Leon looked up at the construction platform above him as he clicked in a fresh clip for his pistol. Something about the whole thing didn’t sit right with him, and he was taking care to upgrade everything. He thanked his lucky stars they had run into the Merchant, and was more than happy when the Merchant displayed what he called his “exclusive upgrades for regular customers.”
Between the two of them, they had spent nearly everything they had collected to this point to upgrade what they had, leaving them with very little of the local currency. Leon had upgraded his pistol and shotgun, with the latter boasting an impressive hundred shot clip. Manuela had upgraded her “Matilda” and swapped her old rifle for a semi-automatic. He wasn’t sure how he did it, but the Merchant had managed to get a hundred clip into the Matilda, and brought down the reload time of the semi-auto to a startling 0.4 seconds. Leon knew better than to look a gift horse in the mouth. Finally, they had bought a customized mine thrower at a reduced price, owing to what the Merchant called “a goodwill policy.”
“Just be careful when you fire it,” he warned, sealing his coat back up with the clinking of metal. Leon nodded as he strapped it to his back. “Guess I’ll be seeing you around, Strangers.”
“Take care,” Manuela returned as they turned towards a small path that lead to the base of the construction platform. The Merchant waved, disappearing behind the slope of the hill.
“Something’s not right,” Leon thought aloud, looking up the elevator shaft. “Ashley, you stay here.”
Ashley nodded, as Leon and Manuela stepped into the elevator, nervously looking at the destination high above them. The elevator came to a stop at the top and Leon stepped out, clearing the area. “Leon, look!”
Following Manuela’s finger, he saw none other than Ada, suspended above a canvas covered pile by a rope. Her head hung limply, showing her poor state. Leon moved to release her when a glimpse of purple stopped him.
“Hmph.” Leon and Manuela regarded Saddler from across the platform, their strongest weapons aimed at him. Saddler chuckled, smiling confidently as he raised a hand towards Leon.
Leon smirked, standing his ground proudly now that he no longer reacted to the mental command of the cult leader. Saddler’s expression died on his face, and switched to a deep set frown. “Huh?”
“Better try a new trick, because that one’s getting old.” Leon pressed forward threateningly, aiming his shotgun at Saddler while Manuela sighted him up. Withdrawing his knife, Leon threw it with careful aim, severing the rope that suspended Ada. She landed on the canvas with a billow, making for a soft landing. “You okay?”
“I’ve been better,” she assured, sliding off to the side, lacking her weaponry. Saddler began laughing, despite the gauge of weaponry aimed at him.
“What’s so funny?” Leon demanded. When the enemy laughed, nothing good happened. Leon knew this for a fact, and he wasn’t about to let Saddler get away now. Not while he had so many deaths to account for.
“Oh, I think you know. The American prevailing is a cliche that only happens in your Hollywood films. Oh Mr. Kennedy, you entertain me. And Ms. Hidalgo, I thought you would have understood us. After all, you are not American, and you too have great power in you. It doesn’t matter now though. I will awaken you both from your world of cliches!” With that, Saddler’s mouth unhinged, revealing a pus coloured eyeball within, twitching around spasmodically. Leon and Manuela took a step back, and Leon motioned for Ada to stand back.
Saddler’s head burst forth from his body on a veiny stalk of what almost looked like intestinal flesh, while three more extension protruded from his neck, ending in pointed, bony growths resembling spider-like legs. Rearing his head back, a fourth and final leg burst from his neck as his right arm melted into a tentacle. Fully transformed, Saddler lowered his head to eye level, the only thing remaining of his former body being the horrifically stretched face split by the massive eye and metallic mandibles and the limp body that hung in the center of the mass.
Rearing a leg with quickness unthinkable of such a gangly and large body, he swung at the two horizontally, forcing them both to duck. Taking advantage of the angle, Leon fired a shot into Saddler’s limp body, while Manuela did similarly with her semi-auto rifle, pumping shot after shot into him.
Roaring in anger, he raised up to crush them, only for the damage to cause him to waver on his hind legs, and he crashed to the ground, head lying limply on the ground while he recovered. Saddler’s mouth hung open, revealing the massive eye. “The eye! Go for the eye!”
Manuela nodded and both of them rushed forwards, hoping to reach him before he recovered. Leon pulled out his stun baton while Manuela drew Krauser’s knife. Manuela reached him first, burying her knife in his eye, followed by Leon driving the stun rod into the top of his head, forcing the muscles in his eye to spasm, ripping itself horribly on the embedded knife. The head reared back, taking Manuela with it. Using his momentum, Leon slid under the tangle of legs, catching Manuela as she was slung into him. Both fell back and rolled a short distance, getting to their feet before Saddler had fully turned around. He had resumed shutting his mouth.
Leon unclipped an incendiary, tossing it directly at Saddler. The canister exploded on contact, engulfing the mass in flames for a brief moment before disappearing as they found no purchase, leaving Saddler untouched. “Crap, guess those don’t work on him.”
“I have an idea though. Give me the mine thrower and your incendiaries,” Manuela commanded, slinging her rifle on her back. Leon obeyed, handing the items over quickly. Loading the incendiary into the thrower, Manuela knelt down, aiming above Saddler to the metal beam Ada had been supported from. “Keep him busy.”
Leon nodded, switching to his pistol, taking rapid fire shots into Saddler’s body. The attacks managed to keep him pressed back as he shuffled to try and cover his body from the attacks with his legs. Manuela meanwhile was firing the grenades at the overhanging beam, the flames slowly warping and melting the base of the beam. Reloading as quickly as she could, she saw Leon duck to avoid a claw swipe and she knew that her time was up. Firing the last incendiary, she prayed it did its work. The sound of shrieking metal answered her as the beam broke away from the thin bit of metal that still conjoined it to the base, swinging down to impact the center of Saddler’s legs, causing him to fan out like a squashed spider.
The only problem was they weren’t close enough to attack the eye as he lost control of his muscles. Instead, Leon pulled out his pistol, and Manuela aimed her rifle, with both bullets impacting expertly into the pupil. With a roar, Saddler forced himself to a stand, shrugging off the beam. Suddenly, he gripped it with one foot, and swung at the pair. While Manuela was already knelt to take her shot, Leon was standing, and he was impacted by the beam, being thrown far across the construction platform, landing on a separate platform altogether. His arc was stopped by a pylon, which he left a dent in, landing beside a control panel.
“Leon!” Manuela watched carefully, circling around Saddler towards him, looking for signs of life. When Leon coughed and tried to stand, she knew he was alive but in a bad way. “I’m coming!”
His attention solely on her, Saddler stabbed at Manuela repeatedly with his claws, narrowly missing her as she dodged. As his frustration grew, he stabbed at her harder and harder, breaking through metal where his claws hit. He didn’t notice her cocky smile until too late, when his claw impacted a red barrel. The resulting explosion was more powerful than an incendiary, and sent bits of reinforced metal into his body, causing him to writhe in agony.
Manuela turned away from the explosion, rushing to a connecting bridge. As she ran full tilt, she saw the lights on either side of the bridge, and realized they were blinking green. I have to try. If I don’t go now, Saddler will recover. Manuela pushed herself harder, making it halfway across the bridge before she heard the click. Jumping, she managed to grab the other side, pulling herself up with a burst of adrenaline.
Behind her, she heard a powerful whoosh of air, and she rolled aside just as the still flaming body of Saddler landed where she had been moments prior. Scrambling to a run, she ducked under a swipe and Saddler tried to both attack her and steady his own footing. The sloppy strike missed her, but she had to push with her hands to keep from falling.
By the time she had reached Leon, he had pulled himself up using the panel and was leaning on it, motioning for Manuela to come to him. With a running leap she made it onto the platform, just as Leon threw the switch on it. The groaning of metal could be heard, and a nearby crane spun around, ramming its payload of steel girders right into Saddler, knocking him off his feet.
“Use this!” Looking up, Leon managed to react just in time as Ada threw something down to him from atop one of the cranes. Righting it in his hands, he realized with a new burst of energy what it was. The item he held in his hands was a rocket launcher, complete with an already loaded rocket.
“Manuela move!” Leon commanded as he knelt down, taking form. Manuela looked up from where she held onto the platform, and quickly pulled herself up, rolling beside Leon. Once she was out of the way, Leon pulled the trigger, sending the rocket right into the cult leader’s monstrous body.
With a burst of flame and shrapnel, the cult leader’s body was ripped apart, sending unholy chunks of parasitic flesh through the air, where they quickly disintegrated into ashes. All that was left was a black spot on the ground and a slightly charred vial.
“The Plaga sample,” Leon realized, trying to stand with a groan. Manuela moved to support him, handing him one of their last herbs. As he imbibed it, they took a step towards the vial, but the sound of a coil interrupted them, and from high above, Ada swung down, landing easily beside the sample, picking it up. Leon stepped aside from Manuela and aimed at Ada with his pistol, Manuela’s own doing the same. Ada in turn aimed her pistol at Manuela, looking Leon dead in the eye. “Ada, you do know what that is.”
Ada smiled mysteriously before running to the side, jumping over the edge into the void. For a moment, both agents stood in shock before they heard the sound of rotors. A flash of light caused them to reel as a helicopter rose into view, Ada sitting in the passenger compartment with a black device in her lap.
“Don’t worry!” she called over the noise. “I’ll take good care of it!”
“Ada!” Leon yelled, looking torn between aiming at her and standing back. Ada smiled lightly, running one hand along the device.
“Gotta go. If I were you, I’d get off this island too,” she said as she pressed something on her device, turning it tauntingly so they could see the numbers on it, rapidly decreasing.
“Did she just..?” Manuela asked breathlessly, taking a step back, preparing to run.
“She did,” Leon said simply. Ada winked as she tossed something through the air, which Leon caught one handedly. Opening his hand, he could see it was a key on a keychain, with a tag labelled “Jet Ski Key” and a teddy bear charm. “Very cute.”
By the time he looked up, the helicopter was already pulling away, and he could barely make out the sight of Ada waving to him. Wasting no more time, Leon turned around, breaking into a run, Manuela pulling up beside him as they both rushed to the elevator.
Exiting the elevator, they rushed up to Ashley, and Manuela gently grabbed the younger girl’s arm, urging her along. “Come on, we have to go. Now.”
“What’s going on?” she asked, panic in her voice.
“This whole island’s going to blow. We need to go now!” Leon stated quickly, rushing down a tunnel.
“IT’S GOING TO WHAT?!”
Leon stopped running as the entered the underground dock, looking around to spot the jet skit. As he feared, there was only one. Running over and sliding on, he wondered how to fit everyone on. Sliding as far up as he could, he waved them over. “Ashley, you get on behind me, and Manuela, you get behind her. You’re both going to have to hold on tightly.”
Both nodded hurriedly, slipping onto the vehicle with him. Two pairs of arms and hands found his torso, and Leon revved the engine. With a spray of water, they rocketed off along the tunnel, cold air blasting into the air as Leon shifted his weight masterfully guided the jet ski. A set of explosions could be heard and the tunnel shuddered as they entered into a more open segment.
“There’s a wave coming!” Manuela warned, and Leon spared a quick glance behind to see that a surge of water was indeed following them, only slowed by the space of the cave and the rocky outcroppings. It would only be a matter of time until it caught them. Gunning the engine, Leon tried to outrun it. He cursed as he heard the cracking of earth and looked up to see a section of the cavern falling away. Turning away, he cleared the edge of it, but it lost him some speed and he heard the roar of water behind him grow in intensity.
“Things are going to get dicey!” he yelled. ‘Hold on tight!”
As more sections of the cavern began to break away, Leon tried to maintain as straight a course as possible, narrowly cutting the edges of the falling masses. Soon, it was like he was slaloming the falling debris. Circling around a piece of falling ceiling, he was greeted with a bright light, signalling their escape. Throwing everything he had into it, Leon reached the mouth of the cavern just as the water meet their backs, blasting them out.
The light engulfed their vision briefly, and when they recovered, they realized they were arcing through the air, thrown over the ocean. Leon braced his arms and legs for impact, grunting as they made splashdown, skipping off. After the first impact, he felt one set of hands ripped from him and he immediately gripped back on the handles, decelerating. Spinning to a stop, he looked behind him, seeing Ashley still on him, face pale with fear. Manuela was nowhere to be seen. Panic began to rise in his mind. Gunning the motors, he drove to where she had been, looking around desperately.
“Manuela! Manuela!” he called, looking around at the open waters. She could be anywhere! Come on, come on! Leon was about to jump in when he heard a splash nearby and turned to see Manuela’s head poking above the surface, her brown hair splayed about her. With a smile, he pulled up beside her, offering a hand.
Manuela accepted it, clambering onto the jet ski, rubbing her arms from the chill. “Can we not do that again?”
“Hey, you got a shower out of it,” Leon joked lightly as he pulled on the handles, aiming for the mainland. Manuela sighed at the joke, but still wrapped her arms around his waist as best as she could.
As they rode into the sunrise, Manuela was comforting Ashley, telling her how it would all be alright. Leon smiled to himself as he guided them back to the land they knew, satisfied with a job well done.
Leon sighed as he sat settled himself in the chair of the embassy lounge. They had the day off while the two governments worked out the details, and Leon intended to use it to rest. He could hardly remember the last time he had properly slept and his fatigue was catching up with him. Manuela sat beside him, looking equally tired.
Both sat in silence, digesting everything that had happened. Leon leaned his head back, letting out a sigh. He was about to close his eyes when Manuela spoke.
“Who was that woman? I mean, I know who she is, but I want to know who she is to you” she asked quietly. Leon lifted his head, looking at Manuela, who was looking at him with an emotion he couldn’t place. Leon thought for a long moment as he tried to figure out the answer himself.
“She’s someone I knew in Raccoon. Or thought I knew. Every time I tell myself she’s one thing, she turns out to be another. I was convinced she was a reporter, then she turns out to be working for Umbrella. I tell myself she’s an evil person, and yet, she helps me. She’s like a part of me that just won’t go away.”
Manuela nodded in thought, before gently grabbing Leon’s hand, moving closer with a comforting smile. “I think she’s more confused than you are. You are a good man, there is no doubt about that. You saved me, and you saved Ashley. You have done so much good for so many people. I understand that you can’t forget her entirely, but don’t forget yourself.”
Leon nodded, absorbing her advice. He squeezed her hand in appreciation and she smiled at him. A sudden yawn overcame her before she could do anything about it, and she smiled nervously. With a small smile, Leon let go of her hand, wrapping it about her shoulder, bringing her closer. “Get some rest.”Manuela nodded, leaning against his chest, quickly falling asleep. Looking down at her protectively, Leon let himself lean back on the couch, finding himself quickly falling asleep himself.