Dead End Chapter 56

Dead End

Dead End Chapter 56

Chapter 56

Although Son Taehwan’s group had a number of weapons at their disposal, fighting against a force of more than twenty armed soldiers was a different story altogether. Even if Shepherd’s combat abilities were considered average, it was clear that each member of the Red Scorpion was a formidable soldier. It was challenging enough to fight them on equal terms, but the enemy had the advantage in both numbers and armaments.

Son Taehwan’s eyes sharpened as he examined the layout of the Chilean base. The base was characterized by buildings tightly packed together, surrounding a large airstrip. To launch an attack from the east, the open ground where Son Taehwan had been hiding earlier would have to be crossed. Defenders had the advantage of thick walls on their side; intruders had limited entry points.

“Fortunately, the terrain isn’t too bad. And those bastards… probably never faced any resistance. They must have mowed down everyone with rifles and explosives, one by one. They could get rattled by the unexpected resistance from armed personnel.”

Son Taehwan felt a surge of resentment. He remembered the people at the German base who shared their sausages and then recalled the inhabitants of other bases. In Antarctica, where there were no old grudges, visitors from other countries’ bases were always welcomed like dear guests. And now, all those friendly people were dead.

“Those bastards. Unforgivable!”

The AC-130 had obliterated each base, and Red Scorpion had detonated the boilers and generators to eliminate any survivors who might have been hiding. It seemed there were no survivors left.

“Why are you crying?”

A black man ahead of him looked back at Son Taehwan with a pained expression in his eyes.

“No, it’s just… feels so unfair.”

While communication was difficult due to language barriers, the feeling of overwhelming emotion transmitted to the others in the group. Nobody deserved to die in such a manner. With heavy hearts, they observed a few beta zombies still roaming around. In just a matter of days, these individuals had fallen from paradise to hell. And now, the same daunting task remained for the surviving members of the group.

Exhaling a deep sigh, Son Taehwan took the lead.

“Let’s go.”

The search proceeded slowly but thoroughly. Son Taehwan directed his team to take down any beta zombies if necessary, making way or detouring through buildings. They encountered a few dangerous moments when zombies unexpectedly emerged, but overall, the search went smoothly without major problems.

Despondent over only finding potato chips, canned food, and other trifles, the group stumbled upon a forklift loaded with standard MREs (Meal Ready to Eat—emergency rations used by the US military). It seemed that this particular load had been spared from the bombardment as it had probably been the first to be unloaded from the transport plane.

The boxes of MREs, wrapped in plastic, numbered over forty. Son Taehwan immediately shared the news with his team half in cheer and half in urgency, and was the first to contact Han Sujin.

“Hey, foodie! Found some military rations! No need to worry about food now!”

“Who’s a foodie? People will misunderstand.”

“Aren’t you the one who demolished a whole chicken by yourself?”

“Hmph. One chicken per person is basic manners for a lady.”

“Which lady? From the kingdom of gluttony?”

“Ugh. Not talking to you anymore.”

Han Sujin’s indignant response ended their playful exchange, and a spark of vitality returned to everyone’s faces. Food, at least, they had managed to find. Weapons, however, were not as fortunate.

Shepherd had thoroughly searched the temporary armory but found very little remaining. Considering the circumstances of the Chilean base, they had expected to find more. Chile was a country that claimed sovereignty over Antarctic territories, and even the insignia of the Frei Montalva air force base featured a design claiming this territory, marked by a red line across Antarctica.

The base could accommodate up to 240 personnel, with 80 regularly overwintering, composed mostly of soldiers, technicians, their families, and a mere handful of scientists. Since it was essentially a military base, one would naturally expect a significant stockpile of reserve weapons.

However, Chile had aimed to avoid diplomatic conflicts and assert sovereignty, resulting in families outnumbering soldiers. Following the Antarctic Treaty, military confrontations were non-existent; hence, there was no real necessity to keep a large cache of weapons.

“Damn it, was it just a military base in name because it’s not a conflict zone? No help for it. Let’s end the search. Everyone, gather up.”

“Okay.”

Now, as the search concluded, the morning’s sunlight felt like a dream. Once again, a relentless snowstorm was raging.

Son Taehwan observed a beta zombie wandering at the end of the runway.

Dead end.

A situation where one either lives or dies.

‘…Or becomes a walking corpse.’

The large black man who had been searching alongside Son Taehwan sighed as he too beheld the zombie standing in the snow, likely pondering the same thoughts. He was slightly younger than Son Taehwan.

“So, did you say your name was Sun?”

“It’s Son. Son Taehwan.”

“Anyway, we have no guarantees the Red Scorpions are coming, do we?”

“They will come. Because Shepherd and you all summoned them. And by now… all the bases to the east should have been cleared. They would have come together even if you hadn’t called.”

The black man was left speechless, being unable to refute. After two suspicious planes landed at the Chilean base, they had been detained and had watched their comrades die one by one. They were in a land infested with the walking dead. There was no certainty they wouldn’t die.

Son Taehwan, facing the intensifying snow, half-smilingly turned to the black man, “But, maybe we’ll be safe tonight or even during the night. This damned snow will become our barrier.”

“Hmm. That makes sense.”

The black man nodded in agreement. It was now 5:30 PM. Evening was approaching fast and the snowstorm was much worse than what Son Taehwan and Han Sujin had endured the previous days. Even the Red Scorpions, who were usually quick to return, would probably not do so in these conditions. In fact, being professionals, it was more likely they wouldn’t risk a return journey in such weather.

“Let’s check the boiler room before we head back.”

Son Taehwan guessed the location of the power and boiler room by looking at the exposed pipes outside. It was an essential part that generated heat and electricity for the air traffic control area. To survive the cold night, it was crucial to check the status of this facility.

Half of the boiler room was destroyed by the bombings, but the remaining half was still generating smoke, indicating that either a standard generator or combined heat and power unit was still operational.

Securing an entrance wasn’t difficult for Son Taehwan and the multinational team. Despite the snow drifting in through the ceiling breach, the intact boiler room was comparatively warm due to the operating boilers.

“The snow may leak in a bit, but that shouldn’t be too much of a concern.”

Son Taehwan pointed his rifle forward as he inspected the combined heat and power generator. Coincidentally, the generator at the Chilean base was manufactured by the same company as the ones he had used previously, and it was the same model utilized by the military.

Looking at the fuel lamp, Son Taehwan contemplated how long they could last.

‘I haven’t seen the fuel storage yet, but if it’s like this, we can stay warm for a couple of days. The question now is the rescue plane and the Red Scorpions…’

The goal was straightforward: resist the offensive from the Red Scorpions until the arrival of the plane, surviving as long as possible.

‘If they know there is no plane here, they won’t bother with this boiler room. They’re as clueless as we are until the rescue team arrives.’

With this thought, Son Taehwan suddenly remembered a possibility that he had overlooked amidst the chaos—a boat. They hadn’t fully searched all the western bases yet, but it was possible to find some kind of boat, even if it was just an inflatable raft.

He swallowed hard and faced the Japanese man and black man who were intently watching him, wondering if anything was wrong.

‘Should I run away?’

There was no guarantee of victory against the Red Scorpions. And his primary strategic objective was the survival of Han Sujin and himself.

Calneades’ plank.

Seeing visions of people stretching out their arms to climb aboard, Son Taehwan realized that by transferring the oil from the boiler room to the snowmobile, they could search other bases for any remaining boats.

Escape.

Escape safely.

Perhaps they could make it to Livingston Island or the main Antarctic continent.

The chances were uncertain, but it wasn’t more foolhardy than engaging with the Red Scorpions.

Escaping with everyone would be difficult. Eleven was an awkward number, and they also had three injured among them. One with an arm injury was manageable, but another had a twisted leg, and Park Donghyuk was injured too.

Would they flee with the injured by boat?

It was likely the AC-130s had thoroughly destroyed boats, leaving, at best, inflatable rafts.

And traversing several dozen kilometers of treacherous ocean waters in an inflatable raft, especially with the perilous ice floes crowding the Antarctic sea during winter, was no easy feat.

Only when pushed into this dire situation could Son Taehwan empathetically comprehend why the second-in-command at Sejong Base had abandoned Park Donghyuk.

“What a dog’s life. Have I become the same as those bastards who ran off, leaving Park Donghyuk behind?”

Cursing in Korean, he was repulsed and ashamed of the thought.

Son Taehwan remembered what he had said to Park Donghyuk and sighed.

“I spoke of dying a noble human death, yet I nearly became an utter bastard.”

To die as a human.

Having seen what became of the zombies, Son Taehwan was all the more determined not to die like that.

He wanted to die as a human, chest out, proud and unashamed.

“What’s wrong, Sun?”

“Ah, sorry. Thought something was wrong, but it was a mistake. The boilers and fuel pipes are fine.”

“Good to hear.”

As the black man awkwardly shrugged his shoulders, a commotion came from somewhere. Son Taehwan agilely aimed his rifle in response.

The group tensely eyed the boiler room’s interior.

“What, zombies?”

“Best to check. We might end up coming here often. If it’s zombies, we need to deal with them.”

Nodding at Son Taehwan’s remark, the black man and Japanese man slowly opened the door leading to the inside office.

With a creaking sound, the door opened, and Son Taehwan pointed his gun barrel inside. In that moment, a human voice came from within.

“We’re people! Human!”

What appeared to be a bewildering sight, a scruffy-bearded man holding a tin of preserved food stepped out. Wearing a winter coat over his suit, the individual’s appearance was rather unusual in the frigid environment of King George Island where suited individuals were a rare sight.

‘A suit? In Antarctica?’

Son Taehwan, reminded of the CDC worker he had seen earlier in the control room, aimed his gun at the man. Here, a person in a suit was as suspicious as an armed soldier.

“Hands up! Who are you with? Langley? Military command?”

“What are you talking about? Langley?”

The chubby man, with his dress shirt straining and belly fat disgustingly visible, looked completely out of place.

“Shut it! Answer my questions! What agent are you? Were you spying on us?”

“Agent? What do you mean? No, yes… that’s right. I am an agent of God’s word. To spread His words to the ends of the earth! That’s why I came to Antarctica! Oh, Lord!”

The portly man tried to offer a grin, presumably thinking he was being witty as he lowered his hands without permission.

“Who said you could lower your hands! Don’t move!”

“Oh, no! I’m a pastor! A pastor!”

Son Taehwan aimed his gun once more, prompting the suspicious man to hurriedly produce round-trip tickets to and from Chile and various permits, as well as a visitor badge marked “guest” from the Chilean base. It was undoubtedly a legitimately issued access card.

‘Antarctic Sunday school? Why would a…’



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