There were a few minutes left on the download when we heard it: the sounds of the stairs creaking. Sunny and I both tensed up at the sound, and held our breaths. As the footsteps got closer, I moved to a corner of the room on the same wall as the door to the hallway and Sunny got behind the desk.
At the time I had been investigating the Deet pistol I had taken last night, so that was the weapon I had out, waiting for the first person to walk through the door. The pistol seemed to have the same kind of charging handle as the rifle, which made the pistol annoyingly tall and really easy for the handles to catch. It also only had a magazine release, which made it simple to operate but the lack of safety disturbed me. The barrel, which I quickly determined to be internally silenced, was somewhat circular. Combine that with how underpowered it was, and you got a horrible little subcompact thing that seemed like a pain to shoot.
Meanwhile, from halfway down the hall, there was the sound of people trying to kick down the door. Then I heard someone curse in… French?
Before I could really process what I had just heard, someone hissed something. I couldn’t be sure, but it was either something Russian in an American accent, or something English with a Russian accent. Either way, these people weren’t Korean, and I doubted they were Dragon’s Teeth.
Eventually, they got the door down. Instantly, I could hear the sounds of people burst in and begin to tear up the room. Meanwhile, beneath the noise, I could hear the sound of footsteps approaching the principal’s office. As this unknown person approached, I realized that, while we had closed the door and pulled the shades, we hadn’t locked the door.
At this point, we had two options: try and reason with these people or ambush them. I briefly considered the kind of people who would be here. The only group I could think that would be here would be a second NIU team or a supervillain crew trying to search for tech. I decided that I’d give the person who walked through the door one chance. If he resisted, he’d get shot.
The door opened slowly. From the other side of the door, I heard someone say, “Huh.” The door was then pushed open, and in walked a person wearing a Kevlar vest, balaclava, backpack and a helmet with night vision goggles mounted on it. He carried an FN FS2000 CQB with a reflex sight and a grenade launcher.
When the iron sights of the Deet pistol I had captured lined up with this newcomer’s head, I whispered, “Drop it.” In response, the soldier rapidly turned around, raising his assault rifle. Before he could fire, I pulled the trigger.
A bump of crashing furniture muffled the sound of my opponent falling over. Apart from that, there was only the hissing click of the pistol. Suddenly, the one advantage of this stupid thing was made clear. I walked over to where he had fallen. A small red dot was in the center of his forehead, leaking blood.
Sunny got out from behind the desk and motioned for me to continue out into the hall. We both headed out into the hall, guns trained on the room. Suddenly, a man peeked his head out of the door and aimed an SA58 OSW down the hall.
Luckily for us, he aimed it in the wrong direction. Sunny opened fire, causing my ears to ring despite her silencer. The man fell down, large red holes in the rear of his armor.
The other man in the room began saying something and I could hear the crackle of a radio. In response, I tossed in a grenade into the room. This one was a flashbang.
When the hallway was lit up, Sunny charged. She disappeared inside the room. Despite the muddy ringing in my ear, I could hear her AK let out a two-round burst, then there was the sound of a gun dropping. After a few seconds, she shouted, “Clear!”
I walked into the room. There, sitting on a bed and leaned up against the wall was another soldier with an FS2000. His chest bore the signs of Sunny’s burst and his assault rifle was lying on the ground. His radio and a plastic bag were also discarded nearby. Sunny, meanwhile had just finished checking the person’s pulse. From what I had heard, they were all male, but the armor and ski masks made it hard to tell.
“Now,” I muttered to myself, “the million-dollar question: What’s in this bag?” I crouched down, using the opportunity to stick the Deet pistol back in my boot. I opened it up and saw several USB flash drives, several wads of Canadian, British and American money, and three passports, each corresponding to the three types of cash.
I opened one of the passports. There, smiling happily, was the picture of an Asian man in his late twenties or early thirties. “Wait,” Sunny said, “I know that man.
“Where…?” I asked. Sunny merely pointed to the door that had been kicked in. There, on the door, was a plaque depicting the person in the passport.
“Since you can’t read Korean,” Sunny said, “the text beneath the photograph identifies him as Professor Pak.”
“That’s…” I said, comprehension dawning, “That’s Nari’s professor.” I got up. “We need to move. Now!”
“But what about the download?” Sunny asked. “Isn’t that why we came down here in the first place?”
“Something tells that these,” I said holding up the plastic bag, “are the cliff notes of what’s on that machine. Meanwhile, I’ll bet you anything that those guys, whoever they are, are headed straight towards Nari and our team.”
We quickly headed into the principal’s office. The cPhone was almost done downloading, so I stuffed the bag with Pak’s incriminating things into my pack while Sunny finished up. She had it disconnected before I had closed my pack. I grabbed my G-3 and we began making our way downstairs.
We were on heightened alert, hoping against hope that we had eliminated this new threat. It would have actually been reassuring if more of them had appeared. Unless I was sorely mistaken, the only other force that could get a massive amount of people into the country without fear of consequence was the Grenzefrontier. These people were definitely not Grenzefrontier, which meant that there couldn’t be that many of them.
What we saw, however, was proof that there were more of them… and that they were heading back to base. The secret passage we had entered the school through was open, with a secret panel on the wall swinging a bit.
We didn’t need to say anything. We both knew that wasn’t a good sign in the slightest. We entered the sewer, ears straining for any sound of hostiles and began heading down the smelly, damp labyrinth. Above us, we heard the sound of a convoy of APCs, possibly Charons, heading towards the school. It looked like we had dodged one hell of a bullet. These newcomers were bad, but at least they didn’t have armored vehicles.
Farther off, the sound of battle was getting more and more intense by the second. We even passed under what sounded like a firefight at one point. The loud chatter of Kalashnikov-style weaponry seemed to be desperately trying to drown out the sound of the much quieter sounds of the Deet weaponry. Occaisionally, an RPG or grenade would explode over our head. As we moved on, there seemed to be less and less of the Korean weaponry.
Then, from the drains above us, there was a flash of bluish-white light and intense heat. There was a massive reduction in the volume of North Korean fire, and a large increase in screaming. In response, there came the sound of people in heavy armor echoing above our head as a group of Dragon’s Teeth soldiers raced across the street.
Meanwhile, we just hurried forwards. Apart from the risk of the roof above our heads collapsing, the ensuing fight had no immediate impact on us. In retrospect, it was kind of like trying to get work done while an action movie is playing in the background. At the time, I didn’t really question it, but looking back, it’s actually strange that I was able to ignore it.
To be fair, we had bigger problems at the moment. We were probably several minutes behind the newcomers, and in close combat, a single second could mean the difference between life and death. Hopefully, the others could hold on.
Eventually, we came to the last corner before the safe room. Ahead, we could hear people talking. I peeked around the corner. There, across the river of swill, was Professor Pak in a flak jacket and three of the strange soldiers. The soldiers all held SA58 battle rifles and were stacked up by the door.
I pulled back from the corner and held up four fingers. Sunny nodded. From above our head there was a large explosion. We needed to hurry.
“We try to take Pak alive,” I muttered. “On three.” Sunny nodded again and I began the countdown. When we hit three, we moved.
As soon as I had the first one in my sights, I called out, “Hands up, heads down!” Only Professor Pak complied. The other three began to turn around, raising their guns as they did so.
First things first, I double-tapped the one on the right. He spun back the way he had come and fell face first against the wall. Meanwhile, Sunny fired a short burst into the soldier on the far left. That left the one in the center. He actually hadn’t raised his gun, instead he was holding a circular object and was in the process of throwing something. We got him mid-throw, causing him to drop the object into the middle of the shit-infested artificial river.
“Get on the ground!” I said to Pak, aiming my gun right at his chest. “Now!”
Pak cocked his head in question and turned to face us. He asked us something and Sunny sounded like she was halfway through translating when it happened.
My guess? The circular object mystery soldier number three had thrown into the river was a grenade, and Pak had seen it go in. That’s how, when the large column of water went flying into the air to blind us and get in Sunny’s mouth, Pak was able to draw his gun so quickly.
From my perspective, my glasses were suddenly covered with brownish water and Sunny began sputtering. “Ew! Ew!” she yelled, then she said something in Korean that was cut off by two extremely loud pops that sounded like pistol fire. Then there was a burst of gunfire.
That prompted me to open fire. I only had a bare outline of where Pak was, so my first two shots were wild with only one hitting him. Luckily, my third hit him right in the heart. Unluckily, he had pulled the trigger a little after I hit.
What happened next proved that God does not hate me. The bullet from Pak’s gun went in the space between my helmet and my head. I could tell because I felt something burn my head and all of a sudden, my helmet was off.
I paused, making sure no one got up. Then I turned around to check on Sunny. She was on the ground, wheezing. One of the pockets holding spare magazines for her AK had been completely shredded. Pak’s bullets had apparently hit one of the mags, causing the bullets to go off.
From inside, Nari called out in Korean. I responded by yelling, “Four hostiles down, but they got Sunny!” From inside the safe room, I could hear movement. I didn’t care. I was kneeling down to check on Sunny.
“Sunny,” I asked, “are you ok?” She obviously wasn’t, but that was the first thing that I could think of.
“Ribs… cracked…” she wheezed. She burst into a coughing fit. “Hurts… a lot…” I heard the door open. Sunny’s face darkened. “What the hell… is Joseph doing walking…? He…” She burst into a coughing fit.
“We’re all going to be dead if we don’t get moving soon,” Joseph said. I looked up. He was using a small bridge to cross the river of muck. John and Kyle were filing out behind him. “Besides, I heard a rumor that this surgical glue stuff has been deliberately underrated by the creator.”
We were interrupted by Nari screaming with anger. I turned. She was kicking Pak’s corpse and yelling insults. “Jesus, Nari!” John hissed. “Calm the fuck down!”
“You don’t understand!” she wept. “If they know what he’s done, the government will kill my parents! I need to…”
“If the government…” Sunny wheezed out, “…can still do anything other than struggle… they’re already dead. You’ve… you’ve already helped us… now they’ll go after you…” She broke into a fit of coughing after finishing that sentence. After she caught her breath, she said, “Come with us…”
“Why?” Nari asked. “Just so I can save myself?”
“You can’t…” Sunny gasped out, “you can’t save your parents… you might not even save yourself… but we might be able to save thousands…”
Nari stopped kicking her former professor’s corpse. “Are… are you sure?” she asked. “Because if there’s even the slightest chance I can save my parents…”
“If it’s something you need to do,” I said, “we can’t really stop you. I understand, but…”
“You think they’re dead, too,” Nari said.
“Well,” I said, “they’re either dead or your government has bigger things to worry about.”
Nari stood for a moment. Finally, she said, “I’ll come with you. But only because there is no way to find my parents.”
Sunny smiled. “Thanks…” she said. “For… letting us save you…”
“Speaking of that,” I said, “how the fuck are we getting out of this?”
Joseph smiled. “I’m glad you asked, mon. Because I have just the plan.”