow, he pulled out handcuffs and forcibly slapped them onto Fuchs.


Fuchs gasped and stammered incomprehensible things. Simon picked up Fuchs's weapon without taking his eyes off him.


Emily walked past Fuchs to the tank, climbed up the ladder and opened the hatch. She looked inside to get a picture of the situation; the power supply of the capsule did not appear to be cut off, which was a relief.


"Fuchs, you hopefully did not come in direct contact with this muddy water here?" She aimed the flashlight at Fuchs on the ground.


"Just so you know, I did not take Rose away. There was nobody in the tank from the start."


Emily silently climbed down the ladder. "Richard Fuchs - what did you do here?"


Fuchs spat and bellowed, "Fuck it again, take off these handcuffs!"


Simon grinned at him and waved the key right in front of Fuchs' nose. After a while he stowed them in his pocket with a taunting gesture.


"Damn, these things are already killing me!"


"I want to know what you did here."


Fuchs squirmed and screamed. "Where did Rose go?"


“Did she leave? Is she still here somewhere?"


"Fuchs..." Emily looked him in the eye. "I’ll ask you one last time.."


"It was Selfridge," said Fuchs, gritting his teeth. "He brought me here. But this bum had plans from the beginning to betray me. He fooled me!"


"As far as I know, only myself and the director can get into this room." How did you manage to gain access?"


"I used the recording from earlier," Fuchs answered hesitantly and hoarsely. His voice sounded strangely agitated to Emily, but in the darkness she could not see his expression.


In Fuchs's pocket was the dictation machine he had used during the meeting. Emily pressed the play button.


"Christian Selfridge, Management Officer of this Virus Research Institute... Ren Sprague, Institute Director... Emily Ran. I lead the present project..."


The voices were understandable. Emily spoke immediately as it stopped. 


"Understood... A well-crafted plan, then." The device disappeared into his pocket. 


"That’s extremely sneaky. That's not appropriate!"


At a time when the success of the whole project was in the balance, one could do no more than use any methods to attempt to get the research results.


Emily went to the wall and checked the telecom. "Dead, as expected," she sighed, shaking her head. "The telecom cannot be controlled from here. Carmen doesn’t reacts, it seems to be an institution-wide problem."


Fuchs lay on the floor in pain. He might be upset, but there seemed to be something wrong with him as well.


"Are you alright?" Emily looked down at Fuchs, who nodded weakly and pointed his chin to the monitor.


"What are these pictures? Why do they appear on the screen even though there is no power?"


He was right. Apart from the flashlight, the monitor was the only source of light in the room. On the screen was not the burning city of before, but an alley with a grotesque picture. Men in brown uniforms, on which STARS was written, carried a dead cow on a thick wooden board through the tree-lined street. A blond man in sunglasses walked in the middle and seemed to lead the march.


When Emily recognized his face, she froze in fright, and her mouth remained open.


His face had only been visible for a moment, but that was enough to identify the man as Ren Sprague, the director of the institute.


Shortly thereafter, the scene changed, and a full bus became visible. Emily stared intently at the screen for a while, but the previous sequence did not appear a second time.


The pictures that were now on the monitor seemed to have been shot from the perspective of one person. The speakers were obviously broken, because there was no sound, and the image resolution was very rough, like the VR machine.


The movements of the people were choppy, and the whole thing reminded her somehow of a morbid puppet theater. From this perspective, the inside interior of a raging subway train could be seen. However, as random images were repeatedly recorded, the whole thing became a shambles that could hardly be followed. The impression arose that the consciousness of the person through whose eyes one looked was banished from the film.


"There has to be someone who displays these pictures. The power failure, the outbreak of the virus, there are still these recordings. The timing is too perfect. There is virtually no electricity, but this monitor works? As a result, the one who plays these recordings and the one who caused the power outage must be one and the same person," Emily said after a while.


"Or the power failure was a necessity, so that the system has enough capacity to make these pictures appear at all. Or maybe it’s just a distraction maneuver to kidnap Rose?"


At Fuchs's words, Emily just shrugged. "To play these pictures, you only need a very small amount of electricity. Probably the mastermind of the whole thing wanted to cause a mess in order to take or destroy Rose. Which in turn makes you the main suspect, Richard Fuchs."


Fuchs shouted angrily, "Such nonsense! And what about Selfridge?! He was seriously considering selling her to another company!"


"In fact, he would have done so. And Rose would have been a fitting souvenir that had increased its market value unhindered. But since there is no evidence, I cannot possibly trust you after we caught you here in the act."


"Anyway, I still have not got anything to prove it until now."


"Still?"


"I came here with a specific goal, I admit that. But I put my goals temporarily on hold, because we are dealing here with an exceptional situation. If this biological contamination spreads beyond this facility, maybe we'll get another Raccoon City." Fuchs shuddered at his own words.


Emily nodded. In fact, the top priority now has to be to get an overview of the extent of the disaster. Everything else would be dangerous to life and irresponsible.


"You could also answer a question for me. You do not look surprised enough that Rose suddenly disappeared. Do you know something? Selfridge is not the only suspect. You and everyone else here, you're just as suspicious! "


"Shh, quiet. Did you hear that too? "A noisy voice sounded a good deal away from in the darkness. Emily glanced at Simon's shady silhouette, who stroked the dog, who had become agitated, and aimed the flashlight at him. She could see a hint of fear in his face.


"What's wrong?"


"I've heard strange noises from your direction. Is there anything there?"


"Ah!" Simon shouted suddenly and touched his hip.


"My radio. It’s my radio! Someone speaks!"


Emily hurried over to Simon. In the crackling of the static one could hear weakly a manly voice.


"... is there someone... me... is Robert Prasch talking... CQ, CQ... is there anyone?"


"Wait," Emily said, handing the flashlight to Simon and reaching for the radio. 


"Robert Prasch? It's me, Emily Ran. Can you hear me?"


Mr. Prasch - Emily recalled the saggy, expressionless face of the gaunt research assistant. He was not a man to make friends with, but now, in such a desperate situation, she somehow longed for this impertinent fellow. "Are you hurt? I hope nothing has happened to you?"


"... have met the director... is now in the control room... repair system..."


The static became stronger and stronger, and the words became more and more a whisper. Emily pressed the radio to her ear.


"The director, is he hurt?"


"Yes... now looking for non-infected survivors..."


"What about Christian Selfridge? Did you see him?"


Emily watched Fuchs from a distance as she listened to the radio. He seemed to stare at the dog, but could not see his face expression.


"... st ..."


"Prasch? Robert Prasch? What's happening? I do not hear you anymore! Reply!"


"Excuse me. Let me see." Simon fastened the flashlight to his belt and picked up the radio.


"Did it break?"


"No, it just does not work properly in here. The guards are using the radio only in the open air. In order to avoid illegal listening from outside, the institute is built so that radio waves are almost impossible to get through to. So you use the cable-based telecom in the building, right?"


"Right... So that means, as long as the system does not work again, we learn nothing about the overall situation," Fuchs murmured in the dark and wrestled with the handcuffs. "And what do we do now?"


"If we do not get in touch, we are on our own. Prasch said Sprague was in the control room. So we're going there."


Emily opened the door and peered out into the corridor. The darkness seemed endless.


"Before we move on, I have a small request: Take these cuffs off me," Fuchs whispered in Emily's ear.


"That will not happen."


"Do you have any idea what awaits us in the dark? Can you both protect me from that? I do not know if you understand that, but I'd like to take care of my ass myself! And do not worry, I will not cause trouble either."

"Who says we're in immediate danger? As project manager, I cannot let a suspicious person like you run free."


Fuchs grabbed his head theatrically with his handcuffed hands. "Hard-nosed woman. Will you at least take me by the hand and steer me?"


A moment later, Fuchs noticed Simon, who had gotten up and walked toward him, instinctively retreating.


"Hey I said the guy should not get too close to me!"


Simon ignored his words, waved the lamp, and laughed. "I will steer you."

Emily turned and looked at Roses tank one last time.


On the monitor were now endless rows of graves to see.

Chapter 4


Among the old magazines is one whose cover picture shows a collection of soldiers and the American flag. One of the uniforms holds the flagpole, while his comrades flock around him and raise their arms to reach for the pole.


I have seen this famous shot from the Second World War before. Grandfather showed it to me then and said with a laugh: "The American people first thought what they were seeing in the photo was the soldiers who just rammed the victory flag into the ground and now straighten it up, and celebrating. Later, however, it turned out that it had actually been a falling flag and all of them jumped up to hold on to it. The people were disillusioned and disappointed. In reality, both were not true. Do you understand?"


When I shook my head in disapproval, Grandfather continued, "It was debated to whether the flag fell or was raised. It was just a photo and a frozen moment, frozen in time, that never changes again in eternity. The kind of movement - if you want to see it that way – that as you can see here is total standstill. And behind it is total emptiness. You know, Alma, that's an important thing. The deciding thing is not the content of the story, but the narration itself, the passing on. It's not the historical facts that matter, but the circumstances of how a story is delivered and what it does in people's minds."


The procession that passes by on the other side of the window seems to me so surreal, as if the window were just a screen rendering a fictional gift. I feel like I’m in a mirror house, through which I am aimlessly wandering.


In the dusk the youngsters march down the street in their brown jackets. Four of them carry a large rectangular board on their shoulders, on which something black and red - a cow head...? Right next to it is someone who is holding up a big white flag which reads: IN THIS CITY AN TERRIBLE DISEASE IS SPREADING!


The march stops on the main road. In the evening, when it is wrapped in orange light, the street already looks magical, and especially today.


Smaller groups of people watch the action from a distance. The windows facing the street are open. People look out of their rooms to find out what's going on outside.


I hide behind a curtain, not to be seen, observing the bustle through a crack.


Arthur House steps out of the group and holds a megaphone to his mouth.


"In this neighbourhood, a terrible disease is spreading. It is a really bad sickness. It comes with indescribably grisly symptoms. The skin pales, and you soon look exactly like this cow here... I must tell you the terrible truth: The disease is transmissible. Even highly contagious... Think of the other residents of this neighbourhood! Go to the health centre and immediately to a hospital as soon as you notice symptoms in yourself. Believe me, this is the only way to prevent it from spreading further... However, there are also people who shelter the sick. I can understand that very well. Breaking away from people who were family relatives, lovers, or friends yesterday is a terrible ordeal. But, my dear fellow citizens, we must share and overcome this pain together. We are all equally exposed to the risk of infection. The tragedy can hit any one of us. Together we have to face it with determination. We cannot surrender to grief... There may also be people who have no money and therefore cannot afford a treatment. Sign up with us without hesitation. We will take care of everything..."


... and kill the infected! The latter remains unspoken. I cling to the curtain and curse softly to myself. You’ll kill them as you killed Alex! They will all die! My father, me, everyone!


There is a loud roar outside. A mother has her child, screaming for help, she leads by the hand and pulls the child towards the group; both cry. And nobody could blame the mother.


Alex's foul fate comes back to my mind, and I feel like... A friend was murdered before my eyes, and I was capable of nothing but swearing!


I think of father and I have to admit that somewhere in my heart I long for someone to come and take him. Concern and hope are the two sides of the same coin, because both contain uncertainty in themselves.


There are some red spots on the cheeks of the upset child. The beginning of the red death. The child is lifted onto the board, directly behind the cow. His mother clasps both hands over his head and, crying loudly, watches the further events from a distance.


"My dear fellow citizens, act courageously. We do not have much time left. Please be reasonable... "


Gradually, the front doors open along the street, and the hidden secrets of this neighbourhood come to light.


Following the example of the mother, parents bring their sick children outside; many patients are carried out on stretchers, some come of their own accord and of their own strength, and they all gather near the dead cow.


People start a crowd of mourning, loud sobs and weeps echo through the street. The voice of Arthur House is becoming increasingly shaky; he seems to be overcome by the whole scene and has to sit down on a chair that has presented a juvenile from the vigilantes present. The voice amplified by the megaphone has now lost its power and only sounds like a soft breeze.


Feelings spread faster than any contagious disease. At this moment, the street looks like a place of wonder; those gathered here are united by their common guilt, and the resulting sense of community grants them absolution. They stand there crying and sobbing, shoulder to shoulder, and the setting sun shadows them on the asphalt.


An orange painting. The white flag flutters in the wind. Whether it is being ripped off or falling over, nobody knows exactly.


I'll look after Frank. He would want to remain home. As if in a trance, I watched the street, and my eyes noticed that faceless woman. She stands there and seems to be looking for someone. Nobody takes notice of her. I open my eyes wide to see her better, but suddenly she is gone.


The evening becomes night, darkness comes. And with it the silence. The street seems to have fallen asleep, but of course no one sleeps today.


I close my eyes. The people wait in their homes motionless, lie awake in their beds, and in their minds run away the tragic images of their future.


I hear a noise in the hallway and open my eyes. I still cling to the curtain.


Startled by the sound, I reach for the peacemaker lying on the dresser and softly open the door.


The corridor is dark. In a corner, right next to the stairs, a red lump huddles, raising its head and smiling at me tormented as I get closer.


"... Alma... your father has to go now too."


"Where…?"


The red lump shakes his head.


"Alright... Alma... Clinging to life in such a state... would be wrong... as long as there's still a spark in my heart... I have to do what's necessary... I'm scared, do you know? Sometimes we do not get along with each other anymore... sometimes... I want to eat you up... eat so terribly..."


The foot of the stairs looks like a dark hollow entrance. I stand rooted to the spot and watch in silence as father growls, his legs crawling backwards down the stairs.


When I come to myself, I rush to father and grab him by both shoulders.


"Do not do that! The disease is incurable! They will kill you!"


Father grabs me by the arm and shakes me off.


"Stop!"


I pull myself loose and scream; my own voice seems to me as if I were hearing it from afar. My little world is suddenly out of time completely out of joint, so that I feel like I am in a bad dream that does not end. Father's skinless face grins at me.


"Do you see?"


My hand clasps the Peacemaker more and more firmly. There is complete emptiness in my head, and I cannot think clearly; except that father's body shines red in the dark corridor - red, red...


I push aside the mountain of rubble, open the door, and head out into the street towards the people gathered there.


October 3, 8:45 pm, Corridor of the Research Institute


After leaving Roses' capsule room and walking about ten yards, Emily stopped and held the other two back.


"Wait. There's something out there..."


In front of them, at a distance of four or maybe five meters, seemed to be a human being. Simon pointed the flashlight to the spot in question and a human silhouette appeared in the darkness.


Strange. From that distance she looked too small, almost like the outline of a child; but it was the voice of an adult male making echoing noises.


"Everything OK? Are you hurt?"


Simon took a few steps toward the man, but Tobi, the Doberman, yelped and apparently wanted to stop him.


The man wore a white coat. He was covered with something that might be blood, and the blackish stains were like a camouflage pattern. A slight smell lifted Emily's nose. She instinctively stepped back a few steps. Her heart started beating faster.


"Did you hurt your legs?" Simon asked.


The man's legs were at an awkward angle, for he stood on his knees, which made him look so small. He did not answer and did not say anything on his own. Only his breath was very violent.


Simon took a few more steps toward him. Tobi tried to backtrack. Simon, however, pulled on the chain with a powerful jerk, which caused a loud rattling, and corrected the dog sharply.


There was a sound, as if one were dragging flesh across the floor, it sounded - dull and damp. The man had set in motion and now approached step by step.


Emily stared hard into the darkness. Her uneasy feeling soon came true - and the shadowy figure showed it’s true face.


Emily got goose bumps all over her body. The man lacked lower legs, and he pulled the skin and flesh that spilled from his knees behind him. Could a human still walk in this condition - on his leg stumps?


She suddenly felt light headed. She lost her balance and put one hand against the wall, if not for this she would have collapsed to the floor.


"No! Simon, stay away! This guy is ..."


At that moment the man jumped at Simon, almost like a grasshopper.


The flashlight fell out of Simon's hand and rolled over in the corridor. The walls reflected the rotating light - as if under a strobe light. Simon was knocked down by the force of the attack. He fell on his ass, screaming and struggling, but the disgusting black lump of a human on top of him did not leave him alone.


Tobi jumped up and bit into the man's arm. The teeth of the Doberman and his strong jaw muscles almost tore his arm from his body. But the victim acted completely unimpressed by it and hung tightly onto Simon.


Cries of pain echoed down the corridor. The dim light of the flashlight, still slightly moving on the ground, illuminated the now motionless Simon, whose face was full of blood. The black lump continued to cower above him, making twitching movements.


Tobi was panting aloud and his claws dragging across the floor played a clacking sound of panic. Rancid stench was in the air, and moments later the corridor was met with Tobi's shrill whine. From Emily's position, it was impossible to see exactly what was happening.


"Help, do something!" Cried Emily in Fuchs's direction, he was leaning against the wall near her.


"I'm sorry." His face could only be made out dimly in the darkness.


"Please...?" Emily patted him by the collar.


"Did you forget? I have handcuffs on. And he's got the key! So what could I do exactly?"


Close up, she realized that his face was ashen.


"It’s happening again... Raccoon City repeats itself!", Fuchs gasped in a trembling voice.


Emily released Fuchs's handcuffs and pushed the man away. Then she approached Simon with shaky steps. Tobi was lying next to his master on the ground and also seemed to be seriously injured; from both bodies black blood spilled out.


The man was still clinging to Simon, who had just regained consciousness and started screaming again.


What should I do? What can I do?! Emily looked down at the man in panic. This is a bad joke! Why does that happen to me, of all people?


She crept slowly up to the man's back and grabbed a corner of his bloodstained, originally white coat. Half-hearted and anxious, she pulled on it.


Nothing.


What now?


She pulled on the coat again, this time with more forcefulness. At the same moment the man turned in a flash - as if he had a spring inside him - and lunged at Emily.


Knocked away by the force, she hit the back of her head against the wall and went down. The voice that came out of her throat could not possibly be her own, she thought.


She reached for the man's face with both hands, desperately trying to keep it away.


His eyes were completely twisted, flashing white as snow. Behind his partially torn lips, she saw his bloody, bared teeth, which he was trying to incessantly sink into her.


Emily's palms were pressed against the man's cheeks, and his face felt eerie. His skin shifted under her fingers, peeling slightly from the flesh, like an overripe fruit.


Cracks formed in his face. The man leaned deeper and deeper over Emily, his head threateningly close to her face.


Then she clenched her fists as if possessed, the flesh of his cheeks tightly encased in it, and tore it vigorously-when he suddenly stopped.


His cheeks hung on only a few fibers and otherwise the skin was torn up to the ears. The exposed muscles twitched, his teeth clattered.


Emily stared at his face. His right eye had turned back and she saw a tiny little pupil in a translucent blue iris. The eye was wet.


From his mouth spouted incomprehensible sounds.


He screamed - was it the behavior of a dumb man. Perhaps he shouted out all his subconscious thoughts, a final buildup of his will against his obliterated consciousness. From his right eye, suddenly, a dull black liquid was running and dripping on Emily's face.


Suddenly the body flew to the side.


"You monster!" Cried Fuchs. He kicked like a football player and kicked again as the body was sent flying across the floor in a curled up position.


"Die, monsters!"


The body slid across the floor again to the next wall. Fuchs ducked to pick up the flashlight and held it outstretched. He aimed the beam of light at the man.


"Well, what happened to your legs? Your friends have nibbled on you, eh? And now you want to eat mine?"


The beam of light directed at the man danced slightly up and down. And not only Fuchs's hands, his voice trembled and sounded fearful, which did not quite fit his sarcastic words. 


"Come on and have a taste!"


The man tried again to stand on his legless stumps, but fell down and changed his mind. Then he started crawling in Emily and Fuchs direction.


A loud bang and something flew through the air as blood shot out of the man's chest. He fell on his back, but still tried to stand up as mindless as he did awkwardly.


"I remember you…"


Emily turned around. Simon had got up and held his Glock in front of him. The amount of blood that had clotted from his head, neck, and shoulder had stained his entire left side. He took a few long steps towards the man.


"I can remember him. He invited me to dinner. He was a nice guy."


"Shoot him in the head, that will kill it!" Fuchs shouted to them.


Simon turned and looked at Emily. His expression was difficult to interpret in the semi-darkness, but he seemed to be laughing and crying at the same time.


"This is not a human anymore. You cannot do anything for him anymore. Only once…"


With the last sentence he aimed at the man and emptied everything remaining in the magazine into its head.


The man did not move anymore and it became quiet.


Fuchs laughed - a shrill, hoarse laughter.


"That's a tragedy, really great. For real! Ha, so there’s supposed to be nice guys here? Everyone here is nothing more than damned little scoundrels."


He walked over to the motionless man, nudged him with the toe of his boot, and gasped contemptuously: "And that goes to the account of your company!"


Emily sat on the floor, her back against the wall and unable to get up. When she opened her fist, she found in it the man's torn cheeks – they felt like wet paper.


October 3, 9:35 pm, Medical Department


Emily and Fuchs took Simon to the medical department on the third floor to doctor his wounds. From everyday injuries such as a knife cut on the finger to serious illnesses that required surgery, it was possible to cover most of the medical needs. For this purpose, everything was spaciously built and comprehensively furnished. They were prepared for complicated situations and associated in long stays.


The medical department occupied one third of the entire floor. A surface measuring about five meters over five meters was divided into three almost equal areas.


The operating room - where everything was necessary for an operation - was in the back of the room. To ensure its sterility, it was separated by a thick wall between the other two rooms. Into this wall was embedded a massive security door.


In the middle section was the cubicle room, here there were medicine barriers and five beds for any patients. The division of the room could was sectioned up by pivoting dividers. For the moment, none of the dividing walls were used, and the room looked like a hall.


At the very front was the treatment room.


Emily sat in front of the terminal and the telecom, which was set up in its own little area. The place was enveloped in the darkness, and from here she could not see the entire station. The silence was unbelievable; there was also a strong drug smell in the air.


Simon rested on one of the beds in the "patient room" and breathed heavily. Tobi, lying under the bed, had buried his head between his front legs. It was obvious that the dog could not be helped anymore. His breathing became noticeably weaker and his body sometimes shaken by strong cramps. On one side gaped a big wound. The flickering blue-and-white monitor light illuminated the torn-open side and the dog's unbound pink innards threatening to spill out.


It had only been half an hour since the attack, and luck had it that they had not faced any further infected. Had it come to that, Emily would hardly have a chance to reach the medical department along with the severely injured Simon.


Nobody said a word. Even though the radio was playing static, Emily somehow managed to reach Robert Prasch and tell him to come here. Then Emily sank into her chair, exhausted, and each of them looked deep in thought.


The conclusion that the epidemic had affected the entire area of ​​the institute was obvious. So the virus that had spread was the T-virus.


Everything seemed hopeless - panic and despair dominated Emily's thoughts. With expressionless eyes she followed the action on the monitor. From the speakers, which had previously played nothing but noise, voices and sounds that matched the images shown sounded through. It seemed as if there was no end to the infected; it was kind of scary.


For the most part, the monitor showed brutal massacres. Against the background of a burning city, people gathered to each other and then feasted on the bodies. These, in turn, stood up again after a while and bit into those who were just passing them by. They were indescribable, bestial scenes.


"These may all be actual events," Emily muttered more to herself.


"What?" Fuchs asked who had previously been taking care of Simon, turned around.


"These pictures... At first I was convinced that they were fiction. But they may show the real Raccoon City. There are infected who want to get at us now. With this hypothesis suddenly all makes sense, right? They threw the cow into our pool and spread the virus. At the same time they show us these pictures. That's the way they want to teach us a lesson."


"Raccoon City was not your work, was it?"


Emily shook her head. "I am also an employee of Umbrella."


"An employee of Umbrella..." In Fuchs's voice, there was an indefinable touch of thoughtfulness.


Emily was silent and turned back to the monitor. There was a horde of raging zombies surrounding a small boy and mangling him. It was a blessing that the picture quality was very sketchy, but Emily quickly looked away before she got sick.


"I let myself be driven only by the work and the circumstances. I understood and knew nothing, and I did not want to know anything. I aligned with the world of simulation. That's all."


"Do not complain, you are no different than the others. A scarecrow has no will of its own; it should only keep the ravens away. I'm not much better either."


Fuchs took a few steps toward Emily and the monitor and ran his handcuffed hands over the case and screen. Just where his index finger came to rest, a man bit for something; it almost looked like the zombie was trying to chew off Fuchs's finger through the monitor.


Simon straightened up.


"Quiet. The radio is responding... I think. There is someone nearby."


Fuchs stared at the door of the treatment room. Emily hastily reached for the flashlight and shone it on the door.


Both withdrew instinctively and slowly retreated to Simon's room.


The cackling noise of the radio sent the hair on their necks upward. Someone was close - maybe Prasch? Or someone else - or something else?


"Is it gone..."


A strange monologue wrestled softly from the speakers. It was Carmen's artificial voice, which, however, she differed a little in tone from her familiar sound; it somehow seemed to resonate with a kind of will.


Emily felt a cold chill down her spine.


"Hey, who is there? If you are not an infected person, answer immediately!" Simon called hoarsely, aiming the gun at the door.


The entrance door was torn open vigorously, and a large human figure filled the door frame. It was an exceedingly massive one who raised one hand to protect her eyes from the beam of light that was being directed at their face.


"Stop! One more step and I'll shoot!"


"No! Do not shoot! I am not infected!"


"Kinuta!?" Emily exclaimed, jumping unconsciously.


"Boss?!” The familiar face beamed through Emily's sight.


Simon lowered his weapon in relief and fell back to the bed. He took a deep breath.


When Kinuta realized that he was really dealing with Emily, he came hurrying into the room.


"Did you hurt your leg?"


"Yes, I stumbled when I was in front of him. I’m embarrassed."


"In front of him?!"


"Well..." Kinuta looked at the door.


The silhouette of a tall, broad-shouldered man appeared. The glowing dial of his watch floated like a glowworm in the darkness. His faintly recognizable brush cut and characteristic body language immediately revealed that it was the Security Team leader of the guards, Ulysses Allam.


He held the submachine gun, which was hanging from a shoulder strap, securely in place and looked around the room intently.


Kinuta's face was filled with horror.


"Kinuta, did I not tell you to not run around alone if you want to survive?" Allam spread a strong smell of blood.


"Stay out, you murderer!" Kinuta screamed as he hurried to the patient room.


Emily aimed the flashlight at Allam's face. Allam squinted and smiled sneeringly. He went to the corner of the room to the chair where Emily had sat until recently and sat down on it. His movements seemed a bit uncoordinated and clumsy, as if he were being guided by threads hanging from the ceiling.


"A flashlight - exactly what I was looking for," said Allam, extending his fingers. His hand swung in the light of the flashlight, as if to balance the light.


"What?" Emily was perplexed.


"Give it to me. It's for our safety."


"Boss, no! He is a devil who indiscriminately kills people!"


"All I was looking for was light." Allam raised the weapon and his mouth flashed in the beam of light. Emily swallowed.


"Do you see this?"


"Do you want to shoot me for a damn flashlight?!" she shouted in his face.


"An insect works for the benefit of all - it takes absolutely no account of its individuality.” 


Allam leaned forward and tapped his forefinger on the ground.


“Roll it over to me!”, his command was whispered.


Emily got a goose bump. What fascinated Reena Mittford about this man? I could not spend a second with him, she thought.


"What are you planning?" She said, trying to speak with a firm voice. She set the lamp down on the floor and let it roll in the sweeping direction of Allam, from one section of the room to the other. Once there, it bumped against his foot. Allam picked it up and looked at it profusely.


"What's he doing?" Emily turned to Kinuta, who shook his head silently.


"Security team leader..." Simon raised his voice.


Allam turned the cone of light toward the bed in the adjoining room.


Simon straightened his upper body. He seemed to have lost a significant amount of blood through the wound on his neck - even in the flash light, one could clearly see the pale of his face. "You are Simon Beach, right?"


Allam headed toward Simon. Arriving at his bed, he accidentally kicked Tobi's body and pointed the flashlight at him. To Emily, Tobi looked like a black meat mountain.


Emily's feet started to move backwards, and she struck with her hip against one of the beds further back.


Emily looked around the room quickly. Apart from Allam, who held the flashlight, she did not really know where the others were right now.


"That's Tobi. He was injured when he wanted to protect me from them... "Simon's shaky voice sounded somewhere out of the darkness.


"Who’s them? Was he attacked by them?"


"Them?"


"Yes. Them, were you attacked by them?"


"Ah... yes, one of the research staff was infected, and I approached him without realizing it. Suddenly he attacked me. Tobi came to my aid."


"Were you bitten?"


Illuminated by the lamplight, Simon's face suddenly appeared in the darkness. Allam was standing next to him. "Yes..." Simon narrowed his eyes tightly so that his brows formed a bead.


"Show me," Allam sighed, leaning forward to look at Simon's neck.


Suddenly he reached for the bandage and jerked it away - at the same time Simon's cries of pain sounded.


"God damnit…"


Allum shook his head and let out a sigh. "Oh, wow!", He repeated several times, pointed the cone of light at Simon's face and aimed at it with the submachine gun.


Simon's eyes were wide open, his eyes filled with panic.


"Do not worry, it'll be over soon."


Seconds later, Allam pulled the trigger.


Simon's head was blown apart, pushing out in all directions, and his body sagged lifelessly on the bed.


Emily screamed.


Allam turned when he heard her voice. His hand held the flashlight, his face was indistinct; but both eyes seemed completely twisted, for only the white was visible.


His skull was strangely deformed, then the flashlight fell to the ground. Only his voice was heard.


"... the... light..."


Emily could not move a finger in fear and shook her head so violently from left to right that you would think it could fall off immediately. Her voice stuck in her throat, scratching somewhere in the back of the air tubes. Suddenly, an object fell on Emily and knocked her over.


One of the swiveling dividers hit her head, and Emily was overpowered with pain. Machine gun fire sounded, and the glass doors of the barrier shattered.


To get to safety, Emily crawled across the floor on all fours as she was suddenly powerfully grabbed by the shoulder and dragged back into the cover of the hinged partition. She wanted to scream, but someone shut her mouth and whispered in her ear, "Stay calm, it's me!"


It was Fuchs's muffled voice.


She could hear her heart racing and instinctively grabbed her chest with her right hand, as if believing that the throbbing could be heard throughout the room, hoping to squeeze it. She could hardly breathe. She wanted to scream and thus force the end.


The room was suddenly quiet. The light of a flashlight moved in the dark, very slowly. It seemed to Emily as if she were lying on the bottom of a dark sea. The light source slid in the direction of the door and remained there.


"Mrs. Project Manager... Are you here?"


At the door, the voice of another man. It was the deep voice of Robert Prasch.


"You called me here? What was that noise? "The light from Prasch's flashlight fell into the room.


"Quick, Prasch, hide yourself!" Cried Emily. Fuchs jumped out from behind the partition... but only to take cover again.


Allam's next volley of gunfire came immediately after Emily's exclamation, and the sound of a thrown object falling somewhere to the ground was heard.


Something moved in the darkness - writhing.


"Shit, what's that!" Prasch exclaimed in panic.


"Prasch?" Emily clung to the end of the partition. She knew her voice was shrill and she had great difficulty processing the whole situation at all.


The treatment room looked slightly blue from where it was. The cause was the flickering monitor.


We are all dead!


Emily closed her eyes.


None of this is real, it's all just a dream. There can be no such thing. Everything is just nonsense...


Her thoughts revolved around the images from Raccoon City. Burning streets and corpses roaming about. Corpses attacking other corpses and eating them.


When she could no longer stand it, she opened her tear-stained eyes. Near the door, however, sounded a loud cry for help. Robert Prasch, this otherwise so cool and controlled man, screamed like a child.


So it's just a bad dream, my pent-up guilt played a prank on me!


"Damn, do not kill me! Who are you anyway? I just wanted to help you! Stop, damn, I cannot move anymore! Ouch, what's that! Leave it! No! What do you do? Stop…


Again, shots crashed in the darkness. Then Allam's gurgling voice came from the doorway.


"Doctor, damn it ... I'm covered in blood... you filthy... you burst like a tomato... look at you... doc... you’re mincemeat... what is that... did you piss your pants...? disgusting... doc...”


Noises sounded; it sounded like rubbing metal against metal.


"You already know…? If you become like them, you have to shoot them in the head... The best way is to blow a hole in the skull... the damn head has to go... "


He cooed, probably laughing. Emily glanced toward the door, concentrating on the human shadow that stood there.


His twisted, curled body looked like a figure made by an awkward putty toy.


"What happened there! Half of his body imploded?!" gasped Fuchs, who was right next to Emily.


"I do not know..." Emily's voice trembled. "Is that the T-virus ...?" What is it? That's the result of your research?" Fuchs whispered to her.


Emily wanted to say no, but it was obvious that anything else was unthinkable.


Fuchs put his hand on her shoulder. "Get me the handcuff key Simon carried."


"What makes you think of that now?" Emily protested angrily.


"If this continues, we will both die. Let me take charge, I'm a professional. I'll take him out."


Emily remained in the shelter of the partition, recalling Simon's corpse lying on the bed. In her mind she was already planning the route. It was not that far away, at most three meters, but it seemed a lot longer to her now.


The light of Allam's flashlight slid over the black lump that lay curled up under the bed and it seemed to be dead, for it did not flinch.


"No chance. When I rise and the beam falls on me, I'm dead in no time. We have no time to look for the key now."


"The key is in his bag, I saw him putting it in. Get it, please!"


“No!"


"Get it!" Emily looked into the unfathomable darkness.


Tobi was dead. Simon was dead. They had met in the courtyard only two hours ago, and they had both been alive and kicking.


Now he does not laugh anymore. Rest in peace with Tobi.


What seemed so real until recently was like a bubble bursting, making the memories of it seem unreal.


Raccoon City's citizens would probably all have died in this way, filled with fear and paralyzed.


Her daughter's face appeared in front of Emily's mental eye, and she spoke her name softly and hopefully.


She waited for the moment when the light slid past the corpse.


Once examined, the light probably will not return to the same spot as quickly. It's actually like immunity law, she thought. If we believe it, we end our life in accordance with the immunity law.


She shuffled into the darkness with one leap. Cold sweat beads had formed on her forehead. At that moment the light torch stopped on a wall and everything else was dark. More than half of the room was covered in complete darkness and the probability of not being discovered was very high. Somewhere in the darkness someone was breathing heavily. With her hands, Emily felt the terrain ahead, trying to avoid any noise. She moved forward on her tiptoes step by step. It felt like, as if she was floating in complete emptiness; no matter where she went, nothing but darkness, darkness, darkness, impenetrable blacks, as if you were swimming in a casket.


The flashlight and its light emission were like a luminescent deep-sea fish where sunlight is no longer able to penetrate.


One more section, I'll be right there.


If the image in her head was right, the corpse had to be right in front of her.


The light darted past Emily and dropped to the partition behind her. Emily had to swallow, and the resulting soft sound seemed incredibly loud to her.


I want to go back, I want to turn back, she thought desperately. Her foot hit upon something soft, it was that peculiar, spongy consistency that was the characteristic of living things. She carefully touched the body with her foot and turned it around. Blood clung to her shoe; she was suddenly felt like she was slipping.


She staggered two or three times and nearly fell, but finally found the bedstead and reached for it. Emily groped her way around the bed, and finally her hand found Simon's body. She squatted and dove behind the body to avoid being seen. Hopefully, if the light came here, Allam would not suspect anything.


A blood and gun powder odor emanated from Simon's dead body. Emily closed her eyes and saw the beheaded Simon in her mind's eye; he repeatedly collapsed in bed, and Emily tried hard not to vomit immediately.


Allam tapped the terminal with the submachine gun.


"Hiding does not help... Miss Ran... come out... Ulysses Allam needs you... It's for the safety of all..."


It was not easy for Emily, Simon was on his back, she reached out her hand and began to search his body. In her hasty fumble, Emily came into contact with the belt and touched a cold metal object; instinctively, she withdrew her hand. It was the handgun Fuchs had carried with him.


She took a deep breath and this time gently reached under Simon's butt, where she carefully searched his trouser pocket - and as if struck by lightning she had a sudden shock that it wasn’t there.


Not there! Shit! There is no key anywhere!


Emily was on the verge of panic. She was trying hard to keep a cool head. Thick drops of perspiration ran into her eyes, she began closing them reflexively.


Think about it. What happened when Fuchs got the handcuffs on? Simon waved the key... and so... with his right hand he held Tobi’s chain, so he could only have stored it with the left! That means the key...


The glow of the flashlight fell in Emily's direction, and she huddled closely as possible up to Simon’s corpse. She subdued the panic of fear that was about to explode in her with all her willpower and clenched her hands into fists.


But the light beam had moved on in the next moment. It fell on Kinuta, who crouched against the wall and held both hands protectively in front of his head.


"You scum... have you been infected all this time?... then... you have to die too."


Emily reached lightly into the left hip pocket and clutched a metallic object, which she pulled out with a jerk.


There it is!


She clasped the key tightly in her left hand while with her right taking the weapon that was much heavier than she had imagined.


She changed her mind, clamped the key between her teeth, and gripped the pistol with both hands. She aimed it in the direction of the flashlight.


The beam of light remained on Kinuta, leaving Emily unnoticed. If she did nothing, Kinuta was undoubtedly doomed to death.


She pulled the trigger.


The shot went wide and hit an object that burst into flames. Allam quickly flipped the flashlight and submachine gun toward the noise and began firing wildly.


Emily took advantage of the distraction and scrambled back to Fuchs, who continued to hide behind the partition wall. The Beretta almost forcefully pressed into Fuchs hands, she took the key out of her mouth, and started fingering the cuffs hastily. It was not easy to hit the little keyhole; she was constantly slipping on the metal, especially as her hands were soaking wet. The rattling of the shots died down.


"Damn... where are you...? Mrs. Ran..."


"Chill out. He is just panic firing. Relax then try using the key again," Fuchs' whispery voice came to Emily's ear. She nodded and tried to put the key very slowly into the hole...


Success. A soft click and the open handcuffs flew onto the bed. Fuchs peeked out from behind the partition, aimed in the direction of the flashlight, and fired several shots. The flashlight was flung away.


Allam's submachine gun rattled, and bullets hit right next to the two. Some even dug into the protective partition.


They dove into the cover of the nearby bed.


"How did he survive? That should have been a hit!" Fuchs exclaimed. His voice sounded uncontrollably insecure.


"I thought, you are a professional? The situation is getting worse!"


"Crap, maybe - no, I'm sure... I hit him on the head three times! Why is he still alive?"


"Reena, Reena... Do you see it...? It’s Raccoon... "Allam stammered incomprehensible words and seemed to be spinning in a circle. He shot wildly around; glass shattered everywhere, and metal objects whirled around the room.

Afraid of the shooting and chaos, Kinuta began to scream hysterically, in the dark.


"Damn it! He’s still shooting!" Fuchs hissed.


And then all of a sudden it became light again, and white light flooded the medical department. In the door, completely surprised by the sudden burst of light, stood the caricature of a man, injured and sunk down; from him splashed deep red blood onto the floor.


Allam stumbled back a few steps into the treatment room. Something rushed across the floor, jumping at him. Allam raised his hand with the sub-machine gun and opened fire.


The black thing jumped to the ceiling, and from one wall to the next. Finally, it fell on Allam.

Chapter 5


I storm onto the street and start running. Nobody seems to notice me. It is already deep into the night, the asphalt shimmers blue in the neon light.


The people remain motionless, like an army of solid statues. It's dead quiet. They stare into space and take no notice of me. Inside, the battle rages against its own darkness.


As I am sprawling over the human barrier, I see the dead cow - the humans have gathered around the animal. Their symptoms vary in severity, but most have the symptoms father once had. Some squatted in a crouch, others lay dead on their side. Some embrace the dead cow as if they were in a delusion – its rottenness seems to be magically appealing to them. Men, women, old people and children all mixed together.


The one I am looking for is sitting on a simple chair that has been cobbled together from pipes and scraps of cloth. Arthur House, leader of the "Vigilante STARS", murderer. Executioner.


He is tilted on the chair to the side and now remains motionless in this position, without any emotion. The otherwise neatly back-combed hair is rumpled. Between the fingers of his hand, with which he supports his head, the smooth blonde straights hang down.


"Arthur House! What were you thinking?"


I hold the handle of the peacemaker tightly and tense the trigger. The noise alerts House to raise his head. He looks at my face with an unbelievable look. Obviously, he does not immediately know who is facing him. He thinks hard and finally opens his mouth. "Oh, it's you..."


"Why did you do that?! Do you want to kill everyone? Now talk!"


The words come out of my mouth unintentionally loud, and I hold the gun pointed at him. The assembled crowd scrutinizes House and me with a confused facial expression.


"Everyone here! Do not be fooled! I saw it with my own eyes! These people killed my friend last night as if he were a disgusting insect! You killed Alex... my good friend Alex!"


Her grip of the Peacemaker trembles. The youth of the vigilantes exchange looks with each other.


"Oh, you mean... what the hell? Take me if you want. It does not matter anyway." 


House looks at the people gathered around the dead cow. They no longer look like individuals, but are fused into a faceless mass, like a huge block of meat. The red bodies show no interest in what's going on in front of their eyes. Uninvolved and fearless, they merely observe the events.


"I've already become one of them." Arthur House brushes off the blonde strand falling on his forehead with a tired gesture.


I flinch backward. On his forehead the red marks began to spread.


"Just do it, if you want. I'm not afraid of death. Much worse, I fear to lose my personality, my ego, while still alive."


All power gives way to my body and I let the peacemaker fall. There is nothing left for me to do now.


Suddenly one of the young men of the vigilante’s starts screaming loudly - some of the figures gathered around the cow have mounted him. He fights away at the wave of red bodies and screams further and more shrilly as they grab him, tug at him, tear him to pieces and devour him.


Hell breaks out without anyone being able to do anything.


As if on command, the red infected begin to attack the petrified people along the sidewalk. The group is probably paralyzed by their collective guilt and therefore cannot resist - first brought the common guilt feelings of absolution, now they bring death.


The mass murder takes place without resistance. The people are torn to pieces. Everywhere are arms and legs, heads, fingers and small flesh-pieces, the origin of the chaos can no longer to be determined. Bone chips on the road - hell is now a place here on earth.


The night time darkness is irefully erupting from the bursting of red. A red meat cloth has been drawn by the disease, white in between are the survivors. So few of those who have been spared the virus. It's a hideous contrast. Time and time again, I think I discover familiar faces. I even feel several times that my father is in the mob. But it's hard to say if it really is him that I saw.


Someone must have set fire to streets. The tongues of flames spread across the city, and shrill cries echo through the streets.


Suddenly I'm grabbed by the arm and dragged into a side street.


This is the end. Tears fill up behind my eyes and make them blur. I know, I will not be able to get away. My life passes me by like a movie - I see my dad in front of me, or someone like him, before he became the bloody red jelly. I looked at the figure holding my arm. It is Frank. I throw myself to his chest and cry unrestrained. He's hugging me harder.


"Do not worry, Alma. I will protect you." His voice trembles.


The mutant wave is already spilling into our lane. They have taken up the persecution. A red face flickers before my eyes... the bloodstained face of Arthur House.


The alley fills with the screams, howls, and shouts of sheer frenzy. A sudden blast of wind causes dust, scraps of paper and leaves to whirl up, and I pinch my eyes shut.


"What's that?" A thunderous rumble approaches. Frank raises his finger and then shouts. Then I discover the black shadow in the air, I think for a moment that a raven has come up from hell to fetch us.


It is a helicopter. It dances in the air and seems like it will smash into the houses at any moment, due to how low it’s flying.


"Hey, you there! Take cover!", It announces at us out of the speaker system and echoes through the streets. Frank suddenly grabs me and pulls me down, as I mercilessly hit the floor. The walking corpses are torn to pieces; blood spurts in all directions and collects in huge hailstorm on the streets. They dive into the streets, but the machine gun knows no mercy and soon colors everything red.


We duck behind a heap of rubble and cling together trembling. Suddenly there is deathly silence. The helicopter has disappeared.


"Let's go," says Frank determined. We run to the streets and pinch our eyes so we do not have to see the mounds of corpses.


I hold on to his arm and let him just navigate. The city is burning. Everything is bright red lit by the flames.


We are lost in the streets that we know like the back of our hand and wander around, from dead end to dead end. Finally we stop. Where are we? Around us, the city dwellers attack each other and shred each other full of greed.


The virus has spread seamlessly and without any warning, and its sudden outburst sweeps through the city like a hurricane - parents eat their crying children; children devour their wide-eyed parents with their bare fingers; siblings have their teeth buried in each other. People, who until yesterday were friendly on the street, now collide mercilessly and kill each other.


Some intersections are blocked, the infrastructure of the city is completely paralyzed. Finally we come to a deserted basketball court. We decided to take a break here and I sit down under the basket. Frank leans against the pole with a sigh and stands there legs apart.


"Where do we go now?" He questions himself... When I look into his face, I cannot suppress a scream of terror. The signs of the disease, the red spots, have spread from his forehead to his chin.


"Did I scare you?"


How can this be? I take hold of my cheek. Suddenly everything feels different... my skin feels spongy from below the eyes to my chin. When I look at my arm, I recognize red cracks that spread over the skin. My flesh has started to crack.


"Do not worry, it does not hurt at all." He speaks gently like a dentist. So gentle that his voice almost makes me cry. Out of sheer fear, I lose all sense of reality. I lie down on the court, arms and legs stretched far from me. Weird thoughts go through my head.


The moans of the burning city are streaming toward me amid joyful howls. So many people... so many... beings...


Like the soldiers in the photo, they stop and freeze. A picture forever.

Grandfather laughs. Father laughs. Alex laughs. Arthur House, Mr. Kirkwood, you... and... me...?


"Finally I have you." The faceless woman is suddenly next to me. "Are you behind this whole thing?", She asks me with a reproachful look.


Strange. I'm supposed to be behind the whole thing? I thought she was… I didn’t do anything except live my normal life.


"Who are you?"


"I told you, I'm Alma Hartline. How many more times will you ask?"


Who am I? When is a human being a human? Am I a human. Or not?


"Your name does not interest me. I want to know who you are. What are you!"


I touch the embroidery on my velvet coat with my fingertips; the rose stands out a little from the rest of the fabric and is therefore easy to notice.


"A rose... open to everything, absorbing everything, making everything its own."


"Rose... that’s right, assuming you are Rose?" She said forcefully.


I wrap the rose embroidered on the coat within my fingers, and the fabric contracts in my hand.


Rose... a nice name.


"Where is Sprague?"


The woman is inquisitive though her featureless face fails to show it.


"Sprague...? I do not know any Sprague."


A helicopter circling in the sky. The bird of prey that killed people on the street earlier.


"Your friend is safe on board."


I feel it. If all were killed by the red plague and carried away, someone will come to the city and learn about our lives. This someone will take away all the people who until then have lived here as a mere instruments, making them pretenders and extras of their own staging.


"My diary... I have to get it. There are a lot of embarrassing things in there... "I murmur to myself as the memory passes through me.


But what else can be embarrassing?


"Tell me, do I actually stink?"


The woman does not answer.


When I open my eyes, the sky is deep gray. Raccoon City is in ruins. I’m still leaning on the basketball pole, but have closed my eyes as if going to sleep.


I get up. I have to go.


The rising smell of decay... does it come from you, or is it the stench of my own rotting skin?


That's how we managed to become one.


I whisper softly while you sleep: "I'm pregnant. It's both of ours’s child."


There is no one else outside of us. The world harbors us all alone.


The earth starts to rumble resentfully...

 

3. October, 22:05, Medical Department


When she closed her eyes, everything around her was white. From a distance, noise came to her ear - roaring, groaning, sounding as if something were collapsing, gunfire.


This world of light confused her. She had no idea what was going on, but for some reason the power was obviously on again. And for some reason, she was still alive...


When someone tapped her on the shoulder, she opened her eyes. Against the light, she recognized Fuchs' face. "It's over."


Emily looked at the Beretta he held in his right hand. He followed her gaze and laughed. "Do not worry, I will not shoot you."


She grabbed his hand, which he had stretched out to her and finally stood up. Her legs felt like they were going to float.


After Fuchs had returned the pistol to the holster, he pulled out a second; Simon's Glock, which he had tucked under his belt in the back of his pants. "That's his. You should carry it with you for self-defense."


She looked at Simon's body on the bed and lowered her eyes. A decapitated man is strikingly like a broken doll, she thought.


Emily silently took the weapon and put it in her pocket, where the small pistol disappeared completely. Fuchs pointed to the body near the door. There was Tobi's remains, the torso completely tattered, the head and limbs torn off. And amidst the thick pool of blood around which the remains of the dog spread, Allam's forearm rested. The machine gun was still clutched by his hand. As she averted her eyes in disgust and inhaled, she received a terrible stench. It burned itself into her brain with what she had seen as a tormenting memory. Somewhere beyond it were probably the remains of Robert Prasch and at least she had spared herself that sight.


"Did you see the dog? He was also infected. So the virus is also transmitted to animals?"


"No idea... I do not understand it, absolutely nothing. I only know about the simulations."


"I almost think he wanted to create his own master. Even in the end he still had a plan - quite unlike us." Fuchs grimaced and stroked slowly over his stubbly chin. Then he looked up at the light. "The system suddenly seems to be running again, the devil knows why. If we want to get out of here we should go right now."


"And Allam?" Emily asked.


"No idea. He ran out and disappeared. Either because of the light or because Tobi has bitten off his arm. And I must have hit him with a few bullets."


"Boss..." muttered Kinuta, who had sunk to the ground on the wall and had clearly taken the carnage heavily.


"Everything OK? You’re lucky."


"Probably a miracle," Hiromu Kinuta replied apathetically. He tried to get up, but did not make it. He staggered, prying his hand on the ground and sitting down again.


"What about the institute?" Emily asked.


Kinuta had given up trying to stand. He answered her while sitting. "I do not know. The infection spread too fast. Maybe through the water supply, although the AI’s sensors should have picked up on any radical contagions. Whoever is behind it must have taken Carmen under their control."


Fuchs had looked around the door and returned to the room.


"Emily, when the power is back, the telecom should work, right?"


Emily looked at the telecom monitor. "Didn’t Prasch say Sprague was in the control room? I'll try there." She took the ID card she was wearing around her neck and held it up to the Telecom reader. The scanner began, and the female computer voice asked for the desired connection address. Emily quickly typed in the number of the control room. Technically, the telecom in this type of application was nothing but an in-house telephone.


It began to ring several times. Emily got nervous. She almost prayed that she would reach someone.


Suddenly Reena Mittford's face appeared on the screen. Emily asked. "Reena...?"


"No, it's me, Sprague."


"The screen shows Reena Mittford's face..."


"That's because the server is down as a result of the power outage. The IDs must have gotten mixed up. Although I was able to reopen the power supply, I cannot fix the system right now. I am glad to be using it again at all. But they're displayed incorrectly, Emily."


It was a strange feeling to see Reena's picture and a man's voice spoke.


"Are you all right?"


"Yes, so far."


"Is someone with you? Security maybe or someone else?"


"No I am alone. The workforce was probably either completely infected by the virus or killed by the infected. Most are probably dead."

Emily saddened.


"I was in radio contact with Prasch until recently," Sprague went on. "He said you had contacted him. Is that correct?"


"Prasch... damn!" Emily turns the chair around and cursed. Tears ran down her cheeks. "That bastard killed him! The group leader of the guards..."


"Ulysses Allam?"


"Yes. Also Simon Beach the dog handler was killed by him. I do not know how many people he has killed altogether. He was attacked by the virus and has completely lost it!"


"Well... at least nothing happened to you. Is anyone else with you?"


Emily looked at Kinuta, who was squatting on the floor with blank eyes, staring into space. "Hiromu Kinuta from my team."


"Ah, I'm glad that nothing has happened to him. Did he get a grip on himself?"


"Ren!”


All remaining strength seemed to be flowing out of Kinuta, for in that moment he sank down in his corner, leaning against the wall like a sack of potatoes.


Emily adjusted the chair and leaned backwards on it. "Besides Kinuta, Richard Fuchs is still here." Fuchs had stepped next to her and looked at the telecom.


"What!?" Sprague exclaimed, startled. "What's he doing with you?"


"You probably already know," replied Fuchs ironically. "I'm not giving up."


Sprague sighing was not heard over the speakers. Fuchs reached for the microphone. "Ren, tell us about the situation as far as you know. Emily has already said that we were attacked by the head of the security guards. He still seemed to have a purpose, and finally he opened fire on us with his machine pistol. However, he was more slush than human, half his body had already liquefied."


"Oh...?" Cried Sprague astonished. "So the decay has gone that far?"


"Do not be so surprised!" Fuchs drew his eyebrows together. "You are the one who has fallen apart, man!"


Sprague burst out laughing. It seemed like the laughter was coming from Reena Mittford's fixed face - a haunting image. He crossed his arms over his chest in front of the monitor, then raised his hands and made a V-sign - his symbol a 


"Love & Peace" gesture?


"What's so funny about that?"


"Oh nothing. Obviously, the virus was spread by the cow that was thrown into the water reservoir. As Emily already feared, the water purification system failed. But... why a cow? Don’t you think that's a bit funny?"


Funny…? How could he amuse himself at such a time? He had to be out of his mind.


Emily grabbed the monitor and stared at it. But Reena Mittford's face only flickered blankly.


"Could you maybe talk some sense?" Fuchs demanded impatiently.


"Well, Reena said it. Alma is in the VR simulation, and Rose dreams of her. Is it not obvious? Rose is at the center of everything here. She is the trigger!"


"Ren, how's that? What are you talking about?"


"How do you not follow me, Emily? Have you looked at the video images? I have looked at them again and again. In it Alma is referred to by a friend as a 'witch'. Wonder why?"


"No idea! I had enough to do, we fought for our lives! There was no time for precise studies! It was about raw survival!"


"I'm sorry, I know. Well, let me explain it. The girl could read the memories attached to the individual in the Tank."


“What kind of fairytale bullshit are you trying to feed me? That’s nonsense!” Fuchs snapped.


“Are you sure about that?”


“Yes, I’m sure,” Emily emphasized after Fuchs’ statement.


Sprague's laughter rang out again from the speakers. "Well. Of course, that's just my own ludicrous interpretation. So Alma was sleeping the entire time in the Tank’s fluid and was part of the virtual world created by the VR system. She dreamed peacefully of walks in the mountains of Guatemala. But one day the dream turned into a nightmare. The memories she had inside her awakened..."


"Are you trying to say she is causing this? By taking control of the power supply, playing those images, seizing the system and gradually destroying the whole research institute? Such nonsense! How could that be possible? And what about the cow? It was obviously thrown into the institutes water supply by human hands!"


"One question", Fuchs intervened. "Where is Rose?"


There was silence for a moment before laughter echoed from the speakers. Fuchs frowned and waited for the almost hysterical laugh to stop. It seemed like it took almost a minute for Sprague to catch his breath.


"So you do not know it yet? And did not notice it earlier?" He spoke the sentences chuckling, because he obviously still was not quite able to keep his cool. Fuchs gave Emily a helpless look.


"Tell him, Emily. He wants to know."


Emily looked at Fuchs and for a moment did not know how to explain it to him. 


"Fuchs... you saw it too. This red muddy water in the tank, in the capsule room. 

That's Rose. A mixed solution of stem cells, the carrier fluid and the virus - this is Roses actual form."


"What - this rotten soup is Rose? But that cannot..." Fuchs recalled the memory of before - the tank and its contents - the memory caused him to shudder. He turned away from the telecom and walked restlessly up and down the treatment room.


Sprague was still laughing, patting the microphone several times. "A nice shock, right? But calm down, Fuchs. It's not that bad. It does not change the fact that 

'Project Rose' is still going on."


"Damn!" Fuchs shouted suddenly in the middle of the room. Kinuta, who was listening to the whole thing, jumped, startled.


"And what happened to the girl we took with us, back there?" Cried Fuchs.


"Back there...?" Emily repeated. "What do you mean, took her? Were you in Raccoon City?"


"Yes, of course, before everything was destroyed by the nuclear weapons attack. We were just collecting materials when we found it."


"Did you see it?" Emily asked in a trance.


"Yes, a terrible accident," Sprague answered dryly.


"And why didn’t you tell me?" Emily shouted into the microphone.


"You knew everything, right? You knew what kind of research we are doing here! And what we did with it! You knew everything. Everything!"


"But you knew it too, Miss Ran." The voice from the loudspeakers sounded soothingly. “This research institute has been constructed to resemble one in Raccoon City. What we are currently experiencing is an ecosystem based off of the city.


Emily closed her eyes and bit her lip.


"Emily, back to the cow... I found something interesting during the system check on last week's surveillance tape. Pretty enlightening... You can see who threw the cow in the tank. He didn’t seem to care at all about the security cameras."


"Who?"


"The group leader of the guards who attacked you... Ulysses Allam."


“Are you being serious?” Emily stared at the ceiling. “Ulysses Allam... did it?” Eyes wide open, she stared at Reena's image on the monitor.


"He was insane from the beginning – he was in on it all along. He must have used the VR machine regularly with Reena for a long time. So he came into contact with Rose. In fact, Rose must have begun to capture and disintegrate him long before Reena had this accident. You said he was half liquefied already? That's proof that time is running out. But it does not mean that Rose is waking up, Emily. She just dreams. And this dream, this nightmare, will come true. We are in the middle of this dream right now, helplessly floating in the uterus of a young girl..."


Reena's image suddenly began to flicker violently, and Emily slammed her fist against the monitor.


"Tell me finally. What’s the reason for all this is! It's you, am I right? You created and played these pictures! Why are you doing it all, you madman! What is Rose in reality? Ren...!"


"We are the insects that carry the pollen from one flower to the next, the seed...the virus! Soon Rose’s blood will finally flow. Thanksgiving is approaching, the parade is going to start soon..." The screen with Reena's face began to rustle and flickered. 


"It’s starting! The harvest has started ... What do you want to do now? You have no time to flee."


The monitor darkened briefly, then unfamiliar images flickered across the screen. A basketball court. A youth whose skin was almost completely stripped off appeared in large scale. His face looked strangely old in contrast to his body. That was not the face of a young man. It belonged to Ulysses Allam.


Emily slammed her fist against the monitor until Kinuta got up and held her arm. 


Suddenly Carmen's voice echoed through the room. "Biohazard detected.  Warning to all employees. The T virus has spread inside the institute. In ten minutes, the entire research facility will be disinfected with the T-virus vaccine 'Rose'."


Fuchs lifted his head and looked up at the ceiling. The system started buzzing like a swarm of bees and began to release a stream of air out of the round orifices, which had a diameter of about twenty centimeters.


The unexpected breeze made Emily squint. She looked over at Kinuta, who cried out in despair. "This cannot be! Now Rose will sprinkle throughout the whole ventilation system!"


Emily's heart was pounding. In her mind appeared Ulysses Allam, half of his body had faded.


Then she heard Fuchs shout something: "What about the courtyard? Can we get out through the fire escape…?"


Emily shook her head. "It won’t matter. There are also sprinklers connected to the aeration control system."


Emily's thoughts flickered. Carmen had been taken over. The harvest was imminent. An escape was impossible. The deliberate takeover of the system controlled this whole disaster, and they were all helplessly exposed to the situation.


Suddenly Kinuta spoke up. "The VR room! We have to go to the VR room! There is no ventilation system there!"

 

October 3, 10:35 pm, Corridor of the Research Institute


The countdown had begun. The dark corridor was now bathed in white light. Emily and the others ran down it without a word. The VR room was their declared destination. In order to protect the equipment against an external attack, the VR room was the only one not connected to the ventilation system - which made the room usually unbearably hot and stuffy, but now turned out to be a lucky charm.


There were two ways to get from the third floor they were on to the VR room on the fourth: by elevator or stairs. However, the elevator posed a certain risk. Carmen did not behave normally and there was no guarantee that they would actually stop on the fourth floor.


The unanimous consensus was to reach the floor by foot. So they decided on the stairs.


First they ran down the long corridor, then turned and finally reached the stairwell. There they climbed the stairs.


Kinuta clung to the railing and dragged himself up in agony. He was sweating fearfully. Sweat poured out of every single pore of his body.


"Faster, we do not have time!" Fuchs cried, who had already reached the top, but turned back a few steps to motivate Kinuta.


Kinuta put his hands on his knees and gasped violently.


"Six more minutes to the release of Rose."


On the way to the VR and the capsule room were three or four fresh bodies. Kinuta shrieked and clung to Emily.


"Come on!", Fuchs's voice echoed through the corridor. They walked around the corpses with big steps; not a single one had their head on their shoulders anymore. Kinuta hurried along the corridor, the other two followed him.


When Kinuta reached the door, he began mashing the buttons on panel until he finally hit the button to open.


The heavy sliding door slid sideways, revealing the square concrete room which walls and ceilings were identical: ten meters each.


Next to the huge tank in the center of the room sat a man leaning with his back against the metal tower. It was an old acquaintance. The fat face, the bald skull, the fleshy body... The bright orange shirt ripped, and the wide black pants his fashion style was questionable. In his right hand he held an automatic pistol.


"Hey!" Christian Selfridge raised his left hand.


"What are you doing here?" Fuchs asked.


"What am I doing here? I could ask you the same. I fled here. First the blackout and then, when the lights finally came back, this Rose warning message... I was a little bit taken back..." He tipped his head back against the seat rest. "... and finally ended up here." Selfridge got up and approached with long strides. "However, there were a few unforeseen problems. I do not know how to operate this fortress here and I was desperate. I just got lucky and saw you! Seal this room well, make sure nothing gets in or out."


Emily and Fuchs glanced at each other.


"Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that?! In all this panic, you intended to get Rose under the nail in the next room?! The walking dead out there are sure to get in!” Fuchs shouted at him.


Selfridge calmly aimed the weapon at Emily. "We have no time for discussion now. Come on!"


"Four minutes left until the release of Rose."


"Go to hell, Selfridge!" Fuchs pointed his Beretta at him.


Selfridge's face quivered with rage. Then he sighed and tilted his head slightly to the side, squeezing the trigger of his weapon. The bullet hit Fuchs's thigh. Fuchs cried out in pain and went to ground; in no time, the white tiles were stained red with the dripping blood.


Selfridge kicked away the Beretta in front of him. The gun slid to the wall and stopped in one corner of the room.

"I'm sorry, but I do not have time for long explanations," Selfridge said. "We have 

to make quick decisions now."


Kinuta looked at Emily with a completely confused expression.


"If you love your life, you get in there too!" Selfridge returned to the room without glancing at Emily.


She stared at him for a while. Then she helped Fuchs, who put his arm around her shoulder, and dragged him in after Selfridge. Behind them, the sliding door closed. Fuchs broke away from Emily. Desperately, he tried to stand on his own, but the only result of his efforts was that more and more blood was spilling from his leg.


Selfridge looked at him thoughtfully.

"You planned to shoot Fuchs anyway, didn’t you?" Emily swallowed and reached into her pocket for the little Glock.


Selfridge just shrugged. "Believe what you want. But now is not the time for this discussion."


Suddenly, something from outside hammered against the door with indescribable force. Emily backed away, watching in anguish as the heavy door vibrated under the force of gravity. A voice that could not possibly belong to someone roared on the other side of the bulkhead.


Kinuta screamed in panic and crept behind the tank in a corner, burying his head between his arms.


"Another two minutes..."


Selfridge began to speak in a firm voice. "Something is out there. Zombies or whatever it is I don’t know... Anyway, it’s not human, that's for sure." He rubbed his hands together. "We have to lock the room."


Emily turned and focused on the weapon in Selfridge's hand. The knuckle of the finger on the trigger appeared white. The weapon trembled and Selfridge's face was hysterical.


"Selfridge calm down..."


"We have to lock the room! If we don’t..." He looked at Kinuta, who turned his back and crouched in his corner. "... I'll shoot you, and I will do it."


Emily sank in astonishment at the computer terminal. Selfridge was right - they had no choice at the moment. So she put her hand on the keyboard, routinely typed in a few commands and activated the seal. The silicone, which was attached to all the biohazard avoidance valves, fired into the cracks and the room was hermetically sealed.


“Five... four... three... two... one..." At zero, Carmen announced, "The ‘Rose’ vaccine will now be deployed."


In the corridor, they could hear liquid was sprayed. The drops pattered so hard against the wall that it almost sounded like a torrential rain storm within the building was going on.


Gradually, the hammering against the door eased.


"Was that it?" Emily moaned feebly.


"Can you get up a live feed of the situation at the institute?" Selfridge asked.


He wiped the sweat from his forehead with his tired forearm. Emily tapped something on the keyboard and connected to the network. She searched for the correct access route to see through Carmen's eyes what was going on outside in the corridor.


Somehow the surveillance cameras had weathered all the events. On screen every ten seconds the individual cameras switched through separate views.


What they saw was just horrible. Everywhere on the institute's floors, black-and-red slick puddles were to be seen, the remains of those who had already been infected by the virus and had dissolved. It was raining dark red slime from the ceiling, forming rough rivulets on the floor and running down the corridors. In this unreal brew, the heads, arms and legs of those who had not yet completely dissolved themselves drifted through the rooms.


Emily silently cut the connection. In the room, Fuchs's painful groaning and Kinuta's whining whimpering echoed. The monitor went black. She closed her eyes and buried her head between her arms.

Chapter 6


The young soldier held his sub-machine gun on the ground in front of him and approached Ren Sprague. Around his neck dangled an oxygen mask, the kind used by fire-fighters. Due to the black protective suit, the man was almost swallowed by the darkness and looked eerie, almost like a ghost.


"Apparently, there are no survivors here."


Sprague nodded, dropped his hand from the video camera and kicked a lump of rubble aside. It was deep into the night in Raccoon City. It had only been an hour since they had left the helicopter, and yet they had been attacked several times by these human horror characters. The situation in the city was ten times worse than feared. Chaos had broken out everywhere; the fire may have killed more people than the virus. The people had apparently panicked and lit their homes ablaze - their entire household burnt to the ground.


It was obvious even this soldier was nervous. Although he had been specially trained to keep a cool head in every situation. And though he had attended the briefing that had made it clear to them what they were to expect here.


And Ren Sprague? He came from a scientific perspective and a certain curiosity, determined to investigate the catastrophe. But now there was not much left of his determination. He just wanted to go back to the research institute and take a hot shower, drink a few glasses of brandy and forget everything. Maybe pick a song on the guitar and sing...


That was what he had wanted. But before that there was still something to do. Sprague wiped the drops of sweat off his forehead.


The young soldier who had accompanied him as his protection had turned pale and trembled slightly. Had he been unarmed, he could barely even keep walking due to the fear.


"Only four hours left, until everything is destroyed by the nuclear strike," he snarled. "At least the vaccine is working... We better get out of here quickly."


"Yes, I know. Give me another thirty minutes!" Sprague stepped over the pile of debris. The elite soldier dropped behind him and went to his side. "What are you looking for?"


"You also saw her from the helicopter, didn’t you? It all happened so fast, and it was unclear, but the girl did not seem to be infected yet."


Sprague saw the little girl as she had been surrounded on the street by the infected. He had given the pilot an attack order and had seen with his own eyes how the little girl had been dragged out of the burning street someone had dragged her into an alley. She had managed to escape.


"That was over an hour ago... Do you really think she's still alive?"


"I want to find a survivor - whatever the cost. Let's just head to this alley, all right? Then we'll turn back." Sprague looked at the map of Raccoon City on the portable navigation device attached to his belt. "I'm sure it was here somewhere..."


The soldier gnawed his lip and said nothing. He put his trembling hands around the submachine gun, which hung from a shoulder strap. Thanks to her alone, they had come this far - she had avoided the red-fleshed devils which the humans had degenerated into.


Without a word they climbed over the city's ruins. The fact that they did not speak was due to the creeping fear that dominated their world of emotions. The worry of being too far away from the helicopter. The fear, of getting lost. Or what if the pilot had been attacked and the helicopter destroyed in the meantime? Then they were hopelessly trapped in this hell.


"Mr. Director... Please tell me the truth." The soldier had stopped. "Does this have something to do with the research that our group is conducting?"


Sprague turned and nodded. "Unfortunately, I cannot answer that but I can tell you this tragic accident is not directly related to my institute..."


The soldier shook his head slowly. "How can you be so calm about this? This wasn’t just a handful of murders...  a whole city population was deprived of their humanity and was lost in such a brutal way!"


"I know. It's unforgivable." Sprague looked up at the building of a supermarket, its windows all splintered, up to the lead-grey sky. There were cracks running through the clouds, and it almost seemed as if there was another planet up there.


"I have also suffered a shock... but it is different than yours. But what do you think we should do?"


Stormy weather whipped through the city, leaving fire flames blaze in different directions, forming thunderous whirlpools. A gust of wind seized Sprague's long blond hair and tugged at his ponytail.


The soldier and he marched off again, and the echo of their boots on the concrete sounded through the night city.


Sprague wanted to find only one single survivor in this ghost town. This desire strengthened him and gave him the urge to go on searching.


Between the ruins, Sprague suddenly made out the shape of a collapsed woman. 


His heart began thumping in his chest. Is it her?


He sprinted toward her and stopped, two feet ahead of her. In the light of the lamp that hung around his neck, he realized that the clothes of the corpse were bloodied. The abdomen of the woman was almost gone. A hideous sight. With her skinny arms, she held the body of a baby. Neither mother nor child had their heads. It seemed as if someone had blown their heads off.


No, it’s not her...


When he turned, the soldier had squatted directly behind him. He was trembling all over. "I cannot... Damn! What are we doing here?"


Sprague looked at the man calmly and avoided the impulse to crouch next to him and also give in to despair. He walked to the street, stopped, and turned around. 


"Ambrose, you stay here. I am continuing on. If anything happens, you can get me on the radio."


With the help of his navigation device, he walked for a while through the destroyed city and finally reached his destination. The sought-after alley was overgrown with bricks and wood; a maze of rubble had been created. Wherever he looked, tattered corpses lay everywhere.


Sprague got an anxiety attack. The cold sweat came to his forehead. He turned off the video camera and fastened it to his belt. Then he took the submachine gun in both hands and looked around in panic – at any moment one of these dreaded mutants could jump out of a corner and attack him!


He bit his lip nervously, almost frightened.


If I am killed, that's the sacrifice I am willing to make. I will not let this fear stop me! My life is not that important to me, he mounted up all the courage he could and moved forward.


Suddenly a shot echoed in his ears. It came from the direction of the little shop he was passing.


Sprague stopped and looked up at the dilapidated building. HARTLINE ANTIQUITATES was written on the sign above the entrance.


The shot had come from behind the building. Since he had to force himself into almost every step, Sprague went quietly like a professional to the back of the house. The ground was heavily soaked, and mud prints formed on his boot soles.


Then he saw the little girl in front of him, he wanted to go to her, but slipped and avoided falling with one hand on the ground. After that his glove was full of mud. Sprague continued on his way.


"Is anyone there?" He shouted into the greenhouse. The heavy, stuffy air jammed in the unpredictable room. But beyond that, there was also the typical smell in the air the same one he had been breathing in since he arrived in this city – the stink of decay.


In the darkness toward the back he saw a brown cloak in the light of his lamp. Sprague's heart began to race - that was the coat he had seen from the helicopter!

She is here. Thank god! I finally found her! I knew it!


Slowly he entered the greenhouse and went to the girl. She held the hand of a boy the same boy who probably had dragged her to safety earlier.


He was lying flat on a tarpaulin and was covered with black-red swellings all over his body, just like those infectee’s who had been attacked outside. Scalp and giant ulcers had burst, blood and brain mass spread as thick-puddles on the tarpaulin.


No question, he was dead. Next to the girl was a pistol.


Did they commit suicide together out of fear and complete loss of their personalities and transformation into one of these... zombies?


Sprague rushed to them. The girl's chest rose and fell weakly. Thank heaven!


He stopped in front of her and squatted down next to her, studying her, crouching next to her, studying her face. At the same moment he felt a cold chill run down his spine. The girl's skin was already severely affected by the influence of the T-virus. He had been too late.


Once you are infected with the virus, you cannot stop it, as much as your body may try to fight it. In the end, the virus always wins and takes complete possession of its victim...


Sprague smoothly stroked the girl's face with his white-gloved hand. The red puffs on her cheeks were swollen as if they were about to burst.


Sprague was overwhelmed by a wave of resignation. Ambrose's voice echoed in his head: "Damn, what are we actually doing here?"


Without a protective glove I was not even allowed to touch her cheek. That's the reality we created. The sad reality.


He tore his gaze from the girl's face and studied her from top to bottom; he quickly recognized another sad fact that made his stomach churn: the young woman was pregnant. Sprague spotted a notebook beside her. In the light of the lamp he read a few lines in it. Apparently it was the diary of the little one.


He looked around and took a deep breath. This was probably her greenhouse. 


What could she have grown? In the beds and pots were sporadically isolated seedlings, barely growing and decrepit looking plants.


Sprague suddenly felt like he'd never be able to stand up again.


"Who are you?"


Sprague almost jumped in shock, the young woman suddenly opened her mouth and spoke! She had opened her eyes; her black pupils seemed to want to banish her. When he shined her face with the lamp, her eyes narrowed.


"Who are you?" She repeated in a tormented voice.


"I'm Ren... Ren Sprague. I came to save you!" Sprague's voice almost cracked, but apparently she did not hear it. Her cheeks trembled.


"I'm dying, right?"


"Nonsense. You will not die so fast." He stared at the journal and repeated," I am here to save you."


She did not respond. The girl lying on the side of the tarpaulin had closed her eyes again. Her chest rose and fell irregularly.


Impossible. She is still in her right mind!


Sprague walked restlessly up and down the greenhouse. After five minutes, he finally picked up the radio. "Ambrose... Ambrose! Reply!"


The monotone voice of the soldier sounded, which was difficult to understand due to the static.


"What's happening? Where are you? There is not much time left until the nuclear strike!"


"I got one. I found a survivor - the girl from earlier. You have to get back to the helicopter, get a stretcher and bring it here! We take her with us!"


In Ambrose's voice was amazement, but also a hint of doubt. "Is she healthy?"


"No, she is infected. But she is passed out."


"But it's forbidden to have contact with infected! We can't take her with us!"


"She is infected, but still in her right mind. Her condition is indeed infected, but her personality still exists! A highly peculiar reaction. This girl could be of great use to me in my vaccine research. I will explain that in front of my superiors. I take full responsibility. We have no time to lose, so hurry up!"


"Understood." The radio communication ended.


Sprague returned to the tarpaulin, where the girl was still breathing heavily. Shaken, he studied her face affected by the infection, and the most adventurous thoughts passed through his mind.


Was it possible that the girl was suffering from an immune deficiency? A defect that led to the fact that her body's own defense system against the virus was taking place? Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the young woman was pregnant...


Sprague was reminded of the insights in his own anti-T-virus research: if the virus attacked and destroyed the complex "human system," it meant death. But from a higher point of view, a new, accidental element was added to the "chemical structure of man"... So the virus was ultimately something other than an instrument that created a new order.


That people see this as a disease simply because they are afraid of losing their individual consciousness, thought Sprague.


The T-virus attacked the human individual, and when it took over the human system and took possession of the body, the borders were dissolved and a new dividing line was drawn to the environment. In other words, the individuals who had undergone this change were the harbingers of a new species!


Since this young woman apparently had a defect in her immune function, she could not perform this "evolutionary leap". Because of this, she had survived the attack of the T virus, whose ability to seize possession of her immune system and change it. A paradoxical coincidence...


Sprague held the soft hand of the girl. The girl  was so vulnerable that it was a miracle how she could have survived so long.


"I want you to live!"


Sprague looked at the girl's coat and found the rose embroidered on it.

 

October 4, 00:15, VR room


"You cannot go out, Emily. Outside is filled with bacteria." Her father laughed and hugged Emily from behind.


How old could she have been?


She remembered how bright the Californian sun had shone, and how dark it had been in the room. Little Emily had once again failed to sneak out unnoticed. She cursed so softly that no one heard.


In front of the door the palm trees blew in the wind. On the street in front of the window, a young man pedaled his bicycle; the helmet he'd put on reflected blue sunlight.


If you followed the street, you came to the bustling centre of Los Angeles, with its tall business buildings, the window facades stretched the city’s landscape like a mirrored labyrinth in all directions. There, the streets were filled with the bustling of the people.


Emily had just recovered from a fever that had lasted for an entire week. Both her parents and  herself had suffered, her morbidity was already routine. And so soon after the healing, she was not allowed to go outside. Her father picked her up and put her on his shoulders. "Come on, let's go to my study. I'll show you something special, okay?"


At some point Hiromu Kinuta's sobs had also died down and become a light snore. Emily's legs hurt because she had been sat like that for over an hour. She raised her head, which had been buried between her knees, and slowly opened her eyes. Four people, three men and one woman, locked up in a ten by ten meter room. By now it had become harsh. There was a smell of a mixture of blood, sweat and viscous fluidity. Emily's head felt heavy.


The room was still sealed off hermetically. How long could the oxygen in such a room last for four passengers? She fumbled for a while, but just could not concentrate. Behind the door, it still sounded like a shower was going on. 


"Now I get it," Emily said. "I am Carmen!"


"I beg your pardon…? Did the heat get to you."


Fuchs, who was lying on his side, opened his eyes a crack. He breathed evenly. The temporary bandage - or rather the handkerchief - had turned red in colour through his blood; the original colour was no longer recognizable.


No. Emily shook her head. Somehow, she actually felt weird, she was even very ill. 


She had not taken her pills for the evening.


That day, her father showed her his outdated self-developed text generation program. Strange that she remembered it all so clearly right now, because she had not thought of the finer connections for a long time. And yet now - or just because of the situation - she had christened the institute's system on the name "Carmen", subconsciously.


She thought of Ann. Her parents later had nicknamed her Carmen.


She wanted to go to her parents. She wanted to go to Ann. She wanted to press her small warm body against her chest and never let go. She thought of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" on her desk.


"How long do we have to stay in here?" Selfridge asked sullenly. He sat in one corner of the room, his back against the wall. His eyes were bloodshot and there was dried saliva threads in the corners of his mouth. The man is totally exhausted, Emily thought. We should handle our attack more carefully.


Emily took off her dirt, blood-thickened jacket, laying down on it. On the ceiling ran pipes; if they did not withstand the load. Then that was their end.


"May I ask you something?" Emily closed her eyes. "It was Ren Sprague who took you to Roses' capsule room and let you in, right?"


"Yes that's true."


"But you said you got in with this?" She pulled the voice recorder out of her 

pocket.


"Well, that was a silly idea..." Fuchs blushed slightly. "At the time, I had no idea what Sprague's actual plans were. I thought in my naivety, everything could go well and trusted him despite everything going on. However..." He pointed his chin at Selfridge. "...Rose wanted to escape, right!"


"So you just cooperated with me for the show?" Selfridge asked, snorting angrily.


"Shut up."


"Cooperate?"


Selfridge lowered his eyes at Emily's question and silenced himself.


“Richard Fuchs is, in a sense, just a pseudonym for my role which involves the countermovement of all corporations that have become far too powerful to risk slipping away from state influence. The personification of a powerful consortium: the collective identity of a particular organization, as well as the role to be played in operations."


Emily nodded after allowing Fuchs to rest for a while. Maybe that's the original meaning of authority, she thought. There are countless authorities in the world, and many people are assembling their authorities, their personalities, to prevent the order from collapsing. If you think about it, authority and individual are not necessarily related terms. When people give each other authority, some individuals first get a personality and an organization is created.


The human system is nothing more than a single weak existence that an "I" has to generate in order to separate itself from the "you". An immune system. But the T-virus attacks the defense system, and when it has torn it down, the ego blurs visibly, and man, stripped of his demarcation, dissolves into the world - without being able to maintain his consciousness.


Emily's thoughts drifted to Rose. The spreading virus robs us of individuality as humans and the abstract "Rose" has now passed through the entire research institute. We are in Rose. Perhaps we are nothing more than individual elements, which together form the Rose organization.


"I became the incarnation of this authority and tried to track down the backers of the companies. The larger a group, the more it plays in the background. I collect the information, and record it to the system which leaks it to the mass media - so the market and the power structure is controlled. Corporations that are out of line, rejoin the overall balance."


"Umbrella was considered a threat?"


"More than that. And the fact that they have recently become more and more oriented to Europe and that a relocation of the main office could not be ruled out was the decisive factor. Not to forget that nuclear weapons were even used to remedy the consequences of the accident in Raccoon City. America does not simply ignore such incidents."


"I thought Umbrella was America..."


"It's not that easy. Of course, Umbrella is more than just an ordinary pharmaceutical company. Umbrella is also a corporation, that's an open secret. And the top executives keep connections up to the highest levels of the government. Precisely for this reason, it would have been critical if this company with its strategically important virus and the associated vaccine would be relocated to Europe. That would have destroyed the global balance. The development of a vaccine for such a biological virus has, of course, the highest priority. The order I received was to investigate Project Rose and gain intel on Umbrella's current intentions. And I should steal the developing vaccine, as a kind of pledge."


"You should take the vaccine as a pledge?" Emily asked. "As political pressure against Umbrella. Those who hold the vaccine in hand need not fear the effect of the T virus. For the group that meant losing more of America."


Fuchs stared at Selfridge. "He planned to betray Umbrella and run over to another pharmaceutical company. Like a rat leaving the sinking ship. But around the ship is nothing but dark ocean."


Selfridge struggled. "He took advantage of me! He made me believe there was a company that wanted to buy the vaccine. And I believed him!"


"As you know, I was at the time of the accident the institute director in Raccoon City. I was a soldier at Umbrella and was his escort at the time. We went through this hell together, saw the horror with our own eyes. At that time we decided that something like that would never happen again, and that Umbrella would have to be destroyed. That was ours, well, at least my goal. I contacted the organization using the name Richard Fuchs and informed them that I had information about Umbrella and could get more. By the way, Selfridge eventually came into play as a means to an end. In addition, Raccoon City, which had shaken up the stock prices and what followed, Umbrella immediately focused their attention here and demanded we finish the vaccine. If I had stolen it, the deterrent and value of the T virus would have been zero."


"But Sprague had other plans..."


"I don’t care what he actually thought" returned Fuchs.


"He's not quite right in the head!" Selfridge exclaimed angrily.


"Either way, that's the end now. We're all going to die in here." Fuchs closed his eyes and seemed to be listening to the splashing of the deep red shower in the corridor outside.


"To die? How...?" Hiromu Kinuta had apparently woken up again. He rubbed his eyes with a blank expression on his face. "What... is it not over yet?" He shouted as the lingering splash continued. His whole body quivered as he jerked his arms around his knees.


Emily watched him wordlessly. The pipes over their heads began screaming more and more shrilly. She knew that they would not last much longer. Emily took a deep breath. The name of her daughter haunted her thoughts.


Now or never. This is the last chance.


She straightened up. "We cannot give up yet. Let's take a look at the facts..."


Fuchs also stood up with a pained look upon his face and looked at Emily. 


"Exactly. We have to do something."


"Well, first there was the accident of Reena Mittford. Was that planned - or a real accident?"


"It was an accident," Fuchs replied. "Sprague said it was an accident."


Emily nodded and continued. "Then the cow infected with the virus. That was no coincidence, right? Ulysses Allam threw it into the reservoir."


"Sprague thinks that Allam had been captured by Rose while secretly using the VR machine with Reena." Kinuta stared at the Tank as he spoke.


"Yes." Emily looked at her hand. "That's right. So these two incidents have occurred in the same place."


"What does that mean?" Selfridge sounded.


"Simply put. Both were manipulated by Rose in the virtual world, who used them as a medium. They met here as lovers, giving themselves to cyberspace, but it was a disastrous threesome. That's what it comes down to, right?"


Selfridge shook his head in annoyance, scratching at his bald head. "Those idiots! What did they think this extremely expensive machine actually is? A fun park? Those childish fools...!"


Emily ignored him and continued talking. "And then the power failure occurred. What about that?"


"The timing was just too perfect. The outbreak of contamination, the raging spread of the Biohazard - and then these strange video recordings..."


Kinuta squeezed his double chin and lowered his eyes. "I agree. Maybe Carmen was taken over during the power outage. The power outage gradually brought the system under control and eventually misused it."


"When it was completely under control, Rose was released, right? But why?"


"It's about the 'research'. The goal is for the vaccine to devour the virus."


"Just a moment. Is Rose about more than just a vaccine? Something like a... living thing?" Kinuta bellowed out.


Inside Emily, an idea awoke. "Ah…"


“The continuous impulses of the actual reality. A system that sends out feedback on electrical signals. It's the true shape of 'Project Rose'! What if there is a living entity acting as a god for this world? It would put all its boundless senses inside. What if this research institute, as Sprague said, is actually trapped in Roses dream?”


"Here." Emily went to the tank. "Maybe we can make contact with Rose."


The three men watched irritably as Emily paced up and down.


"Kinuta, get up and help me. I will do a VR dive. I'll get into the system from the Tank and get Carmen back. If I can handle the functions of the control system, we will be able to escape from here."


Kinuta looked at her with a meaningless squint. Emily looked up at the pipes on the ceiling, which made even more shrill and disturbing noises. She had to do it before they all perished in here!


"Will we get into VR simulation without Carmen at all?" Kinuta asked, obviously shaken by Emily's glance at the ceiling.


"The terminal and the supercomputer of the tank are connected locally and cannot be influenced by the system. So it has to work."


Emily looked over at the three supercomputers embedded in the wall.


"Kinuta, you sit down at the terminal and try to get the system up and running as fast as possible. Search for Carmen's neurons and get through to them. And I..." 


She looked at the tank with narrowed eyes. "I’ll climb into this magic box and face her fantasies."


Emily discovered the rubber suit at the entrance behind the tank - it was there just as she had left it the last time, she quickly moved behind the container. Then she climbed the ladder and opened the round hatch. The tank was brimming with the yellowish-green bearing fluid, and Emily's head was full of self-doubt.


What happened to Reena Mittford can also happen to me. In the worst case, I'll  die in this slimy broth...


The yellowish-green liquid suddenly seemed to her like the entrance to the underworld. To shake off her uncertainty, she focused fully on the task ahead.

She pulled out the hose that protruded from the hatch of the tank and connected it to her suit. With a sound as if a cork was being pulled out, the fluid began to run into the cavities of the suit. Despite the thick rubber, she felt pretty cold.


Emily took off the VR glasses and looked at the surrounding space. Maybe it was not a particularly refreshing sight: bare concrete masonry, bare ceiling pipes... a highly unattractive reality.


Selfridge sat beside the door, speechlessness written in his face. Kinuta was engrossed in the work in front of the terminal, and Fuchs looked up at her after he had slowly leaned his upper body against the wall. His leg seemed to hurt him, at least his face was distorted with pain.


She wanted to burn everything she saw into her memory so that the image would become an anchor that held her in this world.


"Okay, I powered up the VR system," Kinuta called from the terminal to Emily. 


"Are you sure you want to do this?"


Emily showed her determination with a confident nod. The oxygen mask prevented her from speaking, she reached out her right arm and raised her thumb.


Kinuta turned back to the monitor. "Please do not take too long. If you feel an anomaly, send me an emergency call right away, okay?"


Emily took a deep breath and then put her glasses back on. She pressed them hard against her face so that the air escaped with a hiss and the VR glasses fused with her face. Then she stared at the surface of the liquid and dived silently into the tank, feet first.

 

4th October, 01:00, VR machine - VR room


It was dark. A darkness that absorbed all light.


After a while, peaks arose in the distance, multiplied and spread rapidly. Soon the nightly mountainous landscape of Guatemala extended around Emily. A scenery based on topographical data from the real world. Emily looked intently at the computer-generated jungle.


The forest was real, it did not look like a model. The textures with which the trees were provided expanded in some places unnaturally to fit the grid. But when touched, they felt like real trees. There was even a smell of wood, of living trees in the air.


But for Emily it was now necessary to penetrate deeper into the system - into the core that hid behind this simulation. The true shape of the VR machine. She had to get into this black box.


Emily called a virtual keyboard in front of her. Because of the oxygen mask she was breathing, no language exchange with the outside world was possible. That's why the keyboard had been developed. Emily hovered in front of a few shimmering letters in the air. An imaginary interface based on mathematical algorithms. Emily ran her fingers over this keyboard.


OK. EVERYTHING OK IN THE GREEN AREA. I AM MOVING ONWARD.


Through the headphone came Kinuta's high voice. "Roger that. But the system is pretty well protected. I expected no less. Although I know all the passwords of the research institute, I find it difficult to get there. So enjoy some exploring. Enjoy the sight of the mountains, won’t you?"


Emily laughed in torment. For Kinuta it was obviously nothing new to override restrictions.


I'm really a lousy boss. Well, anyway, I thought from the start that I'm not fit for leadership positions.


Emily looked at the sky. In the night sky a big full moon was visible. But even this moon was just an illusion. Unlike the real thing, it looked like a fixed light source that was in close proximity.


The moon was only here to make this world feel real, it isn’t a real celestial body orbiting this earth. And not only the moon, but also all other things that exist in this world, can be subdivided into elemental categories for this being, which stand behind everything seen, heard, smelt, or felt; in the case of the sense of sight, for example, grid patterns and textures...


If Sprague had really tried to create life only by using a simulation that took advantage of these virtual realities, what would this life - Rose knew - feel like in the real world?


Emily looked at the distant mountain range.


Rose did not know about the Caribbean beyond the mountains - she could not know about it. And the motion patterns of the surging waves there were far too complex for the present representation to accurately reflect.


At some point, the day will come when all wave movements on the sea can be sampled in real time.


And for Rose, this man-made, shapeless reality, maybe someday a moment will come when she got to know the sea.


As Emily contemplated this disheveled scenery, attached to and trapped in machinery, wandering somewhere in the human-machine boundary, she was overcome with melancholy.


Sprague, what are you trying to do?


"Good, I'm in the system! Boss, are there any changes?"


The textures on the grids release themselves from the models and disintegrate into particles that disappear as pixels. Even the forest, which had become an inorganic lattice skeleton, began to collapse rapidly... no, rather, the lines formed new structures.


THERE IS…


Emily wanted to type something on the keyboard, but stopped and looked at her surroundings, puzzled. After the sudden storm of geometric shapes subsided, she suddenly found herself in a subway. It was the scenario she already knew from the video footage.


There were no passengers in the subway. It was quiet, she seemed to be in the front car of the train.


Emily felt something warm rush past her legs, and when she looked down, that fluffy warmth turned out to be a black cat. The cat moved towards the rear car and then stopped. She glanced back at Emily, her tail waving smoothly in the air. It looked like she was asking Emily to follow her.


"What's happening? Please answer!", Kinuta’s voice sounded from the headphone. 


Emily typed her answer without taking her eyes off the cat.


She shuddered, then tensely followed the cat.


EVERYTHING’S OK. MOVING ON.


"Huh?"


After Kinuta had received Emily's answer, he noticed a strange signal and tilted his head. In addition to the signals from the tank, another access signature suddenly appeared. This meant that someone else was accessing the VR system from outside. Now, at this very moment!


"What is it?" Asked Fuchs, who watched next to Kinuta and the screen.


"In addition to our local connection, someone has access to the system."


"What about Sprague?"


Kinuta hastily entered commands and tried to locate the source of the traffic. This was surprisingly easy, the result was all the more amazing.


"Access is via all five servers of the institute and also from the Rose capsule. A huge singal boost as well!" Kinuta looked at Fuchs in surprise.


"And that means?" Fuchs asked.


"Maybe it's Rose. An information entity, like Carmen. The superstructure, the incarnation of all information within the network."


"Nonsense. I have seen Rose in Raccoon City in person. She was a girl of flesh and blood," replied Fuchs.


"And I thought Rose was a vaccine?" Selfridge shouted from the door.


Kinuta put his arms behind his head and thought for a while.


Rose didn’t have a physical body; nothing to concretely grasp. Living things tend to consist of mind, body, spirit…

"Of course!" He suddenly shouted and jumped up excited. Relieved from Kinuta's weight, the chair made a cheering squeak.


If one considered mind, body, and function exclusively as a unity, the answer is hidden. But Rose was not a unit, she was a living thing split into several parts. She had a mind in the form of information from the network, she had a body in the form of the muddy broth, and finally she had a role as a vaccine against the T-virus.


"It wasn’t the director that took over Carmen, but Rose...!"


Fuchs raised an eyebrow in response to Kinuta's murmurs.


"And the video clips in the system are her thoughts. Here, and only here there is a world for Rose to live in." Kinuta switched the monitor to video mode and was amazed at the scenery that appeared on screen - these were no longer the mountains of Guatemala. It was the inside of a... subway?


Emily's gaze moved slowly in the raging subway, swaying slightly to the rhythm of her footsteps. In the darkness in front of her there was a shrill clatter of luggage. Kinuta was startled when he noticed that his breath had accelerated by itself. He grabbed the his chest near his heart with both hands, but his racing heartbeat did not want to calm down.


At this moment we may touch on the core of all events.


Fuchs shouted into the microphone: "Miss Ran, there is someone else who is accessing the simulation! It's too dangerous. Get out of there!?"


"What are you talking about? We're just getting to the bottom of the truth," Kinuta replied, startled.


"If someone from outside can control the system here, then they can easily cut off the oxygen supply! We need to abort the mission prematurely."


"But…"


A message from Emily appeared on the monitor.


EVERYTHING IS GOING AS PLANNED. CARMEN IS UNDER OUR CONTROL AGAIN. PLEASE. IT MUST BE NOW POSSIBLE TO CONTROL THE VENTILATION CONTROL SYSTEM.


Fuchs and Kinuta looked at each other. Kinuta jumped back in his chair and hacked eagerly at the keyboard - a status display of the in-house ventilation systems appeared on the screen. Immediately he gave orders to stop the leak of the virus in the corridor in front of the VR room, and the splattering they had heard from outside fell silent instantly.


The noise was unbearable. Emily wanted to cover her ears, but with the noise coming straight from the headphone, it was a pointless endeavour. There was nothing left for her to do but try to ignore the clattering luggage. Emily thought she heard someone shouting for her in the middle of the roaring noise, but she was too busy concentrating on what lay ahead to be sure.


Her field of vision was severely limited, and she was afraid of losing sight of the cat ahead of her. The graph was also severely disturbed by commotion. It was as if the black cat could disappear any moment in one of the many small cracks that opened up everywhere.


A clown with colourful pompoms passed by her. Emily looked at him intently, but the clown did not respond, giving the impression of a completely incapable mind. The black cat was now running faster and seemed to be heading straight for the back wagons. But just as the cat entered the next car, it suddenly rose in the air and disappeared without a trace.


Emily stopped and looked around in concern. Although the track swayed violently, she had no problems keeping her balance. She walked closer to one of the seats where a single girl was sitting. Maybe she was sleeping, because she remained motionless.


Although it had to be a virtual person in a virtual reality, unlike the clown, this girl exuded a very real presence.


She had the face of Reena Mittford. Emily called up the virtual keyboard.


YOU ARE... Emily started contacting her.


The girl looked up at her distractedly, as if she were looking at Emily but not perceiving her. Her consciousness seemed to dwell in a distant dreamland.


"Do we know each other...?" The girl asked. It was impossible for Emily to tell if it was Reena or any other person.


CAN YOU TELL ME YOU’RE NAME?


At Emily's question, the girl grimaced. Emily felt a cold shiver over her back, because it did not seem like a woman making a face. It seemed like a piece of paper was being wrinkled together.


"Go away," said the girl.


HEY, WHO ARE YOU?, Emily hastily entered the keyboard.


The train stopped, and the girl rose. It looked like she wanted to get off at this station. As she left the compartment, the girl almost whispered, "Alma... Alma Hartline. And who or what are you? Are you human?"


The answer already on the lips or rather at her fingertips, Emily noticed that she was suddenly back in another place. She sighed, called up the virtual keyboard, and typed in a message for Kinuta.


KINUTA, HOW ARE THINGS GOING FOR YOU?


She listened intently and tried to filter out Kinuta's voice from the stream of noise. But as much as she concentrated, she could not hear an answer.


"A complete success. Carmen runs again!", Kinuta yelled into the microphone. 


"Boss, it looks like we have full control over the aeration control system again!"


Letters appeared on the screen.


IN ORDER. TO MAKE IT WORK. PURGE ROSE FROM THE INSTITUTE.


"I'm on it," Kinuta murmured, licking his lips happily.


He balled up his hands and powerfully cracked his knuckles. Then he turned back to the keyboard. He did not know why, but the whole situation was a lot of fun. 


The panic of being trapped and surrounded had vanished completely.


"Is this really all so easy?", Whispered Fuchs, who was standing next to Kinuta and raised his eyebrows to emphasize his scepticism.


Kinuta paused his fingers for a moment on the keyboard and smiled brightly at Fuchs. "It's like the egg of Columbus. The simplest solution - as predicted from Emily Ran. Whoever is our opponent, they probably did not expect us to go directly into the lion’s den. In the end, the one who is ready to act wins."


Input by input, the displays of the individual ventilation systems jumped from red to green again. The survey map of the institute in the upper left screen sector indicated that now all ventilation systems were at a standstill.


"Fine, it is done. Only a little more of this mystery to unravel. But…"


Kinuta stopped his fingers, which had rushed across the keyboard at breathtaking speed, and stopped to think. Shortly thereafter, he began to enter orders again with breathtaking speed.


"What are you doing now?" Fuchs asked.


"Switched from our local connection to the network... I’ll search the servers." 


Kinuta raised his head.


This is our chance. We'll throw Rose out of the network!"


"Don't get bogged down. It's much more important to check the status quo." 


Fuchs grabbed Kinuta’s arm. He looked at Fuchs slightly annoyed. But he really does not understand anything. This is the chance to finally get rid of Rose.


"Alright, even this should satisfy you..." Kinuta gave a hand command.


"Now I have the local connection and the network in control at the same time." His thumb impatiently patted the edge of the keyboard.


Suddenly there was a hissing sound as compressed air came out, and the door, which was supposed to be locked, opened. Selfridge, who had lethargically sat in front of the entrance, jumped startled.


In the doorway stood a tall woman. She had long black hair, a face like porcelain, and her slender limbs were shaking. Her torn overalls hung in rags on her body.


"What are you doing?" Kinuta frowned. He walked slowly toward the woman, almost as if in a trance. "What are you doing here... Reena Mittford?"


"Hey, don’t get any closer!", Warned Fuchs.


Kinuta stopped in the middle of the room. The red muddy water that had rained down the corridors streamed into the room between the woman's legs and settled over the floor like an oil film.


Kinuta felt each of his body hairs straighten up. Selfridge slowly felt his way along the wall towards the tank.


"Hey, Kinuta! Take a look at this! What’s happened now?" The voice came from Fuchs.


"What is it?" Kinuta replied.


"The green lights are slowly all turning red again!"


This remark from Fuchs seemed to have been the signal.


A detonation, as if metal striking against each other, sounded and compressed air was spewing out of the openings of the ventilation system. In the next moment, red muddy water began again to irrigate the corridor outside. We were tricked!


Kinuta trembled. Rose had just been waiting for him to open the local connection and the network at the same time. And now she was seizing the full power needed to eliminate the foreign bodies that had invaded the VR system. The protective wall did not last long.


"Here, Kinuta! Help me get her out of the Tank!"


Kinuta looked around. Richard Fuchs had climbed onto the huge metal cube and screamed toward him. Next to Fuchs was Christian Selfridge, who also looked in Kinuta's direction. But Kinuta’s knees were as soft as Pudding, and he did not manage to put one foot over the other. Seconds later, he finally shook off the paralysis and tried to get into one of the back areas of the room. However, he slipped in the red muddy water and fell to the ground. His body was covered with red mucus.


"Why are you trying to escape?" Reena asked, laughing behind him. "Where do you want to flee?"


Reena's long arms snaked around Kinuta's neck. From the pores of her arms, innumerable red dots sprouted, which gradually grew larger and finally completely overshadowed her body as though in a time-lapse.


"You…"


Kinuta turned and looked into Reena's face. He froze for a moment. There was nothing where the face was supposed to be. A world of red, teeming nothingness spread there.


The liquid running down the floor gathered around Reena, surrounded her and began to merge with her. 


This way we are united


Reena's chest burst open and a second face burst out. It looked at Kinuta as it constantly changed like bubbling porridge in a saucepan and designed new shapes. The face uttered a loud laugh. Kinuta's screaming cry for help echoed through the room. The red mud completely covered Reena, and she became a huge, purple, jelly-like lump that swayed and twitched and finally absorbed Kinuta.


The scene changed. Again Raccoon City. A situation that had already been seen on the monitors of the institute. Human, meat-eating zombies walking the streets... Emily hid herself behind the nearest pile of rubble. Her heart seemed to jump wildly in her chest.


The VR suit even carried the scorching wind that was caused by the blazing fires everywhere. The smell of burned flesh was in the air, and the stench was so extreme that Emily wanted to tear off the oxygen mask, which would have turned off all the components of the simulated smells. She was fighting for her self-control.


Keep calm, this is nothing more than a virtual reality. There is no danger. I am in the tank.


An infected person staggered past right in front of her face. Emily held her breath as the man did not notice her, but Emily was startled for a very different reason.


That's... Robert Prasch!


Without thinking, Emily wanted to run after the man, but stopped abruptly in her movement. These were undoubtedly Prasch's programs. His sunken, expressionless, mummy-like face she knew well enough from telecom - oh yes, it was that Telecom face!


The realization hit Emily like lightning. She jumped out from behind the heap of rubble and studied the walking corpses. Everyone had faces that she had seen somewhere before. Many obviously used the server ID images of the staff members who served for communication via Telecom. It almost seemed as if they were vying for the extras in a new horror movie.


The portraits had been laid as textures over the heads of the models!


Somewhere here, perhaps, a corpse also runs around with my face. Shuddering, Emily stared at the swaying people. That's almost like a parody of our research institute.


Ren Sprague had said the events at the institute were similar to those at Raccoon City, and he was convinced that the institute had been taken over by Raccoon City.


And in these pictures here Raccoon City imitates the events inside the institute like a hall of mirrors at the fair. A feeling of levitation, as if one had been thrown into an everlasting flood of reflections.


Loud laughter.


When Emily raised her head, the black cat was perched on top of the pile of debris. The cat jumped down, took a few steps, then looked back at Emily.


You want to take me somewhere again, eh?


Emily followed the cat and walked to a fenced basketball court on a bigger street. There was only a boy and a girl on the field; the cat had disappeared at some point. Even before Emily opened the gate in the fence and entered the court, Emily already knew who the two youngsters were.


Emily's eyes fell on Ulysses/Frank. The boy stood, legs apart, leaning against the pole of the basketball court and looking up indifferently to the sky. The girl was lying on the field with her arms and legs stretched out, looking at the sky as well. Both showed clear signs of infection - red tears in the skin, spots on the face, and in places, bare flesh. The girl had, however, as before, a strange real aura, which lacked with the other character here.


Reena/Alma looked over at Emily and laughed. "At last you came."


I finally have you. Are you behind the whole thing? Emily called the keyboard and hammered on it senselessly. She changed her mind again and again and had to correct the slander. Reena/Alma watched the whole thing with a smile.


WHO ARE YOU?


"I told you, I'm Alma Hartline. How many more times will you ask?"


YOUR NAME IS NOT  OF INTEREST TO ME. I WANT TO KNOW WHO YOU ARE. WHAT YOU ARE?


"A rose... open to everything, absorbing everything, making everything its own." She persisted in these words as if she were absent-minded. Impatiently, Emily knelt down and shook her. No reaction. Hastily, Emily called the keyboard and typed in a message.


ROSE... IT'S OK, IF I ACCEPT YOU'RE ROSE, ARE YOU?


The girl nodded.


WHERE IS REN SPRAGUE?


The girl looked at Emily and shook her head.


"Sprague...? I do not know any Ren Sprague. "


Emily sank to her knees and looked up at the sky where a helicopter was circling.


"Because my friend is safe on board. My diary... I have to get it. There are a lot of embarrassing things in there... Tell me, do I really stink?"


This remark made Emily aware of something. For a few moments, the stench had disappeared in her nose. What's more, the air that entered her mask had grown thinner and darker.


There is no more oxygen! Emily could barely breathe suddenly. KINUTA, 


KINUTA! SHIT, THE OXYGEN SUPPLY IS INTERRUPTED. HELP ME! 

PLEASE HELP!


Excited, Emily worked on the keys. Reena/Alma stared up, licking. The sky was uplifted by thunderstorms. Emily called up the virtual interface and calibrated it on the network.


I can’t wait any longer.


All textures peeled off, the world only remained as a grid of lattices. Even the shape was conceivably simple, the grid formed nothing more than a single huge cube. Emily was in the middle of this cube, shapeless.


The sound quality was now crystal clear and free of any noise, and the processing speed was incredibly fast.


Emily was excited, almost ecstatic. She dialled Carmen's backup copy inside the system and prepared to reboot. A new born Carmen - even if she died, you could quickly create a new one.


Carmen - oxygen, please!


Feeling embarrassed, Emily thought she was moving through various scenes: an avenue, the interior of a bus, a graveyard, a greenhouse... and she understood. 


This was not even a black box. Everything was illusion. A lithographic of knowledge in which reactions were faked as consciousness. No more than a diary filled with recollections of their past. Whether it was the crowbar of imperialism, or a touch of tenderness a story still remained a story.


Ren Sprague appeared in her mind's eye. His light hair, his emaciated face, marked by countless disappointments and judgment.


Sprague's yearnings had produced the story-and the story, after all, had devoured Sprague.


The answer is so easy! And Carmen - that's how I too, as an accomplice, 

contributed to pushing history forward. Carmen did not cause any problems at all, she just played with Rose without any resistance. Rose and Carmen were one from the start.


"Great, is that you, Emily?" Her father laughed.


The text generation program randomly stringed the episodes together. That's how this game worked. The stored stories the actual user-entered met and were interwoven. In this way, gradually a strange collage of individual stories came into existence.


The brave little tailor suddenly appeared in the Tales of the Arabian Nights, and Don Quixote quarreled with Captain Ahab. But the program could do even more; even a simple conversation was possible with him.


WHO AM I?, I entered with my clumsy forefingers over the keyboard.


After a brief reflection, the outdated Apple answers: CARMEN. YOU ARE CARMEN.


Father snorted. "That's the name of the woman who did the bullfighting!"


From then on, I was Carmen, and my daughter would receive the same nickname.


"You can’t go out, there are too many germs!"


My daughter, my sweet little Carmen, who has inherited my weak immune system. I gave this name...


"Carmen immediately put all ventilation systems out of service."


"Roger that."


Emily took a deep breath-even this Carmen was probably going to be taken over by Rose again, but that couldn’t be stopped.


Emily checked the time projected into the glasses. It was already 02:00am. She decided to set the date for Carmen's rebirth as an AI at 03:00am - the hour of truth.


Suddenly the world was shaking. The loud noise began again to its usual pattern, and the existing of a simple grid cube dissolved from one moment to the next. Her field of vision suddenly became jet black and panic took possession of her. Hysterically she hit and kicked out.


In the midst of perfect darkness, absorbing all the light, Emily swam wildly and haphazardly in the sticky liquid, searching for an exit. Although the tank was only five meters wide, there was no exit to be found. It was almost impossible to distinguish from above and below in the heavy bearing water - but then, suddenly, under Emily, something round appeared that was like the light at the end of the tunnel.


The small square world had turned upside down. With all her strength Emily worked her way to the light. Suddenly a strong hand reached for her arm, pulling her up and twisting, and before she knew it, Emily was pulled out of the tank. She clung to the arm that took hold of her, clambered up to it and exited on top of the tank after a sweeping rolling motion she was clawing away from the hatch. She was feeling anxious - the normal consequence of an extended VR session. She lay on the tank on her side. Emily took off her glasses and pulled the oxygen mask off her face.


"What happened? I almost got killed!"


"Me too…"


Emily looked in the direction the voice had come from. In the immediate vicinity, a tall man gasped for breath. It was Richard Fuchs. From his body dripped the yellowish-green carrier fluid. Fuchs settled on the tank and took a deep breath. Emily pulled with a jerk on the tight-fitting hood of the rubber suit, which broke loose from her head with a snapping sound and then dangled between her shoulder blades. The viscous liquid stuck in her short dark blond hair, and it almost seemed like Emily had combed her hair back with gel. She took off her gloves and wiped her face with her palms. She felt miserable.


"You saved me. Thank you."


Fuchs only silently raised his hand.


"Are you all right?"


Fuchs nodded almost imperceptibly. His whole body was covered with blood, and you could see right away that he had to be badly injured. "Rose came in here eventually. I do not know what exactly happened. We were tricked."


“Tricked? And where did she go then?"


"No idea. She did not come to kill us anyway. After she had totally destroyed the facility, she simply disappeared again."


Emily looked around the room. It was completely devastated and presented a terrible picture. The terminal was disassembled into pieces, and smoke spilled from the supercomputers in the wall. The tank was tilted to the side and bulged with bumps and dents.


"Kinuta - where is Kinuta?" Emily asked.


"He was taken by her she consumed him. He was petrified with fear and had no chance..." Fuchs paused, as if only now he could remember correctly and became white.


Emily lowered her eyes. "Kinuta..."


"The ventilation systems are out of order!", a voice came from the door. Selfridge clung to the door frame. His gaze was fixed on the corridor, he seemed exhausted. The few remaining spare hairs on his head were disheveled in all directions, and his orange shirt was crumpled as if it had been washed without water softener and then left unchecked.


Emily jumped down from the dented tank. "It is better to wait until everything has been completely decontaminated." She disappeared behind the tank, took off her VR suit and slipped into her clothes. Looking at her soiled jacket, she grimaced, instead throwing on a white coat, which had been the hamper. She returned the bags to the floor, dropping a few crumpled sticky notes, and stashed the items from the pockets of her dirty jacket into her new coat.


As she came out from behind the Tank, Fuchs was squatted against the wall, leaning against the floor. Emily walked over to him and sat down next to him. Selfridge was standing near the door, still staring restlessly into the hallway.

Fuchs spoke first. "So? You met her? What is this Rose really? What happened in there?"


"That's difficult to explain... There was a lot of sceneries in the beginning, and I thought maybe that was Roses’ consciousness. But in the end, it was just part of a script prepared by Sprague. That Rose should unite with Carmen, it was intended from the beginning. For this purpose, it has been integrated into the system of the institute and has been cultivated this way."


"That really does not make me feel better. Not that I understand you anyway."


"Well, well... when this project started, I was just overjoyed because it gave me the opportunity to do my experimental simulations. I couldn’t have asked for anymore. Simply transfer the simulations to the test fluency, reconcile their responses, and record the results. Again, I meticulously compared these results with re-shots from other experiments, trying to arrive at the most appropriate reaction pattern for an antibody. So I developed the proteins necessary for the development of a vaccine against the T-virus on the basis of trial and error. This hardly differs from what happens in the body of a human being. These theoretical simulations should have been the starting point for the practical development of a T-virus vaccine. But Ren Sprague pursued other goals. Now I realize that. For him, Rose was a revolutionary move to verify his own theory."


"Sprague's theory? And what kind of theory is that?"


"You cannot simply give the immune system a vaccine and trust a universal effect. Immunity is from the start a closed system tailored to the individual."


"That came up earlier, but I still do not quite understand it. So immunity is not a function that fights illnesses?"


"Exactly. The immune system differentiates between one's own body and that of another person. So you cannot just use antibodies for one person's disease successfully, especially for another person. On the contrary, then it could even happen that the actual illness is missed and healthy body cells are attacked. Say, a vaccine does nothing more than make humans strong against the real enemy by letting them fight in advance against an imaginary opponent. However, the development of the actual defence substance, i.e. the antibody, takes over the immune system, within the patient's individual conditions."


“Imagine a shooting game with cardboard targets. If you catch a criminal, you'll advance your score, but if you blow away a civilian, there's a deduction."


Fuchs put his hands together, pretending that his two index fingers were a weapon, aiming in the air and imitating the recoil of a shot.


"It’s just an analogy to understand the situation... But it is an exercise that, if not performed well, can kill someone. Especially if the enemy is as strong as the T-virus. The T-virus, after entering the human body, attaches to the cells and alters their structure for its own benefit. Similar to a soldier who is hypnotized and suddenly attacks his own country. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to develop a vaccine - because, when infected with the T-virus, two different DNA’s are in one body. In the unfavourable case, this exercise does not kill the virus but the hosts DNA."


"That's right, that's what they said yesterday... Through the self-destruction of the immune system, man is robbed of his humanity, and the lines of his existence are lost, which is basically when you become one of these...zombies."


"As a measure to combat the T-virus, the director has been looking for a way to attack the immune system in advance and to put it to a certain extent out of action. But a defenceless body necessarily becomes a nesting ground for foreign bacteria and viruses; simply put, they fall ill. But Sprague did not think so. He simply saw this as a change of body."


"What an idiot. A disease is a disease!"


"Thinking like that would be normal. But not for Ren Sprague. According to his theory, a city still remains a city, even if after a bombardment all life in it has been erased and all buildings have been destroyed. However, this place is still a city, only with a changed appearance. Of course, this logic ultimately denies human life as a consequence. And Sprague said the sprawling manifestation was then the muddy water. Sprague's goal was not to create a vaccine but a new way of life that any system can overcome. And he has risen this way of life in the way of virtual reality."


Something that is open to everything, absorbs everything, makes everything stop. 


A boundless worship. A boundless understanding. A limitless evolution.


"So that's supposed to be Rose?" Fuchs began to shiver.


Emily looked questioningly at him. He laughed. He laughed desperately, tears spilling into his eyes.


"I was in Raccoon City back then. As a soldier in Umbrella's private army, which used the name 'anti-biohazard special forces'. We had been sent out to gather information, and none of us had done justice to it. The terrible sight! This completely chaotic, shitty reality! I am a grown man and yet I was traumatized, my will to live disappeared. Moral questions, wrong and right, good and bad, black and white, shit on it! To live as simply as possible, to give thanks. Surviving or dying, whatever you chose, it was always the same crap."


Still leaning back against the wall, Fuchs stood up slowly. "You have a child, right?"


"Yes I have. A girl, seven years old..."


"And the father?"


"I don’t know where?"


"Nothing seems to be easy for you... who cares for the little one?"


"My parents, at our house. I'm not very suitable as a mother. For many reasons. I'm not necessarily a big role model."


"What do you say that?"


"Well, it's not as if I've always done my best and come out on top. It’s just how life goes. Things can go well, and things can go poorly. When I was a kid, life seemed different; rather in a constant curve, not just simple ups and downs!"


"Even if it seems different, keep this in mind. That makes a great life for your girl."


Involuntarily, Emily stared at Fuchs. "That these words come from you surprises me the most."


"Let's make sure we get out of here alive!"


Fuchs made an honest effort to produce a cool wink.


Selfridge, who sat next to the door, spoke up after a long time and whispered to them: "Enough feeling sorry for yourselves. Let's get out of here now."

Emily looked at her watch. Yes, it was time. She looked at the destroyed VR machine. Now it is no longer possible to contact Rose. And Carmen can only be restarted once more. This is definitely the last chance.


"And what is the plan? Are we going to say goodbye to this cursed institute?" Fuchs asked as he held out his hands.


"No, it's too early to escape." Emily grabbed his hands, and pulled him up.

Fuchs looked at her questioningly. "And what do we do then?"


"We are going to find the director! Ren Sprague is probably in the control room. We will pay him a little visit."

Chapter 7


October 4, 2:45 pm, Control Room


Innumerable cables, which sprang from the institute's gigantic generator, wandered here and there on the walls. The whole thing offered a very strange picture. Several tubes ran across ceiling & walls, and stuck together, somehow resembled a skeleton, or at the very least looked like bony growths. On another wall were countless square monitors attached and showed different areas of the institute. Everywhere on the screens one could see Rose's red muddy water, which seemed to have spread over the whole complex.


In the control room, it stank almost unthinkably of rottenness. On a round metal chair in a corner sat Ulysses Allam. He held a submachine gun like a stiff doll, and it seemed he was chewing words in his mouth.


The most extreme smell was blowing from his direction. The skin of half his face was already completely gone and the red flesh hung. His rotten muscles, which no longer held the lower jaw in place, were showing freely, and the left half of his body had almost completely liquefied. A tentacle protruding from his left elbow joint was affectionately strung over the barrel of the sub-machine gun. His figure in the spotlight of the glaring neon tubes looked like that of an eerie creature from a strange world. Surprisingly, Hiromu Kinuta sat directly beside it. He had his arms around his knees.


Kinuta did nothing but stare blankly at the ceiling and showed no reaction when Emily appeared in front of him. Sprague sat in a chair in the back corner of the room. At his feet was a blue box making a constant humming noise, probably a cooling unit of some kind.


"Well, my dear guests, first of all I would like to express my most heartfelt congratulations to you. You have done well, survived and made it this far. I'm truly happy from the heart. By the way, it was important for me to support you in your efforts."


"Mr. Director, tell me immediately what's going on!" cried Selfridge, who had returned to his old arrogance.


Ren Sprague gave him an indifferent look. Emily, exhausted, leaned on the desk near her.


"Ren, what did you do with Kinuta?"


"Nothing at all. You had drawn him into this matter. Kinuta met Reena and unfortunately was assimilated by Rose."


"Where is Reena Mittford? Is she alive?"


"Her life as an individual is over. She sleeps now, at one with Rose."


"Do not tell us that shit. Surely you were the one who killed Reena, was it you?" Emily was upset.


Sprague snorted through his nose. "Well, how can I explain this? If you look at it from your point of view, she practically committed suicide. But that would be a one-dimensional view. Perhaps comparable to the falling down of lemmings from a cliff - also could be described as group suicide. Reena was well, after the crash in the VR room. She started to think she was Alma. That was really an unfortunate coincidence. Roses’ consciousness had come to the front from the background of the simulation. Reena foolishly repeated the same immersion of a simulation from a private dive and was probably the trigger for it. Most likely, Rose used Reena's face as a mask for her alter ego, she considered Reena a 'relative'. Then I decided not to hesitate for a moment longer. Finally the time had come to release Rose."


Sprague narrowed his eyes to slits and laughed flatly.


"And Kinuta?"


"He was too curious. That's why he lost his life. That is, his life as an independent individual. Now he's a vehicle that transports part of Rose."


Emily looked back at the crouching figure of Kinuta. His eyes were empty, his breath had stopped, and his body did not show the slightest movement. There could be no doubt for Emily that Kinuta was dead.


Just then, Hiromu Kinuta toppled over, shaking at regular intervals. Like a fish washed ashore, wrestling with certain death, wriggling for air.


"What's going on now? What the hell is going on now?"


Fuchs, who wanted to help Kinuta, was held back by Emily. "No! He…"


From Kinuta’s eyes and nose - poured a deep red, slack mass, which was by no means blood... the gushing speed increased explosively and his mouth gaped so much that it tore the skin deep into the cheeks. His nose burst like a fountain, and the liquid was now streaming down the corridor. For a moment, the disgusting mass rose up to the knees, then quickly dropped back to ground level. There it began to slowly, ooze between the thin joints in the tiles and spread like a net to the farthest corner of the room.


Apart from Ren Sprague, everyone was speechless at the sight of this bizarre and disgusting scene. Grief, terror and fear gained the upper hand. Only Sprague watched the spectacle casually, as if nothing special had happened.


"By the way, that's an old acquaintance of yours. Oh, poor Rose. If she does not get further electricity, she dies in this sad way. And that, even though she had previously entered into a symbiosis with her host... would be awful. A perfect life form that can swallow even the powerful T-Virus - and yet the most fragile in this world..."


Christian Selfridge screamed in rage, "I do not care about the virus, how many institute employees have already died here! Enough of this nonsense! Where the hell is the vaccine? As long as the serum is intact, you as well as I are off the hook. So, what about the vaccine?"


Sprague grimaced. "You really want to throw away Rose like an unwanted gift? Selfridge, you're a fool to the end, no one thinks you're smart. What do you plan on doing after this? Live a life of luxury, forget what it’s like to work for such goals, and just eat, drink, and entertain whores all day? Is that the type of life you want? A boring over-indulging life style that yields no progress? I guess that would be more pleasing to you, having come so close with death..."


Sprague had completely discarded his otherwise reserved and slightly timid nature, and Selfridge's face turned green with amazement and anger at this transformation.


"W-Who do you actually think you're talking to?!"


"Didn’t you ever have any doubts as to why a simulation expert was the head of a vaccine development project?"


Selfridge fought for words and froze in his effervescent and whirling movements.


"You are a gullible fool! The girl Rose does not exist. When I and Ambrose found Alma in Raccoon City, she was barely alive. But she died in the helicopter. Do you understand? She died. But even though she was infected, she died without becoming a zombie! I immediately injected her with a medication to keep her blood from clotting. Back at the institute, I immediately examined her blood and her uterus. I thought maybe her unborn child could still live - but it was in vain. The life functions of the foetus were already extinguished. All Alma left behind was a foetus, which had stopped breathing, and the cells in her blood."


Sprague took a worn diary out of his pocket and laid it gently on the desk. "This is her last legacy. The Diary of Alma Hartline. The script for this story."


"So she was already dead?" Fuchs spat the question outright.


"Yes, but I did not want to give up yet. After all, she had died mid transformation into a zombie. Emily, we have everything to thank for your simulations. The VR supercomputers have played through all imaginable possibilities of life and Rose was constantly supplied with electrical impulses. And so new life was created, similar to the beginning of evolution, when the laws of nature created primeval Neanderthals. Only billions of times faster. The simulation had left humanity behind and given Rose a completely new form. Rose has stood in the simulation at all theoretically possible crossroads of evolution, from potentially conceivable as well as unthinkable life forms experienced and created itself again and again within this experience. It is truly a philosophical existence!"


Emily looked through the window and was startled by the square courtyard, fifty yards wide, the courtyard began to turn into a pool filled with the red liquid, and the sparkling surface arose steadily.


"But... why does it multiply so much?" Fuchs asked, shaking his head.


"The cow...?" Emily murmured.


"I see. The cow body was a carrier! "Sprague replied.


"And what does that mean?" Fuchs asked, watching the sticky rising liquid.


"If it was just about spreading the virus, it was only supposed to contaminate the water supply. But he not only injected the virus into the cow, but also put Rose in it at the same time, because he put Rose in the water, which does not have any electricity, then she would have died soon after. So he included Rose in the capsule of meat, probably with a nine-volt battery between the ribs..."


"That was the beginning, a simple trigger, the first domino. After that, Rose would spread all by herself, with human bodies as the food soil."


Sprague grabbed the wrists of the retreating Selfridge and burst out laughing. 


"See! This muddy water is the vaccine you search for so desperately. Rose can not only penetrate into all imaginable living things, but also destroy any kind of virus. She is a live vaccine! Unfortunately, she also destroys the diseased systems..."


Emily looked at the sunken meatball that had been Hiromu Kinuta recently.


"Healing means destruction in a sense. For what is generally perceived as 'good' is in reality extremely cruel. Any kind of healing destroys the pathogen's virus - that's the basic method behind any cure."


Sprague threw his head back and forth excitedly. As he did so, the rocket-shaped ballpoint pen he had clamped behind one of his ears fell to the ground and rolled right in front of Emily's foot.


Emily crouched down slowly and picked it up. "Ren, your logic is based on simply amputating an injured leg and allowing the wound to 'disappear'."


"You see that’s completely right! In fact, healing does not interest me in the end." Sprague once again burst out laughing.


The seams of some pipes on the walls finally did gave into the internal pressure and burst open. The muddy water, Rose, spilled out of the pipes. As if following a very specific purpose, the liquid accumulated drop by drop. At the same time, she seemed to want to slowly seal the people in the room. Sprague picked up the square blue box that resembled a cooler with both hands.


“In here are the novel stem cells that were cultivated from Rose's advanced blood cells. The heat generated by the box's own engine protects them so they last for another three days."


Sprague set the box down in front of Emily's feet. 


"Take this with you. You are the right person for it."


Emily, who for a moment was about to instinctively reach out her arms, but remembered something, and hastily buried her hands in the pockets of her white coat. Then she pulled out a floppy disk that she held in front of Sprague's nose.


"I do not need that. Earlier in the VR room, I copied most the important data on this disk here. I deal with simulations. That's why I'm only interested in data and not in any of the cells you carry with you."


Sprague looked hurt for a moment. He smiled sheepishly. "Oh, right. Nice. If you think so, that's fine too... Okay, then I want to give this box as a gift to the 'Honourable' Mr. Selfridge. - Just disappear with it! Because you wanted this, you were so intrigued and this is what you want right, Selfridge? From these cells of Rose you can finally win and create your desired vaccine."


Sprague picked up the blue box and stretched it out to Selfridge. He took the box laughing and hung the strap around his neck. He looked like a drinks salesman in a baseball stadium, and when that thought hit Sprague in the head he had to burst out laughing.


"However, Rose is already everywhere. It absorbs vast amounts of the T-virus and continues to cultivate itself by infecting a system and optimizing it for its own benefit. Who knows, this administered vaccine may even help you heal the scale of your unprecedented stupidity."


Emily got goose bumps. Rose which has undoubtedly become the all-controlling queen of the institute. Just as she had switched off the VR machine's oxygen supply, she could easily suffocate all those present by blocking the ventilation system.


"I have a very bad feeling. We have to get out of here. Otherwise we will all be 

recreated!", Emily called excitedly to Fuchs.


Selfridge fled out of the room, as if at a signal, as soon as Emily had finished speaking. And just as all eyes turned to Selfridge, Fuchs gathered all his strength and slammed his full weight into Ulysses Allam.


Without letting a single sound go, Allam was smashed against the wall. 


Immediately Fuchs grabbed the machine gun that Allam had dropped. He aimed it at the swirling mass of red meat. Without hesitation, Fuchs fired. From the hail of the bullets, Allam was again thrown against the wall and then fell belly down. The tentacle on his arm wiggled wildly, as if to reach for something, and the whole body was shaken by cramps, which repeated at short intervals.


The sudden escalation of violence seemed to leave Ren Sprague completely cold. He only slightly raised his eyebrows.


"Ulysses Allam, the poor guy," he said. "Until recently, he walked on the border between t-virus and Rose, wavering between human and zombie. Was he so hateful to you?"


Fuchs kept his eye on Allam, who was writhing on the floor and gasping for a while, then aimed his gun at Sprague.


"Don’t move, you bastard! So that was your fucking plan? Spreading the truth about Raccoon City and Rose, causing Umbrella to collapse on the stock market. Was that your noble goal? So why the leak? What is this madness?!"


Sprague still showed hardly any movement. "Ambrose, you're a hothead, as ever. It would have been best if you had stayed in the shelter of Roses’ capsule room. For that very purpose, I had locked the room extra... Well, your job is done, the American public of this institute will be greatly harmed by Umbrella, and it is in your hands to care for that, after it comes to that. Because what happens when Umbrella is no longer? People cannot adapt to new circumstances as quickly as Rose. As a consequence of the natural course of human action, it will inevitably ruin humanity, it will inevitably come to a second, even a third Raccoon City."


"Stop talking like a crazy scientist! With your self-obsessed sophistry you've killed all your colleagues, you bastard!"


"I did nothing more than to create Rose. It was not my wish that so many people die. But I have no influence on that. Because everything that happens here arises solely from Rose's trauma."


Emily strode toward Sprague. "I had direct contact with Rose. Is she aware of that?"


"Rose is not in the possession of something like consciousness. Please do not compare it to such an inferior form of life as man and his so-called consciousness. Rose moves in a much higher, inaccessible sphere. Although it may seem to you that Rose has become a human, she has merely consumed human emotions. With the VR images as her gestures and words, she conveys us fleeting messages. But it is up to us humans to interpret these messages. Of course that was my script. But the performer and bearer of the messages is Rose. I messed up the system. Allam had become her soldier and threw the cow's body along with Rose and T-Virus into the water supply. People drank the water and spread the T virus. It seems contradictory, but for Rose, the spreading living vaccine and the deadly T virus is essential as its enemy. We needed the combination."


"Oh, shut up, you fool!" Fuchs shouted.


Emily grabbed his arm. "Look closely!"


From one of Sprague's nostrils ran a single red drop. It was not blood, it was Rose.


Sprague wiped the liquid away with his hand. "Well, it looks like it’s began with me too... If this continues, I'll end up there like the dead Kinuta."


The valve of one of the tubes that ran along the ceiling howled like a shrieking child, squeezed by an invisible force, the pipe cracked and was sent across the room, and struck the floor. From the resulting opening the slow liquid dripped down. Color, smell, and texture are very similar to rose when it was still in the capsule.


Sitting down, Sprague picked up a cable from the floor connected to the emergency unit in the corner of the room. Almost imperceptibly, his fingertips stroked the cable.


"If Rose is not connected to an electrical source, she dies within a very short time. A shy, fragile creature..."


Emily followed the scene with growing pity. Sprague's free hand reached into his pocket and produced a key, which he held out to Emily. "This is the key of my Land-cruiser. It’s not beautiful but she is reliable. If you should succeed in escaping from the institute, get far away!"


Emily took the key from Sprague's hand and slipped it into one of the pockets of her coat. "Was it your goal from the beginning to die this way? Since when? Since that day in Raccoon City?"


"That does not matter. Whatever it is that makes me ‘me’ is long gone. Forget about me, just leave and go home, get your favourite meal."


Emily suppressed the strong need to just scream out loud. Instead, she said, "One more question. Did you intend to kill us all? If so, why did you let me come here?"


Sprague stared at the pins on the plug, which dully reflected the light between his fingertips. There were pipes bursting somewhere. Rose began its ultimate attack on the control room - and yet, Emily could not take her eyes off Sprague.


"Well... I honestly do not understand that either. I just wanted to see your reaction. I have always respected you, you were my only research partner. I wanted to show you all my ideas and wanted your opinion. It really was not my wish that anyone would get infected, and yet of course there was nothing else to do... I do not know if it was Roses doing or mine... Honestly, I have no idea. Before I knew it, I had become part of Rose's body. And not only me. Everyone here at the institute became more like Rose at some point in time. I really have no idea what point it was my own will or inspired by Roses’ dream."


Fuchs fired the entire magazine at the roaring sea of ​​red liquid in front of him, but all he could do was spread a few splashes in the room. He hurled the submachine gun to the floor and shouted to Emily, "Now it's about to take over this room, we have to get away! Fast!"


But Emily was trapped in an eclipse from which she could not free herself. The flickering of the neon lights staged Sprague's laughing face, and that laugh conjured a youth into his face that Emily had never seen before.


"Ren, why did Rose take on human form? And why does she pretend to have human emotions?"


"Why? Maybe Rose thinks she's human. But then... where is the boundary between human and non-human? Man is an unstable and frighteningly vulnerable piece of mass, you never know when it might disintegrate. This piece of mass gives itself for a short while to the delusion of being human. But in reality, man constantly leaves his material body by creating new things."


Sprague held the cable connector in front of his neck. The pipes running along the ceiling burst and deep red mud splashed out.


"Goodbye, Emily. Goodbye, Ambrose. I do not have anything else to say. My time is up."


He slowly pressed the plug into a soft spot on his neck. His body jerked violently under the blasts of electricity, and he fell to the ground. The red muddy water that came out his body was like a prominence on the sun and drew a beautiful picture. It surrounded Sprague's lonely looking corpse.


The monitors, which had shown the rooms and corridors of the institute, switched back to the terrible images of the blazing Raccoon City. Ulysses Allam got up, stretched out both arms and fell into a shuddering roar. The light in the room went out, but the flickering of the monitors illuminated the room like a strobe. Fuchs wrapped his arms around Emily, who had stopped dead, and drove her down the hall.

 

October 4, 2:50 pm, Gates of the Research Institute


Christian Selfridge ran with a death-defying determination toward the lifts. All the questions he had wondered about so far vanished from his thoughts. Only one longing remains in his head.


I want to live!


The horrible sight of Kinuta, who had burst like a balloon and died miserably, had burned deep into his memory.


I do not want to die like that!


The box that was supposed to be the basis for the vaccine hampered him. The belt twisted and snared his neck. Breathing became more and more difficult for him. Selfridge wanted to get rid of that burden, but he could not leave the box behind.


Everything will be different if I get away with it. I can regain my unjustly lost honor and earn the prosperity I deserve. Because of my meaningless life! What did that crazy maniac not understand? My life is made up of challenges. In a constant battle, I have defeated all my opponents. And yet I have a meaningless life?


The box jumped back and forth on his bobbing neck. It was unbearably heavy, almost as if it could break his neck at any moment.


Damn, I just want to throw away this piece of crap - but I cannot do that under any circumstances!


With impetus, the box bounced against his kneecap, and overwhelmed by the force of the impact and the pain, hit him in the eyes as tears arose.


Damn it!


Angrily, Selfridge hurled the box away. It made a high, metallic sound as it skidded across the floor. Finally it crashed into a wall and stopped.


Selfridge stared at the ceiling. Why did this all happen? He had firmly believed it was a clever move to use Richard Fuchs. But things had turned completely absurd and far exceeded Selfridge's mind now. Rational thoughts or sophisticated questions were no longer of any importance here.


That disgusting, stinking, formless phlegm was the vaccine... was Rose? Selfridge just could not believe it. His hysterical laughter echoed through the corridor. He knelt on the floor and laughed Selfridge felt so pure.


He had been transferred to this remote research institute, forced into this unspeakable job as a "management officer"... and he was almost bored here.


But the reality that unfolded around him was as incomprehensible to him, as incomprehensible as the farthest star in the universe. All that remained was that undeniable sense of fear, that overriding fear of losing one's life.


But I will survive. I will win!


Selfridge spurred himself on, struggled to his feet and finally stood on both legs again. He looked down the corridor, his gaze fixed on the blue box Sprague had given him. The blue lamp at the top stared at him like an eerie eye. There was a chuckle at the top of the ceiling as if someone was drowning. His heart beat as fast as if it could like it might explode at any moment.


As if drawn magically, Selfridge moved toward the box. But when he had gone two or three paces, suddenly the light in the corridor went out. Directly from his eyes flickered a monitor, which was embedded in a small pillar. The whole thing was somehow reminiscent of a grandfather clock, and the screen on which the menu of the canteen was normally read showed the ratty face of a girl. Selfridge could not help but think that this girl was staring at him - with a slightly bemused expression.


Almost frightened, Selfridge stumbled to the blue box, squatted and hugged it as if she were his own flesh and blood. His child.


"It was not me! It's not my fault! Please forgive me!"


The pipe on the ceiling gave way to pressure and burst. Cloudy dark red liquid broke out. Warm drops rained down on Selfridge's cheeks, and an eerie aura took over the hallway. With the box wrapped tightly, Selfridge raised his head and looked into the dark corridor. There in front of him people stood side by side; they looked familiar to him. They were staff members he looked down on and whom he had secretly always mocked. Stunned, Selfridge's eyes widened, and a feeble laugh escaped his throat.


All of them had a black-red skin and staggered on the spot. Their legs were firmly together, and as soon as one of them moved, it tugged at his neighbor, who immediately moved himself in the same direction. This resulted in a chain reaction that disrupted the entire group. Each one gazed blankly at Selfridge,  unaware of an instinctive curiosity. Filled with fear and despair, Selfridge uttered something like a battle cry. And as if the ghostly crowd had been waiting for it, the people who now surrounded him in a semicircle completely merged and became a single huge lump, which towered like a wave and finally fell on Selfridge.


Selfridge's face was overflowing with the mischievous mass that immediately closed his mouth and nose. He felt the slime move down his pants and flow in the direction of his buttocks. Shortly thereafter, a heavy pain swept through him as something penetrated his anus. Selfridge's body shot up and landed on the ground, bobbing wildly. The slime mass flooded through his anus like a torrent and flowed into his body.


But Selfridge felt no pain, even though his butt was formally torn open. He was rather intoxicated by an extreme feeling he had never known before.


Yes more! Penetrate me! That feels... awesome. It’s the first time I have ever felt like this!


Selfridge writhed on the threshold between fear of death and total ecstasy, sobbing. His consciousness left the body. Finally he got up and started walking, the blue box grasped like a baby on his chest. Then Selfridge was pushed forward by a hard impact inside him. Unbelievably, he looked at the gaping hole in his chest, from which an unidentifiable black liquid immediately poured. Whether it was more about his own blood or the muddy mass, he could not distinguish. Without falling to the ground, the liquid gradually formed a tentacle, which stroked his insides.


The current. As moths seek the light, you yearn for power!


Selfridge could not believe he was alive, though there was a hole in his chest, big enough for the wind to whistle through. But his strength left him, and when he finally could not stand, he sank to the ground. His fingertips burst in turn, and the muddy water spilled out of them like hoses. After a short while, it completely shattered both his hands, and the stump began pumping out mucus incessantly. Selfridge still felt no pain, but a deep sense of satisfaction. Finally his whole body burst, and the muddy liquid shot out of him in a huge fountain. Surprisingly, Selfridge was still conscious at this time.


I am the being who is open to everything - that takes everything and makes it his own…

 

4 October, 02:55 clock, The Research Institute


Emily Ran and Richard Fuchs walked side by side through the corridors of the institute. In the pipes above their heads they hear thunderous rumbles. Rose absorbed electricity from every corner of the research institute. Similar to the rumbles through the pipe system, flashes of light caused by electrical discharges shot down the pipelines like jagged snakes.


"Look! It's still following us!"


Fuchs cursed, out of breath.


It seemed clear to Emily that Fuchs had already reached the end of his limit. The bullet wound on his leg had begun to bleed again. It also looked as if a considerable number of his ribs had broken, and in that condition it was a real miracle that he was still able to stand on his feet. But he would not be able to hold on to this show of strength for much longer. Fuchs leaned against the wall, exhausted, and then squatted down. "Go!"


"Lean on me!" Emily strode toward Fuchs and held out her shoulder.


"Forget it. This monster will catch us immediately."


The two stared at the end of the corridor. There stood the angry, insanely screaming Ulysses Allam's living corpse.


"Damn, we do not even have a gun anymore. It's over! You should get out of here!” Fuchs smiled at Emily.


Emily grabbed him by both shoulders, shook him and he said energetically, "Do not talk nonsense! As soon as you lost your weapons, you give up? We can do it! Together!"


"You have to be crazy! Do you really think I can make it out?"


With a pained face and waning eyes, Fuchs put an arm around Emily's shoulders and leant on her. The two stumbled along the corridor. A pipe in front of them burst open, and Rose shot out.


The surface of the glowing mass was gleaming blue in the glare of the countless electrical discharges and showed scenes of an apocalyptic Raccoon City - images of people eating one another in front of burning houses.


Rose's peculiar, animal-like exhalation, it sounded almost like someone’s throat had been sliced.


"Your memories can be uploaded?"


Emily stopped in surprise. Something that was far from human consciousness and indescribable skipped over the interface created by Sprague.


Allam's voice came dangerously closer from the darkness behind them.


Fuchs let go of Emily's shoulders and roared, his saliva flying out of his mouth! "Shit! A monster in front of us, a monster behind us! Where to now, Emily?"


Looking into the darkness, Emily answered, "Forward! Right there is a turnoff to the car park. We have to go there before Rose grabs us!"


Both took a deep breath and looked ahead. They thought of Hiromu Kinuta's death. When Rose snatched them, death was just as certain. Emily squeezed into narrow slits and wiped the dripping slime off her face as she moved forward. The liquid was as hot as boiling water, and it was as if bubbling lava were trickling down her arm. It was burning down her calves, too. Emily and Fuchs ran through the mud and turned in the corridor ahead. There, with great detail, someone had papered walls and floor with bodies. Fragments of Rose clinging to each body all showed the face of Alma, sometimes angry, sometimes leery, sometimes smiling, sometimes crying. By a sudden change in her body Emily fell into a fit of coughing. Fuchs, who was leaning against the wall and wanted to catch his breath, turned to her immediately. 


"Hey, are you okay?"


"Looks like I'm attacked by Rose. No problem, it's just a small amount."


Something wound through her body. A strange rhythm within her made her waver.


"Is everything alright ...?"


Fuchs went toward Emily, but she stretched out her arms and stopped him. Nausea rose in her - and inside her burned an unprecedented lust.


That's Rose. I've already felt that somewhere.


Emily’s head seemed to be twitching, and she felt a burning sensation all along her nervous system.


Her consciousness was overshadowed by something; disconnected visions followed each other in jerks.


I want to leave my body. I want to sleep.


The growl from her own mouth sounded to Emily as it came from somewhere far away. Disillusioned, she stared at the falling liquid.


Ulysses Allam came stomping through the rain of red mud. He grunted as if answering the sounds from her mouth. Then he uttered a bestial scream, and the air really shook. His figure was no longer that of a human being. His body had almost completely liquefied and was traversed by a constant flow of Rose. The head had fused with the torso, and his arms had become huge lumps of meat dragging across the floor. One hand had grown from the shoulder, flapping aimlessly in the air. The legs had grown together on the heavily swollen knees, and out of this swelling-like clump came four flesh-colored arms that pruned the body. From a red gap that had formed between the head and torso, an animal voice penetrated. Fuchs screamed and sagged in horror. Emily noticed Allam and felt as if she were being filled by knowledge. Only her head was burning hot - a fiery impulse in her body sent crystal clear thoughts through her mind.


I am Alma.


There was no fearsome monster in front of Emily's eyes. No, this was a pitiful creature, plagued with incurable and terrible pain, who was right in the middle of the war between Rose and the T-virus and wandered about restlessly. A strange sensation, but Emily felt as though she herself had become this grotesque apparition. Her thoughts kept on going.


I am Rose... I am the being that is open to everything, absorbs everything, makes everything its own. I am Reena. I am Kinuta. I am Robert. I am Simon. I am Tobi. I am Emily. I am Ren Sprague. I am Alex. I am Arthur House. I.


Emily turned to Fuchs. Carmen has started up again at three o'clock.


"Richard, you have only been here recently. You may still have hope. Do not worry, this expansion of Rose is just a passing phenomenon..."


Emily took some distance from Allam and at the same time a strained posture.


I'm not afraid.


In her mind's eye, the picture of her parents and her daughter Ann appeared.

Excuse me. But now I have to face all that I have done to this day. I have to put an end to the whole thing. The love I could not give you, the words I could not tell you... The only thing I gave you is the burden of a genetic immunodeficiency. But Ann, you will certainly rise from your own strength and go your way. You will begin to write your own story, where you are now. Emily checked the time and threw her watch away. She was afraid that the tiny amount of electricity in the battery could betray her. In addition, there was no need to know the time. It was almost too late, but the moment for Carmen had arrived.


Emily slowly opened her mouth while keeping her eyes on Allam. "Carmen, can you hear me? Put the system back into operation. Turn on any lights."


"Roger that."


The neon tubes from the corridor flickered, buzzing to life. Emily squinted and watched Allam behave. She remembered his extreme reaction when the light in the medical department suddenly came on.


In the neon glow, Allam staggered around curled and looked up at the ceiling. At the same moment a thousand small pinpricks jerked through Emily's nervous system. It felt like her chest raised and would hover over the ground.


"That's not enough, Carmen. Supply all electrical outputs with electricity. Everything!” Emily strained the words she had formed somewhere in the depths of her dwindling consciousness. Without exception, all the computers and electrical equipment within the institute began to work again.


Carmen shrieked and went out. Emily's field of vision was overshadowed by glittering white. The world whirled around her like a whirlpool and began to expand and contract alternately. The institute's power generator was overdriven and on the verge of giving up. The energy supply was phased out, the lighting went on and off again. If all that this being could perceive was electricity, then for Allam and for Rose, the world would now continually expand and contract - a flood of light would soon become a sea of ​​darkness.


I put my finger on the trigger and look into the glassy, ​​lifeless eyes.


Trapped in her flickering consciousness, Ulysses Allam called in her mind. It was the voices of Reena Mittford and Alma Hartline, who were deeply immersed in her heart. With blank eyes, Emily spread both arms to hug Allam, but just then he fell on his back and began spasmously squirming on the floor. His figure was nothing more than a flesh-colored mosaic. A lump of flesh, raging uncontrollably, spreading a dark lake of blood around itself, while its body released blue light in electrical discharges, and it was covered by the falling liquid.


Embraced by Rose, who was dressed in the images of the burning Raccoon City, it seemed like Allam was going into purgatory. Fuchs finally managed to get back on his feet by pulling himself up against the wall. Then he put both hands on Emily's shoulders.


"Hey, what happened?" he shook her violently. 


Emily looked into his brown eyes. "Everything OK."


The neon lights on the ceiling only glowed weakly. Emily turned her eyes to the floor. Even Rose’s muddy water, which had accumulated there and covered everything, now flowed away somewhere, and a certain sadness seized her.


"Rose is in us."


The bulk of Ulysses Allam's body also dissipated, leaving only his upper body and pulsing weakly.


Frank.


Emily slowly approached him and pulled Simmons glock out of his pocket.


When she turned the ignition key on, the land-cruiser's engine started without a grunt. Emily put it in the reverse gear and stomped on the accelerated pedal directly into the garage door.


The gate swung out, broke off its hinges, and was thrown out in one piece. Emily yanked the wheel and slipped into forward gear. She raced toward the main gate with the two unoccupied gatehouses, and the land-cruiser whirled across the street.


This is our last chance to escape. Not long, and everything here will be swallowed up by Rose. The Institute has become Rose...


Fuchs breathed in and out of the passenger seat.


"Are we out of danger?"


Emily looked in the rearview mirror. "Not yet. Rose is following us."


Fuchs looked back, exhausted.


Rose cannot live without electricity. There's a battery in the car, and Rose sensors follow it like a bee, attracted by a flower. But we can’t just stop the car and flee on foot. When we do that, we are sure to be caught and swallowed by the expanding fluidity. There is nothing left for us to do but try to be faster.


"Are you really feeling well? Are you not feeling the impact of Rose?"


Emily answered Fuchs' question with silence.


No idea. But my thoughts are getting clearer. Incredibly clear.


Rose shot out of the building complex, sloshing across the grounds of the institute with breathtaking speed, and in no time caught up almost to the back of the car. Emily saw the jelly-like red mass pile up behind them. When she looked forward again and spotted an object hopping wildly on the dashboard, she had to smile despite the precarious situation.


A pack of Marlboro. Sprague's little secret.


I really did not know.


Determined, she stepped on the gas pedal.

The black cat leaves a gaping hole in my field of vision. I close my eyes. I have also firmly closed my ears so as not to hear the firing of the cartridge. Because the smell of gunpowder comes to me, I turn off my sense of smell.


But in reality, I hear your scream - the moment I pull the trigger. The bang of the firing weapon discharging in the immediate vicinity, which almost ruptures my eardrum. I draw from the stench of a terminated life and keep my eyes closed. On the skin, a strange feeling is noticeable, as if a bruise was spreading. I am still conscious. I force my eyelids up and watch your death. The half-exploded head of your corpse.


Through the hole in your skull I see Raccoon City. The black cat roams the streets. 


The city is dying.


After I have finished my mourning cries, now, in my last shallow breaths, I only feel how my body gradually stops all its functions. The greenhouse creaks quietly in the wind. At some point, a raven settles down on the breast of your headless corpse.


Who are you?


The raven stares silently at me. Far behind in his pitch-black eyes lies a reason of even deeper darkness. There the cat sits and purrs loudly.


I'm dying, right?


The raven spreads its wings, and its open beak escapes an inaudible scream. I look at the corpse of Frank, who I had blown away half of his head. Many memories come up on me. Desires. Unfulfilled desires, half-hearted ambitions and moments of despair. I'm confused.


I curl up on the tarp, where your blood and brain mass have spread. When I close my eyes it becomes very quiet, and I almost feel like I'm lying on a sandy beach. The sun shines down on the sand grains, as in a mirrored house that reflects to the end of all worlds.


Moment by moment it stops and starts again. Every moment there is a detonation. And yet, people look to eternity and strive for the impermanent. People long for eternity and create things. They build cities for eternity, cars for eternity, schools, libraries, companies. Dancing at night, they see themselves after eternity, drown in erotic stimuli and promise themselves the actual eternal body. Everyone is a wizard, Alex. Everyone writes lying on his bed, whether on his back with his eyes to the ceiling or on his stomach with his legs kicking, eagerly reading his brief life in his notebook. These personal and senseless magic formulas reflect each other, and so the mirror house spreads in infinite variety ever more.


You cannot fall asleep! Come on, dance your dance! Kirkwood straightens his suspenders. Dance, dance, dance!


What do you think tomorrow brings? Which dance will I show?


But the raven crashes his answer: NEVERMORE! And his wings lie around me, lift me up in the air. On its wings I slide along the sky. Below me, Raccoon City burns, which has suppressed all our actions. It comes to an end. Suffering, hate, sadness, joy and pleasure are thrown together and pass away. The end of the beginning. The beginning of the end. The coiled snake attaches itself to the tail. I stroke the child in my stomach. I say goodbye to Raccoon City. The now tiny city resembles a flower that burns in the consciousness of their sins.

Epilogue


A single Land Cruiser raced down the nightly mountain landscape. Two headlights slice their way between the black hills. The mountains lay so quiet that it seemed as if they were slumbering deep in the darkness of the lightless night. Everywhere the scenery was like a big lie. The land-cruiser weaved its way down the mountain trail, pulling a cloud of dust and whirled pebbles behind. On a slope, where the road widened slightly, the land-cruiser finally slowed down and came to a standstill. Emily looked completely exhausted. Her arms were powerless on the steering wheel, her body was so flabby that she could not even feel a single finger stirring. She sank into the driver's seat and took a deep breath.


It should be enough here.


She looked in the rear view mirror. There was no sign that they were still being perused. They had escaped. In safety. All the anxiety and grief had vanished for a moment, and a mellow sense of joy spread over Emily.


"Look at this!" Fuchs shouted in the passenger seat. Emily looked where his eyes were at, wide with surprise, she stared. She almost choked on her breath.


Under the full moon, in the distance between the mountains, the research institute shone a dull blue. The outer walls of the building were covered by a huge reddish-black body of vermilion.


"Was it really that big? This monster that was in the tank?" Gasped Fuchs.


"Rose obviously got to harvest. She devoured the extinct T-virus as well as all her life in the institute and thus cultivated herself. This thing grows with every passing moment."


Fuchs shook all over. "Is it right, if we just leave it that way. If it continues to grow like that, then at some point it'll wrap up the whole world."


Emily had lowered her head, laughing softly and tormentedly. “What a fantasy you have, Fuchs. But yes, I think it's alright," she said, her eyes reflected in the moonlight twitching rose.


A perfect life form... and yet the most perishable in this world.


The electricity in the institute was generated exclusively by its own electricity generator. Rose had already absorbed everything at the institute, so she should dissolve shortly. It had proliferated and inevitably followed the path of self-destruction. And, in fact, it seemed as if the blue glow on Rose's surface was already losing its shine.


They got out of the car together and sat on the hood. Sitting side by side, they watched the inevitable deadly final manifestation of Rose. Her legs dangled over the floor as they smoked the cigarettes left on the dashboard. It was quiet. The moon poured its light from the sky, and the mountain range shone in a silver gleam, while the trees swayed in a mild wind. But this image, too, may have re-emerged from the consciousness of an intangible, unimaginable existence. Just as the virtual reality had symbolized Rose’s consciousness, so too could this scenery be the majestic figment of an entity that far exceeded human comprehension. But even that was probably a human error, as were two opposing mirrors that reproduced themselves infinitely. Nobody could escape from this cycle; as long as you breathed, the world continued to carry itself, and each time you refocused the viewpoint, more coordinates appeared within the fixed system.


Emily listened to the breath of the densely wooded, secluded, sleeping mountains. The wind shook on the tree tops, and the leaves chattered little secrets in their sleep, as if nothing had ever happened. Here and there can be heard the calls of an owl, the buzzing of insects, the rustle of the treetops. No more and no less.


On the cowl hood next to Emily, Fuchs whispered "Actually, I wanted to escape my nightmare. But now it seems that I have expanded my repertoire of inspirations for sweaty nights. I will probably continue to live through this dream. And with each passing time, I'll be a bit more tired. How long have I wanted for this day to be over."


Emily nodded softly. "It is probably better not to face such catastrophes again on provisional vaccines. If not the virus, then you are at least infected with a trauma."


Fuchs nodded with a weak smile. "Of course, the way things went, I have no plans for anything else like this. In a way, I have been born again today. It may have been bad circumstances but I was born again. Crying and screaming."


Fuchs scratched his head. "You helped me so much; changed me. Think you could give me a new name?"


"You want to go by a new name?"


"Yes – you’ve heard some of my names already. Ambrose and Richard Fuchs are just two of them. If my whereabouts change then my name changes too. But now I am at a point where am beginning to like the idea of a permanent name."


Emily closed her eyes for a moment, then opened her mouth.


"Tom."


"Excuse me?"


"Your new name - Tom."


The man next to Emily burst out laughing. "Tom, Tom!" So I'm to be baptized as Tom? You do not really have a taste for cool names, do you? Could you not have chosen a more exotic one? Like Montezuma or Osiris or something?"


Emily looked up at the sky, smiling. "I just like Tom."


Tom shook his head, which was a gesture of resignation, and lay back on the car’s hood. He put his hands behind his head. This childlike gesture inevitably reminded Emily of Sprague, and a stinging pain ran through her chest.
Ren, why did you create Rose? I would like to know that. Out of a debt to Raccoon City? Out of curiosity about creation and life? Or did you end up being nothing more than a marionette caught in Rose's story?


"Huck and the escaped slave Jim are aimlessly down in Mississippi. A journey without rescue, the endless river, the drifting..."


"What are you thinking about?"


"Huckleberry Finn."


"Oh, Mark Twain. I read that until the pages fell out when I was little. It was the only book I had."


"Huck wanted to free Jim. But slavery was too firmly rooted in society. Their journey continued aimlessly, and Huck did not know the solution either. But Mark Twain did not want this story on any slogan. But Mark Twain did not want to make this story a lucrative narrative, so he put a boy into the story as a savior."


“Ah, Tom Sawyer, right?"


Emily nodded silently and looked at the clouds moving in the night sky.
Tom Sawyer interfered in Huck's story, rewriting it and making his own story with a happy ending.


"And after the adventurous rescue, it turned out Jim was now a freed slave."


Emily closed her eyes, and saw Sprague's salacious face, just before he had hit the cable connector into his neck, it shook her deeply. Maybe Sprague had wanted a story with a happy ending. A story that affirmed everything that had happened in Raccoon City. He had worked so hard just to come to an untimely end.


"Well, I'm not as educated and noble as Tom Sawyer and I do not read any books."


Tom rolled to his side in amusement, then suddenly froze and screamed, "What's that thing going to do now?!"


He straightened up and pointed to the institute. There, Rose, whose glow was now almost extinguished, had curled up into a long, thin snake and was about to leap into the sky - the huge full moon that towered over the institute. Emily knew immediately what Rose was up to.


"The moon... Rose wants to go to the moon she knows from the simulation. Like insects attracted to a light, Rose believes that the moon is a huge source of electricity. In the virtual world, the moon was a few kilometers high with a fixed light.”


"A few kilometers? At least she can not get to the original."


"No, the attempt will inevitably fail."


The liquid dribbled dripping into the sky and became a purple snake. On her way up, she drew a blue spiral, wound her way on and on, trying to reach the unreachable distant moon.


To that celestial body on which the American flag had been left there.
Rose had a vision that she could never reach. When Emily realized this, she felt a great deal of sorrow in her chest. Probably there was still a remnant of Rose in her body, and now she was crying and thinking of the moon with infinite sadness.


Shortly thereafter, Rose paused in her futile climb and wavered, as if shaking her head. Its tip swelled and formed a huge ball that imitated the moon. The ball swayed noisily in the wind and then blazed up suddenly in a deep red.


"It’s burning up now?" Tom mumbled in surprise.


Only now did Emily realize she was shedding tears. "These are her memories... The memories of the burning Raccoon City manifested to its surface..."


It was the blood of an ominously large rose floating above in the night sky. Different vignettes of random memories showed across their faces. The scenes Emily had seen in her brief, casual encounter with Rose might just be whirling around there. The burning Raccoon City, people eating each other, and Alma and Frank, who, for all eternity, rolled half naked in the grass of the graveyard reaching to the horizon and beyond.


The rose withered and turned to ashes, silently raining down on the mountains, the woods, the earth and the heads of the two observers on the Landcruiser. Fuchs used a finger to write his name in the ashes, which remained lying on the hood and a melancholy layer formed.
Emily rummaged briefly in her pocket, took out the rocket-shaped pen and held it tightly in her right hand.

THE END


Afterword


The sparkle of an unpolished diamond by Norio Chaki, literary critic.
This book is the debut of Tadashi Aizawa. It won the second prize in the 'Biohazard Novel Competition' jointly advertised by Media Works and Capcom (Biohazard is the Japanese title of the Resident Evil series, note D. Ubers.) The concept of the competition was to allow Resident Evil fans to enter their own pieces of literature into the franchise. The best authors would be chosen and allowed to officially publish their work.


It is by no means the case that there have been no literary prizes on a solid topic to this day. One recent example is certainly the Seishi Yokomizo Prize. The traditional junior award from the world of mystery literature can already look back on more than 20 years of history and was complemented in the year 2000 in addition to the open competition section by a competition with a well-defined theme. However, the themes in this competition are very freely interpretable in terms such as "digital" or "family", with a close theme limitation, such as in this competition, did not exist with the single video game series down the line. The remarkable thing about this contest was that the entrances were not mere fiction of already well-known authors, but a competition between talented, creative writers, which made the results highly interesting.


From my experience as a jury member of countless junior competitions, I can say that it is easier to rate works from the same genre or with a similar theme. For example, in the wide field of mystery there are naturally very different approaches.


There would be the subgenre of the reality mystery where particular attention is paid to reality and style. Or the subgenre of the fundamental mystery, which is mainly about tricks and the dissolution of councils. Since in such a case one's own preferences can never be completely faded out, it is almost impossible to assess both subgenres completely objectively with respect to the main topic. However, if, as in the case of the existing competition, an identical scenario serves as a background, then the evaluation criteria are obvious. The linguistic style and structure, the integration of loving details and the depth of the figures that appear, provide points of comparison to counteract the authors' talents unadulterated. It is similar to a cooking contest in which participants compete with identical ingredients in their cooking arts.


From this point of view, the present competition was extremely interesting for the jury members as well. Unlike "ry_ri no tetsujin", however, the Biohazard Novel Contest was an open contest in which there was no entrant restriction. Since I was responsible for the pre-selection, the number of entries to be processed amounted to several dozen.


When the editorial team handed me the preliminary decision, this was my first concern. But to my surprise, it quickly proved unfounded. My task was to determine the winning entries in a second round from the submissions that had made the first hurdle. Although all the novels had the same background, the variety was enormous, as I was allowed to admire as the reading progressed. Considering that all the novels already had a first review and had already survived a first preselection process, they were also of high readability.


Furthermore, I was very surprised at the general level of input, although it was largely a matter of junior authors, they did not compare to other junior competitions.  If one were to contrast the level of young writers, then maybe this contest would be the one with the highest quality of contributions. Among all the candidates, however, it was the present novel 'Biohazard - Rose Blank', in which I had already felt on the first pages to hold something special in my hands. Immediately while reading the virtual reality scene from the prologue I was sure that this had to be the winner. The literary sensibility of describing the situation was unlike that of simple descriptions, but in a collection of individual portrayals, and the first-class style of speech, for an author who was only in his mid-twenties, his potential was almost frighteningly high. What impressed me most, however, was the figurative power to spin the whole story in the metaphor of "immunity".


And a participant with such a strong expressiveness, to describe the world of virtual reality, which is subject to very special laws, which, as far as I know, has not yet featured in recent junior competitions. The esteemed jury member Miyuki Miyabe pointed out the writer's skills with the following sentence "this authors work of individual character and writing skills even surpasses the competition winner" - and he was quite right with his opinion. But shortly afterwards, my convictions wavered a little. For at this stage of the competition the manuscript had a strong inconsistency that could be seen in this book, in the narrative perspective. In extreme cases, a single section had squeezed the perceptions of several characters together, making it difficult to understand, once reading the story. Even if the authors sensibility and expressive skills were extraordinary, a definition of the narrative perspectives and time frame or layout of the structural foundations, which form the basis of a novel. Failed.


For the end product, this was a fatal error, but it was catapulted  by the lack of implementation skill in the basic idea of the parallel structure of the novel. On the other hand, however, in every corner of the picture, the technical representation was shimmering through, for example in the description of the body of the skinned cow, or in the last scene where Rose ascends to the moon or in the prologue. Surprising passages and phrases were abound.


In addition, Aizawa's idea of ​​a "science fiction catastrophe survival novel" was new and refreshing, as highlighted by the selection committee. It rarely happens that the proverb of the "potential beauty of an unpolished gemstone" applies to a novel as unreservedly as in Aizawa's case. In the second elimination round, in which the finalists should be determined, the opinions on "Biohazard - Rose Blank" were split as expected. Balanced between two camps. There was the camp of those who thought a novel with such a divvied reputation could not be proposed as the winner, and then the second faction, which argued with the magic of this unique, unpolished gemstone.


Usually, however, in a final round, the winners are not determined by their potential, but about the actual quality of their delivered works. This is also due to the fact that a publisher can watch an unpolished gem, which unfolds its full quality after an editorial finish, and can wait for a new application. But even within this competition there was no such second chance. At the end of heated discussions this aspect was decisive. The second round of selection finally unanimously chose this work as the second winner.


Finally, I would like to point out one important point. The present printed edition has been edited by the author. The lack of perspective persistence in the selection process is therefore no longer present. What was hidden in the still raw gemstone, after the cut has been completed, has been given a full shine in this book version of 'Biohazard Rose Blank'. I would therefore ask you to be enchanted by this prize-winning, flamboyant gift.



Feedback, research, comments, and debate can be posted in our BIOHAZARD Rose Blank discussion thread.

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Jospeh Natale

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