A Rose by Any Other Name

A Town without Pity

Albert Wesker had been trying to contact the stealth plane for more than half an hour to no avail and it was starting to worry him. He hadn't even entertained the thought that Miranda or Riley had gone in search of Sherry. He knew that Riley was not brave enough to undermine him.

Until now he hadn't had time to do anything about it. Jacks, who had recently been named team leader, had discovered that Umbrella was already been planning to find the last G-virus sample and extract it from the city. They were now working against the clock to find it first. The only thing standing in their way, however, was all those infernal zombies and that mysterious monster that was still prowling the sewers.

The entire town of over 200, 000 people, were all zombies. Wesker had to admit that he'd never seen anything like it. Even the incident at the mansion had only dealt with a few hundred. This was outrageous.

"Ada." He spoke into his com-link, gazing around him to make sure that he was alone. Her voice came back static to him. Frowning he smoothed back his hair. It had been a very frustrating day.

"Wesker, there was an explosion in the forest area near point B. Haven't found any more details than that. City completely infested with zombies. Army is planning to close off the town to outsiders as soon as tomorrow. Mission should be as simple as getting to the G-virus sample…."Ada's voice faded out then came back; "It is believed that there are a few people alive within the police department and a few in the Underground Research facility including Annette Birkin."

"Good. Keep me informed, Ada." He told her. Night was falling heavily on the city and Wesker knew that he would have to get to Miranda soon and get her to a safer spot. That way he could also find out what had happened to communications with the stealth plane and thus killing two birds with one stone. He had no idea that Riley and Miranda were already lost within the city.

Miranda leaned against the side of a crashed car breathing heavily. Riley collapsed beside her and choked. "Man, that was close! Where'd those guys come from anyway?" They'd nearly been eaten alive by a group of repugnant zombies. How they'd gotten out of that situation she would never know. She hadn't even been able to fire her gun. She'd closed her eyes and aimed, but never got a shot off.

She prayed that her daughter Sherry was much better off than they were. Surely Annette Birkin had been smart enough to tell her to go somewhere that was protected. She'd been trying to think of a place safer herself.

"The police station!" She shouted in excitement.

"The what? Miranda, are you crazy? Didn't you hear when that guy said zombies had overtaken the police station? That place is crawling with them!" Riley shouted back. "We go there, it would be like walking into a mouse trap! No sir! Not me!"

"Then where, Riley? Where are we supposed to go that Wesker could find us?" Miranda exploded. "Where are we supposed to go that's safe?"

"I don't know, why don't you tell me. You know Wesker better than the rest of us apparently." Riley snapped. Miranda closed her eyes and saw red. She slapped Riley hard enough to turn his head to the side. She'd never been so angry in all her life.

"Don't talk to me like that!" She growled. Riley turned his head back to her, his face filled with malice. But before either of them could continue their argument, the door fell off the car and a putrefied zombie stumbled out toward them. Behind Riley two other members of the undead were walking slowly in their direction.

"Jeez, these things are ugly." Riley muttered reaching for Miranda's wrist. "Run!" The two of them stormed past the zombies and ran as fast as they could. Neither had any clue where to go.

The bookstore loomed ahead of them, illuminated by the still working streetlights. "In here!" Miranda wasn't sure who said it, but both of them responded. Kicking in the door, Riley and Miranda tumbled inside their gasping breath the only sound.

"Oh jeez…oh jeez…how the hell are we going to get out of this one?" Riley wheezed. Miranda said nothing. Instead she got up and searched for a light switch. "Be careful," Riley warned. "We still don't know what's in here."

She found nothing and didn't dare stray too far alone. Groaning, she sat down on the floor. "We can't stay here, Miranda. We'll have to get to Wesker somehow. If we stay in one place we're like sitting ducks." A rumble outside brought Riley next to her.

Miranda closed her eyes and sighed. She could almost imagine Wesker was here with her. If only his inhuman ability had given him the power to hear her in his mind.

If only her father was still working for Umbrella mistakes like this one would never have been made. If only he were still alive. At least he would have known what to do in this situation. But there was no time for regrets. She had to find Wesker and save Sherry. These were the things that would keep her alive for now.

A sound like wet shoes came to them from the doorway. A soft moan echoed the strange noise. "Oh shit!" Riley shouted, leaping to his feet. "Miranda, come on!"

Miranda was shaking. She'd never be able to run past that thing. What if there were more of them? She was more afraid than she wanted to admit. Riley hefted his gun and fired allowing light from the backfire to illuminate the room enough for Miranda to see three zombies beginning to surround them.

Then they heard something unusual. Something unlike anything they'd ever heard before. It sounded like someone was clearing they're throat, followed closely by a strange clicking. Riley perked up upon hearing this. "Scooby… Scrappy… Here boys." He whistled and patted his leg. The zombies stopped to listen, as if they understood the sound. Miranda searched desperately for a light switch. If they only had a little light it would be easier to escape. Without it, they were doomed. Riley whistled again.

Miranda found a switch on the side of a bookcase and grasped a switch. She flipped it with fervor and all at once the lights inside the bookstore flared to life. What the light revealed brought a scream from Miranda. A hideous creature clung to the ceiling above them. It was skinless, the muscles and brain appearing clearly. Its tongue stretched out almost touching Miranda's face. She screamed again as Riley seized her arm and pulled her up stairway nearby. The zombies moaned loudly and slowly followed them the strange creature on their heels.

At the top of the stairs, Riley threw Miranda into an open doorway and turned to fire his gun at the advancing monsters. Miranda stumbled in and fumbled for a light switch. This room was blessedly empty. She heaved a sigh for relief as Riley stormed in and slammed the door. "What the hell was that?" He coughed, reloading his magnum.

"Don't ask me." Miranda answered quietly. "I've never seen anything like it."

"Even being on the Umbrella research team? That's crazy." Riley checked the widows for their durability.

"We never dealt with anything like that. We never thought we'd have to." She told him pitifully.

"You never thought about what that virus was capable of? You never thought that it could do this much damage?" Riley snapped.

"I was under the impression that this virus would never leak out and destroy anything. We were doing research for bio-chemical warfare." Miranda shot back.

"There's the key word, M, warfare. It makes men crazy. It makes them do things inane even at the cost of human life. Your precious Wesker is not immune to this." Riley glared at her. "What do you think he's doing here? Trying to save the city?"

"And what about you? You're not here playing with your pets." Miranda said rudely. Turning her back on Riley she made her way to the far wall. She looked out at all the zombies below them limping single file into the bookstore and laid a hand on the window. There would be no easy escape from this city.

"Listen, Miranda, we all have our dark sides. When we get out of this, I'll tell you all about mine if that's what you want. But for now, let's try to get to Wesker…alive." Riley said at last. "That thing is dead. I shot it as it was coming up the stairs."

Miranda continued to stare out the window, watching as a young woman ran through the parking lot toward a burning car. "Help me!" She screamed. Miranda knew they'd never reach her in time. There were too many of them. This proved to be true as they surrounded the woman and took her to the ground. She disappeared beneath them still screaming.

Miranda turned away wishing that Wesker would hear them if they screamed, but there was no guarantee. There was no telling where he was.

Wesker stood outside the wooded area and frowned. The feeling in the pit of his stomach was not a comforting one. Some type of vehicle had cleared a large part of the brush away. By the looks of the tire tracks, it had been a full size pickup truck.

The Hunters were loose. There were some of them prowling around the area now. It seemed strange that the Hunters would be loose. He'd only asked Riley to let out two of them and they were supposed to come immediately to him. Something must have happened, he concluded. But what?

His arrival at the grounded airplane and seeing the cockpit on fire confirmed his suspicions. Angrily he grabbed the side of the hanger door and ripped it off its hinges. A hunter screeched in the darkness and leapt towards him. Wesker caught it under the chin and sent it flying. He watched in ire as a second Hunter took off deeper into the woods. It wouldn't be long before this one found its way into the city.

Since there were bound to be more Hunters on the loose that meant that they would soon begin to procreate and multiply. Then they too would have run over the city...one more hellish monster to have to fight and waste his valuable time.

Searching the area he found Miranda's watch. It was the watch he'd given her as a present a few years ago. That could mean only one thing. Miranda and Riley were somewhere in the city and he had little time to find them before something else found them first.

He needed them both for their intellect and talents and would not risk losing them just yet. Tossing the door on top of the fallen Hunter, Wesker set out to find two wayward people trapped somewhere in a city of death.

The window broke easily beneath their weight as Miranda and Riley sailed through it landing hard on the pavement below. The zombies didn't have enough time to react as they jumped to their feet and continued running. They stopped only to rest in the middle of an open street.

"Okay," Miranda gasped. "If I remember right there's a pet store right up this way." Gasping and coughing the two of them launched themselves at the door to the pet store slamming it behind them as a lone zombie pounded life-less fists on the glass.

"What else can go wrong here? Jeez!" Riley panted. "We've seen zombies and skinless thingys, and Hunters, and a giant spider. Can you believe that? A giant spider!" Both of them fell silent for a moment trying to grasp what they had just seen.

The growl split the silence like a knife. "Oh my god." Miranda said aloud. "What now?"

"Do we want to know?" Riley asked flipping on a nearby light. A single dog sat on the counter top. Its eyes were milky white and half of the skin on its face missing. The flesh on its sides was stripped away to reveal gruesome sets of muscle tissue and bone.

Miranda reached for it without realizing what she was doing. "You poor thing…" Riley jumped at her and tackled her to the ground.

"Have you lost your mind, M? Look at that thing!" Riley cried. Snarling, the dog leapt off the counter and flung itself at Riley. Riley managed to grab it by the collar before the two of them rolled away from Miranda. Riley was trying almost ineffectively to keep it away from his throat. "Run, Miranda. Get out!" She could almost hear Wesker's roar in the hoarse words. Somehow it gave her the strength she needed. She kicked out her foot connecting with the dog's ribs and sending it up in the air yelping. It landed against the windowpane and lay there few moments whimpering as Riley pulled out his gun and shot it. Miranda looked away unable to help thinking of her father's prized Doberman, Rice. That dog had been the first of thirty to be infected with the T-virus.

"So, they're here too. The T-virus is all over this city isn't it?" She choked out. "Nothing was spared."

"Sort of like that story of the first Passover huh?" Riley muttered. "Thanks, M."

Miranda wanted to cry. All she could think about was all these people who had once lived and loved like she did. But now, they were nothing more than depraved monstrosities whose hunger drove them to eat the ones they loved. They had done nothing to deserve this.

Had she helped bring this hellish fate to pass? Had her discoveries contributed to this ghastly city's ultimate destination? How many had to die for Umbrella's research to be complete? How many would suffer because of Umbrella's greed? Why had she not left after her father's death?

Albert Wesker was why. For some reason he had a strange hold over her. No matter how much she tried to tell herself she hated him and could live without him she stayed. And why? Because she'd fallen in love with him.

Riley patted her on the shoulder. "Miranda, we can't stay here. Is there a back door?" Miranda nodded wordlessly. Biting her lip she stood and led him to the back of the store, almost tripping over the body of the storekeeper.

"Patty." Miranda choked out before finally bursting into tears. The poor girl's throat was ripped open from ear to ear. This young girl had loved animals and adopted everything under the sun. She'd always tried to convince Miranda and Wesker they needed a pet, but Miranda was always afraid of them and now she knew why. The poor girl had never had a chance.

Riley still had a hand on her arm and held her up. "Miranda. We've got to keep going." He said sympathetically. They opened the back door just as the front windows shattered and zombies began filling the store.

The alley was empty, much to Miranda's relief, but every now and then they would catch a glimpse of a zombie standing at a window moaning sorrowfully. "This is insane." Riley said softly. "Totally and completely insane." Miranda agreed with him. The sooner they found Wesker, made sure Sherry was safe, and got out of there the better off she'd be.

Just past a basketball court enclosed in a chain link cage, the alleyway was blocked off by a large van. There was no way to get around it or go through it since the front part of the vehicle was engulfed in flames. Their only choice was to go straight through the basketball court. But how would they get rid of all those zombies inside? There had to be at least a dozen throwing themselves against the walls of the court moaning ceaselessly at them.

"When I was scared as a kid, I used to think of a place I always wanted to be." Riley checked the barrel of his gun to make sure it was loaded. "What about you?" He took her gun and checked the clip.

Miranda tore her eyes away from the zombies to smile ruefully at him. "I always tried to pretend I wasn't afraid. I wanted to be just like my father. Brave and courageous."

"You are brave and courageous, M." He winked at her. "I'm thinking of a cold Antarctic climate."

"Antarctic? Don't you have any sense? You'd freeze to death before you got to enjoy yourself." Miranda shook her head.

"Not if I had Ada next to me." He snickered. She smiled at him.

"Yeah. Well, I'm thinking of a tropical place. Sunny beaches, warm sand in between my toes…" Miranda closed her eyes. She could almost imagine the beach now and she felt warm inside.

"Wesker naked on the…" Riley interpreted. Miranda laughed and shoved him. Then his face turned serious. "We'd better go Miranda…or we never will." Nodding, Miranda helped Riley kick in the Basketball court's gate where a dozen zombies were waiting for them.

Albert Wesker stood on the roof of a former apartment building and watched as Miranda and Riley prepared to fight their way through an enclosed basketball court. It might have been an easy task if it weren't filled with a dozen or so mindless victims of the T-virus. He saw them laughing and frowned. It was obvious to him that Riley had no idea what he was about to get them into.

But Miranda…Even with torn clothing and disarrayed hair she looked like a goddess…some sort of mystical princess who was prepared to sacrifice herself for the good of her people.

She and Riley kicked at the cage door and managed to startle the zombies enough to give them leeway. Riley stood in front of Miranda and unloaded his gun felling several of the undead in the process. Miranda stood behind him, visibly shaking. Wesker hadn't realized just exactly how afraid she was of these monsters.

"Shoot them!" Riley shouted. He was out of bullets and the remaining zombies were advancing quickly. Miranda raised her gun squeezed her eyes shut. The gun shook violently. She wasn't going to hit anything like that.

Taking out his own gun, Wesker snipped the zombies from his position on the roof. They fell simultaneously each letting out a horrid moan as they died. Miranda opened her eyes and cheered. She and Riley hugged and laughed like children. Neither was aware that she hadn't hit anything at all.

Leaping off the building Wesker landed gracefully in front of Miranda. Surprise swept over her beautiful features followed closely by relief. "Wesker!" She cried, throwing her arms around him and hugging him hard. He did not return the embrace.

A moment later he put his hands on her shoulders and pushed her away from him, his own face awash with pure anger. "What in the bloody hell are you two doing here?" he shouted. His words were sharp and biting. Miranda glared at him. He couldn't quite read her emotions; her eyes were smoldering. "Have the two of you lost all your senses?" Wesker continued to shout as Riley stared at him slack jawed. "Do you even realize what's plaguing this decrepit city?"

"Zombies for one thing." Riley interjected. "And these skinless thingys, and zombie dogs, and a giant Spider!" Riley waved his hands in his excitement. "Not to mention the Hunters."

"Let's discuss those Hunters shall we, Davis? What the hell are they doing loose? I thought you had them under your control." Wesker fumed.

"I would have. But an explosion threw us out. What was I supposed to do?" Riley's voice rose. "Oh I get it. As long as good old Wesker gets the G-virus nothing else matters. Is that how it is?" Riley was yelling.

"When death was alive and shadows long since cast…" Miranda quoted softly. The two men turned to her, all at once silent. "Death was alive…Get it? Zombies. He's talking about zombies. He must have known the T-virus capabilities all along."

"Who?" The two men asked simultaneously.

"Ozwell Spencer." Miranda answered absentmindedly. "Shadows. Everyone has shadows don't they, Wesker?" She looked toward Wesker her eyes a well of their past relationship. It was a look she knew that only he would understand. He titled his dark glasses to give her a narrow eyed glare. This was not the time for games. "We have to find him, Wesker. He could be the key to all of this." Miranda gestured at the city that surrounded them. In her heart she knew that this was true.

"Indeed." Wesker said softly. He'd been thinking that himself, although it was not a good time to worry with such matters. There would be ample opportunities to search for Spencer in the future but for now they all had other commitments.

"So where to now?" Riley's question broke the Spencer spell. Wesker turned to him, settling his sunglasses back to their regular position.

"To rest. The two of you look like the walking dead." He retorted. While Riley thought this was funny, Miranda did not. She knew what he meant and didn't appreciate the irony.

Grady's Inn stood before them like a silent sentinel. It looked nothing like it had a few years ago. Now there was a large Umbrella logo blaring out at them like a neon sign. For some reason Miranda hated it with a fierce passion. Riley stood next to her frowning as well.

"Man, even their logo sucks." He said aloud. Miranda stared at him. "Well it does." Wesker ignored him and listened to the silence for potential dangers. Hearing nothing of interest, he took hold of Miranda's arm and led them into the building.

The lobby was shabby and run down. A dark splatter of blood covered the wall behind the check out desk and several puddles of dried blood covered the once elegant carpeting. Plants and decorative ashtrays were overturned, their contents spilling out onto the floor. Pictures that had once hung in artistic fashion on the walls were broken and now hanging precariously. Bullet holes littered the bare places on the walls. Despite the deterioration of the lobby, memories flooded through Miranda's mind before she had a chance to stop them.

Her first meeting with the Birkin's had been in this very lobby. They had sat in the breakfast area and she had made the decision to give them her then unborn child. On occasions when Wesker couldn't make the trip to the Arklay Mountains to see her, she had met him here. She had never hesitated to be with him, even if he left her before she woke up.

"Wesker…no…" Miranda choked on her words and blinked back tears. "This is where…" She lost her voice in a wave of sobs. This was not the Raccoon City she'd once called home. This was an evil place the likes of which most people would never see. Wesker laid a hand on the small of her back but said nothing.

Leaving Miranda under the watchful eye of Jacks, Wesker and Riley headed up the main stairwell, which wound its way up and broke off to continue six floors above them. Riley remained quiet until he was sure they were out of earshot. "I want a com-link, Wesker. This never would have happened if I had had one."

"Why the hell did you drag her through the city?" Wesker growled walking down a scarcely lit hallway on the second floor. "You had no business parading her through this place. Do you realize what could have happened tonight?"

"I understand that, Wesker. But I wasn't going to stay there and wait for that plane to blow up. We both know it did." Riley snapped. "At least I didn't leave her there to die."

Wesker nodded silently. "I'm setting a surveillance team in the basement of this hotel. I want you to head them up. I want to know everything Umbrella is planning to do before they do. I want to know how many humans are still alive. I want their names and their connections to Umbrella or otherwise."

Riley scowled but nodded in return. "What about Miranda?"

"I haven't decided on that yet…" Wesker answered quietly. The two of them stopped in front of a door with the number 818 imprinted in gold. Wesker opened the door and moved aside to allow Riley inside. "Tonight you sleep here. But tomorrow you'll sleep with the team in the basement."

Riley snorted loudly and sat on the bed. "So glad to know I'm cared for."

"Miranda likes you at least. That's more than enough to be thankful for." Wesker said.

Riley looked at him and raised an eyebrow but decided not to push the issue. Wesker was a very secretive man who showed almost no emotions. There was no reason to bring attention to it when he did say something unusual. "How did you manage to clean this place out? Wasn't it crawling with zombies?"

Wesker held the doorknob as if he were unsure of whether he wanted to slam the door on Riley or not. Then, he smiled peevishly. "I did what I had to do."

"All the electricity is on here. Gas and water too." Riley said factually. "I mean, don't you think someone will notice the lights on the rooms?"

"Not to worry, Davis. I've got it all under control…" Wesker was still smiling peevishly as Riley interrupted him

"Yes, but what about zombie attacks? What about the surveillance team in the basement? How will we get away undetected?" Riley was full of questions he needed answers for.

"Riley!" Wesker barked. "I've got operatives set up purely for the basement team's protection. Whether or not you go undetected all depends on how well you can control the situation." Wesker glared at him over the rim of his dark glasses. "Goodnight, perturbed one. Sleep tight, don't let the zombies bite." With that Wesker shut the door. Riley could still hear the nefarious laughter long after Wesker had gone.

Miranda was totally exhausted. She sat on the lobby's only remaining couch waiting for Wesker to tell her what to do next. She was too tired to even bother thinking for herself.

Yet, she didn't want to close her eyes. Every time she did she saw the zombies. It was strange to her how truly afraid she was of those undead monsters. They frightened her more than all the other bio-monsters running around out there. She stood and looked out the hotel's large bay window.

She could see them out there in darkness. They were nothing but a rotting pile of flesh and bone. Their minds held nothing of the spirit and life that had once inhabited their bodies. Their eyes now clouded over, white with infection and death, showed no signs of the soul trapped somewhere within. Even after their bodies had rotted to the point where they could no longer exist their souls would find no rest. There would be no peace for them…ever.

The reason that they scared her so was the fact that they had once been human. Many of them had known her and worked with her at Umbrella. Many had spread rumors about her affair with Wesker. Many had sympathized with her. The doctor that had delivered the result of their passion was out there, most likely prowling the streets in search of a taste of the flesh he had once tried to save. By now Patty had awoken to her new form and was feasting on the remains of some other poor soul. Death would have been a mercy compared to this. There was no doubt that Umbrella had damned this entire city to its hellish end. The thought that tore at her insides the most was the knowledge that she had helped them. Because of her, an entire town of innocent people had been totally and utterly annihilated.

Albert Wesker's image appeared in the glass, shimmering like a ghost. He held out his hand for her. "Come with me, Harley." His voice was dark and seductive. She had no choice but to obey…

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