Raccoon City was dying.
Claire saw nothing but ruin and devastation in all direction as she stared through the window of the RPD squad car whose passenger seat she was currently occupying. Everywhere she looked, there were fires, smashed shop displays, and grey-skinned individuals shambling through the streets with severed limbs, bloody mouths and rotting flesh.
She had just arrived in the city via motorcycle less than half an our ago. She had stopped at a gas station at the edge of town to fill up the tank and rest her numb rear end, only to find the place deserted. It didn't stay deserted for long, however, as a horde of these... what could only be described as 'zombies', broke their way into the building to attack her. Claire fled through the back door, only to find a gun in her face. The man holding then gun told her to get down and shot one of the zombies that had been close to taking a bite out of her. He had then led her to a nearby police car and driven her into town.
Now that the adrenaline had worn off and she had a better look at the man, she realised that he wearing one of the RPD's armoured uniforms. It was a strange coincidence that she wasn't about to question, that she would find help with an officer stationed at the very location she had been heading.
"You're RPD?" she said once her breathing had returned to normal.
"Huh?" he responded, too focused on avoiding the decaying people shambling into the car's path for his brain to process what she had said right away. "Oh, yeah. I am. Officer Leon Kennedy."
Claire wasn't familiar with an officer by that name. And from the look of him, he was probably around her age. Still, she had to ask, "I'm looking for my brother. He's with the RPD's S.T.A.R.S. unit - Chris Redfield? Do you know anything about where he might've gone?"
Leon shook his head, eyes fixed on the road ahead. "Sorry, I'm new to the force, so I don't really know anybody yet."
"Oh. I see," she replied, sounding more dejected than she had intended.
"First day on the job, actually," he replied in a slightly jovial tone, seemingly having noticed Claire's own tone and trying to lighten the mood.
Claire stared, mouth slightly agape. "You're kidding?"
He shook his head again and a handsome smile spread across his lips. "Wish I was. I'm actually running late too. Hell of a start to my illustrious career in law enforcement, huh?"
"You're telling me. Chris was in the air force before he joined S.T.A.R.S. and he never had to deal with... whatever fucked up nightmare this is..."
"Lucky him. Hopefully, he got out of the city before the blockade was set up."
The two fell into silence as they pondered the terrible predicament they had found themselves in. It was Leon who broke he silence after a few minutes filled by only the sounds of the engine, evasive swerves around zombies, and the odd burst of distant gunfire.
"So, you just... what, snuck in through the blockade?"
Looking back, Claire felt more than a little embarrassed by what, now, seemed like an absolutely terrible idea. "Y-Yeah," she admitted quietly. "I haven't heard from Chris in, like, two months now. We usually call each other every couple weeks, but I haven't heard anything since July."
"I heard there was an incident back in July up in the mountains. Some kinda gas leak at an old mansion in the middle of the forest or something." Sparing a few glances, Leon realised that bringing up an 'incident' in response to Claire worrying about her brother was probably not the most tactful thing he could have done. "Hey, don't worry. If something serious had happened, you'd have heard by now. No professional organisation would keep an employee's disappearance a secret from their family for months on end. He's probably just on vacation or something. Maybe with a girlfriend or something?"
Claire chuckled. Yeah, she was sure that relationship was going to progress that way.
"If it makes you feel any better, Claire, we can ask around at the station once we get there. Check the station's records too."
Claire nodded, but said nothing. Realising he'd been watching the road, she quickly responded. "Alright. Thanks, Officer Kennedy."
"Just call me Leon," he replied. "Keeps it shorter, in case you need to call out or something."
"Alright. Then, you can call me Claire."
Again, silence fell. This time, it was Claire who broke it.
"So, you know why I 'hopped the fence', so to speak. What about you? Why did you come through the blockade?"
"I was supposed to start a couple days ago. But I got a call from the station telling me to stay away because of the rioting."
"Rioting is an understatement..." Claire muttered as she looked out the window at the devastation.
"Yeah. I figured it would be resolved quickly and that I'd just be in the way if I showed up. But, I can't just sit at home while people are in danger like this. If it's not been resolved by now, we need everyone on-hand, veteran or rookie."
Claire nodded with a smile. There was a certain naivety that separated the two, but Leon and Chris both shared that same desire to help people. For Chris, it likely came from him being Claire's primary care-giver during her early teens. She wondered where Leon's came from...
"Hey, open the glove compartment," Leon said, finally sounding like he was taking charge of the situation.
Claire did as she was asked and found only a handgun inside. A 9mm Browning HP, from the look of it. Claire removed the weapon from the compartment, checked that the safety was on, and ejected the magazine to check the ammo count. Fully loaded. Good.
"You look like you know your way around a handgun," Leon observed.
"Uh-huh. Having an overprotective brother has its advantages." Claire slid the magazine back into place with a satisfying click. She held the weapon, not entirely sure what Leon wanted her to do with this piece of RPD property. "It's loaded," she confirmed.
"Good. Keep hold of it."
"Positive. In light of the current situation, you need to be able to defend yourself."
"How do you know I'm not just some psycho who'll turn this thing on you the first chance I get."
Leon opened his mouth, but no words came out. Clearly, he hadn't thought of that. Her initial assessment of him was proving right. "W-Well, you seem like a good enough person. And your brother's a cop, so..." He went quiet again.
Claire let out a chuckle. "Thanks, Leon." The weight of the gun was comforting in her hands. It reminded her of her training with Chris.
"Sure. We're just a couple of blocks away now. Once we get there, we-"
Leon was cut off as a rotting grey arm reached out from behind to grab at him. Claire whirled around in her seat to find, to her horror, that a zombie had gotten inside the car. Had it managed to get inside while they were trying to get the car going, or had it been there the entire time and they just hadn't checked? A rookie mistake. Chris would be pissed at her carelessness if he ever found out.
Placing her left hand on the back of her seat to steady herself, Claire pulled her right arm back and rammed the barrel of her pistol into the creature's forehead. Its head snapped back at an angle that could not have been endured by a normal person, but it continued its attempt to bite the officer, otherwise unimpeded. Claire once again brought the barrel up to the zombie's face, but slower this time, taking aim. She tried to pull the trigger, but nothing happened. In her panic, she had forgotten to turn the safety off.
The car was veering wildly now. A heavy bump sent a body flying over the top of the car, which Claire prayed was already dead beforehand. The car was practically moving sideways at times, but Leon kept it largely under control. Until another body got in the way, sending the car spinning out of control as it sped towards a T-intersection. The car was facing backwards as it collided with a street sign on the sidewalk.
Claire's head was spinning as she slowly recovered from the crash. Leon seemed equally daze, but otherwise fine. Rubbing her back of her head, Claire looked back to where the zombie had been. It was gone now. Peering back further, she saw that the rear window was shattered, blood coating the jagged edges where the body had gone through. Its legs were dangling lifelessly over the backseat, while its head had collided directly with the pole, splitting it in two, as it had also done to the car's trunk.
"Eugh." Claire collapsed back into her seat, trying to catch her breath. If there had been any useful gear in the trunk, it was likely inaccessible now, even if it had survived the crash unscathed. And worse, the car was most likely going to struggle to get them to the station. It wasn't far, sure, but she wasn't too fond of the idea of proceeding on foot. She'd rather stay in the car and hope they could get it running.
The choice was to be taken away from her, however, as Leon interrupted her thoughts with an utterance of, "Shit!" Looking up, Claire saw that barrelling towards them was a large oil tanker. Its speed didn't suggest it was going to slow down before hitting them. Claire and Leon both scrambled to undo their seatbelts and get the doors open. Claire had barely made it out when the larger vehicle, practically tipping over already, flattened the squad car and the pole that had stopped it, crashing through the wall of whatever building had been unfortunate enough to be build directly in the truck's path.
Claire ran, got as far from the truck as possible before an explosion rocked the street. The sound was disorientating, the heat was scalding and the blast was strong enough to lift her off the ground and carry her a good few feet before depositing her harshly onto the asphalt. Claire rolled onto her back and clutched the hip she had landed on. She looked back at the blazing inferno situated in the spot she and Leon had been in mere seconds ago.
With great pains, Claire forced herself up onto her knees with her other hand. Her hip and elbow throbbed as she raised herself to her feet, supporting herself on a nearby car. She looked herself over and found her elbow and the entire side of her leg to be scraped and bleeding. Now, she had a reason other than the late-September air to curse herself for choosing shorts and a sleeveless jacket over pants and a full jacket. She hoped Jill might be able to lend her a spare change of clothes at the station, assuming she ever made it there.
She spotted the handgun lying in the road a few paces away from her. She hobbled over and crouched down to pick it up. Her legs used that as an excuse to try to give up then and there, but she clenched her teeth and forced herself back up to her feet.
"Claire!" She could just about make out the voice over the roaring of the impassible flames, the sparking or ruined electronics and the occasional piece of collapsing architecture that had managed to hold out until now.
"Leon!" she called back. "I'm alright! But, the fire...!"
"I know! We'll have to regroup at the station! Do you know your way from here!?"
"Y-Yeah! I'll meet you there!"
The sound of her shouting seemed to have attracted the attention of a group of zombies nearby. As they shambled into the illumination of the hellfire blockade behind her, she saw that some of them were decked out in the standard blue RPD uniform. She began to worry about the situation down at the station, but she shook her head clear of those thoughts. She couldn't let herself lose hope now. She'd survived the gas station, the crash and the explosion so far. She couldn't let something like dread be her end now.
She shifted her weight onto both feet, levelled the handgun at the forehead of the closest former RPD officer, thumbed off the safety, and pulled the trigger.
I started playing RE2 for the first time recently, in preparation for the remake. I'd played the PC demo and the Darkside Chronicles retelling, but never gone through the original myself. I finished Leon A and started Claire B last night. Going through the intro again, I started imagining a more fleshed-out version of the car scene where Leon and Claire properly introduce themselves. It was partly about how certain information could be conveyed naturally through a longer conversation, like Claire's motive and Leon being on his first day on the job.