148 Facing Corruption
Zoey and Viridi followed Max into the melee, their weapons and abilities bringing down the beasts with precision and finality. Zoey was using her Darks Star Control on the Mk1 and her Crystal Claw Bracer when the beasts got too close. Next to her, Viridi was a whirlwind of claws and spikes, with the occasional Shadow Blade flashing out into the horde of beasts.
They did their work with purpose, and made steady progress through the room to the other side. They fought their way into the tunnel to the next area then broke away from the beasts while Zoey tossed some concussion grenades behind them. The resulting blasts stunned the beasts long enough for them to get some distance from them as the trio headed to the next room.
They ran until the tunnel came to a crossroads where they stopped for a moment. Directly ahead was their target, all of them could feel the sinister presence at this point. Zoey judged that this corrupted was stronger than any of the ones that she had seen thus far. Taking it down would not be easy.
Behind them they could hear the sounds of the beasts closing in, and down the left and right tunnels as well were more howls heading their way. They had not been quiet and that seemed to have alerted the beasts.
They continued on their way down the tunnel ahead, moving towards their goal. It wasn't long before they saw the opening to the next area, and Max came to a stop. Zoey and Viridi stopped next to him, wondering if he was ok. In the dark tunnel, he turned to Zoey, his face a mix of regret and anger.
"I can't fight this thing… I'm not strong enough," he said heavily as his shoulders drooped.
Zoey crouched down next to him and placed her hand on his shoulder. She could see how badly he wanted to help put an end to this, but this was a monster beyond the capabilities of practically anyone without an Arbiter's Mark. Max knew his limits, and he knew this was beyond him. Zoey and Viridi were the only ones here that could face that monster.
"Listen, I need you to watch my back. Keep the beasts busy until we're done," Zoey said to him, hoping to get him focused again.
Her voice did seem to soothe him a little. He took a deep breath and nodded to her before turning back to face where they had come from. The beasts were getting closer, and Zoey needed to focus on the corrupted without having to worry about a horde of beasts running her down. So while Max stayed in the tunnel to protect their backs, Zoey and Viridi continued on into the area beyond to face the corrupted.
They entered into another miasma choked cavern, and finally saw their target.
This corrupted was strange. The creature was a huge exoskeleton made of bone, with long spindly legs and arms, an oddly shaped ovoid torso, and a round head that had no features save for two cracks that ran vertically down the face where the eyes should be. It was about twice as tall as Zoey, and stood in the center of the room as if it was waiting for them, its ominous pressure and corrupted aura nearly warping the air itself.
Zoey wasted no time, sending Viridi around to the right as she pulled out her DAAC and activated her Dark Star Vision. Her weapon went off with a deafening bang as the first two slugs were sent towards her target.
Like the other corrupted creatures that Zoey had encountered, this one also had a magical energy shield surrounding it. Zoey's slugs laced with power from her Arbiter's Mark impacted the shield and detonated with a blinding flash of light. Thanks to her Dark Star Vision Zoe could see everything even through the blinding flash, so she was able to see the the creature's left arm suddenly transform into a wide shield that it then used to block the explosion that penetrated its energy shield.
In that same moment, a flurry of Shadow Blades came in from the side as Viridi attacked. However, the creature was blisteringly fast and quickly blocked the Shadow Blades with its shield arm. Through the smoke and debris that was sent up from their attacks Zoey could tell that the shield had barely been scratched by the attacks.
Before the creature could retaliate, Zoey warned Viridi and threw a number of flash pellets towards the creature as she darted around to try and get into its blind spot. The flash pellets all went off in a blaze of white light, but Zoe could see that it had very little effect on the creature.
She reloaded her DAAC and rapidly fired another pair of slugs at the creature. Since its energy barrier had been broken, Zoey hoped that her slugs would have more effect. The creature reacted again with incredible speed, raising its shield just in time to block the two slugs.
the creature was actually forced backward several steps but Zoey could see that her slugs had done barely anything to the shield. Whatever it was it was made out of was some tough stuff.
She sent a signal to Viridi as she loaded a another pair of shells and her companion responded, darting at the creature while sending out a hail of Shadow Blades to pull its attention. As Viridi closed in on the creature, it's right arm suddenly transformed into a blade and it moved forward to engage.
The two of them came together in a furious clash, Viridi's claws and spiked tail against the shield and blade of the corrupted creature. For a few moments Viridi actually held her own, but a heavy smash from the corrupted creature's shield sent her tumbling back.
In that moment, Zoey fired a carefully aimed overcharged shot with her DAAC at the back of the creature's head. Even though she was behind it, somehow it still sensed the attack and managed to tilt its head enough to avoid a direct hit. But it wasn't quite fast enough as one of the slugs scored a glancing blow and then detonated right next to its head.
The resulting explosion slammed into the creature and sent it falling sideways. Zoey was rather surprised that it had that much of an effect, but then the creature suddenly got its legs under itself again.
For a moment it just stood there, then it released a bloodcurdling roar that echoed with the sounds of a thousand screams.
Zoey had pissed it off.