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

Chapter 4

Leon and Liu rode silently on the small ski boat toward Halcyon Isle, Liu at the helm, each with their mind occupied.

Leon brooded over what horrors might await them there. Halcyon Isle--there was an ironic name! Nothing pleasant or calm awaited them on that island. He glanced up at the sky, now crimson and shadowy violet in the gloaming. Dark clouds rolled across the setting sun like a ghostly tide, threatening rain. The sight was foreboding, but Leon refused to let the bleakness overcome him.

The boat skimmed along the water briskly until the island came into view. Liu slowed the boat and carefully pulled into the dock, her steely gaze flitting around cautiously. Seeing that the coast was clear, she and Leon disembarked from the boat, securing their gear and drawing their guns.

The comm line tweeted. “Leon, Dana, confirm arrival to your destination,” came the voice of Ingrid Hunnigan, FOS agent.

“We’re here, Hunnigan,” replied Leon. “We just docked. Looks like we’re clear so far.”

“Great. I’ve mapped out a route to get you into Building A. We haven’t determined exactly what that facility might be, but there’s a chance that it may be a lab or prison--maybe both. Your best point of entry is an underground tunnel via an artificial mausoleum.”

“Artificial mausoleum?” Liu asked.

“Yes, I’m sending the coordinates to your comms. According to the blueprints we received, the mausoleum is an emergency escape route from the A facility,” Hunnigan informed them.

The comm devices rang and vibrated. Leon drew his and studied the data. “Got it.”

“Good luck, you two. Line’s open,” Hunnigan said.

“Thanks, Hunnigan, ” Leon replied. He replaced the comm device and prepared to set out. “Let’s move out. Keep a sharp lookout, Liu,” he advised his partner.

“Agent Kennedy, I know what I’m doing. This isn’t my first rodeo,” Liu said icily.

Leon turned a hard gaze on her. “Maybe not, but it can easily be our last. We’re not here to compete against each other. Our job is to try to shut down Eclipse and save any survivors. Now, we might just manage it if we work together and watch each other’s backs.”

Liu pinched her lips tightly as if straining to hold her tongue. After a moment’s internal struggle, she nodded. “Agreed.”

Without exchanging another syllable, both agents began their trek through the cemetery that was Halcyon Isle. They passed several rows of weathered headstones uneventfully, but their eyes roved the landscape constantly. The final embers of the twilight sun were extinguished behind a cloudy curtain. Distant thunder rumbled overhead followed by a glimmer of lightning.

Feeling the first drops of rain, Leon scoffed. “A dark and stormy night. How’s that for ambiance?” His attention was arrested suddenly by another sound far more worrisome than thunder: shuddering, raspy breathing.

Both agents turned on their ear mount flashlights, revealing three zombies slowly lurching toward them, decaying arms outstretched as they advanced. “Liu,” Leon warned his partner, firing stance already assumed.

“I see them,” Liu replied quietly.

The two instantly opened fire. The creatures howled and screeched, but a moment later, they crumpled to the ground.

“I wondered where the welcoming committee was,” Leon remarked dryly.

“We’d better get a move on,” Liu said. “We hang around here, we’ll just blow our ammo. God knows how many of those things are around here.”

“Copy that,” Leon agreed.

The two continued to make their way through the cemetery, Leon periodically checking the GPS for guidance to the mausoleum.

A series of growls and roars rent the air, shattering the deathly silence. A group of undead were gathering from various sides of the cemetery while others were erupting from fresher unmarked graves.

Liu immediately fired expertly. Electing to conserve ammunition, Leon drew his survival knife and charged headlong at one of the creatures. After several thrusts and slashes, the monster went down. Another grasped at Leon from behind, threatening to trap him in a body lock. Leon quickly freed himself with a back hand punch. The creature stumbled backward with a snarl, and Leon followed up with a spinning roundhouse kick. The creature fell to the ground, and Leon didn’t hesitate to crush its skull under a heavy boot.

For her part, Liu was handling herself well, delivering powerful kicks and blows to the enclosing zombies, and dealing sharp pistol-whips to keep them at bay. She cried out in surprise when a bony hand, stunningly strong, grasped her ankle and dragged her down. Liu struggled with the zombie, managing a smart kick to its open mouth, but another creature overwhelmed her, leaping on top of her, determined to sink its rotted teeth into her neck. Liu grappled with it violently.

Leon was beside her in a flash, and with a hard kick, he sent the creature sprawling aside. But the zombie was quicker than expected, and it reared back up, ready to spring at Leon’s throat. Anticipating the monster’s attack, he seized it as it charged, smashing its face against a headstone. Its skull burst open and the body slumped to the earth.

Panting with effort, Leon turned back to his partner who was recovering from the attack. He offered her his hand. “You okay?” he asked.

Liu accepted his help. “Yeah, I’m good,” she answered grudgingly. “Thanks.”

Leon drew the GPS again and studied it.

“Shit. Tell me we’re getting close to that damn mausoleum,” Liu grumbled, dusting herself off.

“Yeah, it’s not far; about five yards away,” he replied.

Quickening their pace to avoid further zombie encounters, Leon and Liu headed deeper into the cemetery. After a couple of turns, they finally came to a large white mausoleum.

“That’s it,” said Leon. “Our entry point.”

Liu tried the door handle. “Locked! Damn it!” She rattled it impatiently.

Leon huffed. “Nothing’s ever easy,” he muttered. He examined the door. There was a circular indentation at its center. “Looks like something goes in there.”

“Fantastic. Now all we have to do is figure out what that is and where to find it.” Liu holstered her weapon and stood with her hands on her hips, surveying the area. “If it’s an emergency way out, chances are there won’t be an accessible way in.”

“Not necessarily. Think how some people leave spare keys to their houses under a mat or over a door. In case of an emergency situation, there’s an alternative to a lost key,” Leon reasoned.

Liu nodded. “Makes sense--in this case, anyway. It’s ridiculous for a house. So our ‘spare key’ has to be close by.” She looked around at the other mausoleums nearby. “If your theory is correct, it’s probably in one of these; hidden in the open.”

“And if it is, the door’ll be unlocked.”

Leon and Liu tried several different mausoleum doors, but most were locked. At last they discovered a mausoleum that bore a relief of the god Phanes.

“Liu, check this one out. Phanes. Better get our lights ready.” Leon readied his gun and carefully tried the knob. It turned with relative ease. He glanced over at Liu and listed his head toward the door, warning her silently to be on her guard.

She nodded shortly and took her stance as Leon shoved the door open quickly, sweeping his weapon around the room.

The mausoleum was pitch-dark and absolutely silent. Leon signaled for Liu to follow him inside. Even combined, their scanty beams of light barely broke through the heavy darkness, and it took several moments for their eyes to adjust to the dim light.

The single room was nearly bare except for a large granite table lined with urns, vases and coffers. In the very center of the room was a large, unmarked sarcophagus. Leon and Liu got to work searching and shaking out the pottery. The search was fruitless.

“Nothing,” Liu grumbled. She stood with her arms akimbo for a moment then she chuckled dryly, her gaze falling on the sarcophagus. “Sometimes the answer is in plain sight: the sarcophagus. Help me get this thing open.”

Leon took a place beside her and the two of them began to push at the heavy stone lid. After several seconds of heaving and grunting, they managed to push it off. It landed on the stone floor with a dismaying clang.

They leaned cautiously into the sarcophagus and peered inside. A desiccated corpse occupied it, and resting on its hands was a talisman in the form of a solar eclipse.

“Bingo,” Leon said. He took up the talisman and inspected it more closely. “Let’s check this out.”

Leon and Liu headed back to the false mausoleum. Leon drew the talisman and inserted it into the indentation. He stepped back, signaling for Liu to follow suit. The door made a rumbling, scraping noise then slid open to reveal a yawning black void.

Leon peered inside cursorily, once again sweeping the threshold with his gun. Aside from an eerie shadow-soaked silence, however, the area was clear. A foot away was the landing of a staircase leading down into perfect darkness. Leon gestured for Liu to follow him, and together they hurried through the portal.

No sooner had they entered than the door ground itself shut, effectively sealing Leon and Liu inside. “I’m not comfortable with that,” she muttered.

“Well, we’re definitely not going back that way,” Leon said. “Let’s see where we’re headed next.” He produced the GPS. “Damn. No signal. Looks like we’re winging it for now.”

Liu pushed her way past him, cutting ahead, and shone her light down the first few steps. “Let’s move, then.” She proceeded to make her down the stairs.

Leon shook his head in irritation and followed her at a safe distance.

They traversed a long corridor of dark stone, silence hanging between them as heavily as the blackness around them. The only sound to be heard was their cautious footsteps as they advanced.

Both agents were dazzled by a series of motion-activated lights that suddenly flashed on. They recovered quickly, weapons ready for an attack, but the area remained quiet. As yet their presence remained unknown.

“Looks like we’re officially in the facility,” Liu remarked, switching off her flashlight.

Ahead of them was an elevator with a large, glowing red call button on either side. Leon and Liu each took their position, and with a nod of accord, they simultaneously punched the buttons.

The elevator responded with a distant clang and mechanical whir. Presently it opened, and having ascertained that it was empty, Leon and Liu entered.

Leon inspected the elevator control panel. “Going up.” He hit the button.

The ascent was a considerably long one, during which Leon’s thoughts darkened. Every mission he’d ever worked had been filled with losses, often leaving him with the feeling he had half failed even at the best of times. A small part of him feared that this time would be no different. His hands tightened around his gun’s grip mechanically.

“Where’s your head at, Kennedy?” Liu asked, glancing at him sideways.

“Right where it needs to be,” he responded shortly.

The elevator ground to a halt and opened silently in a broad corridor of concrete walls and floors. There was no one to be seen.

“It’s too quiet,” Liu remarked.

“Yeah; I don’t like it. It’s just the calm before the shitstorm,” Leon said, brow furrowed.

The two headed down the corridor looking this way and that, careful not to make noise. They came to an intersection where the hall broke off into two turns. Liu quickly checked her GPS.

“Holding cells are on the left, waste disposal facility to the right. Looks like the lab is further ahead past disposal,” she informed Leon.

His jaw tightened. He could imagine all too easily what the disposal facility held. The thought sickened him. He cocked his head to the left, signaling Liu to follow him.

They were stopped short in their progress at the sight of a sentry in full tactical gear coming down the hall. Leon and Liu melted back into the shadows, backs flush against the wall. As the sentry made the corner, Liu leaped out at him. She seized him by the neck, and with a forceful bend and twist, snapped it instantly. She dragged the corpse back to the wall where Leon waited silently.

“Gotta be more where that came from,” Leon muttered. “Better nix the guns.”

Liu nodded. They holstered their guns, and Leon drew his survival knife. This wasn’t going to be easy, but what the hell? It never was.

Voices could be heard approaching: two more sentries were on their way. Leon and Liu revealed themselves.

“Shit! Intruders!” shouted one of the sentries. They raised their weapons to fire, but Leon and Liu were quicker.

Liu launched herself at the first sentry who tried to land a blow with the butt of his assault rifle, but she grappled with him, wrestling it out of his hands. For a moment the two scrapped, trading blows, but Liu got the upper hand, skittering around behind him. She gave him a hard kick, dashing him against the wall. The moment he fell, sprawled out, Liu bashed the butt of the rifle through his helmet visor. The sentry gurgled and convulsed for several seconds before going still.

Leon had performed a perfectly timed sliding kick, effectively sweeping the second sentry off his feet. But this soldier was sharper than his partner. He was up again immediately, tactical knife in hand. He took a few slashes at Leon who deftly avoided each strike before delivering a successful slash of his own. At the sight of his own blood staining Leon’s knife, the soldier bellowed with rage and charged at Leon who spun away in time to avoid him. A flawless side kick to the head finished off the soldier as he hit the wall with a sickening crack then slid to the floor, his neck hanging limply to one side. A plastic card slid out from his waist pack.

Leon caught sight of the card and stooped to pick it up. “‘Level A Security’,” he read. “This’ll come in handy.”

“Let’s get moving before any more of these bastards show up,” Liu said.

They made their way to the end of the corridor without further incident. Presently, they came to a large steel door. A proximity card access reader beside it glowed halting red. Leon held the card up to the scanner. The light went green and instantly, with a loud click, the lock disengaged. Leon cautiously pushed the door open, Liu at his heels.

This corridor was clear; no sentries were to be seen, but the lingering odor of charred flesh hung in the air. As with the previous corridor, the walls were made of solid, cold concrete, but here they were flanked by eight cells. All but one cell was sealed securely by steel doors with iron-barred windows set high above the floor.

“Good God, what is that smell?” Liu asked hoarsely, covering her nose with her arm to avoid gagging.

Leon approached the open cell cautiously. “Door’s been blown right off its hinges,” he reported to Liu. The walls adjacent to the door were splashed with blood. Leon inspected the stains carefully. “Looks fairly fresh,” he noted. Keeping his body pressed to the wall and his gun ready, he peered warily into the vacant cell. “Damn…”

The entire cell was blackened with the charred remains of a bed and a toilet begrimed with soot. A half-melted light bulb dangled from the ceiling. An enormous black outline at the threshold indicated that something quite inhuman had recently been incinerated therein.

Liu approached the room and looked in. “Jesus,” she muttered. “Looks like one of their experiments failed miserably.”

“Another failed B.O.W.,” Leon said bitterly. His heart sank at the realization that they were too late to save this victim. He wondered which of the smiling girls from the board had had her life so cruelly extinguished here.

“If any of our abductees are still alive, they’ve gotta be in here. But how do we get these cell doors open?” Liu wondered aloud.

Leon caught sight of a control panel at the opposite end of the corridor. “Let’s check that panel out,” he said.

They crossed the hall to the panel and studied it. A bright LED screen glowed over a stainless steel alphanumeric keyboard waiting for data input. Beside it was a small whiteboard reading eight codes: HB1, SM2, FZ3, JL4, YC5, AC6, TF7, SR8. The first seven codes had been crossed out in red marker, each strikethrough marked with a corresponding date. Only SR8 remained clear.

“What the hell is this supposed to mean?” demanded Liu. She stared at the list in frustration.

Leon’s mind raced through different possibilities. Realization quickly dawned on him. “Eight codes, eight cells. I bet these codes open the doors.” He maintained a brief, thoughtful silence. “I bet the codes correspond to the missing victims’ names.”

“You memorized their names?” asked Liu, sounding surprised.

“Yeah... I did.” The missing womens’ faces were burned into his memory as were their names; particularly the last three Olmire had fixed their focus on. “There are eight codes; most likely two victims who were never reported. But the others we’re looking for: Fran Zimmerman, Jillian Lau, Yvette Carrillo, and the last three to be abducted were Allison Cahill, Tiana Franklin and Sara Rios--AC6, TF7 and SR8. If I’m right…” Leon trailed off as he looked at the list of crossed-out codes. “Only one victim is left alive.” His mouth formed a grim line.

Liu glanced at him surreptitiously then turned her attention back to the keypad. “Okay; let’s try your theory, Kennedy. Stay sharp in case something ambushes us.”

Nodding, Leon took a defensive stance and waited for the first door to open.

Liu began at the top of the list, punching in the code HB1. A loud buzz echoed throughout the corridor before the first door on the right opened.

Leon aimed his gun at the room, unsure whether he would find one of the abductees or a B.O.W. ready to attack. But there was nothing except an unmarred version of the burned-out cell they had first encountered. Like the former, this cell was furnished with a bed, its linens soiled with blood stains and urine, and a grimy toilet in a corner of the room. A single light bulb flickered drearily. “Clear,” Leon reported. He tamped down his fury at the negative discovery. His fears were being confirmed.

Liu entered the next code, and thus they repeated the process until they came to TF7. It was clear then that Tiana Franklin had been the unfortunate victim of the incineration.

Only cell SR8 remained. Leon hoped with every fiber of his being that the last abductee awaited within.

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