It was dangerous and wearisome work rounding back to the research building. Between the zombies and the muddy terrain, his progress was greatly hampered. His flashlight scarcely cut through the obscurity of the pouring rain. Alternately fighting and running, Leon finally made it to the facility with Hunnigan’s guidance.
Leon rounded the side of the enormous edifice searching for the infiltration point Hunnigan had indicated: a surface access point into an underground passage leading to the facility’s warehouse. Adjacent to the warehouse was the main building. There was, however, a nasty catch to getting there.
Leon looked up at both buildings and couldn’t help heaving a deep sigh. The roof of the multi-story warehouse overlooked a sizable terrace on the research building. A roof access cage ladder was affixed to the wall adjacent to the terrace. Making it from the warehouse to the terrace was going to require some acrobatic work… and an insane amount of luck.
A distant growl arrested his attention. His entire body tensed. Leon ducked into the shadows, shutting off his flashlight and peering out. He heard the lumbering steps of a large creature approaching. It stepped into the warehouse floodlights, snapping, snarling and sniffing. CERBERUS. Leon shrank back farther, hoping the rain would make it more difficult for CERBERUS to sniff him out, but he wasn’t depending on that.
CERBERUS sniffed loudly, baring its razor-sharp teeth. Irritation superseding fear, Leon’s mind raced, trying to find a way of distracting the creature. CERBERUS crept closer. Its hackles rose, sensing Leon’s presence despite the rain. An idea flashed into Leon’s head; he drew an incendiary grenade. He pulled the pin and, aiming high, he pitched it as hard as he could.
“Fetch, boy,” Leon murmured.
The grenade sailed through the air in an impressive arc before hitting the ground in a burst of flames. CERBERUS roared and turned toward the small blaze in the distance.
“Huh. That’s one for the MLB,” Leon remarked. Relieved, he turned toward his infiltration point, and made his way into the passage. At that moment, a loud alarm blared.
“Damn. Won’t be long before they roll out the welcome wagon for me. Better be ready for anything.”
Leon made his way through the dimly lit passage and finally emerged into the warehouse. It was surprisingly empty. He had expected an ambush, but there was no one in sight. It was far too quiet. No doubt Grey was expecting him.
A long ascent on a ramp followed by a climb up a wall ladder finally brought Leon out onto the roof and back under the rain. He looked about cautiously before stepping forward to analyze the feat ahead. It was a considerable distance from the rooftop to the terrace, and the drop was fatal.
Leon rolled his shoulders back and inhaled deeply. He retreated from the edge of the roof, giving himself enough space to make a running start. Taking a moment to focus, Leon sprinted forward, his eyes fixed on the terrace railing. He leaped off the roof and sailed through the air. For an instant he feared he wouldn’t make it, his momentum seeming insufficient. But at the last second, Leon caught hold of the railing, hitting the brick with a jarring impact that sent shockwaves of pain through his body.
Gasping and groaning, Leon tightened his grip on the rail and pulled himself up. He dropped onto the terrace floor, waiting for the climax of the pain to pass and drawing his breath in uneven rasps. He rallied quickly, determination fueling his will. Leon rose, and ignoring the sharp ache of his ribs, he proceeded to make his way up the ladder.
The climb seemed almost interminable, but he reached the roof at last, climbing the top rung warily. Everything was pitch black except for where his narrow flashlight beam illuminated. Leon drew his gun and advanced slowly, shining the paltry beam of light ahead of him.
A sudden blow to his arms knocked his weapon clean out of his hands. Another stunning blow sent Leon hurtling to the floor. He recovered brilliantly, rolling to the side and rising on one knee, looking wildly for his assailant.
The sound of multiple switches being flipped on filled the air, and suddenly Leon found himself bathed in a blaze of floodlights. He shielded his dazzled eyes immediately. Squinting, he stood and sought his adversary anew.
“So we meet again, Agent. I’ve been expecting you, actually. And what kind of host would I be if I didn’t honor you with a warm welcome?”
“Grey,” Leon realized. He still couldn’t see him; pockets of shadow concealed Grey from view.
“You’re too late to stop me, Agent. And you’re out of time. Now you’ll discover the penalty for your lack of vision,” Grey declared.
Leon turned in the direction of the voice. “‘Lack of vision’?” he scoffed. “You’ve got a hell of an ego, Grey, but this isn’t Star Wars, and you sure as hell are no emperor.”
Grey uttered a bestial growl as he lunged at Leon from the shadows. Leon quickly drew his second gun, but Grey didn’t give him a chance to use it. An impressive kick to Leon’s abdomen knocked it out of his hands again. Grey sprung at Leon’s throat, but Leon grappled with him fiercely.
The world around Leon seemed to vanish; for the moment there was nothing else but his opponent. Grey proved to be a very challenging opponent at that. Despite his age, he was agile and his attacks were vigorous. They exchanged blow after blow in a vicious clash.
Grey landed a series of successful punches to Leon’s face. Taking advantage of his momentary daze, Grey managed to get up behind him, locking him in a full nelson hold. Leon exhaled sharply, the pressure Grey exerted on his neck threatening to break it. Maintaining his presence of mind, he straightened his head, pressing his arms together and in to break Grey’s hold. He swung his neck back sharply in a powerful backward headbutt, breaking free as Grey reeled backward, blood trickling from his nose.
Grey pounced on him yet again, dealing him a hard blow to his wounded flank. Leon cried out in agonized fury as the scarcely-healing wound was reopened. Grey’s lips curved into a savage smile at the discovery and he struck Leon twice more. Leon barred a third attempt by shielding the area with his arm then lashing his leg out in a kick to Grey’s shin.
Swearing foully, Grey doubled over, but he straightened up in a flash and charged at Leon. Anticipating the assault, Leon caught Grey in his headlong rush and shoved him away, landing a smooth kick to the small of his back.
Unable to stop himself from falling, Grey hit the floor, clawing at the gravel in fury. Leon advanced to follow up on his advantage, but Grey snatched up a handful of gravel and hurled it at Leon’s face. Leon exclaimed, trying to clear the sediment away from his eyes. Grey took the opportunity to seize Leon’s ankle. With a violent tug, he pulled Leon down to the floor.
Struggling to clear his vision, Leon wrestled with Grey almost blindly. He felt a yank at his shoulder and realized that Grey had drawn his knife out of its sheath. He opened his bleary eyes wide as he saw the blade coming down at him. Leon caught Grey’s arm just before the knife struck. He struggled furiously with Grey until his muscles cracked and buckled with the effort. The blade’s tip glistened evilly in the light, only inches away from Leon’s eye.
With a burst of energy, Leon managed to push Grey off balance, rolling over him and away from easy reach. Undeterred, Grey sprang up and pursued Leon. They stood face to face, Grey swinging the blade wildly as Leon dodged and wove out of range. Snarling, Grey flew at him. Leon dove out of the way, but not before Grey managed to land a slash at his left arm.
Leon spun away, grimacing. He clutched the fresh wound, blood streaming between his fingers. Grey charged at him once more. Leon received him readily, striving to avoid the deadly blade. A lethal dance ensued as the men grappled for the knife.
His rage wrought to the highest, Leon felt an uncanny jet of strength rise within him. He forced Grey’s wrist backward forcefully. The snap of the bone and Grey’s guttural cry of pain was satisfying. Leon followed up on his advantage as Grey’s grip on the knife loosened, dealing him a hard blow to the throat.
As Grey staggered backward retching and rasping, Leon gave him a side kick. At last the knife clattered out of Grey’s hand as he reeled further back. With a furious growl, Leon rose in a magnificent spinning roundhouse kick.
The impact of the kick pitched Grey clear over the railing. Leon rushed over to look, working to catch his breath and gripping his bleeding arm. Grey dangled from the lower rung of the railing by a single hand. He swore foully, glaring up at Leon.
“Still think you’re a god, Grey?” Leon called out to him.
A distorted smile spread across Grey’s face. “That’s right, be smug, boy. I’ll die, but it doesn’t matter. You can’t stop what’s coming. The wheel of fate is already in motion.” His grip slipped and he gasped. Grinding his teeth, he laughed bitterly. “I’ll see you in hell.”
Leon narrowed his eyes. “You’d better hope not.”
At last Grey’s hold gave way. Screaming, he plummeted to the pavement below.
“Happy landings,” Leon muttered.
Grey hit the concrete with a distant cracking thud, a dark pool of blood spreading from his broken corpse.
Leon stood looking at the sight for a moment before turning away. Weary and hurting, he proceeded to gather his weapons. He produced his tablet case and emptied the contents into his hand. “Damn,” he muttered as he counted out four in total. He popped them into his mouth and flung the empty case away.
“Okay, Sara. I’m coming for you.”
Without waiting for the tablets to take effect, Leon made his way down into the building, prepared for whatever came his way.
CERBERUS glared at the dying flames of the incendiary grenade and snarled. Shifting its bulk, it turned and rounded back to the lab facility. The creature paused, catching the metallic tang of freshly shed blood riding on the wind.
CERBERUS galloped toward the scent, coming to a halt at the broken, bloody body of Liam Grey. CERBERUS sniffed the corpse interestedly for a moment then proceeded to feed on it, devouring Grey in two bites.
No sooner had the monster finished its grotesque meal than it began to mutate further. Its decaying flesh tore as its limbs grew longer, and it became impossibly larger. Its claws lengthened, and its hide became tougher.
CERBERUS stretched its horrendous body and let out a resounding roar, its thick, grayish spittle spraying forth. Growling deeply, CERBERUS turned and bounded into the shadows, seeking live prey.