The secret base was much less quiet here; noise from Beasts seeped through the thin air, seemingly warning the team of what dangers laid ahead. Nonetheless with whatever they had already went through, this last stretch was not worthy of an obstacle. Or so they thought.
"We're gonna need a computer to read the data on this portable drive. I think the one on Peregrine should do it." Jayce announced.
"We don't even know where we'll end up once we exit. Can we even locate Peregrine?" Artemus questioned.
"I have a tracker that can either lead us to it or command it to fly to our location. Don't worry." Ornelas assured. Even if they manage to escape, Viper was entirely out of civilization. They had also escaped a mission which was supposed to be their demise. They could escape this Beast lair but were doubtfully able to make it out of the Government's grasps.
On Ornelas' command, they all readied their weapons and prepared for confrontation with the Beasts. With his arsenal of explosives run out, Artemus was weaponless and thus defenseless.
Jayce was only armed with his mechanical crossbow with just twenty bolts. Each shot had to count. Ornelas had only one weapon - his mechanical sword. Rissa and Ling still had their mechanical double daggers and mechanical whip, respectively.
"Oh great, now we have to defend a burden as well. As if escaping wasn't difficult enough already." Ling grunted. Jayce's eyes widened with rage and his fists clenched. Before anyone could react, a solid right hook put Ling sprawled on the floor. The rest of Viper was caught completely off guard and stood motionless with their jaws hanging.
"Who do you think you are?! You're the one who's been a completely useless burden throughout the mission, and you have the guts to insult another one of our team?! Jayce's rage was filling the hallway. Ling was left staggered and was struggling to stand on her feet. Jayce, if enraged, was merciless and unprejudiced in his frenzy. None was spared was regardless of age and gender, which was a characteristic many of his past friends suspected to have landed him in the slammer.
The team tried to hold Jayce back from harming Ling further before a familiar, terrorizing, eerie cry echoed and froze them all.
"Heard that? We don't have time for internal conflicts. Ling, I would suggest you keep your mouth shut for now." Ornelas reprimanded. The cry of a Banshee was less than optimistic.
Jayce apologized to Ornelas and looked away from Ling who was close to tears, but also filled with resentment for not just Jayce, but also the rest of Viper. At that moment all she had in her mind was a hope to escape and thus be rid of the team forever. But deep down, she knew the entire Viper was doomed, including her. The British Government would undoubtedly aim to silence them, being potential whistle-blowers.
Viper had to stick together not just to escape, but to uncover the whole truth. To survive. They managed to find a map on the wall and studied it carefully.
The structure of this last stretch was much more straightforward - it was one single path that leads to the exit. It branched out into rooms but it all led into dead ends. That had meant one thing. A direct encounter with the Banshee, and perhaps other malicious Beasts was inevitable. They had to devise strategy to take on the virulent abominations that had laid ahead, waiting for their chance to pounce.
Jayce, together with Artemus and Ornelas, formulated a tactic. Beasts were intelligent, they would always strike an unarmed enemy first. The team would let Artemus serve as bait to draw Beasts into a reckless mode. Jayce and Rissa would take the backline, while Ornelas and Ling would spring a surprise attack on the frontline with their melee weapons.
With their plan in mind, they paced carefully down the hallway.
A roar from a Beast rooted them in place. A Sabre appeared from a turn down the path and grunted restlessly. Following their formation, Ornelas and Ling ducked into the rooms that branched from the pathway on the left and right. Jayce and Rissa retreated while Artemus strode fearlessly toward it. Beads of sweat rolled down his cheeks as the Sabre detected his presence.
Yet another roar came from the Sabre that flinched Artemus briefly, but he pressed on gradually. It let out a final roar before charging at Artemus, which then led Jayce and Rissa to spring into the position. He shot the Sabre in both its eyes with two perfect shots and she threw a dagger that landed directly on its head. It staggered shortly but regained its strength for one final dash.
Ling revealed herself and threw her whip on its legs which tripped the Sabre to slide across the floor, as Ornelas, in front of it, slashed through the Beast. The Sabre fell on its side before its body split into perfect halves as internal organs slid out. Its organs were filled with electrical chips and devices for controlling purposes by humans.
As Viper examined the carcass, a cry from a Banshee sounded, this time within a close vicinity of them. It was up ahead. The team gathered and crouched before treading carefully toward the corner where the turn started.
There it sat. It was the first time any one of the team had a full, clear view of a Banshee live. It spun its head around its fidgety neck and body covered in black venomous thorns. Its head was filled with pitch black tentacles that resembled dreadlocks, except multiple times the usual length. Its skin was wrinkled with blood, perhaps from other Beasts. Jagged claws stretched out from its palm that branched from its seemingly malnourished body.
It was highly humanoid and was also the only Beast that was clothed. It had ragged pieces of a tank top and shorts that was now torn and stained with unidentified substances. It carefully scanned around, revealing its fangs that were dripping with venom. The Banshee's eyes glowed crimson with malice as Viper peeked on. It let out another cry as chills went down the spines of every member of the team.
"What do we do? Shoot it?" Artemus whispered to Ornelas.
"No! We won't be able to take it down before it pounces on us. At least one of us will sacrifice that way. And I don't wish to see any more of us get taken by a Banshee." Ornelas replied.
The Banshee's head jerked towards their direction, ostensibly hearing their conversation.
The team quickly turned back around and stopped peeking, but the Banshee did not look away. One of its tentacles started to slither toward them. Viper was in a stalemate.
"Screw it." Artemus whispered to himself. He nodded at Jayce, who was then thrown off by what he was hinting at. Before Jayce could do anything, Artemus got up and sprinted past the Banshee's sight. It was alerted immediately and got up promptly to give chase, while letting out a cry that was now louder than any one before it.
"That idiot!" Jayce said, while pulling out his crossbow. 3 perfect shots landed on the Banshee but it remained unscathed as it darted after Artemus at an astounding speed. Viper quickly ran after them as the Banshee pounced on Artemus as he fell to the floor. Viper arrived promptly and the Banshee turned around while still pinning down Artemus. Four tentacles grabbed the rest of Viper rapidly and raised them up before tossing them against the wall.
They dropped to the floor in pain, and dropped their weapons in the progress. Artemus managed to dodge a few of the Banshee's bites before a swift tentacle grabbed him by his neck to prevent him from moving his head. Before it could land the killing bite, Jayce ran and tackled the Banshee off Artemus, forcing it to release its grip. Jayce and the Banshee got into a wrestle as Artemus quickly grabbed Jayce's crossbow to assist him. It had fifteen shots left. Ornelas managed to stand while Ling and Rissa were barely staggering up.
Ornelas grabbed Ling's mechanical whip and he flung it on to the Banshee, as the whip coiled around its body. He yanked it as the Banshee fell back from Jayce but it resisted. Its strength was beyond that of a bull. Ling and Rissa joined to help pull it back as Artemus shot at it. One shot managed to hit it on its back while two other shots missed.
Jayce ran back for Ornelas' sword as the Banshee was now successfully being hauled back with Artemus' help as well. Jayce charged and leapt a short distance before landing and stabbing through the Banshee as it cried in pain. With them now in range, five tentacles, each grabbing one Viper member, flung them all back.
The Banshee released a cry as it dived on to Rissa this time. She was much less able to fight back without her weapons due to her lack of physical strength and the Banshee managed to force through a jab into her torso with its claws. Rissa yelled in pain as bleed oozed out as it readied for a bite before Artemus towed it back by grabbing a bunch of its tentacles, thus pulling its head back. He was grabbed by other tentacles and was flung forward and landed hard on the floor. He was now too weak and tried to recover but to no avail.
Ornelas uses the whip to pull the Banshee once again with Ling's help, and it was working despite their lack in numbers and strength. The Banshee was apparently weakened from its wounds. They had to make one last vital blow.
Rissa forcefully crawled toward their daggers, leaving a trail of blood. She got up just enough to chuck a dagger that stapled one of its arms to the wall. The Banshee was now in a vulnerable position. Its other arm grabbed the whip to negate their pull as a wild tentacle heaved Ling against a wall, briefly knocking her out.
With a sudden loss in strength, Ornelas was thrown forward by the whip's pull and he landed just in front of the Banshee. It choked Ornelas down with its free arm and sounded a loud cry.
The cry that started a feud between Viper and the species of Banshees. It was about to end. And it was to end in blood.
END OF CHAPTER 8