*Question of the Month is an apple crumble with a really good crumble-to-fruit ratio brought to us by Later Levels
This month’s slice of question pie has been dished out by the fantastic Pix1001 who runs a streamlined train over at “Shoot the Rookie“. Check out the MASTER POOOSST! for a little more about what her particular brand of cereal is. Right now, I’m going to get on with the business of this month’s question which is:
if you could live in any video game settlement (ie a town, village, city, etc), where would you choose to live and why; and what role would you play in it?
Wow – so this is quite the topic. Let’s face it, we’ve all daydreamed about living in our favourite in game setting from Hyrule to Rapture, but I think personally I’ve spent more time imagining what it would be like to live in Resident Evil’s Raccoon City more than anywhere else. It’s not your traditional utopia, but given the game’s impact on me, I always had dreams of roaming the police station and wanted to step in those detailed pre-rendered rooms to delve deeper in to that world.
I also guess that like most people in Raccoon City, I’d work for Umbrella because someone has to do all that evil science right? Unfortunately I just don’t think it work would out to be the idyllic experience I’m imagining….
“… Well… I guess I’m patient zero… Wednesdays eh?.. am I right?… “
I felt like I’d seen this coming earlier in the evening; like the sea drawing back before some freak wave rolls in. I guess if I’d just paid more attention then maybe I would have noticed the building wall of water ready to wash me away, but as an employee of Umbrella we were trained not to notice impending doom and just focus on the research… and I was an excellent employee. The Birkins themselves hand picked me from the normal petri-dish of low-level Umbrella workers; #57832 called up for service by the two most notorious research leaders in the company. My work out at the old Spencer facility… years before THAT happened… on synthesis of double-counter-viral microbial strains gave me the edge when they were scouting the lab. He’d smiled as he began to comprehend the implication of the project, something that none of my supervisors at the time had done. I think they were happy for me to transfer to “Team-Birkin” in the underground lab on the outskirts of Raccoon City.
“If I concentrate hard I can still pull this evening’s commute from these fading memories… “
In recent months William and Annette had become more secretive about their work and all shifts suddenly switched from the standard rotating pattern to nights only. Sure it messed with your body-clock for a few days, but being under synthetic light a few hundred feet below ground was pretty much the same if the sun was up outside or not and the commute was much more palatable without the crowds. I don’t drive and my apartment is in the nicer southern ‘burbs of Raccoon City directly opposite its more industrial northern fringes so my commute this evening, like all evenings, took me through the tradesman’s entrance to the lab. The first part was the easiest, the old tram past the clocktower to the shopping district. A few shambling tourists boarded and clattered shutters to capture the setting sun as it silhouetted the famous gothic tower. I hopped off at the quaint little terminus and decided to weave my way through alleys of shops. Whoever had designed these streets never imagined them with a crowd of people in, all pushing and shoving to get to their destination. It was almost impossible to make it down these alleys without a pair of hands suddenly grabbing you by the shoulders as they push their way through.
Finally as I rounded the corner by the bookstore, I came to the gates of the police station, yet another relic of the gothic architect’s building rampage some 30 or 40 years prior. The door creaked as I entered and my footsteps echoed in the vast cavernous main hall… any criminal dragged in to here might easily assume that the police had forced them to come to an art gallery rather than trying to arrest them. I stepped forward and tripped over a small nondescript green plant in a small terracotta pot. Soil flew everywhere.
“What the hell!?” I I exclaimed in my best hushed voice…
“Chief likes them, says the plants brighten up the place,” replied Marvin as he strolled past carrying what looked like party hats and a banner.
“… but… but it’s just a small plant… no flower or anything.” I said, busily scraping the soil back in to the pot and hoping I hadn’t managed to actually kill one of Chief Irons’ plants.
Marvin shrugged, “He’s got em all over the place, some red… even some blue ones down in the basement. Anyway, we’re having a welcome party for the new guy tomorrow. Drop by at the end of your shift… if you survive” he said with a chuckle and I rolled my eyes as he strode off.
Dusting the soil from my hands I made my way across the hall to Dorris. Dorris might not actually have been her name, but we never did introductions and I had to call her something. She was sat typing… on a typewriter… in the late 90’s… I couldn’t even begin to comprehend what sort of police force this was some days. I cleared my throat and asked if she had the key to the basement.
“.. statue…” she muttered whilst handing me that small brass disc with a unicorn embossed on the surface. I accepted and sighed…
“Dorris, how often have we done this? I mean, why don’t you just keep the key? Why do we do this every evening? I take the key, I go and unlock the door, I bring the key back, you call the maintenance man and he has to get those damn ladders to put it back in her pitcher… and that’s not even taking in to account that he has to shove those statues around in the corridor upstairs, with his back the way it is, just to get to the storeroom and pick up the ladders. I mean, how is THIS efficient?” I said gesturing wildly around the hall. An officer was carrying a small brass cog across the marble floor heading toward the fire escape ladder, another high up on the top balcony was fiddling around with a crest to try and release the medal that was stored there, and in the distance I could hear someone cursing as they failed to move the library stacks into the correct position to open the panel. Dorris shrugged. At that moment the chief walked up to the desk
“…Dorris…” he purred in that low rasping voice, “… may I borrow your lighter, I’m just going to get the other red gem from behind the painting… got to put this back in the secret panel” he continued, brandishing a small plug in the shape of a bishop
“… oh, and get another painting ready to replace the one I have to burn…”
I took the bishop plug out of the chief’s hand, noticing a few flecks of blood on his usually pristine shirt and a stack of S.T.A.R.S. personnel files under his arm.
“I’m heading that way chief. Let’s save ourselves about an hour of time combined…. Wednesdays!… Am I right?” I said marching off toward the statue of the woman drawing water. The Unicorn medal slid in to the recess and the statue screeched forward causing everyone to look around. I hated that bit. The key dropped down and I quickly snatched it before scuttling off.
The main police office seemed to be empty, the ceiling fan whirring away to itself. I’d found a memo on a chair just outside the office with the safe combination written on it. They probably shouldn’t just leave this stuff lying around so I dropped it on to the top of the safe as I passed… but curiosity got the better of me and I jabbed in the combination “2236” just to see what this police force had decided needed locking away. There was a small information map of the police station and a box of shotgun shells. “At least they were taking firearms safety seriously” I thought, right before noticing two boxes of 9 mm ammo lying in the floor just behind the desk “… or not…” I continued as I carried on out of the office and through the door in the back.
Heading down in to the basement always creeped me out so I picked up the pace and quickly arrived at the parking lot. Great! Someone had parked the police van obstructing the door to the holding cell area… again… not only was it inconvenient, it was a fire risk. Luckily I knew that the guy never used the parking brake, so I pushed my back against the van and gradually eased it back.
“…. Wednesdays…” I grunted to nobody in particular “…. right?…”
The good news was that the other three chess-plugs were already in the mechanism by the time I reached the sewer door; they often were and I’d taken the punt hoping not to have to drag myself around the station checking all their hiding places, or chasing down the half-dozen people who might have just forgotten to return them. The bad news was that the wellies I’d stashed next to the dogs’ kennel had a bite right through the sole and my first of three sewer wading adventures of my commute had resulted in wet socks because of it. The dogs had seemed more riled up than usual, but I’d just put it down to midweek blues. Even dogs must get it too right? I stored that thought away for later and I time that I was mindlessly staring though a microscope eyepiece for several hours. It’s nice to have those sorts of deep questions to ponder at times like those. The bishop plug unlocked the door and I prepared for the further ingress of dubious water in to my footwear.
Luck seemed to be fickle on my commute today; the waterfall was in full flow, blocking the door, and the wolf medal was missing. I did what I could to try and stop the spray going in to my mouth, after all this was a sewer, and started to look for the foreman. He wasn’t far away.
“Have you got the other medal?” I shouted across the murky green treatment tank. He fished around in his pocket for a while before producing the small metal disc.
“I… I don’t have the valve handle, must’ve left it over your side” he shouted back with the practised confused tone of someone who does this sort of thing all the time.
“Can’t you just throw it over?” I asked, not really wanting to get involved in another ridiculous quest today.
“It might fall in… and … well, you know people flush gators right?”
“Why is this bridge controlled by a valve handle anyway?” I said, not really expecting a response, before pausing to add “… and why can the city afford to build a giant pneumatic moving bridge, but not just build a second bridge so you don’t have to keep moving this one…”
The foreman shrugged before dodging to avoid the large metal handle I hurled towards him. The bridge hummed in to life and he shuffled across to pass me the medal before importantly telling me that he had to go and water the blue herbs for the chief yet getting confused when I asked him how they managed to survive down here without light.
“You’re the scientist…” he finally side as he turned his back.
The final stretch of the journey had arrived and I was looking forward to getting to work and pouring out that first delicious cup of coffee of the evening. I took a seat in the underground cable car and put my soggy feet up on the seat next to me. Three other gentlemen joined me; they were wearing black combat suits, full face respirators, and carrying automatic weapons. The red and white Umbrella logos on their shoulders told me that they probably weren’t going to shoot me so I just smiled weakly at those reflective eye pieces and nodded.
“….shhhhhhhh….” breathed the taller of the three gentlemen.
“…shhhhh…”, “…shhhhhh….” breathed the other two. I folded my arms and dramatically shrugged my shoulders.
“Brisk tonight…” I said, trailing off at the end.
The cable car started to move. There was just the mechanical hum for some time.
“See they got you doing the late shift too…. Wednesdays, eh guys?” I said, rolling my eyes and wiggling my damp toes slightly.
Luckily my travelling companions wanted to have some sort of briefing before heading in to the lab so I managed to jump on the lift before them. I propped myself up against one of the railings and whistled tunelessly as the mechanism sprang in to life. The summer air was warm and the cable-car had been stuffy, and smelling slightly of sewage, so being in the gentle breeze of the lift shaft was pleasant. My other option was sitting in the cab of the monstrous train that occupied most of the list’s platform. I stopped whistling as I pondered it for a second. I’d never even seen the train move. Why was Umbrella hoisting this four, maybe five, ton lump of metal up and down the shaft several times a day? I carried on whistling, it probably wasn’t worth worrying about, the company seemed to have a pretty good idea what it was doing.
The lift shuddered to a halt as it reached its final destination and I just had time to jump off before it made the return journey, presumably to pick up my cable-car buddies. I slipped in to the break room and was assaulted by a thick smell of bleach. Wednesdays were deep clean days. I quickly poured myself a cup of the perpetually warm coffee from the pot and inhaled deeply to try and remove the acrid burning of the cleaning fumes before rummaging around in a locker for my lab coat. William and Annette were probably somewhere on the lower level today so I’d at least have a chance to catch up with them; sometimes he’d let slip a few details about his new G-Virus if he was in a particularly good mood. I glanced at my watch and realised that miraculously I was running a little early so decided to celebrate with a second cup of coffee and some dry socks that had stashed here following the first time my feet hadn’t made it this far dry.
The final obstacle was the ladder that connected the upper and lower levels of the lab…. a ladder?… Umbrella could afford a lift that propelled a train up and down a few hundred feet without breaking a sweat but didn’t think to put a set of stairs in here? … maybe they weren’t as infallible as I thought.
The lab door hissed open and I stepped in. William was sat on the floor, probably trying to work up the strength to face his own hump day blues.
“Good Evening Dr. Birkin” I announced, straightening my collar and clipping my employee badge to the crisp white lapel. He didn’t respond and his breathing was heavy. I took a closer look at the figure slumped on the floor; he was much more riddled with bullet holes than I remember him being, a hypodermic was hanging limply from his chest, and unusually for him there was actually some blood on his labcoat. These probably weren’t signs that I was going to have a productive day.
“…Dr…. Birkin?” I just about managed to enquire as his eyes snapped open. They were bright red and fixed in a stare somewhere past my right shoulder. I looked around expecting to see the target of his gaze, but instead I found myself flying across the lab, shattering glasswear, and finally sprawled in a heap trying to remember if we had to box up broken glass and put it in general lab waste or if it needed to go into a sharps container for safe disposal.
The door hissed and William was gone.
After some minutes I rolled over and clambered back on to my feet, dusted off my labcoat, and decided to head back up to the break room because this was almost certainly going to be a three-cup-of-coffee start to the shift. Despite the number of alarms sounding, the corridors were remarkably empty and the break room itself seemed to have thicker walls making it a safe haven from the most piercing frequencies of the incessant klaxons. I decided to stay put for a while, at least until the noise stopped and made myself comfortable on the small bed in the corner of the room.
A rat scuttled across the floor… it looked pretty similar to a rat I’d seen snuffling around in the broken vials down in the lab… only now it didn’t look so healthy; probably just a midweek thing. I tentatively offered it a piece of my biscuit, but it decided to take a small chunk of flesh out of my hand instead. Suddenly the room started to wobble and my heart began to pound. In a move that was overly dramatic for me I let out a grunt and slumped back on the bed. My skin began to itch cementing in my mind that this was the T-Virus.
… so that’s where I am now. Still slumped on the bed, my consciousness fading fast. Patient Zero… well, I hope so… no point being an early victim of a viral outbreak if you’re not gunning for the most lucrative position. I bet “patient two” in these situations always feels pretty foolish, nobody ever remembers their name.
A nondescript figure in a white coat seems to be shaking me… they could be saying something… I’m not sure… their arm looks pretty tasty though… Looks like Wednesday isn’t going to be your day either…
12 thoughts on “QotM*: Umbrella Employee #57832”
What did the STARS team even do before the virus got loose? Did they exist just to rescue people stuck in these elaborate locked rooms?
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… that’s… That’s actually a pretty good theory… I mean, Raccoon City has SOOO MANY elaborately locked rooms that people must get trapped all of the time! 😁
This is brilliant! Love the bit about trying to get through the narrow streets full of ‘people’, it’s a great blend of Resident Evil and real life! Hope your Friday is better than your Wednesday…
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Great answer mate, it’s like a collection of short stories before the catastrophe happened. So why haven’t you written a book yet?
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😁 thanks! Maybe one day 🤔
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I believe NaNoWriMo is having one for short stories this month actually 🙂
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This is SO good! The way you offset all the crazy happenings and ridiculous puzzles with the mundanity of a typical day at the job is brilliant. I laughed quite hard at trying to figure out whether the broken glass needed to go to safe disposal or not. Really great work!
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Thanks! :-)… I had a lot of fun writing this!
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