Beautiful Experiment

Chapter 9

Manuela hadn’t walked far at all before her leg started shooting searing pain. Swiftly, she realized that there was still a crossbow bolt embedded within her skin. Pausing by the side of the road, Manuela pulled up her pants leg, and noticed immediately what looked like a standard field burn treatment. The “Merchant” must have patched me up, she reflected as she carefully peeled the bandaging to inspect the wound.

The wound had healed quite admirably, probably as a result of her unique situation. She hesitantly flexed the muscle, only to find that she had nothing restricting her movement. Increasing the force and vigour of the motion, she was shocked to find that there appeared to be nothing in there, save maybe a splinter or two, probably what caused the pain. At most, the pain was due to a soreness from healing. It would ensure she didn’t do too many acrobatics, but it wouldn’t stop her.

A howling distracted Manuela from her investigation. In the darkness, she could hear things moving around her. Even with her enhanced senses, she couldn’t pierce too far into the darkness with her vision, though she caught sight of a vaguely Maned Wolf looking creature. Immediately, she withdrew her gun, firing as close to its last location as possible. The yelping told her she had at least startled it. She heard the footsteps retreat off into the night. If these things are like the villagers, they won’t be scared for long, Manuela deduced.

As Manuela walked, she began thinking about the monsters that now surrounded her. They were similar to the zombies in the jungle. Manuela hesitated a step as she thought about them, but pushed through, remembering she was still in danger. She dimly wondered if they had whatever that strange villager had that caused the tendril mutation.

Manuela managed to pivot on her foot just in time to dodge the lunge of one of the dog beasts as she heard the growl. She tucked into a back roll, pulling into a planted crouch, her gun aimed at the beast. The beast snarled as it stared her down, circling slowly around her. The barrel of the gun stayed fixed on the beast, but Manuela waited to pull the trigger. She knew there were others around, and if she shot, she would likely get attacked from another side. She had a plan, but it would require a bit more tight corridors than this. She could probably take them like this, but if the villagers had taken more shots than any human could reasonably have taken, she didn’t want to test just how many one of these beasts could.

Backing slowly away from the monster, she could see its anger growing. Manuela did not doubt that another one would lunge soon. Even as she was backing, she could hear the others in the darkness, and the growling coming from the one she could see all but confirmed her suspicions.

Glancing around, Manuela could dimly guess she was somewhere near the village. The path seemed a bit overgrown, so she couldn’t guarantee she was that close, but it was still there, and it was her only direction. Returning her gaze back to the beast, she could see that it was beginning to slink back into the darkness. She briefly considered taking the shot, but decided it would only invite trouble. Besides, if it backed off, it would give her more freedom of movement, allowing her to get to somewhere more convenient for this showdown. Even now, the path she was on seemed to lead into a canyon area, which would be perfect for this. She just hoped it would work.

But as she rounded the corner, she could see an enormous gate in the gloom. She reached into her pocket, withdrawing a red canister. This would have to work, otherwise she’d be doomed pretty fast. She smiled though as she saw three of the beasts approaching, tight in their formation. There might have been more, but she couldn’t miss this opportunity. Flicking her thumb, a bit of metal flew off the canister and she threw the canister with all her force at the feet of the beasts. The lead one stepped to the side, snarling maliciously, as if to announce its pride at having dodged what it viewed ass her feeble attempt at hitting it.

The smirk was wiped completely away in a burst of cleansing fire as the canister exploded, throwing flames at the monsters. The fur on their hides lit up like the Fourth of July, and the beasts rolled around on the ground in a weak attempt at putting out the flames. When the flames managed to eat through one’s flesh, it exploded, catching Manuela off-guard as bits went flying. The others went up shortly afterward, leaving Manuela alone, with only a gate, and some craters in the ground to mark her prior attackers.

Sighing in relief, Manuella listened for more of the beasts, but the night was silent at last. Turning to the gate, Manuella pondered as to how to get around it. The canyon she was in seemed to the best way to the village, but this gate was positively massive. She might have been able to force it open if it wasn’t locked, but the extremely large bar she could see through the tiny slice of a crack she could see through told her it wouldn’t be a picnic. As she tilted her head up, she realized how tired she was when she stumbled a bit. She would need to rest for the night to be in top shape for the next day. But she had to get to a safe place first.

Turning around, she headed back to the lake front. From as far as she could tell, there was still a few hours left until morning. Looking around, she could see a small hut near the water that would probably suffice as a hiding place. Approaching quietly, she was rewarded to find it was not only empty, but it was also able to be locked up. Carefully setting herself down on the fairly soft ground, Manuela removed the radio from her pack, setting it beside her as she propped herself against the wall, gun in hand. Here’s to a few hours of sleep, she thought to herself.

Leon grunted as he slammed the butt of the pistol into a villager, spinning away. Levelling the weapon back at the man’s face, a pistol blast ended his possessed life. Even as he turned, he could feel the heavy weight of the stone in his backpack. He hadn’t had much time when he grabbed it, but it only seemed like half of what he needed.

From his high ground position, Leon could see the entirety of the valley around him. Not that that constituted much, being mostly a bunch of outcroppings with bridges hanging barely on. Around the hubs, rickety buildings had been constructed, possibly as vestiges of protection from the elements for the people down here.

More shots, more dead bodies. Leon could hear a quiet hissing down below him, and he frowned as he saw another explosive villager on the ledge below him, slowly trudging along the slope to reach him. A well placed pistol shot set off the package, blowing up both the villager and his compatriots. With the ringing in his ears clearing, the valley fell into a silence.

Groaning, Leon leaned against the nearest wall, curling his fist in pain. He looked down at a nasty wound on his side, sustained while fighting off a villager that had come from behind him. He had managed to escape its grip, and barely dodged out of the way of a tossed axe. It had sliced through his side, but it had also hit the villager’s leg, allowing him to take them both out. Rummaging in his pack, Leon found what he was looking for.

Slightly crushed leaves lay in his palm as he pulled out a small rag. Leaves of green, red, and yellow lay on the rag. Do I have anything blunt with me? Leon pondered, grunting in pain as he turned to look into the bag. Nothing. Leon looked down at the herbs, then at his gun.

Sighing, he took the heel of his gun and began crushing the leaves, making a fine mulch. He remembered the last time he had used these herbs, they had patched wounds like they were nothing, and in fact, had made him feel even stronger than he had. Since then, they had worked their way out of his system, and when Raccoon City went up in a nuclear pyre, they were wiped out. Or so it would seem, Leom mused as he applied the balm to the wound, hissing as it did its work. Seeing as I’ll be laid up a bit, I better see if Manuela’s able to answer a call.

“Leon! I’m so happy to see you’re alive!” Manuela’s voice cracked across the radio connection the instant she recognized his face. Leon smiled through his pain.

“Hey there” he groaned. “I didn’t see you when I woke up. The other guy was there too. He’s named Luis. I wasn’t able to get much, but I did find Ashley’s location. What happened to you?”

“I woke up while we were being transported by the villagers. While escaping, I fought a strange parasite mutation one of the villagers was carrying. Their head burst open and a tendril came out. I couldn’t do anything to it, and it was about to kill me when a man controlled it. Then he tried to inject me with something...oh no...he must have gotten you. Leon, do you feel weird at all?”

“Aside from a little sore, no” Leon answered, feeling around for some sign of infection.

“Let me take a look” Manuela commanded. Leon obliged, tilting the radio around so that Manuela could see. “Closer to the neck. That’s where he tried to get me. Oh god...I can see a mark.”

Leon ground his fist into the ground at the revelation. “Damn it. This just gets worse by the moment. Make my way out of one biological hazard and into the next” he joked flatly. Manuela sighed as she thought about the situation.

“We should get you out of here. They’ll be able to do something about it. I’ll finish…”

“Not an option” Leon interrupted sharply, taking Manuela aback with how serious he was. “I am not going to leave you to finish this mission on your own. I’ll just make my way to you and then we can figure a way to get rid of the parasite. Call up Hunnigan and get her to radio me directions to you. And Manuela, be safe.”

Leon clicked the radio off, disallowing Manuela the chance to argue with him. Pushing himself up, he found that he was easily able to stand. Those herbs work wonders. Reloading his pistol, Leon set forth to meet with Manuela.

Manuela stared in stunned silence at the radio for a moment after the connection hissed into silence. As it dawned upon her what had happened, she managed to radio Hunnigan and relay the situation.

“Try and reach Leon as quickly as possible. We need to get him out of there. Restrain him if he doesn’t co-operate” Hunnigan advised, though she looked a bit uncomfortable with the idea.

“O...okay. I’ll try and get to him. Where’s his signal?”

“Back towards the village. If you head through the area just ahead of you, he should be just past the village. If he’s making towards you, you’ll likely rendezvous in the village with him.”

“Alright. Manuela out.”

Turning to the gate, Manuela pondered what she could do to get through it. Leon was somewhere beyond it and she needed to reach him. A small smile tinged her lips. It was almost karmic; he had saved her life, and now it was her turn. But first, the gate.

With a new sense of purpose, Manuela grabbed one of the segments of the gate and began yanking away at it. The wood creaked, but held firmly. Obviously this area was secured for a good reason. Changing tactics, Manuela threw her weight against it, hoping to dislodge something, but to no avail. Manuela began feeling more and more desperate. She could try to go around, but from what she had seen, the valley seemed to encompass the lake, so she’d likely have to traverse for a few miles in one direction or the other, then wrap around back to where they started, and she simply couldn’t take that long.

Lowering her stance, Manuela swung a kick into the wood, and smiled as she heard the splintering higher up. After a quick check to make sure she didn’t injure herself, she tested the wood. Much looser. Grabbing hold of it with both hands, Manuela twisted it enough to slip through. She beheld the area before her.

It was very reminiscent of an arena, with tall wooden pillars ringing the mouth of the valley. All in all, the area wasn’t very large, and one side had three shacks that left only a little bit of room behind them. Across the arena, another gate was swung into the opened up position. Manuela moved towards it, but she’d only taken a step when it swung down, guided by ropes.

Withdrawing her gun, Manuela turned, prepared to meet a hoard of villagers. There were villagers, but they seemed to be pre-occupied with something else, if their rushing meant anything. They seemed to be moving towards a gate. A bellowing that shook the earth erupted from behind it. Manuela wasn’t sure what could be behind it.

And she wasn’t sure she wanted to find out what it was.
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