Dead End Chapter 106

Dead End

Dead End Chapter 106

Chapter 106

“I came from Antarctica, just as you have surmised.”

A mournful groan spread among the survivors. Guns, airplanes – they had thought Son Taehwan was the rescuer they’d been expecting, but he was just another survivor in distress.

“Antarctica, you say?”

Kelly sank to the ground, overwhelmed by disappointment. The others, too, let out sighs of frustration, each murmuring in turn.

“Antarctica… I thought it was safe there. A place free of the virus.”

“Yes, the doctor had mentioned it. A place without even a common cold virus. He had said it was definitely a virus, but being there could mean survival.”

Recalling the scenes he’d witnessed on Livingston Island, Son Taehwan smirked bitterly. Virus? Could that black soil indeed be called a virus? The black soil seemed alive, infecting everything around it and turning them into zombies.

“Antarctica is not safe. Even we… from there…”

Son Taehwan began to speak of the situation on Livingston Island but then stopped himself. It served no one to stir up unfounded fears in these people. Instead, he recalled the word ‘doctor’ and quickly asked the person next to him,

“Speaking of doctors, did you see anyone else from our plane crash?”

“Someone else?”

The people glanced at one another, shrugging or muttering amongst themselves.

“There was a doctor. There was also a mercenary from a private military company. And, yes, a dog. Certainly, they would be helpful to you all.”

Doctors were precious, and Han Sujin was a competent one at that. The more Son Taehwan thought about her, the more agitated he became. After all they had endured to escape from Antarctica, he couldn’t simply fathom losing them so easily.

With a smirk, Kelly addressed Son Taehwan,

“Do you really think there are people alive in the wreckage of that plane?”

“We slowed down enough before crashing. Birds collided with the plane, but we tipped the nose up – surely they survived. I did, too. So they must have. An American, an East Asian woman. If you have seen such people, please, I am begging you to tell me.”

The woman holding a bow shook her head,

“It’d be best to give up on that. Just forget it.”

“Why?”

“They’re good as dead.”

“Not dead? You did not confirm the bodies then. That’s a relief. They’re likely still alive. Both of them are incredibly lucky.”

Starting from King George Island to Livingston Island by boat and then catching a sightseeing plane to get this far – it was an escape that couldn’t be described as anything less than miraculous.

“That luck has run out. Beyond here is Maestro’s territory. No one can get in.”

The woman made the sign of the cross and pointed towards where the airplane fuselage had fallen.

“You saw earlier, didn’t you? Maestro really hates it when his territory is breached. And even if it’s not Maestro, there are plenty of ‘NoneSteams’ around there.”

Son Taehwan’s face paled as he looked towards the plane. It couldn’t be that the woman was lying. The being that lightly tossed boats and even lifted cargo cranes could easily be found where Han Sujin and Shepherd might be – smack dab in the middle of its territory.

“Even if it had been just Maestro, you fell onto a field, but they hit buildings. There’s no chance they could have survived.”

“But, still –”

“Even if they are alive, it’ll be over as soon as they move. Maestro will finish them off. If not, the NoneSteams might already have feasted on them.”

The taunting tone wasn’t there; instead, she trembled as if fearing the very scenario she described. Listening to her, an old man clumsily addressed Son Taehwan in broken English.

“Not just them. All of us. Paula.”

The bow-wielding woman, Paula, sighed and shrugged her shoulders in an exaggerated South American manner.

“Yeah. We’re all as good as dead. It’s just a matter of time, caught between Maestro and that ‘beast.’”

Son Taehwan had already sensed it – caught between an alpha zombie, Maestro, who threw huge objects around, and another alpha zombie known as the beast, Fiera, they were like shrimps crushed in a whale fight.

Once again, Son Taehwan glanced towards where the airplane had fallen, but this time a U-shaped stick pressed against his throat. An old man had placed a catchpole around his neck, typically used for capturing stray dogs.

The catchpole was perfect for dealing with beta zombies.

“What are you doing?!”

“Shh, if the beast hears us, it may return. Be quiet.”

Reacting swiftly, Son Taehwan grabbed his shotgun and aimed it at those around him. But Kelly was quicker, snatching the weapon and now aiming it at Son Taehwan’s head. Son Taehwan’s anger surged, but he felt a sharp pain in his heart and took a deep breath.

If he were to have another seizure, they would assume he was undoubtedly a zombie and blow his head off without hesitation. He clenched his cudgel and spoke as deliberately as one would when dealing with an unruly customer at McDonald’s.

“What is this? What are you trying to do?”

Paula lowered her bow and pointed to Son Taehwan’s right hand. The black veins, though slightly faded now, were conspicuously prominent.

“You’re infected by a zombie, aren’t you?”

“Damn it. I should’ve known it was too easy how you all talked me down. Distract me, take my gun, all for this nonsense.”

“Don’t worry, we won’t kill you. Not yet.”

“Not yet? What is this, some courteous band of robbers? Should I thank you and send you a customer appreciation card?”

“Real unfunny joke.”

“It wasn’t meant to be funny.”

“Anyway, what I said about not killing you is true. We’ve been through this many times. Before you turn into a zombie, you’ll have a choice.”

“Well, aren’t you a kind bunch. Makes me want to return to this damned Punta Arenas.”

Presumably, these people had witnessed fellow survivors or other survivors turning into beta zombies often. They isolated those infected or suspected of infection, and if they truly turned, they killed them. It was a somewhat humane and reasonably practical approach.

‘But damn it. I am infected with an alpha zombie. The way they handle a mere beta won’t do at all!’

It wasn’t entirely unreasonable for them to treat Son Taehwan as they did a beta zombie. Whether they had directly seen the effects of an alpha zombie infection – ‘Steam man,’ as they called it – an alpha zombie transformation took only seconds.

‘Ah. That’s it. They let me ramble on and on to check if I’d turn into a zombie.’

Back in the Chinese base when he got the sniper rifle, that Russian man’s speech also became bizarre as the zombie symptoms progressed.

‘They’re quite clever. They move as a group logically too. Is that woman the leader? There might still be some room for negotiation.’

It was remarkable that about a dozen had survived between Maestro and the beast. Perhaps he could escape this place with this group?

However, considering their earlier conversation, they would not help him look for Han Sujin and Shepherd. Regardless, Son Taehwan had to find them, and he couldn’t just wait to turn into a zombie and get killed.

He looked at his right hand, still with the catchpole around his neck. Although his alpha zombie infection seemed to progress differently than usual, he knew he could still turn.

The black veins in his right hand were another limit for Son Taehwan. In this kind Punta Arenas, there was no one else willing to rescue Han Sujin and Shepherd, only Son Taehwan.

Son Taehwan took another deep breath and looked around. People were discussing what to do with him in Spanish, creating an unsettling atmosphere.

“Hey, Kelly, you like Coke?”

“What? Coke?”

“No, no, not that Coke – cola, Coca-Cola.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’d sell my soul if I could drink cola with a cheeseburger right now.”

American Kelly looked at Son Taehwan bewildered.

“We have Burger King in our country, too. Cheeseburgers are real Burger King material. Cheese sizzling on a patty over a charcoal grill… oh, that’s the best.”

“That’s… strange. But why are you talking about that?”

“Anyway, you know there’s a safety on that. You need to release it.”

“What?”

While Son Taehwan distracted Kelly with burger talk, he subtly kicked a hammer tied with a clothesline towards Kelly’s feet. As Kelly stupidly fumbled with the gun’s safety, Son Taehwan pulled the clothesline, causing Kelly to lose balance and fall. Seizing the moment, Son Taehwan grabbed the barrel with his left hand and yanked it upward, faster than the old man could pull back on the catchpole.

A bang sounded as a .22 caliber bullet fired, and everyone around ducked for cover. Son Taehwan had only recently acquired this peculiar gun. He had no idea where the safety was.

“What the hell are you doing?!”

Son Taehwan pointed the gun at the head of the person holding the catchpole, motioning for them to let go.

“Isn’t your gun a single-shot?”

“Do you really want to try it with your old body, old man?”

Regardless of respect for elders, Son Taehwan taunted the old man. Now armed, he was even ready to shoot with the woman pulling her bow in anticipation of any move from him.

“Whoa, whoa, let’s not cause any trouble. I just need to find my comrades.”

“Who says you can? If you’re not part of the rescue team, we need that gun too.”

“Why is that?”

“There’s a boat at the port.”

“So?”

“To escape and get on that boat while evading Maestro, we need the gun. It’s not just about us; there are kids here too.”

“And you expect me to believe that? After you treated me like a stray dog?”

“It’s true. There are twelve kids. We were lucky enough to get rain for water, but food is running out.”

“I’m so moved.”

“Really. If you don’t turn into a full zombie, that’s good. We won’t imprison you. But please, help us.”

Son Taehwan hesitated. On the roof of the house opposite, a dark-skinned child peeked out, making eye contact with Son Taehwan. Clearly worried about the adults, and behind the child, a heavily pregnant woman also looked anxiously at Son Taehwan.

“It’s true. Without helping each other, we’ll all either starve to death or be taken by Maestro.”

“Damn it.”

Son Taehwan had no choice but to lower the gun. He sighed and looked at the child.

“Fine. But I must go where the plane fell.”

“Didn’t I tell you that’s dangerous?”

“It doesn’t matter. You cannot begin to imagine what happened from Antarctica to here.”

Son Taehwan shrugged a la Paula and gestured with one hand to have the catchpole removed from his neck. Holding the gun, he couldn’t remove it himself.

Paula looked at the old man holding the rod, who, despite muttering something in Spanish, reluctantly removed the catchpole from Son Taehwan.

“Anyway, if you’re heading to Maestro’s territory, we should retreat. Maestro slows down at night; that’s a better time to go.”

Son Taehwan’s stomach growled embarrassingly loud. He had filled up well before boarding the plane, but after all the running and tumbling, his stomach was empty again. The plane had scattered MREs as it crashed, but he dared not venture out to retrieve one.

“Alright. We’ll share food too. It’s not such a bad deal.”

As Son Taehwan shouldered the gun, the fallen Kelly pounced and punched him in the face.

“You bastard. You played us well. This isn’t for my friend. If you turn into a zombie, I swear I’ll be the one to blow your brains out!”

Kelly’s punch broke Son Taehwan’s nose, and blood streamed down his chin. But more than the blood, a chilling sensation came over him.

It almost didn’t hurt at all.

It resembled the feeling when a numbed area is pressed during surgery – a sensation of forceful pressure on the skin but virtually no pain. Just a strange sensation of discomfort, like a slight thud on the thigh, lingered on his cheek.

Kelly, having punched Son Taehwan, seemed baffled as well by Son Taehwan’s lack of reaction.

“You really can’t punch for shit. Felt like a kid hit me.”

Son Taehwan retorted with his usual casual banter, eliciting a slight chuckle from those who had begun setting up a ladder on the roof.

“Let’s get going. Make sure not to drop the stuff we’ve collected.”

Following Paula’s command, people started moving, carrying cans and other food supplies salvaged from nearby houses. The child who had been peeking from the roof timidly looked down again, glancing at Son Taehwan’s right hand.

Fear flickered across the kid’s face. What had the child witnessed to make Punta Arenas come to this? Son Taehwan looked back at the boat wedged into the ground and shook his head.

‘Maestro. What kind of creature are you? If you’re just another strong brute like an iron rod, maybe there’s a way to fight you.’

All the alpha zombies Son Taehwan had encountered had shown strength far surpassing human capabilities, but a zombie was still a zombie. Could a strategic approach take down this Maestro and save the survivors of Punta Arenas?

His gaze returned to the airport direction in Punta Arenas with growing anxiety. Were there survivors there, or perhaps an army? And most importantly, could he find a ‘plane’?

The thought of flying objects like the crawler boat and the boomerang crane darkened his mood. There was another alpha outside, not unlike Maestro.

And that beast had headed towards Punta Arenas airport as if marking its territory. From the rooftops in the western part of the city, he could barely see the airport, with no way of knowing what was happening there.



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