The harpy dropped Sara onto the rooftop like a discarded sack. Sara rolled to a stop at the feet of a tall, lean man, her head coming to rest on the instep of his left foot. She groaned, her ribs bruised from the fall.
The man clucked his tongue disapprovingly. “Please forgive my pet. I’m afraid that’s not quite the delivery I had in mind. But no matter; you’re here.”
Sara raised herself up to look up at the man. He was clad in a black raincoat, his face hidden by the hood, but she recognized that smug voice. “Liam Grey,” she croaked. A hot jet of rage eclipsed her terror, hatred burning in her eyes.
Grey chuckled. “Correct, my dear. Now, I do believe enough time has been wasted.” He raised his head. “Take her to the lab and prep her. I’ve been stalling Mr. Ramsey far too long; he’s expecting results tonight. He’ll be holo-meeting with me around 7:00; I want Omega incubating in the subject’s blood before then.”
“Yes, sir,” chorused a pair of voices. Two soldiers seized Sara’s arms and heaved her to her feet roughly.
“Let go of me!” Sara shrieked. She fought against her captors, thrashing and pulling at them. “You son of a bitch!” she screamed into Grey’s shadowed face. “You won’t get away with this!”
“Young lady, I already have. This will go much easier if you just stop fighting. No one is coming for you. The agent is most likely dead, and if he isn’t yet, he soon will be. I’ll see to that personally. You should rejoice, Miss Rios. Tonight, you’ll be reborn. Tonight, you come into your destiny. Take her, and tell them I want her washed before I begin.”
The soldiers hauled Sara away, still fighting every step of the way. The journey through the dark corridors was a blur. Exhausted at last, she went limp in the soldiers’ grasp, dropping her gaze to the cement floor as they headed to their destination.
She thought of Leon standing in the storm, shouting her name. Was he dead? Had he been taken by the other harpy? Sara didn’t want to believe that. She could only hope his skill and agility had been enough to save him. Sara no longer entertained any hopes of being rescued, however. She had been compromised. In mere moments Nyx would be born, and Sara Rios would cease to exist.
Fear constricted her throat, threatening to suffocate her. It was impossible to simply resign herself to this fate, but in the depths of her heart, she silently prayed that if Leon was out there, he would focus solely on taking down Liam Grey and Devon Ramsey.
Sara was jarred from her thoughts when the soldiers released her onto a cold linoleum floor. “Grey wants her cleaned up and changed,” one of them ordered. Sara looked up to see two men in scrubs and surgical masks.
“Take her into the cleaning chamber,” was the reply.
One of the soldiers pulled Sara up once again. He followed one of the technicians to a large stall lined with frosted glass walls, driving Sara ahead of him as though steering cattle. He gave her a hard shove onto a porcelain tile floor. “Okay, gentlemen. She’s all yours.” The soldier departed, and the two technicians moved in on Sara.
She scrambled into a corner. “Wait, what are you doing?” she asked, her voice breaking.
“Get her out of those clothes first,” the second technician told his companion.
Sara’s eyes went wide. “No, wait. Don’t--”
Ignoring her, the first technician immediately began denuding her of Leon’s jacket and her soiled, tattered nightshirt despite her scuffling and protestations. “Shit! Clarence, get your ass over here! This bitch is a handful!”
The said Clarence joined his partner and between the two of them, they had her completely nude, shivering in the chilly air of the laboratory. “Hose her down, Petersen,” he ordered.
Petersen and Clarence left the stall, Petersen returning with a hose in hand. He opened the water, blasting its powerful pressure at Sara. She cried out as the erupting jet of water all but flayed the skin from her bare body. The two men seemed to derive fiendish pleasure from the scene.
Satisfied at last that she was clean, Petersen turned off the hose, leaving Sara shuddering violently and in absolute humiliation. Clarence entered the stall, holding a sleeveless pale gray shift which he tossed at her. “Get dressed,” he said icily.
Sara quickly donned the shift. It did little in the way of warmth, but she was relieved to be clothed again.
“Up,” Petersen commanded.
Sara obeyed; resistance was not an option. If she had possessed a sliver of Leon’s combative skills, she would have made them pay dearly for the horror she and the other women had suffered at their hands then and there.
Petersen seized Sara by the scruff of her neck and pushed her along into the large, dimly lit laboratory. Sara’s heart beat thickly with one part fear and two parts fury. She took one look at the operating table fitted with restraints and she cried out, instinctively trying to bolt away from the technicians.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Clarence asked mockingly. He turned her abruptly, and dealt her a backhanded blow that dazed her and left her cheek smarting. He hoisted her over his shoulder then threw her onto the table and began securing the restraints around her arms and legs.
“You’d better not be around when I turn,” Sara said, fixing Clarence with a savage gaze. “I swear I’ll kill you first.”
The icy terror that gripped her gave way to fierce satisfaction at the passing shade of fear that crossed his face.
“Mr. Clarence,” came Grey’s imperious voice from the doorway. “Your zeal is appreciated, but I think you enjoy your work overmuch. I want my subject in pristine condition for Mr. Ramsey. He won’t like seeing her lacerated and bruised.”
Clarence grunted and nodded. “She’s ready for you, doctor.”
Sara exhaled a shuddering breath and turned her eyes up to the ceiling to avoid the blinding beam of the overhead lamp directly over her face. She suddenly found herself looking up into Liam Grey’s face. His frigid olive green eyes gazed back at her calculatingly. He looked more like a military soldier, dressed in a brown uniform, his silver-streaked red hair slicked back severely away from his face.
“You and your agent friend have caused quite a bit of damage around here. Mr. Ramsey will be none too pleased about that, but I’ll more than have purchased redemption when he sees you,” Grey told her. He glanced up at the technicians cursorily. “Get me my coat and some gloves. I’ll administer the virus myself; I don’t want any mistakes. Petersen, set up an intravenous line. I need muscle relaxants, sedatives and antiviral B on a slow drip; I need to delay Omega’s cellular development until Mr. Ramsey calls in. We’ll take it from there.”
Clarence and Petersen set to work getting the required supplies while Sara stared up at the unfinished ceiling, her heart palpitating, body aquiver. A single tear streamed from her eye. She strained at her bonds as Petersen inserted the IV line into her right arm. Grey then reappeared before her, attired in a lab coat and latex gloves. He held a large syringe in his hand.
“Why? Why are you and Ramsey so determined to end the world?” Sara ground out.
“You don’t understand, my dear. Mr. Ramsey isn’t looking to end the world but to enhance it! A new race will be born, and you will birth it.” Grey’s eyes gleamed with excitement.
Sara felt a stab of horror as she went rigid, her hands balled into fists. She pressed her lips into a hard, grim line to stifle a sob.
“Tonight... history will be made!” Grey primed the syringe then injected it into Sara’s arm.
As soon as the fluid entered her vein, Sara felt white-hot pain rush through her. Every muscle and nerve went taut, contracting as the virus latched onto every cell. She couldn’t contain the anguished scream that burst from her mouth. Sara’s body convulsed, her eyes rolling backward.
Grey calmly laid aside the syringe and went to the console of computers that controlled the substances he had requested. He entered the doses then coolly turned back to his subject. “She’ll be stabilizing soon,” he told his assistants. He glanced at the monitor displaying Sara’s vital signs. “Yes, blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, all approaching normal levels. We’ll get those dopamine levels up, too.”
Sara writhed a moment or two longer before going limp on the table, moaning weakly. The room seemed to swim before her eyes, the chatter of the men sounding tinny and distorted. Strange hallucinations wove through her consciousness. Most vivid of all was the appearance of Leon standing in a corner, looking battered and broken.
I’m sorry I couldn’t save you, the hallucination said. I couldn’t even save myself.
The image shivered and shuddered, melting Leon’s handsome face into the bloody, decaying form of a flesh-hungry zombie. It snarled and hissed, leaping at Sara. She tried to scream, but only managed a weak whimper as the hallucination faded.
At that moment a soldier burst into the room. “Grey, you son of a bitch!” he thundered.
“Foster, what the hell are you doing in here?! I’m in the middle of a procedure. You’ve got business to attend to out there,” Grey answered.
“You’ve been turning my men into these freak mutations of yours. We didn’t sign up for this shit, Grey! What the hell have you done to them?”
Grey smiled sinisterly. “The second you accepted the money was the second you signed up for anything I had in mind. Your unit has been… upgraded. I told you I needed strong soldiers to get the job done. Dead or alive, they all had to serve their purpose.”
Foster looked stunned, horrified and furious all at once. “You won’t get away with this. Ramsey will hear about what you’ve done.”
Grey sighed exasperatedly. He drew a small gun from the folds of his lab coat. “I don’t have time for grievances, Foster.” Before the soldier could react, Grey fired a shot to the center of his head. The man crumpled to the floor.
Sara let out a constricted gasp.
“Shit, Grey!” exclaimed Clarence.
“Ramsey will thank me for shrinking the payroll. Foster and his unit were useless; if they’d been any good, that miserable agent would’ve been dead hours ago,” Grey replied. He approached the corpse and took his radio. “Attention remaining units: you now report directly to me. Should you sight the agent dead or alive, notify me immediately. I will personally handle him.”
Sara felt some strength returning to her body though her brain still felt foggy and sluggish. “Offing your own soldiers, hiding experiments from your boss? That sounds like insubordination to me,” she said hoarsely.
“Ramsey is an extraordinary visionary, my dear, but where he sees trash, I see an opportunity to create something new. Waste not, want not.” Grey gave her a crooked smile.
A low beeping sounded, breaking the tense silence. “Ah, that’ll be Mr. Ramsey. Petersen, Clarence, kindly remove Commander Foster from here. Mr. Ramsey shouldn’t be privy to our little in-house disputes.”
Clarence and Petersen obeyed. The corpse having been cleared away, Grey replaced his gun and answered the tone. Immediately, a holographic image of Devon Ramsey appeared in the laboratory.
“What took you so long?” Ramsey demanded, large hazel eyes open wide in stygian displeasure.
Sara looked over at the image groggily. Devon Ramsey, CEO of Eclipse Solutions. She’d seen him numerous times on television, usually announcing some scientific breakthrough or corporate advancement. Now here he was--his likeness, at least--staring at his subordinate with a bloody gleam in his eyes; the man behind the horror.
“Apologies, Mr. Ramsey. We were extremely busy preparing the subject. But she’s ready for you, sir. Allow me to introduce you to… Nyx.”
Sara’s stomach lurched as Ramsey turned his full attention to her. He regarded her almost hungrily. “She’s a perfect match, then?” he said, his image advancing toward her.
“Omega began binding with her cells immediately. Left unhindered, complete mutation is expected within ten to twelve minutes. I’ve given her a low rate of Antiviral B to retard the fusion and decelerate transformation. I knew you’d want to see her prior to metamorphosis.” Grey’s tone was sickeningly triumphant.
“Indeed, Grey. In fact, I want to be there when she converts,” Ramsey said. Sara shuddered as his eyes roved over her. She averted her gaze, forcing her dim eyes to fix on the clock high on the wall ahead of her.
“What’s the current rate of cellular fusion?” inquired Ramsey.
“Fusion is at seven percent. At this rate, full transformation can be delayed for no more than twenty minutes,” Grey replied.
“Raise the Antiviral B dose. Administer the maximum amount required to delay transformation to approximately an hour,” Ramsey ordered.
Grey frowned. “But, sir, isn’t that risking the potency of the virus? Her immune system may try to destroy it in response to the antivirus.”
Ramsey tossed his head, unconcerned. “Antiviral B is only a partial component of the vaccine. By itself it can’t overcome Omega; only slow its generation. Put the cellular transition monitor on her, and track the development. Keep me informed of any negative changes. I’m taking my private helicopter. I’ll be on the island within forty five minutes.”
Without waiting for a response from Grey, Ramsey disconnected the holo-call, vanishing from the lab.
Grey immediately turned to the computer console where he opened a small attache case. He removed a wristband monitor and having input some data, he placed it on Sara’s wrist. Sara felt a tiny pinprick from the monitor, a low beep following the prick.
“Cellular fusion at twelve percent,” he read from the monitor’s display. “Total conversion in approximately seventy four minutes.” Grey nodded, satisfied. He looked into Sara’s face and patted her wrist. “Prepare to make history,” he said.
Sara shrank away from his touch feebly, a fresh stream of angry, fearful tears spilling from her eyes.
Grey turned to his technicians. “It’s done. Keep an eye on her; let me know if there are any adverse changes. I have other matters to attend to, including vigilance against that agent.”
Having said this, Grey removed his lab gear and left the room, leaving Sara with Petersen and Clarence. Happily, they left Sara alone, heading to the outer room where they lapsed into quiet conversation.
Sara gazed at the clock lethargically. Total conversion in seventy four minutes. Sara fought through the drug-induced fog in her brain, she whispered up to the heavens: “If I’m not to be saved, please grant me a quick death. And if Leon is alive, keep him safe and let him find a way to end this.” The sedative overcame her then and the world faded to troubled silence.
Leon abruptly came to, the nightmarish events rushing back to him. Groaning softly, he pushed himself to his feet, taking in his surroundings as he collected his wits.
The storm had relented to a calm, steady downpour, but lightning still flashed across the sky, thunder rumbling distantly. Brushing his hair away from his eyes, Leon produced his tablet case. He was disappointed to find only seven remaining. Shrugging resignedly, he took four. It would have to do.
At that moment, his comm device went off. “Yeah, Hunnigan,” he answered huskily.
“Leon! I’ve been trying to reach you for the last ten minutes!” Hunnigan exclaimed.
Leon sighed. “Ten minutes… That’s ten minutes too long.”
“I made more new friends, and they play pretty hard. I took some serious hits and lost consciousness. Hunnigan, Grey’s got Sara.”
“I need to delay that evac, Hunnigan. I’m going back for her,” Leon affirmed.
“Leon, I’m as sorry as you are about losing her, but I’m sure she’s been infected by now. It’s too late.”
“Maybe not. Ramsey was smart enough to whip up a vaccine in case his project went awry. If I can get a hold of it, I can still save Sara,” Leon answered.
“Leon, I’ve sent the Phanes file to the NSA. The Department of Defense has given express orders for the island to be destroyed. They’re going to drop a missile on it, and they’re going to do it soon,” Hunnigan explained.
“Shit. I need to hold them off just long enough to give me a chance. Hunnigan, can you patch me through to BSAA Captain Chris Redfield?”
“Of course. Stand by.”
“Leon, what’s going on out there? You okay?” came Chris’ voice after a moment.
" ‘Okay’s’ a stretch, but I managed to give the Grim Reaper the slip again. Chris, I’ve got a serious situation here: FOS Hunnigan tells me the DOD wants this place lit up and quick, but the girl I was trying to save was taken. Ramsey’s gonna infect her with a virus known as Omega, to make her the ultimate B.O.W. I’ve got a chance to save her; I’ve just gotta get back inside,” Leon explained.
“HQ’s given orders to blow the island in 30 minutes. That’s all the time you’ve got to clear out of there,” Chris told him urgently.
“I need more time. Is there anything you can do to delay the launch?”
Chris was silent for a moment. “I don’t know what I can do. It’s not up to me; I’m on ground support/extraction detail. HQ expects me to pull you out in exactly fifteen minutes. They’re not likely to listen to me if I tell them to hold off. The mission is everything; they’ll bomb the place with you in it if necessary. Trust me; I know from experience.”
“C’mon, Chris. There’s gotta be something you can do. I can’t just let this girl die when there’s a chance I can save her. I couldn’t save the other women, and I even lost my partner out here. I don’t want to lose her, too. If there’s anything you can do--anything--to buy me some time… please. Remember Edonia when your whole unit went down. If you could’ve done anything to save just one of them from infection, I know you would’ve.”
An uncomfortable silence followed. “I’d’ve given my life,” Chris said at length.
Leon waited with bated breath.
“Damn it to hell,” Chris suddenly growled. “Piece of shit engine would stall now! That’s gonna set the ETA back fifteen minutes. Looks like you’re gonna have to hold out a bit longer. I’ll radio HQ and inform them of the delay.”
Leon smiled faintly. “Thanks, Chris.”
“That’s all the time I’ll be able to buy you,” Chris told him. “After that, the fighter pilot’ll get clearance to blow Halcyon sky high whether or not you’ve evaced.”
“When the evac chopper arrives, you be ready to haul ass out of there no matter what, you got that?”
“Copy that,” Leon replied.
“Okay. Good luck. Redfield out.”
Leon exhaled in relief. Now he just had to get into the facility. “Hunnigan,” he tried.
“I’ve got a little leeway. I need you to find me a way back inside.”