Summary: RE 6 AU, Piers survives and has to come to terms with the fact.
Characters: Piers Nivans
Notes: Inspired by Commando64's Infected AU Metamorphosis, and Consequences. In one of the later chapters they threw a bunch of other AU ideas out there and I found them to be quite appealing. This specific piece was not inspired by anything they mentioned, but the idea came to me as I was thinking about what they had written and looking for more good Infected AUs.
Piers sank to the floor, his whole body shaking in a silent coughing fit. They had gotten less frequent over the past…two days if he measured the first day as from when he first regained consciousness until he was too exhausted to continue searching and the second day in a similar manner. That made today day three, different from the first two only by panic having largely faded to grim determination and the pain, while still there was becoming more manageable. His right arm, especially around the shoulder, still gave him a twinge from time to time, though he wouldn't exactly call it pain unless he got it caught on something, which was far too easy to do.
The coughing finally passed and without thinking he tried to take a deep breath, which had been what had set off the spasms in the first place. Cold water rushed into his lungs and he thrashed in the water. There must have been a small air pocket trapped in the debris around him because he suddenly found himself in an explosion of bubbles. He kicked upwards, following them and slammed his head into the ceiling.
Luck was with him this time, he hit his head hard enough to stun himself which saved him from the minutes of frantic struggling before graying out.
He allowed himself to drift slowly back downwards, letting the ringing in his ears fade and his senses slowly return. The feeling of drowning vanished and he focused on what it felt like to breathe. That was the hardest thing to get used to, learning how to breathe. The armored plates that lined his chest and sides rose up and little feathery appendages fluttered in the water. He guessed that they were some sort of gills because his lungs certainly weren't working.
That thought was a mistake, he felt his diaphragm spasm in response to the thought and the fluttering things froze in place.
No! He forced himself to calm down, to focus on the movements of those gills and let reflexes take over.
He had to focus on other things, like his surroundings, which he's lost track of while panicking. Air bubbles always went up and they were slowly crawling along the ceiling in a shimmering, wavering sheet that he felt as much as saw. This was one of the places where the emergency lights were still on, illuminating everything within a few feet of them with a faint red light that did nothing to help him find his way around the ruined compound.
The temptation to follow the bubbles was strong. It was commonsense that they were going where he wanted to be, up to the surface and obviously he should follow them. Since regaining consciousness he'd done the same thing countless times before and always with the same results. They occasionally ended up trapped in a pocket that he'd surface in, coughing and sputtering as he forced the water out of his lungs and drew in greedy breaths. This would last until the air was too thin and he started panicking, because the last thing anyone thought when they were getting light headed from lack of oxygen was to hold their breath, duck under water and wait for gills to take over. When he was lucky the bubbles all escaped out from a crack too small for him to fit through. Then all he had to deal with was disappointment.
Okay, this was good. He was breathing normally, or what passed for normally, he hadn't lost track of where he was too badly since he was in a straight, unbranching corridor. All he had to do was pick a direction and keep going until he was back in familiar surroundings or found himself in some place new.
All around him he could hear metal shifting and groaning as the structure continued to settle. Occasionally there would be a rush of movement through the water as some area collapsed completely, but so far he had been lucky and only come across those areas long after the dust settled. Getting used to feeling changes in water pressure was strange, though not as strange as when he ended up in areas where it was too dark to see and was still able to find his way around without bumping into anything. He could actually feel the water that his movements displaced hitting nearby objects thanks to the thin, branching appendages that folded out from alongside his mouth. They were also useful in the real tight spaces, if he swept them in front of himself he could get a pretty good idea of what was up ahead before actually committing to going forward. After a few close calls he had also gotten fairly good at using them to determine if he could fit through a gap in the debris. He still got the protruding bones on his right arm caught on things from time to time, but between its size and relative immobility that was understandable.
If he ever made it out of all this learning how to shoot again was going to be a bitch. He'd never been much of an ambidextrous shooter, but of course that was ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room, or the B.O.W. as it were, with said B.O.W. being himself.
When he'd shoved the Captain into the escape pod and stayed behind to cover his escape he'd figured that he would die in the process and it would be preferable to living and ending up a mindless monster. It was funny how that was the worst thing he could have imagined happening to himself at the time. He'd never imagined that there was an even worse fate than turning into a mindless monster, ending up as a monster but still being able to think the same as ever.
Hell, when he'd first woken up floating in place after forcing his way out of what he later realized to be a chrysalis, he'd assumed that he was still dreaming. He'd thought that the floating feeling had been a combination of painkillers and a concussion and that any minute he'd be able to open his eyes and find himself in a hospital bed and that the whole thing had been part of a nightmare because he was still able to think just fine. That was his first check to determine if he was alright, that he was able to think. It never occurred to him that he was still in the facility, trapped and terribly mutated until the moment he realized that his eyes were open and the foul taste in his mouth was seawater.
Most of that first day had been spend repeatedly panicking and graying out as he tried and failed to breathe with useless lungs rather than newly formed gills.
The second day had been similarly wasted as he kept trying to travel upwards within the collapsed facility rather than focusing on finding a way out and then up. He was starting to get the hang of it now though, enough so that there were times when he forgot that he was underwater and a monster.
That was the frightening part, that it was so easy to lose track and forget.
At the same time he figured that it was preferable to dwelling on every thought that entered his head and trying to figure out if it was normal or not, like how hungry he was. Logic dictated that it was perfectly normal for him to be ravenous considering it had been who knew how long since his last meal, but he kept second guessing himself, playing a mental game of 'would you eat it'. It was a topic of conversation that had come up on more than one occasion during his time in special forces, usually starting as 'what is the most messed up, weird, disgusting thing you've ever eaten?' and gradually turning into 'how screwed would you have to be before you were desperate enough to eat…'
Now he was playing it with himself.
They sell it in tins in Nevada. He'd had snake before anyway and it wasn't bad even if it was full of little bones, a strange combination of gamey and fishy was how he'd describe it.
They were a delicacy in France or Italy or somewhere in Europe. They probably cooked them up in butter or tomato sauce and claimed they tasted like chicken and tourists spent buckets of money to eat the slimy things.
Twice, each time on a bet. The first time had been during spring break and the worm in question had been at the bottom of a tequila bottle and the second time had been after wilderness survival training and the easiest fifty bucks he'd ever made.
Assholes didn't know what a blue steak was. Kobe beef should never be heated above 77 degrees Fahrenheit. There was a deli in New York that served raw ground beef with mixed with minced garlic and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. They put it between two slices of toasted bread, baked fresh that morning, put on some raw onions and called it a cannibal burger.
Funny you should mention that…
No, not there yet, not at all.
But could he imagine ever being that hungry?
Not when the thought alone was enough to make his stomach churn. He'd seen too many people torn apart to imagine something like that.
But how could he be sure?
Because, if not for his stomach being empty, he would have thrown up at the suggestion.
What if the chance presented itself?
No. He'd rather die. That had been the plan.
Lost as he was in his thoughts he drifted along without paying much attention to where he was going.
He didn't realize something was there until one of his antennae, which moved seemingly on their own, brushed against it and the object they touched recoiled in response.
There was a moment of pure instinctive reaction and a pulse of electricity went through the area. The emergency lights flickered once then went out leaving him in total darkness.
Whatever it was had to be dead. He could feel it floating motionless in the water a few feet from him. Half swimming, half crawling along the wall he moved closer until it was in reach. Cautiously he reached out to it and bumped it away with the useless, fingerless mass that was the end of his right arm. Being left handed was going to take some getting used to. Reaching for it with his left hand he felt the two sets of smaller, blade tipped limbs stretch out as well. He still didn't have full control of them and they tended to simply mirror what his actual arms were doing, except when he fell asleep, then they managed to dig their tips into the nearest surface and hold him in place.
The thing slipped from his grasp several times, a combination of how slick it was and that his hand was numbed by the cold water. He hoped it was the cold, if his grip was permanently messed up it was going to be even harder to relearn how to shoot.
On the bright side his eyes were fine as far as he could tell. He could see better than he would have thought possible, especially in the areas where there was any light, no matter how dim and motion was especially noticeable. So his eyes worked fine, all of them, even the ones that hadn't been there before. The exact number was a mystery. He'd nearly jabbed a finger into one of the new ones when he tried to check and had decided that he didn't actually want to know the extent of the mutations. Realizing that the fingers of his good hand ended in claws was unpleasant enough.
This time his claws actually helped, letting him get a grip on what it was that he had just killed. There wasn't enough light for him to see much more than the basic shape of the creature, a tapering, serpentine body, nearly as long as his good arm. It was probably an eel then and a big one at that. Sea life was already finding its way inside the ruined facility. That was good, if the eel got in maybe he could get out the same way.
Let himself sink downwards to the floor, or perhaps float up to the ceiling, he stretched his antenna out into the water, trying to feel movement that would indicate a way out. Of all the changes his transformation into a B.O.W. had caused, for whatever reason the antenna had been the easiest to adjust to. He understood how they worked and what he was trying to do with them, which was frustrating in its own way. If given the choice he would have liked it much more if it was using his gills instead of trying to breathe was what came most naturally. No, that wasn't true, not by a long shot, what he really would have preferred was to have not ended up a B.O.W. in the first place.
He didn't blame anyone, he had taken the actions he had fully aware of the consequences, he just hadn't expected to survive.
And thinking of reflexes, if he'd been able to laugh he would have. As focused as he'd been on feeling for movement in the water he'd allowed himself to become completely still, even the constant fanning of his gills had stopped as he held his breath. Funny in a kind of humorless way, how so much of who he had been remained in what he was now. It wasn't fair. It wasn't…
He could feel movement. In front was the very faint feel of fresh water. Not truly fresh water of course, it was still the ocean, but it was water from outside rather than the increasingly stale and contaminated water trapped in the facility. Behind him there was movement as well, and from somewhere not very far away. The halls had branched several times and he had largely ignored them, thinking that he would backtrack if it came to that. Apparently he wasn't alone.
Telling himself that it was a big fish was pointless. Whatever it was, it was sticking low to the floor, moving forward in an irregular scuttling pace. He tilted his head to see if he could hear it.
Contrary to what he had previously believed, the ocean didn't eat all sounds, it just distorted them. He could hear as well as he had before, or he would have if not for the air bubble that had managed to remain persistently trapped in his left ear, which turned that side of his head into an echo chamber. Early on he'd made several fruitless attempts to dislodge it before coming to accept it as one of the numerous strange discomforts he had to deal with. The constant dull ache from his lungs, partially collapsed and full of water was far worse.
As it drew closer he was able to feel the shape of the creature well before he saw it.
It was a B.O.W. of course, a shield shaped body tapering off into a long forked tail, countless little legs skittering along the floor. He could hear them taping against the metal and their tips sounded hard. It had almost human arms on its back and was holding a pipe or some other piece of metallic debris. About ten meters from him it humped itself up a little so that the back of the shield was facing him. In the near total dark it was hard to tell, but he got the faint impression of a multitude of eyes and just behind them a gaping, fanged mouth surrounded by dozens of little grasping limbs.
Rather than attack it made a beckoning gesture with its free hand.
There was no way in hell that he was going to come any closer to it and lacking any other weapons, he raised his right arm in response.
It brandished the length of pipe at him and pointed with its free hand, first to something to his left and then to itself.
Why wasn't it attacking him?
The answer was so obvious that he couldn't help but wince. It had no way of knowing who he was. He'd emerged from the chrysalis completely naked, what was left of his uniform irretrievably melted into the resin that had encased him. There was nothing to set him apart from any of Neo-Umbrella's monsters, so to it he was just another B.O.W., but that didn't explain what it wanted.
It repeated its previous gesture, pointing to him and then to itself before slamming the pipe against the wall for good measure.
He responded by sending a pulse of electricity at it, not strong enough to hurt it because he wasn't quite sure how to manage it other than that it involved tensing a lot of muscles that he hadn't had before so hard that they almost hurt. He was getting good at sending out small bursts though because in total darkness he found that they somehow let him sense his surroundings better.
Weak as it was, the B.O.W.'s response to the pulse was immediate, it dropped the pipe and brought its hands together in a pleading gesture.
If he'd been able to laugh he would have because of how pathetic the whole situation was. It clearly still had some measure of sentience left and was trying to communicate with him.
Well if it was still at least marginally rational then maybe he could avoid a conflict with it.
'Get lost', was what he tried to say, but all that happened was a few clicking noises accompanied by an unpleasant grinding sensation in his throat and chest. Something was very wrong there, something that he hadn't noticed earlier.
The B.O.W. scuttled back a few steps and repeated its pleading gesture before moving on to a more elaborate pantomime. It pointed to his left, brought both its hands together to make a breaking motion before pointing to his left again with its first finger and thumb before bringing those two fingers all the way back to its open mouth.
This time he followed its motions and when he looked to his left he realized that he was still holding the dead eel. That must have been what the thing was pointing at and in that context the rest of its actions made sense. It was as hungry as he was and it wanted to eat the eel.
Half way through the motion of lifting his arm to toss the dead fish to the B.O.W. he stopped. He'd just been wondering about how desperately hungry he was and without thinking he had nearly thrown away food. Well his question about whether or not he was an unthinking, ravenous monster had been answered.
Holding the eel close to his chest in a possessive gesture he raised his right arm again, letting another pulse of electricity out through the water.
The B.O.W. got the hint and skittered off, leaving him to deal with how to eat in peace.
His own uncharacteristic squeamishness at the situation surprised him. This wasn't going to be the first time he'd eaten something raw or eaten without utensils, but those times were different because…
Because he'd been human then and now he was reading too much into every stupid little thing. He was hungry, he had food so he should just eat the damn thing and get it over with, which proved easier said than done.
When he opened his mouth everything felt wrong. During his frequent coughing fits he had noticed that things felt loose around his face, but at the time he'd been too distracted by feeling like he was drowning to pay much attention to it. Now that he was paying attention he realized that he could only open his mouth so far, after which something shifted and he felt the muscles of his face pulling sideways. Investigating with his tongue confirmed one of the first things he had noticed when he first realized his situation, that his teeth were both more abundant and sharper, but he also made the far more disturbing discovery that his lower jaw had pulled apart. There were two distinct halves to it and they moved independently of each other.
Disturbing as it was, hunger easily overcame his desire for morbid self-examination. There would be plenty of time for that later, after he'd eaten.
Bringing the eel to his mouth he bit down on it, razor sharp teeth easily tearing through the soft meat. For an eel it was surprisingly tender, which was a good thing since he quickly realized that, between his fangs and the rest of the changes to his mouth, he was unable to chew very well. Giving up on chewing he tried to swallow the chunk whole and as soon as it reached the back of his mouth he got another surprise. A newly formed set of muscles in his throat shifted and he felt something latch onto the chunk of meat and pull it down to where involuntary muscle movement took over. That explained the weird grinding feeling in his throat when had he tried to speak and it was something he wasn't going to dwell on, not when he hadn't eaten in at least three days, probably longer.
Each bite was a struggle as he tried to concentrate on tearing off chunks that he could easily swallow while at the same time trying to ignore the mechanics of eating. Realizing that the independently moving halves of his lower jaw worked to position the food where whatever it was that was going on with the back of his throat happened only made it worse. What the hell did he look like? Did he even want to know?
No, he decided he didn't. Once he had escaped he could worry about what he had become, until then it would be a waste of time.
After finishing the eel, bones and all, he felt slightly better. He was still tired and achy, but he found himself in a more optimistic state of mind.
Following faint changes in water currents he pressed onwards. As had been the case during the previous two days there were plenty of dead ends at holes too small for him to fit through, but eventually he found it, a hole large enough for him to fit his right arm through, which was better than any previous opening he'd found. When he first passed it he nearly kept moving until he realized that this particular hole was a direct path out and that it was through a pane of reinforced glass rather than steel and concrete. Running his claws along it he felt them catch in countless small cracks.
He rapped his knuckles against it, feeling vibrations travel through the damaged pane as he swept his antenna over it. The glass was over six inches thick and had held up so far despite the damage. Logic told him to move on and keep searching for a more likely way out, but the promise of freedom so close that he could feel it was too much.
He began a frantic search for something, anything he could use to break the glass, sweeping his antenna over the floor and sending out near constant weak pulses of electricity in the hope that something, anything would appear. Nothing, everywhere he searched there was nothing of use.
In helpless frustration he slammed his good hand down on the floor as hard as he could, the extra pair of limbs on that side matching the gesture, their tips punching through the metal of the floor.
Of course. He was ignoring the B.O.W. in the room again.
Swimming back up to the glass he pressed himself against the wall and positioned all four stabbing limbs over it. His first few tries were pathetic as he tried to figure out how to move muscles that he still didn't have a firm mental grasp of. He refused to give up though and with each successive attempt the movements became more certain, until with one last burst of effort he felt the tips punch through the glass. Pulling them free was a short, sharp jerk that tore away several chunks of glass, enough that the rest of the pane crumbled, the broken glass falling down in slow motion through the water.
He'd done it! He was free!
It was still a tight squeeze, enough so that he had to close his gills, the equivalent of holding his breath he supposed. Of course then he managed to get stuck half way through and start panicking as the familiar feeling of drowning returned.
This time he was actually able to fight it off, trying to keep his mind on his gills rather than his perpetually aching lungs. He had his arms and first set of new limbs through and as he twisted and struggled he could actually feel the tips of the new limbs gouging deep into the steel of the facility's outer wall.
When was the last time a door or wall had stopped a B.O.W. for long? Zombies were one thing, but actual B.O.W.s? He might have been a monster, but he wasn't going to die like an idiot, stuck half way out of a hole in a wall.
At last he managed to pull free, doing far less damage to himself than he had expected, a few scrapes on the plates the protected his gills and a fairly deep gash across his stomach, but nothing that should have been life threatening given his present condition.
Weak with relief he lay against the side of the facility waving his left hand back and forth over his gills to fan more water over them. Until now he hadn't realized how stale the air in the facility had gotten. He'd been blaming his near constant headache on his additional eyes, but it was starting to fade. Without thinking he took a deep breath, pulling more water into his tortured lungs.
His additional limbs dug into the side of the compound, holding him in place as yet another coughing fit wracked his body.
Damn it he needed to start paying more attention.
He rode it out, let the agony happen and tried to focus on keeping his gills moving rather than pressing them tight against his chest in a reflexive, defensive gesture.
All around him he could sense debris falling away from the facility, most settled to the ocean floor, but some rose up amid clouds of bubbles. There were things swimming by, fish mostly, or at least he hoped that they were fish. He'd only encountered the one B.O.W. so far so it was easy to assume that very few had survived.
He still had no clue how he'd managed to avoid getting killed in his short, one sided fight with massive B.O.W. that had been incubating in the facility. The B.O.W. had been too large for him to do much harm to it, his attempts at shocking it had only served to distract it, allowing Captain Redfield to escape. That had been enough for him and when it turned back to face him, knocking the last air from his lungs and sending him smashing into a wall he had been content with his last thought being that he had died doing the right thing.
Then he'd woken up to the situation he was currently in. All he could figure was that a chrysalis must have formed around him as he lost consciousness and it had kept him alive while his body mutated into something capable of surviving the conditions around him.
Bits of…something were falling down from above, settling on everything like snow. They clung to his antennae, which he shook clean. It might have been pretty if he could actually see it rather than merely feeling it. This was not what he'd imagined the bottom of the ocean to be like and it was something he would have been far happier if he'd never discovered that he'd been wrong about.
Fighting back the urge to sigh, which probably would have resulted in another lungful of water, he began to swim towards the surface, which was far more difficult than it should have been. During his training he'd gone through 'drown proofing', which was bitterly ironic given the situation he was in now. He knew that he was capable in the water, even under the worst of circumstances, but this was different.
While trapped in the compound he'd never really had to swim, mostly he'd just pulled himself along on whatever he could. Now he had to deal with compensating for his right arm being so much useless dead weight as well as discovering more of what was wrong with him. He'd thought he had webbed feet because that was the obvious conclusion when he came to terms with the fact that he was capable of surviving under water. He'd been wrong about that, his toes had just flattened out and grown longer and more flexible, meaning that he controlled direction more with how he spread them rather than by using his hands. It was a good thing he supposed, since when he tried to use his hands and arms to stabilize himself he tended to start listing to the left or right, depending on the direction he started over compensating in.
He was also starting to realize that he's been overly optimistic about the degree to which he had mutated. His original impression was that he was still himself, just with extras because of how he still felt so…normal. Now he was getting a feel for exactly how much he had changed. To support the changed structure of his right arm all the muscle groups attached to the limb had hypertrophied. Every time he tried to move his arm he could feel them pulling from where they attached to long spurs of bone jutting out of his back. The two pairs of insect-like limbs on his back had their own associated muscle groups, further distorting his frame. Small, rubbery nodules had erupted all over his back and sides. Resembling flesh of his mutated right arm, they were densest on that side and he was growing increasingly aware of them as he swam upwards. They had something to do with his sense of his surroundings, he was sure of it. Whatever allowed him to detect objects around him without seeing them was strongest on his right side, and the sense grew weaker moving down his body towards his legs.
His legs were another matter entirely. In the confines of the facility he'd never realized the extent to which they had distorted, but now he could feel that there was at least one extra joint between his knees and feet. Tension locked it in place while he was swimming, which was what had made him aware of it in to begin with. It did nothing to hamper his ability to swim. In the confines of the collapsed corridors it had probably helped him maneuver through some particularly tight squeezes, but he wasn't sure what it would mean when he got to the surface and was able to actually walk normally again. That was something to worry about when he actually got to the surface though. He had no idea how long it was going to take him to swim back up. No sense in worrying about something that might still be a long way off when there were other, more immediate things he could focus on like how he wasn't exactly alone.
The farther up he swam the larger and more dense the falling particles became and with them the fish. They were everywhere and of countless varieties both large and small swarming all around him as they ate the bits of whatever it was that was falling down from above.
Was this normal or did it have something to do with the collapse of the facility? He had no clue, all he knew was that the largest of the fish were bigger than he was and that in the distance he could sense even larger forms cutting through the water and scattering the smaller fishes. The realization that they were sharks brought with it a spike of fear until he noticed they were only interested in the smaller fish all around him.
Somewhere nearby he felt sudden movement and then the thrashings of an injured fish. One of the sharks must have attacked something and the others quickly moved off in that direction.
He continued to swim through the ink black water for what felt like an eternity, the transition from dark to light so slow that he didn't notice it until he realized that he was seeing flashes of movement as well as feeling them. Looking up he was able to see shadows above as well as the occasional flicker of light shining down through the water.
The further he went the more clear the view became. There was a massive debris field above him with all the fish and sharks focused on a single, impossibly enormous shape. They were swarming around it, pulling bits off of it and darting to snatch up the flakes that fell away. In the distance he could hear rumbles and crashes that he soon realized were the engines of boats. Whoever they were, they seemed to be sticking towards the edges of the debris field, which worked for him. If he was lucky he could surface and see who they were before taking any actions.
Using the huge, ragged shape bobbing on the surface as a landmark, he hurried upwards.
The thing started to take on a distinct form, though surrounded as it was by fishes it was difficult for him to tell what it was until he got closer. Somehow the massive B.O.W. that he and Chris had fought had actually been killed and its carcass had floated to the surface. Knowing that the thing was dead came as a huge relief. During his time trapped in the compound he hadn't given much thought to it except for the half formed idea that if he had encountered it he would have been given a second chance at a heroic death.
Reaching the surface a short distance from the rotting B.O.W. he retched violently, not from the stink, but from the stagnant water that had been trapped in his lungs His gills reflexively clamped down tight against his chest and he had to deal with the unnerving feeling of suffocation until he was able to clear his lungs well enough to take a breath.
It was one of the most intense experiences of his life, his lungs felt raw from all the abuse they had suffered and the air was burningly cold and so fresh that it made him dizzy. For several long minutes he simply remained treading water and getting used to how good it felt to actually breathe again. How had he lived his whole life until now ignorant of how good air smelled and tasted? The fact that there was an enormous, reeking thing only a few meters from him did nothing to diminish how wonderful it was.
Gradually the exhilaration started to fade and he was able to take stock of his situation. He could see the boats in the distance, an interesting collection of what looked like civilian research vessels and several larger ships that belonged to the BSAA. His earlier suspicions that his vision may have improved were confirmed by the fact that he was able to pick out the details of the BSAA logo on the side of one of the boats despite its distance. He could even see the people onboard well enough to notice that, for what should have been nothing more than a cleanup effort, there was a lot of tension.
Of course, the BSAA was probably stuck trying to monitor the activities of at least half a dozen other organizations who all had reasons for wanting samples of what was floating to the surface.
Yes, looking closer he was able to see that each of the civilian vessels had someone in the unmistakable uniform of the BSAA on them. That was good, better than he expected given what usually happened after incidents of this sort. Some of the boats were close enough that he'd probably be able to get their attention without having to swim any closer.
The question was, how to go about doing that?
He looked at his right arm, which was still a mess of malformed gray and red streaked tissue with exposed bone jutting out at irregular intervals. At least his previously exposed ribs on that side were mostly covered, albeit by the grayish armor that backed his gills. This was the first time he really took the chance to look at himself and he realized that the rest of him wasn't in much better shape than his arm. His whole chest was a patchwork of slick, gray-green flesh and raw red where his muscles had grown too fast for his skin. Black tinged veins pulsed across the ruined flesh and spread in a fine network across the surface of tumorous looking growths that budged out from between the irregular patches where his skin had turned into inflexible, leathery armor. Exposed to the air he could see little sparks arcing across the surfaces of the growths and along the raw muscle of his arm. His antennae, useless in the air, had folded back against his face and curled downwards to rest along his back. If he focused his eyes just right he could sort of see them, which also hinted at the positioning of however many additional eyes he had grown. Three seemed a fair guess based on the fact that his field of vision seemed larger all around, but far more so on the left side. On the bright side that probably meant that he would have an easier time adjusting to shooting left handed, though he was obviously getting ahead of himself with that thought.
If he were to attract any attention to himself he would be shot before he got the chance to explain himself. He knew B.O.W.s well enough that he felt confident that, barring a truly remarkable shot given the circumstances of a moving boat and a relatively small, very low target, he wouldn't be killed or even injured that severely. The thing was, he didn't want to get shot in the first place.
Watching the boats he searched for an opportunity. It would have to be one of the research vessels, one of the smaller ones only had two BSAA members on it which made it a good bet.
Movement drew his attention to another, much larger civilian research vessel. Everything was moving because of the waves so it took him some time to realize what had drawn his eyes to it. Training fought with his new senses until he realized why a certain patch of water was so attention grabbing. All the other bits of debris were bobbing up and down in place unless it was something light enough for the wind to catch, but in the one area there were several dark shapes that were moving towards the boat and against the wind.
His first thought was sharks, but there were sharks swimming all around him, occasionally close enough to the surface that he could see their fins and the things moving towards the boat were nothing like them. First there was the lack of fins, secondly they were moving too slowly. It was hard to tell given the distance, but they seemed almost human in shape.
Cautiously, he started paddling closer, trying to keep low and hiding amidst the debris as he moved in to get a better look.
Now that he knew what he was looking for he realized that there were at least half a dozen of the strange forms coming at the boat from different angles. Someone on the boat must have seen them as well because with a great deal of waving and pointing all of the BSAA agents on board gathered near the rear of the boat to look at something he wasn't able to see from where he was. One of them raised their rifle and fired a shot. Something thrashed in the water and there was a flurry of activity on the boat as the civilians either rushed for cover or hurried to see what was going on.
The commotion turned into panic as something pulled itself onto the boat.
Standing by and watching was against his nature and, despite not having a clear plan, he started to swim towards the boat. The floating garbage all around him got in the way and he fought his way through it, wasting valuable time until he realized that there was an easier way. Out of habit he took a deep breath before ducking under the water and swimming as fast as he could.
With his new senses he got a very clear picture of what was happening. At least a dozen of the slimy, wormlike B.O.W.s that wrapped themselves in a vaguely human shaped protective shell had swarmed the boat. He couldn't remember the name they'd been given, bu he recalled that they were nearly impossible to kill. One of them must have managed to get wrapped around the boat's propeller, because with the horrible noise of metal grinding and mechanical parts breaking the boat's engine fell silent. Streams of bubbles and dim popping noises reverberating through the water marked where shots were fired. The bullets only went down a meter or so before they slowed and disintegrated and he made a point of diving down below that range just to be safe.
Around him the water practically throbbed with energy as the electricity producing organs that had grown on his body went to work. He could feel the tension building in his right arm, exposed muscles twitching in anticipation of the coming release. Reaching the nearest B.O.W., which had yet to recognize him as a threat, he slammed his arm into it, bone spurs punching into rubbery flesh as he let loose.
Underwater the results were less dramatic than he had expected, with the B.O.W. merely tensing as the pale, fleshy worm emerged from its protective shell. He could tell that the thing was nearly dead, but he grabbed it with his left hand and dug his claws in for good measure, shaking it until it went still.
By this time those that hadn't made it to the boat realized that he was attacking them rather than joining in their attack and they swam feebly towards him, more pushing against each other and whatever else was near them than actually swimming on their own. He allowed them to draw close, his antennae sweeping wildly through the water as he worked to gauge range before letting off another massive discharge of electricity to stun them. He repeated the action several more times until something splashed into the water. The frantic movement more than anything else was what caused him to realize that someone had fallen overboard. No more using electricity then. At least the B.O.W.s were mostly stunned so they'd be easier to deal with.
Ignoring the person he hurried to finish off the B.O.W.s, pulling them apart to get to the actual worm creature inside. It was difficult, they were mostly protected by the humanoid shells they made for themselves, and when he reached down their throats or clawed his way through their boneless torsos he could feel the worms trying to squirm away. Stabbing his new limbs into them helped hold them in place while he fought them and he was willing to give his new form credit for giving credence to the 'weapon' aspect of B.O.W.
The continued thrashing near him finally drew his attention back to the person struggling to keep their head above water. They were a fellow BSAA soldier and he knew from his own experience just how poorly suited the standard gear was for aquatic situations. The guy was being dragged under by his own gear and between fear of drowning and being surrounded by B.O.W.s he was panicking too badly to manage to tread water.
Giving the B.O.W. he had hooked with both sets of stabbing limbs one last shake to be sure that it was really dead rather than just stunned he hurried over to the soldier. In his panic the man failed to notice him until he'd actually grabbed him by the front of his vest and hauled him to the surface.
Not realizing that he had been rescued the man struggled to break free from his grasp.
"Calm down, I've got you," Piers tried to reassure the man, but the words came out as a garbled grating noise due to the changes to his mouth and throat. Taking a deep breath he tried again, focusing on the individual sounds and the way his mouth moved, "I'm not going to hurt you."
This time he succeeded, though the wheezing rasp that his voice had become was unrecognizable, even to himself. The man seemed to have ceased his struggles and Piers let out a sigh of relief that cut short when he realized what was about to happen.
"Don't –" he started, but it was too late and his statement ended in a shout of pain as he felt the man plunged a knife into his shoulder.
It hurt badly enough that he was forced to let go, but at least he maintained enough control to stop himself from letting out a burst of electricity. Instead he dove down, thrashing helplessly in the water as he struggled to dislodge the blade.
In hindsight he should have seen it coming, he would have done the same thing given the situation. In fact he had to commend the guy for having the presence of mind to actually do it, which did nothing to change the fact that he now had a knife buried to the hilt in his good left arm. He pawed uselessly at with the fingerless mass at the end of his right arm, only managing to do more damage in the process.
Alright, he had to calm down, think. Could he manage to pull it out with his left hand?
The breath he hadn't even realized that he'd been holding escaped in a rush of bubbles when he tried.
No, that was out of the question, once he got his arm half way there the pain got so bad that he saw bursts of light and he couldn't manage to get his arm to bend at the right angle because of the knife.
Maybe if he twisted just right he could pull it out with his mouth. Not the best of plans, but it seemed like his only option.
Craning his neck he opened his mouth and froze when he realized that he could actually see his lower jaws spreading out. No wonder the guy had stabbed him. He'd realized that he had a mouthful of fangs, but he hadn't realized just how bad it was. Each side of his lower jaw terminated in a wickedly sharp looking bone spike and it turned out that his old, human set of teeth was still there, just shifted to the inner edge of each half.
Alright, enough being terrified of his own mouth he had to try and get the knife out.
He managed to hook the left half of his…mandibles, there was no other way of putting it, around the hilt of the knife and he tried to work the other side into position so that he could close them and pull the knife free. What happened instead was enough to make him recoil in horror. While he tried to figure out what set of new muscles in his face needed to move to close his mouth a second, smaller, set of sideways working mandibles latched onto the knife.
At least when he jerked his head back he managed to pull the knife free, a wispy cloud of blood rising up from the hole.
He let the knife fall and watched light flickering off its blade as it sank. By the time it had vanished from sight the bleeding had already stopped.
The question of what had been going on with his throat when he had eaten the eel and why talking was so hard had been answered. Pulling his secondary mandibles back down and using his left hand to make sure that everything was back in place with his mouth he decided that he could have lived a much more happy life without knowing that particular answer.
Above him the man was still struggling with his gear and one of the remaining B.O.W.s had started making its way towards him.
This wasn't going to be easy, but nothing ever was. He let out a silent sigh, the last air forced from his lungs in the process, as he swam back up. This time he grabbed the man from behind and started hauling him to the boat. He could see that there was still fighting going on there and from the noise and vibrations in the water he could tell that the other boats were drawing cautiously closer. At least no one had panicked and started shooting into the water. Right now he had to be thankful for the small things, like how much stronger he was than he had been. He had thought hauling the man he was trying to rescue onto the boat would have been a challenge, but he surprised himself with how easy it was to lift him up and more or less toss him to safety before pulling himself onto the boat.
There were still three B.O.W.s left standing and he meant to charge one to push it over the side and back into the water. Instead, not yet used to the way his legs worked, much less how to use them out of the water, he managed to fall face first onto the deck. The man he'd rescued was screaming and trying to draw attention to him, but the other BSAA members were too busy dealing with the ones actively attacking them to notice the one making a fool of itself by trying and repeatedly failing to stand. Everything would have been so much easier if every B.O.W. proved as useless as he was. There would have been no need for the BSAA to have soldiers if his situation were universal. Hell, there would have been no need for the BSAA because no one would want to bother with making B.O.W.s unless they needed a good laugh.
Half crawling, half falling he was able to make it to one of the B.O.W.s and sweep its legs out from under it with his right arm. If nothing else the limb made a good club. The stabbing limbs on his back followed the motion and dug into the B.O.W., pulling it down on top of him. Shots were fired, but they all managed to either miss entirely or hit the . The two of them rolled around on the deck while the BSAA soldiers jumped out of the way.
During the confusion he thought he heard one of the soldiers say, "Deal with the others first and let those two fight. We can deal with the one that survives."
He didn't care much for the last part of what the man said, but everything else he supported wholeheartedly and it seemed that everyone else agreed. At least as far as he could tell no one was shooting directly at him anymore.
He wrestled the B.O.W. across the deck until it managed to pull itself in half in an attempt to get free from his grip. The legs fell still while it wrapped its hands around his throat. That was fine, his gills were still half working, so he could mostly breathe and besides, he'd had days to get used to the feeling of suffocation.
Then the worm inside the thing rose up from its mouth and hissed wetly at him. He gritted his teeth, really more of grating all the different parts of his mouth against each other, and slammed his right arm down on it, dragging it into range of the rest of his limbs so that he could pull it apart.
Rolling back onto his stomach he made another attempt at getting up and this time, by letting his legs and feet bend in a way they decidedly shouldn't have been able to, he was able to stagger forward. He lurched over to where one of the two remaining B.O.W.s had managed to grab one of the BSAA soldiers. Like with the one he'd been fighting, the worm inside it surged out of its mouth, but before it was able to do whatever it was that it was trying to do he managed to grab it and throw it overboard. The soldier nearly fell in as well, but Piers was able to grab the man in time, fortunately managing to only use his left arm and not any of his other limbs.
During that time the other soldiers managed to deal with the last B.O.W. and he realized that the only reason they were holding their fire was because he was holding one of their own in front of himself.
This was his chance, the perfect opportunity that he'd been hoping for. He could identify himself and…
Assuming that the men on the boat listened to him what exactly did he expect would happen?
There was no cure of the C-virus, just a vaccine, so that was out of the question.
They'd have to take him back to land and put him in quarantine in some lab to run all sorts of tests to find a way to fix him, however long it took. The thought terrified him, he was going to end up trapped again, this time with no hope of escape. There was no fixing anyone as far gone as he was, any attempts would only kill him, which meant that they wouldn't try.
Worrying how to learn to shoot left handed was absurd because they'd never let him out in the first place. He'd be stuck sitting around and being worse than useless. He'd end up a drain on limited resources better used on projects that could actually help people instead of keeping a B.O.W. alive and in some semblance of comfort.
It was so easy to imagine himself in some sort of fancy fish tank in lab somewhere and even if he managed to prove that he was still sane, still himself, there was nothing anyone could do because it wasn't like he was simply infected with some virus. They couldn't let him out and go back to work because…where to start? He was the mother of all safety risks, no one would want to work next to the exact thing they were trying to eliminate and of course, the most obvious reason of all, he was still a B.O.W. If he was allowed to return to the BSAA it would mean that they were employing B.O.W.s in the most literal sense, which was illegal as hell and completely against the purpose of the organization.
And what about his surviving friends? What about Captain Redfield? He already beat himself up over every life lost under his command. How would he react to finding out that one of his men had survived as a monster? Would that be what it took to push him over the edge?
But that wasn't the worst of it, not by far.
He wanted to think that his noble sacrifice had inspired the Captain and that he'd be remembered as a hero. If he revealed himself now he'd lose that and instead he'd have to live as a monster. People wouldn't think about him and be inspired by his dedication, they'd talk about what a terrible thing it was that had happened to him. They wouldn't understand what had happened, wouldn't consider the circumstances and think that he was a hypocrite for turning himself into a monster.
It was so easy to imagine himself shunned by the very organization he had given so much for, left forgotten in some out of the way lab. Except he wouldn't be forgotten because he was certain that the Captain would come to visit him, because that was the kind of man Chris Redfield was. He'd come and visit as often as he could, which wouldn't be anywhere near often enough to make a difference for how lonely and isolated he would be, but it would be worse than him not visiting at all.
Because when the Captain would look at him he'd be seeing yet another failure, yet another good man who he'd sent to death and it would kill him.
That settled the matter.
Taking one last look at the sky and the boats gathered in a loose circle around them and birds picking at the floating hulk of the B.O.W. and at his fellow soldiers ready to shoot him the moment he gave them an opening he made his decision. Letting out a scream of rage and frustration he shoved the man he was holding away and dove overboard.
Bullets pounded into the water around him, but he was already too deep for them to do any harm. Little bits of shattered metal pattered against him as he swam away, leaving behind at least two men who had a story to tell that meant they'd never have to buy drinks again when out bullshitting at bars with friends.
The temptation to dive down and keep going until he reached the bottom was strong, but now wasn't the time for that. He'd seen firsthand that he wasn't the only thing to have survived and made it the surface. He could still help the BSAA, just not in a way that anyone would see or know about. That didn't matter of course, he hadn't joined the BSAA to be a hero or to be famous, he'd done it because it was the right thing to do and this was the right thing to do.
During the cleanup effort was over he'd stick around, picking off whatever B.O.W.s he could find and he'd keep at it until there were none left. Then he'd swim back down to the facility and scour every inch of it to be sure that nothing else survived. It would take a long time, but it needed to be done and he was the only one who could do it. He was starting to get a feel for what he'd become and if nothing else, it was very well suited for the task ahead.
Rolling over on his back he swam along with his eyes turned upwards, not looking to the surface, but scanning with all his senses for any telltale movement that would indicate a B.O.W.