Chapter 4: Contact

September 19, 2002

Making sure that he wasn't being watched, Leon crouched down near the trapdoor and opened the attaché case that hadn't been there a second before. He rummaged through it, eyes scanning back and forth before he'd found what he was looking for. He pulled out the small red box, and began taking pistol magazines out of it.

It was a little trick he'd discovered not long after the Raccoon City incident. Claire had just got back from Antarctica (of all places), having found her brother, and Leon, Annette and Sherry had thrown her a grand reunion party. Things were relatively calm at first, but after Annette had needed to lie down…


Leon ducked under the attack, hurriedly throwing the valuable asset to his ally. "Sherry, quick!"

She caught it, giggling. "C'mon, Claire! You want your present, you've gotta work for it!"

Claire changed targets, chasing after Sherry while making a mock scary face and waggling her fingers. "Can't keep it away forever! I'll tickle it out of one of you eventually!" They circled around the table, nearly knocking over the remains of the hurriedly-bought cake.

"Hey, careful," Leon called, but only half-heartedly; he was grinning too much to think about the inevitable cleanup. "Presents usually don't improve dunked in cake frosting."

"Good point," said Sherry as she rounded the table near him. "All yours, Leon!" And she thrust the wrapped box into his hands.

"Oof! Wha- you quitter!" He held the box up as high as he could as Claire came after him, not even getting half a second to defend himself before he came under her relentless assault. "No, no-hahaha! Sto-haha!"

"Give up yet?" she teased.

"NEVER," he declared, but the drama was somewhat spoiled when he burst out laughing as she resumed her attack. "Nono-hahahaha!" He hid the present behind him with one hand, reaching out his other to pull Claire closer. "Okay…okay…" he said, gasping for breath. "But it'll cost you a kiss."

Her cheeky grin turned slightly more catlike. She held her arms out, and stopped trying to tickle him. "Hmm…I might have one of those somewhere…"

"Ew," said Sherry, rolling her eyes. "Really? Right here?"

Leon looked over at her. "You're the one staring at us. You think you should cover your-"

(a hand over her eyes)

(grinning man in red)

(screeching train)

(pain)

He gasped, and started to stumble backwards slightly. Claire moved to catch him, wrapping her arms around him, and he clutched her with both arms as they both fell backwards. He barely noticed landing on his back with Claire over him; within half a second, he'd rolled over the top of her, reaching for a pistol at his hip. His hand closed on nothing, but he kept reaching, scanning ahead to find the-

"Leon!"

Claire's voice shook him from his daze, and he stopped reaching for a pistol that wasn't there. "…Sorry." He helped her back to her feet.

"It's okay, Leon. It's all right."

She held him as his breathing slowed, and after a few moments, Sherry joined their small hug. Finally, he began to feel himself relaxing back to normal. But then…

"Um, Leon? Where'd the present go?"

His eyes went wide. "Oh! I'm sorry, I…" He gently broke away from them, and looked at the floor where he'd fallen. Nothing was there. Leon blinked, trying to remember what had happened. He'd had the present, and then he grabbed on to Claire…but…He reached behind his back, trying to figure out where it might have dropped…and felt his hand grip something. He drew it from behind his back…

Sherry gasped.

Claire stared at him. "That's a neat trick…"

The present was sitting in his hand, good as new.


They'd never breathed a word of it to Annette or anyone else. Despite the government not trusting him about demons and half the other supernatural things he'd seen, something told him that they might be more willing to believe his little trick. Even now, after his training had finished and he'd been on several missions, Leon didn't dare mention it; if anyone ever knew, they'd have him tuck suitcase bombs into nowhere and have him play delivery boy until a lucky bullet met with his skull. Or, failing that, try to get him to hide nuclear waste in nothingness until he got so sick that he wasted away.

It'd taken him a few months to master the ability; the first to be able to do it on command, and the rest to test the exact limits. While he could only "store" one object at a time, there seemed to be no restriction on having other things stuffed inside it first. The case he was using had been picked out to correspond to the maximum size he could store, or so he'd estimated. The only other rule, which he couldn't quite explain, was that he could only do it when the object being stored wasn't in view of anyone (Sherry had been eager to help him test that one).

With his ammo collected (and pouches to hold them in), he stored the case back in…whatever space he sent things to. Once he'd gotten them all arranged, he lifted the trapdoor and jumped down into the tunnel beneath it.

Luis mentioned that some strange group with guns occupied the town. Which means that if I do find Ashley at the church, I've got to defend her against a bunch of armed assholes on the way to extraction, rather than a small handful of armed assholes. Yet another complication to add to the collection. He traveled through the tunnel, pistol at the ready; after the weird, possibly fake priest locked in the closet, he wasn't taking any chances. The tunnel itself was dotted with tiny alcoves every few feet; in each one, a candle was burning. And, interestingly, none of them seemed to have dripped any wax or burned lower.

That's not suspicious at all…

After a while, though, he reached another ladder. Cautiously, he went up it, encountering what seemed to be a stone slab at the top. He pushed it upwards slightly, sliding it to one side. There was a scraping of stone, then a thud, and then light was streaming down at him. Leon climbed out, and as his eyes adjusted, he looked behind him. He appeared to have crawled right out of a crypt, sitting on its own at the end of a dirt path. "Lovely." The slab that he'd pushed to the side had a relief of a man wearing a style of clothing similar to Luis, but the stone relief seemed to have slicked back hair. Shrugging, he turned back, traveling down the path. He seemed to be in a thick forest, and…yep, there was the cawing of a crow. Because of course.

To his relief, the crow seemed content to just annoy him. His relief disappeared, however, when he saw the trees begin to thin and the dirt path turn into a series of wooden platforms. He could hear the rushing of a large body of water, and as he approached the edge of the trees, he found himself on the side of a tall, winding cliff face, with the platforms as his only means of progress. Prime ambush spot, right here. He readied his pistol, peeking around the edge of the rock.

Just as he'd suspected. One individual, dressed in combat gear. Thick green vest with ammo pouches, assault rifle slung on the back, pistol in hand, combat knife holstered at the shoulder, and a balaclava. A hired gun, judging from the kit, and no rookie from the looks of it. Looks like I might've found one of the group that Luis was talking about. Still, he couldn't very well shoot someone on a guess, especially when the man had his knife holster in the same exact place that Leon had his. Any ranks or insignia? No…wait, what's that? A patch on the man's other short sleeve looked like a DNA strand being shattered by a punching fist.

Frowning, Leon retreated, as quickly and quietly as he could, to the false crypt before calling up Hunnigan. "Hunnigan, it's Leon. I've encountered an individual that's got some serious gear. Any other players I'm not aware of?"

"What do they look like?"

"Definitely professional. Maybe ex-special forces. Has a patch that looks like someone punching a DNA strand."

"Hmm. One second." The call clicked to let him know he was on hold, and he drummed his fingers against his leg impatiently. After about a minute, she returned, looking irritated. "There is indeed another group in your A.O. The Anti-Umbrella Pursuit and Investigation Team."

He knew of them; they were a subdivision of SOCOM, created not long after the Raccoon City Incident. He'd consulted with them several times, but every request he'd submitted to transfer to them had been denied. He'd actually used one of his contacts with them to help Claire with her search for her brother. And wasn't that just a clusterf-

"We haven't been informed why they're there."

"And they didn't think we might want to know they'd join the party?" he grumbled.

"Strictly speaking, we're the ones that haven't told anyone what we're doing. The kidnapping of Ashley Graham is being kept very hush-hush; as far as any other departments know, there hasn't been a kidnapping."

"Glad we're so good at sharing." He sighed. "The joys of P.R."

"Don't worry; I've been able to get you authorization to cooperate with them, provided that only the team leader is informed of your mission. You'll confirm your identity by pass-phrase…Don't roll your eyes at me," she warned him.

"What, is that the phrase?"

"No. The phrase is 'a place to get out of the rain'."

"And the response phrase?"

"'Have you thought about using an umbrella'. The confirmation phrase is 'don't want to catch something'. Got all that?"

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes again, he nodded. "Roger that. Thanks, Hunnigan."

"It's what I do." The call clicked off.

He sighed, waiting for a few minutes before making his way back to where the man had been. He took a steadying breath before holstering his pistol. I sure hope he got the memo, or this is going to be the most undignified death ever. Leon walked slowly around the corner.

"Freeze!" The pistol was pointed directly at him, the man's eyes laser-focused on Leon's.

Leon stared the man down even as he slowly raised his hands. "Take it easy. I'm just a simple traveler here, looking for a place to get out of the rain."

The faintest inkling of surprise registered in the other man's eyes before his face became as impassive as before. "Have you thought about using an umbrella? I hear they're on sale now."

"I think I'll take my chances without secondhand umbrellas. Don't want to catch something left behind."

He chuckled at Leon, lowering his pistol before pulling down his balaclava. As he did, an odd sense of familiarity registered with Leon; he couldn't quite place it, but that face looked vaguely familiar. "Isn't that the damned truth. I'm the captain of the Anti-Umbrella P.I.T.; name's Chris. You're my contact?"

"You bet. I'm Leon Kennedy, with STRATCOM." He held out his hand.

"Leon Kennedy? Then…" The man shook Leon's hand firmly. "You're the one I've heard about. My last name's Redfield; I'm Claire's big brother."

Leon had faced down zombies, monsters, and demons alike; several of which had been many times larger than he was. And even then, he felt a surge of dread within him at the searching look the former S.T.A.R.S. officer was giving him. "U-Um…nice to meet you, Chris." Was it just his imagination, or was Redfield's grip becoming like a vice?

Chris released his hand, and Leon resisted the urge to shake his slightly-numb hand out. "Likewise. I'd love a chance to chat, but it'll have to wait until after the mission."

"Right." Or it could wait, you know, forever.

"Here, follow me. I'll take you to our forward base." They traveled along the wooden platforms before getting to what looked like a fort constructed with logs and rope. They passed through a gate, and Leon saw a few dozen men and women dressed just like Chris. They tensed at his appearance, but relaxed when they saw Chris next to him. "This fort's been abandoned for a few years, but it's perfect for our purposes; a staging area, a barracks, and an armory all in one. Had to swap out the hatchets and pitchforks for our guns, but it works."

"Not bad. But I'm guessing you didn't come just to set up a new clubhouse."

Chris motioned him over to a small hut. They entered, and Leon saw a small window overlooking the body of water. In the distance, a large structure was atop the cliff not far from the other side of the water. Chris closed the door, and looked at Leon. "Speaking of what we're doing here…"

Leon nodded. "This doesn't leave this room, but…I'm here to find the President's daughter, Ashley Graham. She's been spotted in this area, so they sent me to investigate."

Chris stared at him. "Damn…that complicates things. We're definitely not equipped for a rescue mission; we're already set up to capture a specific high-level target, we don't have the resources to extract two. Not when we're trying to keep villager casualties to a minimum."

Leon shrugged apologetically. "They wanted to keep it away from the media, so they decided a single agent could be discreet. And I didn't have anything else to do at the time, so I got volunteered." He looked at Chris. "And what brings an anti-Umbrella task force to this part of Europe?"

Chris pointed to the window. Leon looked out of it with his binoculars; the structure he'd noticed was a large castle, looming in the distance over a smaller structure. The smaller structure looked like it might have a bell tower; it might have been the church Leon was looking for. "Based on the intel we've collected, Oswell Spencer is somewhere in that castle."

Leon turned away from his binoculars to look at Chris. "The head of Umbrella himself? What's he doing here?!"

"We've shut down so many of their hidey-holes that they're running scared; no surprise that we'd catch up with the man in charge sooner or later. He only recently arrived. If I had to guess, he's probably got the President's daughter here as additional leverage; we don't dare call in the Spanish army, or Umbrella would execute her in retaliation."

"And an airstrike's out of the question, what with her and the villagers," Leon guessed.

"Exactly. My team's goal is the capture of Oswell Spencer, but we'll work with you to get Ashley out of here before the fireworks start. Any clues where she is?"

Leon nodded. "The church across the lake; a local gave me the key."

"That was…strangely helpful," Chris said, frowning. "All the villagers told me that they didn't want to get involved." He shrugged. "Well, whatever the case, I can cover you until you get to the church. After that, my team and I will begin our assault on the castle while you get her somewhere safe."

"Any idea on their numbers?"

"Yeah, and that's what bothers me. They've only got about eighty gunmen, half of which were keeping the village secure, plus somewhere between ten or fifteen researchers and Spencer himself. Impressive, but nothing compared to an actual army. On top of that, my team is made up of enough ex-special forces to chew them up and ask for seconds. And yet they don't really seem concerned with keeping quiet; they took an entire town by force and settled into the castle en masse. And now they've recalled all of their goons from the town, putting them all in the castle, too. I've just sent out a few of my guys to start evacuating the village, but Spencer's people haven't responded. It's almost like they want people to come after them. I don't like it; it stinks worse than that damned mansion, and this time we can't just throw Dante or Nero at the problem."

Leon smiled at him. "I know that feeling. Well, our friend in red taught me a few tricks before they took off, so maybe I can toss a wrench in their operations while I'm here."

Chris grinned. "Thanks. When we get back stateside, maybe we can go for a few drinks. But before then, I want your word on something."

Uh-oh…protective big brother time. Well, I couldn't put it off forever; better be honest and just get it over with. "I'd rather lose my own arm than do anything to bring harm to Claire. And I've got no intention of letting anyone else do the same; anyone so much as lays a finger on her or Sherry, and they lose that finger." He tapped his knife holster for effect.

Chris blinked. "…Oh. Well, that's good to know, but I actually meant something relating to the mission."

The special agent immediately felt his neck flush. And the award for certified idiot goes to…"…Sorry. Go ahead."

"If something happens to me or my team, use the distraction to get Ashley out of here. Once she's out of the equation, they can call in the cavalry; I'd prefer an airstrike, but we can't afford to until we've gotten all the villagers to safety first."

"I can't leave you behind," said Leon, eyebrows furrowed. "How am I supposed to protect your sister if she murders me?"

Chris seemed to ignore the joke entirely. "Leon, we've managed to corner the most dangerous man in the world. He's directly or indirectly responsible for every atrocity that Umbrella has committed. Without him, Raccoon City would still be standing, and I'd still be a cop there."

Leon's chest tightened slightly. "…Me too."

"We cannot let that man get away. Not now. Not after what he's done to the world. We have to make him pay for all the lives he's ruined; all the crimes he's committed." His lips curled into a snarl. "Even if it costs me my life, I will see him answer for what his damn company did to my friends. And there's a few questions I need to ask him, personally, before I allow him to die."

There was such an angry edge to his voice that Leon didn't dare joke about it.

"C'mon, let's get going." He strode out of the hut, and Leon hurried to catch up.