"Guilt upon the conscience, like rust upon iron, both defiles and consumes it, gnawing and creeping into it, as that does which at last eats out the very heart and substance of the metal." -Bishop Robert South
Wesker had once called me a beautiful Judas. Thinking back on it brings a ghost of a smirk to my face.
Overhead, a plane ascends into the heavens. Tonight is a bit chilly, black and silvery clouds, tinged by bruising purple, veil the sallow moon. It's a smooth sickle tonight, gleaming like a honed blade, stained in pollution red. A few stars can be seen despite the city's lights, gauzy orange and burning blue.
I walk back into the apartment, closing the balcony doors behind me. Since that rainy night several years ago, the target on my back had been sealed. With Wesker deadjust another pawn in their gamethey need another figurehead to play the villain. Why not the supposed heroes? I pinch my nose in irritation and collapse on the plush white love-seat. It's a definite possibility. The Organization itself has been infiltrated by countless moles. Fortunately, Trent, as the son of a former defector, knows all-too-well their formula of attackburrow deep like a parasite and destroy the host from within. Like their own toys, they don parallel traits.
I close my eyes, soaking up the grungy radiance of the city's lights. The only light from my apartment is the blinking alarm clock on the nightstand in my bedroom. I needed to reset it. Billy had always been prone to changing something in my living space, whether it was the direction of my toothbrush, the number of fruits painstakingly arranged on the kitchen counter, or unplugging my damn alarm clock. Always sneaking in while I was away constantly accentuating the fact that I am exceedingly anal retentive.
My PDA on the glass coffee table vibrates to life. I sigh heavily and get up to answer it. No surprise; it's Billy. "What is it?" I snap.
"Ooh, the kitty is baring her claws." He chuckles, but doesn't waste time, getting directly to the point. "They've been compromised. A cover story is already prepared for Tricell. They are linking the B.S.A.A. with Wesker and Gionne's branch of Tricell. They're saying that the faction went rogue and Wesker used the B.S.A.A. to eliminate potential rivals. Jill's disappearance had supposedly been a cover for Wesker to make his final moves his hypothetical death and Jilla connection to the inside with Chris."
I scoff. "What a crock."
Billy cocks an eyebrow apathetically. "Regardless, the public will believe anything the media sells them."
"Trent's orders?" I glance at my bedroom, my eyes focusing to the blinking alarm clock.
"You go after the listed subjects at the Egyptian base just outside of Cairo. I am to retrieve Valentine, Redfield, Alomar, and Stone."
I nod sharply. "Can you even reach them in time, or do I have to pull both jobs out of my ass like before?"
Billy's eyes flicker. "Hey, Columbia was not my fault. The gun was defective. I can't be blamed for that."
I roll my eyes. "No, but a bullet doesn't way judgment."
He snorts. "This said by a woman who plays dress-up on every mission."
I grin coolly. "This said by a military man who has had his neck saved by said woman on countless occasions."
He purses his lips. "You can't count Raccoon. I found you, remember?"
I chuckle. "Trent had me plant the phony note at the exact location where you'd be held up. You performed as planned. I pretty much invited you. Too bad you hadn't even caught on after all these years. I would have figured that my handwriting is quite distinguishable."
The bravado disappears from his eyes. "Pfft. Women." He ends the transmission.
I place the PDA back onto the table and walk into the bedroom, my eyes finding the midnight dress folded so neatly on my bedmy current bed, anyway. A long moment passes. The silence becomes heavy, suffocating almost. A windy sigh exits my lips. "I've heard that line before." Leon's stunned and lusty expression engulfs my thoughts, shadowed, eyes indigo by the night, and lips parted ever-so-slightly. Heaven
Walking back to the balcony doors, I lean my forehead against the cool glass. My breath is a cloud of wet fog on its surface. How long has it been since last I had a good night's sleep? Over a year now? No. Longer than that. The dreams. They've started again.
I wonder if she's having them too?
Forcing the thought angrily from my mind, I stalk into the living area and snatch an apple from the kitchen bar. The feel of it is smooth texture against my fingertips, soothing. I sit near the window. It spans along the wall and curves into the kitchen. Sometimes, when I'm feeling unsafe, this view gets to me. I guess I'll never get over my fear of heights. Swallowing hard, I take a bite out of the apple and wipe the juice that trickles down my chin.
She'd been so outgoing, so pure. Her eyes, unique and alien in their beautythey would shine so brightly when she looked at me. I'd dreamed of her last night and her, too. My jaw clenches at the thought.
"That life is dead." I growl. "Dead."
"Is it?" a liquid warm voice inquires.
I leap off the couch, dropping the apple and pulling my gun from its holster. The figure is sitting with her back to me, the raven hair spilling in shining waves down her back, her posture rigidly aristocratic. How like her. I cock the hammer, my gaze a searing flame of loathing.
A throaty chuckle. "You're so like your father."
"Do not compare me to that" I exhale sharply, my hands shaking with anger. "Why are you even pestering me? I have work to do."
The woman turns slowly, her shoulders finally slumping. Her hands are entwined in her lap. Her legs are crossed, modest high heels gleaming dully in the dim light. I focus the barrel of the gun on her face, my eyes drinking in what she'd done all those years ago. A gaping hole the size of a baseball mars her left templethe exit wound. Her hair does little to hide the hideous blood smears and frayed skin. "Work?" she scoffs. "Tell me Li Na why would I be pestering you? Are you even awake? Are you dreaming?"
"I'm dreaming." I declare vehemently. Wake up!
"Are you sure?" She tilts her head, her hair briefly obscuring the cavernous wound.
"Yes." I snap. Wake up! "I must have fallen asleep on the couch." I glance back to where I'd been sitting. The last few days had shown me little sleep.
"You sure are trying desperately to convince yourself of that. You know as well as I do that once you see beyond the stage curtain, there's no going back." She rises elegantly, her hands falling to her sides and her heels clacking on the floor.
I take a step forward, my finger tightening on the trigger. "Seeing has never frightened me."
My rage begins to boil. "Don't speak as if you know me."
"I will speak as if I know you, because I do know my own flesh and blood." She snaps.
There's a moment of stillness, both of us glaring at one another, sizing the other up. I can smell the expensive perfume she used to wear, heavy and alcoholic with a hint of honeysuckle. The dress she is donning, modest, chosen for her by him She'd been so weak. He'd broken her so easily.
My lips curl back in a snarl. "What do you want?"
She crosses her arms. "I want to right the wrongs I've committed not for me, but"
"You're dead. Your wrongs can't be righted." I interrupt.
"Li Na." Her tone is a silken purr matching my own. "You know that now is not the time for selfish fighting. She's she will need you, Li Na."
I scoff. "Do you think after all these years, after everything I let happen to her, that she would even want my help?" I avert my eyes, unable to hold her stare for the first time. " after I had abandoned her "
"We both did." My mother whispers. "I will never forgive myself for what happened."
"Yeah considering you " I stop short for some reason and the tail end of my retort is left to sour in my stomach.
There's that silence again so very heavy.
I holster my gun and walk over to my half eaten apple, which has rolled under the coffee table. She watches me with tired eyes, her hands entwining themselves again. I glare up at her as I retrieve the fruit and incline my head toward the couch, motioning for her to sit. She shakes her head.
"It's funny how he'd broken you so easily." I chuckle callously. "To everyone else, you were an inamorataan independent, strong and beautiful foreign prize something so many wanted, yet only a monster could have."
Her gaze darkens. "Even with the many years you've lived, you do not understand love."
Suddenly, my rage boils over and I chunk the apple as hard as I can. It hits the wall with a loud thump, the juices splattering in a sticky mess. "Don't give me that, mother. I do know something of love, but I do not let him determine me."
"No " She whispers. "You are so afraid of love that you let him have little to no effect on you at all And that is my wrong. I know you " She pauses momentarily, turning away. "I know you hate me, Li Na, but understand that I am truly sorry for not being the mother I should have been." Her voice is strained with tears.
A little place in my heart tightens, but I ignore it and stalk passed her to the kitchen for a towel. "Could've, should've, would've, but you didn't Don't worry about me. I'm not the one who truly got shit-kicked in this deal. You are the one who blew your brains out on Waverly's birthday. What a gutless way out, mom. I'm proud of you."
"You call me a coward, yet you won't go to Waverly or to him." She sits on the couch, her fingers combing through her hair. "He'll need you, too."
"Leon's a big boy. He can manage himself." I retort sharply as I clean up my mess, not wanting to look back at her.
She sighs. "Li Na you know what is coming. You know what your father was and what he represented. You've studied history. It's always moving, never remaining in one place. You've worked for the very pawns they exercise to keep the ebb and flow of their game constant." I feel her hand on my shoulder. "The time is now."
I knock her hand away. "A series of unfortunate events This has been coming to a head ever since Eve made a deal with the devil. It had to end sometime."
"It must be very lonely where you are."
I glare at her. "Well, at least I didn't let love determine my life. I see where it led you sucking bullet slivers and brain matter."
Pain lines her face and she turns away. "Trent has found her."
Before I can reply, my vision blurs and I find myself curled up on the couch. The apple had fallen from my hand. I glance around the room, but she is gone just a dream Though Trent had found Waverly? I get up to retrieve the neglected fruit. It's not like that will make much difference. She won't divulge what she knows not when she finds out I'm involved. She'd be more-likely to kill me first. Or is he planning? I shove the thought away from me far, far away.
The apple lays dejectedly in the exact spot it'd rolled to in my dream. "How quaint." I remark to no one in particular and get up to throw it away.
The apple is already beginning to brown and I stand at the trash can for a moment, my fingernails pressing multiple smiles into the smooth red skin. Back then, Wesker had secured Waverly on his team because he knew, out of all the people who worked for him and only for him, he could trust her the most. He'd had something she needed, and you never bite the hand that feeds not unless you have nothing to lose. And Jessie had a lot to lose. Over the years, her will to survive and conquer her surroundings had never left her. When I could get info on her location and what she'd been up to, she'd never failed to put someone in a body bag who had tried to break her. Even when she'd been the captive of Umbrella, she'd fought them every single day, killing several scientists and guards in the process. They would have just eliminated her; she'd been costing them too much money. But, her attributes from the T-Virus injections had become too valuable to them.
Suddenly realizing I'd been squeezing the apple to the point of basically murdering it, I drop it into the trash bin. Now's not the time to reminisce. I need to contact Eddy and catch a plane ride to Cairo.