One of the camouflaged shapes I had seen wriggling up the hill suddenly stood up or knelt (it was hard to tell) and raised a dark black object. Then there was the ptoomp! of a grenade launcher.
Below, John called out, “Gas!” His voice was slightly muffled as he tried to fit a rebreather over his face. I was wondering why he thought there would be gas. Then the grenade hit. At the time, the four on the ground were behind one of the strange APCs, with Joseph in the lead. The grenade hit the ground in between the one they were investigating and the one that was covered in strange, writhing objects. There was a sound that was a combination of a thump and a hiss as the grenade hit, and then a shimmery, transparent gas coated the air around the two APCs.
As I got my rebreather on, I noticed that Sunny and Jeong had listened to John and the three of them were scrambling to get their rebreathers on. Joseph, however, hadn’t. As the rattle of gunfire began to rattle down, he just stood dumbfounded. Then he began to scream.
As he began to claw at his face, I yelled through my rebreather, “We need to give them some cover, right now.”
My statement was punctuated by the crack of Kyle’s M-21. “Already on it,” he said. He fired again.
I snapped down the 3x sight on my G-3 and drew a bead on the enemy position. As soon as I saw them, I instantly realized they had to be Dragon’s Teeth. Their helmets obviously had some sort of rebreather built in and their visors had an odd T-shape to them. I took aim and fired. The one I had been aiming for staggered back. I shot him again, and this time he fell down.
“What the hell kind of armor are they using?” I asked. Kyle was about to answer, but then the Dragon’s Teeth soldiers returned fire. We ducked down, but the bullets had come very close. To my great concern, it seemed like the sand bags were starting to dissolve.
Kyle noticed it too. “Come on,” he said through his rebreather and beginning to turn around, “we need to get out of here.” I grunted in affirmative, then began crawling down the hill with him.
Once we were down the hill, I said, “Let’s flank these assholes.”
“Excuse me?” Kyle asked. In the distance, I could hear the chattering of Jeong’s PKM and Sunny’s AK. Joseph was still screaming, but it seemed like someone had gotten his rebreather on.
“It can work,” I said. “We go behind the Korean roadblock up ahead, then swing around and hit them in the side.”
Kyle stared at me. “That may actually work,” he said.
We began to hurry, moving as fast as we could. We entered the valley behind the ruined North Korean Army vehicles. I peeked above the tank. There on the hill were about five or six Dragon’s Teeth soldiers. I couldn’t see the soldiers very well, just their muzzle flashes. “This seems to be a good angle,” I said. “You want to set up here while I get closer?”
Kyle nodded and moved forward as I hurried to the next armored car. As I did so, I saw that only Jeong was firing at the Dragon’s Teeth soldiers. Sunny was seemingly firing at something coming from further up the convoy and I couldn’t see John or Joseph at all. I could hear all of them, though. The only one who sounded in trouble was Joseph, so I wasn’t that worried.
By the time I had gotten to the last car, Kyle had made his presence known to the Dragon’s Teeth soldiers, and a few had turned their attention on him. That’s when they decided that enough was enough. Four grenade launchers fired in rapid succession, two of which hit near where Kyle was crouched. He grunted in pain, then got up to fire.
I turned around and ran, trying to get to the best position I could, ignoring the redoubled fire from the Dragon’s Teeth. Finally, I got onto the side of the hill where the Dragon’s Teeth soldiers were. I raised my G-3, looked down the 3x scope… and saw that four of the six appeared to be reloading.
Choosing one who had almost finished inserting a drum magazine into his bullpup assault rifle, I lined up my crosshairs with his head… and fired. Again, the smoke from my gun caused me to blink. In the exact instant that happened, I heard Kyle’s rifle. When I opened my eyes, my target was down and another Dragon’s Teeth soldier was clutching his throat. The bad news was they were all turning to aim at me, and the first one I had shot was already getting to his feet.
Determined to make my sacrifice count, I turned to one of the others and double-tapped him. This time, I kept my eyes open and saw him fall. Then the remaining four opened fire.
In a desperate attempt to live a bit longer, I threw myself to the ground. Amazingly enough, it worked. If I had done it a tiny bit later, though, I would have been completely perforated. Before the Dragon’s Teeth could adjust their aim, though, Jeong opened up with his PKM again. This time, he actually managed to make one fall over.
At that point, our opponents decided that they had had enough. All six of them, including the one clutching his throat, got up and ran. Jeong, Kyle, Sunny, and I half-heartedly continued to fire at them. We even managed to hit one or two.
Finally, they were all gone and silence reigned. Even Joseph had stopped screaming into his rebreather. The one Dragon’s Teeth soldier who didn’t get away, the one Kyle had shot in the throat, was lying in the grass. After enough time had passed, I got up, switched to my reflex sight, and began walking towards him.
“Hey, Killer!” Jeong called from behind one of the APCs. “Is everything all clear up there?”
“There’s one guy they left behind,” I said. “I’m checking it out.”
“Roger that,” Jeong said, and moved to the next APC. After he did so, Sunny took his former position. Both of them aimed their guns up at the hill.
“How’s John?” I asked.
“I’m fine!” John called out. “Just had to restrain a large, muscular guy jacked up on whatever that fucking mist was.”
When I was finally standing above the Dragon’s Teeth soldier, I saw that there was a trail of blood from where he had first been shot to where he had finally fallen. His uniform was stained with it and the red liquid had pooled where he had finally fallen. One hand was still gripped around his own neck in an attempt to stop the bleeding. The other loosely gripped his rifle.
My first thought upon seeing that much blood was that the soldier couldn’t have survived. Then, realizing how much that sounded like a supervillain in a comic book gloating before he got his face punched in by the hero, I pumped four more rounds into him. “All clear!” I called back after scanning the forest. “You guys want to come up and see what we accomplished, or do you want me to drag him back down?”
“Wait,” Jeong said, “we only got one?”
I looked around again. “Well,” I said, “judging by the blood trails, at least another one might be dead very soon if he doesn’t get medical attention. Apart from that, I’m only seeing one body.”
“I’m sorry,” Jeong said, “but there should be several of them spread out in small chunks. Are you sure…?”
“Jeong,” I said, somewhat annoyed, “there’s one dead guy up here, and he’s mostly intact except for the fact that his blood’s not in his body anymore.”
“I’m coming up,” Jeong said.
“I’m staying down here,” Sunny said. “If Joseph wakes up, John might need some help.”
I watched Jeong run up to me. As he did, I noticed Kyle calmly making his way towards us as well. When Jeong finally got to the scene, he said, “There should be more bodies.”
“Tell me about it,” I said. “I shot one of them in the chest, and he just got up like nothing happened.”
“I fired at least a hundred rounds from my gun,” Jeong said. “There should be more bodies.” He looked genuinely haunted.
I shrugged. Maybe the enormity of what had happened hadn’t hit. Maybe watching Ulfric ripping someone’s arm off and beating others with it had rendered me immune to panic. “Well, there aren’t,” I said. “Must have some pretty good armor.”
“Are you serious?” Jeong asked. “If it had been us, we’d be in fucking bloody chunks of meat all over the hill!”
“Jeong,” I said, “take a breath.”
He did. Then, realizing what he had been doing, he took several more. “Ok,” he said, “I’m fine. I’m fine now.”
After mentally filing away that Jeong could panic, I said, “So, his gun looks pretty interesting, doesn’t it?” I walked over to it, tucking my own rifle under my shoulder while I reached for it. The gun was the same black as the APC, but considerably more blocky. It also seemed to have cocking handles on either side, removable underbarrel grenade launcher, ammunition display, and special scope mount upon which a red dot sight was mounted. It did not, I notice, seem to have any iron sights. “Man,” I said, “this is pretty light. I think it’s made out of the same synthetic that the Grenzefrontier makes their guns out of.”
“The Grenzefrontier uses synthetics?” Jeong asked. “I thought they were still pretty much stuck in World War II.”
“For some things,” I said, “but I got my hands on one of their SMGs when they ambushed me on my way home over Christmas break.” I handed it to Jeong. “You can tell it’s the same substance due to how ridiculously light it is.
Jeong grabbed it. “Yeah,” he said. “It’s really light.” He paused. “Why does it have four cocking handles?”
I shrugged. Jeong, deciding to just mess around, pulled one of the forward ones. Nothing happened, except for a slightly quieter clack noise than you usually hear on a gun. He then pulled one of the rear ones. A silver-colored bullet was ejected, landing near me.
I bent down and picked it up. It was too light to be silver, possibly aluminum or titanium and definitely a hollowpoint, but there was something weirder about it.
“Hey, Jeong,” I said, holding it out to him, “where’s the case on this thing?”
After taking a look at it, he said, “I actually think it might be caseless. That’d save a bunch on space and make it lighter and more powerful. Combined with the fact that it’s a hollow point and this is just nasty. Of course, if you’re triggering your frag grenades by packing them with hallucinogenic gas, you might as well have your standard issue ammunition be specially designed to make people bleed.”
“So… would it not pierce our armor, then?” I asked.
Jeong shrugged. “If it was from a normal army,” he said, “I would say it’d be unlikely, but I’d advise that you not bet your life on it.”
“But since it’s the Dragon’s Teeth,” I said, “I should assume it would go through my armor’s front plate and out my rear plate at three hundred meters.”
“Pretty much,” Jeong said. “That’s almost as bad as the spiders?”
I looked at him blankly. “Spiders?” I asked.
“I’ll show you,” he said, dropping the Dragon’s Teeth assault rifle. I followed him down the hill. When we were on our way down, I noticed that the APC that had been writhing was now completely still. When we got behind the convoy, I saw why.
Between the APC that had sheltered Jeong, Sunny, John and Joseph and the writhing APC, the ground was littered with black carcasses, a few of which occasionally still fizzed and sparked. One was worryingly close to where John was restraining Joseph.
When I got closer, I could make out details. It really was a mechanical spider, with a variety of power tools on various “arms.” When I bent down, John said, “Yeah, that thing tried to jump on Joseph. Sunny shot it.”
From behind me, Sunny shuddered. “Those things are creepy. They’re fast, they’re silent, and they move like something from a horror movie.”
“What’s this?” Kyle asked.
“A mechanical spider,” I said matter-of-factly.
“Did it really have to be spiders?” he asked. “I fucking hate spiders.” Instantly, everyone began talking.
I rubbed the bridge of my nose as people slowly began to get more and more panicked. I didn’t really want to deal with what was freaking people out at the moment, partly because a part of me was gibbering about invisible people watching our every move. “So,” I said, gathering my wits, “we’re in enemy territory, we’re in an extraordinarily exposed position, we’ve fought off an enemy attack and can expect more to show up, plus one of us has been incapacitated by an unknown hallucinogenic.”
I paused for a moment to make sure everyone was listening. They were. “Now, we can survive. We just need to think of a plan in a calm and collected manner and we can get out of this fucking hellhole.” I suddenly remembered Sunny and Jeong were North Korean. “No offense.”
“You kidding?” Jeong asked. “I have never seen a worse place than this country.”
“Anyway,” I said, “does anyone have any suggestions?” No one said a word. I sighed. This was not going to be a fun trip.