A Rose by Any Other Name

The Gathering Storm

The wind was howling like a lost soul and trees swayed as if sharing the misery. A storm was fast approaching from the North, making the sky turn an eerie dark green. It was an uncanny sight for late August. But not uncanny compared to the grisly scene the Arklay Mountains had been witness to a mere month ago.

Albert Wesker stood alone at the top of a hill and looked down, the wind roaring past him. He saw the corpse of his burial ground; a once proud mansion that was now nothing more than shadows and dust. A few moments later Miranda climbed up and stood next to him, her words catching in her throat. Neither of them spoke as they stared at the remains of the place that had been their death and their re-birth.

Miranda tried to swallow the heavy lump in her throat. That mansion had been so much to her. She'd grown up there, she'd fallen in love there, and she'd been told she was going to have a child there. A tear slid silently down her face. Wesker reached over and wiped it away with his thumb.

"Don't be a fool, Harley. Don't cry about this. Don't you ever cry about this." She looked at him solemnly. How could she not cry? Everything she'd ever known was here. Buried somewhere beneath the rubble was her entire past. Even Wesker couldn't change that. Once again her father had been right. No one could change the past.

Wesker looked back toward Riley who was setting up the Transport cages and mumbling. "A little help here, Wesker!" He shouted. "You think a guy with super human powers would have a little courtesy…Jeez." Wesker smiled at Miranda as one of the octagonal cages fell on its side and the Hunter inside screeched loudly. Wesker walked down the hill towards him.

"Oh dear…Poor Pookie…Did that scare the poopie out of him?" Wesker's sudden laughter alarmed a flock of birds and sent them scattering from the trees.

"Shame on you, Wesker." Miranda put in, following him. "Best not to make poor Pookie cry." Wesker laughed again. Reaching for the nearest cage, he hoisted it into the air and set it on more stable ground. Miranda didn't think she'd ever get used to the things the G-virus had done to him.

As usual his mood changed in less than an instant. "Harley says the head stone should be within a hundred meters of this spot. Do you have an exact location on it yet?"

"Well…no. I thought it was in the mansion. I'm still confused." Riley said. He fingered his black Operative jacket a moment before continuing. "It makes no sense that the man would have two graves."

"Yes it does." Miranda answered, gazing off into the denseness of the woods. "The headstone inside the mansion was another entrance into the secret B.O.W. lab that Umbrella was using. Originally that grave was built for the man who designed the mansion, but Ozwell decided it would be best to use George Trevor's headstone as an extra set of stairs. An escape route of sorts."

"Then where would you say George Trevor is buried?" Riley asked.

"More than likely he was fed to one of the bio-monsters Umbrella was working on at the time." Miranda began walking into the wooded area without another word. Wesker followed close on her heels. "If I remember right the headstone should be…" Pushing some of the dead leaves and fallen limbs aside, Miranda began to reveal a white marble tombstone with the words "Ozwell E. Spencer" imprinted. "Right here." Suddenly, all her memories came flooding back. She and another man had buried Spencer here after discovering him inside his private laboratory. His face had been burned beyond recognition. She swallowed hard, the lump in her throat rising again. "How are you going to bring him up Wesker? I can't dig very well."

"And you won't." Wesker answered softly. "You don't think I can accomplish the task alone?"

"It's not that," Miranda said. "I just…" she almost told him she didn't want him to, but instead she continued brushing away debris and prayed he wouldn't ask. Wesker headed back toward Riley to get the equipment he would need for the dig. He didn't ask.

"Ouch!" Miranda pulled her hand away from the last clump of leaves on Spencer's grave and looked down at the tips of her fingers, which were beaded with blood. Returning with the tools, Wesker kneeled next to her as she pulled out a bouquet of black roses from the leaves.

"Flowers for the dead." Wesker said in the silence. He took the roses from her and laid them aside. Wiping a tear away from her cheek, he kissed her fingertips.

Less than an hour later, Wesker had made what would be a days long dig for any normal man look like a child's game. Before her sat the coffin of Oswell Spencer, caked with mud. Miranda was using her hands to clean it off as Wesker rested.

"You're not going to believe this." Riley strode toward them, a compact radio in hand. "The remaining S.T.A.R.S. members are kicking up a fuss in Chief Brain Irons office."

"Really?" Wesker raised an eyebrow. "About?"

"From what I gather, they're trying to talk to him about investigating the incident at the mansion. Don't they realize that Irons is Umbrella too?" Riley inquired.

"Those stupid S.T.A.R.S. have no idea how deep this Umbrella conspiracy runs. Do they Miranda?" Wesker replied sharply. But Miranda hadn't heard him. She was thinking of Sherry. She wondered for the thousandth time if her daughter was okay. She'd prayed nearly that much that Sherry was safe somewhere far away. But she would never know. The incident at the mansion that had "taken" her life had cut her ties with the Birkins. There was no way she could contact them, even to see if her daughter was safe. She blinked back tears at this new revelation.

"Chris Redfield is saying that everyone in Raccoon City will pay if something isn't done about Umbrella." Riley shrugged. "They're saying that if something isn't done soon, the entire city will be annihilated."

"Good." Wesker sighed loudly, tossing down his shovel. "They all deserve to…" He was about to say more but stopped short when he saw the look on Miranda's face. Could she be thinking about Sherry? "Shall we?" He implored, gesturing to the lid of Spencer's coffin. For a moment Miranda almost told him no, but it wouldn't have done any good. When Wesker wanted something, nothing would stand in his way.

The coffin opened with a loud groan, the eerie sound piercing the silence of the forest. The smell met her next and Miranda stepped back, almost choking. Wesker didn't seem to notice and pushed the wooden lid off with bravado. Riley leaned over them and peered inside wrinkling up his nose.

Turning away, Miranda thought it best not to look inside. She wasn't sure she would ever be prepared for something like this. "Finally." Wesker said aloud. "Say hello to Oswell…" But the remainder of the name died in his throat. "What in the hell? Harley you fool, what the bloody hell is this?" Wesker was suddenly shouting. Riley stepped backward, tripped over Miranda, and sent them both tumbling into the leaves. Without warning, Wesker grabbed the sides of the coffin and howled. It sounded very much the same as the howl they had heard in the laboratory a week ago. The ground shook in his fury. The Hunters, whose screeching echoed his anger, joined in scream.

Miranda looked away from Wesker and at the shaking coffin; it had been relieved of it's less than fleshy burden. While she watched, a shiny white paper slid from the pocket of the corpse's coat and fell to the earth with a dramatic flutter.

"This is not Spencer!" Wesker shouted as Miranda reached for the paper.

"It's laminated," she said with surprise. Wesker ignored her. "Wesker…"

"Did you not realize it wasn't him when you put him in the casket, Harley? Are you that much of a fool that you didn't realize that his teeth are not gold?" Wesker continued shouting. "I see no gold front teeth and I see no diamonds." Ozwell Spencer had been well known for his gold front teeth, each encrusted with a diamond. But this corpse had neither of these.

Riley jumped to her defense. "She said the face was beyond recognition Wesker, she didn't say they opened his mouth and looked inside. He's wearing Spencer's jacket for goodness sake!"

"And why is that?" Wesker roared. "Can you tell me that, you little pea-brained moron?"

"Would you two shut up!" Miranda shouted. Wesker stared at her in surprise. It wasn't like Miranda to yell. "While you were throwing your earthquake fit, this slipped out of his pocket." She paused to make sure she had his full attention. "Oswell Spencer is not dead."

"What?" Wesker barked.

"Listen to this." Miranda told him. Holding up the note, she read aloud:

"Know you now

Of days long past.

When death was alive,

And shadows long since cast.

Life and death were exploding,

With a pain akin to birth.

Lost in a castle of despair,

Whose walls were seeping with mirth...

Oh grave where is thy victory?

Walking dead, where is thy sting?

The child of rage must find me,

And with her, death she'll bring."

"What the hell does that mean?" Wesker growled, glaring at Miranda.

"It means that Oswell E. Spencer is alive somewhere." Riley answered quietly.

"You must be joking!" Wesker screamed. The Hunters began shrieking. "I don't have time for this!"

"But Wesker we…" Miranda began.

"No! I will not hear anymore. I've wasted enough time! Umbrella is about to make a breakthrough in the G-virus research and we're out here digging up empty graves."

"It's not empty." Riley said. "This is a body." He pointed to the rotting skeleton.

"If it's not Spencer then I don't care." Wesker exploded. "Get your gear and let's go."

"But Wesker, we need to find Oswell Spencer." Miranda protested, shoving the laminated note in her coat pocket. Wesker turned to Miranda and grabbed her by the wrists, jerking her roughly along with him.

"No!" He shouted. "I will not waste any more time on this foolishness." Riley stared after them in shock. Thunder rumbled in the distance and lighting all at once lit up the sky.

"Wesker!" Miranda cried. Without warning rain began to pour from the sky in torrents, soaking them to the bone. Wesker jerked her roughly against him and growled inhumanly. "Please…" She whispered softly.

"Harley, don't be a fool. We cannot waste time looking for a man that may or may not be alive. Umbrella is about to do something that will do irrevocable damage to the future of a certain researcher and I will not miss out on what is rightfully mine." He shook her violently the thunder echoing his movement.

"Wesker!" Riley shouted over the growing storm. "You're hurting her."

Finally, what Riley was saying to him got through and Wesker stared down at Miranda. Her eyes were wet with tears as he leaned down and kissed her. He couldn't help himself. "Someday," he whispered to her. "Someday we'll look for Oswell Spencer. But not anytime soon." He ran a hand through her dampening hair and smiled slightly. "Riley. Come on." Miranda fingered the note in her pocket. Someday…

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