Surprisingly, Leon met with no further resistance. He was certain, however, that getting out of the facility was going to be a hell of a lot harder than getting into it.
Leon carefully followed his GPS until he came to the laboratory. Preparing himself for any threats, he tried the knob. The door opened easily, and he stepped inside. There was no one to be seen in the immediate area. A low beeping noise coming from a room behind a frosted glass panel caught Leon’s attention.
He quietly made his way toward the room and peered carefully inside. A lab technician was standing with his back to the door analyzing a computer monitor. On the far right of the room, Sara lay bound to the surgical table.
The technician suddenly turned around and stared at Leon. He started violently. “How the hell did you get in here?!” he exclaimed.
Before Leon could answer, he heard the shattering of glass behind him. He turned to see another technician stepping out of a supply room.
“Holy shit!” the man whimpered upon seeing Leon. Without further remark, he sprinted out the door.
Leon returned his attention to the first technician who had taken up a crucible and now stood poised to fling it at him. Leon instantly trained his gun on him.
“Uh-uh. I wouldn’t do that if I were you. Your friend out there’s got about five minutes or so before a very pissed, probably very hungry CERBERUS gets to him. You’re in here with me, which means you’ve got sixty seconds to live unless you tell me where the vaccine is.”
The technician dropped the crucible. “If I tell you, Dr. Grey’ll kill me!”
“Not from where he is.”
The man’s eyes widened. “If Mr. Ramsey finds out--”
Leon raised the gun a little higher to the level of the technician’s head. “He’ll never get the chance,” he replied darkly.
“It-it doesn’t even matter. The girl’s been infected. It won’t be long before--”
“Wrong answer!” Swiftly redirecting his aim, Leon fired, grazing the technician’s arm deeply.
He fell backward with an effeminate shriek, blood spattering onto the wall and equipment. Leon reached him in three brisk strides and yanked him up roughly by his collar. “Let’s try this again, okay? The vaccine…”
“Okay, okay!” the technician whined. “I don’t know exactly where Mr. Ramsey has it, but I do know it’s somewhere in the tower. That’s Mr. Ramsey’s private quarters. The precise location was only on a need-to-know basis.”
Leon reflected on this information then looked back at him. “Thank you; you’ve been very helpful.”
With that, he pistol-whipped the technician and dragged him to the supply closet where he locked him in.
At last Leon was free to attend to Sara. He studied her briefly as she lay in drug-induced repose. His eyes ran over her form: her head wound had healed fully as had the graze on her leg. Accelerated healing was definite proof that the virus was taking effect on Sara’s body.
The wrist monitor she wore caught his attention. He checked the display, a dismayed scowl forming on his face. “Cellular fusion at twenty four percent; conversion complete in sixty four minutes,” he read. He pressed his lips somberly, glancing up at the IV lines connected to her arms. The feeds had to be cut off before he could move her.
Leon went back to the computers, quickly shutting down the IV feeds. He was beside Sara again in a flash, cutting the restraints off her wrists and ankles. Presently, Sara moaned softly. He stood over her, his brow furrowed with concern. “Sara, it’s me, Leon. Can you hear me?”
Sara’s eyelids fluttered. “Leon?”
“Yeah,” he answered softly. “I’m here.”
Sara opened her eyes and fixed them on his face. Her lips gaped in realization and she started to sit up. “Leon! How--how are you here?!”
Leon stopped her abrupt movements, gently placing his hands on her shoulders. “Easy. It doesn’t matter; I just am.”
Sara’s weary eyes assessed him.“My God… Leon!” she exclaimed, taking in his sodden and bloody appearance. She raised a cold, trembling hand to his face, skimming tenderly over the contusions in dismay.
Her caring touch surprised him and stirred him deeply. He took her hand and lowered it. “I’ll be fine, Sara,” he said, his tone deceptively stolid.
“Is dead. Forget about him. I’m getting you out of here,” he assured her.
Sara shook her head vehemently. “No. You shouldn’t have come,” she whispered. “It’s too late, Leon; I’m already infected.”
“I know, but we’ve still got a chance,” Leon said resolutely. “We’re gonna get the vaccine and cure you.”
Sara shook her head ruefully. “Just go; leave me here. Just focus on putting a stop to Ramsey and get out while you still can. Besides, there are eight million people in this city. There’s no sense in endangering all those lives for one person nobody even cares about.”
Leon felt a strange flare of pain and ire at Sara’s self-deprecating remark. “I care,” he replied somewhat sharply. The instant he had uttered the words, he realized that he cared significantly more than was considered professionally acceptable.
Sara went silent, fixing a surprised, plaintive gaze on him. Her eyes shimmered with unshed tears.
“Hasn’t anyone ever told you that?” Leon asked, looking at her gravely.
Sara chuckled dryly. “It has been a while,” she replied.
That tugged at Leon’s heartstrings.
Sara shook her head. “What if we can’t make it to the vaccine? Do you realize the odds of even finding it?”
“I’ll tell you about odds: Since Raccoon City, I’ve been implanted by a mind-altering parasite, faced down armies of the undead, and taken on dozens B.O.W.s. If I calculated by odds, I’d have given up the fight on bioterrorism years ago.”
The tears Sara had been working to hold back spilled over, and she bowed her head. Leon’s heart ached for her. Giving his carefully-reined emotions allowance, he gathered her to him with his uninjured arm and embraced her. He felt Sara tense momentarily, but then she clutched him tightly, her body shuddering with suppressed sobs.
Leon smoothed her dark hair affectionately. “We’ll make it, Sara.”
“Promise me something, Leon.”
Leon withdrew and looked at her solemnly in noncommittal silence.
“If we can’t get to the vaccine, kill me before I finish turning.”
“That’s not gonna happen--”
“Promise me!” Sara demanded.
Leon nodded grimly. “I promise.” It was a vow he could conscientiously make. If she turned, he would terminate her; there would be no choice. But each time he was forced to kill an infected companion, it wore a little more of his soul away. Agent Liu’s mutated face flashed before him, and he blinked quickly to dispel the image.
“Let’s get these lines off you,” Leon said. “It’ll hurt a little.” He carefully pulled the needles out of Sara’s arms. She endured the procedure quiescently, watching his movements fixedly. Her eyes met his as he took her hands to help her off the table.
“Where are your tablets?” Sara inquired.
“Fresh out. I’ll be doing things the hard way from here on in.” Leon chuckled. “I look that bad, huh?” He helped her down.
“That arm; it’s bleeding too much. This is a lab; there’s gotta be dressing supplies in here. Maybe I can bandage it up for you.”
Leon frowned. “Sara, we don’t have time for--”
Sara wiped her tears away roughly and looked at him sternly. “If you’re gonna try to save my skin, you’d better take care of yours first.”
Leon exhaled sharply. He couldn’t argue the point. “Fair enough,” he replied.
Sara made her way to a cabinet with glass doors, amazingly steady after having been subjected to sedation. Clearly another side effect of the virus’ development: increased drug metabolism.
“It’s locked!” Sara declared agitatedly.
Leon quickly solved the problem by smashing the glass with the butt of his gun, clearing out the shards with its barrel.
“That works,” Sara remarked. She snatched up a bottle of alcohol and a roll of gauze. “There’s no tape, so we’ll have to improvise. Lend me your knife, will you?”
Leon complied. He watched, intrigued, as Sara got to work with surprising celerity and skill. She tore off the remainder of his sleeve and tossed it aside then poured some alcohol on her hands to cleanse them. She glanced at Leon pointedly, apprising him of her intention to use it on him. He nodded, and Sara proceeded to pour the alcohol onto the wound, eliciting a breathless grunt and a grimace from Leon.
“No; you’re doing fine,” he said huskily.
Leon watched Sara intently, impressed at how poised she was as she carefully wiped away the gore. Her hands trembled slightly, but she remained focused. She was an admirably multifaceted individual.
“What happened to your parents?” he asked, suddenly curious to learn more about her.
Sara paused an instant at the question then shrugged. “The usual misery bit,” she said. “My dad skipped out on Mom and me when I was five. When I was eighteen, my mom got sick. A year later, she died of a heart attack.
“I had to quit college and settle for the first job that came along. I worked a lot of crappy jobs. TruCare was actually the best one.” Sara snickered. “Talk about irony.”
Sara cut a measure of gauze and wadded it up. “Hold this over the cut.”
Leon obeyed. “I’m sorry,” he said softly, gazing at her dolefully. He understood the pain of loss all too well.
Sara nodded quietly and proceeded to wrap more gauze around Leon’s arm to secure the wad in place.
“You’re pretty good at this,” he said presently.
“Thanks. I’ve seen field dressings done in so many movies and games, I got curious and checked it out on YouTube.”
Leon looked at Sara appreciatively. “You’re a very remarkable and interesting woman,” he said earnestly. “You shouldn’t undervalue yourself.”
Sara’s movements suspended momentarily at his words. She glanced at him furtively and exhaled softly before resuming. “Thanks, but it’s the world that does the appraising,” she said acerbically.
She shook her head. “It’s so funny. The media talks a load of crap about dreams and opportunity; about coming together and being united.” Sara huffed. “Pack of lies; all of it. When push comes to shove, no one offers you a hand up. In a world that’s so connected, people have never been more disconnected. It’s never been easier to be alone.”
Leon nodded. “I know what you mean. The world’s nuts. It stopped making sense to me after Raccoon City. But trust me, at the end of the day, the only appraisal that really matters is your own.”
Sara tied the gauze in a sturdy knot and met Leon’s gaze directly. There was a spark in her deep brown eyes that kindled Leon to his core. “I’ll keep that in mind… if I survive this,” she said.
“You will,” Leon affirmed. “I really believe you’re gonna rise from this... like the Phoenix.”
Sara straightened up thoughtfully. “I like that. The Dragon names the Phoenix,” she said, gesturing to him.
Leon raised his brows. “Me? Dragon?”
“Yeah: fierce, powerful guardian. It suits you.”
Nonplussed, Leon looked up at her then away again, his brow furrowed. He had never thought of himself that way.
Sara glanced down at her handiwork and nodded. “Done.”
Leon inspected it. “Good field dressing. Thanks.”
Sara smiled slightly then looked at him with a troubled aspect. “Leon, Devon Ramsey is on his way here. He wants a live viewing of my… transformation.” She glanced up at the clock. “I think he’ll be here in about a half hour.”
Leon sighed gutturally. “This party’s starting to get a little too crowded for my taste. The Defense Department’s gotten antsy about the situation here. They plan on bombing the island.”
“I called in a favor with my friend who’s leading the extraction unit here. He’s bought us some time, but I won’t sugarcoat it. If we’re not off this island before the fighter jet gets here--”
“Game over,” Sara murmured. She hissed suddenly, gripping the wrist where she wore the monitor.
“What is it?”
“This thing just pricked me,” she said. She looked at it, and her very lips went white.
Leon quickly took her arm and checked the monitor. “Cellular fusion at thirty percent. Conversion complete in twenty six minutes.” Leon’s eyes snapped up to Sara. “This thing was at twenty four percent with an hour estimate!”
“That was before you disconnected the decelerant,” Sara informed him.
“Damn it! That means fusion is occurring at a rate of fifteen percent every five minutes!” Leon mused anxiously.
“I told you, Leon: it’s hopeless.” Sara turned away from him.
Leon stepped around her, resisting the desire to gently take her face in his hands and make her look at him. Instead he sought out her gaze, his countenance set austerely. “Hey, I don’t plan on giving up without a fight. Don’t you dare quit on me now.”
Sara sighed. “How can you be so damn optimistic in the face of all this?”
Leon blinked. “What good’s the alternative? Besides, I’m hoping some of it will rub off on you.”
Sara’s mouth curved into a wry smile.
“That’s a start. Now, stick close. I’m anticipating nothing short of hell.”
Weapons drawn, Leon led the way out of the lab, Sara at his heels with only a safety cushion of space between them.
“So what’s your plan?” whispered Sara.
“Head for the garage as we originally intended, grab a vehicle, head for the main facility, find the vaccine, get you cured, get the hell out of here,” Leon enumerated.
“Yeah? What about the soldiers and B.O.W.s? They’re not just gonna let us waltz out of here,” Sara reasoned.
“Nope. That’s why the plan’s subject to change without notice,” Leon replied.
Leon and Sara began winding their way through the corridors. Suddenly, a loud, blaring alarm sounded through the halls. The lights went down, replaced by red warning lights. Leon stopped in his tracks, Sara drawing up close behind him.
“That’s not good.”
“Red alert! Red alert! Facility security compromised. Security breach protocol activated,” the computerized voice declared.
“Ready or not, here we go,” Leon remarked.