IT WAS FRIGHTENINGLY EASY TO BRING FOS-sil out of stasis. In a matter of moments, Leon had gotten into the monitoring program and figured out how to drain the giant cylinder. According to the digital timer that popped up on the screen, it would only take about five minutes once he entered the command.

Man, anyone working here could have done it, at any time. For such a paranoid company, Umbrella sure takes chances... "Hey, look at this," John said, and Leon turned from the small computer, glancing warily at the monster. Even after surviving the hell of Raccoon, after fighting zombies and mammoth spiders and even a giant alligator, it was probably the strangest thing he'd ever seen. John was standing at the wall across the room, staring up at a laminated picture. As Leon got closer, he saw that it was a map of the Planet, each area neatly labeled. The testing facility had a fairly simple layout, basically a giant corridor that surrounded the four phases, most of the rooms and offices on off- shoots from the main hall. John tapped a small square at the east, just across from where the service elevator was. "Says 'test con- trol/monitor room,'" he said, "and it's on the way out." "You think Reston's holed up there?" Leon asked. John shrugged. "If he was watching us in the test program, that's where he would have been - what I'm interested in is if he happened to leave his little black book lying around." "Wouldn't hurt to check," Leon said. "It'll take the tube about five minutes to drain, we'd have time - as-suming the elevator's not a problem."

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John turned around to look at Fossil, asleep in its gel womb. "You think it'll actually wake up?" Leon nodded. The stats that had been listed in the simple monitoring program all seemed to match up, its heart rate and respiration indicating deep sleep; no reason it wouldn't wake up once the warm nutrient bath was drained.

And it'll probably wake up cold, pissed, and hun-gry..."Yeah," he said. "And we want to be gone when it does."

John smiled a little, not his usual grin but a smile, anyway. "Then let's get gone," he said softly. Leon walked back to the computer, bathed in pale red light from the stasis tube. Fossil floated peace- fully, a sleeping giant. A monstrosity, created by monstrous people and living a useless life in a place built for death. Take it all down, Leon thought, and hit the "Enter" key. The timer started its count; they had five minutes. David thought it was probably Reston, although there was no way to be sure. It didn't matter, all he cared about was how to get Rebecca away from him, and as the crazed man in the blue suit backed to the door, David realized that there was nothing he could do.

Not yet. "Just go away! Leave me alone!" The man - Res- ton - shouted, and then he was gone. Rebecca was gone, and the weak, listless way she'd looked at them before the door closed scared David badly.

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"What do we do?"

He looked at Claire, saw the anxiety and fear on her face, and made himself take a deep breath, blowing it out slowly. They wouldn't be able to do anything if they panicked -

-and we could very well get her killed."Stay calm," he said, feeling anything but. "We don't know the floor plan, we can't circle around behind him... we'll have to follow."But he..." "Yes, I know what he said," David interrupted. "There's no alternative at this point. We let them get a safe distance, then follow, look for an opening." And hope that he's not as unstable as he looks."Claire - this is stealth work, we can't afford to make a sound. Perhaps it would be better if you stayed here..."

Claire shook her head, a look of determination in her gray eyes. "I can do it," she said, firmly and clearly. She had no doubts, and though untrained, she'd proven herself to be quick and steady. David nodded and they walked to the door to wait,

two minutes unless we hear an exit, crack the door for sound... He forced himself to take another deep breath, cursing himself for letting Rebecca come with them. She was exhausted and injured, she wouldn't be able to fight if he decided to tighten his arm a bit more about her throat...

No. Hang on, Rebecca. We're coming, and we can wait all night for him to make a slip, to find our opportunity.

They waited, David praying that Reston wouldn't hurt her, swearing that he'd cut out the man's liver and feed it to him if he did. They looked for the elevator, not sprinting through the endless gray hall, but not taking their time about it, either. The cafeteria was empty, and a half-minute check of the bunk rooms satisfied John that the workers had gone. There were clear signs that the guys had been in a hurry to grab their shit and get out.

Hope Reston's still here, though...

As they ran north down the main corridor, John decided that if Mr. Blue was still in the control room, he'd knock him out. A good solid punch to the temple would do it, and if he didn't wake up before Fossil started to roam, too bad. They ran past the small offshoot that connected the control room to the main hall, both of them panting, both of them aware that they needed a working elevator a hell of a lot more than they needed to screw with Reston. As Leon had said, they didn't want to be around for the Planet's grand finale. The open panel in the wall and the small light above the "In use" sign were enough to make John grin like a kid, the relief a cool and sweeping wave; they'd taken a big risk deciding to let Fossil out before securing their escape route. Leon hit the recall button, looking just as relieved. "Two, two-and-a-half minutes," he said, and John nodded. "Just a quick look," he said, and turned back toward the small passage across the hall. Leon was out of ammo, but John still had a few rounds in the M-16 in case Reston did anything stupid. They hurried to the door at the end of the hall and found it unlocked. John went first, sweeping the large room with the rifle, then whistling in awe at the setup. "Damn," he said softly. A line of black leather chairs faced an entire wall of screens. Deep red plush carpet. A shining silver console, sleek and ultramodern, a table that looked like solid white marble behind it.

At least we don't have to dig through any clutter...

Except for a coffee mug and a silver flask on the console, there was nothing to see. No papers or office stuff, no personal items, no secret code books. "Probably ought to get going," Leon said. "I'm estimating time here, I'd hate to be a couple minutes off." "Yeah, okay. Let's..."

There was movement on one of the wall screens, midway through the second row from the top. John stepped closer to the monitor, wondering who the hell it could be, the employees got out and that's two people, can't be... "Oh, shit," John said, and felt his stomach drop, a sickening plunge that seemed to go on and on, his horrified gaze fixed to the screen. Reston, with a gun. Dragging Rebecca through some hall, his arm around her throat. Rebecca's feet half- dragging on the floor, her head hanging, her arms slack.

"Claire!"

John glanced away, saw Leon staring at a second monitor, saw David and Claire, armed, moving quickly down another featureless corridor. "Can we refill the tube?" John barked, his gut still lurching, feeling more terrified by the sight of their friends than he had all night, that miserable bastard's got 'becca... "I don't know," Leon said quickly, "we can try, but we've gotta go now..."

John stepped back from the wall, searching the pictures for one of the laboratory area, his exhaustion falling away as fresh adrenaline pounded into his system. There, a dark room, a single light in the corner pointed at the tube, at the moving, thrashing thing inside. In seconds, dripping hands plunged through the clear matter, tearing, shattering, a massive, pallid, reptilian leg stepping through. Too late: Fossil was out.

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