Notes: New content starts here! From here on out I'm hoping to post one chapter a week. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy.
Aside from the occasional zombie, the streets were empty. The sounds of combat rang out in the distance, but for now he was more than happy to keep away, at least until he knew who was fighting who and why. And even if picking a side would be beneficial there was still Sherry to worry about. There was no guarantee that the side that would do them the most good would be the one that she'd want to take. Umbrella, with an outbreak this big the BSAA, whoever Sherry was working for, the Chinese government and who knew what else would all be represented. Not taking a side and using the confusion to slink away and lick their wounds was also an option, probably the best option, but they were going to need money for that, money and contacts willing to do what was necessary. Except, judging by the state of things and lack of anything resembling an organized response, getting his money and getting in touch with the right people wasn't going to be an option for a long while. Which left the only choice picking a side to throw their lot in with.
Umbrella and the local government were right out. Provided that his blood was still a prime commodity, Sherry's employers were their best bet. With them he'd at least have a bargaining chip. When he'd named his price they had agreed without too much hesitation which meant he probably should have gone higher, or that they had something planned where they'd never have to pay up. The question was, exactly how far would they be willing to go to get their sample? Where was their cutoff point and what kind of negotiation would they be open to?
What was the going rate for an intelligent, badly used Tyrant class B.O.W. that was only moderately useful in combat?
He glanced over at Sherry, watching as she dispatched with a zombie by hooking her claws into it to pull it close enough to grab with her secondary arms, then twisting its head until its neck snapped. They'd decided to let her deal with the zombies to keep the noise down and to help conserve ammo and she'd quickly developed a technique for it. She hadn't been too happy with the idea at first, but once she got started she'd stopped complaining.
It was yet another of the strange things about her, before and after combat she'd be nervous, fretting over little things, but once she got going she was surprisingly focused. If not for the fact that she was blatantly, dangerously incompetent in other areas and there was no benefit to it for her, he would have thought the whole pathetic little girl thing was just an act. He'd met guys who were just good at killing, but that wasn't what Sherry had going on, otherwise she wouldn't have freaked out when she killed the guard.
She was strange, but that was nothing new. When he'd first met her he'd thought she was crazy.
The last two zombies in the area shuffled towards her and she pounced, slamming the first down onto the pavement and backhanding the other with an almost casual swing of her claws, sending it flying several meters to bounce off of an abandoned car.
He smiled to himself as she smashed in the zombie's skull and closed the distance to the last one in a single leap. This one she dealt with by her usual method of breaking its neck.
Crazy and impressive, especially now. She was a B.O.W., mutated to the point where she was unrecognizable, but for all her brute strength, there was something graceful to the way she moved. Watching her was…not at all what he'd expected it to be like to watch a B.O.W. in action.
Earlier he'd told her that what had happened to her wasn't that bad. Now his words were coming back to haunt him. The J'avo were revolting, there was something about them that was fundamentally wrong, like how some guys were freaked out by zombies to the point where they couldn't fight them. It was a real thing, albeit one he'd never understood. With the J'avo he sort of got it, but he could deal with them as long as he didn't think too much about how he'd injected himself with the C-virus. That was the part that really got to him.
Sherry though, she was worse than any J'avo he'd encountered, but she wasn't revolting at all. To some extent it was that he knew her, but there was more to it than that. Until he'd met her he'd never thought about there being such a thing as a female B.O.W. and now…
She turned to stare back at him, trying to flick the gore off her claws, "I need -"
"Yeah, I know, a gun," he could tell that, even though they were just zombies, dealing with them up close was starting to get to her, especially when she ended up using her claws to kill them. Probably because they were still fresh enough that they bled, not much, but enough that it was smeared across her claws and hands, "But who knows when we'll find one."
It was the mess that got to her more than the fighting, yet another of the strange things about her.
The fresh zombies, the lack of any evidence of an organized response, the power still being on, all hinted at the outbreak having started recently and suddenly. It worked for them, but it was unnerving. If not for the sounds of fighting that were still going on in the distance he'd be a lot more worried. Of course at the moment they were avoiding those sounds because until they knew what was going on and who was doing the fighting it was best to be cautious.
And if anyone saw Sherry there'd be trouble. She was harmless, but there was no telling that from looking at her.
"That too," Sherry laughed, a frantic edge starting to creep back into her tone, "I was going to say I need to stop and rest for a bit though. I'm...this is..."
"Don't worry," he cut her off before she could get herself wound back up again, "We've both been through a lot."
They'd made it out of the business district of whatever city they were in and were in some sort of shopping plaza, a mix of street side stalls, shop fronts and restaurants were all around them. Best of all, the area was relatively free of zombies.
A quick look around and he saw a promising spot, a little cafe with tables set out along the side of the street. They made their way over to the place, Sherry stopping to pick up and right one of the chairs at the nearest table before sitting down. Letting out a shuddering sigh she closed all of her eyes and slumped down in the chair, the claws of her main arms scraping along the ground.
None of the zombies he could see were approaching them yet, so it would probably be safe to leave her there. Besides, there wasn't much a zombie could do to her. That didn't stop him from worrying that she might be attacked though. Physically she was far more capable than him, but emotionally she was a mess. Maybe that was why he was able to feel sorry for a B.O.W. that was able to rip a man in half.
Ripping a man in half and then crying over it.
She was a mess and he was...
He didn't know what he was, lost in a way that he hadn't been since his mother had died. Died and took so many answers to so many questions with her, questions he hadn't even known to ask until it was too late. Sherry had the answers, he knew it, but he didn't want to ask, at least not with her in the state she was. Once she recovered she'd have a lot to explain.
If she recovered.
No, thinking like that was selling her short, she was a tough girl, tougher than he suspected she even knew. She'd been through hell, come out the other side and kept going. Eventually she'd shake it and then he'd get those answers. At that point the question became, did he actually want to know? How would having his suspicions confirmed help him?
He realized that he was way too focused on worrying about eventualities that might never happen and making plans for them in a situation where it was far better to keep his mind on the present. He looked at Sherry, still sitting with her eyes closed, her smaller set of hands gripping the edge of the table.
He needed to stay focused if they wanted to get out of the city alive, Sherry on the other hand needed a distraction.
"Since we're taking a break you want something to eat or drink or something?"
Her eyes snapped open, the ones in her shoulders blinking rapidly, "Sure. Where?"
"Don't worry," he reassured, "I'm not going far and I won't be long."
She looked at the cafe they were outside of, pupils of her new eyes widening until they were almost round, "How? There's no one here."
It took him a moment to figure out what she meant and longer still to realize that she was serious. The idea of walking into the place and just taking what they needed hadn't occurred to her. Yeah she'd probably grown up in a lab, or been grown in one, he still wasn't sure which and had yet to think of a decent way to ask, but that kind of ignorance had to take active effort because it was impossible for her to just be that innocent, wasn't it?
"Look, just stay out here and keep an eye on things, I don't want anything to sneak up on me when I'm in there."
Terror, her expression was one of absolute terror. Back in Edonia she hadn't been this bad, she'd at least been competent, now the idea of waiting less than five meters away while he got something to drink had her paralyzed with fear. It wasn't like he'd even be out of sight. She'd be able to see him through the window because he could see a case of soft drinks inside along the wall.
When the guys he'd been working with mutated they'd all ended up homicidal maniacs and while he was glad that the same hadn't happened to Sherry, the way she was acting didn't make sense.
"What's wrong?" he sighed, hoping that asking wasn't going to make things worse.
"Don't leave me alone, he might..." she trailed off, standing absolutely still as her eyes frantically scanned in all directions.
Jake had the feeling that if she'd still looked human she would have been turning in circles trying to look every way at once. As it was, her eyes rolled wildly back and forth. It told him two things; that she could see a full three hundred-sixty degrees around her and was able to, on some subconscious level, work with it because she wasn't even trying to turn her head. So adjusting to her mutations wasn't the problem, at least not all of it. That left him to focus on what she'd said.
She was afraid of someone specific, but who? Someone from the Umbrella labs? One of the researchers who had overseen whatever had been done to her? Ustanak? She'd mentioned the monster earlier, that it had tormented her while she was trapped in her cell.
Sherry had stopped looking around, instead all her eyes were turned to him.
Clearly he was supposed to say something.
"Don't worry," he shrugged, "He's not here and if he was you'd probably be able to take him."
Whoever he was.
Sherry looked like she was about to argue, then she looked at her hands, both sets, wincing as she spread her claws.
"You..." she grimaced, tapping the claws of her main arms together, "You're right. He's not here and I'm..."
She'd been about to say something, but instead she stared at her claws, bringing her right hand close to her chest so that she could rub at it with the smaller, more nimble hands of the arms there.
They were the one part of her that looked a bit off, stuck at an awkward angle, pulling skin and muscle in unnatural directions when she moved them. If he had to guess he'd say that they weren't fully formed, which got him wondering if her changes were done or if, in time, they'd finish growing into a full set of arms. Was that at least part of what had her so jumpy, the thought that she might continue to mutate? Jake tried to recall everything he knew about B.O.W.s, especially Tyrants, but his knowledge patchy at best. He was pretty sure that they did something with them to keep the virus from mutating them uncontrollably. When he had the chance it was something he'd have to look into, see if it was something he could get for her.
And thinking of Sherry, she seemed to have calmed down, or so he hoped. It was always possible that she was having a very quiet breakdown. If she was he'd find out after he got something to eat.
She was still looking at her hands when he went inside the cafe. Walking past the cooler he grabbed a bottled water and took a sip. Ignoring a display of chips, candy and other garbage he walked behind the counter and into the back to see what he could find in terms of actual food. He poked around in different coolers and cabinets until he managed to make himself a plate of fairly decent sandwiches. If Sherry wanted something hot she was out of luck. He didn't know how good a zombie's sense of smell was, but he didn't want to test it by actually cooking anything.
When he came back to the front Sherry was leaning over the counter, waiting anxiously for him.
"How are we going to pay?" she clicked her claws against the counter and wrung her smaller set of hands nervously.
He took a bite of a sandwich and then offered her one.
"Why?" he mumbled around the mouthful.
Sherry looked back and forth between him the sandwich while the eyes in her shoulders looked around the room. He couldn't see it, but he was willing to bet that the one eye in her back was darting back and forth as well.
Showing her teeth in what might have been a nervous grin or an embarrassed smile she reached for the sandwich with her claws, stopped half way and corrected herself, taking it in one of her smaller hands.
Finishing in four bites she hesitantly reached out for another.
Rolling his eyes he passed her a sandwich.
She looked at it, the eyes in her shoulders fixed on him.
Keeping track of all the eyes was giving him a headache. He wasn't quite sure where he should be looking at any given time.
"I'm thirsty," she whispered.
"Cooler's there," he pointed behind her.
"Oh," she didn't turn around, didn't need to, "Right and I can..."
She shuffled over to it. He watched her hook the door open with her claws, take a bottle of soda and carefully close the door, the eye on her back looking in every direction but at him.
She drank the soda, finished the second sandwich and then looked at the rack of candy bars on the counter, "Can I..."
"You don't need my permission," he struggled not to laugh at her, wondering if she realized how absurd the whole situation was. They'd escaped from an Umbrella lab into a city full of zombies during what, for all he knew, was the end of the world, and she was worried about stealing a few sandwiches and a candy bar.
Watching him like she expected him to say something, she took a candy bar and ate it.
He could tell that she was getting ready to say something, but she thought better of it and instead took another candy bar.
It seemed like their situation was finally starting to sink in.
When she was done she looked down at the floor, the eyes in her shoulders staring past him, out the window.
How she managed to do all that without getting dizzy was beyond him, but she did. The J'avo did too, some of them were even fairly good shots, so maybe extra eyes weren't a big deal when you had them.
"I was wondering..." she let out a nervous little laugh. Nervous, not hysterical, so that was a good thing, "I saw some shops with clothes out there."
He rolled his eyes. She was a B.O.W., but clearly she was a woman through and through. Thinking about shopping at a time like this, "Is it really that important?"
"Yes," she sounded indignant, though she still wasn't making actual eye contact, "I mean..."
She gestured helplessly at herself.
He couldn't believe that he hadn't noticed it before, but now that she'd pointed it out her couldn't not notice. She was completely naked.
Yeah he'd had a lot of other things on his mind, like escaping and not getting killed by B.O.W.s or zombies, but still.
He'd seen it all when he was taking stock of her changes, trying to make sense of her, but now he was actually seeing her.
And it was hard to look away for all the wrong reasons.
What the fuck was wrong with him?
She'd been a cute girl before, nothing exceptional, but now the kindest thing he could say was that she wasn't repulsive.
Leaving the café they went over to where various stores and stalls had been selling clothing. Most of them still had their wares on display, waiting for customers that would never come, though some of the stalls had been damaged in the confusion and several of the stores had zombies trapped inside.
Sherry took one look at the zombies, watching as they scrabbled against the display windows of the stores in their attempts to get to them and went straight to the stalls lining the far part of the road. Their offerings weren't as good, but she knew better than to try and go inside a building full of zombies just for the sake of clothing shopping. Even if it was obvious by the way that she was looking at some of the stores that she was tempted.
Jake was tempted to mention that she probably wouldn't find anything that would fit her, but he held his tongue and instead stood watch for zombies while Sherry moved from stall to stall, looking at all the designer knockoffs that had been for sale and were now free for the taking. Given the circumstances, she was the only one there to take advantage of it, but that was neither here nor there.
She'd managed to find a pair of shorts that almost fit her and had moved on to trying on shoes. He would have told her to hurry up if not for the fact that she was visibly more relaxed than she had been and it wasn't like he had anywhere better to go. Not having any plans meant that there wasn't any reason to hurry, besides, it gave him time to gather his thoughts, think over some of the conversations he'd overheard. Lots of talk about antibodies, refining viruses, and stuff like that. Albert Wesker came up a lot too, but that was kind of expected, Umbrella and all that.
It bugged him though. He wasn't the sort to jump to conclusions, but it seemed like everyone had known that his blood would be valuable but him.
"Hey," not the best conversation starter, but he had no idea how to casually lead up to what he wanted to ask.
Sherry stopped pondering a pair of sneakers to look up at him, "Yes?"
For a moment he considered telling her that she was only making things worse. Again, not the best was to start a conversation. Until she'd started trying stuff on it had been easy for him to overlook the fact that she wasn't that bad looking. He'd never thought about there being such thing as a female B.O.W. before, much less that he'd end up falling for one.
Life was fucked up that way and the conversation he was hoping to have would probably show just how fucked up it could get.
"Why exactly were you looking for me?"
Suddenly her eyes were looking everywhere but at him.
Why did he need to have it confirmed? Did he really think that hearing it from her would make things better?
"Because," she glanced down, decided on the pair of shoes she wanted and sat down to struggle to get them on and tied, "The antibodies in your blood. Like I told you in Edonia, they might be useful for curing all sorts of viruses."
It was the most awkward attempt at being evasive imaginable and he was being just as bad, trying to ask in the most obtuse way.
"How did you know?"
Because saying it outright would sound crazy, would make him sound crazy.
"Where to find you?" she managed to get one of the shoes tied and moved on to the other, "It was a lot of work. Figuring that your mother went back to Edonia was a good start, but from there...Muller is a pretty common last name, but you were the right age so it lined up well enough. One of the labs managed to get a blood sample somehow, run some tests and find some distinctive genetic markers. They really didn't tell me too much about the science stuff and I didn't ask. After that is was a matter of tracking down the company you were working with and...here we are."
She shrugged helplessly and showed her teeth in a smile that made it painfully clear that this was a conversation that she didn't want to be having, which was tough for her. After all he'd been through a little honesty would go a long way.
"The right age for what? What lined up?" he continued to press the matter without actually asking the actual question. He needed to hear it from her first so he'd know what he thought about it, "This isn't about my mom."
"No," Sherry turned away from him to look longingly at a stall of brightly colored sundresses, "Do you think..."
The one she was running her hands over was off-white and patterned with blobby looking yellow flowers.
"No," but there was a sort of blueish one that he thought might have looked good on her, except that the extra arms and eyes meant that it would never fit anyway, "And you're not going change the topic like that. Back to what we're talking about, why me?"
"Jake," she pleaded, "You don't need to. It won't change anything."
"I got dragged into this, I've got a right to know," he paused long enough to look around and check how close the nearest zombies were getting. A group of about twenty had started moving in their direction. They were going to have to get moving soon, "How did you know I was the one?"
"It was just a guess," she continued to look at the dresses, or maybe stare at her claws as she ran them over the fabric, "There were half a dozen other possible candidates, you were just the most likely, the only actual genetic match, but Jake..."
She trailed off, staring at her claws.
"Kind of explains things though, doesn't it?" he laughed bitterly, "Every shitty decision I made in my life, every choice that brought me here, what I've done, what I'm capable of doing. I'd thought I was just a terrible person, but there's more to it than that, isn't there? I'm just following –"
"Jake!" Sherry's plea cut him off. She was still staring fixedly at her claws and it took her several attempts before she was able to continue, "We're not our parents. We're the choices we make. They made their choices and what happened happened. We've got to live with it, but we can do better than they did. We can fix things."
It would have been a more stirring speech if she wasn't begging the question and if her voice hadn't rose at the end, turning the last statement into a question itself.
"Yeah," he spat, disgusted at his own cowardice for not simply asking and accepting whatever answer he got, "We can fix things."
Because he was a real good example of making the right choices. Pissed off as the conversation had left him, it had given him plenty to think about. Even without giving an answer she'd confirmed his worst suspicions, but there was more to it than that. She hadn't told him that he wasn't his father, that he was a better person, instead she'd put herself in the same boat as him. So what the hell had her parents done that was anywhere remotely near trying to wipe out humanity like Wesker had?
And his mom had reassured him countless times that his father was a good man, that he hadn't abandoned them and that maybe someday he'd get things fixed and come back for them. She'd insisted that his father would be so proud of him, that she was sure he'd be thrilled to know he had a son.
Then again she'd died before all the shit that went down in Africa, so there was that. It was probably for the best that way.
She'd said his father was a good man.
There had been times he'd wanted to believe her, times he'd imagined what it would be like to have a father. Hell, towards the end he'd been infected by his mom's hope that his mysteriously absent, rich American father would show up and fix everything.
Then she'd died and he'd gone back to hating his father for not being there, hoping that he was dead and wondering what he'd do to the man if he got the chance to meet him.
Now he knew the truth. As he'd hoped, his father was dead, far more recently than he'd suspected and he had a lot more reason to hate the man.
But it was the same petty resentment that he felt more than anything else, that he'd abandoned the two of them, left them to fend for themselves.
Sherry looked anxiously from him to the advancing zombies, "Jake."
"You're right," he picked up the backpack he'd taken from one of the stands. At the moment all it had in it was a few bottles of water and the bottle of scotch he'd taken from the Umbrella facility, but he hoped that eventually they'd come across more ammo or something else useful, "We've got to get moving."
"Okay," she showed a lot more teeth this time. If he had to guess he'd say it was probably supposed to be an encouraging smile. Or maybe she was just relieved. He was still getting the hang of reading her expressions. With her eyes he could sort of guess, but her face didn't give him much to work with, "Where to?"
"Not sure, away from them," he set a hard pace, not that Sherry had any trouble keeping up. She was a tough little thing, or had been. Now she wasn't so little, "But don't think you can just guilt me into going along with you."
"What?" Sherry came to a dead stop, all eyes wide.
"Yeah," he smiled at her bewildered expression, "It was a nice enough little speech you gave and all, but I'm not giving my blood up for free after all I've been through."
He didn't even let her get started with whatever 'it's the right thing to do' argument she was thinking of, "I've decided that I'm not going to let you end up back in whatever place they were keeping you locked up before they sent you after me. They want my blood, they're going to have to let you go. So here's the deal, you contact your boss, let him know we're both still alive and find out how much I'm worth to him."
More than a single Tyrant class B.O.W. he was willing to bet. If Sherry even was a Tyrant, the more he looked at her, the more he doubted it. Tyrants were at least supposed to look sort of human.
She didn't even attempt to argue with that, instead she took a more practical approach, "How am I supposed to do that?"
He had to give her credit for that one, it was a good question, albeit one that really showed how little consideration she was giving to the situation, "Everyone carries a cellphone nowadays. It's just a matter of looking around until we find one. You've got your boss' number, right?"
"Yes, of course!" She seemed outraged that he'd suggest otherwise. Of course she was also unaware of how clueless she seemed most of the time.
They searched bodies as they moved, or at least he did, Sherry seemed unwilling to touch any of the corpses littering the streets, regarding them as though she suspected that they might get up and attack if she got too close. Then again, considering they were in the middle of a zombie outbreak he couldn't blame her for that.
In less than ten minutes he'd found her a phone that still had a full charge in its battery, more than enough for her to take care of things. He handed it to her, she fumbled with it for several seconds before she was able to punch in the numbers. Holding it was difficult for her, but she managed, only to scowl.
"It's not working," she held the phone out to him as though she expected him to fix it.
"Did you put in 001 first?" he sighed, it was either that or 011. He wasn't exactly sure because he hadn't ever needed to make a phone call to America from China before. Worst case scenario they'd have to keep trying until they got it right.
Sherry tried again and this time the call went through, giving him the chance to listen to half of a very uninformative conversation.
"It's me, Sherry Birkin.
Yes, in China I think.
No, it is China.
I don't know where.
It went on like that for several more minutes. Some irrelevant names and phrases were thrown in, probably for her to prove who she was, before the conversation got interesting.
"Yes, Jake Muller is with me.
No, he's fine.
I don't think so.
As soon as I can."
When the conversation was over Sherry held the phone up for Jake to look at. There was a map on the screen with a route highlighted.
She was grinning ear to ear, which was a lot less frightening than it should have been considering how long and sharp her teeth were and how many of them she had.
"You're not going to believe it!" she all but danced, "Derek is actually here in China right now! He came to track down Ada Wong because of her involvement in Umbrella coming back. We can meet with him and -"
Her smile faltered.
"Start negotiations in person," Jake picked up immediately when she fell silent, "Everything else we can deal with once we get there. They know you're alive and that you have me. That's all that matters."
"Right," she nodded, not quite hopeful, but not too distressed either, "We can deal with..."
"Exactly," he cut her off again, "For now we just need to focus on making it there in one piece.
They continued on together with Sherry setting the pace as she followed the directions on the phone.
It was amazing what a difference having a goal made.
Jake wondered if she realized what he had, that it was awfully convenient that her boss was there and after the same people that had been holding the two of them captive. It might have been a coincidence, but he wasn't too sure if he believed in that kind of luck. Not after learning the truth about who his father had been.
Who he was.