Dead End Chapter 7

Dead End Chapter 7

Chapter 007

For Son Taehwan, it was impossible to fully believe that she went on a royal palace visit. The deaths of Kim Hyunsoo and the Chinese geologist had tensely strung his nerves.

“But where did you ditch the snowmobile you were on?”

“It’s at the Peru base. The wheel broke… Wait? Hang on, senior. Are you doubting me with that question?”

“It’s important to ask because transportation matters.”

“You’re not doubting me, are you?”

Han Sujin tried to stand up, gripping the monkey wrench, but bumped her head against the shelf above. She was wearing a motorbike helmet, but a cute yelp escaped, and Son Taehwan let out a chuckle without realizing it.

Her eyes were round and fairly pretty, but she always seemed disoriented. She didn’t possess a nature capable of stabbing someone in the back, at least not in a manner void of accidents or totally unavoidable circumstances – Taehwan believed she wouldn’t strike him from behind.

“Acts quite immature for a doctor. When will you grow up?”

“Ouch. What does that have to do with being a doctor?”

“Doctors shouldn’t be dying first, right?”

Taehwan stared at Han Sujin with renewed seriousness.

“And I, at least, don’t want to be killing people over food. Not yet.”

He cautiously raised his hands to show he was unarmed and slowly set his backpack down behind him. Even if a mishap had occurred with the shelf, Han Sujin was in a considerably advantageous position if she intended to attack him right now. Crossing this precarious bridge, Taehwan was testing her limits.

Wondering whether he could trust her or not.

Before meeting her, Taehwan shivered alone in the snow. His desire to trust Han Sujin was all the more intense due to that sensation.

He wanted to trust her. In such extreme circumstances, that desire was the driving force for survival.

“Eat this for now. I scraped it together from the living quarters. If you don’t trust me, eat with the wrench in hand.”

“Ah…”

Instead, Taehwan stepped back and positioned himself near the female shower room. If she charged at him in a frenzy, he could utilize the terrain to his advantage in combat. Considering pure strength, Han Sujin was no match for Taehwan. If only he could evade the monkey wrench, he might have a chance.

Han Sujin looked hesitantly at the supplies Taehwan had set down – there was a decent amount scraped together.

“What about you?”

“After you have yours. Ladies first.”

“Since when were you about ‘ladies first’? You used to rush me out of the bathroom all the time.”

“…Because I’m usually in a rush in the morning and you’re always running towards the engineering bathroom?”

“Cheh. Even women can be in a hurry in the morning.”

The two exchanged banter while keeping an eye on each other. It was a fair proposition from Taehwan, and Han Sujin had no reason to decline it. She shrugged, accepting his offer, and carefully took a Twix from a non-woven bag, fumbling with it with one hand.

“Hey, I’m not going to steal it. Eat slowly. I won’t attack while you’re eating.”

“Senior, you sound just like the narrator from Animal Kingdom, you know?”

“Quiet. Besides, even if I were to die and come back to life, it’s forbidden to attack you.”

“Why?”

“You’re really clueless. You’re a doctor, right? How many doctors do you think are left on this godforsaken ice land? In this situation, a single stab wound could be the end.”

“Ah…”

“In their right mind, no one would attack a doctor like you. You’re in a position of advantage.”

“Hehe. That’s true.”

Han Sujin seemed to relax then. Carefully, she placed the monkey wrench between her legs and took off her gloves.

“…”

Taehwan first noticed her hands. Sun-browned to just the right degree in the Antarctic sun, they were clean. If he’d seen bloodstains or any marks of dark blood, he would have pounced on her to restrain her before even thinking of the next step.

In the meantime, she seemed to struggle with unwrapping the candy bar due to her frozen hands and eventually dropped the Twix.

“Sigh.”

Taehwan sighed, coming over to open the package for her. She awkwardly received the chocolate bar and let out a deep breath.

“I’d have really mulled over eating this in regular times. I’m glad.”

“It’s not my fault if you gain weight on the sides.”

“Ugh. Quiet down. Who speaks of sides to a woman?”

Taehwan scrunched his face when Han Sujin poked him on the side. Both were wearing cold-proof gear; there was no real pain – just a playful relief of tension.

“Anyway, joke aside, you don’t need to diet.”

“Cheh.”

“I’m serious. Given the circumstances, all I can think about is food. You have to eat when you can.”

“Smarty pants.”

“You’re the smarty pants here, smarty.”

Han Sujin merely giggled, crunching on the Twix and offering him a fallen Choco Pie. Taehwan stared at it then tossed it back to her.

“Why again?”

“I won’t eat that. Back in the army, they’d give us Choco Pies for every little thing. Even when friends came to visit, they’d bring a whole box. The fools.”

Taehwan picked up a squid that had fallen from his bag, nibbling on it. He was still hungry, but the squid staved off the hunger for the moment. He didn’t have the appetite for a Choco Pie, which reminded him of military days.

For a while, they were both too busy eating to talk. And Han Sujin, seemingly saving the high-calorie Twix, stored one inside her cold-weather gear. Taehwan observed this as he chewed on his squid.

“Should I give you one?”

“No. Eat them all. There’s no need to divvy up yours and mine in this situation.”

“Huh? What do you mean? You gathered all this.”

Taehwan momentarily reminisced about the three months as a salaryman after his military discharge, which felt like navigating a jungle. Just like here in Antarctica, society didn’t swing weapons at each other; there were many parallels.

“Han Sujin. You’ve realized you have no choice but to work with me, right? There are only you and me left alive here. Plus, as the sole doctor in a situation with wandering zombies, you’re the person who needs to be protected as a priority.”

“…”

Sometimes direct statements like Taehwan’s were helpful. What he said was a lesson learned from a long military life and a brief social one. As long as there is a common interest to gain from working together, an alliance continues, even if trust is not assured. And if there is a clear difference in power between potential threats, it serves as a minimal safety net.

“I don’t imagine I can escape Antarctica alone with the electricity cut off. Just a small wound can be lethal, so from my perspective, you’re someone I have to keep alive, and someone whose help I will need going forward. I’m not about to throw my weight around over food.”

Han Sujin sighed as she watched Taehwan for a moment.

“Actually, I felt lucky to have met you, senior. I fled through those living dead to find safety here. By myself… It was overwhelming to do it alone. And it feels good to be able to talk like this.”

“Same here.”

It went without saying that it wasn’t about love or romantic feelings. It was just a sense of human connection.

“Senior, come closer.”

“…”

As Han Sujin cutely motioned him to come forward, Taehwan tensed up unknowingly. He was acutely aware of how even a few meters of human interaction required strain and thought in a lawless, moral-shattered place like this.

‘Just to narrow a distance and secure trust, such a fuss…’

Taehwan found the strange situation almost laughable. She still held the monkey wrench and remained a potential threat. Taehwan couldn’t harm her, but conversely, she didn’t necessarily need him.

Moreover, Han Sujin was a woman. With Sejong Antarctic Base overrun by the living dead, civilization’s morals and laws had been thoroughly decimated. It was conceivable that Taehwan could attempt to overpower her, not just to kill or steal from her. It was a matter that must be considered.

‘Had it been someone else surviving, Han Sujin would’ve been in danger. Some forsake survival for instinct.’

Aware of this, Taehwan sighed and raised both hands. Then he slowly approached the fire to warm up.

The fire seemed warmer against the whistling wind from the outer walls. It appeared she had brought anything she could use as fuel from this machine room.

“Better warm my hands by the fire while it’s here.”

“Why don’t you just strip down to your underwear.”

“…Hey. Are you really in the mood for jokes here?”

“Hmph.”

While Taehwan carefully spoke and acted not to surprise her, he became an easy target for Han Sujin’s teasing. However, his defenses were gradually lowering thanks to her mannerisms. Although in a position of power, her easygoing and non-calculative nature was proving to be a great help in these times.

“Anyway, let’s sort out what’s going on. We need to understand the situation to deal with it. Those corpses bleeding black blood, the dead people…”

“Yes, senior.”

Taehwan started by telling his story of fishing at Narebski Shores and getting beer and sausage from the German base. Then Han Sujin briefly mentioned going to the Peru base, where her snowmobile’s transmission failed, forcing her to return to Sejong Base on a snowmobile. She reached this Sejong Base two days earlier, amidst a severe blizzard.

“So, you came here when the blizzard briefly stopped?”

“No, senior. I came through the storm.”

“What? But didn’t the Chief tell you to take shelter at that base? That’s strange.”

Sending a woman through a snowmobile storm was inconceivable.

Unless something horrendous had happened.

“I received a desperate radio message from the Chief the day before.”

“A radio message?”



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