Resident Evil: Field of Blood (Fireheart Fury Book 1)

Chapter 19

Leon’s fingers tightened around the grip of his gun as he observed Sara. Her face had gone ashen, her lips bloodless. Perspiration beaded her forehead, and she drew her breath strenuously.

He remembered his own experience with the parasite that had been implanted in him. The pain had become excruciating as the parasite had matured within his body. Now, watching Sara suffer thus was agonizing.

Sara grunted softly and looked up at him, meeting his grave gaze with a small, determined smile. He inclined his head at her encouragingly, his pulse quickening slightly as he recalled the kiss they had just shared.

He had never felt so compelled to take such a liberty while on duty, not even when he had met the double agent he had namelessly referred to with Sara.

Leon had met that enigmatic agent, Ada Wong, back in Raccoon City. She had deceived him into believing she was an FBI agent seeking to bring down those behind the outbreak, even stealing a kiss as she urged him to help her. But In reality, she had merely been using him, appealing to his magnanimity, in order to secure a virus sample for her employer. Despite this, he had been immensely attracted to her. She had left a lasting impression on him.

But not even Ada, seductively cool and aloof as she was, had challenged his austere discipline as Sara did. She was a stark contrast to Ada. Whereas Ada was apathetic and haughty, Sara was noble, warm and devoid of egotistical pride. Her kind and courageous spirit had engendered growing affection as well as a powerful attraction. The thought of losing her to this virus was harrowing.

“Leon, come in.” Hunnigan’s voice in his ear startled Leon out of his reverie.

“Yeah, Hunnigan. I read you,” he replied.

“Thank God. I was getting worried. There was an interruption on satellite visuals, and I hadn’t heard anything from you for a while.”

“Sorry about that. Things have been very… tense to say the least,” Leon replied.

“Okay. Can I get a sitrep?”

“I’ve got Sara. We’re in the main tower now. According to a source, the vaccine is here somewhere. We may be cutting it fine, but we’ve still got some time.”

“How is Sara holding up?” Hunnigan inquired.

Leon glanced at Sara who was regarding him alertly despite her worn countenance.

“She’s hanging on,” he replied. As he spoke, the elevator halted and the doors opened. “We made it to the top floor. Keep your fingers crossed for us.”

Leon disconnected and beckoned to Sara. She staggered forward and stumbled into him as she advanced. He caught her quickly.

Sara grimaced in frustration. “Damn it! It’s getting harder to walk,” she said dully.

Leon draped her arm across his shoulders and twined his arm around her waist. Thus he half led, half supported Sara out into a dim corridor.

His eyes scanning the hall, gun ready, Leon proceeded. The bare oxblood walls seemed to close in on them. Matte black floors gave the disconcerting illusion of walking into a tar pit. At the end of the hall was a large, ornate double door made of copper.

Together they hobbled toward the door.

“Whaddya bet the damn thing’s locked?” Sara remarked

“Think positive,” Leon answered.

“Okay. I’ll just try thinking about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, and all my other favorite things.” Sara’s mouth twitched wryly before twisting into a grimace.

Leon exhaled quietly. He laid his forefinger lightly against her cheek briefly, but said nothing. Instead he cautiously tried the knob.

“C’mon. Luck be a lady…”

The knob turned easily, and the door opened smoothly. Leon peered inside. The room was dark and still. After a moment’s wary hesitation, Leon pushed the door in then retreated hastily, guns in hand.

But nothing happened. Sara and Leon exchanged glances then slowly stepped in. A row of fluorescent lights immediately flicked on, revealing the room.

“Ah, shit. You gotta be kidding me,” Leon grumbled.

“Oh, no…” Sara groaned.

The brightly lit room was completely empty except for five enormous paintings hung on gilded walls of royal purple. Two paintings flanked each wall, and at the far end hung the largest painting of the five, this one illuminated by a brilliant LED art light.

Leon took hold of Sara again and led her further in.

“Paintings? Paintings?!” exclaimed Sara, squeezing Leon’s shoulder in despair.

Carefully releasing her, Leon looked around. “It just doesn’t make sense. Who would build a tower for a bioterrorist research facility just to recreate the damn Metropolitan Museum?”

He stepped forward, hands on hips, glowering at each painting in turn. The first painting on the left wall depicted a richly dressed woman sitting beside a warrior while she emptied a small bottle into a golden chalice. “Jason and Medea,” he read on the plaque.

The second picture illustrated a seated lady handing a ball of string to a warrior leaning toward her. “Ariadne and Theseus.”

Leon turned to the right to face the third painting: the representation of a bare-breasted blonde woman leaning seductively toward a powerful-looking man seated on a bed. “Zeus and Metis.”

The fourth painting showed a blinded cyclops fumbling around in agony as a troop of men hung from the bodies of sheep escaping a cave. “‘Odysseus and Polyphemus’.” Leon sighed exasperatedly. “Okay. So the guy’s into Greek art. What’s the point?”

“Traitors,” Sara said faintly.

“What?” Leon turned to her.

“They’re all portrayals of some of Greek mythology’s most heinous betrayals. Jason and Medea betrayed each other: he left her for a princess, she retaliated by murdering their children.

“Ariadne helped Theseus, who was to be sacrificed to her minotaur half brother, kill the creature. Theseus then abandoned her.

“Zeus slept with Metis, but when he found out she would produce heirs that would overthrow him, he tricked her into transforming into a fly then ate her.

“Odysseus got Polyphemus the Cyclops drunk then poked his eye out. He and his men escaped the cyclops’ den by hiding beneath sheep.”

Leon scoffed. “Charming fairytales,” he remarked. “I can’t believe you know all this stuff.”

Sara chuckled weakly. “Too much time alone. Had to find something to do.”

Leon maintained a thoughtful silence. At length he nodded. “It makes perfect sense for a mind like Devon Ramsey’s. He was fired from his first job as researcher, and he’s been holding a grudge all these years for being slighted. He considered that the ultimate betrayal. Looks like we’ve found his inner sanctum.”

“Great. How does that help us find the vaccine?”

“These paintings are some of his most personal treasured possessions. Not just because they’re expensive, but because they’re symbols of his experience. He empathizes with those betrayed. I’d say we’re in his treasure vault, and where better to hide something as important as the vaccine?”

Sara’s eyebrows shot up. “You think it’s hidden here somewhere.”

“Right. A hidden switch, maybe even a secret passageway.”

Leon proceeded to feel over all four paintings in search of a button, a tab or lever of some kind. He came away unsuccessful. “Damn…”

He crossed the room to the gargantuan painting on the far end. “This isn’t an ancient Greek scene,” he noted, studying it intently. It illustrated a drooping man with a noose around his neck. The rope was secured to the bough of a large tree. At the man’s feet lay a bloody heap of human entrails. “Even I recognize this one: the suicide of Judas Iscariot.”

Sara came up beside Leon. “History’s most infamous traitor, guilty of betraying the Son of God Himself,” she declared. “There’s some scriptural discrepancy on his exact death; whether he hanged himself after returning the blood money to the priests, or he fell and burst open, spilling out his intestines. Some theorize that first he hanged himself then he burst. The piece of land connected to his death was called ‘Field of Blood’ and turned into a potter’s field.”

“Well named. Given Ramsey’s ego, he probably sees himself as Jesus--the victim of the highest betrayal.” Leon narrowed his eyes. “There’s something off about this picture. Judas should be hanging from the bough, not standing next to the tree. The entrails are spilled out, but it’s like he’s still alive.”

Leon ran his fingers over the canvas, tracing the line of the rope. His eyes widened in realization. “The rope isn’t part of the painting,” he announced. He moved his hand over the figure of Judas. It felt like a paper doll. “Neither is this guy. They’re real moving parts.”

He exchanged glances with Sara whose dark eyes gleamed with quick understanding. “Let’s hang the bastard then,” she said.

Leon followed the thin length of real rope and found that it ended at a leaf which cleverly disguised a small button. He pressed the button immediately, and the figure of Judas snapped up to the bough. The name plaque beside the painting ejected then flipped over to reveal a small LED panel and keypad.

“Whoa,” breathed Sara.

“Shit. Of course it requires a password.” Leon sighed. He paused for a moment, thinking. “Phanes,” he tried.

Password Incorrect.

“Damn it! ‘Traitor’?”

Password Incorrect.

Leon tried four more times, but to no avail. “C’mon, damn you! We’re too close to fail now!” He stared at the painting again, and he felt a surge of inspiration. “Field of blood.”

Password Incorrect.

“Wait!” Sara called. “Try ‘akeldama’.”

“What the hell does that mean?” asked Leon, looking at Sara in puzzlement.

“It’s Aramaic. It means ‘field of blood’. A-K-E-L-D-A-M-A.”

Leon wasted no time in attempting it. “Please work.”

The screen flashed a brief “OK” before returning to its original position behind the name plaque. There was a low rumbling sound and the painting slowly rose to the ceiling, revealing a short, dark passageway leading to an illuminated room.

Leon turned to Sara, genuinely impressed at her nimble mind.

Sara smiled thinly and shrugged. “I’ve read my Bible,” she said.

“Yeah… Maybe I should, too,” Leon remarked. He led the way into the passage, turning on his ear mount flashlight as he advanced.

He and Sara had scarcely taken two paces when the painting descended again, shutting them in.

Sara gasped softly, scuttling aside. “We’re trapped.”

Leon turned back to look. There was a small touchscreen panel with a glowing keypad. “No. I think the same password that got us in might take us out. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

He retreated, expecting to see Sara standing behind him, but she was nowhere in sight.

“Sara?”

Leon looked around then down at the floor. Sara sat in a heap against the wall, her head drooping. Immediately, he knelt beside her and carefully lifted her head. A thin stream of dark blood trickled from her nose. Leon wiped it away gently, noticing a network of violet veins beginning to climb from her chest to her face. Sara shifted slightly at his touch, only half conscious.

Tamping down the despair that threatened to thwart his resolve, Leon steadied himself and checked the monitor. It read sixty eight percent. The virus was spreading at a terrifyingly accelerated rate.

Without further delay, Leon gathered her up. He could feel the heat emanating from her feverish body and the sweat permeating the thin fabric of her shift. Sara’s temperature was spiking dangerously.

Leon headed for the bright room ahead. He entered, his eyes darting around, taking in everything but seeking only one thing. He found himself in a large single room, half study, half laboratory. On the study side was a handsome desk of rich, mahogany wood with a burgundy leather chair behind it. Mahogany bookcases lined the wall, each shelf filled with thick, leather-bound volumes. To the left of the desk was a panel of security monitors displaying various angles of the tower’s exterior.

Across from the desk was the mini laboratory. Chemistry equipment occupied counters lined up against the wall. Glass cabinets filled with jars, bottles and empty petri dishes stood on either end of the counters. A lab table held a microscope with empty slides beside it as well as covered petri dishes containing living samples of unknown specimens. Joining both sides of the room was a large picture window, overlooking the island with a view of the distant city skyline.

Leon noted all this cursorily, but his gaze locked onto the only thing that mattered. A large glass pedestal display case stood just to the right of the window. Inside the case, resting on a clear acrylic stand, was a big steel syringe containing a pale blue liquid. There was no doubt that this was the vaccine. Leon felt a surge of relief at the discovery.

Sara roused and stirred in his arms. She opened her eyes blearily and looked up at Leon. Her left eye was an opaque yellow, her right, a dull ochre with an enlarged, elongated pupil. The sight both pained and incensed him.

“D-did you find it yet?” Sara asked faintly.

“I think I just did,” Leon replied, his even tone concealing his emotions.

He carefully set Sara down on the leather chair while he unceremoniously swept off the contents of the desk. He then laid Sara out upon it. She immediately curled herself into a fetal position, shivering.

At that moment, Leon heard the sound of an approaching helicopter. He stood erect, listening.

“What’s that noise?” whispered Sara.

“A chopper,” he answered. He rushed to the window. Sure enough, a helicopter was approaching the tower.

“Your BSAA friends?” Sara suggested.

“I don’t think so. Hunnigan, come in!”

“I’m here.”

“Is the extraction chopper en route?” Leon demanded.

“Give me a second.” Hunnigan returned to the line promptly. “The extraction unit is about seven minutes away,” she said.

“Shit. I’ve got the vaccine, but we’re about to have some bad company.”

Leon moved to the display case and proceeded to shatter the glass with his gun. Clearing away the shards quickly, he grabbed the syringe and hurried back to Sara who lay gasping and wheezing.

“I’ve got it,” he told her. “Just hang on.”

Leon gently turned her onto her back. She looked up at the syringe from under drooping lids. “God, that thing is big.”

“Yeah. Are you ready?”

“As I’ll never be; I hate needles. Do it.”

Leon primed the syringe. He inserted it into her abdomen pushing the flange carefully but firmly until the plunger had reached the bottom of the barrel. He cast aside the syringe and watched Sara intently.

For a moment she lay silent and motionless except for her shallow, rapid breathing. Her eyes opened wide suddenly, and she moaned deeply. Sara rolled onto her side abruptly, wrapping her arms around herself and wailing. “It burns! Oh, God! It hurts!” she cried.

Leon retreated several steps, watching as Sara writhed and thrashed violently until she fell off the desk. He fought back the urge to rush to her and drew one of his guns, hoping desperately that the cure hadn’t proven worse than the ailment.

Sara gripped herself, her anguished cries growing louder as she convulsed on the floor. A bloodcurdling shriek burst from her lips, making Leon wince.

He aimed carefully at her, shutting his eyes for an instant as he steeled himself for whatever might come next. His forced execution of his friend, President Adam Benford came up before him vividly. Like Sara, Benford had been infected, giving Leon no choice but to terminate him or die himself. The memory sickened him. Leon quickly opened his eyes again, ready to pull the trigger, silently pleading for this night to end differently.

Sara’s cries subsided, and her convulsions ceased. She went still except for her loud gasps as she struggled for air. She slowly unclenched her body and rolled onto her back, moaning softly.

Still on his guard, Leon lowered his gun halfway. “Sara,” he tried.

Sara opened her eyes and turned her gaze on him. Relief flooded through him as he saw that her eyes had returned to normal. She smiled tremulously at him, and he lowered the gun at last. As she sat up slowly, he approached her, still wary. But her skin and eyes were clear as ever; only a slight pallor remained. The last hint of doubt removed, Leon crouched beside her.

“I’m cured. You did it,” Sara said with weary joy. She flinched. “Ah! This thing’s still poking me,” she complained with child-like annoyance.

Leon took her arm and analyzed the monitor. Conversion terminated. Virus no longer present. “It worked,” he assented. “Your blood’s clear. You won’t be needing this anymore.” Leon removed the monitor and cast it away.

He turned somber eyes on Sara. “I’m sure that chopper we heard was Ramsey. He’s probably already landed on the helipad. As badly as I want to take him down, I can’t risk your life to do it. I’ve gotta get you out of here now.”

Sara opened her mouth to reply, but she froze, her eyes going wide as she stared behind him. “Leon, look out!” she cried.

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