Hello again. No room for Chris and Jill in this chapter, but we'll catch up with them later. Thank you to anon reviewers, 'Emil Lime', 'Guest1', and 'jess'.
Sherry just stared. She had been so sure that she would never see this man again. Tobias was quite content to stare back for a few moments, before he spoke.
"Well, aren't you going to invite me in?"
She blinked, before stepping back. He took the gesture for assent and stepped into the cabin, closing the door behind him.
"I must commend you;" Tobias remarked, smiling with a strange sense of pride, "it took longer than expected to find you."
"Not long enough." Sherry muttered in reply.
He chuckled, "My dear, you knew it was inevitable. We are the Family."
"I'm not going to help you." she told him firmly, "I said no and I meant it."
He sighed, "I simply don't understand why not."
"Because you're insane!" she burst out, finally unleashing a torrent of emotion, "It's unnatural, and sick and wrong! Using B.O.W.'s to shape the world to your ideals, keeping a whole secret society underground, using people; killing people, to actually think in your twisted mind that you're doing the world some good...you're insane!"
Tobias remained silent through her tirade, though his eyes had hardened.
"I despise everything you stand for!" she continued, "You should be grateful I've kept quiet for so long-"
"Then why have you?" he interrupted sternly, "If you hate everything the Family stands for so much, then why haven't you spoken out?"
"You know perfectly well nothing I can do would stop you. I'd only be putting other people in danger."
"I don't think it's that." he contradicted, "I believe it's because you still hold some notion of loyalty to the Family. To me."
He had touched upon the subject they had both been avoiding, and she hated him all the more for it.
"Not anymore." Sherry replied vehemently.
He smiled bitterly, "I don't quite believe you."
She shrugged, uncaring, "That's fine."
They stared each other down, until eventually Tobias looked away uncomfortably, "Regardless, we still need you."
"You can go fuck yourself."
He raised an eyebrow disapprovingly, "What foul language. Perhaps you have been hanging around mercenaries for too long."
The Head of the Family noticed the defiance in her expression turn to regret, just slightly. He smirked cruelly, "Did something happen with Mr Muller? As far as I'm aware he wasn't killed by the mercenaries I sent. I expected him to be here, glued to your side."
Of course, he had sent those mercenaries after Jake; she'd expected as much. Sherry lowered her eyes, "It's none of your business."
Tobias scoffed, "You have a soft spot for him. How sordid."
She glared at him once more, and he filed away in his mind that Jake Muller was a sensitive subject for her. This could work to his advantage.
"Well, it seems as though he doesn't care for you very much at all, abandoning you like this. Perhaps your affections are misplaced."
Staying silent, she crossed her arms defensively.
He continued, stuffing his hands in his pockets and adopting a relaxed stance, "From his file I assumed he cared only for money. Did you pay him to come here and protect you?"
She frowned and shook her head, though there was an uncomfortable lump in her throat.
"Hm. Then what happened, baby?"
Her eyes snapped to his upon use of the moniker; no one had ever called her that but him, and it had been a while. She tried to ignore the fluttering feeling it brought back in the pit of her stomach.
"He discovered I was a member of the Family." she found herself confiding slowly.
His expression held volumes of sympathy as he stepped close to her, "So he left you."
Sherry nodded awkwardly, blinking back tears. Tobias raised his hand to grasp her chin between his thumb and finger gently, tilting her head up so she would meet his eyes. She'd almost forgotten how blue they were; certainly a deeper blue than Jake's...
The chiming of a phone broke the moment, and Tobias reached into his pocket to pull it out. She discreetly read the message he'd opened, though he made no attempts to hide it from her.
'K, R, & M heading your way.'
"Sherry, we must go." he told her, tapping in another message she didn't catch.
"I'm not going anywhere with you." she rebuked, backing away from him.
Tobias sighed in frustration, beginning to lose his patience, "I don't want to have to hurt you, but I will if you don't comply. J'avo under my command have surrounded this cabin."
Sherry balled her fists, preparing for a fight. He shook his head, seemingly amused at her consistent defiance.
"Alright, how about this; if you come with me, the Family will leave Muller alone." he offered, putting the phone away.
She narrowed her eyes, "You're lying."
"Do you honestly think I would do that to you? We have what we need from him. As long as he doesn't interfere on your behalf, then he doesn't need to be disposed of."
Sherry sighed sadly, though the resistance in her eyes remained, "He won't interfere. He doesn't want anything to do with me anymore."
"Well then, won't you come with me?"
"How did the T and C-Virus break out in the town?" Claire wondered out loud worriedly, "Those poor people..."
"I'm sure if we keep going, we're bound to find out." Leon replied certainly, "Though I think we all know it was the Family. What I wanna know is why." He glanced at Ada to gauge her expression, and as he predicted it was carefully blank. So she did know something, but wasn't telling.
Jake ignored their conversation; if he was honest with himself, he didn't care nearly as much for the townspeople as much as he cared for Sherry. Caring about other people's welfare was left to the likes of heroes, and he was far from that. Therefore he continued to trudge through the snow at a fast pace, "Will you guys hurry it up?"
"Sorry." The Terra Save member mumbled, and the others quickened their strides.
After a while, Jake could finally make out the cabin. His sharp senses also picked up the hostiles surrounding it.
"Looks like J'avo." he announced, glancing back, "You ever fought them before, hero?"
Leon shook his head, and Jake smirked.
"They regenerate, and mutate under physical trauma, so hit 'em hard."
With that he turned and dashed towards the cabin. The others readied their weapons and followed him.
There were not very many J'avo surrounding the cabin, and with the four of them it made the job much easier. A good few well placed bullets to the head here, a cobra strike and a finishing stomp to the skull there, and only a few remained.
Ada was helping to take down the J'avo blocking their way, though she wasn't too enthusiastic about it. She needed to buy as much time as possible, yet not arouse suspicion. Leon was watching her especially closely.
She back flipped gracefully while simultaneously releasing an arrow from her crossbow straight into the chest of a J'avo, causing it to fall flat on its back. As Claire finished it off, Ada risked a glance around the cabin to spot two figures heading swiftly towards the surrounding forest.
She had hoped it needn't have come to this, but she had to create a distraction. It would be useful to see what she was up against anyway. Casting a fleeting look at the others to ensure they were preoccupied, Ada quickly reached into the small pouch on her hip and withdrew a small syringe. Flicking off the safety cap with her thumb, she threw it at the nearest J'avo; the needle pierced the creature's neck. Almost instantly, it jerked and shuddered as it burst into flame and formed a chrysalis soon after.
Ada then loaded a pipe bomb arrow into her crossbow, and took aim at a J'avo with a mutated arm, firing with deadly accuracy. Jake and Leon were the closest and noticed the red flash, so they backed up as it exploded, sending a volley of red snow into the air.
By this time the chrysalis was almost finished hatching.
"What the hell is that?" Claire asked, staring at the emerging creature with a morbid interest.
The creature vaguely resembled a giant lizard; it had green, tough scales and a long tail. However, sharp, lethal looking spikes protruded from the end of the creatures tail, and from around its neck. It nimbly slithered from the cocoon, and they could see the steam rolling off its skin, melting the nearby snow. The monster stopped a few feet away and raised itself up on its hind legs.
"A Strelat!" Jake answered loudly, "It's weak to melee attacks!"
With that, he ran towards it, preparing to grab the creature. But Ada was the closest, and she could see the green scales on its side beginning to turn red. In addition, she could feel the heat it emitted even from where she was standing; any closer and she had no doubt it would burn her.
"Wait! Stop!" she commanded, raising her hand to Jake as she backed away from the creature.
He either didn't hear her, or chose not to listen, as he continued to sprint forward. Still raised up on its hind legs, the Strelat made a sucking sound as it seemingly pulled in air and puffed itself up, then with a high pitched scream, it opened the flaps on the sides of its neck and sent a flurry of razor-sharp spikes his way. Only these spikes were on fire.
Reacting quickly, Jake allowed his body to fall backwards, and slid through the snow as the spikes passed over him.
"Jesus Christ." The mercenary muttered, finally feeling the scorching temperature that was rolling off the creature's body. He scrambled up and retreated a few steps. Now he was closer, he could see its skin had almost completely changed colour from green to red, and the darker red patches were beginning to give way to the raw flesh underneath. It was slowly disintegrating.
"Don't go near it." he advised, moving back further.
"No, it's perfectly safe." Ada commented sarcastically, loading another arrow.
Leon fired a few shots in the mutated Strelat's direction, though it didn't seem to have much of an effect. The creature stalked nimbly towards Claire, who was also shooting at it while backing away. It stopped a few feet away from her, and she was surprised at the intensity of the blistering heat she could feel. The creature stood straight once more, puffing itself up.
"Claire!" Leon warned as she stood frozen, still firing off shots at the Strelat's head. Instead of opening the flaps at its sides, the creature opened its mouth wide.
Claire's eyes widened as she realized she'd messed up by underestimating it, but in the same second she had the wind knocked out of her as Leon barrelled into her side, taking them both down into the snow and out of harm's way.
He'd saved her from a terrible death; in the next second the Strelat let lose a stream of fire from its mouth, scorching away all the surrounding snow in the spot she had just been standing. Yet thankfully, the disintegration process was almost complete. Bits of bone were becoming visible, and it was clear the creature was in pain. It shrieked and thrashed as it fell down on its back.
They all watched as it began to mutate, or at least attempted to. Powerful looking legs sprung forth from where its tail had been, but wasted away rapidly. This was followed by strong arms with claws for hands which also degenerated before the creature could use them. It's screeching was abruptly cut off by a wet choking sound, and with one last shudder it fell still, before slowly deteriorating away completely.
No one moved for a moment, shocked into silence. Until Leon felt Claire's hand on his chest, and he looked down at her.
"Thanks." she murmured, still laying in the snow with him covering her body.
He smiled a little and got to his feet, grasping her hand to pull her up with him.
"Well, that was new." Jake commented, still staring at the spot where the creature had vanished.
Ada remained silent, though internally she was worried. That had only been a prototype she'd been given; she hated to imagine what the finished product would be like.
It was then Jake picked up the distant sound of a helicopter's rotors, slowly getting louder.
"Sherry!" he gasped. He'd almost forgotten. Turning, he sprinted towards the cabin as the chopper flew over them. The mercenary spared it a glance as the others followed him.
The door instantly gave way under his powerful kick and burst open.
"Sherry!" The mercenary called, looking around for her. She wasn't in the living room, so he jogged into the bedroom and searched there. Nothing.
Leon and Claire, and particularly Ada, knew she wasn't here. But they let Jake move through the main room to the adjoining stables, still searching.
In the back of his mind, he knew she wasn't here either, but he didn't want to face the reality that they were too late. In the stables, Lidiya seemed to be trying to comfort Viktor, who appeared uneasy at the abrupt departure of his owner.
Jake went outside to the horses exercise space, and noted two sets of footprints leading away from the cabin and into the forest. In the same direction the helicopter had come from. What was more interesting to him however, was that the footprints were clear cut, large ones next to smaller ones that he was almost certain belonged to Sherry; she hadn't struggled. He wasn't sure what to make of that.
Either way, he was going to find her.
I quite enjoyed writing this chapter. I hope you enjoyed reading it just as much. I chose a Strelat to be a prototype for the R.E.D. since it seemed to be the most fitting creature. In mercenaries mode, on the 'Mining the Depths' stage, the secret boss is a Strelat, and the characters say something about it being "hotter than the devils kitchen." So it correlates with my idea! :)
Anyways, please tell me your thoughts on this chapter.
Thanks for reading.