The train swayed and rocked as it traveled through the Raccoon woods, the thunder of its wheels echoed by a thundering twilight sky.

Bill Nyberg rifled through the Hardy file, his briefcase on the floor at his feet. It had been a long day, and the gentle rocking of the train soothed him. It was late, after eight, but the Ecliptic Express was mostly full, as it often was for the dinner hour. It was a company train, and since the renovation--Umbrella had gone to great expense to make it classically retro, everything from velvet seats to chandeliers in the dining car--a lot of employees brought family or friends along to experience the atmosphere. There were usually a number of out-of-towners on board as well, having caught the connection out of Latham, but Nyberg would have bet that nine out of ten of them worked for Umbrella, too. Without the pharmaceutical giant's support, Raccoon City wouldn't even be a wide spot in the road.


One of the car attendants walked past, nodding at Nyberg when he saw the Umbrella pin on his lapel. The small pin marked him as a regular commuter. Nyberg nodded back. A flicker of lightning outside was quickly followed by another rumble of thunder; it seemed there was a summer storm brewing. Even in the cool comfort of the train, the air seemed charged, thick with the tension of impending rain.

And my coat is . . . in the trunk? Wonderful. His car was at the far end of the station lot, too. He'd be drenched before he got halfway across.

Sighing, he returned his attention to the file, settling back into his seat. He'd already reviewed the material a number of times, but he wanted to be on top of every detail. A ten-year-old girl named Teresa Hardy had been involved in a clinical trial for a new pediatric heart medication, Valifin. As it turned out, the drug did exactly what it was supposed to do--but it also caused renal failure, and in Teresa Hardy's case, the damage had been severe. She'd survive, but would likely spend the rest of her life on dialysis, and the family's lawyer was seeking hefty damages. The case had to be settled quickly, the Hardy family kept quiet before they could drag their ailing, cherub-cheeked moppet in front of a media-packed courtroom . . . which was where Nyberg and his team came in. The trick was to offer just enough to make the family happy, but not so much as to encourage their lawyer--one of those strip-mall, "we don't get paid unless you get paid" outfits--to get greedy. Nyberg had a knack for handling ambulance chasers; he'd have it settled before little Teresa got back from her first treatment. It was what Umbrella paid him for.

Rain splattered loudly against the window, as though someone had thrown a bucket of water against the pane. Startled, Nyberg turned to look out, just as several dull thumps sounded on the train's roof. Terrific. Had to be a hailstorm or something ...

A crackle of lightning flickered across the thickening darkness, illuminating the small but steep hill that marked the deepest part of the forest. Nyberg looked up, and saw a tall figure silhouetted against the trees at the crest of the hill, someone in a long coat or robe, the dark fabric rippling in the wind. The figure raised long arms to the raging sky--

--and the stutter of lightning was gone, plunging the strange, dramatic scene back into darkness.

"What the--" Nyberg began, and more water splashed across the glass--except it wasn't water, because water didn't stick in great, dark clumps; water didn't ooze and break apart, revealing dozens of shining needle teeth. Nyberg blinked, not sure what he was seeing as someone started to scream at the other end of the car, a long, rising wail, as more of the dark, sluglike creatures, each the size of a man's fist, smashed against the window. The sound of hail on the roof went from a patter to a storm, the thunder of it drowning out the screamer, the screams of many now.

Not hail, that's not hail!

Hot panic shot through Nyberg's body, sending him to his feet. He made it to the aisle before the glass behind him shattered, before glass all through the train was shattering, the high, jagged sound of it melding with the screams of terror, all of it nearly lost beneath the ongoing thunder of attack. As the lights went out, something cold and wet and very much alive landed on the back of his neck and began to feed.

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