Notes: This first chapter was originally posted under the name Sins of the Fathers as part of my Teratogenesis set of oneshots. I started getting ideas based on it and decided to continue it, making it its own story to keep things better organized. The next chapter and all the following ones will be all new content so feel free to skip ahead if you've already read this in its original posting. Thank you and I hope you enjoy.
Of all the things Jake had been ready for when the door to his cell swung open there being no one on the other side hadn't been one of them. His very first thought was that it had to be a dream because the whole place had a sort of dream like quality to it.
White walls, white light, white everything and nothing ever changed. He received his meals at the same time every day, blood samples were taken at regular intervals. The only break in the routine was that on occasion he would be injected with something, and that was the entirety of what happened. The injections never did anything as far as he could tell so after the first month or so he'd stopped worrying. About the injections at least, there were plenty of other things for him to worry about, such as what was happening in the world outside.
It had been one hundred and fifty four days by his count, and he was sure that he had missed some, since he and Sherry had been captured. Anger had given way to frustration had given way to tedium and after all that time he knew no more about what was going on than he had when he first woke up in the blindingly white room.
He would have thought that being Umbrella's captive would have been terrifying, but it wasn't, not on its own at least. Waiting and being helpless wasn't a walk in the park by any means, but at the same time he understood how much worse his situation could have been. He just hoped that Sherry was okay. There was no reason for him to worry about her, but it helped break up the monotony and the more he thought about it the more he decided she was kind of cute, in a stuck up, naïve sort of way.
On several occasions he'd attempted to start a conversation with the guards in a desperate attempt to learn what was going on, but that hadn't worked. He could barely string a sentence together in Mandarin and the guards did a pretty good job of pretending they didn't speak anything else even though at least two of them clearly weren't Chinese. Combine that with the fact that that it was a coin toss as to whether the guard outside his cell would be a human or a J'avo and it wasn't worth the risk. The human ones would just ignore him, the J'avo were more likely to come in and beat the shit out of him for sport. He wasn't a pushover by any means and could hold his own in a fight, just not against something that was basically a B.O.W.
On the bright side the J'avo were more likely to talk between themselves when they were by his cell, meaning that he was able to overhear some fairly interesting conversations. He'd managed to pick up enough Mandarin to follow simple conversations and thanks to repetition and tone there were times he could take a guess about what was being discussed. What he'd managed to understand wasn't comforting. The name Wesker had been mentioned too many times for it to be coincidence.
Crazy as it might have been, he hoped that it was because Wesker had somehow managed to survive and was behind all of this, because otherwise the implications were even more unpleasant. Sherry had tracked him down for a reason, had known that he'd be immune to the latest viral super weapon. It was something he didn't want to think about. Of course trying not to think about it only made him turn endless possibilities over in his mind as he stared at the blank white walls of his cell.
He knew his mother had been to America, worked there for a length of time, and that his father had been an American she'd met at her job. She hadn't talked much about where she'd been or what she'd done, which made it too easy to imagine the worst case scenarios, something he wasn't comfortable doing. He wasn't stupid enough to think that his mother had been a saint before she died, but there were some things he was sure she wouldn't have done. Besides, she'd reassured him countless times that his father had been a good man, that it had been all the trouble in America that kept him from finding them. There had been no reason to assume anything other than his father was a deadbeat who'd abandoned them and his mother was in denial.
Except he was still alive and sane, not running around as some bug-eyed J'avo after unknowingly injecting himself with the C-virus. What were the odds that he of all people would be immune to it? Good enough that someone in the American government had had been betting on it, sending out a human B.O.W. to find him. Because that's what Sherry was, wasn't she? She might have looked like a little girl, but he'd seen firsthand what she was capable of.
Then there was what the woman, Ada Wong, who'd captured them had said.
Once he found Sherry, if he found Sherry, she was going to have a lot of explaining to do.
And now that his cell door was open there just might be a chance at it.
Expecting a trick, some strange test by Umbrella, he cautiously pushed the door the rest of the way open and was genuinely surprised to find that the hall was empty.
It meant nothing of course, they could be watching his every move through cameras, but that was no reason for him to not at least try.
He made his way down the hall, the same unrelenting white as his cell, more carefully than was typical for him, but after spending half a year trapped in one room, taken out only for testing and experiments, he had good reason to be cautious.
There were dozens of doors in the hall, all opened and leading to cells like his, all empty which was probably for the best. If there'd been other captives there was no guarantee that they be friendly or even human. It was Umbrella after all.
At the same time he was disappointed that Sherry was nowhere to be found. It was stupid for him to have hoped for as much. Not even Umbrella was stupid enough to keep two high value prisoners close enough to talk to each other, even if they were locked away twenty-four seven.
Still, he was frustrated that she wasn't there, ready and raring to go like she'd been when he'd first met her. It was crazy how much he'd thought about her since they'd been captured, and not just because she'd been the last friendly face that he'd seen. There was no time to worry about any of that now though, not when there was a chance that he might actually be able to get out.
Ignoring the empty cells he hurried to the end of the hall and, hoping for the best, turned right.
No more cells, just a short hall that dead ended at a door that clearly lead to a stairwell. Again he had to make a choice and hope for the best when he decided to go down. If he was in one of the building's basement levels then he was screwed, but he hoped that he'd be able to figure that out before it became a problem.
Going down one flight he left the stairwell, hoping that he'd find himself somewhere he would be able to gain his bearings. Instead he found himself in another plain, white hall. This one was slightly different looking than the one in the cellblock, something he decided to take as a good sign. There was paneling on the walls and the ceiling tiles were sound dampening ones.
The first door he checked was to an empty room, the next had a white table and white chairs of a cold, industrial design. He wouldn't even be able to break a leg off one of them to use as an improvised weapon, so he closed the door and moved on.
After that he found another empty room, a storage room and a rock garden of all things, followed by a room full of computers, all passcode locked, everything in the same white on white on white.
Maybe his escape really was a dream and he was about to wake up on a table, coming out of anesthesia after some horrible experiment.
The sound of voices and hurried footsteps in the distance made him duck into the nearest room, which turned out to be a server room. Short of pushing something over on whoever came to get him there was nothing he could use as a weapon. There wasn't even anywhere he could hide.
Less than five minutes out and he was about to get captured yet again.
The voices were getting closer.
They sounded human, so maybe he had a chance. If he got the jump on one of them and managed to wrestle his gun from him he might be able to take out the second before they got the chance to alert the rest of the guards to his location.
If there were only two of them that would work. Just because he only heard two voices didn't mean there were only two of them.
Straining to hear how many sets of footsteps there were he waited, hardly daring to breathe.
Any second now they'd open the door and he'd have to act. The least he could do was put up a fight.
They were right outside the door where they stopped.
Rapid back and forth conversation followed, too fast for him to catch anything of importance. An alarm went off somewhere and they took off running.
Their voices faded into the distance.
It wasn't him that they were after, which meant one of several things. He wasn't the only one to have escaped, Sherry had gotten out as well and was causing trouble elsewhere in the facility, or the place was under attack by some unknown outside agency.
Funny that his first thought was of Sherry when it was equally likely that some sort of monster had gotten out when the doors opened and was going on a rampage through the place. There were other options though. Someone might have come to rescue him, probably whoever Sherry worked for because he couldn't think of anyone who would want to come after him, unless Sherry hadn't been full of shit when talking about how valuable his blood was for making vaccines. Umbrella had certainly taken enough of it.
Jake didn't like the implications of that. There wasn't too big a market for zombie viruses, but vaccines and treatments for them where in high demand, even though most of them didn't work worth a damn. On the other hand, the Americans had been willing to take a big gamble going after him, which had to mean something. It was possible that a whole new age of biological warfare was starting, with him at the center of it all and he wasn't going to make a dime off of it. If only Umbrella had made him an offer instead of kidnapping him. Then again, it was a lot easier for them to take what they needed than it would have been to get into a bidding war with the American government.
So maybe Sherry's employers had tracked him down again and were coming to get him. The idea that he was valuable enough that Sherry's employers would attempt to rescue him was an interesting one, but not one that meant anything good for him. Most likely he'd be trading one set of captors for another in that case and the new ones would probably be far less accommodating. As captivity went what he'd been through wasn't too bad, it still sucked, but it beat the hell out of being chained up in a glorified closet or dumped in what amounted to a hole in the ground, both of which had been possibilities. Umbrella had more money than common sense, which had worked fairly well for him up to this point. Three meals a day, an actual bed, showers every three days and as long as he didn't antagonize the J'avo, relatively little abuse.
What it came down to was, even if someone had come to rescue him, it was best for him not to wait for them to find him.
With that in mind he left the server room and continued to explore. Maybe he'd find a weapon, maybe he'd find a way out, either one was fine by him.
The very next room he found was the jackpot, a locker room. White lockers, of course, but breaking the pattern of things they had ordinary master locks, not keypads or locks built into the doors.
It was something that might actually work for him.
He walked up and down the rows, giving each lock a tug. There was always a chance that one of the locks had stuck after being closed and enough of them were in bad enough condition that one sticking seemed a very real possibility. He was willing to guess that the lockers belonged to security, which gave him even more reason to try and get into at least one.
It had to be security because so many of the lockers had dented doors, something he chose to attribute to the shit impulse control that J'avo showed. They liked yelling and punching things when they got pissed off, doors, walls, him, each other, and they got pissed off a lot. Over time they'd also gotten increasingly common, the human guards either leaving or being infected.
Halfway down the third row he struck gold, a lock too twisted to even close.
Inside was a loaded gun, some shitty mostly plastic looking piece of Chinese garbage, because apparently just because Umbrella could afford the best of everything didn't mean that they were going to give it to B.O.W.s. More importantly there was a uniform that looked like it would fit him, complete with a face concealing mask.
He got dressed as quickly as he could, putting on the mask as well. It wasn't the best of disguises and would fail the moment anyone said anything to him, but if he was careful it might let him get farther than he would have without it.
Feeling more confident for having a plan and a gun he left the locker room and resumed searching for a way out.
The alarm continued to blare, a recorded message joining the sound. It was in Chinese so he had no idea what it was about, but he got the feeling that there was more going on than just his getting out.
Breaking into a slow jog he finished checking behind every door in the hall and found nothing more of use. It figured that finding a floor plan posted somewhere was too much to ask and all the computers he'd found had required a password.
Back to the stairwell then.
He started to go down again, stopping when he heard a commotion from below. By the sounds of it there was an argument going on, one that he had no desire to get involved it since it sounded like most of the individuals involved were J'avo.
So that meant going back up was his only choice.
Stopping at the door to the cell blocks, he hesitating just long enough for the door two flights down to slam open and a mixed group of uniformed J'avo and human guards to pour into the stairwell. The argument, whatever it was about, was still going on and none of them even looked up at him.
The group stormed up the stairs and went straight past him into the cell block, one of the J'avo stopping just long enough to shove him out of the way and scream something that sounded like garbled profanity at him. The last of the group, one of the human guards looked at him, looked through the open door before speaking to him.
Jake had no idea what the man was saying, but he sounded terrified.
When the man repeated the last bit of what he'd said, looking at Jake with a hopeful expression Jake shrugged, hoping that whatever question he'd just been asked wasn't one that needed any more of an answer.
The man let out a nervous laugh and ran up another flight of stairs and out the door.
If Jake had to take a guess about what had just happened it was that he'd been right about not being the only one to have gotten out and that something, possibly several somethings, were loose in the building and the man had decided to get the fuck out. Considering Umbrella's track record it was a fairly safe guess and if that were the case following the fleeing guard might be the best thing to do.
Letting the door to the cell block close Jake weighed his options.
In the cell block the argument was still going on, loud enough for him to hear through the door. One of the J'avo, possibly the one that had pushed him judging by how incoherent it sounded, was screaming now. Maybe they'd arrived at his cell and seen that it was empty.
The message accompanying the alarm changed and red warning lights started flashing.
Whatever was going on was getting worse.
Another J'avo started yelling and, much to Jake's surprise, shots were fired. Apparently Umbrella still hadn't figured out how to control its monsters.
It was good for him though, the added confusion meant that it would take longer for anyone to start looking for him.
Making up his mind Jake went up and out the door the guard had gone through to see if it really was the way out.
The hall into which the man had fled looked promising, more so than the previous area he'd searched. Despite being the same unrelenting white as everywhere else, it looked more like something out of an office building than a lab or a prison.
Turning a corner he found the guard, or what was left of him.
It looked like he'd been attacked by a wild animal, or, more likely, a B.O.W. His throat had been torn out and his stomach ripped open. There was blood everywhere, splattered on the walls, the floor, even the ceiling. The thing must have gotten the drop on him because he hadn't even had a chance to draw his weapon.
Whatever it was couldn't have gone far and the last thing Jake wanted to do was run into it. Even if it didn't catch him unawares like it had the guard, he doubted that the gun he had would be enough to do much more than piss it off. Unfortunately, if the guard really had been trying to escape that meant the way out was past what was left of him, in the direction the B.O.W. was likely waiting.
Slowly, carefully, Jake inched past the body and down the hall. The guard had been torn up pretty badly, but Jake had heard enough stories about B.O.W.s carrying the viruses used to make them that he wouldn't have been too surprised if the guard got back up and came at him. Shooting the body in the head would be a good way to prevent that from happening, but it would also alert whatever had killed the man.
Up ahead there was an open door on the right side of the hall, smears of blood leading into the room. The room itself was unlit and large enough that he couldn't see much of anything past the half open door.
That had to be where the thing was. If he could make it past the door unnoticed he'd be safe.
Something moved in the room and he froze.
More movement, a crash and then a low moan of terror.
It had been months, but the sound of the voice was unmistakable.
Like he'd thought, she'd gotten out as well and now she was trapped in the room with whatever had killed the guard.
More noise in the darkened room, something large, maybe a table or desk being knocked over and shoved aside.
"Jake? Oh no. Please no. No no no no," she whimpered in the darkness.
"Don't worry," he reached into the room, feeling along the wall to try and find a light switch, "I'll get you out of here."
He didn't know how, but he wasn't about to leave her to get mauled.
The sound of the B.O.W.'s ragged, animal panting filled the room.
Sherry sobbed, "It wasn't supposed to be like this."
"You'll be fine," he reassured, still fumbling for the light switch. He'd seen her recover from what should have been a fatal injury, there was no reason for him to be worried as long as he could get the thig away from her, but how frantic, how hurt she sounded tore at him, "I'm not going to let anything hurt you."
Finding the light switch he flipped it on and jumped back from the door, expecting the thing to lunge at him the moment there was light in the room.
There was nothing in the room other than a number of scattered chairs and an overturned table in the far corner, behind which he could hear Sherry's muffled sobs.
"Where is it?" As soon as the words left his mouth he wanted to kick himself.
Behind the table Sherry let out an anguished wail.
"Shit," he pulled the mask off and threw it to the floor, "I'm sorry. I wasn't…"
Of course there was no 'it'. Even though he'd been thinking about it earlier he'd managed to forget that Sherry wasn't human. She was probably some sort of miniature Tyrant, something which he realized sounded far more adorable than it had any right to, probably because it was Sherry that he was thinking of. Tyrants could take a lot of punishment, but there was only so far they could go before they started to mutated. Umbrella had probably done things to her, messed her up pretty bad and B.O.W. or not, Sherry was still very much a little girl.
A little girl who, at the moment, was hyperventilating.
"Calm down," Jake made his way into the room, carefully stepping around the toppled chairs, "We'll get out of here and –"
She started crying.
On some level he knew what he was doing was crazy, walking into a room and trying to talk to a B.O.W., but the way she was carrying on he couldn't help but imagine that it was just the little blond girl that he'd been through so much insanity with that was hiding on the other side of the table. He just couldn't reconcile the sound of her crying with a Tyrant, miniature or not.
"It wasn't supposed to happen like this," she gasped out between sobs, her voice shrill with fear, "I was supposed to – Oh Jake, I didn't want…"
"Just calm down. Whatever they did to you, it's done now. We can get out of here and that'll be that," leaving her would probably be for the best, except if he did he wouldn't be able to live with himself. It would be like abandoning a stupid little kid in the middle of a warzone. A stupid kid, who, Tyrant or not, was kind of cute, "Once we're out of here you can contact your employers, let them know where we are and I'll let you take me to them. They can get all the samples they need and I won't make them pay."
His outrageously generous offer only made her cry even harder.
Still hidden behind the table Sherry continued her crying fit, "It's not…I can't. They're going to…"
"Unless you know more than I do, we don't know what's happened since we got captured," he reminded her, "It might not be too late."
"It is!" she screamed, "I just…just…Jake, I can't…"
"How do you know?" he snapped back, starting to get frustrated with the whole situation. They needed to get out but she seemed hell bent on being miserable. Unless she really did know something that he didn't, "Umbrella wouldn't have kept us here this long if there wasn't something they needed. They can't have succeeded in whatever it is that they're trying to do, not yet at least."
"Maybe," the table moved slightly. By the sounds of it she'd punched it, "I don't know."
"So do you want to stick around and try to stop them?" he didn't think so, but considering how much America loved the idea of some big hero putting saving the day on their own it was always a possibility.
"No, we can't! I can't," Sherry gasped, "She brought that thing, Ustanak, here. I can't fight it. She'd let it…it would stand outside where they kept me and…Jake that thing would…I don't want to ever see it again."
"What the fuck do you want then?" he shouted, exasperated with how long she'd been carrying on for when there were more important things to worry about, like escaping.
"I-I just wanted to be allowed out," she stammered, "I begged Derek for years and th-this was it. They let me go on the mission to find you and if I did a good job of it I'd…they'd let me…I thought, maybe…I just wanted to go outside without guards and fences everywhere. Ever since I was little I dreamed that…"
He'd assumed that she'd volunteered for the project or something, but the way she was talking made it sound like she'd been an experiment since she was a little kid. No wonder she acted so clueless if she'd been kept locked away for most of her life, except it didn't explain what had her so upset. All that time should have meant that she was used to the idea of what she was.
"You found me," he gave an exasperated sigh, "So if we get out of here it's mission complete. You did it! Good job! Everyone's happy!"
Her scream was somewhere between an animal howl of pain and a child's heartbroken sob.
"What's wrong?" it was a stupid, useless question to be asking, but if he got an answer maybe he'd be able to make some progress.
"I-I," her voice grew soft, little more than a whisper, "I don't want to be a monster. Jake, I don't-I don't…I…"
So far he'd stopped a few feet from the table and was unable to see her. All he knew was that whatever had happened, it couldn't have been that bad. She was probably just a little messed up, claws for sure considering what she'd done to the guard, maybe some exposed muscle and other stuff that she'd probably be able to hide if she dressed right, but it couldn't have been that bad. The fact that she was still coherent enough to be upset about it was proof of that. Maybe if he'd been in her situation he'd be pissed off, but he was sure that he wouldn't be a wreck like she was. Probably the reason she was so upset was because she was a woman and cared about her appearance.
"It can't be that bad," but he kept his distance, waiting for her to get up from her hiding spot.
"It's bad," she whimpered.
"We can worry about it once we get out of here," he snapped. If she didn't get up from behind the table by the time he counted to ten he was going to go over there, pull her to her feet and drag her out.
Sherry shifted slightly, sniffled loudly and made no attempt to do anything else.
"Are you really going to make me pick you up and carry you out of here?" Jake demanded.
"I don't think…" her statement trailed off in a hysterical giggle.
"That's the problem," he grumbled as he looked over the table, "You don't…"
The thing on the other side stared up at him, blue gray eyes wide with terror. They were the one thing that remained recognizable and even they hadn't remained unchanged. The shape of her pupils was all wrong, wavery, and streaks of color had spread out into the whites. What struck him the most was that they were the saddest looking eyes he'd ever seen in an otherwise expressionless face, leathery bruise colored skin stretched taunt over a mask-like plate of bone. Thin lips pulled back from jagged yellow fangs in a fearful grimace.
"It's…" Sherry started.
"Not that bad," he lied, holding out a hand to help her up. It was bad, it was awful, but he'd seen worse.
She reached out with claws long and sharp as knives then stopped. They were smeared red with the dead guard's blood.
Shaking, she pulled her arm back and covered her face.
The motion was difficult for her. It was hard for him to tell, but it looked like her shoulders had been twisted out of place and reset in a new position. The question was, had it been due to injury that hadn't healed properly or was it just part of the mutation she'd undergone?
What exactly had they done to her?
Whatever it was it must have been pretty bad to leave her in the state she was in. She'd been so cheerful, so stupidly optimistic and trusting. Now she was a shaking wreck, unable to even make eye contact, something that was made all the more pathetic by the physical changes she'd undergone.
Never in his life had he felt as bad for someone as he did for her at this moment.
"Come on super girl," carefully he knelt down and put a hand on her shoulder, "We've got to get out of here."
Her skin twitched at the touch, muscles spasmming beneath his fingers. When he lifted his hand an enormous red eye opened, its irregularly shaped slit pupil widening until it was nearly round. It rolled wildly in its socket, blinked several times and closed. The fact that he didn't shout, jump back or respond in any way was a testament to the shit he'd seen.
When Sherry remained motionless he took her by the arm and had a go at pulling her to her feet.
She made no attempt at resisting, which he figured made for a good start.
Once he had her on her feet he was able to get a better look at her. The first thing he realized was that the fact that she had tried to hide from him was the only thing that had prevented a disaster. If he'd seen her standing in the hall he wouldn't have recognized her and would have opened fire the instant he saw her. There was nothing of the crazy little girl he'd first met left. Hell, she hardly even looked human.
The thing standing in front of him was taller than he was, by a foot at least, and, proportionally, considerably wider across the shoulders, though that was likely due to the way her arms had gained an extra joint there, possibly to accommodate the second, smaller set of arms that was still partially fused to her chest. The thing was, as twisted as her anatomy was, she looked a lot better off than any of the C-virus mutants they'd encountered in that she was still roughly symmetrical. The changes, though horrific, seemed less random, as though there was a process to what had happened to her, a progression towards a final point. Add that to the fact that he couldn't see any exposed organs or open wounds and over all things weren't really that bad, or at least they could have been a lot worse. She wasn't at all what he would have expected from a human based B.O.W., more natural looking if a B.O.W. could be described that way.
Or maybe he was trying to justify the fact that he wasn't utterly revolted by her because he was pretty sure he should have been.
The whole time he looked her over she kept her head turned away from him, but at the same time she stared straight at him with the set of red, slit-pupiled eyes in her shoulders. He could tell that she could see with them because they followed his every move, widening and then rapidly closing when he looked at them.
What was it with viruses and extra eyes? At least they weren't blank white bug eyes like J'avo had.
Because this was better, somehow.
An explosion somewhere in one of the lower floors shook the facility.
Sherry tensed, the eyes in her shoulders opening up to look around fearfully.
"Let's go," he ordered, resisting the urge to raise his voice. It wasn't because he was afraid that Sherry would attack him, she'd already made it clear that wasn't about to happen. Instead his concern was that she might start crying again. He wouldn't normally care about something like that, but this was Sherry and if he was going to be honest with himself, he'd somehow ended up growing to kind of like the crazy American.
If he was going to be absolutely honest with himself, he still kind of liked her. Except it was more than kind of.
When she remained standing, frozen in place watching him, he grabbed her by the wrist.
Strong as she was, there was no way he could have dragged her if she'd resisted, but she didn't even try. Meekly she followed him, her breath short and sharp, like she was trying not to cry.
When they went into the hall she whimpered and grabbed his shoulder with her smaller set of arms. Those slender, bony fingers were surprisingly strong.
Turning back to look at her he saw that all of her eyes were tightly shut.
As much as he wanted to ask her what had her in such a bad way, he held his tongue, afraid that saying anything would bring on another crying fit. There would be time to make sense of things later, but for now getting out had to be their number one priority.
There was another explosion, this one louder, and the lights went out.
Between being plunged into total darkness and trying to guide Sherry he miss-stepped and nearly fell. Sherry's death grip on his shoulder was enough to keep him standing. Reflexively, she pulled him in close, awkwardly wrapping one of her larger, main arms around him. He could feel her shaking.
"Can you see?" he asked hopefully. All those eyes had to be good for something.
"No," she whimpered, gripping him even tighter, "It's too dark."
He'd noticed that, in the cabin, until he got the fire going she'd been anxious, looking all around and jumping at every little noise outside, like she thought they were about to be attacked. At the time he'd figured that it was because of exactly that, that she was still jumped up on adrenaline, not he couldn't help but wondering, "Are you afraid of the dark or something?"
"Yes," she said quietly, "Ever since…"
Amazing, the Americans had managed to make a humanoid B.O.W. that was afraid of the dark. There was a joke in there somewhere. Except maybe he was wrong to think of it that way. Maybe he should be thinking of her as the little girl she'd resembled when he first met her. A naïve little girl who'd thought that everything would turn out okay despite being caught up in the middle of the biggest bioterror incident since Terragrigia. And she was afraid of the dark and had been for a long time.
That was all it took for his frustration to fade to pity.
The alarms, which had been sounding the whole time, fell silent.
"This isn't good," Jake muttered, debating whether or not he should make Sherry take the lead for the simple reason that if they were to run into anything unpleasant she'd be the most able to deal with it. Practicality fought with how bad he felt for her and was, to his surprise, lost.
"On the way up here I found a lab where they were keeping some chrysalids," she said in a hurried whisper, "I let them out because I thought they'd help cover our escape."
Great, just great. They were trapped in the dark with who knew how many B.O.W.s, ones that weren't afraid of the dark.
"I messed up."
Panic was starting to creep back into her voice, exactly what he didn't need.
"No you didn't," he reassured, "Anything that keeps the guards here busy and out of our way is a good thing. As soon as you're ready we can start moving. I'll lead the way."
There was a long pause, then, "Okay."
Keeping a hand on the wall he started making his way forward, Sherry clinging to him for dear life. It was awkward going and, thanks to the fact that Sherry had started crying again, there was no way he'd be able to hear if there was anything heading their way unless it was making an awful lot of noise.
Eventually they reached the end of the hall and had the choice of going either left or right.
"Which way?" he asked figuring, that since Sherry had taken a different route through the building, she might have a better idea of where to go.
He could feel her shifting her weight as she thought, fidgeting nervously.
A hum filled the air, coming from one of the floors beneath then. Considering the sorts of mutations he'd seen with the J'avo his first thought was of some sort of giant insect, but the noise was constant, mechanical. A moment later red emergency lights flickered on.
Sherry tensed, nearly jerking him off his feet.
"Take it easy," he patted her arm.
"Right," she said, loosening her grip on him slightly, "I mean we should go to the right. There's nothing down the hall to the left."
Her tone left him doubtful if there was nothing in that direction. Nothing useful maybe, nothing she wanted to talk about, but there was something down there.
So they went right until they came to a door.
Sherry let go of him and took a step back, getting into position to cover him when he opened it, not that she had any way of following through on the intent if she needed to. Despite what she'd done to the guard he had his doubts that she'd lunge past him to deal with any threats if it came to that.
Still, it was the thought that counted.
Readying his gun he reached out and turned the knob. When he went to pull it open he discovered that the door was much heavier than it looked. That could have meant a lot of things given their location, but he chose not to dwell on why a door in an Umbrella facility might be reinforced.
Looking back at Sherry he gave her what he hoped was an encouraging smile, then started to open the door.
A thin sliver of bright, normal light shone into the hall. It was too much to hope for that they'd already found the way out, which meant that the part of the building they were about to enter still had full power. Either it was more important or on a different grid, possibly both.
On the other side he could hear voices talking in Chinese. They sounded angry, but the language itself always sounded angry to him. Normal conversations between the guards and scientists that he'd overheard had sounded like they could have degenerated into a fistfight at a moment's notice, and those had just been mundane greetings and polite conversation. The yelling of the J'avo had sounded like total insanity.
Opening the door far enough to look he peered into the hall beyond.
In what had to be one of the most surreal things he'd ever seen he found himself staring out into a hall that wouldn't have been out of place in a luxury hotel. The walls were dark wood and the floor was covered in thick carpet and expensive looking rugs. There were paintings on the walls, all in ornate frames and in the middle of the hall a group of men in suits and masks were talking loudly in Chinese. Whatever they were supposed to be, they didn't look like guards, even though they were all armed. The masks meant that they were probably J'avo and since they weren't waving their guns around or shoving each other they clearly weren't terribly excited about anything.
It was easy to assume that they worked for Umbrella, but at the same time months had passed since they'd been captured, so there was no reason to assume that every mutant worked for the same boss. There'd been the company he'd been working with after all, used as a quick distraction for some larger, unknown purpose that seemed to have centered on finding and capturing him.
Stepping to the side he motioned for Sherry to go over and look, "There's five of them. They're all armed, but they don't look like they work here. I'm not sure if the place is under attack and our escape just happened to line up with it, or if these guys have been brought in to help find us."
Sherry went to look, in the process letting him get a look at her back and yet another eye, this one just off center beneath her right shoulder. Or above the shoulder of the smaller set of arms. Opposite the eye there was a long row of stitches, indicating there should have been another.
What had Umbrella done, injuring her in a way that she wasn't able to regenerate from it? As much as the idea infuriated him, he understood the logic behind it, keeping something potentially dangerous they'd want to have a way to kill it if they needed to. It also meant that he'd have to be careful to make sure that nothing happened to her because… Just because she was a B.O.W. didn't mean that he shouldn't be worried about her.
Closing the door slightly, Sherry continued to look out at the men in the hall, all the while keeping the eye on her back fixed on him, "Do you think they're J'avo or you know, people?"
Suddenly it all fell into place, her freak out earlier, the way she hadn't been able to look when they went into the hall, it all made sense. The guard had been the first actual person she'd killed. Jake had forgotten exactly how bad that moment was, the first time you ended the life of another human being. He still remembered his first time, how he and his friends had gone out and gotten drunk later that night. He'd drank until he was sick and then kept drinking because that at least had given him an excuse to be sick. It was the amount of blood that had gotten to him, and that had been after shooting someone a good distance away. Sherry had been right up in there, using her claws to tear the guard apart, smelling it, feeling it. That had to be the reason, or at least part of it.
"My money's on J'avo, the masks are what give them away. The masks and the yelling," he said quickly, hoping he was right, "If we take them out fast everything's going to be good. We take what we can from their gear, get you a gun and get the fuck out of here because this has to be the way out."
He was pretty sure that she'd be able to use a gun with her smaller set of arms, her aim would be shit, but just having it would help.
"Should I help?" Sherry asked, shaking slightly, either from fear or the desire to do something.
Despite his concern for her, it was difficult not to give a bitingly sarcastic answer to a question like that. There were five of them, one of him, they were all armed and he doubted that he'd be able to do enough damage to kill even one of them if they were J'avo. Of course he expected her to help, but at the same time he was worried about her. There was no reason for it given the situation, but that didn't change how he felt.
He was about to get into one of the most one sided fights he'd ever been in, or it would have been if not for the fact that he had a B.O.W. on his side and he was willing to tell said weapon to sit this one out because he was concerned about her.
The only explanation for it all was that he'd gone crazy.
"You really think they're J'avo?" Sherry asked again, seeking reassurance.
That was the problem, he was still thinking of her as Sherry. He'd known that she wasn't human, even when she'd looked it, for enough time that he'd gotten used to the idea. Now that she looked like what she was he was still able to think of her as a girl rather than a monster. A girl that he'd somehow fallen for.
"Yes, they're J'avo," he sighed, knowing that there were two ways the situation could end. The J'avo would finish their conversation and walk away, or, more likely considering how things tended to turn out for him, they'd start heading towards the two of them.
"Okay. I think I can…" Sherry stopped to take a deep breath and when she next spoke it was with more confidence than she'd had since their capture, "I can handle J'avo."
Having said as much Sherry rushed through the door and charged the group.
She smacked the first across the face, shattering his mask and sending him flying as she slammed into the next closest and smashed him against the wall.
Using the door for cover Jake took aim and shot a third in the chest. His only thought was that he hoped that they were J'avo, because if they were human he was going to feel like such an asshole for convincing her to attack them.
The one he'd shot remained standing, which didn't mean anything. He could have been wearing a bulletproof vest under his suit, but then the one Sherry had clawed stood up. With the mask gone he could see its five bulging white eyes.
The fact that he was relieved that they were J'avo was proof of how fucked up the whole situation was.
Glad that he hadn't set Sherry up for another panic attack Jake kept shooting, trying for headshots, not that it seemed to have done much good in the past.
Sherry had managed to hook her claws into the one that she'd knocked into the wall and slammed him head first into the wall, the wood splintering from the repeated impacts, before throwing him at one that started shooting at her.
The pair fell to the floor in a tangled heap, giving her the space she needed to grab the J'avo that Jake had been shooting by the arm and twist. There was a sickening crack as bone broke, her claws slicing through the J'avo's flesh with a spray of slime as the limb tore off. Overbalanced, she staggered back, barely managing to catch herself. At that point Jake had to stop and reload, so she was on her own.
Growling, she charged forward and grabbed the J'avo that had had managed to disentangle itself from its dying comrade and tackled it to the floor. Pinning down with her main arms she used her smaller set of limbs to punch it in the face again and again. Frail as they looked, those limbs were still inhumanly strong. Jake could hear the bones of the thing's face shattering as steam and slime poured from its injuries.
When she finally let go it remained on the floor twitching like a bug in its death throes, its head little more than a mess of ooze and bone fragments.
The J'avo whose arm she'd ripped off let out a shrill screech as the mangled stump stretched into a massive scythe-like limb. Before it managed to use its new weapon, which looked like it was capable of doing some serious damage, Jake shot it between its uppermost pair of eyes. It staggered a few steps towards him, then fell to the floor, its regenerative abilities having been pushed to their limits by so much damage inflicted so quickly.
Another headshot caused one of the two remaining J'avo to drop to its knees, slime seeping from its injuries, while Sherry finished the last by more or less tearing it in half before smashing the kneeling J'avo with all four arms before its body could finish hardening into a chrysalis.
Jake stepped out into the hall and surveyed the carnage, "Good job. Really impressive."
He meant it too. Having seen what she'd done to the guard had been one thing, but actually watching what she was capable of was another. Whatever virus the American government used on her was like nothing he'd ever imagined was possible. Despite being mutated to the point where she wasn't even recognizable as human she was still sane, still herself. That any country was able to make a virus like that was terrifying. It made him glad for America's hypocritical stance on B.O.W.s, because if they'd been openly making and using things like Sherry it would have been the end of his line of work. No one would want to work as a contractor if there was a risk of running into an opposing force made of B.O.W.s that could think, follow orders, and work together. Just the thought of them would be enough to make people stop what they were doing, or resort to other methods.
He stared down at the smoldering remains of the J'avo, wondering for a moment if he was seeing the future of war. Monsters fighting monsters while guys like him, normal human soldiers, became obsolete.
Then Sherry looked at him and smiled weakly before grabbing a wall hanging and attempting to wipe the gore from her claws. The absurd sight made him a lot less worried about the possibility of his own obsolescence. Sherry was a lot of things, but she wasn't a career soldier like him. There had to be a reason that she'd been put through whatever process had made her and not someone else, but she still didn't seem like a terribly good choice. He knew that there was a reason really powerful .s were hard to get, most of the time they died before the process of making them was over. Maybe Sherry was the only survivor of the process, maybe it had been random luck, maybe she was some sort of trial run, maybe he was thinking up random ideas to try and fill in the blanks because he knew so little about her.
What he did know was that there was no denying that she was a B.O.W., but equally undeniable was how utterly feminine she was. It was stupid, but she had been and honestly, still was, the most obviously girly woman he'd ever met without it being some sort of act. Maybe what was part of what he had found so endearing about her, that despite how she acted she was still competent. The way she'd managed to kill four J'avo without getting hurt herself was proof of that.
"So, where to now?" he looked up and down the hall, marveling at the obscene level of wealth on display before examining the bodies on the floor.
Giving up on cleaning her hands Sherry threw the wall hanging to the floor, "I don't know. Out of here and then…I don't know."
Looting the J'avo for gear of any sort wasn't going to be worth it. There was greenish gray slime covering everything, steaming as it cooled and hardened. Sherry was going to have to wait to get a gun, not that she needed it. Eventually though she'd need one, just so that dealing with things from a safe distance was an option.
"Any plans for what to do once we escape?" he asked, testing the waters, trying to figure out if it would be safe for him to make a suggestion of his own, that she stick with him rather than going back to America. He felt like an idiot for even thinking of the idea in the first place, but if Sherry's whole reason for going on a mission to find him was to get out of whatever lab she'd been kept in, then she might be open to the idea.
"No," she tensed, looking at him carefully.
That was more or less the answer he'd expected. For all her big ideas, planning hadn't seemed to have been her strong suit, something that sort of made sense and wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Hell, he wasn't the best at coming up with plans, otherwise he'd have had a lot more money than he did by this point, not that he didn't have enough, it was just that conflicts in eastern Europe had never been that profitable and that was where he'd done most of his work.
"You going to contact your employers and let them know you're still alive and that you've got me?" he was sure that the answer was going to be 'yes', but he had to ask, just to be sure.
She shook her head violently, "No, not like this. They-they'll take me and lock me away and they'll do things just like-like…"
It figured that America would be the first to figure out a way to make B.O.W.s that could actually pass for human and that they'd have no use for them once they mutated too badly, even if they were fine mentally. Or mostly fine. It meant that Sherry in a bad situation, one that he felt guilty over being happy about, "You want to stick with me for a bit then, at least until you figure out what to do?"
"Why?" somehow she managed to make the single word question half hopeful half accusing. It was a sentiment he understood well enough, being made an offer that didn't seem to make sense, but clearly had a catch.
"We don't know where we are, China probably, but other than that who knows? After the mess in Edonia I've got nothing. Well, not quite nothing," he amended, "I've got a bit of money stashed away here and there. It's just that who knows if I'll be able to get it any time soon. The least we should do is work together until we have options. Besides, it'll be better off with two of us. Once we're in a better situation we can figure out how to get your employers the vaccine they're after, negotiate things on our terms. Hell, if you want, if they want it that badly, maybe make it so that you staying with me, keeping an eye on me or something, is part of the deal."
The last bit was something he made up for her benefit, since he really didn't expect whatever organization that she was working for to want to give her up so easily, but it felt like the kind of thing she'd want to hear. In the long run he figured that he could try to convince her to just work with him. He didn't expect her to want to work with the sorts of people he was used to working with, but there were plenty of legitimate organizations he could think of that might be willing to hire someone like her. Starting out would be the hardest part, but after that…
Her eyes narrowed. He could tell that she was trying to figure out what his angle in the situation was, how it would benefit him, but she was too new at figuring out what motivated people. If he was lucky she'd assume that he was doing it out of the goodness of his heart, which he more or less was. Yeah, intelligent B.O.W.s were worth a lot of money, but trying to find a buyer felt a bit too much like crossing a line that he wasn't willing to cross. He did have some principals after all.
"Do you really think that would work?" now she sounded more hopeful than suspicious, "That they won't make me come back?"
"How are they going to force you to if you don't want to? The way things are right now no one will even be able to find you if you don't want them to," he offered, hoping that she'd latch onto the idea.
Somewhere in the compound, on one of the floors beneath them, there was a muffled explosion. It was enough to distract Sherry from her confusion and self-pity, at least for the time being.
"Okay," she said hesitantly, still looking uncertain about the situation, "I don't know why you want to help me all of a sudden, but it's not like I have a choice."
The resignation in her tone was at odds with the cheerful girl she'd been when he first met her. He wanted to blame Umbrella, but he had a feeling that it went back way before that. Whatever she'd been through, she was used to ending up in situations where she didn't have a choice in matters.
Another explosion sounded, this one closer and strong enough to shake the pictures on the walls.
"Let's get out of here," he urged, glad for the excuse to end the awkward silence that had started to grow.
They wandered the halls, finding rooms full of antique weaponry, paintings, a grand piano, and countless other displays of wealth. It was positively disgusting and he wished that they had the time to poke around a bit. In any other situation he wouldn't have been above taking a few souvenirs, but nothing was nothing he could see small or easy enough to sell to make it worth it. If he was going to take anything it would be something he could carry and turn to cash quickly.
Turning a corner they came to an overturned cabinet. The glass doors had shattered and the carpet was full of broken glass, both from them and from the bottles that had been inside.
"Careful," Sherry stepped cautiously past the patch of wet carpet, "I don't know what any of that stuff is, but I'm assuming it's dangerous."
The sharp, earthy smell made him wrinkle his nose, "It's scotch."
Sherry turned to look at him like he was crazy, "You're kidding, right? It smells like furniture cleaner."
"Very expensive furniture cleaner," he laughed, bending down to examine an unbroken bottle, "This is real high end stuff."
"You couldn't pay me to drink something that smells like that," Sherry snorted.
Smiling, he picked up the bottle, figuring that there was no harm in keeping it. After the past six months a drink would be nice, once they were safe that was.
That was a good idea actually, celebrating once they were free and safe.
"How about this then, when we get out of here and find a place to lay low we can have a drink to celebrate. Tell me what you like and I'll get it for you."
"I've never actually drank before," she admitted, sounding sad of all things, "I never really did much of anything."
"Well, we can change that," he said, offering the bottle to her and trying not to laugh when she backed away, looking at him like he was trying to poison her.
They were fortunate enough not to encounter any further difficulty as they made their way through the building.
It was dark outside when they emerged onto the streets of a city in chaos. There were no people, or at least no living people. Bodies littered the streets and several zombies shuffled around, not yet having noticed them.
Of all the places to end up, the middle of a city was either the best or worst possible outcome. The buildings around them still had power, but the streets were blocked off with hastily made barricades. Something bad had gone down very recently.
For a time they simply stood in place, listening to the screams and gunfire all around them. The wind carried on it the acrid smell of smoke causing his eyes to water.
"Let's just find a place to rest for now," he coughed, "Figure out what's going on and come up with a plan from there."
Sherry nodded, the eyes on her shoulders wide as she stared up at the buildings and all around her as though she didn't know where to look first, "It's like the end of the world out here."
Somewhere in the distance sirens wailed and Jake smiled, "That's good for us, in all the confusion it'll be easier to hide."
Easier for both of them maybe. J'avo in Edonia, zombies in whatever city they were in, and who knew what else. They'd needed him for a vaccine, but maybe it was too late for that. He could make it work, he'd made it through some bad situations and this wasn't the worst. If it was bad he'd find a way to make things work for him, no, for the two of them. If they played things right Sherry might not have any reason to be worried about what she was. Hell, in an absolute worst case scenario, things like her might not be all that uncommon.
Together they slowly made their way down a street full of abandoned cars and into a night full of violence and chaos.
Just the place for a fresh start.