After staring a bit at the spot where the guy had disappeared to, I decided to turn off the garage door. As I walked over to the control panel, SIG still raised, I saw that there were a few blood drops from the strange invisible guy. At least one round had penetrated. I heard footsteps on the catwalk and saw that there was more blood on one of the machines leading to the catwalk. Not a lot, but Mr. Invisible might not last the day if he kept that up. Of course, he probably had some way to quickly bandage his wounds if his tech was any indication.
I was brought out of my reverie by the sound of a beeping alarm and an engine straining. I then realized that the soldier I had just killed must have been trying to open one of the garage doors that had been welded shut. I turned to the control panel for the doors to see that one of the buttons was flashing. I decided to press it, even though the buttons were unsurprisingly all labeled in Korean. Luckily, that stopped the noises and the door trying to rise.
I breathed a sigh of relief. In my haste to get the door, I hadn’t realized how noisy it had been. I looked around, taking in the machinery, the corpse and the discarded weapons. I noticed that my enemy’s AK didn’t have a magazine in it. I holstered my SIG and walked to pick up my G-3.
I was busy trying to tie the sling together to make it useable when I heard a knock on one of the garage doors. I stopped fiddling and raised the carbine. The blood from the Korean soldier’s neck had stained my glasses and the 3x sight had flipped down, making it hard to see.
For a while, there was complete silence. Then there was another knock on the door and a voice called out in Korean. Then there was muffled conversation. Meanwhile, I switched to the reflex sight, hoping to get at least some kind of decent view.
I waited, hoping against hope that they’d go away, but the voices continued talking. Then, on the other side of the door, all hell broke loose. From the other side, I heard the somewhat muzzy crack of a silenced weapon. Then, something, probably a bullet, made a bulge in the garage door closest to me.
Instantly, the people who had been talking on the other side began to panic, but before they could even complete sentences, more silenced gunfire poured into them. Judging by the fact that only about a third of the bullets were hitting the garage door, the people with the silenced weapons had set up a crossfire. Between the organization that a crossfire implied and the fact that it sounded like they were using a variety of weapons, I had to assume that the ambushers were on my team. Then again, I was also assuming that the only players in this game were the North Koreans, The Dragons Teeth, and us and that The Dragon’s Teeth would have standardized weaponry.
The people they were ambushing had to be the Koreans. As if the unsilenced weapons and the Korean voices weren’t enough to suggest North Korean Army, a solitary burst of AK fire clinched it.
The entire engagement was over in a blink of an eye, not that I could see anything from inside the building. The silence that followed made me uneasy. Finally, I called out, “Hey, John, Kyle, is that you guys out there?”
“Yeah, Killer,” John called back, his voice slightly muffled, “me, Kyle and Joseph are here. How are you and Jeong doing?” Something about his voice led me to believe that he was more worried about Jeong. It made sense. After all, I sounded fine but Jeong didn’t seem to be with me. The other options weren’t very promising.
“Last I checked, Jeong was covering the only entrance,” I said. “I’ve left him alone for a bit, so I’m not sure about his status. As for me, apart from having to deal with a straggler, I’m fine. What about Sunny?”
This time, Kyle answered. “She… she’s guarding someone you guys better meet for yourselves.”
I sighed. That invisible guy or one of his friends might have killed Sunny by now, but seeing as how they might have gotten Jeong as well, I wasn’t really one to lecture others about separating. “Meet me out front. Don’t go in without identifying yourself. Jeong’s trigger finger might still be itchy.”
With that, I headed off. I didn’t run, but I was moving as quickly as I could while still remaining alert and checking my corners. It was hard to do as my glasses were stained with blood. I took them off for a moment, which, predictably, made my vision much worse.
When I finally found the catwalk I had come down on, I scanned the upper levels. I quickly spotted Jeong where I had left him, but his PKM had disappeared and he was slumped against the railing.
“Jeong?” I asked as loudly as I dared. He shifted a bit and groaned. Greatly reassured, but not wanting to get my hopes up, I began moving my way towards him, scanning the room for any threats.
When I finally got to him, I realized that his hands had been zip-tied to the railing. He craned his head to look at me, one eye slightly dilated. “Hey, Killer,” he said. “How’s it going?”
“Oh, you know,” I said, “getting into fights to the death, same old, same old. How about you?” As I said this, I turned around and began walking backwards towards him, desperately trying to see any attackers.
“Some asshole slammed my head on the railing and zip-tied me in place,” Jeong said. “Think he may have given me a concussion.”
I turned around to look at him, grudgingly tucking my G-3 under one arm. “Don’t worry, man,” I said. “We’re going to get you out of this.”
“By ‘this,’” he said, “you mean the zip-tie cuffs.” I ignored the bitterness in his voice as I flicked open my knife. Jeong regarded them. “I hope that blood’s not yours, Killer.”
“No,” I said brusquely, “it isn’t. Move your hands forward a bit.” The combination of my hated nickname and the reminder of my most recent kill hadn’t exactly made me feel better.
Jeong complied to my order. I put my knife between the ties and cut them quickly. “Ow!” Jeong said, cradling his palm, “Watch it!”
I looked at the wound. I had seen papercuts that looked worse. “You’ll live,” I said. “What happened to your gun?”
“Asshole who attacked it me kicked it over the edge,” Jeong said. Sure enough, when I looked down, the PKM was on the floor. “Now all we have to do is take care of the people still outside.”
“Kyle, Joseph and John killed them all,” I said brusquely. “We should get going, they’re waiting and that thing that got you is still around.”
“Wait,” Jeong said, slowly getting to his feet, “Kyle and Joseph are together? That’s… kinda bad.”
Suddenly, I felt a lot worse about our little expedition. Putting those thoughts out of my mind, I grabbed Jeong, drew my G-3 with the other hand and said, “We’ve got worse problems.” I then began moving.
“Yeah…” Jeong said. “I hope Joseph realizes that.”
When we got down, the other three came in, their guns sweeping the room. “Hey, Killer,” Joseph called out, “you there, mon?”
“Right here,” I said. All three turned their guns on me. They sighed and lowered them.
“Dude,” John said, “you scared me.”
“What happened to him?” Kyle asked.
“I think a Dragon’s Teeth soldier gave him a concussion,” I said. “Just to prove he could.” Saying it, I suddenly realized that was the only reason. Even without any weapon, someone with that soldier’s speed, skill and power could kill someone. This was a warning.
“Walk it off,” Jospeph said. “We need to meet up with Sunny.”
“He has a concussion,” I said. “I’m not sure he can…”
Kyle shook his head, trying to get me to stop, but I noticed it too late. “Did I ask you?” Joseph asked. “Are you a doctor?”
Joseph cut me off. “Then don’t countermand an order. Remember, I am in charge.”
Suddenly, an urge to kill him washed over me. I had lived through Hell Semester, two ambushes during what was supposed to be civilian life, the Grenzefrontier invasion of Nowhere Island University, and what I think was a bad case of PTSD and now I had to deal with this? This drama was for business or leadership majors, not someone who was in the middle of a combat situation.
In an instant, I realized that firing from the hip could lead to me shooting John or Kyle. So, instead of shooting, I simply said, “Sorry, Sir. Won’t happen again.” I also released Jeong. He then took a few teetering steps forward.
When it became obvious that Jeong could carry the massive machinegun, Joseph said, “Ok, let’s get moving. Kyle, you lead the way. Jeong, you get center. John and Killer, you get the rear.”
As we began to move out, John sort of forced me to hang back. “Dude,” he said as I scraped blood off my glasses, “Joseph may have bought your contrite act, but I know you.”
“And?” I asked, a bit more coldly than I meant. I was going for neutral innocence, but it came out scary. I even put myself a bit on edge.
“Just…” John began. “…Just remember that we’re all on the same team and that things can get stressful.” He then lowered his voice even further. “And killing him would only make things worse.”
“I don’t remember saying anything so drastic,” I said. I still sounded cold.
John just gave me a look. “You’re losing it, man,” he said.
“So’s Joseph,” I said as I continued walking. Eventually we had to bunch up because Kyle was taking us through the back streets of the town. Joseph didn’t seem to like this, and the closer we got to each other, the more agitated he got. “Do we really need to be taking all these turns?” he asked Kyle.
Kyle shrugged. “This is the only way I know,” he said. “Sorry. Besides, we’re almost here.”
To prove his point, Sunny opened one of the doors. “You’ve arrived just in time,” she said. “The guy’s calmed down, at least for the moment.”
“Guy?” John asked. In response, Sunny ushered us in. We were in a small, one room house that was where the town literally ended and the wilderness began. The wall facing the hilly forest beyond had been blown in by multiple cannon rounds. As we got in, we saw a man in a NKPD zip-tied to a radiator.
“He was here when The Dragon’s Teeth attacked,” Sunny said. “Want to listen to his story?” The soldier groaned in response, and I took out my cPhone and started recording video.
“Of course,” Joseph said. “Jeong, you translate.”
The soldier opened his eyes. As he did, I noticed that on the wall above his head, there was a bloodstain on the wall. Judging by the state of the soldier’s face, the blood belonged to him. He stared at us for a moment, his face unreadable. Then he tried to stand up. He managed to get to this odd position between standing and crouching when his cuffs prevented him from fully standing. His face creased in confusion.
Sunny gently put her hand on his shoulder and said something softly in Korean. The soldier looked at her strangely and asked her something. “He’s asking who she is,” Jeong said. Sunny spoke reassuringly, and Jeong translated again. “She’s saying she’s a friend.”
Something about the soldier bothered me. First off, there was his lack of wounds. Apart from his smashed-up face, he didn’t have any wounds. Then, there was the fact that despite being surrounded by people who were obviously soldier from a foreign power, he wasn’t nervous.
Jeong, meanwhile, kept translating the interrogation. “She just asked him what happened here.” He paused as our prisoner began slowly telling the story. As he did so, I noticed he wasn’t looking at anything in particular. “Interesting,” Jeong said, “he’s saying that The Dragon’s Teeth came and they escalated. I’m not sure what it means.”
“What was there previous MO?” John asked.
“The last team said they’d just randomly appear and leave,” Joseph said. “They were only able to discover they were clones by hijacking a meatwagon.”
“Were… were there reports of them turning invisible?” I asked.
“Don’t be stupid, Killer,” Joseph said. “No one has that kind of tech.
“Never hurts to ask,” Sunny said. She then turned to the prisoner and repeated the question in Korean. He responded, and Sunny gasped. So did Jeong. The prisoner continued talking. Finally he asked a question.
“What did he say?” John asked.
“I don’t speak Korean,” I said, “but based on past experiences, they do turn invisible, don’t they?”
“Yeah,” Jeong said. “He saw it. He also said they like to make sure that you know as well. The ones that can do it followed his unit just to gaslight them. They’d even sneak in to break equipment and rearrange what they didn’t feel like breaking.”
“Were the invisible guys the ones who did this?” Joseph asked.
Sunny relayed the question. The man just shook his head. Sunny pressed further, but the soldier kept refusing, growing louder and more shrill. Whatever it was that had invaded the town, it was obviously horrifying.
“What’s he saying?” I asked.
“Who cares?” Joseph said, drawing a USP. “He’s too far gone.”
“He’s saying he doesn’t want to remember,” Jeong said. “He’s saying they showed him something. Apart from that, he’s not making much sense.”
“Yep,” Joseph said. “He’s too far gone. I’m putting him out of his misery before he…” Suddenly, an invisible blade punctured the thin wall of the house, coming out the front of the Korean soldier’s head. White smoke came from the edges of each hole, but not through as if there was something between his eyes, despite visual proof to the contrary. “…gives our position away,” Joseph finished weakly.
Meanwhile, Sunny had fallen back with a gasp and I had fired several rounds at the wall. For the first time since I gotten my G-3, I had turned on full auto. It was a conscious decision. I couldn’t see the target, so my only hope of hitting anything was to fill as much of the air with 7.62mm NATO as I could. When my gun clicked, Jeong said, “I think you got him.”
As sunlight streamed through the newly-made windows, I replied, “The one I saw took two rounds of .357 SIG in the chest and one more in the head. Then he turned invisible and spider-manned up from the ground floor and onto the catwalk to knock you out. I’m going to want to make sure.” I quickly reloaded as I said this. There could be others.
“If that’s true,” Joseph said, “we need to confirm he’s gone.” We nodded and both exited the door, each of us checking one direction. Joseph took point, pistol held closer to his face than normal to prevent someone from taking it. As we moved, I reflected that this was how it was supposed to be, a team working together with no need for words or drama.
When we finally turned the corner, I saw a man in a uniform the same as my other invisible friend. Several bullet holes had punctured his armor, and bits of electricity fizzed about him. For the first time, I noticed he had housings on his arms. One of them had a long blade on it, which he had obviously used to bisect our captive’s head. Sparks of electricity danced across the body, fizzing softly at the many bullet holes.
When we were both extremely close to the body, Joseph asked, “Would you like to do the honors and make sure?” In response, I took careful aim and shot unmoving body in the apparently unarmored throat. It exploded, turning everything around it red in a several centimeter radius.
Before Joseph could congratulate me, something fell down, landing right on the corpse. We looked up, just in time to see another face with weird goggles staring down at us from the roof of the neighboring house. Before I could even raise my rifle, it disappeared.
While I was watching the roof, Joseph bent down to pick up a manila folder sealed in a waterproof bag. “Well,” he said, “I think this is going to be a lot more difficult than we thought.”