St Michael’s clock tower was eerily quiet as night had draped over the sky, far from the bustling streets of downtown Raccoon City. There were no hordes of monsters to speak of around the plaza, only the soothing murmur of the river. If he paid attention, he could almost pick out the weak ringing of the bell, as the breeze gently swayed it. Despite the broken notes, the undead echoes were a constant reminder that this was a battlefield—and he was here to do his job.
Perched above the portcullis, concealed by the shadows cast from the lamps and the old building, Nicholai patiently waited. He had followed the creature’s steps once he had hopped off the train safely, having fixed his sights on it as it ambled aimlessly through the subway tunnels after the explosion. A few times he had believed it to be dead, but Project Nemesis seemed as resilient as his client had let on.
From his vantage point, he scoured the area. Nothing, until a deranged growl roared into the night, interrupting the peaceful silence. It was close by. If it still wandered the underground maze, it could only mean she was around too.
Nicholai hoped so, and his lips tugged at the corners in the semblance of a smirk.
She scrapped for her life instinctevely; Nicholai had to concede that. Her reflexes were pointed, stepping out of the now mutated creature’s claws as it jumped onto her with all its weight. Despite his focus on how Project Nemesis had changed and evolved upon contact with her, Nicholai found himself studying with increasing interest the way she fought back.
The young girl from the dossier photo had appeared juvenile and inconsequential; nothing like a member of a special force team. Her hesitation to shoot that stupid kid, Murphy, on sight only proved his suspicions—this woman was not cut for the job, compassion and fear pouring out of her like a fountain.
She was a liability who would only prove useful once the bioweapon accomplished his mission.
Yet, as he watched dutifully the fight in the plaza, Nicholai considered that his assumptions may have been too hasty: she kicked back at the creature with raw, unbridled anger. She trotted around the plaza, crawled on the pavement, ducked down every time one claw or tentacle threatened to grab her; her movements spoke in brute force, like a caged animal who would retaliate with violence. Even from a distance, the injuries and scratches in her skin were noticeable, but she pushed forward like she had lost the ability to sense pain, her features twisted in a grimace as she shot grenade after grenade at the four-legged thing dripping blood and churned scraps of flesh.
She didn’t look so soft and fragile now, bathed in blood and viscera, lit up like a bonfire that grew taller and taller—and he found himself shifting his thoughts from analytical combat analysis to admiring her prime example of tenacity and fearlessness.
A sight to behold.
When Nicholai glanced to the side again, the spasms had stopped. He continued his task meticulously, extracting the tissue sample from Project Nemesis and securing it in a small metallic canister as per orders, but his eyes wandered towards her. The thorn-like spur protruded from her left arm like a lance, traces of foam gathered around her mouth. The complexion of her skin paled by the minute, as if life withdrew out of her with every short breath she gasped.
After collecting the sample, Nicholai stood up and walked to the gate. He made a mental note of every physical change he had noticed, timing them with precision.
He had come expecting to salvage more data on the creature, and here she had offered him a golden opportunity—first-hand information on the infection process for Project Nemesis’ distinct strain. An excellent addition, and he was sure he could press for an extra million just for this. Maybe more if he managed to make both his clients bid for it.
Climbing up the barricade of crushed police cars on his left, Nicholai sauntered around the portcullis and surrounded it until he found himself in the opposite entrance. Her body came closer into view, clearly distinguishable despite the dim light. At this distance, Nicholai noticed her condition was probably worse than he had deemed. Drool fell from her mouth, eyes rolled back and half shut; some of her muscles still twitched, while her chest went up and down erratically, like a fish out of water. Knelt beside her, Nicholai seized her chin and shifted her head sideways, checking for any noteworthy alterations. As he studied her features, he realised he felt—what would the word be? Disappointed.
Perhaps that she was about to die already, becoming a witness of how her strength was abandoning every bone in her body, rendered motionless at last by the creature. She might wake up in a couple of hours like a zombie, and he would put a bullet to her brain then. It still had a bitter aftertaste. Such a striking contrast from minutes ago, when she had been alive with rage and fire in her eyes. It made his job easier, no doubt—but less exciting, too.
His fingers wandered inside one of his front pockets, picking up a hollow syringe. He poked the needle in her upper arm, the empty canister filling up with dark red blood. After placing it safely along with Project Nemesis’ sample, Nicholai stood up once again and leaned against the portcullis’ wall. Quickly, he checked his watch before fixing his eyes on her once again. His lips quirked up in a lopsided grin.
In any case, money wouldn’t be the only reward from tonight, he thought—he’d keep the memory too.