“Well?” the giant asked, still buried under rubble, “What are you going to do?”
What I did was I flipped the G-3 to automatic and fired until it clicked. At that point, due to my previous engagement, that had only been a three or four round burst. This time, my opponent slumped over, but I didn’t trust him to be dead. After all, the helmet looked disturbingly intact. He could be playing dead, waiting until we had gone on our merry way before he unearthed himself and resumed implacably lumbering after us.
So I reloaded and fired again. As I did so, parts of the helmet got smashed in or began to hang off. Eventually, I could see blood and darker bits inside. When the G-3 clicked again, I pulled out my SIG and unloaded that into the Deet soldier as well.
I surveyed the Deet soldier for a moment, debating whether to use explosives just to make sure. Then I realized that three quarters of his head was just gone. I reloaded my SIG and my G-3, and without a word moved back to the rest of the team.
“So,” I said, somehow managing to sound calm, “what do we need to do to get moving?”
Almost everyone stared at me for a moment. Then Sunny ripped out the spike embedded in Joseph’s side. In response, Joseph yelled in pain. “Quit it,” Sunny hissed as she applied a bandage. “We aren’t out of this yet!”
“Sunny…” Joseph gasped, “I’m…I don’t think I’ll be capable of command for a while.” He moaned in pain, then continued. “Are you… are you capable of taking over?”
“No,” she said. “I’m going to be too busy making sure you don’t die, you big idiot. What the hell were you thinking, setting up C4 right over our heads?”
“Same thing I was thinking when I brought down the meat mountain,” he said, smiling a bit. “It worked back then, too.” He turned to Kyle. “What about you, mon?” he asked. “You actually have…”
“No!” Kyle said, literally recoiling at the suggestion. He collected himself, then said, “Seriously, you heard what happened last time I was leader, right?”
“I didn’t…” the little girl who had led us down here said. She was still just around the corner, so I couldn’t see her. However, I could tell by the tone of her voice that she was both intrigued and worried about this.
“I know exactly what happened,” Joseph said, “and you did much better than you think. That’s why I was such a bastard.” He turned to me. “Well, how about you, Killer? You up for this?”
If I was being honest, I’d have admitted that I was terrified. We were in hostile territory, pursued by terminator-like clone soldiers and desperately flailing Korean soldiers, with one man down, another injured, no support, intel or heavy weapons, and only an eight year old girl to guide us. Needless to say, things were dicey.
Instead, I said, “Well, no one is ever ready for this kind of mess, but I’ll do my best. Just… tell me if I’m fucking up, ok?”
“Hey!” Sunny said, “Watch the language around the eight year old, ok?”
“Sorry,” I said as I observed the situation. John was still completely blind, but he was now feeding some beef jerky he had taken with him to a rat, our guide was, as far as I knew, completely immobile, Joseph’s hands were burned and the spike might make moving him difficult, and Jeong was, at best, in enemy hands and on his way to getting treatment. Of the three of us who were still with the squad and mobile, Sunny seemed on the verge of an emotional breakdown, and rightly so. Kyle, meanwhile, was either completely fine or a hairs-breadth from suicide. Judging by my heart-to-heart talk with him after the Grenzefrontier attack, it was much closer to the latter.
“Ok,” I said, “first question, how are we going to move Joseph?”
Sunny lifted him up so that he was leaning on her shoulder. I noticed that doing so meant she couldn’t use any of her weapons and that it took a lot of effort on both their parts. If we were attacked, that was another person who would be completely useless. If we stopped, the likelihood of her picking Joseph back up also was going to be about nil. I was going to voice my concerns but Sunny gave me a dangerous look and said, “I got this.”
I then turned my attention to Kyle, John, and our guide. John was still feeding the rat that was perched on top of his shoulder. When I was able to turn the corner, I saw that our guide was looking at John with a look of disgust, cradling her ankle. “Did he hit his head?” she asked.
Kyle shrugged. “Nope,” he said, “John apparently just likes feeding strange animals he found floating in the sewer.”
“Either way,” I said, “Can you walk, Miss…?”
“My name is Nari,” she said. “And I’ll try, sir.” She stood up, wincing as she did so. I could imagine how she felt. I had been on the wrong side of a rifle grenade during the Hell Semester finals, plus there were times when I had twisted it running.
“Let me know if you can’t make it, Nari,” I said.
She shook her head. “It isn’t far,” she said. “I’ll lead.”
I considered this for a moment. “No,” I said. “I’ll lead and you give me directions. If the person in the lead turns the corner and comes face to face with hostiles, I want someone armed to do it.” I turned to Kyle. “Kyle, you can lead John around. Also, let me know if Sunny and Joseph are falling behind.”
When we were all assembled, we began making our way through the winding, smelly corridors. Apart from a few gasps and moans of pain, we were completely silent, our ears straining to hear the next horrible thing coming to kill us.
Finally, we got to where Nari was leading us. It was a small office/common room in the sewer that Nari had to unlock with a key. We were ushered through a small hallway into this odd space. I looked around to see an early-2000s era computer and 1980’s TV on a small desk, directly in front of a bulletin board directly in front of me. To the left were a series of lockers with a mattress lying against them. To the right were a fridge, microwave, and a couch. Behind me was the hallway leading out, as well as two doors. On the center of the floor was another mattress, with blankets, a pillow, several stuffed animals, and a backpack lying on and near it.
When we were all in, Nari closed the door, locked and dead bolted it, moved a mattress up against it. “That’s clever,” I said. “Using a mattress to muffle the sound.”
“Thank you,” she said, coming back into the main room. “There are more mattresses in the closet…” She then fixed John with a penetrating glare. “…and there is also a shower.”
“Reading you loud and clear,” John said. “Can you just show me where the shower is?”
As Nari showed John where the shower was, I opened the other door. Inside were two other mattresses, sheets, and various supplies. “Hey, Sunny,” I said, “are you going to need to do any operating on Joseph?”
“Yes,” Sunny said. “Do they have any trash bags?”
While I was searching for the bags, I heard John say, “Cool! I can kind of see again!” Nari left what I assumed was the bathroom, shaking her head.
Meanwhile, I found some. “Yeah, they do,” I said. “It looks like someone was hoarding American brands. I wonder why?”
“Because the local brands are failures,” Sunny and Nari said in unison. Sunny added, “I am surprised that they didn’t go for the Chinese brands. They’re basically the same, but cheaper on the black market.”
“Wait,” Nari said, as she helped me move a bed onto the floor, “Are you a North Korean?” Her face brightened a bit and she then asked Sunny something in Korean.
She and Sunny then had an animated conversation in Korean while they helped Kyle and I set up the bed. Joseph, meanwhile, just sat on the couch, trying to figure out what Sunny and Nari were saying while desperately avoiding touching anything with his hands. Our packs had been left on the floor haphazardly, so he was using mine as a foot rest. As I gave him another look, I half-wondered if he really was paying attention or if he was dazed from pain and lack of sleep. Meanwhile, John had just finished showering and appeared to be using an electric hand drier on something.
“Ok,” Sunny said, “that should about do it for the covering. Why don’t you guys bring my pack and my patient over here? Then you can… I don’t know, teach Nari how to operate weapons or something?”
“Sure you don’t need any help working on Joseph?” I asked. I was extremely concerned. One more death, and this whole mission could fall apart. Besides, the way things were going, Joseph was the only thing standing between me and being leader. I was perfectly happy with being under New Joseph and not having to worry about our next move.
“I’ll be fine,” Sunny said, smiling reassuringly. “It’s a fairly simple procedure and that spike didn’t hit anything vital. Just need some surgical glue, a lighter, a knife, and some morphine and Joseph will be back at a hundred percent within twelve hours.”
John, who had just stumbled out of the shower, said, “Good to know,” he said. “If this is the kind of resistance we’re going to meet every day, getting across the country to the extraction point is going to be a nightmare.”
“I am sorry,” Nari said, “but I have only been studying English for two years. What is an extraction point?” I was impressed. When I had been doing my second year of Spanish, I couldn’t carry on a conversation with a five-year-old. This girl was extremely young, but she sounded like a miniature adult.
“It’s military speak,” I said, moving to where the packs were. “To extract something means to remove it. An extraction point is where someone or something gets removed from hostile territory. In this case, it would be us.”
“You shouldn’t go through the city,” Nari said, a haunted look in her eyes. “It’s too dangerous.”
“Why’s that?” Sunny asked as she watched the morphine take ahold of Joseph. “These sewers seem pretty safe.”
Nari ignored the question. “Hey,” she said, watching John trying to open up his ZMR, “what are you trying to do?”
“I gotta clean my gun,” he said. “I mean, it did take a swim in shit creek with me. My pack is waterproof, so it should be fine, but this is an M-4 clone, so it can be a little temperamental. The only trouble is that everything looks like a gigantic blur at the moment.”
“Can I help you?” Nari asked John.
“Sure!” John said. “Just promise not to point it at anyone and keep your hand off the trigger.” He then began to launch into a lesson about how to field-strip and clean an AR-15 type rifle. Kyle and I watched them for a bit while we cleaned our own weapons. For me, it was a very relaxing sight. Everyone was doing their part and getting along quite nicely.
Then I looked over at Kyle. There was a frown on his face, and he was regarding Nari suspiciously. Ignoring it, I went back to work refilling my G-3’s empty magazines. When I was done with that, I looked at Kyle again. He still had that same look of suspicion on his face.
When I was refilling my SIG’s mags, Kyle finally spoke up. “So, Nari,” he said, “I’m sure you know what’s going on in this city, right?”
“Mostly what I hear on my radio,” she said happily, not noticing the frown on Kyle’s face. She was too busy cleaning out the barrel on John’s Bren 10.
“Can I see your radio?” Kyle asked.
“Sure!” Nari said. “It’s right by the computer on the desk.” She then went back to her job.
Kyle meanwhile walked over to the desk. I noticed that he quite deliberately had not disassembled his Browning and was keeping it in his holster. Suddenly, in front of the bulletin board, he stopped. “Hey, Killer,” he called out to me, “come over here, I want you to see something.”
I got up as bidden and walked over to where Kyle was. On the bulletin board were dozens of sheets of paper, some with technical drawings, others with grainy surveillance pictures. Most of them had paragraphs of Korean text. However, even at a quick glance, I was able to notice a theme. They were all on the Dragon’s Teeth.
“You know,” Kyle whispered to me, “this place doesn’t feel right to me. This is a room in Korea with a freaking microwave oven and what looks to be intelligence reports on Dragon’s Teeth soldiers. What the fuck is a little girl doing in here?”