Leon was in a bad mood. Not your “spilled your morning coffee” way, or even in the “I killed your dog” way. It was worse than that.
When he had woke up today, he hadn’t thought that the past months would have caught up with him so quickly. After Manuela had offered herself into the service (an offer happily and quickly accepted), she had been relinquished from the hospital into a special service facility for her training. All her things had been moved there, and although Leon could still visit her, his life had felt like she had been removed from it. Everytime he came home, there was nothing there to remind him of her, as if she had never existed except in his memory. It reminded him of a certain other girl taken from him.
But he had been fine with it, considering she was treated well and she was doing it on her own free will. Sure, it was agent training, which was a bit brutal, but although the virus had ceased to mutate her, it had reinforced her body. He smiled as he remembered watching her first sparring session. She accidentally snapped the trainer’s arm with a strength she didn’t even know she had. They made up afterwards, considering Manuela felt sincerely terrible about it, and they even joked about it after she got over it. Still, the trainer wore more armor than he had before when sparring with her.
Now, though, was a different situation entirely, and everyone was on edge. Just before Leon’s assignment, the security detail guarding Ashley Graham had failed and she had been kidnapped en route. Few details had been released as the various government agencies tugged at every string they could find, trying for something to come up. Eventually, some intel came up, pointing solidly to Spain.
Leon’s mission would be to head into the area, identify the threat, locate the President’s daughter, and extract her by any means necessary. Normally, Leon would be fine with this. A simple “get in, get out” mission. He had faced worse odds of survival. But that wasn’t the end of it: Manuela was being sent with him.
The agency’s logic was that Manuela needed a mission with which to teach and test her. And seeing as she was a classified agent, they couldn’t well send her off with just anyone. Leon was a high enough tier agent to be entrusted with her secrecy and safety, or so they reasoned. It had taken nearly everything Leon had to avoid attacking the director. Manuela, for her part, seemed almost excited to be on this job.
Currently, they were both on-board a plane bound for an undisclosed airport in Spain, where they would be driven by non-affiliated personnel close to the suspected site before being left to their own devices to pursue the culprits. It wasn’t exactly a dark mission; Leon had read the files on the woman who would be providing him and Manuela with information and relays from command. From what Leon could gather about this Hunnigan lady, she was a fairly well respected officer. The fact that she was not only in on the specifics of the President’s daughter’s kidnapping, but also had been briefed on Manuela showed that someone higher up seemed to trust her immensely. In any event, she didn’t seem to be the worst person they could have been assigned.
Leon sighed as he checked his weapon for the tenth time in the few hours of flight that had already passed. It had been a while since he’d actually needed a weapon. Guarding the President’s daughter might have sounded like a job that would require near constant assassination attempts, but often it was the same thing day in and day out. Still, he owed it to Benford to do his job well, considering he was the man who pretty much got him the job. Benford, about the only politician he could stand. The man had some decent brains and morals inside him, even if he was part of the government. Benford seemed to be the only man who cared about what happened in Raccoon City.
Looking up from his polishing, he silently watched Manuela practice her combat. She was in stance, throwing light jabs and pointed kicks that, for any normal person, would at best hurt the opponent, but for her constituted a damaging shot that could snap bone. It seems the agency recognized her capabilities, as they trained her to take down enemies with her bare attacks, and save her ammo for when she needed it. Not that she was a bad shot, she was quite good in fact. Leon was willing to bet that the virus had enhanced her vision to 20/20, if not better. Still, she flinched a little when she fired, no doubt still unused to harmful intent.
As Leon watched her, he felt his worries grow. Manuela was skilled, yes, but things could still go wrong. A mission, no matter how well prepared, could still go down in flames. And that was assuming there wasn’t anything else in this endeavor. He was still waiting for the day that the demons of Umbrella raised their ugly head again. Every time he went on a mission, he feared he’d find himself in another one of their nightmare factories. He wasn’t particularly keen to do that again. Still, there was no reason to believe there was anything about Umbrella in this mission, though he still was wary.
He became acutely aware of Manuela ending her routine, not tired in the slightest, despite her exertions. She smiled as she sat beside Leon. “It’s been a while since we got to talk with no agents around” she opened.
“Technically there’s still two in the room” he retorted with a smile. Manuela giggled lightly, relaxing as the familiar understanding between them renewed. Leon couldn’t help but look her over once, appreciating the blue agent outfit she wore. It was a fair shade more formal than what he wore, but then again, this was her first mission.
“Smartass.” Her smile faded slightly however as her eyes settled on the gun in Leon’s hand, which he had been unconsciously polishing. “Nervous?” she asked with a sad smile.
“Nervous, me? Never” he joked. “Just a bit...worried. This is your first mission after all.”
“I’ll be fine Leon” she assured. “I’ve trained hard. And besides, you’re the “Survivor”. I doubt anything will happen with you around.” Leon smiled bittersweetly at the title. Among those who knew about Raccoon, they often called him that behind his back. It always annoyed him, though he couldn’t put his finger on why. Perhaps he felt guilty for all those who had to die. A lot of innocent and good people died that day…
A voice crackled over the intercom, interrupting his thoughts. “We’ll be arriving soon. Prepare for escort” it said simply before clicking off. Leon stood, slipping the handgun back into its sleeve before tapping his pockets, making sure the extra bullets were still there. Manuela seemed to follow, as she also began checking her equipment, hand lingering a while on her ammo pouch.
“Let’s get this started.”
Leon was less than amused by their escort. These two seemed to be the most reluctant, sarcastic pair to exist, even when compared to him. Still, it was more than he had expected from the locals. But it was really the looks they gave Manuela that bothered him. Early on, he had made it clear through glares that they should eye the road.
“Who are you really? Come on and tell us. You are a long way from home cowboy. You have my sympathies” the guy driving opened. So far, the ride had been pretty silent, with both him and Manuela being grimly silent.
“Guess that’s a local’s way of breaking the ice. Besides, you know why we’re here. Our assignment is to find the President’s daughter” Leon answered snarkily. The driver chuckled.
“Unless you two came along just to sing Kumbaya at some Boy Scout fire” Leon countered.
“Oh, you crazy American. It's a direct order from the chief himself. I tell you it's no picnic” he affirmed as the second cop motioned to pulled off to one side. The second cop stepped out to “excuse” himself.
“What about you, pretty lady?” the remaining cop asked, looking at Manuela through the mirror.
“I’m Leon’s partner for this mission. I’m to assist in Ashley Graham’s rescue” she replied simply, with a deferential nod of the head, cutting off the conversation. Leon had to smile at the action. With her not biting, he wouldn’t have to fight off the fishermen himself. The cop nodded his head, glancing to see the other cop returning to the vehicle. A while later, they crossed a bridge, and the cops pulled over.
“Just up ahead is the village” the first cop nodded his head to a path in the cold mist. Leon raised an eyebrow at the comment.
“I’ll go take a look around” he prompted.
“We’ll stay and watch the car. Don’t want any parking tickets” the second cop joked, prompting an irritated eye twitch.
“Right, parking tickets…” he muttered, stepping out of the car. Manuela stepped out the other side.
“The lady is, of course, welcome to stay with us if she wants” the first cop offered with a sure smirk. Manuela, to her credit, managed to remain neutral in expression.
“I think it will go faster if Agent Kennedy has assistance” she replied reasonably, circling around to Leon. He nodded as they began towards the path. Before they had made any real progress though, their radios sounded off, and both of them pulled out the GRVT’s.
On the screen was a straight, black haired woman with glasses and a serious expression to match her business suit. “Leon, Manuela, I hope you can hear me. I’m Ingrid Hunnigan, I’ll be your support on this mission.”
“Reading you five by five” Manuela affirmed professionally. Leon suppressed his snarky response to match her attitude.
“Loud and clear. Subject’s name is Ashley Graham, correct?”
“Correct. She’s the daughter of the President, so take precautions to ensure her safety.”
“They really picked the wrong girl to kidnap didn’t they?” Leon laughed lightly.
“I’ll try to find some more information on my end” Hunnigan concluded.
“Manuela out.” Putting away the radios, the pair passed a glance between them before drawing their pistols. The dry earth crunched lightly beneath their boots as they walked down the rustic path. The cold mist lay low over the ground, slightly obscuring vision as they walked. Slowly, as the car disappeared from view, a small abode took shape. Manuela cocked her head, focusing intently, and Leon halted a moment.
“I heard someone inside” she confirmed, lightly rolling her arms before resuming her grip on the gun. Leon nodded, taking point as they approached the building. Stepping inside, they could see a man’s shadow on the wall, and the steady crackle of a fire. Rounding the corner, Leon relaxed as he saw only a singular man tending to his fireplace.
“¿Pardoneme señor, pero ha visto eso chica?”1 Leon inquired, using the bits of Spanish he knew as he held out a photo of the President’s daughter. The man turned, his expression reflecting annoyance.
“Qué carajo haces aquí? iLárgate, cabrón!”2 he yelled, causing Leon to frown.
“Lo siento. No era mi...intención ofender”3 he excused himself, turning to walk out of the building. Manuela was about to turn to leave as well when she noticed the man grab an axe from the corner.
“Leon! Watch out!” she yelled, snapping her pistol up and shooting the man’s arm. Surprisingly, that didn’t stop him, though it did make him miss Leon. Leon himself wasted no time in adding distance between the two of them.
“Freeze!” he commanded, taking aim. As the man lurched forward, Leon put a bullet straight through his head, ending his life. The man collapsed to the floor with a prolonged sigh and a dying word.
Leon was about to check the body when Manuela touched his shoulder. She seemed to be listening to something, and was staring at the door. Suddenly, the sound of a truck could be heard starting up. Leon rushed to the nearby window, and saw the truck tear by the house, heading towards the car. Distant shouting could be heard and then a crash, followed by the another crash and an explosion. Outside, several villagers could also be seen, carrying various implements with vicious intent.
A ringing could be again heard as the natives came closer. Leon whipped out his radio with his offhand, still staring out the window slats. “Is everything okay?” Hunnigan inquired.
“We encountered a hostile local. We had no choice but to neutralize him. There are others coming.”
“Take whatever measures are necessary to secure the subject and make your way to the village.”
“Understood. Leon out” he finished, clicking it back into his pocket before stepping away from the window, seizing the gun back in both hands. He turned to Manuela, who was standing by the door at the ready, head tilted down as she listened for their arrival. A tense moment passed as they waited for the villagers to break in, but for all the banging, nothing happened.
“They’re trying to keep us here” Manuela concluded, suddenly realizing their purpose.
“Then we’re getting out of this joint.” He tried kicking the door to knock them back, but it held sturdy. “They must be pressing up against it” he concluded. “Can you do anything?”
“I can try” Manuela offered as Leon stood to the side. With one motion, Manuela swung heavily with her leg, rotating on point to deliver a devastating kick to the door, succeeding in knocking it off the hinges and sending the villagers sprawling at the sudden force.
Without a breath of pause, Leon and Manuela rushed out, finishing the stunned villagers with their combat knives, ending the conflict fairly quickly. Gazing about in the fog for more enemies, Leon finally sheathed his knife as he searched the bodies. They wore fairly standard clothes for the area, and none of their weapons were anything beyond what could be found on a farm. Something seemed wrong though, Leon noted. With a rising fear, he noted that all their eyes were red.
“Manuela, look. All of their eyes are red. I think they’ve been exposed to something” he warned, motioning for her to stand back. “Do you have a bio-kit?” Manuela nodded and tossed the package to him. As he caught it, his eyes settled on the tire tracks, and he was reminded of the sounds that had come in the direction of the car. “Go check on the car. Don’t take any unnecessary risks and return immediately” he ordered. Manuela nodded and trotted off down the path, gun held in her hands.
Leon was surprised at his own professionalism. Perhaps it was the fear of biological weaponry, Manuela’s safety, or his own maturity after all he had been through, but in any event, he couldn’t seem to shake a sinking feeling of something beneath the surface here. Finishing the sampling, Leon relaxed with a sigh as the test confirmed no trace of virus or bacteria. Whatever these people had been exposed to, it wasn’t contagious. Still, he wasn’t going to take a chance.
Standing, he turned to see Manuela returning, a grim expression on her face. “The car’s been destroyed and I couldn’t see any sign of the officers. The truck from earlier appeared to have rammed off the cliffside. If they were in the vehicle, I don’t think they could have survived” she reported. “How about the results?”
“Nothing contagious, but I’d still be careful. Even if it’s some kind of drug, a wound could pass it on” he summarized, tossing the pack back to her. Manuela nodded as she packed it into one of her pockets. It seemed to Leon that she was carrying quite a bit of equipment, including one very peculiar device the was located on her belt. “What’s that?” he inquired, nodding in its direction.
“Oh this? It’s a bit of medical equipment they designed for me. It reads my blood levels to make sure nothing’s going on. They’re still worried about me” she smiled sadly. Leon nodded, offering no comment. Manuela’s expression became focused as she looked off into the distance, sniffing lightly. Leon mused that the virus must have enhanced all her senses to superhuman levels. “I smell something...though I don’t know what. I smell smoke, gunpowder...and something cooking? There” she pointed to a rising pillar of smoke over the tree level.
“Guess we better say hi to the natives then, eh?”