Beautiful Experiment

Chapter 6

Leon took the lead down the path, since it didn’t seem to split at all. His gun was clenched tightly in his hand as they walked. Despite the initial surprise, nobody seemed to be around. At one point Manuela stepped in front of him, listening carefully. “I hear something” she announced quietly, pointing her gun ahead. “I don’t think it’s a person though...maybe a dog?”

Leon suppressed a shudder at the thought of the zombie dogs he had once fought. Manuela tilted her head, though she didn’t pry. “Just not a dog person” he affirmed with a smile, as the walked towards the noise. Soon, they discovered the origin.

Sheathing his gun, Leon beheld a white dog whose leg was caught in a bear trap. The poor thing was struggling to free its hind leg from the rusty thing. Kneeling beside it, Leon motioned for Manuela to stand back, just in case it was dangerous. Though the trap was particularly lodged with rust, it eventually gave way and the dog went sprinting off, not wanting to stick around. Leon dusted himself off as he watched it leap over a fence and disappear into the fog.

“We should keep an eye out for more traps like this. Something tells me this isn’t an isolated thing.” Manuela nodded her agreement, smiling slightly. No doubt she was happy they’d helped the dog, Leon figured, once again taking point. He halted however as he noted an odd shape on the ground. “Figures” he muttered, as he could finally make out the shape of the bear trap.

“Careful where you step” he warned as they walked through the waist high foliage, eyes nailed to the ground. About halfway through the clearing, however, a voice stole their attention. A villager rounded the corner at the other end of the clearing, pointing to the pair, though he seemed to be alone.

“¡Os voy a romper a pedazos!“1 he shouted, raising his hatchet above his head as he trudged towards them. Leon lifted his gun up, eyes darting between the advancing man and the ground as he slowly backed up. Unloading a bullet into the man’s head, he expected it to be over, but the man only recoiled slightly before continuing. Manuela’s bullet, however, struck him in the head as well, causing him to collapse onto some bear traps, setting them off.

“Guess we don’t have to worry about those ones” Leon joked, guiding them out from the clearing. “Just as a tip, try to keep your ammo clip full whenever possible. A few seconds of reloading can mean death in the wrong situation” Leon advised, slamming the refilled case into his gun. Manuela did the same, passing into silence.

“You seem to have a lot of survival experience. Was it because of...sorry...I didn’t mean to mention it…”

“No, it’s fine. Raccoon taught me a lot about survival. When things crawl out trying to eat your flesh, you learn a lot about not dying” he retorted as they peered into an empty cabin. Leon noticed some crates near the back, edging in slowly. Shortly after he was sure it was clear, he heard Manuela intake air sharply behind him. Whipping around with gun aimed, he saw what caused the fright.

Impaled with prejudice on the wall was a woman. A pitchfork through her head, she appeared to have been dead for at least a while. Maybe not long, considering the little decay, but the blood was crusted over and the flies had gotten to her. “We should hurry to Ashley” Leon affirmed. Before they left, Leon broke open the crates, revealing some herbs. Leon smiled bittersweetly as he recognized the familiar plants.

“I remember these. Back in Racoon City, they were about the only kind of medical treatment you could get. The green ones like this one” he explained, shaking the plant “helped ease the pain of wounds and increased your recovery time. I think Umbrella was working with them for pharmaceuticals. Guess a sold sample got shipped out somewhere and they must have established themselves in the ecosystem.”

“You said green ones heal? Are there other ones?”

Leon nodded his head as he turned the plant in his hand. “There are also red ones and yellow ones. The red ones increase the effect of the green ones and the yellow ones do something to your body that helps you resist attacks better. It wears off after it works its way out of your system. Didn’t think I’d see these things again” he reflected with a confused note in his voice.

Manuela coughed as she tried to get his attention. “In any event, we should be glad for them. If either of us get injured, we’re not exactly reachable easily and it’ll help a lot. Mind if I take charge of it? They taught me a bit of medicine at the agency. I might be able to make something a bit more potent out of it” she offered. Leon agreed as he handed it to her. Tucking it into her pack, Manuela motioned for them to leave the small shack, giving the body a wide berth.

This path seems to go on forever, Leon chuckled internally as they continued walking. He was about to ask Manuela if she was sure they were headed in the right direction when she reached out, yanking him back forcefully. Leon hit the ground with a thud.

“What was that…?” Manuela held out a hand to stop him, pointing ahead.

“Tripwires. You almost walked into one” she explained, backing up slightly. Leon squinted at the area where he had almost walked and slowly realized the slightly silver tint of a string about chest height between a pair of trees. Dimly glowing packages were strapped to either side, semi-hidden by the fog. Leon cursed himself for not noticing sooner as he stood up.

“Thanks. I was nearly Swiss cheese.” Manuela gave a slight laugh as she took aim, splitting the wire from a safe distance with the crack of a gun. The explosions went off to either side, throwing up bits of earth and dust, causing the two agents to cover their eyes.

“Just be more careful, okay?” Manuela asked with a caring smile. Leon nodded, eyes keen on the path ahead. Spotting another trip wire, he was about to fire when he noticed a villager just up the path, heading towards them, probably as a result of the explosions.

“Hey! You!” he yelled, waving to get the man to hurry towards them.. Manuela switched her gaze between Leon and the charging man.

“What are you doing?” she hissed, raising her gun to fire, but Leon moved it down.

“Just wait. This will save bullets” he explained as the villager charged right into the wire, his body disappearing into the cloud formed by the resulting explosion. When the agents uncovered their eyes, no trace of him was left.

“Why didn’t he avoid it?” Manuela asked, confused.

“Beats me” Leon shrugged, starting to walk now that all the wires he could see had been cut. “Maybe whatever’s gotten into them reduces their mental faculties?”

“That might explain it, but what could cause such a thing?” Manuela wondered aloud as they continued forward. Soon, Manuela began sniffing again and Leon could finally smell the smoke. “We’re close.”

Rounding the corner, they were surprised to find the village had arrived unexpectedly. Ducking behind a nearby tree, Leon paused for a moment to make sure that they hadn’t been noticed before he pulled out a set of pocket binoculars. Peering around the corner, he noticed more villagers walking about, doing seemingly normal things while a fire burned in the middle of the village. He quickly noticed the pole protruding from the fire though. And he noticed the dead man impaled on it even quicker.

“I think I found one of the cops” he commented, tucking the binoculars away again, crouching as he headed down the path slowly. Manuela followed, visually sickened by the death. Just before they reached the outer buildings, Leon noticed a path leading around the edge of the village and silently motioned for Manuela to follow him. Following the mudbrick wall, Leon edged to the corner, peering around. A single woman stood, pitchforking a pile of hay. Not far from his position, the door to a house appeared to be unlocked. Quietly, he moved towards the door, gun unshakingly pointed at the woman. Manuela motioned for him to stop however. Leon cocked his head, wondering what she was up to. His eyes went wide as she began creeping towards the woman, footfalls completely silent as she advanced. Leon clutched his gun nervously, in case something went wrong.

Manuela came within arm reach of the woman and slowly stood straight, waiting until the woman went to throw the hay, thus making her straighter and taller. With a quick motion, she silently snapped the woman’s neck. Leon hissed in surprise at the motion. He hadn’t known she was that well trained.

Rejoining him, Manuela bore a large smile, proud of her handiwork. “Didn’t know you could do that” Leon commented silently. Manuela shrugged.

“They really emphasized physical combat for me, given my strength” she explained, equally silent. Content with her answer, Leon resumed the creep towards the door. Hand lightly on the handle, he took a deep breath to steady his aim. Throwing the door open, he side-stepped quickly into the room, gun aimed at a potential enemy. Manuela moved in sync, checking his blind spot before aiming into the heart of the room herself. To their relief, no one was present to announce their presence. Still, they kept their pistols raised high. Searching the cabinets, Leon was surprised to find a grenade hidden in a cupboard.

“What on earth are they doing with things like this?” Leon asked, turning so Manuela could see the object. Her confused expression mimicked Leon’s own.

“Do you think they’re being armed?”

“That’s about the only reason I could imagine. Still, all the more useful for us” he added, pocketing the device. Further searching revealed some gold coins stashed in another cabinet. “Pesetas. Haven’t seen these in a while. After the euro was switched in, these were phased out.”

“I guess in a town this isolated they wouldn’t have known to switch them. What should we do with them?” Manuela inquired, regarding the odd currency. Leon pondered for a while.

“Might as well take ‘em. If we find someone not affected by whatever’s going on, we have bartering value, and if we don’t, we can turn them over to the agency, with a reasonable compensation of course” he added with a smile. Manuela chuckled before remembering the situation. Nothing else cropped up in the house.

Leon peered out the window in the back of the house, at the place where the woman had been. No other villagers could be seen. “Okay, let’s move out.”

Manuela nodded, moving behind Leon as they exited the building. They were about to turn the corner when a villager’s voice could be heard. “¡Alli está!”

“Guess we’ve overstayed our welcome!” Leon announced, rushing around the back of the buildings, hoping to get to a clearing so that they wouldn’t be cornered. His hopes died however, as they reached an intersection, and all the exits he could see between the piled earth barriers were barricaded tightly.

“Leon! Through here!” Leon turned to see Manuela ducking into a large home. Cursing, he rushed through the door, throwing it closed behind him. As one of the villagers came close, he fired a well placed shot into their cranium, dropping them in a sickly yellow-green burst. That simply wasn’t healthy. The villagers stood back, talking amongst themselves too quickly and chaotically for him to understand. What he did hear was the unmistakable roar of a chainsaw.

“Son of a bitch...Manuela, grab anything important and get up the stairs!” he commanded, moving to a shelf, beginning to push it in front of the window. Manuela smashed a crate open, withdrawing some more coins in a rush, jamming them into a pocket as she hurried up the stairs.

“Leon! There’s a shotgun up here!” Manuela announced, tearing it from the hinges it was secured on. Leon hurried up the stairs just as the chainsaw began tearing through the door, sawdust flying across the grimy floor. Catching the shotgun as he turned the top of the flight, Leon once again cursed as he screeched to a halt as he realized there wasn’t a good way out.

A crash announced the window being knocked in as a ladder was propped against the house. With options running low, Leon moved to the window, knocking the ladder out, nearly catching a villager or two with it. “After me!” he called, leaping through, rolling to a stand.

Whipping about, Leon backed up, shooting a few bowled over villagers in the heads, pausing only to let Manuela by without danger. Leon caught his first real view of the chainsaw wielding man. A burlap bag obscured this man’s face, save for the crazed, slightly reddened eyes as he moved with disturbing speed towards them.

“Manuela” Leon commanded over the sound of the engine. “Shoot the other villagers. I’ll handle the big guy when he gets close.” Leon had the sneaking suspicion he wasn’t the run of the mill variety. In situations with infected individuals, he had learned, there are always powerful exceptions. This man was likely one of them.

Manuela seemed a bit unconvinced, but followed his command without hesitation, downing villagers as they moved closer. The distance between the two and the chainsaw man was getting ever smaller and Leon whipped out the shotgun, taking careful aim at the man’s torso, hoping to get as many of the bullets in a tight spread as possible. With a breath, he let the shot fire, hitting the man with a shot that would kill a normal person. Leon frowned as the man simply landed on his back, still wriggling. Angling the gun downwards while Manuela handled the other villagers, he fired two more shots into the man, finally ending his cursed existence.

“Leon, I’m running out of bullets” Manuela announced as she backed up, clicking another clip into her gun. Leon took note of his own weapons, and he had little more ammo than she did. It wouldn’t be long before they had to resort to knife fighting.

The sound of Manuela kicking a villager snapped him out of his auto-pilot firing. Whipping around, he could view in horror that one of the villagers had gotten behind Manuela, and was attempting to restrain her while the others got closer. Manuela’s powerful struggling allowed her to grab their arm, and with one motion, she lobbed them over her shoulder and into the approaching horde.

Both Manuela and Leon heard their guns click, signalling the end of their advantage. They might have been able to take on a few, but there were still dozens of them, and they were too close to allow for safe engagement. Leon unsheathed his knife, moving in front of Manuela, prepared to fight for as long as possible. He’d been through worse…

The sound of a bell rang through the village center, causing the villagers to pause and turn. Leon felt a tense moment as he tensed, ready for an assault. But instead, the villagers began walking away, muttering things. Leon very distinctly heard the words “Lord Sattler” at least once more. There was something going on here.

With a deathly silence, Leon looked about at the now empty square. It was as if there had never been anyone there. Disbelievingly, Leon looked around, throwing up his hands. “Where’s everyone going? Bingo?”
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