Dead End Chapter 19

Dead End Chapter 19

Chapter 019

But Son Taehwan panicked and made a fuss.

“Ah, the power from the other building!”

Son Taehwan quickly went to the facilities maintenance panel, cut off the electricity to the other building, and only switched on the power for the machinery room. Distributing electricity to the entire Sejong Base, now with only the two of them, was a waste. He then turned on the fluorescent lights on the maintenance panel with a click.

What used to be a matter of course when coming to work made Son Taehwan feel as though he might burst into tears as he stared at the bright fluorescent lights above him. The sight of the two of them under the light was also quite a scene. Parts splattered with black blood were bubbling and evaporating, and their cold-weather gear was torn in places due to the struggle on the snowfield earlier.

Son Taehwan slumped down at the maintenance panel and looked at Han Sujin. She, too, sat down on the floor, endlessly gazing at the bright light with emotion. For her, who had survived the day with the light from a drum canister, Son Taehwan was indeed a Prometheus who brought light.

“Ha ha. Hahahahaha.”

The two burst into a foolish laughter. Now, they could use the instant water heater, albeit limitedly, and more importantly, they could relax under the light. They had finally survived.

Laughing hysterically, Son Taehwan glanced at his watch. It had been well over 8 hours since they arrived at the base. It was time they had to rest, or it would be dangerous.

“Sujin, let’s just gather some fuel for today and heat up the water heater. We’ll think about the rest tomorrow.”

“Today?”

“We could probably get a cogeneration unit running now that those zombies are out, but… I’d really rather not explore that power generator room again. Let’s wrap up for today and rest.”

Han Sujin said nothing but nodded, her slender hands shaking as she struggled to take off her gloves.

The two had dealt with nearly a dozen zombies today, and their survival was nothing short of miraculous. They finally began to tremble as they thought back on the day’s events.

It was a stroke of incredible luck and making the right choices at every moment that had led to their survival. Son Taehwan was still haunted by the thought of the dire situation he had found himself in when he was thrown from the snowmobile.

Alone, survival would have been impossible. It dawned on Son Taehwan just how precious human life could be.

“Anyway, let’s get moving. The fuel up there might have run out by now.”

“Yes, senior!”

Son Taehwan had proven to be a good leader. The crisis was not over yet. They still needed food, and no one knew how much longer this detestable blizzard would rage. Without zombies, they would still have to search every nook and cranny of Sejong Base for food and do whatever it took to stay warm.

What next?

‘There’s no use thinking about that now. Let’s focus on what we can do at the moment.’

As Son Taehwan was considering what they could do next, he suddenly heard a very faint chirp. He had forgotten all about it amidst the chaos of events.

“Sujin, shh.”

“What?”

“Just be quiet for a moment.”

Chirp. Chirp, chirp.

When they fell silent, the chirping became clear, and without need for a word, both had already sprinted towards the direction of the ‘fixed-type radio.’

“The radio!”

In a corner of the maintenance panel, there was a fixed-type radio, and they had occasionally used it to exchange jokes in English with people at other bases. It seemed that this radio had been left on when the base lost all power. When power returned, it chirped, indicating an incoming radio transmission.

Son Taehwan was an oddity among elites, holding an amateur ham radio operator’s license and owning a personal call-sign. He turned up the radio volume and listened intently. The blizzard was reducing signal quality, but he could hear someone speaking in English. Son Taehwan also shouted back in English.

“Hey! This is Twix Zero One! Go ahead! Go ahead!”

“Twix Zero… where are… …where! Where are you…?”

Although the transmission was poor, making the English words cut in and out, Son Taehwan quickly realized they were asking for his location. He shouted into the microphone loudly.

“Twix Zero One, this is Sejong Base! We are on King George Island! We have casualties and are in danger! Send a rescue team immediately! I don’t know where you are, but please request a rescue team! Do you copy?”

Son Taehwan was about to explain about walking dead but skipped it, repeatedly asking for rescue and emphasizing they had casualties. Then a crisp voice came through the radio despite the static, which was close to miraculous considering the weather conditions.

“Are you still alive?”

Son Taehwan and Han Sujin stared at each other upon hearing this question.

Are you still alive?

In an emergency transmission, this was an extremely strange thing to say. Son Taehwan mulled over the meaning of these words, feeling a shiver down his spine. If he had been the ham operator receiving such an emergency call, his top priority would have been to ask what had happened.

This was Antarctica, and the word ‘casualty’ typically had no business here. Even if an accident occurred while on a rubber boat or ice floe, asking a survivor who had reached a radio ‘Are you still alive?’ was oddly inappropriate. The logical and proper response would be to ask how many were injured and what the situation was.

“Are you still alive?”

The crisp, clear English accent repeated, chilling to the bone. Son Taehwan, looking dazed, grabbed the microphone and pressed the key.

“Yes, we are still alive.”

“Copy. We’ll send a rescue team soon… Exact location is…”

The rest was lost again among the crackle and chirp of static. Son Taehwan tweaked and turned the frequency dial, to no avail. Giving up on the communication, he reverted the dial back to the original frequency and upon checking which stations operated in that bandwidth, a chill ran through him.

The frequency they had just used was an international distress frequency.

“What the hell?”

“Senior, what’s going on?”

“This is an international distress frequency… I clearly said we have casualties. But the other party said they would send help without asking how many of us are left, the state of the injured. How can they decide the scale without numbers and conditions? Plus, they didn’t even reveal their affiliation.”

The person on the radio had not identified themselves, which was highly unusual. Usually, a radio protocol involved calling each other by their call signs or identifying who the other party was. And to ask straight out ‘Are you still alive?’ was very strange.

That kind of response could only mean one thing, and Son Taehwan felt the shivers intensify.

“Oh… they knew.”

“Knew what?”

Son Taehwan swallowed hard and told Han Sujin very clearly.

“Don’t you find that phrasing strange? ‘Still’ alive. It’s like they thought we were dead but are surprised to find us alive.”

“Could it… be they meant if we’re still unharmed after an accident?”

“Not identifying themselves? Think about it. That phrasing. Are you still alive? Directly translated, it means ‘Are you still alive?’ but the tone was definitely suggesting ‘Are you still, also, alive?’ You’re pretty good at English, right?”

English meaning can change based on intonation and emphasis. Han Sujin, who had worked with Médecins Sans Frontières, was naturally fluent in English.

‘Are you still alive?’

Finally, Han Sujin also looked shocked and gulped down, leaning against the wall. The voice emphasizing ‘still’ implied a sense of doubt.

“In other words, the bastards who received our radio message had some knowledge about the incident here… Dead bodies walking, someone died. And that’s why they had no choice but to ask if we were still alive.”

“…It does seem so. What you’re saying makes sense, senior.”

“And the fact that this radio was tuned to an international distress frequency is also freaking me out. The people who asked if we were alive were not referring to me.”

Han Sujin looked puzzled at that point.

“Then who?”

“‘Are you still alive?’ That implies they thought we’d be dead. Plus, I didn’t set this frequency. It was already tuned to this.”

“Ah! It must’ve been the person who escaped with the rubber boat who communicated!”

“Yes. The escaped survivors. One of them must have communicated with this frequency and knew the situation at Sejong Base.”

The puzzle began to piece together. At the food storage of the base, survivors had gathered supplies. Probably at that time, the power was still operative, and someone had switched to an international distress frequency and requested rescue first. And while waiting for rescue…

‘Wait a minute. They called for rescue and locked up the zombies in the power generator room but then escaped? They didn’t wait for rescue?’

The puzzle that had seemed to fit suddenly started showing a very bizarre picture. They had called for rescue over the international distress frequency and then fled? Especially when they would have been told that a rescue team would be sent. They had no reason to flee on a rubber boat. Several survivors had made it out alive, most zombies were already contained, and arguably waiting for rescue was a more sensible plan.

But they had still desperately escaped Sejong Base. That fact kept unsettling Son Taehwan.

‘Why did they have to do that?’

At least it wasn’t a logical conclusion by any means. If rescue was coming, it was only sensible, according to Son Taehwan’s reasoning, to wait.

The only reason that would make waiting for rescue an undesirable option would be if they were in a situation where rescue wouldn’t come.

‘Could it be that they received a radio message saying a rescue wasn’t possible?’



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *