Leon pulled out his GPS and handed it to Sara. “You can read one of these, right?”
“Uh… I’m pretty good with Citymapper; I guess I should be able to handle this,” Sara replied.
“Good. I’m gonna need you to guide us while I handle whatever comes. Okay?”
Leon forged on ahead, Sara directing him. Three soldiers came charging at them. Leon opened fire instantly, catching each one in their heads or faces. “Keep going, Sara! Which way next?” he called, not waiting to see whether the soldiers had mutated.
“Uh… Left turn!”
Leon led them left. A swarm of soldiers stampeded their way through a narrow corridor. Appraising the situation, he shook his head. “Yeah, that’s not happening.”
“Sara, get back,” he ordered. He took hold of her arm and pulled her around a corner, readying the grenade launcher.
“Ah, jeez,” Sara mumbled in dismay.
The group of soldiers emerged, ready to take them down. Leon immediately fired off a grenade. Three soldiers were killed immediately, but two more followed, swearing foully at the carnage that preceded their arrival. Ignoring the bloody scene, they quickly opened fire on Leon who dropped to the floor and returned fire, terminating them swiftly.
Leon sprang to his feet, and taking hold of Sara once again, he dashed down the corridor, pausing only to pick up a fallen assault rifle.
“I’m gonna have nightmares after this,” Sara remarked. “If I live!”
“Okay, which way?” Leon demanded.
Sara didn’t answer. Leon turned to her, frowning. “Sara.”
She looked up at him frantically. “I can’t-- It’s not updating our location!”
The multitudinous sound of screeching and clicking shattered the deathly silence of the corridor. “Damn it! They’re mutating,” Leon realized.
Panicking, Sara slapped the device into her palm. “C’mon! Work!” she exclaimed.
Leon glanced over to see the screen flicker momentarily before the marker drifted to another location on the GPS map.
Sara gasped in relief. “We go right!” she announced.
As the mutated soldiers came lurching toward them, black tentacles flailing, Leon and Sara took off once again.
They sprinted through various halls, Sara calling out directions at each twist and turn.
“Ah, hell. Were we really that far?!” Leon panted.
“We’re almost there!” Sara informed him.
At last they turned through a final pedway. Up ahead they could see the open garage. Several jeeps were lined up as well as a pair of motorcycles. Escape just within their grasp.
The sound of thunderous galloping made them stop cold. Beneath their feet the floor shook almost as though the facility had been built on a fault line. Leon’s breath caught in his chest. There was no mistaking what was causing that commotion. Leon and Sara turned around simultaneously.
The bounding steps came closer from a distant bend in the pedway. The blood-soaked, mutilated remains of a body were flung onto the main walkway. Leon noted the tattered remnants of a lab coat still clinging to the mangled corpse. His lips curled slightly in disgust at the sight. “That’s it for tech number two,” he muttered.
“Oh, my God!” Sara moaned.
Following the ravaged body, appeared the newly enlarged bulk of CERBERUS. It snarled as it approached, fresh blood dripping from its maw. The creature slowed its advance momentarily, eyeing Leon and Sara savagely.
“Oh, shit… It’s grown!” Leon observed.
Eyes fixed on CERBERUS, Leon jabbed his arm in the direction of the garage. “Run, Sara! Run!” he ordered his charge.
Sara didn’t need to be told twice. She took off at maximum speed as Leon remained behind, grenade launcher in hand.
CERBERUS roared furiously and charged at them. Standing his ground, Leon aimed his weapon and fired. The projectile hit its target dead on. The monster howled; a horrid sound that made Leon double over, his ears ringing. He glanced up, trying to see through the smoke, coughing and gagging at the stench of singed flesh and fur.
“Leon! Come on!” Sara cried, pausing in her headlong rush.
CERBERUS emerged from the smoke cloud, more hideous than ever, its body blackened and oozing bloody mucous. With a thunderous bellow, it bolted toward Leon as though it hadn’t been hit at all.
“Go, Sara, go!” Leon shouted. He fired the last grenade at CERBERUS then tossed the expended weapon aside before turning and dashing after Sara. The creature screeched again as the projectile struck it, but it continued its mad charge.
Leon looked up ahead. Sara had just reached the garage. She was staring at Leon in consternation. “Close the shutter!” he called to her.
“You’re not gonna make it!” she worried.
“Do it!” Leon barked.
Sara obeyed, punching the control button.
Leon redoubled his speed, aware that CERBERUS was gaining on him. The shutter descended steadily, rapidly reducing his clearance. Ignoring the stitch that caught his side, Leon exacted one final burst of speed from his body before dropping to the floor in a smooth slide.
He slipped through and rolled safely aside just as the shutter dropped to the floor, effectively sealing them in. Leon lay on his side for a moment, throat burning and lungs aching with every breath. He glanced up to see Sara crouching beside him. She seized his hands in a surprisingly strong grip.
“Get up,” she urged. “That shutter’s not gonna keep CERBERUS out for long.”
“I know,” Leon wheezed, gratefully accepting Sara’s assistance. He fought back a wave of dizziness as he rose.
As if prompted, CERBERUS crashed forcibly into the shutter. Sara yelped in alarm. Leon reflexively threw his arms around her and whirled her aside, positioning himself between her and the buckling shutter. “Damn it. We’ve gotta get out of here!”
Pulling Sara back, Leon sought out keys for one of the vehicles. He caught sight of a large pegboard with various keys hanging on it. “Bingo.”
“How do we know what key belongs to what?” Sara queried.
A single key marked Kawasaki stood out. Leon snatched it up and threw a hasty glance around the garage. His eye landed on a sleek blue motorcycle. “There’s our ride,” he announced.
Leon hit the garage exit button. As the door began to rise, he caught Sara’s hand and rushed to the motorcycle. He straddled it quickly, taking note of a pair of fuel drums stored in a corner. He switched out the magazine in his gun for the one with incendiary bullets. “Get on,” he directed.
“A motorcycle?” Sara hesitated.
Behind them, CERBERUS rammed into the shutter again. The tough steel bulged dangerously with the impact.
Sara jumped onto the seat. “Oh, God. This is a night of truly unwanted firsts,” she fretted.
“Hang on tight; this is gonna be one hell of a ride!”
Sara wrapped her arms around Leon’s abdomen nervously.
“C’mon, sweetheart, you can do better than that,” he coaxed her.
She tightened her grip almost to the point of constriction.
“Better!” Revving the engine, Leon took off, streaking through the large garage at top speed. As they jetted through the door, the shutter crashed through, battered and warped as though it were merely an aluminum sheet. CERBERUS roared deafeningly as it burst forth.
Leon shot a hasty glance at the side view mirror. The creature was galloping after them furiously. “Get down!” he shouted.
Sara ducked down low behind him. Leon half turned in the seat and, aiming as best as his speed allowed, he shot two rounds at the fuel drums. The bullets hit their mark, resulting in a hellish explosion that rent the air and shook the ground.
Leon brought the motorcycle to a halt, turning on the seat to see the raging inferno he had caused. The flames roared and raged, reaching into the dark sky. He gazed distrustfully into the blaze, eyes narrowed.
“Is it dead?” Sara asked.
“I wouldn’t bet on it,” Leon replied grimly.
As if to confirm Leon’s misgivings, the hulking, conflagrant form of CERBERUS emerged from the blazing fire, its eyes glowing fiercely.
“Jesus!” exclaimed Sara. “What’s it gonna take?!”
Leon revved the engine. “Those damn things are built to last,” he said. He circled the bike about and took off again, tires screeching. Behind them CERBERUS gave pursuit yet again albeit at a slower pace.
“You’re taking that with a grain of salt,” Sara remarked.
“Oh, I’m worried,” Leon replied, feeling the telltale knot in his stomach tighten. “But for me, it’s just another day at the office.”
They zipped down the road, whizzing past tanker trucks lined on either side. CERBERUS bulldozed its way through them, shoving them out of its way and overturning them as Leon zigzagged in an effort to hamper its progress.
Leon’s mind raced, searching for another tactic which might prove successful in defeating CERBERUS.
“Leon, look!” Sara said suddenly. She pointed forward at a gleaming silver tanker dead ahead. “A nitrogen tanker! If fire won’t kill it--”
“Maybe ice will,” Leon concluded.
“Do you have any grenades?”
“Give it to me.”
Leon threw Sara a puzzled look through the mirror. “What?”
“I’m gonna blow up the truck,” she explained.
Leon hesitated momentarily. The idea of allowing Sara to handle a grenade made him a little edgy, but the thundering of CERBERUS’ pursuit decided him. Reluctantly, he removed the grenade and passed it to her. “Be careful,” he warned.
He pressed himself down lower on the motorcycle, flooring the pedal. They passed the tanker. “Now, Sara!” he shouted.
Holding onto Leon with one arm, Sara pulled the pin with her teeth, and hurled it at the truck. Leon glanced at the mirror to see the grenade roll under the truck’s tractor.
“Oh, man!” Sara exclaimed, clutching Leon in a vise-like grip. “I can’t believe I just did that!”
As CERBERUS neared the nitrogen tanker, the grenade went off, and an earsplitting explosion followed. The tanker burst open with the impact of the explosion, spilling liquid nitrogen onto the road.
CERBERUS bounded recklessly into the flaming, gushing wreckage, the nitrogen vapor shrouding it in silvery fog. The quaking ceased as it skidded to a halt, its paws caught in the spreading pool of nitrogen. The creature howled furiously as frost began permeating through its legs, rising rapidly over its haunches.
Leon slowed the motorcycle down and braked into a u-turn to face the blazing spectacle of fire and ice. Through the swirling mist of frost, he could see the monster’s eyes smoldering. It tried to raise its tail to lash its spikes again, but the nitrogen had done its job; CERBERUS was frozen up to its shoulders. It bellowed in frustration, straining ferociously to escape its icy bonds.
“Oh, no you don’t,” Leon muttered. “This shit ends now. Sara, stay here.”
“What’re you gonna do?” she inquired, dismounting.
“I’m gonna teach an undead dog a new trick: how to stay dead.”
With that, he revved the engine loudly and took off once more, heading straight for CERBERUS. Bracing himself for the painful impact, he leaped off the motorcycle leaving the unmanned vehicle to rush on.
Fueled by adrenaline and fury, Leon rose, ignoring the pain that exploded through his body. He drew the gun loaded with incendiary bullets. Setting his jaw, he aimed at the motorcycle’s gas tank, waiting for the right moment to fire. The motorcycle maintained its course, plowing directly into the nearly-frozen monster. Just as the motorcycle collided with it, Leon fired. The bullet streaked through the air and struck true. The motorcycle exploded, and CERBERUS burst apart, sending shards of glaciated mutant flesh raining everywhere.
“Good boy,” he whispered. He gripped his left arm, newly injured after the spectacular stunt he had just performed and glared at the scene with fierce satisfaction. Sara’s running footsteps came up behind him.
“Leon! Leon, are you okay?!” she asked, stopping beside him, eyes wide.
Leon turned to her. “Yeah, I’m okay,” he said with a nod. “But that dog just had its day.”
Sara stared at the flaming wreckage. “Whoa. That was insane. Awesome, but insane. You’re a little crazy, you know that?” she said.
Leon shrugged lightly. “Yeah; little bit, I guess.”
“Well, we lost our ride. Now how do we get to the tower?”
Leon turned back to look at the end of the road. The building loomed ahead of them. They weren’t very far now, but a vehicle would still save them considerable time. His pensive gaze fell on a deadhead truck. “We’ll grab ourselves a new ride,” he replied. “Come on.”
Leon jogged over to the truck, Sara closely behind him. “Drivers usually keep a spare key somewhere inside. If we’re lucky, we’ll find one.”
“Can you drive a tractor trailer?” Sara asked incredulously.
“Can’t be any worse than flying a commercial jet,” he answered, climbing the steps to the door.
“You’ve piloted an airplane, too?”
“Technically, crash-landed,” Leon replied as he smashed the glass with the butt of his gun. “But you know what they say: any landing you can walk away from…” He unlocked the door then jumped back down to open it. A distant noise made him stop cold.
“What is it?” asked Sara.
Leon raised his hand to silence her, listening hard. A far-off screech echoed over the island. Realization dawned on him. Two harpies had attacked earlier. He had managed to kill one, but the other had seized Sara and vanished.
“It’s back,” he said, looking up at the cloudy sky intently.
“What is?” Sara whispered anxiously.
“The other harpy.“He raised his gun, anticipating the imminent threat. Silence reigned, but the tension was thick. “Where are you?”
Suddenly, a large figure swooped down from the shadows, diving for Leon. He immediately fired two shots, but the harpy evaded the bullets easily. She struck him hard and fast in the thorax, hurtling him into the truck as she ascended again, hissing and shrieking.
“Leon!” Sara screamed in horror.
Leon slid down to the ground, the wind knocked out of him. His chest ached from the blow, and his heart beat slowly. He raised his eyes, struggling to breathe. His sight was obscured by sudden tunnel vision, but he discerned the harpy coming back around, this time heading for Sara. Leon dragged himself forward several paces and attempted to rise, but he quickly collapsed, gasping for air.
Sara turned and ran, crying out in alarm as the harpy dove for her.
“No…” Leon exhaled. He writhed weakly in frustration as he watched the scene, powerless to help.