Leon's boots scuffed shards of broken glass across the floor of the Kendo gun shop as he snapped open drawers, ash-stained sweat trickling down his face. If he couldn't find.50s pretty quick, he was screwed; the few weapons still remaining in the ravaged shop were inaccessible, strung with steel cable, and the front picture window was completely smashed. It wouldn't take long for the creatures to find him, he was down to his last round, and he still had a couple of blocks to go.

Come on, fifty cal action express, somebody in Raccoon must've ordered 'em...

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"Yes!"

Fourth drawer, under the deer-rifle case; a half-dozen empty clips and as many boxes of ammo. Leon grabbed a box and turned, slapping it on the counter as he glanced hurriedly at the front of the small shop. Still clear, if you didn't include the dead guy on the floor. He wasn't moving, but from the freshness of the wounds that oozed from his considerable gut, staining his strappy white T, Leon wouldn't have long to linger; he didn't know how long it took for the freshly dead to stand up - and didn't really want to find out. Gotta do it fast anyway, it's like I'm a beacon for those things and this place is easy access... Gaze darting between the crashed front wall and his skittering hands, Leon started to load up. He'd lucked across the gun dealer's, having forgot- ten entirely about it in the dizzying, nightmarish run from the wreck. When the fastest route to the station had turned out to be blocked by a pile-up, the best detour was through Kendo's. It was a coincidence that had undoubtedly saved his life. Even killing two of the ex-living on his way, he'd nearly been over- whelmed by the sheer number of them.

"Uuunh..."

A ghastly, skeletal form staggered out of the street's shadows, drunkenly aimed at the front of the shop. "Hell," Leon muttered, his fingers somehow man- aging to go faster. One clip down, one more and he could take the rest. If he bolted now, he'd be dead before he could make it to the station. Another leprous figure was suddenly standing at the mostly empty frame of the shop's glass entrance, the decay so bad on its legs that Leon could see maggots squirming through the fibrous muscle.

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... four... five... done!

He snatched up the Magnum and ejected the clip, reloading even as the mostly-empty hit the floor. The maggoty creature was shouldering its way through the jagged corners of glass still attached to the frame, something liquid in its throat gurgling softly. Bag, he needed a bag. Leon's fevered gaze swept the space behind the counter, stopping on a grease-stained gym bag propped against a stool in the back corner. Two running steps and he had it, dumping the contents as he ran back to the pile of clips and loose bullets on the counter. Cleaning equipment rattled across the linoleum as Leon swept the clips into the bag, ignoring the scattered rounds in favor of the ammo drawer. The decayed monster was shuffling toward him, stumbling on the body of the pot-bellied dead man, and Leon could smell how rotten it was. He jerked the Magnum up and leveled it at the creature's face.

The head, just like the two outside...

With a tremendous, thundering kick, the gurgling, pulpy skull blew apart, thick fluids splattering the shop's walls and display cases in a wet slap. Before the decapitated mess could crumple, Leon spun and dropped into a crouch by the ammo drawer. He shoveled the heavy boxes into the nylon sack, his stomach knotted and shaking from the fear that, even now, the back alley could be filling up with more of them, cutting him off from where he needed to go.

Five clips per box, five boxes, get out already...

Pushing off from his crouch, Leon shouldered the bag and ran for the back door. From the corner of his vision, he saw that another creature had made it inside Kendo's; from the crunch of powdering glass, there were more of them filing in just behind it. He opened the exit door and slid through, glancing left and right as the door settled closed, the automatic lock catching with a soft metallic snick. Nothing but garbage cans and recycling bins, overflowing with mildewed waste. From where he stood, the alley stretched off to his left and then hooked left again; if his internal compass was still working, the narrow, cluttered passage would take him straight to Oak, letting out less than a block away from the station. So far, he'd been lucky; all he could do was hope that his fortune would hold out, would let him get to the RPD building alive and in one piece - and, God willing, find a heavily armed contingent of people who knew what the hell was going on.

And Claire. Be safe, Claire Redfield, and if you get there before me, don't lock the door.

Leon repositioned the leaden weight of the ammo across his back and started down the dimly lit alley, ready to blow apart anything that got in his way.

Claire almost made it without having to shoot; the zombies that trickled out into the streets of Raccoon were relentless but slow, and the adrenaline pumping through her system made it easy enough to dodge them. She figured that they were drawn out by the sound of the wreck, then just followed their noses, or what was left of them; of the ten or so that had made it close enough for her to get a good look, at least half were in an advanced stage of decay, flesh falling from the bone. She was so busy watching the street and trying to sort through all that had happened, she almost ran right past the police station. She'd been to the RPD building twice before to visit Chris, but had never entered from the back or in the cold and stinking dark, pursued by malignant cannibals. A crashed cop car and a handful of zombified officers had clued her in, sending her through a small parking lot and some kind of an equipment shed that opened into a tiny paved courtyard - a courtyard where she and Chris had eaten lunch once, sitting on the steps that led up to the station's second-floor helipad. As simply as that, she'd made it. Weaving past the two stumbling, uniformed corpses that wandered aimlessly across the L-shaped yard was easy, and it was such a relief to be somewhere she recognized, to know she was about to be safe, that she didn't see the woman until it was almost too late. A wailing dead woman with one limply hanging arm and a gore-streaked, shredded tank top, who reached out from the shadows at the base of the stairs and brushed at Claire's arm with cold and scabby fingers. Claire let out a strangled yelp of surprise, stumbling back from the creature's outstretched hand and nearly fell into the arms of another one, a tall, broad- shouldered rotting man who had emerged from be- neath the metal stairs, graceless yet silent. She dodged sideways and pointed the nine- millimeter at the man, backed up a step...... and felt her calf hit the unyielding railing of the back steps to the roof. The woman was five feet to her right, the torn, bloody shirt exposing one gouged breast, the hand of her working arm grasping toward Claire. The man was one step from reaching distance, and she couldn't back up any further. Claire pulled the trigger and there was a mammoth boom, the gun jerking almost out of her hand. The right half of the tall man's slack and withered face disappeared in a burst of dark, liquid streams gushing from his shattered skull. She whipped the gun around, tightening her grip as she aimed for the woman's pallid, moaning face. Another blast of deafening sound and the rising moan was cut off, the waxen forehead imploding in a spray of blood and bone chips. The woman went over backwards, crashing to the pavement like...

... like a corpse, which she already was. They won't be walking away from this one.

It was as if everything finally caught up to her at once, the reality of her situation driven home when she'd pulled the trigger. For a moment, Claire couldn't move. She stared down at the two crumpled sacks of ruined flesh, at the two people she'd just shot, and felt like she was only an inch or two from losing it. She'd grown up around guns, been to shooting ranges dozens of times - but with a.22 target pistol, firing at pieces of paper. Targets that didn't bleed, or spew brain matter like the two human beings she'd just...

No, a cool voice inside of her interrupted. Not human, not anymore. Don't kid yourself and don't waste time on remorse. Leon could be inside by now, looking for you. And if the S.T.A.R.S. got called in, Chris could be here, too.

If that weren't motivation enough, the two zombie cops that Claire had passed when she first hit the courtyard were on their way, boots shuffling and dragging across the flagstones. It was time to go. She jogged up the stairs, barely able to hear the clang of her steps over the high-pitched ringing in her ears. The nine-millimeter blasts had done a tempo- rary number on her hearing - which explained why she didn't know about the helicopter until she was almost to the roof. Claire hit the second-to-top riser and stopped dead, a whipping wind pounding rhythmically at her bare shoulders as the giant black vehicle hovered into view, half lost in shadow. It was near the ancient water tower that bordered the helipad at the south-west corner, though she couldn't tell if it had just taken off or was coming in to land. Couldn't tell and didn't care. "Hey!" she shouted, raising her left hand into the air. "Hey, over here!" Her words were lost in the blowing dust that swirled across the rooftop, drowned out by the steady chop of the 'copter's blades. Claire waved wildly, feeling like she'd just hit the lottery.

Somebody came! Thank God, thank you!

A blaring searchlight snapped on from the midsec- tion of the hovering bird, scrawled across the roof and was going in the wrong direction, away from her. Claire waved more frantically, drawing in breath to call out again...... and saw what the spotlight saw, even as she heard the desperate, mostly unintelligible shout beneath the 'copter's roar. A man, a cop, standing at the helipad's corner opposite the stairs, backed against an elevated section of the roof. He held what looked like a machine gun and appeared to be very much alive.

"-get over here-"

The officer shouted at the helicopter, his voice tinged with panic; Claire saw why and felt her relief evaporate. There were two zombies lurching through the darkness of the helipad, headed for the well-lit target that was the shouting cop. She raised the nine-millimeter and then lowered it helplessly, afraid of hitting the cornered man. The spotlight didn't waver, illuminating the horror with brilliant clarity. The cop didn't seem to realize how close the zombies were until they were grabbing for him, their stringy arms extending into the beam of fixed white light. "Stay back! Don't come any closer!" he cried, and with the pure terror in his voice, Claire heard him perfectly. Just like she heard his howling scream as the two decaying figures obscured her view, reaching him at the same time. The sound of his automatic weapon ripped across the helipad, and even over the helicopter's clamor Claire could hear the whining ting of bullets flying wild. She dropped, knees cracking against the top step as the weapon's clattering fire went on and on...... and there was a change in the sound of the 'copter, a strange hum that rose quickly into a me- chanical scream. Claire looked up and saw the giant craft dip down, the back end swinging around in an erratic, jerking arc.

Jesus, he hit them!

The 'copter's spotlight was going all directions at once, flashing across metal pipes and concrete and the dying struggles of the cop, somehow still firing as the two monsters tore at him...... and then the helicopter was coming down, tee- tering sideways, its blades slamming into the brick of the elevated roof with a tremendous crash. Before Claire could blink, the nose of the craft hit - plowing across the helipad in a curtain of screeching sparks and flying glass. The explosion happened just as the mammoth machine slid to a stop against the southwest corner -

- directly on top of the fallen cop and his killers. The rattle of the machine gun was finally cut off in the whoosh of flame that sprang up after the initial sputtering boom, lighting the rooftop in a burning red glow. At the same instant, something in the roof gave with a rending crunch, as the nose of the 'copter plunged through a brick wall and out of sight. Claire stood up on legs she barely felt, staring in disbelief at the leaping fire that dominated almost half of the helipad. It had all happened too fast for her to feel like it had happened at all, and the smoking, burning evidence in front of her only made the sense of unreality greater. An acrid, sickly-sweet odor of burning meat wafted over her on a wave of heated air, and in the sudden silence, she could hear the soft groans of the zombies down in the courtyard.

She shot a look down the stairs and saw that both of the dead cops were at the foot, blindly and uselessly falling against the bottom step. At least they couldn't climb...

... can't. Climb. Stairs.

Claire turned her frightened glance toward the door that led into the RPD building, maybe thirty feet from the curling, popping flames that were slowly eating the body of the 'copter. Except for the stairs, it was the only way onto the roof. And if zombies couldn't climb -

- then I'm in some deep shit. The station isn't safe.

She stared thoughtfully at the burning wreck, weighing her options. The nine-millimeter held a lot of ammo and she still had two full clips; she could head back into the street, look for a car with keys in it and go for help.

Except what about Leon? And that cop was still Alive, what if there are more people inside, planning an escape?

She thought she'd held up pretty well on her own so far, but she also knew she'd feel safer if somebody else were in charge - a riot squad would be okay, though she'd settle for some battle-scarred veteran cop with a shitload of guns. Or Chris; Claire didn't know if she'd find him at the station, but she firmly believed that he was still alive. If anyone was equipped to handle himself in a crisis like this one, it was her brother. Whether or not she found anybody, she shouldn't take off without telling Leon; if she didn't, blowing town instead, and he got killed looking for her... Decision made. Claire walked for the entrance, carefully skirting the blaze and scanning the flickering shadows for movement. When she reached the door, she closed her eyes for a second, one sweating hand on the latch. "I can do this," she said quietly, and although she didn't sound as confident as she would've liked, at least her voice didn't tremble or break. She opened her eyes, then the door; when nothing jumped out at her from the softly lit hall, she slipped inside.

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