WHEN NICHOLAI SAW JILL STEP HESITANTLY through the door into treatment operations, he immedi-ately slipped back out of view, through the security side door and into a large, empty corridor that led to the chemical tank room. A fierce joy took hold of him as he eased the door closed, feelings of vindication and self-affirmation lifting his spirits high. After he'd found Foster's data disk, he'd set up his laptop to combine files. That's when he'd seen the warning from H.Q. Not much of a surprise, it had been one of several possible outcomes projected, but it had further depressed him. A part of him had still wanted to get closure with Jill and Carlos, for what they had done to him, and he'd even been considering a final look around before calling for pickup. There was no time for that with missiles coming, and he'd been on his way to place the call when he'd heard footsteps.

She's here, I was right about her and now she's here!

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He had to be right, or whatever fates were working in Raccoon wouldn't have sent her. He could see now that everything that had happened since he'd arrived in Raccoon had been predestined. Fate, testing him, sending him gifts and then pulling them away, to see what he would do. It all made perfect sense, and now there was a ticking clock, he had to get out, and here she was.

I won't fail. I've succeeded so far, and that's why this synchronicity has occurred. So that I can reestablish the control I command before I return to civilization.

He could ask her about Carlos and Mikhail, he could question her thoroughly... and if there was time, he could dominate her in a more pleasurable fashion, a farewell that he could reflect back upon for years to come. Nicholai quickly moved behind the door, his boot-steps echoing in the roomwide corridor, rifle ready. He'd earned this, and he was going to get exactly what he deserved. Jill walked into some kind of operations room, her senses on high alert as she looked across the open space, decorated in classic Umbrella laboratory style blank, cold, cement walls, metal railings that separated the bi-level room in an absolutely functional way, noth-ing bright or colorful in sight. Unless blood counts... Dried splashes of it stained the floor all around the low worktable that dominated the room. Probably not Nicholai's work, unlike the corpse she'd found in the office next to the room with the broken steam pipes. A short man in his mid-30s, shot in the face, his body still warm. She had no doubt that Nicholai was close, and she found herself almost hoping she'd run into him soon, just so she could stand down, not have to look over her shoulder with every step. She didn't see anything resembling a key card or a radio in the room, so she decided to move on  - she could head through the side door in the nook to her left or go down. Side door, she decided, on the off chance that Nicholai had headed that way; so far, she'd been through every room she could get into on the second floor and didn't want to go downstairs and risk letting him get behind her. She walked to the door, wondering again what had been done with the bodies of those who had died in the facility. She'd seen plenty of blood and fluid stains, but only a handful of corpses. Maybe they were dumped downstairs..., she thought, pulling the security door open and sweeping left to right with the Beretta. A corridor as big as a room, with a small offshoot at the back wall that headed right. Totally empty. She stepped inside... or Umbrella ordered everything cleaned up so their employees didn't have to spend the crisis stepping over their dead coworkers... "Freeze, bitch," Nicholai said from behind her, roughly jamming the barrel of his rifle into her lower back. "But drop your weapon first, if you wouldn't mind."

A sarcastic rephrasing of what she'd said to him in the park, and she couldn't miss the thread of almost hysterical glee in his voice. She'd been careless, and she was going to die for it. "Okay, okay," she said, letting the 9mm slip from her fingers and clatter to the floor. She still had the grenade gun on her back, but it was useless  - in the time it would take her to unstrap the thing, he could empty a mag into her and have a chance to reload.

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'Turn around slowly and back away, hands clasped in front of you. Like you're praying."

Jill did what he wanted, backing across the room until her back touched the wall, more afraid than she wanted to admit when she saw the constantly twitching smile, and the way his eyes rolled from side to side.

He's gone over. Whatever was wrong with him to start, being in Raccoon sparked it into a full-blown psychosis. The way he looked her up and down filled her with a different kind of fear. She knew of several effective ways to stop a rapist's attack, but that was assuming she was still able-bodied enough to fight, and she doubted very much that Nicholai would approach her without firing a few well-placed shots first. She glanced to her left, down a narrow hall that dead ended at a closed door. Won't make it, try to talk to him. "I thought you just wanted to get out of the city," she said neutrally, not sure what tack to use. She'd always heard that crazy people should be humored, but she couldn't see that it was going to make much of a differ-ence; Nicholai meant to kill her, period. He casually walked toward her, smiling his trem-bling smile. Thunder rumbled overhead, a distant sound. "I want to get out now, now that I have all the information. I killed all of the others for theirs, the Watchdogs. Umbrella is going to have to deal with me, and only me, and I'm going to be extremely wealthy. It's all balanced out, and now that you're here, my suc-cess is assured." In spite of herself, Jill was curious. "Why me?" Nicholai moved closer but stayed a safe distance away. "Because you took the antidote," he said in a matter-of-fact tone. "Carlos stole it at your bidding, don't try to deny it. Tell me, are you working on your own initiative, or were you sent to interfere with my plans? How much do Carlos and Mikhail know?" Christ, what do I say to that? Again thunder mut-tered overhead, and Jill found herself distracted by it, too confused by Nicholai's bizarre reasoning to answer him right away. Strange, that they could hear it through the heavily insulated ceiling...... not as strange as thinking about the weather at a time like this. She had to say something, to at least try and prolong her life; as long as she was breathing, there was a chance.

"Why should I tell you anything? You're going to kill me anyway," she said, as though there was something to tell. Nicholai's smile faltered, and then he brightened again, nodding. "You're right, I am." He aimed the rifle at her left knee and licked his lips. "But not before we get to know each other a little better, I think we have enough time..."

Crash! Jill fell backwards, sure she'd been hit, but he didn't fire, it was thunder -

- and the ceiling was falling, part of it, chunks of drywall and concrete raining down as Nicholai screamed, firing wildly...... and disappeared. Nicholai had her within his control, she was going to bleed and cry and he would be victorious, he had won...... and then the ceiling gave way, debris crashing over him and something giant and cold and hard wrapped around the back of his neck. Nicholai fired, screaming, A witch, she's...... and he was yanked up into the dark by the mas-sive, icy thing, a hand, Jill's shocked face the last thing he saw before the fingers tightened, before a cold and living rope coiled around his waist. The hand and rope pulled in opposite directions, and Nicholai felt his bones crack, skin and muscle stretching as blood filled his mouth, screaming -

- this is wrong I control stop

- and he was torn in half, and he knew no more. Jill could only see part of what happened, but it was enough. As a river of blood poured over the hole's ragged edge, splashing to the floor, she heard the rum-bling growl of the Nemesis and saw a tentacle snake down through the steaming red gush, searching... She didn't dare run beneath it. She turned and ran down the offshoot, scrabbling for the grenade gun, her only weapon...... bam, she hit the heavy door and was through, into a dark and echoing abyss, a wave of stench hitting her like a slap. She slammed the door closed and reached for the only light she could see, a glowing red square in a panel next to the entrance. It was a light switch, and as rows of fluorescent bars fluttered on, she saw and understood two things simulta-neously. The dead Umbrella workers had been dumped here in a huge pile, the source of the incredible odor and there were no other doors. She was trapped and had a single load of buckshot with which to defend herself.

Oh man, think, think...

Outside, she heard the Nemesis howl the only word it knew, the terrible cry encouraging her to move, to do something. She ran for the tremendous mound of corpses, the only thing in the giant U-shaped chamber that wasn't bolted to the floor. Maybe one of them had a weapon. The segmented metal floor rang hollowly beneath her feet, telling her where she was  - some kind of garbage dumping room, the floor obviously capable of opening up to drop waste into some unknown below, vats of chemicals, a Dumpster, the sewers. Didn't mat-ter, because she had no idea how to operate such a sys-tem; all she cared about at the moment was finding something she could use against the Nemesis. The dead people were all in advanced stages of decay, thick, hot, gaseous waves of stink radiating from the darkening, bloated bodies, the pile almost as high as her chin. Jill couldn't afford to be particular; she dropped the grenade gun and immediately started to paw at the corpses, lifting sticky lab coats, jamming her hands into pockets that squished beneath her flying fin-gers. Pens and pencils, soggy packs of cigarettes, loose change  - a key card, probably the very one she'd been looking for, Wonderful, isn't that just... BOOM! BOOM! Giant fists hammered at the door, echoing in the large chamber. The door was going to give in seconds, she'd have to go with what she had. No way she could kill it, but she could try to get around it. Tucking the key card into the top of her left boot, she grabbed the gun and ran back toward the door, thinking that Nicholai had at least left her with a good idea, least he could do, the crazy bastard...

Jill took a position next to the door, close to where it would swing back upon opening. She didn't stand di-rectly behind it, the plan kind of fell to shit if she ended up crushed. BOOM, and the door flew open, slamming into the wall inches from where she stood, the Nemesis storm-ing in, arms and tentacles spread wide as it howled for blood.

It's changing, getting bigger...

Jill aimed at its already mangled lower back and fired,the load tearing into its flesh from less than ten feet away.Screaming, the creature stumbled forward, and be-fore it could stand up straight again, Jill was throughthe door and gone, praying that she'd have time to callfor help and get away before it found her again. Shepounded through the corridor, snatched up the Beretta,and sped into the next room, out into the hallway.At least time to call; she may not survive to meet res-cue, but Carlos still could, God willing.

There was only one helicopter, but it was in excellentshape, fueled and ready to fly. If he could find Jill, Car-los thought they might make it after all.He sat in the pilot's seat, looking over the controls,running over the basics as best he could remember.He'd been taught by another mere with no formal train-ing, and it had been a while, but he was pretty sure hecould pull it off. The 'copter was an older two seaterwith a hover ceiling of about 4,000 feet, range, maybe200 miles. He still didn't know what some of theswitches and buttons did on the control panels, but hedidn't need to, to get the thing airborne. The cycliccontrol stick moved the bird forward, back, and side-ways. The collective control altered the thrust, control-ling height.Carlos checked his watch and was unhappily startled to see mat twenty minutes had passed since he'd heard the announcement about the missiles. He'd spent a few min-utes checking the helicopter, and there'd been a couple of zombies roaming around in the yard he'd had to shoot... Didn't matter. They now had between twenty and forty minutes, tops. The facility compound was too big, he'd never be able to cover it all in time  so use the goddamn radio, dumbass!

Carlos reached for the headset, amazed that he hadn't thought of it, promising himself that he would smack himself silly for the oversight later, when he had time. Assuming there was a later.

"Hello, this is Carlos Oliveira with Umbrella, I am in Raccoon City, copy? There are still people alive here. If you can hear me, you have to stop the missile launch. Hello? Copy?"

No way to know if someone was getting his signal. Umbrella probably had a block on all outgoing trans-missions, he'd just have to try and...

"Carlos? Is that you, over?" Jill!

He felt weak with relief as her voice crackled into his ear, perhaps the sweetest sound he'd ever heard.

"Yes! Jill, I found a helicopter, we have to get out ofhere, now! Where are you, over?"In a radio room, at the Umbrella facility  - what didyou say about a missile launch, over?"She was so close! Carlos laughed, We're outta here,it's over! "The feds are gonna blow up the city in likehalf an hour, at dawn, but it's okay, we're ready tofly  - do you see that ladder in the middle of the room?Over."Yeah, it's  - they're going to blow up Raccoon, areyou sure?" She sounded totally bewildered and forgotto use radio protocol.

We don't have time for this!"Jill, I'm positive. Listen to me  - go down the ladderand start running, you'll end up where I am, there'snowhere else to go. Through a cement room to the exitsign, then outside, then through this huge warehouse there's some kind of a power generator in there, you'll have to run around some equipment. The back door will be at about... eleven o'clock from the front, got it? I'll be on the other side. And you better bust ass to get here, no dicking around."

There was the slightest pause, and Carlos could hear the tight smile in her voice when she responded. "Dick-ing around you wish. On my way, over and out."

Grinning, Carlos powered up the 'copter as the deep, navy blue sky began to lighten, preparing for dawn.

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