Track 9: Shipping Off to Yonan

We eventually decided the best thing to do would be to search the Korean vehicles, then see if any of the Dragon’s Teeth APCs still worked. In the tank, we discovered among the charred remains of the crew a working radio. Combined with the Dragon’s Teeth APC that was randomly changing from pitch black to forest camo, and John said we could get it working.

“You know,” John said, as he was hotwiring the tank’s radio into the APC, “we need to think up a cool nickname for these guys.” He had taken the dashboard off with a knife and was fitting cables together. “How about Deets?”

“Whatever,” I said. “Are you done yet?”

As if in response to my question, the radio crackled to life. John smirked smugly. “That answer your question?”

Before I could answer, Jeong cut in, “They’re saying that they managed to halt the Deets off at Yonan!”

“Where’s that?” John asked.

“From the sound of it,” Sunny said, “all we have to do is turn around and follow this road. If we do that, it should take us to a relatively quiet area.”

“I can direct you there,” Jeong said, getting into the co-pilot’s seat.

As he did so, I noticed that the co-pilot’s seat had a joystick and a computer screen of some sort. “You know,” I said, pointing to the joystick, “I think that may be the turret control.”

“Nice,” Jeong said. “Where’s the radio? I want to listen in on these guys.”

“They don’t have one,” John said. “Anyway, let’s get moving.”

We began to drive away, moving along the road at a decent pace. The engine must have been electric, because the vehicle didn’t make a sound. Eventually, the scenery on the side of the road became less hilly and more farm-like. We could also see the occasional ruined vehicle.

I busied myself taking pictures of the interior. It was made of the same black synthetic as the Deet guns and very Spartan, even going so far as to eschew seats, instead having handlebars on the ceiling. That probably meant it could double as a transport for materiel. Judging by the rails on the floor, seats were an option, as well as medical beds. More slots on the wall indicated that medical equipment could be stored on the wall. On the rear ramp, in medium-sized white letters, was written “Vmk-4 Charon Multi-Roll Combat Vehicle.” Someone was a little overconfident. Seriously, your weapon has to be pretty damn impressive to get away with naming it after the mythological figure who took the dead to the underworld.

I was distracted by Sunny. “So,” she asked, “John, you, Kyle and Killer were in the Freshman class this year. What the hell happened in Hell Semester this year?”

John shrugged. “I honestly have no clue,” he said. “For all I know, this was just another Hell Semester. Maybe me and Nate surviving was unexpected, but… What’s so funny?”

Sunny and Jeong were both laughing. “Listen,” Jeong said, after he was done laughing, “an over-privileged American or two playing hero is expected, but to have people like The Black Death, Ricardo Montana, Camila Reyes, and The Found Boys all in the same year? Those guys were legends before they even got here and there are at least a dozen more I haven’t even mentioned.”

“Ok,” I said, “I knew Ricardo, and I sort of met Camila during the Grenzefrontier invasion, but I haven’t heard of the others.”

“The Black Death,” Sunny said, “was the daughter of moderate Hutus in Rwanda. Her parents died trying to bring justice to some of the more sadistic actors in the genocide. She… kind of snapped, and walked into the plains with some water, food, a machete, a few kitchen knives, and her dad’s SMLE. Over the next few years, Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi began dying. Official figures say her kill count is at least double Simo Häyhä’s, and most people say that’s low-balling it. Killer, you stood on a platform with her a couple times. Her name is…”

“Oro Okoro,” I said. “John and I did more than stand on a platform with her.” It wasn’t bragging. It was more like shock. “I mean, I knew she was cold, but I had no idea… I ate with her.”

“You also impressed her,” Jeong said. “You also impressed The Found Boys. I guess crawling through assault rifle fire and forty-mil can even impress people who ripped off Kony.”

“Hey,” I said, “they were some of the few people at that fucking hell hole who didn’t hate my guts. I thought I’d pay them back. You’d do something similar for a friend, right?”

“What about Mr. Giggles?” Sunny asked. “That guy didn’t even exist before he wound up at NIU, then he starts killing people in groups of fifteen with his bare hands. How did anyone survive him?”

Ulfric Trollbjorn, also known as “Mr. Giggles,” was a baby-faced mountain of a man with a constant smile and a penchant for violence. I had given him his nickname because he almost never spoke, instead he had a high-pitched giggle that he’d emit. That, combined with his inhuman strength, love of killing, and, more terrifyingly, his uncanny ability to read people, and he was one of the most feared people in our year.

“That,” Kyle said, “is very easy. He gets bored. That’s how I survived. There were eight others, I just played dead while he pulled one of them apart like a wishbone.” I instantly gained new respect for Kyle. The only other person I had known to survive Ulfric was Bai Feng. Funnily enough, she might have been one of the people mentioned next.

“Man,” Jeong said, “When we were there, it was just Joseph. We didn’t have ferals who grew up training with the SAS, weird Chinese cultists, homicidal giants or popcorn-selling sociopaths.” He paused. “Actually, we did have some weird cult guys who were always recruiting and Spacey the Moon Jew, but apart from that, it was mostly just your average collection of criminals, psychos and terrorists.”

“Wait,” I said, “Joseph already had a rep before coming?”

“Yeah,” Jeong said. “Almost everyone who had been to an orientation knew him as the guy who had saved the Pres’s life in Jamaica. We were pretty tight with him back then.”

“Were?” John asked. “What happened?”

“I can guess,” Kyle said. “He got assigned The President as an advisor, right?” When everyone asked how he’d know that at once, he said, “My grandad was one of the first professors hired. He also was one of the first to retire, but he still goes back to the island to hang out with the faculty.”

“Well,” Sunny said, “I wish we had known how things worked because Joe kind of… drifted away.” She shook her head. “You think that serving through Hell Semester would bond you forever, but life at NIU tends to drive people apart.”

“I can understand that,” John said. “I mean, not that I’ve experienced it or anything.” Something told me that wasn’t quite the truth. I shrugged it off. I had enough to worry about at the moment.

I stopped paying attention to the conversation for a while as the APC trundled along. I missed my family back home, but had no real way of relating to them. I missed my friends back at school and wondered if I would see them again, or if I would end up dead. Hell, I missed being able to change my underwear. Any college student will tell you that after a day, they feel completely gross. I was going to be in them for weeks, potentially.

As I ruminated on this, I noticed that Joseph was starting to open his eyes for brief periods of time. On the one hand, that was good. We needed all the people on this expedition awake and alive. On the other, Joseph was a liability before he got gassed. Now, he had been exposed to a substance that had ruined the mind of some poor sod. If Joseph woke up again, he could be mentally unfit to lead, and still constitutionally incapable of stepping down.

Instead, I turned back to my investigations of the vehicle. I suddenly noticed a box that I hadn’t seen before. I took off the lid and found some more assault rifles, plus what looked to be submachineguns and quick-change barrels for the rifles.

“Now these,” I said, “are interesting. Can someone film me?” Kyle nodded and pulled out his cPhone. When he began recording, I pulled out a rifle and each of the two types of magazine: drum and banana clip. “The mags seem to be quad-stacked. Not sure how reliable that is. You’ve got a choice between…” aiming the gun down and away from everyone else, I slid in the drum. It went in easily, with barely any noise despite the force with which I had loaded it. The ammo counter below the red dot sight instantly went from 0 to 100. “…one hundred round drums or…” I looked for a magazine release. Bizarrely, it was a button in front of the trigger guard, indicated by a white diagram. I pressed it and the magazine shot out.

“Whoa!” I said, surprised at how it had been repelled out. “Anyway, the banana has…” I slipped the curved magazine in and checked the readout. “…sixty rounds of caseless ammunition of an unknown caliber. Safety and fire selection are M-16 style. All controls are ambidextrous. Plus, there’s the grenade launcher, which I’m pretty sure is detachable.” I gave the barrel a twist. “These barrels can also be changed for different roles as well, maybe even during a battle.”

“Can I see?” Sunny asked.

“Sure,” I said, handing it to her. “Next up is the SMG. Judging by the double charging handles, this is also caseless. It seems to be similar in size and shape to an MP-5K with an MP-5 style telescoping stock and a folding foregrip, but it has a much more squareish shape. Again, like its big brother, it has M-16 style fire selector and no provision for iron sights, just a detachable reflex scope.” I rooted around in the box for magazines and inserted one. “Only seems to have room for sixty-round magazines. In yet another similarity to their big brother, they’re quadrastacked.”

I considered it for a minute. “I’m half-tempted to leave our guns here and take some Deet weapons.”

“I don’t know,” Kyle said. “They’re weird as fuck, use unreliable feed methods, and have an inherently fragile kind of sight. Might be best to leave them.”

As he said this, we went over a bump. Suddenly, Joseph, who had been lying on the floor, opened his eyes. For a moment, there was silence. Then he sat up and pulled out a silenced Mk. 23, a look of panic in his eyes. He quickly aimed it at me, the red light from the laser pointer making me blink.

“Joseph…” Sunny said.

In response, Joseph turned to face her and Kyle, still terrified. Then he relaxed. “Sorry, Sunny,” he said. ”I thought…”

He trailed off, looking a little lost. “Doesn’t matter. It’s good to see you again. What happened?” He paused, slowly getting to his feet. He looked really unsteady and I noticed that his eyes were bloodshot. “Where are we?” This next question seemed particularly hostile and suspicious.

“We’re on the way to Yonang,” Jeong said. “The fighting’s apparently gone house to house. We thought we’d do a bit of recon, see what’s going on.” At this point, I realized that voices on the radio were still chattering away and I could hear gunfire and explosions in the distance.

“That is acceptable,” Joseph said. “What are we in?”

“Huh?” Jeong asked.

“What. Are. We. Riding. In?” Joseph’s tone of voice was now barely controlled. I noticed he still gripped his huge pistol, and it was with such a tight grip that the veins in his hands were bulging.

“A Dragon’s Teeth APC,” Jeong said. “We thought…”

“Stop the vehicle,” Joseph said.

“We’re almost to Yonang,” Jeong said. “If we wait five…”

“STOP THE FUCKING CAR, MON!” Joseph yelled, pressing the barrel of his Mk. 23 into the side of Jeong’s head. This was not good.

 

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Track 8: Better Than Any Seen Do It

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.

 

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Track 7: Into the Unknown

“We’re leaving,” Joseph said as we walked into the house through the hole. I followed, not sure what I could do if one of those invisible fuckers attacked.

“Where are we going?” Jeong asked. It was honestly a reasonable question. If we went into the hills, the cloaking people could follow us. If we stole another boat, they could just wait in the hold and murder us at their leisure. Of course, they obviously didn’t want to kill us just yet.

“For the moment,” Joseph said, “anywhere but here. We head into the hills, then hope we lose them. After that, I want to take a look at this.” He held up the folder that our invisible friend had dropped down. “In the meantime, we need to leave.”

I had once heard that you shouldn’t ever run from something and instead always run to somewhere. This was definitely running away. Putting distance between us The Dragon’s Teeth was a good idea, but the hills were kind of foresty, which meant that these invisible units could climb the trees and ambush us from above. However, I didn’t want to bring it up, as the last time I had questioned our fearless leader’s orders, he had kind of freaked out.

Instead, I headed out with everyone else. As we began to head out, Kyle handed me my cPhone. “You dropped this,” he said. “Wouldn’t want to lose it.”

“Thanks,” I said.

We then moved out in a single-file line with uneven spacing. Again, John and I were near the back. Kyle, however, was also hanging back. “So,” he asked, “what do we think about our situation?”

“I don’t think we should be talking about this right now,” I said, “especially if this conversation going in the direction I think it’s going.”

“Definitely not around Joseph, right?” Kyle asked.

“Seriously,” I whispered, “we can’t… do that thing you suggested.”

“He might not give us a choice!” Kyle hissed back. “I’ve been keeping out of his way for two weeks, but he keeps coming after me. Trust me, it’s a very real possibility. Especially with the way you’ve been acting.”

Eventually, we came to a stop. “This is a good spot,” Joseph said. It wasn’t. We were in a clearing in the middle of the forest. If The Dragon’s Teeth were good climbers, they could easily climb to the top of the tree and drop down in the middle of our group. They could also come from literally any direction. Again, I said nothing.

Apparently, Joseph just wanted to get a good look at the folder. He set down his SCAR-H and removed the folder from the plastic bag. After looking at the contents for a bit, he said, “Jeong, can you read this?”

“Sure,” he said, after taking a look at the contents. “Looks like basic orders.” He read it in silence for a bit, then said, “Ok, the basic gist is that a small mechanized infantry unit was sent into the town because of weird Dragon’s Teeth activity. There was also some armor support. On the way over, there was a lot of activity from what the commander officer calls ‘Ninjas.’ I’m assuming that they’re the cloaking guys. Anyway, for a few days, everything’s normal, apart from Ninja sightings.”

“And then?” I asked.

“And then, probably the day our ride left port, they get word that a bunch of bases with weird nonsense names have fallen,” Jeong said. “Thirty minutes later, they hear gunfire from… oh, I’d say that direction and a radio message comes in saying that an enemy force is making a determined attack and is heading towards the town. The strange thing, and the commander makes a note of it, is that this unit that’s crumbling is one he didn’t know was in the area.”

“What does it say about the battle?” Joseph asked.

“I don’t know,” Jeong said. “He’s not making any sense. Apart from something about gas, he just kind of rambles like he’s describing a fever dream or hallucination. Then, judging by the ink stain, someone literally drags him away.”

“Could they be using some sort of hallucinogenic gas?” I asked. “The soldier we were talking to did seem a little… out of it.”

“Good thing we brought our rebreathers,” John said.

“Hopefully,” Sunny said, “our rebreathers can filter this gas out.” We all looked down at the ground. I don’t know about anyone else, but so far, getting hit by that gas did not seem fun. I wondered how long it lasted, or if you could ever really come back from something like that.

Suddenly, there was the sound of a twig breaking. Everyone stood up. Sunny, whose ears were the least damaged from the recent skirmish, pointed in the direction of the sound. Joseph nodded, and she began moving forwards. I was second.

We were heading down hill. As we did, I noticed that the sound of snapping twigs was slow and deliberate, almost as if someone was deliberately leading us in a certain direction. “Hey guys…” I began, trying to warn the rest of the party, but Joseph shushed me.

Before I could protest, a large metal object with lots of moving parts skittered past Sunny and through the bushes. After she collected herself, Sunny said, “That… was not North Korean.”

“I figured,” I said, “but what was it?”

“It looked…” Joseph said from behind me, “…it looked like a mechanical spider about the size of a Doberman.”

“Wait,” John said from somewhere near the back, “that can’t be right. Do you know how hard it is to make a vehicle that uses legs? There’s literally dozens of videos showing robots with multi-million dollar budgets falling flat on their faces.”

“Yeah, but compared to turning invisible, walking on six legs would be easy,” Sunny said as she scanned the forest.

“And besides,” I said, “this local supervillain back home, Nigeru, could do it. Not as well as The Dragon’s Teeth, but that spider car he made…”

“Yeah,” John said, “but Nigeru’s a fucking supervillain. And these guys…”

“Obviously have access to tech he couldn’t even dream of,” Joseph said. “We follow the little blighter and take it apart.”

“Are you sure?” I asked, “Because…”

“Are you questioning my orders?” Joseph asked.

“…This feels like a trap,” I finished. “But you can do what you want.”

Joseph stared at me for a moment. “We are going to follow the enemy. If you are too cowardly, you can stay behind.” He turned to Sunny. “You’re the tracker. Lead the way.”

We began following Sunny. The entire time, I was considering turning around and shooting Joseph. Especially since he was probably going to kill us all through incompetence. Eventually, we came to an area that, while not forested, was still pretty hilly. I also noticed that there was a strange smell nearby, like something burning.

I was several meters behind Sunny when she crested the hill. “This…” she said, “this is not good.”

We all hurried up to find out what she was talking about. On the top of the hill, someone had set up sandbags. The weaponry left behind indicated that they had been Korean. The bloodstains indicated that someone had killed them, then headed up the hill to drag their bodies away.

Below that terrifying scene was a valley, with a road running through it. We were by the side, and opposite us we could see other positions. At one end, two armored cars and a tank, all three Soviet or Chinese-made, had formed a roadblock. Several craters were spread out in front of the tank, and the tank itself was mostly melted. Disturbingly enough, the metal itself was burning. The two armored cars had been eliminated by more conventional means. One had been turned into Swiss cheese by gunfire, and the rear of the other resembled a blooming flower due to what I assumed to be cannon fire.

Strung out along the road was a convoy of vehicles that definitely weren’t North Korean. Most were jet black and completely disabled, but one of them seemed to be mostly intact, except for the fact that it would occasionally swap from forest camo to jet black. The vehicles seemed to trap light making it hard to make out any details, but it was clear that they were some sort of light APC with wheels and a cannon turret. They also had both a rear exit and sliding doors like my family’s minivan. I could see this because some had their rear doors open and one of the more damaged vehicles had both doors taken apart.

That vehicle in particular was interesting because something was writhing on it. In fact, it was the clang of the door closest to our position falling to the ground that attracted my attention, as well as the whine of power tools. As I watched, the other door fell as well. Eventually, something with multiple legs detached itself from the writhing black mask and began dragging the door to the rear of the strange convoy.

“Well,” I said, after a few minutes of watching the vehicle disintegrate, “this is… interesting.”

“Killer,” Joseph said, brushing past me, “you and Kyle stay up here. The rest of you, come with me. I want to find out what’s going on here.”

I began to protest, but instead said, “Yes, sir.”

Joseph looked at me, as if trying to catch some hint of resentment or sarcasm. He then left, motioning for everyone else to follow him. As the other four marched off, Kyle and I sat behind the sandbags.

“Man,” I asked, watching the rest of the team advance towards the convoy, “what the fuck is Joseph’s deal?”

“He’s one of the President’s personal picks,” Kyle said. “He tends to encourage a sense of self-importance and a love of status.”

“Why?” I asked. “If this is what it leads to, then that just seems… counter-productive.”

“Joseph’s actually pretty easy to manipulate,” Kyle said dryly, “providing you’re above him in rank. Which we’re not.”

“So,” I asked, “do all instructors have little networks, or is it just our beloved President?” I was half sarcastic. I expected that a professor would have something better to do than network with his or her students.

“Most of the smart ones,” Kyle said. “They know that they’re likely to get a dozen students who’re smarter than they could ever hope to be before they hit tenure. They’ve set it up so that the two most important faculty members in a student’s education are their recruiter and their academic advisor.”

“So we’re like some kind of trading card?” I asked.

“More like those virtual egg things, except more useful,” Kyle said, giving a casual shrug. “Students can always choose to switch advisors or not join in with a prof’s event. But yeah, we are kind of like that, except much more useful.”

Not sure what to do with this information, I scanned the surrounding area. I had plenty of questions. After all, this was an important facet of University life I had never known about. Finally, I said, “So, I guess Professor Krieger’s advisees don’t have many networking meetings?”

I was a weird case, apparently. Neither John nor I had been recruited by faculty. Instead, we had been approached by UNIX to go infiltrate NIU. However, we both had Karl Krieger, a demented lion-like man, as an advisor.

“You actually have weekly meetings,” Kyle said. “Since he was my recruiter and you’ve been avoiding him, he wanted me to pass on the message.” That was a fair assessment. Krieger might not be the scariest person I had ever encountered, but he was in the top five easily. Part of the reason for that was that he had implied he wanted to take down The President… and I believed he could.

“Couldn’t he tell me that himself?” I asked.

“He doesn’t want to scare you away,” Kyle said. “He wants you on a big project that you might not want to accept, you don’t have much love for him, plus he doesn’t have anything you want.” He paused. “Plus, because you’re such a wild card, he has to worry about what you’d do if you switched advisors.”

“Come on,” I said, “he’s not trying to avoid hurting my feelings. He’s not the type. His plans just got accelerated for some reason.”

Kyle shrugged. “You’d probably know more than me. Krieger usually likes to choose people that are either similar to him in some way or a complete underdog. That’s part of the reason why he pawned me off to Zemylachka.” Zemylachka was another extremely scary person as well as director of the Shadowhaven, a more spy-focused program back at NIU.

“How am I similar to Krieger?” I asked. Below, the rest of our group seemed to have decided to give the writhing APC a pass. I didn’t really blame them.

Kyle considered this. “Well…” he said, either trying to gauge my expression, avoid offending me, or both, “The only thing I can pin down is that you’re both… chaotic.”

I laughed. “And you aren’t just as unpredictable? Seriously, you’re kind of an enigma yourself.”

Kyle shook his head. “First off,” he said, “I said you were chaotic, not unpredictable. There’s a difference. Second, the reason you can’t predict me is because you don’t know me.

We lapsed into silence, both of us shocked at the venom in Kyle’s words. Instead, we scanned the hills opposite us. Suddenly, I saw movement. I was just about to point it out to Kyle when all hell broke loose.

 

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Track 6: Outbreak

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?”

“No, but…”

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.”

 

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Track 5: Shadows in the Town

“So,” Jeong asked as we waited inside the cannery, watching the North Koreans dismount and start heading into town, “What do we do?”

“Aren’t you in charge?” I asked. He, Joseph, and Sunny had graduated this year, from what I had heard, meaning he had seniority.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “Guess I have seniority here. So I guess we head back to the boat and…”

“Wait…” I said, pointing at the screen, “isn’t that our boat?” The boat I was pointing out was currently sinking. Already, the rear had begun to dip below the waves.

“Yup,” Jeong said as two people jumped out and hid beneath the dock, “that’s definitely our boat.” Suddenly, the drone feed was replaced by static and a loss of signal notification. “What the hell?” Jeong asked.

“I don’t think that was the Koreans…” I said.

“Doesn’t matter right now,” Jeong said. “We get out of here. This is a point of interest. They’re probably going to search here first.” He began moving through the factory. “Hopefully, there’s a rear exit we can use.” He began quickly moving through the machinery, gun up. I followed him, making sure to check the various corners.

Quickly, we discovered the rear exits. There were a lot of them, in fact. However, they were for trucks to park at, like a garage door. Opening them would definitely make a lot of noise. Of course, that was a moot point as a few of them appeared to be welded shut.

“Ok,” Jeong whispered, “Let’s head to the catwalks. That should offer some cover.” Suddenly, there was the clanging sound of someone running quickly around the catwalk. Jeong sighed. “At least these invisible fuckers aren’t trying to kill us.” I could almost hear him think “yet.”

As we climbed the staircase, we heard a burst of gunfire. It ended quickly. From what I could tell, it was the NKPD group that had wandered in, as it was entirely AK-based weaponry. Judging by how quickly it had ended, there hadn’t been a fight, because if there was we’d hear the sound of silenced gunfire. That left two possibilities: Either the NKPD scouting force had somehow ambushed Kyle and Sunny, or they had seen our invisible friends. However, without visual confirmation we couldn’t tell.

We then began to wait. That was the hardest part. There were several more bursts of gunfire, and they kept getting closer. Then there was a loud thump and all hell broke loose. The scout force, seemingly just one intersection away from the factory, began to spray AK rounds wildly. At least the chatter of automatic weapon fire and officers shouting orders drowned out the sounds of a few injured soldiers screaming.

“Did you hear that?” Jeong whispered. As if on cue, the gunfire ceased. There still was shouting, though.

“The gunfire and explosions?” I whispered back, somewhat sarcastic. “Yeah.”

“What about the silenced gunfire?” Jeong asked.

I thought about it. “Yeah,” said. “It was from kind of far off, though, wasn’t it?”

We were interrupted when something heavy slammed into the door. We had taken a position on the catwalk overlooking the front entrance. Someone shouted something in Korean and Jeong chuckled slightly as he deployed his PKM. Then the door opened. I looked to Jeong for direction, but he held up his hand in a fist, indicating me to stop.

An NKPD soldier slowly peeked his head in, looking left, then right. He didn’t look up. After what seemed like an eternity, he came to the mistaken conclusion that it was safe to go in. Three NKPD soldiers armed with AKs cautiously crept into the room, each covering a different vector. Each called out what I assumed to be Korean for “clear!” Then two more began to come in.

That’s when Jeong opened fire. If you’ve watched movies with silencers in them, you would be forgiven for thinking that silencers make guns quiet. In actuality, suppressors are designed to make it hard to pinpoint a shooter’s location from several hundred meters away in a noisy environment. It does save your hearing, though. If the PKM hadn’t had a can on it, I might have had some serious temporary hearing loss due to how close I was to Jeong.

The effects are also quite awesome in the biblical sense as well. The NKPD soldier in front of the door and one of the two behind him fell apart from Jeong’s five-round burst. The other soldier who was crossing the threshold backpedaled, but another two-round burst split his head open like a sledgehammer hitting a watermelon.

One of the remaining two who was already in the room raised his AK, firing as he did so. I quickly shot him and became familiar with another fact about silencers: they cause your gun to belch gas into your face. Before I got into my blinking fit from the unexpected mist, I saw the wall behind his head turn crimson.

When I was done, I saw four bodies. “Jeong,” I murmured worriedly, “I think we missed one.”

“You’re right,” he said. “One of his buddies outside tried to suppress us. While I was dealing with him, he ran off into the factory. Find him before he flanks us, ok?” I nodded, and began heading out. When I had found a staircase down on the side where the surviving NKPD soldier was on, I heard Jeong open up with his PKM again. But slightly before that happened, I heard something fall over behind me. Then there was silence again and I could hear someone noisily making their way over to the rear of the factory.

I turned around and saw the NKPD soldier about to disappear into the maze of machinery. I raised my G-3 and fired. I missed, and the soldier got to cover. Then, he stretched his AK out of cover to fire blindly. I ducked just in time, potentially saving myself from one of the blindly fired rounds.

An AK-74 can fire for almost three seconds continuously before it runs out. My plan was to wait it out and then rush him. However, probably about one and a half seconds into the burst, his friends tried to enter again. The resulting cacophony muffled any chance of hearing my target reloading.

Cautiously, I peeked my head out from behind cover, then waited a bit. Seeing as this drew no return fire, I edged over to where he had chosen to hole up. The sensation of being out in the open in a gunfight was definitely not enjoyable, but it only lasted a few seconds. Finally, I had eyes on where he had been. There, behind some device or other, was an empty AK magazine and a bunch of spent casings, but no soldier. There was also a very small path running from left to right. I peeked down it…

…And promptly withdrew my head as a burst of AK fire sailed down the narrow funnel. As I ducked back behind machine, I considered my options. I could chuck a grenade of some sort at the guy, but I was a little leery of that course of action. With all the unfamiliar industrial equipment, the chances of hitting something explosive were too great. That also ruled out the reckless blind fire my adversary was indulging in.

The other option was to wait him out. The problem with that was I didn’t know how much ammunition he was carrying. For all I knew, we could be here for quite a while, and again, there was the possibility of him hitting something. He also was limiting himself to two and three round bursts now, with slight pauses in between, indicating he was a bit better operator than I gave him credit for.

That left trying to flank him. I got back out into the larger hallway and began moving silently closing the distance, taking in the sounds of both him firing and his friends trying to enter. When I was halfway to where I thought he was, he stopped firing. Not sure if he was reloading, completely out or trying to bait me, I remained cautious. When I finally got to an alcove going back in, I quickly checked out my surroundings. To my right was more of the narrow passage. To the left, back where I had come from, was more of the same, plus an ejected AK magazine, a sort of barricade of pipes, and another small alcove.

“You clever son of a bitch,” I muttered. Well, I guess I had no other option. G-3 raised, I began heading down the narrow passage. It was a short one, and I quickly came to a fork.

For a second, I debated which direction to take. Then I heard the sound of a motor. It was one of the garage doors. That was bad. If he raised it, then Jeong and I could be attacked from both sides. I then did the worst thing you can do in a combat situation. I panicked.

I ran through the maze of machinery, smacking chains out the way, ducking under pipes and vaulting over assembly lines. Finally, I could see the garage doors. I smiled, pushing myself further. I had made it.

Things went wrong just as I was about to clear the maze. When I was one step away, the wooden stock of an AK came careening towards my face, accompanied by a yell of desperation and rage. I turned around and stumbled back, letting my G-3 go. I was thankful that the only upgrade I had gotten for it (it… came with the reflex sight and the flip-up 3x scope) was a sling.

I stopped being thankful for that purchase when my attacker grabbed my G-3 and began using the sling to choke me. I had seen that happen before. In fact, it had happened during Hell Semester’s “final” where, ironically, I had acquired the very weapon being used to kill me. A friend of mine, a child soldier known as The Monk, had snuck up on some poor guy and strangled him with the strap of his own weapon. When I told The Monk to stop, he had pulled out the guy’s gun and executed the unfortunate sod.

The difference between that situation and this were two-fold. First, despite the fact that I had two pistols on me, my Berretta 92F and my Sig-Sauer P229, my assailant wasn’t trying to acquire either of them. The other was that he wasn’t twisting the sling, just pulling it.

First things first, I took advantage of the lack of twisting to pull the strap forwards with my right hand. I also stepped back into him, reliving the pressure on my neck and causing us to collide. Simultaneously, with my left hand, I reached into the holster on my left hip to withdraw the P229. Since I could feel his head pressing into the back of my own, I felt I could fire my pistol behind me without too much worry.

He let go with a scream of pain. Damn. I hadn’t hit. Ok, I technically hit him, but he was still alive. In this kind of fight, the only kind of hit that mattered was a kill, especially since I couldn’t exactly get a resupply later on.

Luckily, he had stumbled back. Unfortunately, he also had caused my sling to break, causing my G-3 to clatter to the floor. Doing my best not to focus on how disappointed I was by the breakage, I turned around to either pistol-whip or shoot my assailant. Unfortunately, he caught my hand.

During the ensuing struggle, I got to get a good look at my opponent. In fact, it was a better look than I ever wanted. He was probably sixteen years old which meant he was two, no three years younger than me. His olive green NKPD fatigues were too big for his bony body, and his helmet had been knocked off to reveal that that the ear that hadn’t been shot off had been hit so many times it resembled a cauliflower. His nose had also been broken repeatedly, and his skin was more gaunt than some of my friends at school, suggesting either that he had been less well-fed than a child soldier from Africa or that he used a lot of meth.

However, it was the desperation on his face that will haunt me. Being close to someone and seeing their face as they struggle to survive is always terrible. It gets even worse if the only way for them to survive is killing you. You wonder if the expression on their face (in this case, brown eyes shining with terror and desperation) mirrors your own. Of course, it takes a while for you to start asking yourself this. At the moment it is happening, you have bigger problems to worry about.

For instance, we both fell down pretty quickly, my Sig going off in the process. We tumbled around on the floor, trying to shoot the other. It was like the climax in dozens of movies where the good guy and the head bad guy are struggling over the gun. Yet in this situation, the stakes were much tinier and there was no personal enmity between us.

Finally, after a few too many close calls, I let go of the gun with my right hand and grabbed my knife out of its sheath. Before the soldier could realize what I was doing, I unfolded it and brought it down into his throat. Hard.

As his blood sprayed my face and spattered my glasses, his expression changed from desperation to shock. In his few remaining moments of consciousness, he made a gurgling noise. In that moment, I actually wished I could speak Korean. He deserved to have his last words heard and understood.

When his grip on the hand still holding my Sig eased, I stood up. I was distinctly aware that I was now coated in blood. Around me, the shooting seemed to have died down. But as I stood looking down on my most recent victim, I also felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I was being watched.

I spun around, back towards the loading bay. Staring straight at me was a tall man wearing a combat uniform that was definitely not NKPD issue. It was grey body armor over a grey skintight jumpsuit, but that wasn’t the weird part.

The first unusual thing was his helmet/facemask. It was almost like a hockey mask that fit over his head with a big camera lens over each eye, each surrounded by three smaller ones. Even stranger, he wasn’t armed.

Not waiting for him to produce a weapon, I raised my Sig and fired three times. Two rounds hit his chest, and a third hit right between the two camera lenses.

Normally, when .357 SIG rounds hit a target at that close range, even a target wearing body armor, the target falls down. Also, large chunks of flesh end up outside the body. This… thing just staggered back.

Now genuinely terrified, I pulled the trigger again. There was an audible click. The monster (seriously, nothing human can take .357 SIG to the face and live) cocked its head, waiting to see what I’d do next. When I just gawked at it, it just turned on its heel… and vanished. By vanished, I don’t mean walked out of sight, I mean literally turned invisible.

“So,” I said, as the mysterious figure’s footsteps faded into the distance, “let me guess, you’re a member of The Dragon’s Teeth, aren’t you?”

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Track 21: Project Skywalker

After asking my question, there was nothing but silence. May was looking curiously at everyone. Smith looked sullen. Everyone else seemed tired, but it was hard to tell in the low light.

“I wouldn’t lean on the wall,” Kyle said. As soon as he said that, the platform began to rise. When it did, I realized that the walls were staying put. From outside, there was a muffled thump from what I assumed was a rocket hitting the steel door. The walls didn’t even shake. “No worries,” Kyle said. “That door is a titanium-uranium alloy. They’ll need a lot more of those before they even make a dent.”

“I’m actually more worried about the big picture,” I said. “For instance, why are there non-Jumpers capable of teleportation? And why are they dressed up like Nazis?”

“Taylor,” Kyle asked, “would you care to explain to Nathan what the Grenzefrontier is?” Smith just shook his head. Kyle shrugged. “Shame. You know it better than anyone here.” He then began to talk to me again. “Anyway, you know how Hitler was obsessed with giving humans Parahuman powers, tech, and expansionism? And how he was allied with the home of the Jumper?”

“He didn’t…” I said, completely incredulous.

“He didn’t,” Kyle said.

“Thank God,” I said. “Apart from how bad it would be if he survived, the whole idea of…”

“But at least a hundred thousand of his followers did,” Kyle said. “Around the end of World War Two, Hitler managed to get a teleporter device working and sent some people his raceologists determined to be a hundred percent Aryan to a planet called New Nuremberg.”

“I’m sorry…” I said, “But how did they find a Goldilocks planet and make a teleporter? It wasn’t until fairly recently that we even discovered a Goldilocks planet, and, even with modern technology, we can’t even mimic Jumpers, let alone surpass them.”

“Publicly, yes,” Kyle said. “Privately… I’ve heard that’s the first thing the IDRF did and that several other countries have developed them.”

“See,” May said, “you were right. They are Nazis from another planet.”

“Shut up, I was being sarcastic!” I said. “Still, I’ve got one question. What did Smith mean when he said, ‘we have no idea what’s coming?’”

“You know,” Richard said, walking over to Smith, “I’m also interested in what Taylor meant.” He then grabbed Smith’s tie. “You’ve been dropping hints about something called the Dragon’s Teeth ever since we met. I’d be interested to know just what they are.”

For some reason, I was looking at Smith’s hands. That’s when I saw that he was holding something and there was liquid leaking off his wrists. I wondered what it was. Then Smith said, “Shame you’ll never find out, traitor.”

That’s when it clicked. I unholstered my Sig, but Smith’s arms were already moving. It was too late to shout a warning, so I fired. I was still too late. Smith had shoved something directly into Richard’s neck, a little bit below his jaw.

Everyone, including Richard, stopped and stared. A great deal of blood was flowing from the wound. Somewhat in shock, Richard let go of Smith. Smith, despite the fact that his brains were decorating the opposite wall, didn’t let go of the glass shard. When it fell out of Richard’s neck, the blood began to spray. Jared screamed as he got sprayed, but May was running before Smith hit the floor. This all happened in two seconds.

“Shit,” May said, looking over Richard’s body. “His carotid artery is completely severed. Smith knew exactly what he was doing.”

“What about Smith?” I asked, nervous as to how close May was to him.

“Considering the fact that roughly…” May paused, looking at the stain on the wall, “…twenty percent of his gray matter is now a wall decoration, I’d say he’s dead and his brain is gone. Two Star Trek references in one.”

“Damn it!” Kyle said, kicking the wall. Then he grunted in pain. “The entire point of this fucking operation was to bring Taylor and Graff in alive! Not kill them!”

“So, what next?” I asked.

“We get to Project Skywalker,” Kyle said, “and we just take it easy until this all blows over.”

“And Project Skywalker is?” I asked.

“The way it was put to me,” Kyle said, “was that whatever device they’re using to teleport from their planet and back is the Death Star, and whatever these guys are working is basically the torpedo. If this doesn’t work, apparently there’s an aircraft carrier really close by.”

“And what happens then?” I asked. “The only thing they can do is bomb us to pieces.”

“Which is why the President is currently in Switzerland on important business,” Kyle said. “Not that these assholes know that.”

“But they know about this… thing we’re building?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Kyle said. “Oh, just so you know, you shouldn’t ask how it works. They’ll just get more suspicious.”

I was about to ask why. Then I realized that I had just shot someone who had information they really needed. “Yeah,” I said. “Not a problem.”

Finally, we got to the top floor. This was a six-story building surrounded by a bunch of three-story buildings, so it should have moved much faster, in my opinion. When we got out of the elevator, Gupta and Mendes were waiting for us. They both were in tactical armor, so it was kind of hard to tell it was them underneath the Kevlar, gas masks, and sunglasses. Gupta carried a SPAS-12, and Mendes had a P-90. Both had pistols strapped to their hips, probably the Campus Police standard issue Five-seveN.

“Jesus Christ,” Mendes said, looking at all the blood, “what the fuck happened to you guys?”

“May and I got caught outside,” I said. “When Kyle saved us, Smith got suspicious. He then proceeded to fuck everything up for us. Hence why two of Kyle’s crew is dead and Smith’s brains are outside his head.”

“We don’t have time for this,” Gupta said. “All of you, into Secure Experimentation.”

I grabbed the bag and the assault rifle and followed everyone else.  We were heading down the hallway. I stopped, however, to look out the window. “Hey!” Gupta said, “Move it or lose it!”

May, however, was curious. “What do you see?”

Down in front of the building was a large group of people in green uniforms. In the center, there were two lines of soldiers carrying something on their shoulders. These lines were somewhat offset. They were all looking directly at the window. Right next to them, an officer had his hand raised. Before I could shout a warning, he brought it down in a chopping motion.

The first rocket hit the window. The explosion knocked me back on my butt, and I could see the window bow in slightly. Another rocket hit the window. “Go prone!” Kyle yelled.

“This way!” Mendes yelled, as he took off running.

“Or not,” Kyle said as everyone began running. As we ducked into a room, I turned to see that the window was only slightly cracked. At least six anti-tank rockets had hit it.

“What the fuck is that window made of?” I asked. We were in a small antechamber. The door Mendes had opened was mostly standard, if a little more solidly built then I was used to. In front of us was a legitimate vault door that was slowly opening. “That glass took six hits, and it only cracked a bit.”

“I wanna know what’s in those rockets,” Mendes responded. “I was there when they were testing it. They fired a couple Javelins into it, and it just kind of flexed.”

“Well,” Kyle said, “either way, it’s going to break. Any plans to deal with that?”

“We just roll down the shutters,” Mendes said. “If the Braxton Glass doesn’t stop them, titanium-uranium alloy should.”

“Uhhh…” May said, pointing down, “what’s that green dot? And what’s that counter for?” We looked down at the ground. Just as May had said, there was a green dot moving around in a circle. Connected to it by a line was a box with a countdown that displayed what seemed to be hours, minutes, seconds and milliseconds. Currently, we had about twenty-four hours.

“That…” Mendes said, “…means someone is drilling their way in here. Probably something laser-based, judging by how it’s going in circles. The computer thinks we’ve got twenty-four hours.”

There was a jump. Suddenly, it said twenty. Then it jumped up to twenty-five. “Needless to say,” Mendes said, “I don’t trust the computer.”

From inside, we heard a voice call, “Mendes, Gupta, get the students in here.” We were hurried into a large vault that appeared much smaller due to the huge machine inside. Two other students were working on computers connected to it, and a third was running around, fixing various mechanical problems. In the far right corner, two more Campus Security officers in combat gear were surrounding what appeared to be a captain. The captain spoke again. “I take it you noticed one of our problems?”

“Yes,” Mendes said. “Do you need us to do anything about it?”

“They’re on Level Five. Hook up with the rest of Beta and take it out.” As Mendes and Gupta went off, he said, “You five, can you fight?”

“They can,” May said, “but I’m more of a medic.”

“Good,” the captain said. “There’s going to be trouble. How much depends on how fast these people can get their shit together.”

“Hey,” one of the engineering students said, “This stuff we’re doing? Literally nothing like it has ever been done before in the history of mankind. What you’re doing is the equivalent of asking someone in 1950 to devise a way to go to the moon in six months. It can be done, it’s just a little difficult.”

I couldn’t ask them anything, so I turned to Kyle. “Hey, Kyle, can I have my nine back?” I asked as I set down the bag of ammo.

“Sure,” he said. He reached into his waistband to hand me back my Berretta. I took my pistol back, and began to search for nine millimeter ammo. I figured it had to be in there somewhere because most pistols, including Kyle’s, took it. I quickly found a box and began to refill my two magazines.

“You know,” Kyle said, “that looks like a good idea.” He sat down by me. I noticed that he had brought Richard’s shotgun and pistol as well as his own weapons. Jared joined us as well. After I had refilled my Berretta (there wasn’t any ammo for my Sig) I checked to see why I had run out of ammo for the M-4 clone. It turns out I hadn’t. The quadrastacked mag had shit itself.

A couple minutes into my attempt to fix it, Kyle said, “They do that. Don’t bother.” It was then that I had noticed that no one had spoken for quite a bit.

“You ok?” I asked. “Never mind, stupid question. A bunch of your friends just got shot.”

There was a moment of silence, then Kyle said, “Dragging Richard and Camilla into this was one thing, but Brad…”

“Cap,” Jared said, “It’s ok. He was prepared…”

“It isn’t just Brad!” Kyle said. “Jared, we came in here with five other guys from the team. It was my job to keep them safe, and only you and Brad made it through fucking Hell Semester. I should never have brought you guys along.”

“Well,” Jared said, “you couldn’t stop us, man. Fuck, man, what were we supposed to do? Let the guy who led the team to finals three times in a row go on to face Nazis by himself?” He patted Kyle on the shoulder. “We knew the risks, and decided to take them. Also, if we hadn’t gone with you, things probably would be much worse.”

“Hey,” the captain said, “you four, come over here.” Kyle, Jared, Camilla and I all walked over to where the Captain was standing. He was looking down at a monitor of CCTVs. Most of them were static. “We’ve got another problem,” he said. “We’ve taken out the laser, but a group of the enemy have used the distraction to get up to this floor. They’re cutting us off from our people on the fifth floor. Can you remove them?”

Camilla pulled back the bolt on her AK to check that there was ammo. “How many are there?”

“Not sure,” the captain said. “But I’ve managed to seal off the other ways they can get in here.”

“So, all of them?” Camilla asked. “Not a problem, then.”

“I’m game,” I said, slapping a thirty-round mag into the M-4. “Kyle, Jared? You two in?”

“Sure,” Jared said, “It’s time for some payback.”

“Dude,” Kyle said, “be careful, ok?”

Jared and Kyle looked at each other for a moment. Kyle seemed to be begging Jared not to do something stupid. Jared smiled. “Sure man. I will.”

“Ok,” the captain said, “I’ll open the vault door. Head down the hall and take a left. That’s where the last entrance to this level is. The shutters are all down now, so you shouldn’t have anyone shoot at you from outside. There’s another stairwell on the opposite side of the building, but those stairs have been sealed off.”

We waited as the vault slowly opened, the sound of gunfire and explosions slowly seeping in from outside. When it was finally done, we filed out, checking our corners. When we were almost to the corner, I whispered, “How about we throw in a flashbang?” I held it up to show it was a viable option.

Kyle nodded. “Ok,” he muttered, “then we rush the bastards. Jared, cover our rear.”

I pulled the pin on the flashbang and rolled it down the hall and around the corner. When we heard the thump of it going off, Camilla, Kyle and I ran around the corner. We saw a group of four Nazis staggering back and blinking. Behind them, the door to the stairwell was open. The sound of gunfire echoed from it.

We opened fire. I got one, Kyle got another, and Camilla got the other two. As I was tossing a second flashbang into the stairwell, a fifth came out of the stairwell. Camilla got him too, her AK rounds passing through him and into the door. The flashbang went off as he fell, backlighting him for a split second.

We quickly ran through the bodies. Inside, there were three able-bodied, but deafened and blinded Nazis on the landing, and one who was unconscious and bandaged. I was first. I fired three two to five round bursts, causing the uninjured ones to fall down. Behind me, I heard Kyle fire a shotgun blast into the left corner, and Camilla fire a burst down the stairs. Then her AK clicked. Then she swore in Spanish. I looked to my right.

Down the stairs, on the halfway landing between the two floors, was a group of six Nazis, plus a few Nazi corpses. Most were still dazed, but one was aiming his STG straight at me. Before he could pull the trigger, there was a series of pops. From the fifth floor landing, I could see the distinctive muzzle flash of a Five-seveN pistol. Shortly later, I could see three Campus Security officers rushing the remaining Nazis. The one on point carried a riot shield and a Five-seveN, the second one had a P-90, and the rear one had a SCAR-H with an underbarrel XM-LSS. The remaining Nazis in the stairwell quickly fell down, blood and bullet holes marring the wall behind them.

However, I was distracted by the sound of one of the semi-auto Mausers coming from behind. I quickly headed out the door and saw Jared lying in a pool of his own blood. From farther down, I could see a Nazi lying down on the floor, also bleeding out.

I ran over to Jared. I was relieved to see that his eyes were open and he was still breathing, although it was very shallow. “Shit,” I said. “Ok, Jared, I’m going to get you out of here, man. Just hang…”

There was the sound of submachinegun fire. Then, somehow, I was on the floor and my stomach felt numb. I touched my stomach. There was a shooting pain, and when I looked at my fingers. They were covered in blood. I dropped them. From behind me, I heard someone burst out of the stairwell and fire an AK. The person at the other end responded in kind. I heard Camilla grunt and a crash.

As I heard more footsteps and gunfire, my vision began to blur. My last thought before going black was Damn it! It’s been months since I’ve blacked out. I was really hoping to break that trend… Then darkness took me.

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Track 20: Counter-Attack

“So Jew-boy, why’d you enroll at lovely Nowhere Island University?” With one question, Richard had just raised so many questions. Was he the fourth UNIX infiltrator? Did that mean UNIX had known Nazis would attack Nowhere Island and had neglected to warn the other three agents stationed there? More pressingly, did this mean May and I could live?

Well, there was only one way to find out. “Would you believe,” I said jokingly, “that I thought I was applying to NYU?” As I finished, I noticed that Richard made a twirling motion with his shotgun. As he did so, Kyle’s crew raised their guns and stopped leaning on the walls.

One of the Nazis in front of Kyle and Richard rolled his eyes. “He obviously isn’t joining. All he’s doing is telling…”

“What a coincidence,” Richard interrupted, adjusting his aim so he was now aiming at the Nazi who had just spoken. “Me too.” As he did so, Kyle and his crew also adjusted their aim as well. They fired almost simultaneously.

Behind me, I heard some voices in German making concerned queries. Then there were sharp bursts of AK fire. “Clear!” I heard a female voice with a Mexican accent say. I turned around to see a person of ambiguous gender lift up a ski mask with one hand to reveal a feminine Hispanic face.

“Camilla,” Kyle said, somewhat exasperated, “put the mask back on. We haven’t blown our cover yet.” Suddenly a radio crackled, a voice in German angrily enquiring something. Kyle holstered his Browning and got off May. “Please be quiet for a moment. Also, if you could police your brass? That’d be great.”

He then raised the radio to his ear. “Yes?” He asked. “Ah, Colonel Graff! Yeah we actually managed to capture two of them.” He paused as the Colonel on the other end asked a question. “Yeah,” Kyle said, “there were actually three of them… Sorry, but Sergeant Heinz went in first. We only got the second one because he ran out of ammo killing them… The other one’s a Triple A med student. She was unarmed and we figured she’d be of more use alive.” The officer muttered a bit more. Suddenly, Kyle’s eyes grew wide.

“You breached the advanced engineering labs?” he said, his eyes wide with panic, but his voice happy. “Great! We’ll see you there.”

After making sure the radio was completely off, he turned to the rest of us. “We need to move,” he said. “Now. Killer, I’m going to put handcuffs on you and May, but they’re fake, ok?”

“What the hell just happened?” May asked, coughing a bit. “Whose team are you even on?”

“That’s easy,” I said, “their own. But I guess they are working for the university in this case, right?”

“Yeah,” Richard said condescendingly, as he tossed me a pair of handcuffs. “Now be a good boy and put on the bracelets.”

Kyle, noticing the way I was staring murderously at Richard, quickly said, “Please. It’ll make life a lot easier for us. And Richard? Don’t be a dick.” I inspected the handcuffs and saw that there was a button on them that allowed them to be instantly opened.

“So, mind briefing me on what’s going on?” I asked.

“Later,” Kyle said. “Just pretend to be a prisoner for now, ok?” I sighed. I didn’t have any choice. For whatever reason, Kyle had decided to keep me alive. My best guess is that he had a plan for me, but if I didn’t cooperate now, he’d have to kill me. After all, the Colonel was expecting him to arrive with two prisoners.

“Sure,” I said, putting on the cuffs. I was actually curious to see how this all went down. I watched as everyone collected their brass and my Berretta. After they were done, Kyle signaled for us to begin marching away quickly.

We moved away quickly, Richard and Kyle on point, the two I didn’t recognize frog-marching me and Camila bringing up the rear. We moved through the streets, avoiding the ever increasing number of Nazi patrols, but identifying ourselves when we couldn’t avoid them. As we moved, I could hear the sound of gunfire. If I had to guess, it was coming mostly from the airport and Campus Security Headquarters.

Finally, we got to advanced engineering. In front of the building, a group of Nazis were just beginning to enter the building. Four Nazis, plus a dark-haired man in a business suit were standing outside watching them go in. One of them was wearing an officer’s cap instead of a helmet. I assumed that meant he was Colonel Graff. The four began walking over to us. The dark haired student took out a radio and began to listen intently.

“Mr. Rockford,” the person I assumed to be Colonel Graff said as he approached us, “you’re late.”

“Sorry, sir,” Kyle said, “we just had a bit of trouble.”

“Yes,” the person in the business suit said, turning around. I noticed he had a very posh British accent, and a somewhat smug demeanor. Also, his large, circular glasses were somewhat thin, like they were more for effect than vision correction. His attitude was also extremely smug. “Some of our scouts just found Heinz’s squad. I think their findings would interest you quite a bit.”

At this moment, a series of explosions rocked the building. A few of Colonel Graff’s men turned at the sound. That was all the time Kyle, Richard, and my other “captors” needed. Two of Graff’s men were cut down by M-4 fire and another fell back from the crack of Richard’s shotgun. Meanwhile, Kyle had drawn an M-1 Garand he had slung over his back and pointed it at Colonel Graff.

“Colonel Graff, Mr. Smith,” Kyle said pleasantly, “President Anthony Newton-Howell would like to speak with you.”

As I pressed the release buttons on my fake cuffs, I noted the pale expression on Smith’s face. I also realized that he must have been that Taylor Smith guy who May hated. I should have been paying attention to Graff. He pulled out what looked like a Browning with the magazine in front of the pistol grip, but before he could aim it, Kyle fired twice.

“God damn it!” Kyle almost yelled. He turned to Smith. “You,” he said, “down on the ground!” Smith, still pale as a sheet, made a confused noise.

“If he doesn’t get down,” Richard asked, “can I shoot him in the balls?”

“You traitors…” Smith said, getting down on his knees. “Do you understand what you’ve done?” I noticed that he was getting louder as he talked. I also noticed that Kyle was stalking towards him. “This is for the benefit of the world! Not only are we restoring the proper order, but…”

Kyle cut him off by smashing the side of Smith’s head with his rifle butt. As he bent down to apply zip ties to Smith’s wrists, he said, “My Grandfather spent his whole life fighting people like you, but I didn’t need him to learn that people like you are shit. Don’t even bother talking to me.”

“You have no idea what’s coming, do you?” Smith asked, laughing.

“Brad!” Kyle said, still not returning to his calm self.

“Yeah, Cap?” the guy behind me asked. He seemed like he was a football player before enrolling. Made sense, since Kyle was a former football player who had brought a few of his friends over with him. Also explained why Brad called him Cap.

“Take charge of this piece of shit,” Kyle spat out. He then turned to me and May. “You two, get some weapons.”

I pulled out my Sig. Kyle’s eyes widened. Apparently, he hadn’t realized I had it on me. May, meanwhile, looked somewhat uncomfortable. Understandable for a pacifist. Luckily for her, we heard a bunch of voices in German coming from down the street.

“We need to move.” Camilla said. “Now.”

“Ok,” Kyle said, “everyone inside.” We followed Richard and Kyle into the building. To the left of the hallway, there was a security booth. Kyle ran to the door and typed some numbers on the keypad. The door opened. “Everyone,” Kyle said, “get in!”

We didn’t waste any time. We still weren’t fast enough. I was the third-to-last person in. Brad was behind me, pushing Smith in front of him. He was almost in the room when there was a burst of gunfire. He collapsed.

Before Smith could run away, I pulled him in and pistol-whipped him for good measure. He fell into the room face-first. Meanwhile, gunfire began slamming into the desk and bullet-resistant glass. Ignoring it, I reached out to grab the rifle Brad had dropped. As I did so, I caught sight of a group of four Nazis coming in through the door. A bullet whizzed by my head just as I grabbed the rifle. I quickly got back into cover.

Meanwhile, Kyle was talking on a phone he had pulled off the desk. “This is Dagger,” he said, his voice barely masking the nervousness he felt. “We need Bravo Passage to open up, and we need it now.”

“Kyle…” his other pre-NIU friend said, “the glass is starting to crack…”

“Thank you Jared,” Kyle said, putting his hand to the receiver, then went back to the phone. “Skywalker, you there? We need to get up the passage right now. I’ve got three persons of interest I need to get to safety. Please open the passageway!”

A section of bullet-resistant glass shattered, raining shards down on me, Smith and May. There’s a reason I never call anything bullet-proof. Not wanting to see how long the desk and wall would last, I leaned out and began to return fire. I managed to put a two-round burst in one of them before they focused on me.

Richard, for his part, moved over to where the window had been blown out and began to fire from behind this new position. “Nice going, Jew-boy,” he said, ducking to return fire.

“My name,” I said, leaning out to fire a few more bursts, “is Nathan.” The remaining two Nazis dropped dead. “Fucking use it.”

“Really?” Camilla asked exasperatedly from the far end of the booth. “You can stop pretending to be an asshole, Richard.” To punctuate her statement, a rocket hit the bullet-resistant glass between her and the closest person to her. When the smoke and flames cleared, they revealed a shocked expression on her face.

“They’re coming from stairwell two!” Jared yelled and began returning fire.

“Good news,” Kyle said. “They’re sending down the elevator. We just have to hold out a little longer, ok?”

I looked out from behind the door to see a bunch of Nazis coming in through the main entrance. Luckily for me, there was no cover for them. I was suddenly distracted by the roar of a machinegun and the sound of bullets hitting the desk and the windows. Jared fell back, clutching his ear and screaming in pain.

“We’ve got a machinegun!” Camilla yelled. “Stairwell two! We need to leave!”

Before I turned back to deal with the steadily increasing amount of people coming in through the main entrance, I saw May crawl over to Jared, probably getting cut up on a lot of broken glass. Eventually, I heard Jared begin to return fire. When another glass window shattered, Kyle also began shooting.

That was good, because the M-4 clone I had taken from Brad was out of ammo. I quickly leaned out and began dragging him back in. When he was back, I noticed that he was carrying a bullet-riddled backpack. I also noticed that a bullet had entered the back of his head. When he was in, I opened the backpack. I quickly saw that it was ammo and grenades. A few of the mags near the near the rear were damaged by gunfire, but a lot of it was intact… including two quadrastacked mags.

“Anyone need a refill?” I asked.

“I’m good,” Jared said. “For now.”

“Same here,” Kyle said.

“I’ve only got two mags left,” Camilla said. “And that’s counting the one in my gun.” There was a click.” “Wait,” Camilla amended, “make that one.”

I reached into the backpack and pulled out two AK mags. “Here ya go,” I said, sliding them down the floor to her. “Also, grenades for everyone.” I began rolling the explosives down to people. Once everyone who was fighting had three grenades, I grabbed one of the quadrastacked magazines. Tossing the empty one away, I began fitting the sixty-round behemoth into my gun.

Once I had done that and had begun to put the backpack on me, I heard Jared yell, “Catch, you shit-faces!” A few seconds later, I heard screams. I looked up. Stairwell two was in flames. A Nazi with an SMG came running out, desperately trying to pat the fire out. I sent a silent thanks to God that the grenades in Brandon’s backpack hadn’t exploded.

Suddenly, a large steel panel behind us began to roll open. “Elevator’s here!” Kyle yelled. “Move it or lose it!”

“Get in,” I yelled, cocking Brad’s M-4. “I’ll cover you!”

“Richard,” Kyle said, “You’re almost out. Get Smith in the elevator!” I looked behind me. There was Smith, lying face up. Richard began to move over to drag him into the elevator.

Ignoring the thought that something was wrong about Smith, I leaned out of cover to begin sustained fire on the people entering the building. I had kind of lost track of things when Kyle called out, “Killer! Get in, we’re leaving!”

I turned to see that everyone else was in the elevator, and the steel panel that had been hiding it was slowly sliding closed. I got up, firing as I went. Once I was inside, the M-4 clicked. I got out of the way so Camilla could take my place suppressing the incoming Nazis.

When the steel door finally closed, I dropped the M-4 and asked, “So. Anyone care to tell me what the actual fuck is going on?”

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