JILL STOOD NEXT TO CARLOS AT THE TRAIN'S controls, looking out as the dark ruins of Raccoon slowly slipped past. They couldn't see much by the yel-lowed beam of the single headlight, but there were nu-merous small fires blazing unchecked and a partial moon shone its cold light down on it all  - debris-packed streets, broken, boarded windows, living shad-ows that swayed and wandered aimlessly. "Keep it slow," Jill said. "If the tracks are blocked and we're going too fast..." Carlos shot her an irritated look. "Gee, I hadn't thought about that. Gracias."

His sarcasm invited a reply, but Jill was too tired to banter, and her body felt like a single, massive bruise.

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"Yeah, okay. Sorry."

The tracks unrolled in front of them as Carlos care-fully handled the controls, slowing to a virtual crawl with each curve. Jill wanted to sit, maybe go into the other car with Mikhail and lay down  - it was a few miles to the clock tower and a jogger could easily keep up with them, but she knew that Carlos was tired, too; she could at least suffer aching feet along with him for another few minutes. By some unspoken agreement, they hadn't discussed Nicholai yet, perhaps because speculation on where he was and what he was doing didn't serve any purpose; whatever he was up to, they were getting out of town. Assuming they survived, Jill was more committed than ever to seeing that Umbrella paid for their crimes, and it was Umbrella, not Nicholai, who held responsibility for the death of Raccoon. Her intuition had been good on Nicholai, that he wasn't ignorant of Umbrella's evils, though she hadn't suspected the depth of his deception. From what she'd read in the journal Carlos had found, it appeared that the company had been prepared for Raccoon to be in-fected and had set up a secret team to make reports on the catastrophe. It was disgusting, but not surprising.

We're dealing with Umbrella, after all. If they can il-legally design genetic viruses and breed killing ma-chines to inject said viruses into, why not capitalize on mass murder? Take some notes, document a few fights...

Crash! Jill stumbled against Carlos as the trolley rocked, the sound of shattering glass coming from the other car. A half second later, they heard Mikhail let out a fevered cry  - of fear or pain, Jill couldn't tell. "Here, take the controls," Carlos said, but she was al-ready halfway across the car, the heavy revolver in hand. "I got it, keep us going," she shouted back, not want-ing to think about what it could be as she dashed to-ward the door. For the trolley to shake like that -

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- it has to be one of their monsters. And Mikhail probably can't even sit up on his own.

She pushed the door open and stepped onto the con-necting platform, the heavy clatter of the moving trol-ley seeming incredibly loud as she opened the second door, Mikhail's helplessness in the forefront of her mind.

Oh, shit.

The elements of the scene were simple, straightfor-ward, and deadly: a broken window, glass everywhere; Mikhail, to her left, his back to the wall as he struggled to get to his feet, using his rifle as a crutch  - and the S.T.A.R.S. killer standing in the middle of the car, mis-shapen head thrown back, its giant lipless mouth open-ing as it growl-screamed wordlessly. The remaining windows shook from the strength of its insane cry. Jill opened fire, each shot a deafening explosion, the heavy rounds slamming into its upper torso as it contin-ued to howl. The sheer force of the assault drove it back a few steps, but if there was any effect otherwise, she couldn't see it. On the sixth round, Mikhail's rifle joined in, the smaller slugs peppering the Nemesis's gigantic legs as Jill went dry. Mikhail was still slumped against the wall and his aim was poor, but Jill would take any help she could get. She grabbed her Beretta  - even with a speed loader the.357 would take too long  - and opened up, going for head shots -

- not working

- and the Nemesis stopped screaming and fixed its attention on her, its slitted white eyes like cataracts, its huge teeth shining and slick. Tentacles snaked around its hairless, lumpy head. "Get out!" Mikhail shouted, and Jill spared him a glance, not even considering the idea as she fired again -until it registered an instant later that he was holding a grenade, one shaking finger hooked through its ring. She recognized the make without thinking about it  - a Czech RG34, Barry had collected antiper-sonnel grenades  - as she sent a round into the Neme-sis's stitched brow to no effect. Impact grenade, once the ring was pulled it'd detonate on contact -

- and Mikhail won't make it, it's suicide."No, you go, get behind me," she screamed, and the

S.T.A.R.S. killer took one massive step forward, almosthalving the distance between them."Get out!" Mikhail ordered again and popped thering, an expression of incredible concentration and pur-pose on his dead-white face. "I'm dead already! Do it,now!"

Her Beretta fired once more and was empty. Jill spun and ran, leaving Mikhail to face the monster alone. Carlos heard the yelling amidst the shots as he worked to bring the trolley to a stop, desperate to help Jill and Mikhail, but they were in the middle of a rela-tively tight curve and the poorly maintained controls fought his efforts. He was about a second from joining them anyway when the door behind him crashed open. Carlos whipped around, one-arming his M16 as he in-stinctively kept his other hand on the throttle, and saw Jill. She practically flew into the car, her expression a mask of expectant terror, his name forming on her lips -

- and a tremendous shock of fire and sound bloomed up behind her, pushing her to dive, a clumsy shoulder roll that was punctuated by the echoing boom-crash from the second car. Tongues of flame burst through the back door's window as the floor tilted wildly. Carlos slammed against the driver's seat, the chair's arm whacking him mid-thigh hard enough to bring tears to his eyes.

Mikhail!

Carlos took one faltering step toward the back and saw only burning pieces of the obliterated second car dragging behind them, falling away as the trolley picked up speed. There was no chance that Mikhail could have survived, and Carlos started having serious doubts about their own chances as Jill stumbled for-ward, her face haunted by whatever she'd seen. The cable car bit another curve, and then it was out of control, tossing back and forth like a ship on stormy seas, except the thunder and lightning were caused by their car smashing mightily into buildings and autos alike, sending up great plumes of sparks. Instead of slowing them down, the trolley seemed to be picking up speed with each impact, hurtling through the dark in a series of fiery metal screams. Carlos fought gravity to grab the throttle, aware that they'd jumped the tracks, that Mikhail was gone, that their only hope was the manual brake. If they were very lucky, the wheels would lock. He yanked back as hard as he could...... and nothing happened, nothing at all. They were screwed. Jill made it to the front, clutching at chair backs and support poles as the trolley continued to buck and screech. Carlos saw her staring at the useless throttle beneath his fingers, saw despair flash in her eyes, and he knew that they had to jump. "The brakes!" Jill shouted. "No good! We have to bail!"

He turned, grabbed his rifle by the barrel, and used the locked stock to break out a side window, a sudden shift of the floor sending the glass shards raining on his chest. He held on to the slick window frame with one hand, reached back to grab Jill

- and saw her drive her elbow into a small glass panel set low into the console, a look of crazed hope on her face as she pulled a switch he couldn't see... SKREEEEEEE

emergency brake

... and incredibly, the trolley was slowing, tipping to the left a final time before settling back, sliding forward in a diminishing spray of bright sparks. Carlos closed his eyes and gripped the useless throttle, tensing, trying to prepare himself for the impact  - and a few seconds later, a mild, anticlimactic crunch signified their jour-ney's end; the car had come to rest against a pile of bro-ken concrete pieces in the middle of a neatly trimmed lawn, a few shadowy statues and hedges nearby. A final tremor rattled through the car, and it was over. Silence, except for the tick of cooling metal. He opened his eyes, hardly able to credit their nightmare ride through the city. Next to him, Jill took a shaky breath. It had all happened so fast, it was a miracle that he and Jill were still alive. "Mikhail?" he asked softly. Jill shook her head. "It was the Tyrant-thing, the S.T.A.R.S. Nemesis. Mikhail had a grenade, it kept coming at us and he..."

Her voice broke, and she reached into her pack and started to reload her weapons, concentrating on the simple movements. It seemed to calm her. When she spoke again, her voice was firm.

"Mikhail sacrificed himself when he saw that the Nemesis was coming after me."

She looked away, out into the dark as a chill wind drafted through the trolley's shattered windows. Her shoulders slumped. Carlos wasn't sure what to say. He stepped toward her, gently touching one abraded shoulder, and felt her body stiffen beneath his fingers. He quickly dropped his hand, afraid that he'd offended her somehow, and then realized that she was staring out at something, a look of pure amazement on her delicate features. Carlos followed her gaze, looking out and up to see a giant, three - or four-story tower looming over them, sil-houetted against a backdrop of clouded night sky. A glowing white clock face near the top read that it was almost midnight. "Somebody loves us, Carlos," Jill said, and Carlos could only nod mutely. They had reached the clock tower.

Nicholai walked along the moonlit tracks, not both-ering to conceal himself as he plodded west. He'd be able to see anything coming and kill it long before it reached him; he was in a foul mood and almost wel-comed the opportunity to blow the guts out of some-thing, human or otherwise. His anger had abated somewhat, giving way to a rather fatalistic state of mind. It no longer seemed fea-sible for him to track down the dying platoon leader and two young soldiers  - basically, there just wasn't enough time. It would take at least an hour for him to make it to the clock tower; assuming they could figure out how to ring the bells, they'd be long gone by the time he got there. Nicholai scowled, working to remind himself that his plans hadn't changed, that he still had an agenda to ful-fill. Four people were unwittingly waiting for him. After Dr. Aquino, there were the soldiers  - Chan and a Sergeant Ken Franklin  - and the factory worker, Foster. When they were all out of the way, Nicholai still had to collect their data, arrange a meeting, and 'copter out. He had plenty to do... yet he couldn't help feeling cheated by the circumstances. He stopped walking, cocking his head to one side. He heard a crash, an impact of some kind further west, per-haps even a small explosion muffled by distance. A sec-ond later he felt the slightest of vibrations coming from the trolley tracks. The tracks ran down the middle of a main street, anything solid could have given them a jolt -

- but it's them, it's Mikhail and Carlos and Jill

Valentine. They ran into something, or something went wrong with the engine, or... Or he didn't know what, but he was suddenly quite sure that they had encountered trouble. It reinforced for him the positive feeling he had that he was the one with skill; they were forced to rely on luck, and not all luck was good.

Perhaps we will meet again. Anything is possible, es-pecially in a place like this.

Ahead of him and to the left, from in between an of-fice building and a fenced lot, came a gurgling groan, then another. Three infected shambled out into the open, ten meters or so from where he stood. They were too far away to make out clearly in the waxy moon-light, but Nicholai could see that none of them were in good shape; two were missing arms and the third's legs had somehow been cut down, so that it seemed to be walking on its knees, each stumping footstep creating a noise like someone smacking their lips. "Uhllg," the closest complained, and Nicholai shot it through its disintegrating brains. Two more shots and the other two joined the first, collapsing to the asphalt in wet thumps. He felt much better. Whether or not he got an oppor-tunity to see his duplicitous comrades again  - and he found that he felt strongly that he would  - he was the superior man, and he would triumph in the end. The awareness filled him with a new energy. Nicholai broke into a trot, eager to meet whatever chal-lenge came next.

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