I attempted to turn around, but when I turned ninety degrees, I had to turn back to forward facing due to how bright the light behind me was. Meanwhile, two of my teammates were screaming in pain and terror.
Jeong’s screams were mostly just pure animal cries. John, meanwhile, was screaming things I could understand perfectly. “MY EYES!” he screamed, “MY EYES! OH GOD, I’M FUCKING BLIND!”
Meanwhile, I realized that the Deets in front of us were going to use this opportunity to charge. I pulled out a grenade, not bothering to check what type it was, and tossed it around the corner. There was a thump and I heard several people yell.
Before I could turn the corner, a Deet soldier in that disturbingly dark black staggered around the corner. He looked like some sort of specter. I shot him in the neck, and he continued to fall, a dark liquid that was probably his blood spraying the wall.
Building on my momentum, I turned the corner. Dark shapes that may have been Deet soldiers and/or were scattered across the ground. One short, vaguely humanoid shape was still standing upright, though just barely, and appeared to be clutching its neck. I instinctively triple-tapped it.
The shape fell, but before it did, it was able to pull out a pistol and double-tap me in the chest. Strangely enough, the pistol it used was so quiet, I only realized it had fired from the smoke it emitted and the impacts from the bullet. Otherwise, I would have thought his gun had jammed.
As this was happening, a gun poked up from behind a dumpster and sprayed blindly. It was surprisingly accurate for blind fire, as I got hit three more times. This one was also extremely quiet. Luckily, whatever ammo these guys were using was as wimpy as it was quiet. Of the five rounds, only one penetrated my armor, and that was stopped by a rib. It hurt like hell, but I was alive.
Laying down suppressive fire with one hand, I pulled out a frag grenade with the other. I then primed it and rolled it down the alley. It rolled right to where the remaining Dragon’s Teeth soldier was hiding and exploded.
Satisfied, I limped back around the corner, pausing only to collect a pistol that the first Deet soldier had dropped and shove it into my boot. Finally, the blueish white light had cleared up. What I saw wasn’t very encouraging.
Something had come from the area of the T-junction we hadn’t been down. Something extremely hot. It had sailed down from the enemy position, and hit the building forming the wall, causing the cheap concrete to melt like candle wax. Then, like a bouncy ball of death, it had fallen to the asphalt beneath, creating another steaming crater. It then continued to bounce back towards the enemy position, which I assumed is what had saved us from being overrun.
Another odd thing I noticed was that there were a bunch of spikes embedded in the wall, as well as Deet bullets. Was someone firing a nail gun or something?
Meanwhile, Joseph had salvaged Jeong’s PKM and was firing it down the alley the death ball had come from, and was getting quite a few bullets in return. Sunny was a little bit further from that alley crouched over something charred, and Kyle was applying a cold compress to John’s eyes. Thankfully, John had stopped screaming.
“This thing’s almost out of ammo!” Joseph shouted. “How’s Jeong?”
“He’s… he’s fine,” Sunny said, her voice husky. “He just needs to… needs to…” As she looked up, I noticed one side of her face was slightly red like she had been burned.
I hurried over to where Sunny was. It took me a second to realize it, but the charred thing she was crouched over was human. Nothing remained of its face, except some charred muscle. Then it spoke, and I realized it was Jeong. “Sunny…” he wheezed, then he continued on in Korean. In response, Sunny burst into tears.
When she was done sobbing, she said, “He says he can hold them off while we run.”
“Great,” Joseph said, turning back for a moment from firing, “but where the hell are we going to run to?”
Suddenly, halfway between the L-bend and the T-junction, a manhole cover popped off. From inside, a young girl, about eight years old, with short hair popped her head out. “Quick,” she said, “follow me.” She then disappeared into the tunnel.
“Should we…” Kyle asked hesitantly.
“Don’t see much of a choice,” Joseph said, fiddling with a brick of something. “Killer, you go first.” He then chucked something down the alley.
Before Kyle could protest, I ran to the manhole, tucking my G-3 under my arm as I went. I then decided that the best thing to do would be to slide down the ladder. I wasn’t sure how long we’d have. On my way down, I was introduced to a fragrance that, if my nose served me right, was an odious mixture of shit, pee and toxic waste.
As soon as I got down, there was a massive explosion from the surface. I drew my G-3 and scanned the area. It was just me, the little girl, and the sewer. I noticed that the sewer followed the same route as the alley above. I also was now able to get a clear look at the girl’s clothing. She was wearing a white shirt and overalls. I also noted that one of her shoes was missing and that her clothes were slightly burned and frayed.
“Clear!” I called up to the rest of my team.
“Tell your team to hurry up, Yankee,” the girl said. “If they fight, they die.” She looked worried, mostly because she was probably right. I didn’t blame her. However, I couldn’t let her go running off.
“We need to pull off an orderly retreat,” I said. “If we just run, they’ll catch us.” The girl nodded like she wasn’t entirely convinced.
The next person down was John, ZMR slung over his back with a sling. The wet cloth was still tied around his eyes, but he was still moving pretty fast without me needing to worry. When he finally got down he breathed a sigh of relief. “That,” he said, “was fucking scary.”
I dragged him over to the girl. “Grab his hand,” I said to the girl. When she did, I said, “When I give the word, you’re going to drag him along after you. If the rest of us don’t make it, he can help you. But you need to take care of him. You got it?” She nodded, a serious expression on her face.
Meanwhile, Sunny had already gotten down the ladder and Kyle was just about done as well. I turned around to face them. “Where’s Joseph?” I asked.
Suddenly a pair of legs swung down the hole in the ceiling. “Coming!” Joseph said. He climbed down a few steps, then slapped some sort of brick to the ceiling. “Get going!” he said, fiddling with some controls on the brick. “I’ll be with you in a bit!”
That was all the encouragement our small guide needed. Pulling John’s arm, she began heading down towards the T-junction. Then, to my discomfort, she took the turn leading under the enemy’s position. “Ow, ow, ow,” John said as she pulled.
“Quiet!” the girl hissed. “Sound goes very far!”
She then began to run at a flat-out pace. It wasn’t very fast for us, with our long legs and military training, but it was beginning to tire her out. Eventually, she turned another corner, but she slipped and fell. When she landed, I heard her scream out in pain. I somehow had ended up behind John, Sunny, and Kyle, so I couldn’t see what was going on.
I suddenly realized that Joseph still hadn’t caught up. I turned around and saw him running along behind us, his weapons holstered and Jeong’s PKM nowhere in sight. The reason all his weapons were away was because he was fumbling with an odd device.
Suddenly, behind him, a large, shadowy figure with glowing red eyes turned the corner. In that moment, several things happened rapidly. The first of which was me shouting a warning of some kind. In response Joseph, looked over his shoulder… and laughed.
This was quickly cut off by a spike suddenly appearing in his side with a metallic clanking sound. As Joseph stumbled and fell to his knees, there was a click of a gun without ammo attempting to fire. As I let off a few rounds, I heard Joseph say something that sounded an awful lot like, “Suck on this, asshole.”
Then, there was a roar, and the street above fell onto the giant Deet soldier. Meanwhile, the force of what seemed to be three explosions sent me stumbling. Farther up, I could hear someone fall into the river of sewage. I turned and looked. It was John.
“Fucking really?” he asked as we all struggled to get our balance. “It wasn’t enough that I get blinded, now I get to swim in the sewer water? Oh God, I think that was a turd. A turd just… wait… never mind, it’s climbing up my leg. It’s a rat.”
“How is a rat better?” asked the girl in a somewhat skeptical tone of voice. I noticed her voice was still a little shaky.
“I actually kind of like rats,” John said. “They’re actually kind of cute. Even pretty affectionate, too.” The silence from our guide conveyed her disgust and contempt far better than any words could.
Meanwhile, Sunny and I walked over to Joseph. “Hey,” he said, trying to stand up, “How are you guys doing?”
As I got closer, I noticed that the spike was actually quite hot. It seemingly had cauterized the wound. I could tell because smoke was leaking out from around the spikes. What actually was worrying me were his hands. Both of them were severely burned, which explained why he had so much trouble fiddling with the device. That device was lying on the floor in front of him. As I had guessed, it was a remote detonator. It was a fairly simple design, with a knob to arm and disarm it and a second button with a cap to set the explosives off, but even that would be hard to work with second and third degree burns all across your hands.
Joseph caught me looking at his hands. “Yes,” he said, “they’re as painful as they look. I picked up Jeong’s PK without thinking. I’m surprised it was still intact.”
I suddenly remembered how Jeong had been burned to a crisp by whatever had emitted that blue light. “He’s dead, isn’t he?” I asked. “Even if we get back up there…”
“Please…” Sunny said, obviously at the end of her rope, “Shut up and let me work on Joseph.” She paused, then added bitterly, “At least I might be able to save him.”
“Sorry,” I said, “I…” I paused. I had no clue what to say. Jeong had been with Sunny since Hell Semester, maybe even from before that. Then, in the blink of an eye, he had been fried to a crisp. I couldn’t even imagine trying to save someone that burned while they screamed their head off, let alone someone who I had survived Hell Semester, finals and God knows what else with.
Suddenly, I heard some rubble shifting. I looked to where the sewer had collapsed and saw that the giant Deet soldier was still alive and struggling to get up. “…I’ll go over there and take care of him,” I finished lamely.
For about half a second, I felt much better. I had a job with a clear goal and simple steps. Then I realized that I was happy about shooting an injured human being and instantly felt sick to my stomach.
Somehow managing to not vomit, I stopped just out of reach of the giant’s massive arms. His arms had been pinned underneath when the ceiling had fell on him, but with the way he was struggling, I didn’t want to take any chances. After calmly lining his head up with my G-3’s crosshairs, I pulled the trigger. Simple, clean, effective.
Or it would have been. The giant paused, then he looked up, the glowing red eyes locking onto mine. Disturbed that a 7.62mm NATO round hadn’t even caused him to lose consciousness, I fired two more rounds into his face. Both hit.
After the report of my G-3 subsided, the… thing cocked his head, and in an eerily familiar voice said, “You’ll have to do better than that, you know.”