Leon entered the briefing room at the Division of Security Operations, an over-sweetened cup of black coffee in hand, and took a seat at the broad round table in the center of the room. He stared at the board covered with photographs and notations pertaining to the latest case involving several abducted women.
Leon studied each of the photos in turn. The wall of smiling faces saddened him. They were all unsuspecting victims ruthlessly torn away from their lives. He wondered what cruel fate awaited them now. He then noticed a new photo added to the others. It was a shot of a young Latina woman. Scrawled beneath it was the name Sara Rios. Now there were seven victims. He gazed at the pictures with a troubled aspect, shaking his head.
At that moment Deputy Director Olmire bustled into the room clutching an armload of files, her heels clicking loudly with each step. Her arrival jolted Leon out of his reverie and he sat up straighter, taking a long draft of the weak coffee.
“Good morning, Agent Kennedy,” Deputy Olmire greeted him, glancing cursorily in his direction.
“Deputy Olmire,” he acknowledged, inclining his head respectfully.
“We’ll begin the briefing as soon as Agent Liu arrives,” Olmire said, depositing her burden on the end of the table.
“Yes. Agent Liu has been our undercover contact within Eclipse Solutions. She’s returned with important information on the case of the missing women. Since she’s familiar with the internal workings of the company, I’m assigning her as your field partner. I think you’ll find her skill and experience invaluable.”
Leon nodded solemnly.
At that moment, an Asian woman entered the room. She held herself erect, her long, silky dark hair pulled back in a severe ponytail. Her brown eyes flashed as she turned them first on Leon then on Olmire. “I’m sorry I’m late. I hope I haven’t missed anything,” she said stiffly.
Leon couldn’t help feeling as though the temperature had just dropped ten degrees.
“Not at all. We haven’t started yet. Agent Dana Liu, please meet Agent Leon Kennedy. You will be working together on this assignment.”
Leon politely rose to shake Liu’s hand, but she waved him off dismissively. “No need for that, Agent Kennedy. Good to meet you.”
Leon shrugged and coolly sat again. “Okay.” Major chip on shoulder noted.
“Agent Liu comes to us from Langley HQ. Her connection with the DSO runs as deeply as yours, Agent Kennedy,” Olmire went on.
“Really?” inquired Leon. “What happened?”
“My grandparents were killed in the Tatchi incident,” Liu answered crisply.
Leon’s heart constricted. “I’m sorry,” he said, sincerely. He shook his head. “That was a dark day for a lot of us.”
“I understand you were on site when the missile landed,” Liu said, studying him appraisingly. “You’re a lucky man to still be breathing.”
“Yeah. The monsters haven’t managed to punch my ticket just yet,” Leon replied, returning her gaze evenly.
“Agent Kennedy is a very competent and formidable member of the DSO; one of our best field operatives. You’ll make an excellent team,” remarked Olmire.
“It is good to know we can complement each other; I’m pleased,” Liu replied.
Leon looked at her askance. It was going to be a real pleasure working with her. He returned to his coffee without comment, turning his attention to Olmire.
Olmire cleared her throat. “This case warrants pooling our resources, and we need our best hands on deck. Unfortunately, there’s been another kidnapping.” She gestured at the newest photo.
“Sara Rios went missing thirty-six hours ago. She was reported missing by her store manager at a TruCare Pharmacy in New York City.”
Leon sat back in his chair and studied the photos in turn, brows knitted in concentration. “She’s the third victim who works at a TruCare store. But what about the other women? They range from Caucasian to African American to Latina. Their professions range from cashier to receptionist… It seems to be a random selection, so what’s the common denominator?” he mused aloud.
Agent Liu spoke up. “We’ve got two common denominators, actually: Eclipse Solutions Corporation doesn’t just own the TruCare company. They also have a hand in Holy Mother’s Heart Hospital, which is so highly funded by Eclipse they practically own it, and they helped found the Global Life Development and Research Corporation which claims to develop treatments and cures for diseases in third world countries. Three of these seven women worked within the hospital and Global Life network.”
“Each one of these victims have one other thing in common: they have no families,” continued Olmire. “Their families are either dead or estranged.”
“‘Disposable victims’,” Leon said in disgust. “They figure nobody will miss them. Jesus.”
Olmire handed Leon and Liu folders. “You already know that Devon Ramsey is president and CEO of Eclipse Solutions, but we’ve done a little more homework on him. See for yourselves.”
Leon perused the contents of the folder. His head snapped up and he stared at Olmire. “Devon Ramsey, formerly of Neo-Umbrella?”
“That’s right. Ramsey was one of Neo-Umbrella’s lower rung researchers. Two years before the outbreak in China, Ramsey had a falling out with top researcher Carla Radames, and he was fired.
“Ramsey was bankrupted and ended up on the streets for six months. Somehow, he managed to get himself together and eventually he found an entry level opportunity with Eclipse Solutions. He quickly climbed up the ladder until he made it to Vice President. In 2014, Frank Winchell, President of Eclipse died and Ramsey was unanimously elected to Winchell’s office.”
A storm of dark memories raged behind Leon’s intense gray-blue eyes as he recalled the massive bioterrorist attack in Tall Oaks perpetrated by Neo-Umbrella who had released a deadly virus into the Ivy University college, infecting dozens of students and turning them into the walking dead. The attack had resulted in the massacre of over 70,000 Americans including the then-U.S. president and founder of the DSO, Adam Benford whom Leon had been forced to terminate personally. It had been a replica of Raccoon City; the night he had learned that monsters were real.
Neo-Umbrella had also been behind the deployment of the virus-laden missile in Tatchi, China. That incident had also claimed the lives of thousands, and Leon himself had barely managed to escape. Neo-Umbrella had been the dark phoenix to rise from Umbrella’s demise
“So Ramsey’s trying to pick up where he left off at Neo-Umbrella,” Leon mused.
“I don’t know what he was working on then, but I uncovered some classified files that reveal viral weapon research and development,” Liu said. “My chief discovery was a top secret file known as Project Phanes.”
Leon’s mouth formed a grim line. “Phanes,” he scoffed. “Greek god of procreation and the generation of life. This is sounding pretty ominous already.”
“Yeah. Whatever that project is about, it’s serious business. Unfortunately, the Phanes files had too many security blocks to be fully reviewed, but I was able to get a hold of some notes. They mention the failure of unnamed subjects in a certain lab trial along with a request for fresh subjects,” Liu continued.
“I’m going to take a wild guess that our victims are the requested test subjects,” Leon suggested.
“That’s our hypothesis, yes,” answered Olmire. She turned on the monitor to display a large, sprawling island. “According to Agent Liu’s report, Ramsey’s files indicate that he has acquired a very peculiar piece of property: an island to the east of New York City known as Halcyon Isle. It is an abandoned potter’s field with over a million and a half people buried therein.” She zoomed in on the island to reveal countless grave markers.
“Ramsey definitely knows the three rules of real estate; that’s the prime location for that bastard’s line of work,” Leon observed dryly.
“Quite. Aerial photographs and satellite images show that Ramsey has since constructed various edifices on the two-mile island. He’s got the place fixed up like a fortress, and has apparently set up an elaborate research facility there.” Olmire shifted the onscreen image to display a satellite photo of a large tower at the northernmost point of the island. Dotted around the island were smaller buildings.
Olmire turned to the board and addressed the photos of the kidnapping victims. “Unfortunately, given the amount of time they’ve been missing, it is highly unlikely that they’re all still alive.” She indicated the last three photos. “There may be hope, however, for the three most recent abductees: Allison Cahill and Tiana Franklin, who went missing two weeks ago, and of course Sara Rios. There’s a slight chance that some of them are alive. Your objectives are to head to Halcyon Isle, infiltrate the facility, and seize all information pertinent to Project Phanes, then find and extricate any survivors.”
Olmire turned back to face Leon and Liu. “This is by no means a military operation. However, we will have a unit on standby in case things should get out of hand. Captain Redfield of the BSAA will be spearheading the detachment. Once you’ve completed your mission there will be a chopper ready to meet you at the designated extraction point. Ingrid Hunnigan will be your assigned Field Operations Support agent. As always, she’ll keep you informed and provide all necessary coordinates for successful evacuation.”
Leon swallowed the remainder of his coffee, now unpleasantly cold. “Calling out the heavy hitters… Looks like we’re anticipating a rough game.”
“Nothing the two of you shouldn’t be able to handle, Agent Kennedy. I have complete faith in you,” Olmire told him.
Leon’s jaw tightened slightly, but he nodded.
Agent Liu nodded haughtily. “When do we leave, Deputy Olmire?”
“Wheels up in two hours,” Olmire replied. “Good luck to you both.”
Having said this, Olmire shut down the monitor and exited the room. Agent Liu followed at a brisk pace. Leon, however, lingered, gazing at the photos of the victims each in turn, brow furrowed. More lives wasted in the endless pursuit of bioterrorism. He shook his head, crushing the empty paper cup he held reflexively in quiet anger. Leon’s eyes remained fixed on the photo of Sara Rios, the latest victim. He analyzed her smiling face. A shadow of unhappiness contradicted that smile, but there was something stormy and almost fierce in her dark eyes. He hoped profoundly that the strength he read in those deep orbs would help her hold out.
“Hang in there,” he muttered to the silent pictures. “We’re coming for ya.” He tossed the crumpled cup into the trash can. “Let’s go cut the worm out of the Big Apple.”
Squaring his shoulders, Leon headed out determinedly.