Leon ran alongside the girl, desperately racking his memory for the city's downtown layout. The alley should let out on Ash, not far from Oak, the RPD's street, but the station was at least another fifteen blocks west; unless they could find transportation, they weren't going to make it. He was on his last clip, four rounds left, and from the sounds reverberating through the alley, there were dozens, maybe hundreds of the creatures at either end. As they reached the mouth of the alley, Leon held up his hand and slowed to a jog, scanning the dimly lit street. He couldn't see much, but from where they stood to the next streetlight, there were eleven or twelve of the creatures to the right, staggering and reeling their way through the stinking darkness. There were only three of them to the left, not far from...

... hallelujah! "There!"

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Leon pointed at the squad car parked across the street, feeling a flush of wild hope. There were no officers in sight, that was too much to ask for, but the front doors were standing open, and the three moaning things that roamed nearby wouldn't reach it before he and the girl could. Even if there were no keys, there was a radio and the windshield was bulletproof. They could probably hold out against the walking corpses until help came...

... and it's the only chance you've got. Go!

He hesitated just long enough to see the girl nod, her brown ponytail bobbing, and then they were sprinting for the black-and-white, the pavement a blur beneath their feet. Leon kept the handgun half-pointed toward the creatures closest to them, fifty feet away; he wanted to shoot, to keep them from getting one step closer, but he couldn't afford to waste the ammo.

God, let there be keys.

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They reached the car at the same time and split, the girl running around to the passenger's side, and Leon realized with a new kind of horror that she probably thought the car was his. He waited for her to slam the door before jumping behind the wheel, a small, deeply frightened part of him screaming that this was his first day as he yanked his own door shut. A prayer answered; the keys were in the ignition. Leon dropped the Magnum into his lap and grabbed them, feeling that wild hope once again, like there were options besides dying. "Buckle up," he said, barely hearing her assent as he turned the keys and the flashers came on. Ash Street and the creatures that stalked it were bathed in blue and red swirls of pallid color, shadows changing form and thickness. It was a vision of hell and he hit the gas, desperate to get away from it as fast as he could. The car spun away from the curb with a squeal. Leon pulled the wheel right and then left, narrowly missing a lurching woman whose scalp had been torn half off. Even through the closed windows, he could hear her frustrated howl as they sped away, joined by the cries of many more.

Backup, call for backup.

Leon fumbled for the radio, not taking his gaze off of the road. The creatures were scattered but persis-tent, dark and shambling monsters that staggered out into the street as if drawn to the sound of the speeding car. As the black-and-white rocketed across Powell and continued on, he had to dodge several more of them. The girl was talking, staring out at the desolate landscape as Leon hit the com button on the radio, his sense of helplessness rising. No static, no nothing.

"What the hell's going on, I arrive in Raccoon and the whole place is insane..." "Great, the radio's out," Leon interrupted, drop-ping the radio and focusing on the road. The entire city seemed like an alien world, the streets strangely shadowed. There was a dreamlike quality to it, but the smell kept him from believing that he was asleep. The stench of diseased flesh had permeated even the interior of the squad car, making it hard to concen- trate on driving. At least there was no traffic and no people. No real people... except me and the girl. I've got to do my job here, keep her from getting hurt. Poor kid, she can't be older than nineteen or twenty, she's probably terrified; I've got to keep it together and shield her from further danger here, get to the station and...

"You're a cop, right?"

The girl's lilting but somehow sarcastic tone snapped him out of his panicked musings. He shot a look in her direction, noting that while she looked pale, she didn't seem to be quivering on the edge of a break- down. There was even a trace of humor in her clear gray eyes, and Leon got a sudden strong impression that she wasn't the breakdown type. A very good thing, considering the circumstances.

"Yeah. First day on the job; great, huh? I'm Leon Kennedy." "Claire," she said. "Claire Redfield. I came to find my brother, Chris..."

She trailed off, staring back out at the passing street. Two of the creatures were staggering into the path of the car from either side, but Leon hit the gas and managed to drive between them. The steel mesh screen separating the back compartment was down, giving him a clear look from the rearview mirror, the two shuffling ghouls were now plodding mindlessly after them.

Hungry. Just like in the movies.

For a moment, neither spoke, the obvious question remaining unspoken. Whatever had happened to turn Raccoon into a horror show didn't matter as much as how they were going to survive it. They'd be at the station in a couple of minutes, assuming the roads stayed clear. There was an underground parking lot, he'd try that first, but if the gates were closed, they'd have to cover a short distance on foot. There was a small courtyard in front of the building, a park area.

Four rounds left and maybe a city full of those things. We need another weapon... "Hey, open the glovebox," he said. If it was locked, there was a key on the ring that should open it. Claire tapped the button and reached inside, reveal-ing the back of her pink sleeveless vest; the legend "Made in Heaven" was appliqued above a voluptuous posing angel holding a bomb. The outfit suited her. "There's a gun inside," she said, and pulled out a sleek semiautomatic. She raised it carefully and checked to see if it was loaded before digging out a couple of clips. It was one of the RPD's old issues, a nine-millimeter Browning HP. Since the slew of re- cent murders, the Raccoon force had been carrying H amp; K VP70s, another nine-millimeter - the difference was that the Browning could only hold thirteen, while the newer issues held eighteen rounds, nineteen if you kept one chambered. From the way she handled it, Leon could tell that she knew what she was doing. "Better take it with you," he said. The RPD kept a decent arsenal; assuming that there were still cops around, he could pick up his assigned weapon and... and why are you assuming anything?

As Leon took the corner of Ash and Third a little too quickly, the realization finally hit him that the station itself might be crawling with corpses. Every-thing was happening so fast, he just hadn't considered the possibility. He straightened out the car and let up on the gas, trying to come up with an alternate plan as calmly and rationally as he could. Maybe there was an organized defense at the station, but it wasn't easy to feel hopeful with the stink of decay so heavy in the air.

We have three-quarters of a tank, more than enough to make it over the mountains; we could be in Latham in less than an hour.

They could drive by the station and if it looked unfriendly, just get the hell out of town; sounded good to him. He started to tell Claire, see what she thought when the horrible smell of slaughter washed over him and something lunged out of the back seat. Claire screamed and the monster that had been in the squad car all along grasped Leon's shoulder with icy hands, its flyblown breath gusting into his face. It snatched at his right arm, pulling it toward its drool- slick teeth with inhuman strength. "No!" Leon shouted as the car veered wildly to the right, jumping the curb and sliding toward a brick building. The creature was unbalanced, losing some of its grip; Leon jerked the wheel but too late to avoid the wall completely. Metal shrieked and a brilliant flash of sparks illuminated the groping hands and leering, ghoulish grin of their passenger as the speed-ing car shot back out into the street. The dead thing swung its eager arms at Claire, and without thinking, Leon slammed on the gas and pulled a hard right. The car fishtailed, the back end crunching against a parked pickup truck in another burst of fiery sparks. The drooling corpse fell back into the padded seat but immediately pulled itself forward again, gnashing its teeth and clawing for the girl... The squad car sped down Third, Leon trying to control the wheel as he grabbed his weapon and half-turned, holding the Magnum by the barrel. He didn't think to take his foot off the gas, couldn't think of anything except that the zombie was about to sink its teeth into Claire's struggling shoulder. He brought the heavy weapon down and across its face, the butt sliding across flesh that peeled away in a thick flap. Blood gushed from the wound as the grips crushed into its nose, cartilage separating from bone with a wet crunch. Gurgling, the creature clutched at its bleeding head and Leon just had time to feel a second's triumph...... when Claire screamed, "Look out!" and Leon looked up to see that they were about to crash. Leon hit the zombie with his gun and Claire in- stinctively flinched from the splatter of blood, her horrified gaze finding that the street they were on was about to end.

"Look out!"

She caught just a glimpse of his white knuckles on the wheel, his clenched jaw...... and the car was spinning, screeching, buildings and streetlights flashing by so fast that all she saw was a blur, and then... BAM! There was an explosion of sound, of glass shattering and metal compressing as the cop car slammed into something solid, throwing Claire against her safety belt. The impact hurled the zombie forward at the same time, and Claire reflexively threw her arms up as the dead thing crashed through the windshield -

- and then everything was still. There was only the ticking of hot metal and the sound of her own heart thundering in her ears. Claire brought her arms down and saw that Leon had already recovered, was already staring at the bloody, broken mess sprawled across the hood, its head hanging mercifully out of sight. It wasn't moving.

"You okay?"

Claire turned and looked at Leon, suddenly having to fight off a semi-hysterical laughing fit. Raccoon had been taken over by the living dead and they'd just been in a serious car wreck because a corpse had been trying to eat them. All things considered, "okay" was not the first word to come to mind. At the sight of Leon's sincere and stricken expres-sion, the urge to freak out passed. He looked on the edge of a fit himself; allowing her devastated nerves free reign wouldn't help anything. "Still in one piece," she managed, and the young cop nodded, seeming relieved. Claire took a deep breath, feeling like it was the first she'd taken in hours, and looked around at where they'd ended up. Leon had managed a complete 180 at the very end of the street where it T-ed, the obviously totaled squad car facing back the way they'd come. There were no zombies in the immedi- ate vicinity, but Claire had the feeling that they wouldn't have long to find cover; from what she'd seen so far, most if not all of Raccoon had been affected by - by whatever it was that had happened. She held the handgun tightly, trying to get her tangled emotions under control. "We..." Leon started to say something and then stopped, his eyes widening as he stared at the rear- view mirror. Claire looked behind her... and for a second, could only think that at some point since she'd left the university, she'd been cursed.

Cursed. Somebody wants me dead, that's all there is to it.

A semi was barreling down the street, still several blocks away but close enough for them to see that it was out of control. The truck veered back and forth, smashing against a blue pickup parked on one side of the street and then plowing under a mailbox on the other. Claire realized with numb horror that it was a tanker - and from the way the haul was sliding dan- gerously at each frantic swerve, the driver had a full load. In the split-second that it took to digest that information, to pray that it wasn't gas or oil, the tanker had halved the distance between them. She could actually see the flames painted across the dark green cab, but even then it wasn't real until Leon broke their stunned silence. "... maniac's gonna ram us," he breathed, and then they were both stabbing at the seat-belt releases, Claire praying that the crash hadn't locked them somehow... The sound of the belts letting go were inaudible beneath the rising monolithic growl of the oncoming tanker and the echoing crunch of cars being side-swiped left and right. It would be on them in a heartbeat. "Run!" Leon shouted, and then she was pushing her way out of the squad car, cool air against her sweaty skin and the scream of the truck's engine blocking out everything else. She took three giant running leaps and then felt as much as heard the impact, the asphalt shaking be- neath her feet even as the crash of rending metal thundered behind her.

One more flying step, and...

KABOOM!... she was being pushed, shoved roughly off her feet by an incredible pressure wave of heat and sound. She managed to kick off against the ground as the tanker's explosion turned night to day in one brilliant instant. An awkward shoulder roll, grit biting into her heat-blasted skin, and she landed behind a parked car in a gasping heap. There was a brief, clattering rain of smoking debris, and Claire was on her feet, stumbling back into the street to search the towering flames for some sign of Leon. Her heart sank. The tanker, squad car, and what had once been a hardware store were all envel-oped in an inferno of chemical fire, the street com-pletely blocked by the mass of twisted, burning destruction.

"Claire..."

Leon's voice, muffled but audible through the wall of curling flame.

"Leon?" "I'm okay!" he shouted. "Head to the station, I'll meet you there!"

Claire hesitated for a second, staring down at the handgun she still held tightly in one shaky hand. She was afraid, scared of being alone in a city that had turned into a living graveyard, but it wasn't like there was much of a choice. Wishing that circum- stances were different was a waste of time.

"Okay!"

She turned, trying to get her bearings by the smok- ing, flickering light of the wreck. The station was close, a couple of blocks away and there were creatures lurching out of the shadows, from behind cars and inside darkened buildings. With single-minded purpose, they sham- bled into the strange light of the blazing accident, making small sounds of hunger as they came - two, three, four of them. She saw tattered skin and rotting limbs, gaping blackness where eyes should be - and still they came, moving slowly toward her as if homing in on living flesh. Beyond the fiery wreck, she heard gunfire - two shots from perhaps a block away, then nothing -

- nothing but the crackle of consuming flame and the soft, helpless cries of the shuffling dead.

Leon's on his own now MOVE!

Claire took a deep breath, spotted an opening with-in the lethal crowd closing in on her, and ran.

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