Track 5: Shadows in the Town

“So,” Jeong asked as we waited inside the cannery, watching the North Koreans dismount and start heading into town, “What do we do?”

“Aren’t you in charge?” I asked. He, Joseph, and Sunny had graduated this year, from what I had heard, meaning he had seniority.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “Guess I have seniority here. So I guess we head back to the boat and…”

“Wait…” I said, pointing at the screen, “isn’t that our boat?” The boat I was pointing out was currently sinking. Already, the rear had begun to dip below the waves.

“Yup,” Jeong said as two people jumped out and hid beneath the dock, “that’s definitely our boat.” Suddenly, the drone feed was replaced by static and a loss of signal notification. “What the hell?” Jeong asked.

“I don’t think that was the Koreans…” I said.

“Doesn’t matter right now,” Jeong said. “We get out of here. This is a point of interest. They’re probably going to search here first.” He began moving through the factory. “Hopefully, there’s a rear exit we can use.” He began quickly moving through the machinery, gun up. I followed him, making sure to check the various corners.

Quickly, we discovered the rear exits. There were a lot of them, in fact. However, they were for trucks to park at, like a garage door. Opening them would definitely make a lot of noise. Of course, that was a moot point as a few of them appeared to be welded shut.

“Ok,” Jeong whispered, “Let’s head to the catwalks. That should offer some cover.” Suddenly, there was the clanging sound of someone running quickly around the catwalk. Jeong sighed. “At least these invisible fuckers aren’t trying to kill us.” I could almost hear him think “yet.”

As we climbed the staircase, we heard a burst of gunfire. It ended quickly. From what I could tell, it was the NKPD group that had wandered in, as it was entirely AK-based weaponry. Judging by how quickly it had ended, there hadn’t been a fight, because if there was we’d hear the sound of silenced gunfire. That left two possibilities: Either the NKPD scouting force had somehow ambushed Kyle and Sunny, or they had seen our invisible friends. However, without visual confirmation we couldn’t tell.

We then began to wait. That was the hardest part. There were several more bursts of gunfire, and they kept getting closer. Then there was a loud thump and all hell broke loose. The scout force, seemingly just one intersection away from the factory, began to spray AK rounds wildly. At least the chatter of automatic weapon fire and officers shouting orders drowned out the sounds of a few injured soldiers screaming.

“Did you hear that?” Jeong whispered. As if on cue, the gunfire ceased. There still was shouting, though.

“The gunfire and explosions?” I whispered back, somewhat sarcastic. “Yeah.”

“What about the silenced gunfire?” Jeong asked.

I thought about it. “Yeah,” said. “It was from kind of far off, though, wasn’t it?”

We were interrupted when something heavy slammed into the door. We had taken a position on the catwalk overlooking the front entrance. Someone shouted something in Korean and Jeong chuckled slightly as he deployed his PKM. Then the door opened. I looked to Jeong for direction, but he held up his hand in a fist, indicating me to stop.

An NKPD soldier slowly peeked his head in, looking left, then right. He didn’t look up. After what seemed like an eternity, he came to the mistaken conclusion that it was safe to go in. Three NKPD soldiers armed with AKs cautiously crept into the room, each covering a different vector. Each called out what I assumed to be Korean for “clear!” Then two more began to come in.

That’s when Jeong opened fire. If you’ve watched movies with silencers in them, you would be forgiven for thinking that silencers make guns quiet. In actuality, suppressors are designed to make it hard to pinpoint a shooter’s location from several hundred meters away in a noisy environment. It does save your hearing, though. If the PKM hadn’t had a can on it, I might have had some serious temporary hearing loss due to how close I was to Jeong.

The effects are also quite awesome in the biblical sense as well. The NKPD soldier in front of the door and one of the two behind him fell apart from Jeong’s five-round burst. The other soldier who was crossing the threshold backpedaled, but another two-round burst split his head open like a sledgehammer hitting a watermelon.

One of the remaining two who was already in the room raised his AK, firing as he did so. I quickly shot him and became familiar with another fact about silencers: they cause your gun to belch gas into your face. Before I got into my blinking fit from the unexpected mist, I saw the wall behind his head turn crimson.

When I was done, I saw four bodies. “Jeong,” I murmured worriedly, “I think we missed one.”

“You’re right,” he said. “One of his buddies outside tried to suppress us. While I was dealing with him, he ran off into the factory. Find him before he flanks us, ok?” I nodded, and began heading out. When I had found a staircase down on the side where the surviving NKPD soldier was on, I heard Jeong open up with his PKM again. But slightly before that happened, I heard something fall over behind me. Then there was silence again and I could hear someone noisily making their way over to the rear of the factory.

I turned around and saw the NKPD soldier about to disappear into the maze of machinery. I raised my G-3 and fired. I missed, and the soldier got to cover. Then, he stretched his AK out of cover to fire blindly. I ducked just in time, potentially saving myself from one of the blindly fired rounds.

An AK-74 can fire for almost three seconds continuously before it runs out. My plan was to wait it out and then rush him. However, probably about one and a half seconds into the burst, his friends tried to enter again. The resulting cacophony muffled any chance of hearing my target reloading.

Cautiously, I peeked my head out from behind cover, then waited a bit. Seeing as this drew no return fire, I edged over to where he had chosen to hole up. The sensation of being out in the open in a gunfight was definitely not enjoyable, but it only lasted a few seconds. Finally, I had eyes on where he had been. There, behind some device or other, was an empty AK magazine and a bunch of spent casings, but no soldier. There was also a very small path running from left to right. I peeked down it…

…And promptly withdrew my head as a burst of AK fire sailed down the narrow funnel. As I ducked back behind machine, I considered my options. I could chuck a grenade of some sort at the guy, but I was a little leery of that course of action. With all the unfamiliar industrial equipment, the chances of hitting something explosive were too great. That also ruled out the reckless blind fire my adversary was indulging in.

The other option was to wait him out. The problem with that was I didn’t know how much ammunition he was carrying. For all I knew, we could be here for quite a while, and again, there was the possibility of him hitting something. He also was limiting himself to two and three round bursts now, with slight pauses in between, indicating he was a bit better operator than I gave him credit for.

That left trying to flank him. I got back out into the larger hallway and began moving silently closing the distance, taking in the sounds of both him firing and his friends trying to enter. When I was halfway to where I thought he was, he stopped firing. Not sure if he was reloading, completely out or trying to bait me, I remained cautious. When I finally got to an alcove going back in, I quickly checked out my surroundings. To my right was more of the narrow passage. To the left, back where I had come from, was more of the same, plus an ejected AK magazine, a sort of barricade of pipes, and another small alcove.

“You clever son of a bitch,” I muttered. Well, I guess I had no other option. G-3 raised, I began heading down the narrow passage. It was a short one, and I quickly came to a fork.

For a second, I debated which direction to take. Then I heard the sound of a motor. It was one of the garage doors. That was bad. If he raised it, then Jeong and I could be attacked from both sides. I then did the worst thing you can do in a combat situation. I panicked.

I ran through the maze of machinery, smacking chains out the way, ducking under pipes and vaulting over assembly lines. Finally, I could see the garage doors. I smiled, pushing myself further. I had made it.

Things went wrong just as I was about to clear the maze. When I was one step away, the wooden stock of an AK came careening towards my face, accompanied by a yell of desperation and rage. I turned around and stumbled back, letting my G-3 go. I was thankful that the only upgrade I had gotten for it (it… came with the reflex sight and the flip-up 3x scope) was a sling.

I stopped being thankful for that purchase when my attacker grabbed my G-3 and began using the sling to choke me. I had seen that happen before. In fact, it had happened during Hell Semester’s “final” where, ironically, I had acquired the very weapon being used to kill me. A friend of mine, a child soldier known as The Monk, had snuck up on some poor guy and strangled him with the strap of his own weapon. When I told The Monk to stop, he had pulled out the guy’s gun and executed the unfortunate sod.

The difference between that situation and this were two-fold. First, despite the fact that I had two pistols on me, my Berretta 92F and my Sig-Sauer P229, my assailant wasn’t trying to acquire either of them. The other was that he wasn’t twisting the sling, just pulling it.

First things first, I took advantage of the lack of twisting to pull the strap forwards with my right hand. I also stepped back into him, reliving the pressure on my neck and causing us to collide. Simultaneously, with my left hand, I reached into the holster on my left hip to withdraw the P229. Since I could feel his head pressing into the back of my own, I felt I could fire my pistol behind me without too much worry.

He let go with a scream of pain. Damn. I hadn’t hit. Ok, I technically hit him, but he was still alive. In this kind of fight, the only kind of hit that mattered was a kill, especially since I couldn’t exactly get a resupply later on.

Luckily, he had stumbled back. Unfortunately, he also had caused my sling to break, causing my G-3 to clatter to the floor. Doing my best not to focus on how disappointed I was by the breakage, I turned around to either pistol-whip or shoot my assailant. Unfortunately, he caught my hand.

During the ensuing struggle, I got to get a good look at my opponent. In fact, it was a better look than I ever wanted. He was probably sixteen years old which meant he was two, no three years younger than me. His olive green NKPD fatigues were too big for his bony body, and his helmet had been knocked off to reveal that that the ear that hadn’t been shot off had been hit so many times it resembled a cauliflower. His nose had also been broken repeatedly, and his skin was more gaunt than some of my friends at school, suggesting either that he had been less well-fed than a child soldier from Africa or that he used a lot of meth.

However, it was the desperation on his face that will haunt me. Being close to someone and seeing their face as they struggle to survive is always terrible. It gets even worse if the only way for them to survive is killing you. You wonder if the expression on their face (in this case, brown eyes shining with terror and desperation) mirrors your own. Of course, it takes a while for you to start asking yourself this. At the moment it is happening, you have bigger problems to worry about.

For instance, we both fell down pretty quickly, my Sig going off in the process. We tumbled around on the floor, trying to shoot the other. It was like the climax in dozens of movies where the good guy and the head bad guy are struggling over the gun. Yet in this situation, the stakes were much tinier and there was no personal enmity between us.

Finally, after a few too many close calls, I let go of the gun with my right hand and grabbed my knife out of its sheath. Before the soldier could realize what I was doing, I unfolded it and brought it down into his throat. Hard.

As his blood sprayed my face and spattered my glasses, his expression changed from desperation to shock. In his few remaining moments of consciousness, he made a gurgling noise. In that moment, I actually wished I could speak Korean. He deserved to have his last words heard and understood.

When his grip on the hand still holding my Sig eased, I stood up. I was distinctly aware that I was now coated in blood. Around me, the shooting seemed to have died down. But as I stood looking down on my most recent victim, I also felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I was being watched.

I spun around, back towards the loading bay. Staring straight at me was a tall man wearing a combat uniform that was definitely not NKPD issue. It was grey body armor over a grey skintight jumpsuit, but that wasn’t the weird part.

The first unusual thing was his helmet/facemask. It was almost like a hockey mask that fit over his head with a big camera lens over each eye, each surrounded by three smaller ones. Even stranger, he wasn’t armed.

Not waiting for him to produce a weapon, I raised my Sig and fired three times. Two rounds hit his chest, and a third hit right between the two camera lenses.

Normally, when .357 SIG rounds hit a target at that close range, even a target wearing body armor, the target falls down. Also, large chunks of flesh end up outside the body. This… thing just staggered back.

Now genuinely terrified, I pulled the trigger again. There was an audible click. The monster (seriously, nothing human can take .357 SIG to the face and live) cocked its head, waiting to see what I’d do next. When I just gawked at it, it just turned on its heel… and vanished. By vanished, I don’t mean walked out of sight, I mean literally turned invisible.

“So,” I said, as the mysterious figure’s footsteps faded into the distance, “let me guess, you’re a member of The Dragon’s Teeth, aren’t you?”

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