Beautiful Experiment

Chapter 20

“You ever considered doing third party mercenary work?” Leon looked at Ada in shock, only to realize she was talking to Manuela, who in turn took a moment to realize she was being addressed.

“N...not really. I’m happy being an agent.”

“Pity. You’d never be out of employment,” Ada retorted sarcastically. He was about to speak when she interrupted. “So, how’d you get involved with him? I mean, I know already, but I want to hear it from you.”

Manuela glanced at Leon, silently asking with her eyes. Leon nodded almost imperceptibly. Manuela spoke carefully, choosing her words. “Leon inspired me to try and save others. Becoming an agent was the best option available to me to do that.”

“Shouldn’t you have the option to do what you want? Why should you have to play by anyone else’s rules?” Ada retorted, a small smile playing on her lips as she maneuvered the boat. “It’s because they think you’re a threat you know.”

“That’s enough Ada. That’s not true,” Leon contested angrily. “They made too many accommodations for them to consider her a threat. They trust her, but they don’t trust people like you.”

“People like me? Do tell me, what kind of person am I?” Ada looked over her shoulder to fix Leon with a dangerous look. Leon didn’t back down.

“A mercenary. Someone with no moral scruples. Willing to do what they need to do to get what they want,” Leon accused. Ada was silent, the smile never flinching. The two stared each other down, the tension palpable. Suddenly, Ada yanked hard on the wheel, causing everyone but her to jolt in their seats, clinging on for safety. The boat slid across the water, going parallel to the rocky bluffs above them. Smoothly, Ada fired off her grappling hook, and Leon barely managed to right himself in time to catch her parting words.

“Got some business to take care of. See you later,” she taunted, quickly moving beyond vision. Neither had time to react to her words, as the boat was still moving, and on a dangerously fast course towards the base of the bluffs.

Leon ducked over the division of the seats, forcing himself down into the driver’s seat. Clutching the wheel, he yanked it hard to the side while Manuela reached for the throttle, yanking it back as hard as she could. Both of them gritted their teeth and braced as the boat began twisting, still careening towards the rocks. Their efforts managed to slow it enough that it hit the rocks with a light bump, knocking Manuela back into her seat and Leon against the side of the boat. Luckily, it didn’t cause any damage.

Righting himself, Leon grunted and ran a hand through his hair, looking up at the buffs in a vain attempt to see Ada. Leaning back against the seat he sighed. “Women.”

A lanky arm gripped the seat beside him and he tilted his head to see Manuela pull herself up from the foot space of the back seat. Rubbing her head, she sat back down on the seats. “Remind me never to get on a boat with you. I always seem to come out worse for the wear.”

Leon gave a small chuckle as he sat back up, rolling his shoulders to release the tension, he gripped the wheel and throttled up. “No giant salamanders this time.”


“GET DOWN!”

Leon’s voice was beginning to hurt from having to shout over the sound of a minigun. He much preferred zombies to these assholes; they didn’t know how to use guns. He glanced at the other side of the small tower they had hunkered in. Manuela was hiding behind a thick metal beam, sandbags bridging the space between them. She was busy pressing herself against the wall as the big guy’s bullets were eaten by the sandbags, spraying the contents into the air.

Just great, like I needed visual impediment too, Leon thought bitterly. Cautiously, he crept along the metal floor towards one of the dead villagers. Turning over the body, he quickly snatched a set of bolts off their side, before quickly throwing himself back against the wall just to make sure he wasn’t going to be hit by some stray attack.

Tossing the bolts to Manuela, he waited for a break in the assault, popping up quickly. He beheld the battleground ahead of them. Several broken buildings lay between them and the ridge where the minigun wielder stood. The man was attaching another clip as several of the weaker members of the group were weaving their way through the mess towards Leon. He went to take a shot at the man, only to notice one of the group was carrying dynamite, no doubt for throwing into their holdout. He snapped his pistol at it, firing off a shot that detonated him and all his compatriots, ducking down just before the next clip of bullets reached him.

Manuela, meanwhile, had opened the pack of bolts and took out one carefully. She looked down at her body, seeing several somewhat healed wounds. Both her and Leon had taken a few hits getting here, and while they weren’t lethal, they weren’t helping. Her wounds smouldered a bit as the flesh tried to knit itself back together. She pressed the tip of the bolt against one of the still flaming wounds, smearing her blood on it until it was burning as well. She rolled it towards Leon as she went for the next one.

Leon grabbed the bolt by its back, sliding it into his crossbow, careful to keep it pointed down so the blood didn’t roll back towards him. The weapon he had nabbed couldn’t take much more of this; the flaming blood warped the metal track and slowly burnt the wood to cracking. But it was all they could do.

When the volley let up, Leon popped up again, taking careful aim with the crossbow. He had learned to aim up a little, as the crossbow had more dropoff than the bullets he was used to. The bolt went flying through the air, impaling itself into the man’s head. Even from where Leon stood, the roar of pain he gave was loud and he watched in satisfaction as the large man struggled to rip the metal ammo from its face. Leon tossed down the crossbow and took aim with his pistol. That had been the real plan; distract the man with something else and take him out with a weapon that would do some real damage.

Leon aimed his shots carefully, but took them quickly. Most of them clustered near the man’s head and torso, causing him to jolt as the upgraded firepower ripped through his flesh and bone, finally making him fall down. As the dust settled, the echo of his minigun died off, silence engulfing the buildings.

Sighing, Leon sat down. We have to be getting close right? How long have we been at this? He had lost track, but it was a while. Already knowing the answer, Leon picked up the crossbow, which was warped beyond use. He tossed the useless weapon over the edge, hearing it smash at the bottom.

Nonetheless, Manuela stuck the other bolts in her pocket as she pushed herself to a stand. She grunted in effort, the soreness of where she had been injured slowing her rise. Unlike Leon, her wounds would be mostly temporary, and though she took more damage from hits, she recovered faster. Silently, she tossed one of her first aid sprays to him, fixing him with a commanding look. Acquiescing, Leon stood up and limped over to her, spraying the healing agent in the air around them. They had learned that it optimized their resources to use the healing agent between them, and while it didn’t heal quite as much, it did more healing between the two.

“We can’t be far now,” Manuela assured. Leon nodded, and moved over to the trapdoor they had held shut with a pitchfork. Sliding the farming implement out, Leon silently handed it Manuela before sliding around to behind where the hatch would open. He counted down from three using his fingers before throwing open the door. Immediately, a hand shot up and gripped the top, belonging to one of the villagers who had made it to the base of the tower in one of the suicide rushes.

His face broke into view just as the tines broke his skin. Manuela drove the pitchfork directly down into his skull before twisting it quickly. Not only did his neck snap instantly, it ripped his grip from the ladder. With a jerk of the tool, his body slid off, crashing into the other members of the raiding group. Smoothly, Manuela stepped into the gap, bracing herself for the landing. She drove her feet into the dead body, hearing the crunching of bones beneath her before stepping off, followed shortly by Leon.

The men beneath the corpse twitched violently as they died slowly, organs bleeding and parasites rendered inoperable. Both agents backed away, guns trained on the men as they waited, but they faded silently. A sigh escaped the two.

“I was honestly expecting one of the Headhunters,” Manuela opined, looking around for any stragglers.

“Just be glad there was none of those spider ones. I’m not sure if they can climb, but that would have made out hold out significantly harder. Come on, let’s go see what we can scrounge up from the bodies. I’ll go through this half, you go around that way, and we’ll meet on the ridge. If you find anything unusual, call, got it?” Manuela nodded and the two broke off.

Leon slowly stalked through the ruined buildings. Silence does not equal abandoned. Every corner he reached, he made sure to aim his pistol for where an enemy’s head would be. Rounding a corner, he found the site of where the men had been detonated. A good portion of them were blown to pieces, but a few of them were still intact. Leon turned over their bodies, holstering his pistol to check them. Rummaging through their pockets, he found spare ammo and money, but he was really interested in what one of the men had on his hip. Leon unclipped it, smiling as he recognized the slightly charred tool.

Placing his thumb over a button on its side, he wondered if the explosion had damaged it too much. He pressed down, watching the head of the rod-like tool. For a moment nothing happened, and Leon worried that it had been damaged irreparably, but it soon began to crackle to life, sparks dancing off its surface. A stun rod.

Nothing else stood out as he searched, and before long, he made it to the ridge. Standing beside the fallen chaingun villager, he gave a few experimental swings with the baton, testing its weight. It was a bit slower than his knife, but he’d hit harder with it, and possibly stun the opponent with it. The sound of crunching earth told him Manuela had arrived.

He turned to face her, sliding the tool into his belt. “Find anything of major use?”

“Not really. Managed to stock up on some ammo. Not enough to hold out again, but enough to survive for a while.” Her gaze slid past him to the body, and she approached, kneeling beside the massive corpse. She rolled him onto his back, looking down at him with a contemplative expression. She knelt down and began working the bandoliers off his body.

“What are you doing?” Leon inquired, slightly confused. Manuela handed him the bandoliers as she bent down, lifting the man’s gun experimentally.

“We can use this. Obviously not for some of the weaker enemies, but it could be helpful if we run into another guy like this. Can you hold this?” Manuela offered the gun to Leon and he gripped it tightly before she let go. Adjusting his stance, Leon held it up higher, beside his hip. It was awkward, but he could carry it.

“I’m not sure how viable this is. I’m not very agile while holding this thing,” he pointed out. Manuela nodded as he set it down.

“But there’s two of us. I can take care of the enemies that threaten you and you can lay down the suppressing fire. Besides, we’ll only use it against bigger enemies. If it gets inconvenient, you can just toss it down; I doubt any of the weaker villagers can use it. It seems like it takes the big guys to wield it. So what do you say big guy?” she teased lightly. Leon shook his head with a chuckle, sliding the bandoliers on before picking up the weapon and handing it to Manuela.

“See if you can rig something so I can hang it on my back.” Manuela nodded and he could feel her fiddling with his straps, tightening and loosening various bits. After a few minutes of experimenting, she hummed to herself in confirmation, clipping the weapon onto his back.

“It’ll unclip easy enough. Just release the front clip and you’ve got it. Putting it back on will be the harder part though. We’ll have to do that after each time you use it.”

“Fine by me. Let me just test walking around with this thing.” Leon took a few strides forwards and backwards, before trying to pivot. Finally, he went for a dive, managing to use his shoulder to complete the roll. “It’ll work. I just have to be careful.”

Manuela nodded, before kneeling beside one of the other bodies. She frowned as she looked down at the helmet he wore. She tapped it with her knuckles, feeling the solid metal. “It seems they’ve learned that we aim for the head.”

“Better hope we’re out of here before they learn any other tricks. Come on, we’ve gotta be getting close. They took Ashley through this door.”


Operating tables never meant anything good.

As soon as Leon had spotted the grey, bloated corpse on the table, he knew something bad was going to happen. He wanted to turn around and ignore it, but this was the last room where the key card could be. Though he body was on the other side of glass, it wasn’t sealed off, since it could just stroll around the corner, but it seemed to be immobile.

“Careful. I got a bad feeling about this,” Leon informed Manuela as they closed the door behind them. So far, they hadn’t fought anything quite as tough as the Minigun Ganado and had fared quite well, taking out most opponents before they became a threat.

Leon circled around the glass panel, lifting his pistol to see a solid wall and door. Even if it got up, it would be behind a door. Feeling a little relieved, Leon turned around, seeing another door. Opening it quietly, he pushed it aside, drawing in a horrified breath at what he saw.

Inside, a man was posed facing towards the wall, back bent as a spider like plaga grabbed onto his back, suspended by wires. The whole thing was still like a frozen slice of a single moment of terror. He heard Manuela gasp behind him, and he hesitantly took a step forward. It was disturbing, yes, but it seemed to be dead.

As he moved to step around the body, he heard the crinkling of papers beneath his boots. Kneeling down, he picked up a slightly misplaced file. A picture lay, half-hanging out, depicting the grey monster in the previous room. It was labelled “Regenerador.”

Manuela circled around as Leon read the paper, his expression growing darker. Reaching a medical curtain, she pulled it aside, lifting her pistol up in defense. The only thing that greeted her was the stench of death and the sight of a dead militia man. He lay slumped against a file cabinet, blood spilled across his stomach, stun rod at his side, crushed to pieces. A glint caught her eye, and she spotted a card in his hand just as Leon finished reading.

“Hey Manuela...we should get moving,” Leon warned, moving to stand. Manuela slipped the card into her pocket, turning to Leon, about to ask what was happening when both agents heard a crash in the next room. Manuela raised her fists, ready to use her claws but Leon threw out a hand, motioning for her to get back. “Stay back! We don’t have the means to fight this thing! I’ll injure it, then we run, got it!”

The door to the room flung open, interrupting any response Manuela could have made. The Regenerador slumped into the room, and Leon got a good look at the thing. Its eyes shone brightly with a strange orange light, and he could see the tear along its face where its jaws would form from. It twitched violently as it walked, and it gave a horrible, raspy breathing that made Leon shudder. He didn’t give it any second thought when he unclipped the gatling gun and began unloading into it. The thing jerked violently as the rounds pounded into its flesh, spraying fleshy bits everywhere. Adjusting his aim, he took out the thing’s legs, causing it to fall. Tossing aside the gatling gun so he could move faster, he motioned for Manuela to run, something she didn’t need prompting to do. She made it to the door moments before him when he heard the thing heave a heavy breath and he turned just in time to jam his stun rod into the thing’s mouth, delivering a powerful shock that threw it back to the floor.

It threw itself up that quickly! With only its arms! Leon slammed the door closed, not waiting to see how his attack had affected it. Quickly, they moved back through the door they had come through, locking it tight. Leon was about to sigh in relief when he heard them.

More rasping breaths echoed through the dark halls of the facility. It seemed more had woken up. He looked to Manuela, who was turning her head wildly to look about at the darkness, eyes wide with fear. She turned towards him.

“What was that?!” she demanded, though she managed to keep her voice down.

“It’s called a Regenerador. From what I read, they’re some kind of experiment to implant multiple plagas.” Both agents jumped back as the door banged beside them. Behind the glass, they could see the thing, pressing its face against the cool window as it slammed its fists against the metal.

“B...but you took out its legs!”

“They can regenerate anything, so long as they have one plaga left. You have to kill all the plaga in their body to kill them. For now, we’re better incapacitating them and running. Stay close and be ready to run.”

Leon could see that Manuela was rattled, but still determined. Taking a deep breath, he focused on controlling his breathing as he took a step into the darkness. He could hear where they were, he only hoped he could control how quickly they detected him.
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