Spain was the last place Leon S. Kennedy ever expected to find himself again. In fact, he had planned on avoiding it at all costs for the remaining duration of his life, but it would appear the higher ups of the U.S. Government had a sense of humor after all – albeit a sick one. He could picture perfectly the smug smile on Stewart's chubby little face as he handed him the folder with his new assignment.
"Since you're so interested in the Los Illuminados follow up, Big Brother's decided you may as well go over there and answer your own damn questions. Your flight leaves tomorrow at 9 o'clock Kennedy." What a fucking bastard.
Absently drumming his fingers on the folding table in front of him Leon had to admit his trip was faring a lot better this time around: nary a zombie or brainwashed maniac in sight. Sure this room looked straight out of 1975, his legs were getting stiff from being so forcefully folded into the tiny chair, and he'd showed up 10 minutes early for an appointment which was now running 20 minutes late, but if this was as bad as it got, he figured he could handle it.
It would almost be a vacation, except Leon S. Kennedy, right hand man of the President of the United States of America, doesn't take vacations. It's not that he doesn't earn them, he just wouldn't know what to do with all that spare time. Vacations are what normal people use to catch up with family, clean out the garage, maybe travel somewhere exotic. But Leon feels more and more isolated from 'normal people' with each mission he takes on. He hates phoning his parents because he can't stand the concern in their voices, he's never home long enough to mess anything up, and his work already takes him plenty of exotic places. So he works, and the more he works, the harder it is for him to stop.
The nervous, twisting feeling in his gut had been a constant and unwelcome surprise on this trip. There was still something about this whole country that put him on edge. It was something about the weather, the smell, the way the Spanish language rolled off some people's tongues in passing conversation. Madrid was miles away from that dumpy little backwater village and he still felt ready to blow someone's head off every time a door slammed. He couldn't wait to get back to the States, even if it did mean dealing with that snot-nosed punk Stewart. The sooner he could get back to a real assignment, the better.
The door opened suddenly, admitting his appointment in a flustered whirlwind of apologies, vellum and striking red hair. He stood, his friendliest, least uncomfortable smile plastered to his face, and shook her proffered hand.
"Agent Kennedy, I must apologize for keeping you waiting so long. We had a small flood in the storage facility this morning and I had to-"
"Don't worry about it. It gave me a chance to admire the lovely collection of mid to late twentieth century pre-fab furniture displayed here. And please, call me Leon; there's something about 'Kennedy' that makes me feel like I'm about to be assassinated." He smiled again and she flushed sweetly, relieved if not mollified.
"Then call me Lise, it's nice to finally meet you," she said, seating herself across from him at the table, a mountain of books and documents strewn in front of them. She looked exactly as he'd expected a Government contracted researcher to: long, low-maintenance hair style, modest, demure clothing, almost unnaturally pale skin from spending so many hours inside under artificial lighting, and entirely terrified of spending the next hour or two in a cramped little room with a guy like him. "I brought a selection of the documents I've already looked over. There's a couple of crates of artifacts in storage but I didn't bother bringing any up, I didn't think you'd be interested. It's mostly goblets, candelabras and the like, but I can send down for some of the more noteworthy pieces if you would like."
"No, this will be fine thank you," he thumbed through one of the newer looking volumes, noting the graphic illustrations with disgust. "Were you able to find out any information on the donor?"
"Unfortunately not, most of this was all donated anonymously," she shook her head, picking up a large leather-bound volume, or at least Leon hoped it was leather. Something in her tone perked his interest; she was suspicious, and he could agree; in his experience the members of Los Illuminados weren't exactly the anonymous charity type. "It's strange though, the acquisition dates range from hundreds of years ago to just a few months, you'd think someone would have at least wanted a tax receipt somewhere along the line. Everything is real gold, silver, jewel-encrusted… ugly as all Hell, but expensive. I ran those names you sent me, but absolutely nothing came up." Leon nodded, flipping the file folder he'd been skimming through back onto the table. Well, no use beating around the bush for much longer, he didn't fly across the ocean just to find out that a bunch of unbalanced fanatics didn't want a tax refund. She may be here to put together a nice polished report on the historical significance of Los Illuminados, but he was here to find out why the museum was currently holding on to its own plaga sample. Some things you just had to see for yourself, especially when your own people were keeping you out of the loop.
"What about the specimen sample in the collection? Who donated that?" their eyes locked across the table and she managed to send a fairly impressive glare his way.
"I wouldn't know. It hasn't been accessioned yet and since my security clearance was capped I can only access information that's in the museum's database," she crossed her arms. Leon smiled inwardly; she was refreshingly feisty for a bookworm. So often these research types were as dull as the encyclopedia-thick reports they seemed to enjoy mass-producing. "Don't insult me. If you know so much about it, why don't you tell me where it came from, because I have been kept in the dark ever since it arrived."
"I know that this museum is sitting on what could be the next bubonic plague and they're certainly keeping their mouths shut about it when, under their mandate, they don't even collect live specimens."
"I don't know what you want me to say," she shrugged, a pink colour creeping up her neck again, "I thought we were on the same page here, let alone the same team." She looked away, gathering the scattered reports from the table. This was exactly why he stuck to blowing things up instead of trying to reason with them; he always picked the wrong time to say the wrong thing.
"Look," he reached out and put a hand on the stack of papers she was organizing, "I apologize if I insulted you – this really isn't my forte. If you would tell me what you do know, I would really appreciate it."
"The sample came in a couple of months ago from some village up north. It was just shoved in the corner of a crate with a bunch of other artifacts. I'm only here on contract with the Feds so no one tells me anything, but they've been even quieter than usual about this thing. The curator had it sent away for some kind of testing, but it's back now. Considering how important everyone keeps telling me this thing is, I'm surprised it's taking them so long to process it into their collection. That's all I know, I swear." Leon nodded, he had a feeling the reason it was taking them so long was because someone was planning on taking possession of it long before it ever got that far into the process.
"Do you know anything about the village it came from? Ever been there?"
"No thanks, these books are all I need to keep me awake at night."
A loud crash from the hallway had them both out of their seats in an instant. Voices could be heard yelling over panicked screams and Leon felt a surge of adrenaline, his senses heightening.
"Stay here and get down," His mind switched gears automatically as he attempted to take control of the situation, pulling his magnum out of its holster under his suit jacket. He hadn't left home without it after his return from Spain the first time around.
"How did you get that in here?" Lise asked, her eyes wide and suspicious. Another crash sounded in the building and Leon moved instinctively, diving over the table and covering her body with his own as an explosion shook the foundation. Debris fell from the ceiling and glass shattered in from the door window, littering the floor while smoke began pouring in through the cracks in the now off-kilter doorframe.
Leon's body was hard and warm above her, sheltering her, his features concerned as he asked her something she could hardly make out over the ringing in her ears and the shrieking alarms.
"Are you okay?" she managed to make out, half hearing, half lip-reading. Lise nodded, still stunned as he helped her to her feet. They were both covered in dust, the books and papers strewn across the floor with the table and chairs. She clutched his arm, still a little unsteady on her feet,
"The sample –"
"I know. Do you know where it is?" Leon coughed, the air quality was deteriorating rapidly; they wouldn't have much time before the building was either consumed by flames or collapsed.
"The basement," she nodded, "because of the flood it's not in the storage facility." Leon nodded, he could feel the familiar, if unnatural, calm that always accompanied him on missions these days settle in. Leon S. Kennedy: worst luck in the fucking world he thought to himself as she led him to the back door of the room and into an empty hallway.