“I think I preferred the heat,” Leon grumbled as the pair opened the door to the freezer. Once again, Leon wished he had his coat back, as his bare arms could feel the nipping cold. Stuffing the key card back in his pocket, Leon took point, moving into the freezer, whipping his gun about, clearing the sight lines. The place was more of a cryo lab than a freezer, he observed. A row of corpses suspiciously similar to the monsters they’d ran past earlier were hung in the middle, though they remained still, hung by their heads. Other than them, there were various frost encrusted implements, still ticking away methodically. “Clear.”
Manuela slipped into the room behind him, walking in backwards as she watched their six. As soon as she was clear of the doors, she began to close them, but Leon grabbed her wrist.
“Not all the way,” he commanded, nodding towards the row of corpses. Manuela nodded her understanding, closing one door, but merely bringing the other one to. Satisfied with the doors, Manuela looked around, taking in the equipment.
“What are we looking for?”
“Anything that could be useful. The card we have only gets us into the freezer. There has to be something in here.” Leon noticed that there were two smaller labs designated by a metal wall divide that ran the length of the room. “Let’s check those.”
“I’ll take the far one,” Manuela offered, moving over to the open doorway, her gun trained on the corpses the entire time. Leon himself moved to into the closer lab, and sighed as he saw the mess of machines and wires across the tables.
“Doesn’t anyone do spring cleaning anymore?” Quickly, he began rubbing ice off of the various devices, looking at their facings to see if they displayed anything useful. After wiping off a particularly large patch of ice, Leon found a strange device with a slot in the front. A little green light on the front told him that it still worked, and after wiping off the side, he could make out a lightly printed set of words on it: “Waste Disposal Card.” Pulling out his key card, Leon slipped it into the slot, and the device clamped onto it, briefly humming before releasing the key card, which now bore slightly different colours. “Huh. That was easy.”
Stepping out, Leon turned to see how Manuela was doing. He peered into the other lab and saw her gripping a wheel on a cabinet tightly, and she had just managed to get it to turn when he looked. He was about to offer to help, when an alarm went off above his head.
“Doors closing,” stated a robotic voice plainly, and Leon turned just in time to see the door pulled automatically shut, with thick metal bars sliding into place.
“Shit!” Leon rushed over to the doors, kneeling down to see if there was any way of getting the bars off. Struggling, he gripped one of the bars tightly, but to no avail. He looked over his shoulder. “Manuela! Come help me with this!”
Manuela quickly grabbed the things from the shelf that she had opened and rushed to join Leon, moving to put away the scope she found within even as she ran. She got about halfway across the room before they both heard a pneumatic hiss, and she turned to see one of the corpses being released from its hook. She backpedaled towards Leon as it slithered disturbingly to a standing position. Desperately, she tried the door, but it seemed to be beyond her power. The computerized voice spoke again: “Infected material present. Eliminate before ending quarantine.”
“Looks like we’re stuck with ugly mug,” Leon commented, pulling out his shotgun. Mentally, he counted the shots he had left as he planned out what to do. Manuela lifted her own gun more shakily, her mind racing as she tried to figure out a way to fight the thing. It wasn’t like they could just shoot it until it stopped moving. As she adjusted her stance for firing, she felt the scope in her pocket, and felt a wild idea form in her mind. Quickly, she holstered her pistol and pulled off her rifle. “Manuela what are you doing?!”
“Trying something. Hold on.” Manuela gave a little cry of joy as she realized that her rifle did have a track for a scope. Quickly, she slid it on, bringing up the barrel even before she finished. Tilting her head like they had shown her, she peered through the scope to see a world of reds, greens, and blues. “It’s thermal! I can see the parasites!”
“How about that?” Leon scoffed, eying the thing as it advanced slowly. “Could you maybe start picking them off?”
Manuela didn’t respond; instead, the first shot rang out, piercing through the thing with a spray of bile-coloured fluids. To both their surprises, the Regenerador actually seemed hurt by the attack, stumbling back with a horrific screech and labored breathing. Manuela quickly discarded the cartridge and jammed the next one in, reloading as quick as she could. She made a mental note to learn to use rifles better in the future as she fired the next shot.
Breathing deeply, she fired a final shot, taking out the last parasite. Instead of the normal burst, however, the thing’s top half completely exploded, destroyed beyond any kind of repair. For a few seconds, its legs continued to move on their own volition before becoming stock still and toppling forwards, dissipating in a bubbly foam. Both agents let out a relieved sigh, which was cut short by an electronic buzz and the click of the locks retracting.
Manuela smiled as she reloaded the weapon, propping it on her hip confidently. “I don’t think we have to worry about them as much now.”
Leon gave a small laugh, shaking his head. “Great job. Come on, let’s finish this so we can go home.”
The next few encounters had been easy for the two of them. Now that Regeneradors were no longer a problem so long as Manuela was given enough room and time between them, they progressed with almost undue speed. They’d even come across a couple of heavily armoured guards that Leon’s stun baton had made short work of, seeing as metal wasn’t exactly a great defense against electricity.
They were close, Leon thought. They’d found Ashley’s position, and after calming her down, they were trying to find the release switch. Their search had lead them to this deep level of the facility, and Leon was beginning to worry that something was wrong. It wasn’t like Saddler to let them waltz through. Surely he’s seen what we’re doing to this place.
Leon was about to voice his suspicions when they rounded a corner, seeing yet another Regenerador. Something about it set off Leon’s paranoia levels though. It moved in the same twitchy fashion as the others, but seemed a bit more restricted, like it had been pinned in several places. Leon’s eyes widened as he saw the thin pins of metal that pierced through every part of its body, making it look like someone’s particularly hated voodoo doll.
“Careful. There’s something off about this one,” Leon warned, aiming his shotgun at the thing. Manuela nodded and went to aim at the thing, firing off her routine set of shots, each taking out plagas.
“And time for the last one…” Manuela muttered before plugging the thing with a well-placed bullet. The thing leant over, looking exhausted, and both agents held their breath, waiting for it to explode. “I don’t get it. What happen…”
Manuela was interrupted as the thing stood up with surprising speed, reaching out an arm that extended with horrifying elasticity. Both of them managed to dodge just barely. Gripping onto the doorway behind them, the thing pulled itself with unnatural speed in between them. It gave a horrific scream and extended the spines in its body fully out, nearly getting both of them as the dodged. Leon caught a couple of spines to his legs and he shouted in pain as he hit the floor a few feet away from the thing.
“Jesus Christ!” he yelled, scrambling away as fast as he could, unloading pistol bullets into it. One found the area between its shoulder blades and it burst the skin like a plaga, causing the thing to explode like the other Regeneradors. “It had one in its back?!”
“Leon! Are you okay?” Manuela knelt beside Leon as he propped himself up on his elbows, hissing with pain as he looked at his legs. Blood stained his pants, and he could see a small amount coming from some clean puncture wounds.
“I’ll be okay,” he managed, digging quickly through his pockets for his bandage rolls. “Hand me a green herb. We have more than enough of them.”
“You really should use something stronger than one of those,” Manuela suggested, but she dutifully handed him one of the plants, which Leon crushed hastily, smearing it along the bandaging before wrapping the strips around the wounds. After testing to make sure they’d stay tight, he grabbed onto the edge of a nearby desk, pulling himself to a stand.
Shakily, he tested a step and was relieved to find that he could walk, but he suspected he wouldn’t be running or kicking for a little while. “Not winning any cross-country competitions any time soon, but I can manage.”
“I’ll take point for a while,” Manuela stated, brooking no argument as she took the lead. Leon just nodded as they headed out of the room. It wasn’t long before they’d carved a path of destruction to the cell release, which was fortunately close to the cell itself, only having to pass through a few previously locked doors.
Manuela hurried up to the door, opening it quickly before being hugged tightly by Ashley. Gently, she placed a hand on the younger girl’s back. “It’s alright. We got you now. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I hid in the back of the room, behind a bunch of boxes, for most of the time you guys were trying to find me.” Leon smiled and walked beside the pair, laying a hand on Ashley’s shoulder gently.
“Come on, let’s get out of here.”
Leon felt miserable. Clutching his stomach, all he could do was think about how frustrating it was to lose Ashley again. Manuela lay beside him, struggling to get up from her face down position. Saddler had come in like a streak, knocking Manuela clean off her feet before either of them could react. To make matters worse, he had practically held Leon back by holding out a hand, not even laying a hand on him.
Struggling to his feet, Leon stumbled over to Manuela. She coughed painfully as she rasped for air. Kneeling beside her, he helped her turn to her back, propping her against his leg and chest.
“Come on. Just take deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out,” he rasped, trying to ignore the sound of pain in his own voice. Manuela’s eyes never left his face as she took heavy breaths, trying to recover from the stunning blow. Without warning, she turned away, coughing violently, spitting a small amount of blood, which simmered weakly on the floor.
Weakly, she put a hand on his shoulder, trying to pull herself to a stand as she wiped off her chin with her arm. With Leon’s support, she managed to get up, groaning as she relaxed the taut muscles. “Owwww…”
“I think so...maybe a bad bruise, but nothing bad. You?”
“I’m fine,” Leon replied, a bit more defensively than he intended. Manuela didn’t press the matter as she brushed herself off and stretched, groaning as her muscles protested. “Come on. We should get moving.”
Manuela nodded as the two of them took the only door available to them. On edge after Saddler’s sudden appearance, the two clutched their weapons with a strange dependency. Strangely, nothing seemed to be around as they cleared each room, until they came to an elevator.
“Great. Another elevator. Last time we had to fight the thing from the Alien film,” Leon grumbled, though his faint smile showed he was trying to keep morale up. Manuela smiled at the joke, testing the console. The buttons all seemed to work just fine. “At least this one works right off the bat. Keep your eyes peeled.”
Stepping into the elevator, Leon slipped a hand into his pocket, pulling out the pill canister. There were still a few left, but they were running low. He briefly considered waiting, but he thought against it. Maybe if I take these, next time Saddler won’t have so much power over me. Tossing one back, he swallowed just as they arrived at the top floor.
It wasn’t so much a room as an extended catwalk. The path in front of them lead from their door to one across the width of the room, with a larger area in the middle which was supported by cross beams. It seemed more like a maintenance platform than an actual room.
Stepping out into the room, Leon couldn’t shake the feeling that they were being watched, and his suspicions usually turned out to be correct. Scanning the room as he walked, he looked at every nearby pipe, overhang, and possible point of attack, but couldn’t see anything. Even so, he reached about halfway across the room when he stopped, reaching for his knife before turning.
“Did you see…?” Manuela was cut off as they both heard the sound of metal bending above them. They had just enough time to dodge to opposite sides as a man landed where they had previously been standing. Leon rolled to a crouch, ready to face the man. Dimly, he felt a small wound on his face and wiped away the blood.
Manuela managed to roll to a stand, stopping just in time to see the man start standing up, an all too familiar blade in his hand, which was tinged in Leon’s blood. He glanced over his muscular shoulder, a scarred sneer on his face. “Been a long time, comrades.”
“Krauser?” Manuela breathed in disbelief, almost lowering her weapon in shock. The man laughed, circling around Leon so he could watch both of them.
“I died in a crash two years ago. Is that what they told you?” Krauser asked, his voice as gravelly as they both remembered it. Leon flowed smoothly into a full standing position, moving to start circling opposite Krauser while Manuela moved the opposite way.
“You’re the one who kidnapped Ashley!” Leon accused, gripping his knife tighter. Krauser scoffed and began spinning his knife in a practiced motion.
“You catch on quick. That’s to be expected. After all, we both know where we come from.” Krauser began to turn towards Manuela as he spoke, but suddenly turned, lunging at Leon with deadly intent. Leon dodged the first swipe, returning with one of his own, followed by a jab, both of which Krauser dodged. Manuela unsheathed her blades, raising them menacingly as she stood behind Krauser. “That’s a new trick. Tell me, when did the monster learn that one?”
“She’s not a monster,” Leon defended, bringing his blade horizontal. “And what do you want?”
Krauser scoffed again, lunging again with a fake step, before going into an upper swing that nearly slit Leon’s throat vertically. Manuela mimicked his half step forward, swinging downwards as he rocked backwards from the lunge, only for him to twist aside, blocking her blades with his resilient knife, spinning to where he could face both of them.
“The sample Saddler developed, that’s all,” Krauser explained, as if it were the simplest thing in the world. He faked towards Leon, ducking under Manuela’s swing that was meant to catch him across the head, weaving past her offensive. Swinging his blade in a wide arc, he aimed to plunge it into her side, only to be deflected by a quick swing of Leon’s knife, thought Krauser’s momentum allowed him to roll past the two unscathed.
“Leave Ashley out of this!” Leon demanded. Krauser smiled, sidestepping in a slow arc as he regarded his foes.
“Oh I needed her to buy Saddler’s trust.” As he spoke, Krauser drew up to his full height, briefly resembling the man they had known back in the jungle. “After all, I’m American.”
Unexpectedly, Krauser swept forward, kicking a large barrel straight into Manuela’s chest. The surprise, when coupled with her existing injury, caused her to be knocked back, skipping across the hard metal floor. Krauser, meanwhile, lunged for Leon, who just barely managed to block his blade as they both fell backwards, with Leon tucking into a flip, and Krauser pushing off with one hand. When both landed, they looked over their shoulders to see the other one.
Standing back up, Leon glanced at Manuela, who was clearly out for the fight. Subtly, he began circling to interpose himself between Krauser and her. “You got her involved just for that?”
Determined to protect Manuela, as well as to make Krauser pay for what he had done, Leon took the initiative this time, lunging forward in a shot Krauser easily blocked. The two parried, with Leon slowly gaining ground. As Krauser moved to hop backwards, Leon spun, transferring the knife mid swing, managing a slash across the bigger man’s chest. As Krauser spun away, he looked down at the wound, his sneer being replaced with annoyance.
Angrily, he thrust at Leon, only to have his wrist grasped. Before Leon’s grasp fully cemented, the larger man tossed his knife to the other hand, just as Leon spun to block Krauser’s thrust with his own arm. The two men pressed against the other’s force, grunting with effort as they struggled to assert control of the fight. Krauser suddenly let up force with his knife hand, spinning around Leon’s grip before planting his combat boot into Leon’s back, knocking him down, his knife skipping from his grasp.
“All for Umbrella’s sake,” Krauser grumbled, towering over his former ally. Leon’s eyes widened at the mention.
“Almost let it slip,” Krauser admonished himself, looking up momentarily. With a frown, he looked back down at Leon, raising his blade. “Enough talk. Die comrade!”
With that, Krauser jumped atop Leon, aiming for the throat. Leon’s hands managed to come up just in time to grip Krauser’s hands, slowing the descent. Manuela managed to shake off her pain just enough to see the conflict. With a gasp she desperately reached for her knife, throwing it without a second thought.
A clang was heard as both Manuela’s knife, and a bullet hit the blade bearing all too close to Leon’s neck, sending the serpent engraved knife off to the side, and Manuela’s skittering off into the darkness. Leon kicked the man, spinning to his feet before looking for the source of the bullet. There, atop a higher platform, was Ada, in her traditional red dress, gun pointed directly at Krauser.
“Well, if it isn’t the bitch in the red dress,” Krauser muttered, glaring at her. Ada seemed unfazed by his response and smile demurely as she turned to Leon.
“It looks like we have the upper hand here,” she commented, turning her gaze back towards Krauser, her eyes hardening. The man, for his part, seemed unfazed, and even laughed gruffly. Then, before Leon’s eyes, he backflipped to a significantly higher platform. Even at the peak of his career, Leon had never seen Krauser manage anything close to that level of acrobatics, and he doubted any human could.
“You may be able to prolong your life, but it’s not like you can escape your inevitable death, is it?” he asked mockingly, before looking at Manuela. A cold, hard look passed through his eyes as he looked at her and Leon was sure that if looks could kill, Manuela would have never been born. “It’s because of you. He who hunts monsters…”
Krauser turned and ran off, his threat hanging ominously in the air. Leon didn’t have time to pursue him, as Ada leapt down from her perch, landing on their platform gracefully. Leon leant over and pulled Krauser’s knife from where it had stuck in the metal, before circling around Ada. Cautiously, he knelt beside Manuela, making sure to glance at Ada to make sure she didn’t do anything. Helping her to her feet, they regarded Ada suspiciously as the dark haired woman smiled as she kept walking.
“You...knew each other?” she asked with a knowing tone.
“More or less. Maybe it’s time you tell me the reason you’re here,” Leon suggested annoyedly. Ada tilted her head as she walked, acting as if considering it. Gripping the railing, she smiled at the pair.
“Maybe some other time.” And with that, she hopped over the edge, disappearing into the darkness. Leon sighed in agitation as she disappeared. He handed Krauser’s knife to Manuela as he pocketed his own back in its place.
“Here. Since you lost yours. Nice throw.” Manuela nodded as she accepted the knife, pausing a moment to inspect it. A certain melancholy tone tinged her eyes.
“I respected him...you know. Back when we were in the jungle...I heard some of the things he suggested. But he still defended me because you asked. He was a good man…”
“Good men fall the furthest. If he’s working with Umbrella, he’s beyond redemption. The most we can do for him now is to bring him into custody, and I don’t think that’s going to happen out here. If you don’t want to fight him…”
“No. I’ll be fine...you’re right. He’s not the same man.”
Leon could only nod, allowing Manuela a moment to herself. After all, they’d all come out of that jungle different people.