Dead End Chapter 15

Dead End Chapter 15

Chapter 015

“Senior, be careful.”

Without time for a reply, he sprinted the ten-meter distance to the residential building. Son Taehwan’s mind was filled with thoughts of removing the battery from Han Sujin’s snowmobile.

“I don’t know exactly where it is, but it’s better than searching for my snowmobile swarming with zombies. Let’s find it quickly and get back.”

Fortunately, even amidst the blizzard, the zombies glowed a dark red flame. The light would serve as a beacon when he returned from the residential building to the machine hall.

“I just need to get the generator running. Damn generator, the generator!”

However, he had to trudge through the immensely piled snow. This unexpected hassle proved difficult—walking knee-deep in snow was more exhausting than he had anticipated, and his bulky winter attire made him feel like a walking snowman. Though the distance from the machine hall to the residential building was just about ten meters, to Son Taehwan it felt like a hundred, a thousand meters.

In the current situation, where running was impossible, he would have had no choice but to confront any attacking zombie head-on. He could handle one with a monkey wrench, but if one as strong as the gorilla zombie he killed earlier came along, it would be all over. Cursing aloud, Son Taehwan stomped through the snow with each step.

“There can’t be more snow than the military except in Antarctica, damn it. I must be out of my mind to come here to Antarctica and suffer like this. My life really got screwed up because of you, Minsu.”

Reflecting on it now, it seemed ludicrous. After his discharge, Minsu wanted to get married right away. That was her idea of providing for him. For Son Taehwan, who had become jobless after discharge, this felt like an affront to his pride.

Moreover, after his discharge, he had lived with Minsu at her place as per her suggestion. In short, he was jobless and relying on his girlfriend. In such a situation, her suggestion to get married since he didn’t need to work made him feel miserable. Son Taehwan’s plan had been to find another job that allowed for ample time together, not to live off a woman like a moocher. It was only natural that a month later, he left her place and cut off contact.

“If only I hadn’t applied to Antarctica in a fit of anger.”

But Son Taehwan was already in Antarctica, facing a threat to his survival. It was all a futile worry and regret now. He could only focus on restoring electricity in order to survive.

Upon reaching the residential building, Son Taehwan suddenly felt a sense of unease he hadn’t noticed when he glanced at it earlier.

“What’s this… where did they all go?”

Where there should’ve been numerous pieces of equipment in front of the residential building, several mobile units, including snowmobiles, were missing, as if the survivors who couldn’t board the boat had fled on them. The remaining gear was buried in snow, resembling graves.

“People who fled first. People who fled later. Two groups?”

Son Taehwan looked around once more. Visibility was hampered by the blizzard, but he could tell that the zombies were still battering the door to the machine hall. Faint light was visible, and occasionally he heard a thud through the bluster of the blizzard. It seemed for now the door would withstand the storm, but if they kept pressing like this, it too would need addressing.

Shaking his head, Son Taehwan focused on the task in front of him, brushing the snow off the equipment in search of Han Sujin’s snowmobile. Even without the zombies, he needed to find it quickly with the blizzard raging.

She had arrived two days ago. Naturally, that meant the snowmobile had been abandoned for at least that long. Most equipment would be brought into a garage when a blizzard hit, and sometimes even the well-maintained snowmobiles could give out from the cold if left out.

Fortunate was the fact that snowmobiles, being low to the ground, were easy to distinguish from heavier machines. Son Taehwan managed to find Han Sujin’s snowmobile after brushing away the relatively low snow mounds.

“Found it!”

Discovering the Pen Light snowmobile, he frantically shoveled the snow mound. Realizing the model of the snowmobile Han Sujin had arrived on, Son Taehwan was momentarily disheartened. She was a doctor and wouldn’t necessarily know about this sort of thing. Her snowmobile was not an electric charging model, but an older model that ran on fuel, likely borrowed from the Peru base for menial tasks.

“What’s this…”

Son Taehwan gazed at the pull-start handle of the snowmobile as if in a trance and suddenly thought that, ironically, this might be more helpful. After enduring the blizzard, there was no intent to stay here forever, and at some point, he would need a mobile unit to move to another base. Then, an old model snowmobile that could continue to run as long as there was fuel would be more helpful than an electric model that could only run a few hours a day.

“Yeah, as long as there’s enough spare fuel, it will last longer than an electric recharge… Of course, I need a battery right now…”

He dusted off the snowmobile and noticed the cargo in the compartment. It might have been supplies meant to be delivered from the Peru base to China or somewhere else. One was a can of corn sealed in a plastic bag, and the other was an envelope.

“Papers?”

Son Taehwan stuffed the frozen-together papers and two cans of corn into the outer pockets of his parka, a surprise find.

“Ah, the luggage rack. This will be handy.”

He detached the modular luggage rack and held it up. What was called a luggage rack was, in essence, just two 50-centimeter metal pipes welded together. It was versatile, something he could wield with one hand or two with a satisfying heft. Mounted on the snowmobile, it could carry goods; detached and held in the hands, it served as a formidable weapon.

“How much fuel is left? It’s a decent travel from the Peru base here, so there should be some…”

Son Taehwan opened the fuel cap to check how much fuel was left and if it was still good to use. The Sejong base had access to special Antarctic diesel that didn’t freeze, but this snowmobile was from the Peru base. There might be regular diesel, used only when the weather was mild.

“Lucky.”

Opening the cap, he saw unfrozen, sloshing fuel. Whether it was the same special diesel as Sejong base or not was uncertain, but the important thing was that it was unfrozen.

“Half left, huh? Enough to reach another base, at least.”

He removed his gloves to check the machine and prepared to start it. Despite being exposed to the blizzard for two days, there seemed to be no issue with starting it up.

“Hold on, the blizzard is…”

For a brief moment, the blizzard relented, and Son Taehwan swallowed hard.

‘The weather is clearing. If this continues, I have enough fuel to escape to the German base…’

With sufficient fuel and the blizzard subsiding, it appeared possible to make it to the German base. As he hesitated, his hands turned a bright red. He came to his senses and quickly put his gloves back on.

“Idiot. What’s the point of surviving alone? Leaving that idiot behind? I must be out of my mind.”

Son Taehwan slapped his chest in frustration and readied himself to pull the snowmobile’s start handle. But now fear prevented him from doing so. With the number of zombies at Sejong base unknown, if the snowmobile’s noise attracted hearing-capable zombies and more came, it would be akin to solving one problem only to create another.

“How many escaped and how many are left?”

The wintering team at Sejong base usually consisted of fewer than ten people. However, this year was special, with additional research teams and meteorological staff, increasing the number to 21—a relatively large group. Son Taehwan gripped the monkey wrench and lay in the snow, counting.

“Confirmed so far are Hyunsoo, Hanyoung, the captain, my roommate… plus me and Sujin, that’s six. So fifteen are left… No, damn it, I have to count the Chinese base personnel, too.”

The presence of the Chinese base made it difficult to determine the exact number of survivors. Perhaps more Chinese who had turned into zombies might be at Sejong than those who had fled alive. Plus, there were signs of some disappearing without a trace, and Son Taehwan had no idea how many had been trapped in the power building. There were too many unknowns to determine the numbers accurately.

“I’m going mad not knowing the exact numbers.”

If he could be sure of the numbers, he could take a chance and eliminate the zombies with Han Sujin, even if not all of them. If they could reduce their numbers to a countable few, they could secure a safe range. But with already two confirmed Chinese zombies, everything was muddled.

“Damn Chinese causing trouble even down in Antarctica. They should just stick to eating peanuts at their base.”

Unlike the Chinese, Son Taehwan had relied on the German base after a fishing trip to Narevsky but at least didn’t contribute to the zombie count.

He rose to his feet, sighing deeply. Thoughts of fleeing first gripped him as he considered boarding the snowmobile. Despite trembling from the cold blizzard, it was fear that made his hands shake. Desperately suppressing his terror, Son Taehwan positioned his hands on the snowmobile’s start handle once more.

“I hate fleeing. Running away like that is enough for now.”

He exhaled, thinking of the accidents in the military and of Minsu—not the long service, but long before, much earlier. Son Taehwan was a nobly defeated underdog.

His nightmares always replayed the landing gear breaking. Since then, he had always run from defeat.

“Once dead, twice dead?”

Looking back at his past self, Son Taehwan bit his teeth. In his grip was the luggage rack, and he also had the snowmobile. He had enough chances to face the zombies.

“Let’s do it. Yeah, let’s. I win. I must win!”

Banishing the unease, he forcefully yanked on the snowmobile’s start cord. Stubborn as can be, it started with a roar, and the snowmobile leapt forward.



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