As Sweeper shouted, blood leaked out from Ha Jin’s wound. It was an unexpected attack. The Shark’s limb had bent and whipped around like a snake, surprising both of them. As Ha Jin fell down, the mutant raised its arm to attack again. The strike was fast. Even though Ha Jin tried to dodge it instinctively, a claw still managed to graze his shoulder.
The mutant followed up with a stabbing attack. Sweeper intercepted it with his axe. To be more precise, Sweeper tried to block it, but the impact of the attack knocked him off his feet. Sweeper hit the ground, tumbled around, and rolled back onto his feet. He looked back up to find the mutant charging toward him, its mouth wide open.
Sweeper ignored the screaming of his comrades and quickly reached for a grenade. However, he wasn’t fast enough. The shark chomped down on his shoulder and flung him to the ground. It then opened its mouth to take a big bite. Suddenly, a shot rang out and something pierced right through the mutant’s tongue.
“Sirs!” Corporal Ong shouted. He pulled the trigger on his sniper rifle relentlessly, each shot hitting the soft flesh inside of the mutant’s mouth. The mutant stopped in its tracks. In that moment, Sweeper immediately fed it a grenade. As a foreign object entered its system, the shark reacted instinctively, backing away as it closed its mouth.
“Chew on that, you piece of shit.” Sweeper counted the seconds in his head. Three. Four. Five.
The explosion caused such a strong shockwave that Sweeper could feel it from where he was standing. However, the mutant did not die. Instead, it was enraged.
“Kyahhhhh!” It screamed as if it had been stung by a bee.
“Ong, good work.” Sweeper gave the corporal a thumbs up as he grabbed Ha Jin and dragged him away. He tried to smile as brightly as he usually did, but he was sweating bullets. Both he and Ha Jin had been injured by the mutant. They were definitely infected.
There was no time to make excuses or feel sorry for themselves. The mutant was going berserk. Its blood mixed with its spittle, forming a pink froth around its mouth. It opened its mouth to roar, before levelling its gaze on the injured duo.
‘One grenade wasn’t enough.’
It was definitely moving slower now, but that just made it look more imposing. It growled continuously, expressing its ire toward them.
“Damn, what a shitty situation, eh bro?”
“I completely agree.”
The mutant began attacking them very methodically and deviously, like a cat playing with a mouse. Ha Jin and Sweeper were immediately forced onto the defensive. They didn’t even get the chance to plan or think.
‘It purposely hid its true attack pattern until now.’
They originally thought that they could overcome the difference in physical abilities with good tactics, but that was no longer the case.
“How long can you last?”
“A few minutes?”
“You must be feeling pretty free now that you can fight without having to worry about getting infected. Bro, we have to avenge Jung Hwan.”
“I agree with you on that as well. Ong, open the door and everyone go in. Wait there until Yohan gets back.”
“Leave. We’re going to fight and we’ll make sure it goes down.”
“Naturally. We’re getting revenge for Jung Hwan.” Sweeper knew that he was definitely infected and he didn’t want to die in vain. He wanted to take the mutant to the afterlife with him and even the score. He wasn’t going to let it get away.
“Go. A grown man shouldn’t cry. Ong, Hyuk. Everyone will die if you stay here.”
Hyuk came to his senses first and quickly moved to get everyone inside. As he was doing that, Sweeper and Ha Jin charged at the mutant once more. They struck at it, trying to get it to open its mouth again. Corporal Ong refused to leave, opting instead to support the duo with his sniping.
The mutant had curled up into the turtle position, enduring the attacks while regenerating. Suddenly, it opened its eyes and locked its rage onto Ong. With a mighty leap, it jumped to where Ong was in a single bound.
“Damnit Ong!” Hyuk was still ushering people into the building, but he broke away to help Corporal Ong. However, the mutant was already in his face.
“Get away!” Corporal Ong fired at the mutant point blank, but the mutant didn’t stop. Corporal Ong closed his eyes and looked away.
He didn’t notice it at first, but there had been the sound of a motorcycle that had been getting louder and louder. Just before the mutant could bite down on Ong, the motorbike flew out of nowhere and collided with it mid-air. Yohan tumbled to the ground where he had jumped off of the motorcycle. He rolled over a few times before getting up. He walked over to help Corporal Ong stand up.
“Good work. Get into the shelter.” Yohan immediately turned to face the mutant, who was releasing another roar. He pulled out a grenade and lobbed it into its maw. This made the Shark shut its mouth real quick.
It was stumbling now, no doubt due to all the damage it had taken. Yohan pulled out his machete and ran at the mutant, but it quickly retreated. It jumped into the dark forest and disappeared in just a few moments. Yohan frowned, but turned to tend to his injured comrades. One was bitten on the shoulder and the other took a claw to the side.
“Jeez bro, you’re late.”
“Bro, you’re bleeding.”
“It’s not my blood, don’t worry.”
“Oh yeah? It’s a lot of blood.”
Yohan had a complicated look on his face. The injuries would definitely lead to infection. Ha Jin and Sweeper had somber expressions as they sat on the ground, speechless.
‘Am I going to lose Jung Hwan, Ha Jin, and Sweeper all at once?’ Even though it was right in front of him, Yohan didn’t want to believe it. They were the camp’s lifelines and they were soon going to disappear, along with his hopes. Yohan sat down and rubbed his face.
“…We don’t…have time…so if you have something to say, say it now.”
“…I’ll chase that bastard to hell and back for you guys. Ha Jin?”
“Same as him.”
“…Got it,” Yohan replied. He couldn’t help but think, ‘these two will never change.’ He couldn’t believe that this was happening. Yohan couldn’t even feel sad, everything just seemed too surreal.
“You know…I thought I would feel something if I was infected, but I feel normal. Anyway bro, it was fun while it lasted.”
“Wait…you don’t feel anything?”
“Ha Jin, you too?”
“I feel pain. The wound is pretty deep.”
“How long has it been since you got injured?” Yohan asked, his words almost spilling out of him.
“Hm…about 10 minutes?”
‘That’s weird. If a mutant was nearby and someone got injured, they should get infected in 5-10 minutes. They should at least have a fever by now.’
Yohan placed his hand on both men’s foreheads.
‘…No fever at all.’ Yohan immediately stood up and shouted at Corporal Ong and Hyuk.
“Disinfectant and dressing!”
The pair were bound and brought into the shelter. Yohan attended to their injuries, disinfecting it and bandaging them up like normal wounds.
“What’s going on?”
“When a mutant is nearby, the infection should start within five minutes. You should first feel a fever and then your blood will start clotting. It’s already been more than 10 minutes and you guys aren’t showing any signs.”
“It could be your immune system.”
Ha Jin and Sweeper had been prepared for death, but now there was life in their eyes. It was as if they were pushed off a cliff, but managed to grab onto a tree root on the way down.
“We’ll wait a bit more,” Yohan said. Ten minutes passed, then twenty. There was no change in their condition. They were immune.
“Wow, this is a gift I never expected to get. If I had known sooner I wouldn’t have needed to be so careful all this time.”
Yohan let out a big sigh of relief. All the tension in his body melted away. It was shocking that three people in the same camp were immune, but he wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. He looked at Ha Jin, who didn’t seem to share Sweeper’s joyful reaction. Rather, Ha Jin looked devastated.
“What’s wrong bro? Isn’t this such a great…oh.” Sweeper noticed that Ha Jin was staring at his prosthetic arm.
“Why did I have to cut my own arm off then? Damnit…”
That day was the first time Sweeper and Yohan heard Ha Jin swear.
* * *
The recon team stayed alert all night, but the mutant didn’t appear again.
“Did it give up?”
All zombies and mutants shared a common trait. They would never stop until they slaughtered and ate every human they could find. Even though the Shark had retreated due to the strong resistance it encountered, it was only temporary. The mutant still thought of them as prey.
“It’ll come back. I can guarantee it. It’s probably recovering. I bet its body is still numb.”
“We should conserve our energy then,” Ha Jin remarked. Yohan nodded. If they wanted to fight in their best condition, they would need to get some sleep.
“Let’s take turns keeping watch.”
They created three groups to rotate guard duty, with Yohan, Ha Jin, and Sweeper leading a group each. This way they could all get at least eight hours of sleep. Even if the stakeout went on for a long time, they would be able to stay battle-ready.
“Hopefully this doesn’t go on for a long time.”
Even though they had a system in place, it wasn’t designed for comfort. After a few days, Yohan started to feel a bit anxious. His instincts were never wrong, so he was sure that the mutant was still preying on them. He wasn’t sure if it was trying to wait them out or if it was looking for an opportunity to snag a straggler.
What was clear was that they couldn’t stay holed up in the shelter forever. The camp members were getting restless and the recon team members were taking a heavy mental toll. Yohan tossed and turned and woke up after only getting four hours of sleep. He decided to discuss a new plan with Ha Jin and Sweeper.
“I have an idea. I’m not a hundred percent sure it’ll work, but it’s worth trying at least once.” Yohan described his thoughts on hunting the Shark with a new weapon.
“Will it work?”
“We won’t know until we try. At this rate, we won’t be able to kill it. If it keeps running away as soon as it feels threatened we’ll just end up stuck in this situation over and over again. We have to kill it in one blow.”
“It’s a weapon made for shooting down fighter jets. If you recall, even David got injured by the claymores. I don’t think the Shark can endure a 25kg grenade launcher.”
It wasn’t a plan he was completely confident in, but at least it was an exciting one.
“Let’s try it. The worst that can happen is that we die,” Sweeper laughed.
“It would be nice if the three of us moved together. However, just in case, someone should stay here. If it shows up here, don’t engage. Just try to buy time,” Yohan said. Ha Jin and Sweeper looked at each other.
“You stay here.”
“You stay, bro.”
They spoke at the same time. There was a pause and then the pair spoke at the same time again.
“No, I should go.”
“Don’t overdo it, bro.”
“I need to get revenge on the guy that took my arm.”
“The one that took your arm was…” Yohan’s voice trailed off.
He was going to say David, but if he thought about it more clearly, the one who took Ha Jin’s arm was Ha Jin himself. Thinking about it further, Yohan realized that he should have suspected Ha Jin’s immunity much earlier. The Gremlin definitely caused atmospheric infection, as Min Seo had demonstrated. Despite multiple injuries from the Gold Moon gang beating him up, Ha Jin was fine throughout the encounter.
“Ha Jin will go with me. I still remember our fight with David.”
“Hm. It was indeed a fight that closely resembles martial arts.”
“…Are you serious?” Sweeper asked, incredulously. Yohan shrugged.
“Sweeper, I’ll leave this place to you.”
“All right. Leave it to me,” Sweeper said, confidently.
— Ω —