Title: Infected Author: SabyneAmberle Era: The Old Republic/TOR Genre: Drama, Horror(ish) Characters, Mirarre (Gammon) Darcen-Riggs, Corso Riggs Summary: It was supposed to be an easy job, tackle the plague outbreak on Corellia, collect a reward, go home. However, nothing is ever quite as simple as it seems when dealing with a virus... Note: So TOR has an event around Halloween surrounding an outbreak of the Rakghoul virus on Corellia. I figured I'd give Ky a bit of a story breather and write one about Mirarre that was inspired by the event. ********** “Uhh, Captain?” Corso's voice held more than a little worry. “I think we've been down this path before. I could have sworn we passed that outcropping of rock three times now.” Mirarre let out a groan. “For frack's sake, Corso,” she said, her tone showing her exasperation. “You've said that three times now! I told you, we're fine. Just follow this path and we'll reach the base camp.” “Uh-huh. And those prior two times I mentioned we've taken this path, where did we end up?” Corso asked, clearly not willing to let this slide. “Well, we ended up....” Mirarre trailed off as the pair of them stood face to face with a blank section of wall. “Right back where we started.” Annoyed, she kicked the sheer face of rock in front of her, only succeeding in giving herself a bruised foot and an even heavier dose of aggravation. “What the hell happened? I swear we took the left fork at that first junction instead of the right. How did we end up back here again?” “Beats me.” Corso leaned back against the rock wall, taking in their surroundings. “It's just as I said when we stepped down into this hole. There's something not right here.” “I think I'm a believer now.” Mirarre sat dejectedly on the marshy ground beneath her, beyond caring if her clothing was getting wet. When they had heard about the plague crisis on Corellia, they had jumped at the chance to help. Both Mirarre and Corso had seen more than their fair share of Rakghouls during their brief stint on Taris; the more hands there were to aid in the clean-up, the easier the task went. At least, that's what they were told. In truth, it hadn't turned out to be so simple. Stemming the Rakghoul plague on Corellia took a great deal more effort than taking a few doses of vaccine before fighting a few monsters. They had had to travel to these underground sewer tunnels, where the beasts liked to congregate. The sewers were a maze of slimy, putrid tunnels, infested with both Rakghouls and less-fortunate mercenaries who now also carried the disease. To say the situation was a mess would be putting it quite kindly. Now that the two of them had finished the tasks laid out for them in the tunnels, it should have been a simple matter of returning to base camp for both medical treatment and rewards. Mirarre cursed herself for thinking it would be that easy. The tunnels were both spiraling and sprawling; the luminescent fungi that dotted each path also made it difficult to differentiate between the various routes. Several times now they had taken the path in front of them, only to somehow loop around and return to the spot they had started from. Neither of them had any clue how they kept getting turned around, only that they kept returning to this same sheer rock face. Corso tried to use his comm to radio the base for assistance; after several minutes, he gave up. “No good, Captain,” he said. “Must be too much interference from being so far underground. I can't get a signal through, all I hear back is static.” “Keep trying, Corso,” Mirarre replied. “Scan for any and all available comm frequencies in the area. Even if we can't raise the base, maybe we can raise another group who's down here with us.” “Will do.” Corso started to raise his hand to activate his comm's scanning function, but stopped as the ground shook slightly beneath his feet. “Wait. You feel that, Captain?” he asked. Mirarre nodded, springing to her feet. “Rakghouls,” she answered. “Likely tunneling up from beneath us. Stay sharp, Corso.” Nodding, Corso scanned the dimly-lit area around them, feeling the shaking grow slightly in intensity. He barely had time to draw his rifle before they appeared; Corso counted at least hald a dozen Rakghouls emerging from the ground a few meters away. As soon as the beasts caught their scent they charged, letting out their hissing cries as they closed the distance. Corso raised his rifle and pulled the trigger; out of the corner of his eye, he could see Mirarre take cover behind a low outcropping before aiming her pistol and firing. The three weakest beasts fell quickly, their slimy hides riddled with blaster fire. Activating his jetpack, Corso launched himself at two more of the creatures, dispatching them with minimal effort. “Corso! Help!” That shout from Mirarre chilled his blood, he had never heard her yell like that. Spinning to face her, his eyes widened in horror at what he saw. The last remaining Rakghoul -a large, fast-moving beast with red skin and long claws- had set its sights on her. Even though it had driven her from her cover position, she had still been able to hold it off. But somehow she had either slipped on the damp ground or otherwise lost her footing, and that large creature had pounced. Her pistol knocked out of her grasp, she was grappling with it, barely able to keep its sharp teeth and claws away from her. “Hang on, Captain! I'm coming!” He quickly activated his jetpack again, leaping to land a well-placed blow on the creature's back. This Rakghoul was much stronger than the others they had faced, however, as the attack barely even seemed to register. At that exact moment, it had been able to grasp Mirarre's right forearm, ripping through flesh and armor as though it were nothing. As she screamed and struggled to break its grasp on her arm, the beast ripped the remaining armor from the afflicted limb before sinking its sharp teeth into the now-exposed flesh. “Captain!” Corso shouted, shock and fear tinging his voice. He hastily picked up her blaster pistol, tossing it within reach of her right hand. Once he saw she had her weapon in her hand again, he aimed his rifle at the beast's back and pulled the trigger. Between Mirarre firing at its face and torso and him firing at his back, they were soon able to take down the large Rakghoul. With the large corpse still smoking a few feet from them, Corso knelt in front of Mirarre. “Now that that's over, let's see that arm, Captain,” he said. He gently helped her shift into a more comfortable sitting position before pulling several medpacks from their pack. He cleaned the deep wounds quickly yet thoroughly, apologizing each time she winced and sucked in a sharp breath. Once the wounds were cleaned to his satisfaction, he applied generous doses of Kolto, administered a booster shot of the Rakghoul vaccine, then finished dressing the wounds. “All done, Captain,” he said with an encouraging smile. “Think you can stand?” “Y-yeah. I'll be okay.” As he helped her to her feet, Corso noticed her complexion appeared to be slightly paler. “Let's get moving. I want out of this creepy place.” “You and me both, Captain. Let's go.” ** “Hang in there, Captain. Just a little further.” Corso readjusted the arm that was slung over his shoulders as he guided Mirarre along the path. They had just started walking the path through the tunnels when Mirarre discovered the spores of the glowing fungi could be used as directional markers. By gathering small amounts from each cluster of fungi they passed, the pair were able to draw a symbol on the tunnel wall; in doing so, they were able to slowly chart their way out of the winding tunnels without getting themselves lost or turned around. They were about halfway back to the base camp when she collapsed to her knees, struggling to catch her breath. Corso felt a hint of panic as he noted how pale her skin was; a cursory glance at her injured arm had told him the wounds were festering beneath their bandages instead of healing. He wondered how the combination of Kolto and vaccine had not worked, theorized the Rakghoul that had attacked her carried a strain of the virus that the vaccine was useless against. “Come on, Captain. We're almost there.” Corso took her uninjured arm and slung it over his shoulders, helping her back to her feet. “You need to stick with me a little longer, got it?” Out of the corner of his eye, he could see her try to speak, only to nod in reply. She clearly wasn't doing well, he knew they had to hurry. Supporting her, he hurried through the tunnels, pausing only to draw the necessary symbol before continuing on. As they traveled, he noted the slow ebbing of her strength. She was gradually leaning more and more heavily on him, her feet were becoming more and more clumsy. Several times, they had gotten tangled up in rocks that littered the tunnel floor, nearly causing the two of them to fall. By the time the base camp was in sight, he was all but carrying her along. When he spotted the perimeter guns and guards, his heart gave a hopeful leap. They'd made it! He would drop her off at the med center, make sure she got the treatment she needed, while he went and claimed the rewards for their assigned tasks. Everything would be all right. “Captain! We made it!” he said cheerfully. His cheer quickly faded when he heard the low, guttural hiss she let out in reply. He turned his head to look at her, and was shocked at the grey tones her skin had taken on. “No...” he whispered, dropping her in horror. “No...this can't...Captain!” As she crumpled to her knees, her breath was harsh and gasping. He slowly took a step back, moving himself away from her. He watched her eyes start to grow hollow and glazed, watched her skin turn even more grey and mottled. He was too late. Even if he brought her back to the base in this state, they would simply kill her. She was too far gone for any medical intervention. Unconsciously, he felt his arm reach behind his back to grab his blaster rifle. He told himself it was for the best, it would be a mercy killing. It was better than leaving her down here to rot, or to attack others. He ran through every rationalization for killing her that his mind could come up with, but still found himself hesitating. She moved fast. Before he could react, she had pounced, knocking him flat on his back. He let out a frustrated cry as his blaster rifle clattered along the ground, sliding well beyond his reach. He struggled to knock her off him, barely able to suppress a shudder as her newly-formed claws scratched at his armor. Finally, he was able to kick her away. She let out an angry hiss and rolled along the ground, while he sprinted for his rifle. He had barely picked it up when she struck again. While he was again knocked onto his back, he kept the barrel of the rifle as a barrier between the two of them, feeling her strength as she pushed against it in turn. She was far stronger in this state than he remembered her being in her normal state. He knew he was in serious trouble. Suddenly, she let out a screeching cry and clawed at the small gap between his helmet and his neck. He flinched as he felt one claw rake against his skin, and that was all the opening she needed. The rifle was wrested from his grasp, again clattering across the tunnel floor well out of reach. Before he could react, she had pried his helmet off, throwing it somewhere into the gloom behind her. As he struggled beneath her, she let out another screeching cry and buried her fangs deep into his throat. He arched his back, trying to scream in pain and terror. But all that came from his parted lips was a choked, gurgling noise. He could feel her teeth tighten their hold on his throat, fangs sliding deeper into the skin. He could feel his vision start to dim, could feel the blood trickling down his neck. “Corso!” That voice... He tried to place it, but his mind couldn't focus. He could feel his eyes closing, noticed how dark his surroundings were getting. “Corso!” He faintly heard the voice again. He felt his body start to go limp, begin to stop resisting. Sorry, Captain. Looks like I failed you, after all. ** “Corso! For frack's sake, wake up already!” “Huh?” Slowly, Corso opened his eyes and looked around. His first feeling was one of confusion; instead of laying in the dimly-lit, stinking Rakghoul tunnels, he was in his own bed on the ship. Judging by the condition of the covers, he had been thrashing about quite a bit. “Captain?” He dared a glance up at Mirarre, his captain and his wife. He had half-expected to see her with grey skin, fangs, and sharp claws. But she looked perfectly normal, much to his relief. “Must have been one hell of a nightmare,” she said, handing him a tall glass of water. “You were thrashing and yelling so much I could hear you all the way up in the cockpit.” “Sorry, Captain.” He gave her an embarrassed smile as he took the glass, quickly downing its contents. “It was a hell of a bad dream. It had Rakghouls in it.” “Yeah, that would make for a very bad dream, I'd wager.” As she took the glass from him, his attention was caught by the bandage on her right forearm. Suddenly, he was gripped by panic. “Captain, your...your arm!” he said, recoiling from her. “Why is it bandaged like that?” “This?” She held her injured arm up, twisting and flexing it. “Oh, this is where the creature clawed me back on Voss, remember?” she asked. “I've had to keep it wrapped like this since it was hit by a venom barb.” “Oh, right.” Corso relaxed instantly, letting his head fall back onto the pillow. “Whew! That's a relief. For a second there, I thought...” he trailed off, thinking how silly he might sound for being paranoid about a dream, of all things. Mirarre raised an eyebrow. “Corso, what's with you?” she asked. “Are you getting sick or something? You don't normally act like this.” “That's a long story, Captain,” he replied, gently taking her hand. “Shall we...rest on it tonight and discuss it in the morning?” She smiled, allowing him to tug her into the empty space next to him on the bed. “By all means, Corso,” she replied. “But if I'm the next one to dream about Rakghouls, I'm blaming you.” He chuckled. “Fair enough,” he said.