Dead End Chapter 22

Dead End Chapter 22

Chapter 22

First and foremost, the route chosen by the survivors who had escaped before needed to be considered. They would have had much more information than Son Taehwan, and their escape would have been planned. Hence, it was reasonable to assume that they had selected the safest and most rational escape route.

“Rushing out blindly will only get us frozen in the ice sea. The zombies were trapped, so they must have planned and chosen their route carefully. The problem is… no matter which way we go, it’s not going to be easy…”

Even looking at the map in the guidebook, relying on a rubber boat to head to the South American continent was akin to a suicide mission. Upon a closer look, Son Taehwan realized that the distance to the Antarctic continent, not just South America, was also surprisingly significant.

The map was almost like a tourist map without detailed scale, but even a rough measure with his fingers showed it was over 100 kilometers. With the winter worsening the ice conditions, a rubber boat could easily capsize. Many had been lost in the process of switching from icebreakers to rubber boats.

“How were they planning to navigate in Antarctica without a GPS?”

Son Taehwan couldn’t fathom where the survivors had gone. Initially, he thought they had headed to the Antarctic continent, but crossing over 100 kilometers of the Southern Ice Sea in rubber boats was no simple task.

It wasn’t just about the distance—crisscrossing ice could block the routes, and a wrong move could trap them within the ice. Without an icebreaker, it would have been a suicidal endeavor.

“But the icebreakers went on to refuel, so they’re not nearby. It’s simply not possible in a straight line… Ah!”

At Son Taehwan’s exclamation, Han Sujin rustled and turned over in her sleep. He paused for a moment, looking at her, then sighed and turned his attention back to the islands next to King George Island. Focused on the scientific bases, he had overlooked these places.

“So that’s it. They used the islands as stepping stones to cross. There would be enough oil and food, and the physical distance to cross would be shorter than going directly. And one more thing… even if that wasn’t the plan, there’s another lure.”

Son Taehwan pointed at Livingston Island. It was as famous as King George Island. Although the latter was frequented by tourists, Livingston Island attracted loads of visitors, especially from Russia and South America. Seals and a multitude of penguins were the main attractions, to the extent there were package tours.

Well-equipped docks meant there was a good chance of finding ‘large ships.’ “Isn’t it also a place for oceanic fishing vessels to take refuge? I think I heard it provides direct access to the South Pacific…”

Certainly, this option held more potential fortune than heading straight for the Antarctic continent. “Yeah, they went to Livingston Island. If we’re lucky, we might get rescued sooner.”

But strangely, his eyes kept drifting to the Antarctic continent. Success at Livingston Island was, after all, only a hypothesis. Son Taehwan had to consider even the worst-case scenarios.

Taking a rubber boat to the Antarctic continent, then to a British or American base… However, reaching the continent was only the beginning, as considerable distances awaited them. While major bases were on the coast, the problem was having enough fuel to get there.

Even with fuel drums, it was a distance akin to driving from Seoul to Cheonan or Wonju, a journey of an hour to an hour and a half by car. In a rubber boat capable of a mere 30-40 kilometers per hour, it would take hours.

Furthermore, the Southern Ice Sea was a harsh sea littered with floating ice, and neither Son Taehwan nor Han Sujin had experience in long-distance sailing.

“If all else fails, I guess we’ll have to attempt that crazy crossing… First, we need to secure the rubber boat. We’ll have to gather enough fuel and cross to where Livingston Island is like stepping stones. The best would be to board a proper ship, but we can’t leave everything to luck.”

He decided the best option was to hitch a ride on a deep-sea fishing vessel from Livingston Island and took a note of it. He planned to discuss it with Han Sujin once she woke up.

Son Taehwan jotted down the plan with a pen and soon felt his eyelids drooping. The day had been filled with tremendous events, and now that the tension had given way, exhaustion reached its peak.

He put the crowbar into the drum and soon fell asleep, slumped against the wall. The room was so warm, the whistling wind outside felt inconsequential within the cozy shower room. The pen dropped from Son Taehwan’s hand as he began to snore softly.

“Brother, are you daydreaming again?”

“Huh? Oh, no, it’s nothing.”

“Oh, I don’t think it’s nothing.”

In front of Son Taehwan stood Minsu, and they were enjoying a date during their break. The summer sun shone hotly, and they were happily eating ice cream.

“Brother, you’re going to the military soon… Will you go AWOL to rescue me if something happens?”

“Again with that? It’s tiresome. ‘What if someone falls into water’ or whatever.”

“So, you won’t come to rescue me? Really? For real?”

“Hey! AWOL, really?”

Minsu blinked playfully and leaned in closer. Son Taehwan playfully tapped her forehead and spoke with a touch of embarrassment.

“Don’t worry. If something happens, I’ll rush to your side.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Really.”

“But why weren’t you by my side?”

Son Taehwan jerked in shock at Minsu’s words. Black blood was streaming from her eyes, and her mouth was filled with chunks of flesh.

“Why didn’t you come to save me?”

She gripped his hand tightly and tore at Son Taehwan’s neck with her teeth. He screamed, clutching at his throat as black blood started dripping down, staining the floor.

The black blood turned to dirt and began to decay. Son Taehwan was sucked down into the muddy ground, and soon nothing but pitch darkness surrounded him.

Within the dirt, he felt the movement of vile creatures and screamed out. But his shouts were buried, and black soil filled his lungs. As the pain became unbearable and he began to gag…

“Senior?”

Son Taehwan sat up abruptly, jerked the starter cord of the chainsaw reflexively. Usually hard to start, the chainsaw roared to life immediately, vibrating loudly. He coughed, shaking off the imagined black soil, and scanned his surroundings.

“Are you okay? You seemed in distress…”

“Ah… Ah.”

Son Taehwan rubbed his temples, looking around. The black soil was gone, and so were Minsu and the walking corpses. Before him, a campfire crackled, and Han Sujin stood at the door, wielding a lance made from a scalpel, keeping watch outside.

“Ah, sorry… I promised to keep watch and must have dozed off first.”

“You must have been tired. I woke up startled by the noise of your snoring. So loud.”

“Sorry.”

He couldn’t find any retort to Han Sujin’s teasing. Son Taehwan felt ashamed for falling asleep first. During his military service, he had nearly never slept during guard duty, and now he owed her one.

“How long were you on watch?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t have a watch.”

“Ah…”

Son Taehwan felt even more remorseful. The clock indicated eight hours had passed; she had been watching alone for quite a while.

“Really, I’m sorry.”

“Wow, it’s awkward to see you apologize, senior. Usually just teasing. Anyway, I feel refreshed after a warm sleep and wasn’t sleepy after yesterday’s cramped rest…”

Son Taehwan was at a loss for words. He checked his watch, turned off the chainsaw, and stood up. Then his eyes fell on the things he had written on the back of his hand.

“Senior, what’s that?”

“This… these are things we must secure no matter what. GPS, radio.”

“Isn’t the radio downstairs?”

“No, you fool. Do you think you’d be carrying that big thing around?”

“Wow, teasing again.”

“Anyway, there’s a portable radio that the boss used. With it and an extended antenna…”

Han Sujin’s eyes twinkled charmingly at the mention of machinery. Son Taehwan shook his head, dispelling the image of Minsu from his dream. It had felt unsettlingly real.

“What are you thinking about?”

“Nothing… Anyway, we might need to leave here, so we need to secure the radio and batteries. Absolutely must have them.”

“Moving… People can be so fickle. When it’s warm and your stomach is full, even heading outside seems unwelcome.”

“I agree, Miss Han Sujin, but it’s time for us to move.”

They looked out of the room, where the wind howled fiercely. The dim light from yesterday’s second-floor windows told them it was daytime; the blizzard outside didn’t change, but the light was reassuring.

Together, they naturally shared broiled sausages and other food. The corn can and wooden chopsticks for cup ramen from yesterday were used to boil a hodgepodge soup, which they slurped eagerly.

“Wow! Senior! This is delicious!”

“I concur. I usually wouldn’t touch this even if it was actual dog food, but it really tastes good here. I’m a man with picky tastes.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Michelin three stars or nothing for me.”

“If there were a Bragging Olympics, you’d take gold, senior. Someone who can’t even cook instant noodles talking about Michelin… Just eat this.”

They made the ultimate mishmash, broth extracted from dried squid, broken hardtack blended in. But the hot soup warmed them up, and they felt full.

They licked clean the soup remains, shared the sausages. Their stored food supply had diminished, but they were hopeful more would be found as they continued searching.

“Today I’ll switch on the power first; we’ll go together and gather as much as we can. I’ve already checked the dormitory building, and there’s a radio in the captain’s quarters, so let’s head there first.”

The dormitory was the largest building in the Sejong Base with plenty of useful items. They listed the buildings they planned to secure and devised a strategy. Though it was hardly elaborate—basically Son Taehwan leading with instructions on what to do in various situations.

The pair finished a hearty breakfast and stood up. Right then, Son Taehwan cocked his head, narrowing his eyes slightly.

“Wait a minute.”

“Are you teasing me again? Not falling for it.”

“No, wait. I heard something.”

And so, events neither of them could have imagined began to unfold at Sejong Base.



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