Dead End Chapter 105

Dead End

Dead End Chapter 105

Chapter 105

“Hey! Catch!”

Son Taehwan’s focus wasn’t solely on the woman’s chest. Next to the woman with the bow, there was a ‘ㄱ’-shaped lamppost, and Son Taehwan threw a laundry stick with a clothesline attached to it toward the lamppost with a flick of his wrist. The clothesline had already been firmly tied around his waist over his cold-weather clothes. When he had taken the clothesline earlier, he had been prepared for this possibility.

The survivors soon realized what Son Taehwan was trying to do, and some of them grabbed the orange clothesline in an attempt to pull him up. However, others pointed at Son Taehwan, speaking rapidly in Spanish.

Son Taehwan could guess what they were saying. If he were one of those survivors, there would only be one concern on his mind.

What were they going to do if they pulled up someone who might be infected?

But Son Taehwan, tapping his shotgun with his left hand as if he was about to throw it into the zombies below, smirked. It was a truly irritating smirk.

Aren’t you here because of this gun? If you leave me behind, I’ll ditch the gun.

Finally, a few men, threatened by something not quite a threat, grimly grabbed the clothesline and pulled Son Taehwan up. In a sudden moment, he was lifted over the barrier, much like bait being pulled up on a fishing hook, away from the spot teeming with beta zombies.

The zombies, like carps opening and closing their mouths when fed, reached out their hands and gaped their mouths open toward Son Taehwan as he was suddenly hoisted upward.

“Secure the gun first! If..if we leave things as they are, it will come.”

“Blow that bastard’s head off! We can’t let the number of infected increase!”

As soon as Son Taehwan was hauled up, a shepherd’s crook that forked into a ‘U’-shape hooked onto his neck, and he was slammed to the ground. These people, perhaps jaded from dealing with the infected, treated Son Taehwan as if he was just another sheep to be sheared.

However, Son Taehwan was a veteran who had faced all kinds of battles on King George Island. As soon as he touched the sandbag barrier, he rolled over and aimed his shotgun at the head of the woman, who appeared to be the leader. At a glance, it looked as if he were proposing on one knee, but in reality, Son Taehwan’s gun was aimed at the woman’s chest.

Movement atop the barricade came to an abrupt halt, and everyone froze in shock.

“Mexican standoff, my all-time favorite scenario. But you lot don’t have a gun, do you?”

Son Taehwan made a frivolous joke in English, but nobody responded.

“What’s this? You’ve got no reply? Is the hospitality here really that frightening? Makes me never want to come back, huh?”

“Shh. Everyone keep quiet. The gunfire could attract them.”

“Who are they?”

The woman’s face turned pale as she glanced quickly toward the interior of Punta Arenas. Following her gaze, Son Taehwan also looked toward the Punta Arenas cityscape and couldn’t help but let out a groan.

Punta Arenas had become a city of zombies. Beta zombies were walking through the streets, which were littered with fallen bodies.

“What… What the hell? You said Punta Arenas was safe, didn’t you? How did it turn out like this?”

“The military came in to establish defenses but then fled to the airport.”

“What? Why?”

“Because of them.”

“Who are they?”

Son Taehwan hadn’t even finished asking when he felt something coming from the direction of the sea, as if a baseball was flying toward him. The object grew larger and larger, eventually covering the sun in the sky.

Though it seemed to move slowly from the ground due to its size, the object in the sky was rapidly approaching Son Taehwan’s position in the blink of an eye.

“A boat?”

It was definitely a boat, covered in barnacles, a medium-sized trawl fishing vessel to be specific. Son Taehwan had seen such crab trawlers on the Discovery Channel and was well aware of their size. The fishing vessel landed a short distance from where Son Taehwan and the other survivors were arguing.

The vessel crashed into the cement sandbag barrier. Metal plates buckled and the inside of the boat shattered like shrapnel from a shotgun. As the trawler collapsed, debris that flew off sliced through the necks of beta zombies, and rivets, like bullets, broke their bones.

Similar to tossing a paper plane against a wall, the vessel was vertically lodged in the ground and, with an unsettling noise, toppled toward Son Taehwan’s location.

“Get away! I told you! Making all that noise with the gun would bring it here!”

“Who’s it?”

“Maestro!”

“What?”

The woman grabbed Son Taehwan by the scruff of his neck and sprinted from the barricade into the cityscape of Punta Arenas. The other survivors followed their leader, and behind them, the trawl fishing vessel began crumbling, following them as though it were being pulled.

Metal nets designed for catching crabs cascaded down, mercilessly shredding the sandbags and falling behind Son Taehwan like a bombardment.

A survivor was crushed under the torrent of nets, and Son Taehwan, unable to look back, was pulled onto a building by the woman. What came flying like a boomerang this time was a loading crane from the port. While Punta Arenas port wasn’t very large, the crane was still not something that could simply be tossed aside so easily.

Glass from the crane’s control cabin shattered, slicing Son Taehwan’s cheek; a hydraulic pump burst with a bang, and the rod sprang up into the air.

“What… What is this?”

“Shh. Quiet. Keep it down.”

The woman covered Son Taehwan’s mouth and anxiously glanced toward the beach. The building they were on was too low to clearly see what was on the beach, but it was clear that something terrifying was coming from the direction of the trawler and crane that had been flung over.

Son Taehwan felt as though he had entered a nightmare mere hours after escaping Antarctica. The fact that something could toss such a huge trawl fishing vessel and a crane seemed unimaginable. He pinched his cheek while looking at the wreckage of the crane and the fishing vessel that had been thrown from the sea.

“Crazy…”

“See? That’s why I told you to be quiet.”

“Did it cause all this chaos because of the noise?”

“No, the Maestro isn’t sensitive to sound, but you shouldn’t agitate it. It wasn’t the sound that it reacted to; it was something else.”

The woman’s eyes turned toward the field beyond the barricade.

“The more dangerous one is out there.”

“Outside?”

The woman didn’t say more. Instead, an East Asian man standing next to her swallowed nervously and pointed outside. Beyond the debris of the trawler, the hill Son Taehwan had run down was faintly visible.

Even from a distance, the ‘black smoke’ was clearly noticeable.

“Damn it, Alpha zombies. Was it behind me all along?”

Son Taehwan was unsure whether to consider his situation unlucky or lucky. To his surprise, an alpha zombie was standing right where he had descended.

When the alpha approached, the beta zombies around the hill all stepped aside as if avoiding oil spilt in water. Then, following behind the alpha, they began to walk slowly forward.

This was a scene Son Taehwan had witnessed countless times in Antarctica. The alpha leads the betas. The alpha on the hill looked toward Punta Arenas, then, as if on a pilgrimage around the city, moved beyond the hill toward the airport in the north.

There was no reason for so many beta zombies to be gathered in the desolate spot where Son Taehwan had crashed.

‘Were the zombies near that carpentry workshop following that guy in the field?’

A regular viewer of National Geographic, Son Taehwan was reminded of the behavior of wild animals. He switched his gaze between the port and the alpha in the field.

“Could it be? Is this territorial conflict?”—Predators usually avoid invading each other’s territory. The behavior Son Taehwan had observed in alphas, tending to cluster together, made the situation even more unusual. The alpha in the field occasionally stopped and looked back at the cityscape, then continued toward the north.

Although he didn’t know whether the alpha in the field had the style of the spear-handler, the fat man, the gymnast, or something else entirely, Son Taehwan felt an icy tension just from watching the alpha from afar.

A predator does not recognize the territory of another predator unless they are equals.

In other words, the alpha in the field was as dangerous as the one they called ‘Maestro.’

Son Taehwan, watching the power struggle between the two alphas, realized why they were here. The western area of Punta Arenas was a neutral zone between the field alpha and ‘Maestro.’ The field alpha roamed outside Maestro’s attack range and never ventured inside.

On the other hand, the individual referred to as Maestro by the survivors must have been to the east, near the beach, and would not attack unless particularly provoked.

The alpha in the field eventually disappeared into the scrubland leading to the airport in the north, and the cityscape quieted down. The betas inside the city started snorting and making guttural noises again as they roamed around Punta Arenas.

Sighs could be heard all around. A young white man who had tried to hook Son Taehwan’s neck with a stick earlier now grabbed his collar and swung a fist at him.

“You bastard. Because of your recklessness, my friend died. See? It’s all your fault.”

Son Taehwan had no excuses to offer. Blood was spreading in the debris where the trawler had crashed. The betas were drawn to it, clustering around the falling droplets of blood like birds pecking at rain.

“Who are you? Where did you come from?”

“Oh oh, Kelly. Put the knife away and let’s talk.”

“Shut it, Ching Chang Chong. This guy’s messed everything up. ‘Non-Steams’ are coming in. At this rate, the western defense line will collapse too.”

White man Kelly pointed at the crumbled sandbag barrier. The crash of the trawl fishing vessel had created a large hole in the wall, allowing the betas that had been on the barricade to pour through.

“Damn it. Who are you? Huh? Where did you come from?”

Tears welled in Kelly’s eyes toward the end as he gripped the collar of Son Taehwan’s cold-weather gear. Son Taehwan could only look back at Kelly sympathetically, recalling Park Donghyuk from the Chilean base in Antarctica.

Despite his suspicions and his desire to escape, Park Donghyuk had sacrificed his life to pave the last way out for Son Taehwan and his companions.

“I’m sorry. I really am sorry.”

“You think that settles everything?”

Kelly looked no older than twenty. Judging by his attire, he seemed to have been a tourist traveling to Punta Arenas. Son Taehwan remained silent, patting Kelly’s shoulder and sighing. The woman who seemed to be the leader also sighed and pulled her zip-up hoodie over her head.

“Where are you from? Were you on that crashed plane earlier?”

Son Taehwan looked at the rising black smoke from the plane’s engine and nodded.

“Then, where did you come from? It looked like you came from the west or south?”

When the woman spoke, an adjacent East Asian man intervened.

“Could it be that? A recon mission to look for survivors?”

“Chang. Really? Seriously?”

East Asian, likely Chinese, Chang’s words made Kelly beam with hope as he looked at Son Taehwan.

“There’s a camp, right? With a helicopter to evacuate us from here. Look, I have an American passport.”

Kelly proudly showed off his cherished eagle-embossed passport that he had been keeping secure in his pocket. Son Taehwan felt an overwhelming sense of incongruity as he watched Kelly’s actions.

The US typically prioritizes evacuation of its citizens, no matter whether it’s war or some natural disaster—that’s the American way.

‘But whether it’s citizens or not, it makes no sense to leave behind valuable assets like the Specter bombers.’

Until he left Antarctica, such a dissonance never crossed his mind. There was no reason to abandon the assets stored at the US Air Force base on mainland Antarctica, including the Specter bombers.

If that were the case, shouldn’t a rescue team have already arrived in Antarctica? At the very least, UAVs should have been flown to survey the conditions in Antarctica and King George Island.

Entering Punta Arenas, Son Taehwan confirmed another sense of incongruity from the reactions of Kelly, Chang, or the woman.

There had been no other planes.

Indeed, no other planes had been seen during the flight from Antarctica to Punta Arenas. Although it was possible that there were no recon flights to Antarctica, Punta Arenas’s airport was still the southernmost point, and usually small planes would come and go from nearby regions.

When Son Taehwan had arrived here with the winter expedition, he had seen several noisy small planes. But now, the sky was merely the blue of winter, with nothing flying at all.

“Hey. I’m asking you. Did you come from Buenos Aires? Or from even further away?”

“Why do you look like that? Wait, aren’t those cold-weather boots?”

Since it was winter in Antarctica, naturally it was winter in Punta Arenas too. However, Punta Arenas, being right next to the ocean, didn’t require the wearing of cold-weather clothes and boots due to its climate. The bow-wielding woman frowned upon seeing Son Taehwan’s one-sided cold-weather boot.

“You, don’t tell me?”

Other people also started looking at Son Taehwan’s clothes, growing more uneasy. Punta Arenas has always been a mandatory stop for all Antarctic bases, where research teams must pass through, and it was common to see members of various national research teams around town.

Son Taehwan did not need to lie, nor did he need to. There was no point in blabbing about rescue teams coming when it seemed unlikely that they would be believed.

“Like you thought, I came from Antarctica.”



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