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Trust Exercise

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In less than five minutes, operatives Redfield and Nivans had cleared the designated area of over thirty Infected, leaving behind nothing but humanoid masses of bubbling flesh in their wake.

The soldiers were ruthless in their two-tier attack: Nivans would rush at the enemy in full mutated form, hurling his oversized body of exposed muscle, bone, and teeth at them before any had time to counter or even shriek in surprise. He ripped the Infected flesh wide open, honing in on weak areas and exposing the soft tissue for his partner to shoot. Redfield would then take them out with a round of the CounterC.

The Infected were no match for this proficient dance of death; one by one the undead were taken down and out, with the operatives not even slowing down between attacks.

By the time Piers ripped his target a new hole Chris was already taking aim at its exposed vital organs. One shot and the enemy was helpless against the catalytic effects of CounterC. The enemy would stumble briefly and clutch at gushing wounds before ultimately melting into a chrysalid state while the agents moved onto the next target.

Once the Infected were rendered completely immobile, Beta Team moved in to destroy the newly formed cocoons. How much time the operatives had before a dormant chrysalid became active again and bore a fully mutated B.O.W. they didn’t know. Their employer had decreed never to allow a dormant CounterC Chrysalid to exist more than fifteen minutes undamaged, and so Beta Team took their orders seriously, following their Captain and B.O.W. as closely as they dared, burning or electrocuting all newly formed chrysalids in their advance team’s wake.

“Clear!” Chris called out, lowering his weapon and scanning the area they’d just cleaned out. Beta had the cocoons under control. He and Piers could stop now.

But Piers was in go mode and didn’t want to stop. He slammed his enormous bone tail hard against the cement, his impatience showing clearly in his mutated form. Chris watched him leap from rooftop to rooftop, chirping and biting at things to expel excess energy.

Chris whistled at him and signed for him to stand down. Piers ignored him in favor of tugging an unfortunate flickering neon sign off the side of the nearest building with his teeth. He tossed the twisted metal frame in his partner’s direction defiantly.

Chris didn’t react when the debris clattered loudly next to him in a shower of sparks.

Beta team did, however, and the sights of several M16s snapped in the direction of their accompanying B.O.W.. Clearly the other team had been instructed to expect the unexpected on this test run through the heavily infested city. That was good. Chris waved them down, but Beta was nervous, and for good reason.

Piers was the size of a bus and just as heavy in his current form –the sniper had chosen to shift into his oversized skinless lizard form for this exercise- he was more formidable and resilient than any other bio organic weapon the enemy had developed to date and he appeared to be acting off script.

But Piers was on their side and Chris was going to have to reassure their new team of that somehow.

“Stand down, Beta. He’s okay.” The Captain assured his comrades. They didn’t look convinced.

Piers focused several sets of eyes on the tiny laser dots dancing nervously over the tissue of his body. He followed the jittery movements of the dots curiously for a moment before launching himself off the side of the building and landing with a reverberating THUD next to the Captain. His weight split the asphalt causing Chris to stumble backward into him.

One soldier fired a round of reflexive shots at the beast to protect the Captain. Three of those bullets hit Piers in the snout.

“Hold your fire!” Chris shouted, hands in the air for the team to see he was unharmed.

But Piers was already reacting to his injuries.

Chris turned to calm his shuddering partner before he lost control of himself, “Go to zen, Piers! Go to zen,” he instructed, reciting the trigger word they’d used like a tool for the last few months to help Piers remain levelheaded in times of extreme stress. The last thing they needed was the mutated marksman losing his hold over the C Virus and going rogue. So far Piers had done an impressive job of maintaining control – that was what these exercises were designed for after all – but if they could avoid a dangerous situation....

Piers glared at his shooter, looking passed Chris with every bloodshot eye he possessed. His wounds stung where the bullets burned deep and he opened his monster jaws wide in a terrifyingly silent yowl directed at the soldier responsible. The man stumbled back wearily, not knowing what to expect from the aggressive display. Several windows shattered around them, causing Beta team to shift their focus to the surrounding area and potential enemies. This was a live exercise after all, anything could happen out here in the city ruins.

Chris knew it was Piers who’d shattered the windows. The pitch of his scream was too high for human ears to detect. It was a small blessing, and Chris appreciated his partner’s choice of outlet. In his mutated form, Nivans had the ability to fry them all with a single burst of stray electric energy should he become compromised. This was a much less damning reaction to friendly fire.

“Piers I know you’re in there. Now work with me and go to zen.” Chris grabbed a firm hold of the creature by two of his massive protruding teeth and willed him to listen. Piers pushed at him halfheartedly, sending the Captain‘s boots sliding back a bit over loose debris. Chris pushed back, refusing to back down.

“Captain…?” One of the men took a tentative step forward, gripping his weapon tight. “Do you have control of it?”

“He’s fine,” Chris hissed, turning his attention back to the creature that was his partner. “You’re fine,” he told Piers. “Zen.

Piers lifted his tail of spiked bone and slammed it down hard in frustration. The earth shook with the force, and Beta Team tensed, moving in to encircle the pair engaging in a standoff. That tail hit the ground violently a second time and still Chris refused to let him go. Piers relented finally, and lowered his body to the ground, flattening out as much as he could in front of the Captain in a submissive display that showed he was calm and ready to shift back.

Chris let out a relieved breath, Piers was doing exactly what they’d practiced. “Good job,” he reassured, taking a few steps back to give his partner room, “Now come back to me.”

Piers let go of his mutated form. Muscle tissue tore apart and the bones beneath began to dislocate, popping, crunching and rearranging themselves in chaotic and unnatural ways as the C Virus relinquished its hold on the soldier inside and shifted to accommodate his smaller human form. Beta Team braced themselves and Chris turned away, the visual of his young partner being ripped apart and dropping excess body parts was not something he wanted to commit to memory. He’d seen enough over the years to feed his nightmares for the rest of his days.

Piers finished forming out of the mess of blood and body parts, his newly reshaping body pulling together like a sickening three-dimensional puzzle, while any discarded body mass sizzled and dissolved around him.

Once pieced together again, an exhausted-but-human looking Piers Nivans fell to his hands and knees to throw up.

One of the men approached their Captain with a cache of clothing for the Lieutenant. Chris thanked him and knelt next to the one dry heaving naked on the asphalt.

“You alright?”

After a moment of contemplation Piers gave him a tired look. “I’ve been better.”

Chris helped him to his feet and handed him his recovery clothes. “You did good."

Piers couldn’t help but notice the weapons of their fellow teammates still trained on him. “You mind telling them that?”

Chris steadied him while the sniper stepped into the pants of his uniform. “They’ll come around.” The Captain promised. “It’ll take time but they will come to trust you.”

“Do you trust me?”

Piers’ question caught him off guard and Chris released his hold of the sniper’s arm. “With my life.” He looked confused by the sudden question, as though there was no reason for the younger man to ask it.

Chris’ answer was steadfast and Piers relaxed, comforted by the knowledge that their partnership was still strong despite their new and very unique circumstances.

“Good,” he joked, patting Chris’ chest with the back of his hand. “At least one of us does.”

Chris watched his partner walk up to the soldier who'd shot him moments ago and toss him back a bullet casing. The soldier paled at the sight of it in his palm.

Chris shook his head with a restrained smirk. Even now Piers always had to have the last laugh.