The Outbreak

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« on: <02-26-13/0257:41> »
This started as a character background for a game. Got a little carried away. Enjoy!

The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie:
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I
-The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Saeder-Krupp. Sure, they had a reputation, but I passed the physical. Mining for iron ore and scraps of orichalcum, how bad could it be? Sure, it was cold as a trog witch's tit out there in Eastern Europe, but it wasn't like a SINless ork from Bug City had many other options available. I was amazed they took me, even more amazed when my fake SIN passed the passport check. I was eastward bound, baby, going to break my back but retire rich after pulling up the shinies for big boss Lofwyr. Beat bleedin' out in an alley, yeah?
I barely spoke the language, I didn't have the training, but I worked hard and long and got three squares a day. The first few months weren't so bad... and then the outbreak happened. HMHVV. Sure, I'd seen the trids and seen the Horizon-hype, but I didn't for a second believe it was as bad as they said it was. At first it was just the human overseeers, an outbreak in the managerial barracks. We made jokes about the tuskless smooth-skins "suckin' on each other" at first, but then we heard that some of the ork miners came down with wendigo-style"fuzzy-wuzzies." For a while it was business as usual, although we were short-staffed pretty much right away. Every day another supervisor, another miner, another medic or hauler or security team member would disappear into the hastily-assembled quarantine zone. But it was business as usual. Lofwyr had to eat, you know? And sure as shit I had to be paid.
But things got worse. And worse. There were rumors it was a new strain, more and more virulent. The barbed wire of the quarantine zone seemed to stretch, and I could remember them howling against the chain links when I walked through the crackling Siberian cold for my morning shift in the deep-down dankness. I still dug, though... for weeks, I kept digging like a good little worker-trog. The remaining security team members kept saying over the speaker-phones that our medical expenses would be fully covered, that all questions should be directed to HR director Krevsky, that extraction was due in two weeks, three weeks, five days... it'd all be over soon as long as we kept on digging and met our quotas.
One night the bullshit engine blew out. I woke up in the barracks, shivering. The power had been cut. I could hear howling and gnawing out in the frigid night. Something dark and furry brushed up against me in the blackness, and I freaked the fuck out and started running. Outside, by luck or by providence or some drek like that, the moon was full and the clouds were nothing but wisps and the stars shot through the darkness clean as bullet holes. I could see the observation tower where the security team used to direct the haul-drones and take pot shots at the miners who took too long on break. I could also barely see the hunched, feral forms of ghouls darting through the shivering evergreens shaking in the wind; the furry twitching thing tailing me from the shadowed slaughterhouse of the miner barracks. I made for the observation tower, made of wood and containing only a well-oiled Ruger, a too-small stock of rations and an old radio set-up that looked like it was from the 19th goddman century. I climbed up there and kicked the ladder out from under me. I passed out that first night, slept like a goddman baby on Zen, fully convinced it was all just a bad dream.
The next morning I realized where I was and looked out over the railing, out onto the blood-smeared snow. There was no one left, or close to no one. The infected had made their way either deep into the mines or into the pine barrens; through the scope of that blessed Ruger, I had a clear view of both. First things first, though... I made a call back to headquarters like a good little wageslave. The situation was dire, I said. Full-on outbreak, I said. Very few surviors, possibly just one. An evac was on the way, they said. Two days maximum, they said. Occupational hazard, they said. Hang on like a good little miner. And I so I did.
It was all of about fourteen hours before they started to get real hungry and decided to climb the tower. Those first few shots were real tough. A bad angle, you know, leaning over the railing like that? I don't recommend it. I got proactive after that. Something primal and angry woke up inside me and it all became very predictable and easy. I had rations, I had ammo, the ghouls were dumb and had no damn cover as they bum-rushed the observation tower. Outside the treeline they were nothing more than moving targets, rotting little clay pigeons ready to explode like crimson-colored firecrackers at the merry pop of that blessed Ruger.
And look, I ain't no racist. The Humanis Policlub and the Sons of Sauron and all those short-sighted jackholes can go suck my fat, hairy green one for all I care. But I will say... I will admit that the ghouls were easier. They looked so... distant. And wasted. Their domes burst bright maraschino cherry red against the snow and it was over in an instant. But the "fuzzie-wuzzies"... the so-called wendigo. Those were tougher. They'd crouch over the corpse of one of the unlucky ghoulies and stick their big stinking maws in and it would twist your stomach apart to watch but something deep and dark and desperate in you made you want to come out. Made you want to climb down and give up and join in and taste the red. It didn't help that I was so damn trog-humping hungry. It took everything in me to pull the trigger. And the hunger kept on grinding long after they fell.
And of course all the while the radio squawked: "Hang in there technician... two more days... six more days, mechanical complications... hello?... testing, testing... if you do not respond soon I will be forced to de-activate this frequency..."

Her skin was as white as leprosy,
 The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she,
 Who thicks man's blood with cold...
-The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I was, I think, twenty days in when she showed up. I was low on ammo, long gone on rations. She stumbled from the medical cabins... the first I'd seen emerge from there in the days. The first in weeks I'd seen who wasn't infected. At least not fully. She was human or elf, and damn pretty. Blonde. Not quite my type, but... you know. She wasn't presently trying to eat me, and that was something. She was long gone, though, slick with fever and screaming her throat to shreds in Russian or German or some drek I couldn't quite understand. Even from that distance, I could see the bright red bite mark on her forearm. I could see the, you know... what do you call it? The proverbial wailing and gnashing of teeth. She was gone. She was mourning, crying out, sobbing at the loss of herself and everything else.
She wore a white band on her arm, emblazoned with the red cross, the international symbol for healer. I don't know if that made her brave or stupid or what. I don't know. Still don't. I just know it didn't make it any easier when I pulled up her frost-white forehead in the crosshairs of that blessed Ruger. I wasn't taking any chances. I didn't come this far taking chances. And the radio was still speaking to me, still whispering a hundred thousand impossible promises of rescue.
She went down easy. You know, relatively speaking. Could practically see her blood crystallize in the air.
I was downright shocked when, three or four days later, I heard the whuff-whuff-whuff of a chopper landing. The dragonshead logo made me want to scream and cry and shoot off the last rounds of my blessed Ruger all at the same time. I watched them head into the mineshaft first, cart out the last few scraps of orichalcum we'd unearthed. They seemed surprised to see me there in the observation tower, shivering and emaciated and still clutching Holy Mother Ruger.
After some deliberation, they decided to take me along. Damned decent of them, in retrospect. Not sure I'd of done the same.
At any rate, that's pretty much the story. They gave me a physical, made damn sure I had no trace of the HMHVV, brought me back home to good ol' UCAS. But yeah, that's pretty much it. I'm ready for a run, told I'm a pretty damn good shot with a Ruger. Clean and combed and sober as the day I signed up for good ol' S-K. Whaddya say, chummer? Need a real dead-eye on the team? Got room for some former Lofwyr-chow? I still owe the S-K 10,000 nuyen for... y'know... "psyschoanalytic expenses."
« Last Edit: <02-26-13/0348:05> by Bewilderbeast »


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« Reply #1 on: <05-24-15/2048:37> »
Thumbs up! Really good read! :)