Dead End Chapter 8

Dead End Chapter 8

Chapter 008

A radio transmission from the wintering team leader at the Sejong Base? Even without hearing the details, it was clear to Son Taehwan that it must be serious. Swallowing hard, he focused intently on her story.

“The radio signal was really bad so I couldn’t hear well, but it was definitely an emergency channel and the message was about someone getting hurt. So the next day, I had this ominous feeling and decided to return to Sejong Base. But when I got back, this was the state of things. It took me fighting for tens of minutes to finally kill that corpse that was bleeding black blood.”

“The black traces at the entrance?”

“That’s right. I did that. The person was either newly infected or mid-transformation. I saw the body standing there, dazed, so I hit it with a wrench… and during the fight, the black blood began to bubble up and it started moving faster. If I hadn’t hit it first with the wrench, I might have been the one to end up dead.”

She showed him her hands, now free from the gloves, trembling much like his own had been after he first killed a zombie. Son Taehwan recalled the scene of her beating the person to death with a monkey wrench.

“So it means there were at least two Chinese at the base. That’s confirmed, right?”

“Yes. I remembered them because they were all over me during the New Year’s gathering. After I took that person down… I saw another zombie in the dormitory building.”

“It must’ve been Han Young.”

“…”

Han Sujin did not respond to that. A walking corpse feeding on a body, especially when Han Young shared a room in the dormitory with Han Sujin.

Son Taehwan understood why her response was so cautious. Han Sujin was in the same boat as him. She had unexpectedly returned to the base to find it suddenly thrown into chaos. To make matters worse, she had weathered two nights in a blizzard. Perhaps all she could think about was hunkering down here, waiting for a rescue team.

But Son Taehwan, at that moment, was reminded of the last scene he saw before entering this machinery building—the explosions at the Chinese and Uruguayan bases.

Upon reflection, it hadn’t looked like an explosion caused by something like a gas bomb. And though the bases were close, the explosions had occurred almost simultaneously. The likelihood of two such accidents happening at the same time was minuscule. This explosion was the first thing Son Taehwan should have had doubts about.

Moreover, the Peruvian and German bases were completely unaware of the events that had taken place at Sejong Base. It seemed odd to chalk it up to simple radio interference from a blizzard. Someone should have at least used the clear weather to inform their home country or other bases. However, no news of the accident spread, and naturally, there was no rescue team. Instead, only the two bases were blown up by unexplained explosions.

‘Something’s wrong. Something’s going badly wrong.’

Son Taehwan thought of the big-faced communications specialist who had been assigned here for his expertise. The guy had a habit of picking fights when drunk and had once ended up in a serious fight with Son Taehwan. If something had happened, that guy should have been the first to contact other bases or the home country. The fact that the transmission hadn’t spread was odd to begin with.

‘That big-faced jerk would have been the first to receive the radio transmission or send it to the home country. But the last transmission was to Sujin, saying someone was hurt.’

Han Sujin, being a doctor, would naturally be the first one sought out if someone was injured or fell ill. However, what happened after was the issue. Big-face or someone else should have called for help from other bases or the home country immediately after witnessing the zombies come back to life. Yet after the injury reports reached Han Sujin, all contact had ceased, despite the fact that there were certainly survivors who had escaped.

Son Taehwan felt a chill at the thought.

‘What if they didn’t even have time to call for help before running away? What if they ran away after receiving a response to a call for help that refused to provide rescue? If the home country had denied rescue…’

If that were the case, it would be truly horrifying. It would mean dying frozen or turning into zombies here in Antarctica without any rescue team. But if Son Taehwan’s theory was true, it would explain why the survivors from Sejong Base might have fled without contacting any other bases.

“What are you thinking so hard about, senior?” Han Sujin asked.

“Ah, it’s nothing. Just thinking about something else for a moment.”

Han Sujin blinked her large eyes, looking up at Son Taehwan.

“Don’t pretend to be cute. What I was thinking about… was the radio transmission.”

“The radio transmission?”

Having formed a shared fate, he had no choice but to disclose his thoughts to her without any reservation.

“If you were to think about it, what do you think would be the first thing to do if some incident occurred here?”

“Well, I’d use the radio to call Korea… Ah.”

It had been 2-3 days. Even considering the blizzard, enough time had passed for a backup team to have been dispatched through the Chilean airport. Even if that weren’t the case, there would have been more than enough time to request rescue from Chile or South America. Yet no communication had come through. Han Sujin also belatedly realized this fact.

“I’m not sure, but what if we requested rescue from Korea or a neighboring country through radio transmission and got rejected?”

“But why… Why would they reject us?”

Son Taehwan lightly tapped on Han Sujin’s head with the edge of his hand. A low ‘thud’ sounded against the motorcycle helmet, and Han Sujin blinked cutely again.

“Sujin. How on earth did you pass your medical exams?”

“Chi. Are you going to tease me again, saying I got through them with a bribe?”

“Good thing you didn’t. Anyway, you’ve checked that the black blood is infectious, right? What if other countries knew about it?”

The thought of that possibility terrified Son Taehwan as he spoke. Quarantine. It meant that without proper supplies, people would starve to death. That situation would explain why someone would break into the food storage and kill Chinese people.

Son Taehwan hesitantly suggested another possibility as he fiddled with the precious supplies.

“If it’s not a refusal, then an even more messed-up conclusion could emerge.”

“If it’s not refusal, then what?”

“If we contacted the home country or Chile, etc., and there was no response.”

Han Sujin shrank back. It was indeed a chilling scenario.

What if this catastrophe was not limited to Antarctica?

Then naturally, there would be no one to respond to the radio. The bulky-faced communications engineer and some traitor might have killed people, stolen the food, and fled the base.

Han Sujin, too, considered the hypothesis and suddenly fell silent. If one thinks about the evaporating zombie oozing black blood, it was indeed possible. She broke the heavy silence after a while and finally spoke up again.

“There’s something called Koch’s postulates in relation to infectious diseases.”

“What’s that?”

“Koch established four criteria for classifying a disease as infectious. First, the pathogen is found in all cases of the disease. Second, the pathogen can be isolated from the host and grown in culture. Third, when the cultured pathogen is introduced to another organism, the same disease occurs. Fourth, the pathogen can be isolated from the new host and grown in culture again.”

“…The black blood.”

“Yes. There are people infected identically, and even though it evaporates and disappears, the traces of the black blood remain. The black blood meets almost all of Koch’s postulates. If the black blood has been transmitted to a continent…”

Son Taehwan knew she had been an agent of Doctors Without Borders, dispatched to various countries. Among the countries she was sent to, some had been struck by Class 1 infectious diseases.

“Could this black blood spread not just within this base but on a national level?”

“…I don’t know for sure. We still don’t know the exact route of transmission and incubation period. But if you consider that it took just a few days for the entire Sejong Base to become infected…”

Han Sujin left the rest unsaid. The two of them sat in silence, only watching the crackling campfire.

Eventually, the burning chair leg fell into the drum with a snap, sparking one last flame before dying out. Son Taehwan shook his head as the fire subsided.

“Sitting here moping won’t improve anything.”

He put on his cold-weather gloves and stood up briskly, surprising Han Sujin with his sudden movement. But only momentarily; seeing the determination in Son Taehwan’s eyes, she tilted her head curiously.

“Let’s get the generator running. There’s a hot water boiler here, so we might as well figure out how to survive on it. Sujin, come with me.”

“Where to?”

“The generator. Starting it is easy, but since it’s an emergency generator, there’s a lot to check. I wouldn’t ask for your help unless it was necessary.”

“So you do need my help? And what about not asking unless necessary?”

“This mechanic novice. Always running to me when there’s a machine problem yet so full of bravado.”

Han Sujin huffed and kicked Son Taehwan in the rear.

“Hey, you’ll never get married acting like that. Who kicks a man’s butt just like that?”

“Stop worrying about other people’s marriage prospects and just watch your step. If you get bitten by a zombie, you’ll die single anyway.”

“Didn’t I tell you…?”

“Please be quiet, senior.”

The two of them exchanged jokes and chuckled to each other. Despite the tension that still hung in the air, their jokes provided some relief.

“Don’t worry. If we can get the generator going, we can survive for a while.”

“Yes, senior. Let’s survive this together.”

“Of course. Here, take the monkey wrench and you hold the knife spear. If a zombie comes out, just back me up from behind.”

“Got it.”

With a goal in mind, life returned to their eyes. Sitting still would only result in death by zombies or freezing in the Antarctic cold. Han Sujin slapped her face to focus and picked up the knife spear. She had been holed up in the shower room to avoid death until now, but it was time to step outside again to survive.

“It’s a relief to have someone to talk to. If I were alone, I wouldn’t have even thought about starting the generator.”

“Same here. And…”

“And what else?”

“I feel like you’d misunderstand if I said it in this situation.”

“What? I won’t misunderstand. What is it?”

Son Taehwan looked at her intently before whispering as if it were a secret.

“I’m glad the person who’s still alive isn’t someone else, but you.”

“…Me too, senior.”



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