“Ugh…” Some of the recon team members made a face.
Yohan looked at the zombie.
“This is terrible.” Ha Jin said.
“This reminds me of the Gold Moon boss,” Sweeper said, laughing, “That was our beginning. The beginning of a legend. Right, bro?”
“Sometimes I wished we never met.”
“If we didn’t, you would have died, wouldn’t you bro?”
Yohan ignored the banter, his eyes were still fixated on the zombie.
“Bro, what are you staring at?”
“I’m trying to see if it has any injuries.”
“Why?” Sweeper asked, but Yohan just shook his head. Sweeper looked at him quizzically. Yohan had a complicated look on his face, making it hard to discern what he was thinking about.
“I feel like someone is watching us.”
“Huh? I don’t feel anything.”
“Maybe it’s just me.”
After putting the zombie to rest, Yohan looked at their surroundings. There were no cameras or signs of other survivors near them.
“I just realized something when you mentioned the Gold Moon gang. When you first met me…”
“Didn’t you say that you were looking for something at that mall? What were you looking for?”
“Wow, you’re asking that now?”
“There wasn’t exactly a good time to ask about it back then and I had forgotten about it until now.”
Sweeper pressed his lips together and gave Yohan a sly smile.
“Is it a secret?” Yohan didn’t want to force the issue if it was.
“Okay. Everyone has a secret.”
“It’s not anything amazing. It’s just that there’s a lot of backstory.”
“Let’s move. Stay on your guard, especially after we pass the shutters.”
The recon team moved forward again through the suffocating darkness, trying to stay as quiet as possible.
“Raughhhhh!” Zombies growled at them as they got close to the subway train, banging on the glass.
“Ah! That scared me.” Saeri cried out. The other members also looked as if they had a heart attack.
The subway train looked as if it had stopped abruptly. It was on the wrong tracks and was filled with zombies who were trying to break through the windows.
“Ugh, I really don’t like this.”
As they got closer, the zombies flailed harder inside the train. Their bodies twisted around violently as they bashed against the door. Zombies pressed into one another, all trying to get at them, until the one closest to the window succumbed to the pressure and exploded, spewing its guts all over the place.
“Stop looking. Let’s go.” Yohan urged his pale-faced members forward. It wasn’t the first time they saw zombies, but they were starting to get affected by the scenes before them and he wanted to avoid that.
They walked for an indeterminable amount of time. Jae Ho illuminated a sign board with his flashlight to read the station name.
“We’re at Singil station.”
A few of them looked relieved. If they transfer to line one at Singil station they will be on an outdoor track, which should alleviate the suffocating atmosphere. Aside from the zombies locked in subway trains like animals in the zoo, they didn’t encounter any zombies. Due to the barriers, it was difficult for zombies to walk this far along the track anyways. The area was so quiet that each step they took was deafeningly loud. 16 flashlights moved in various directions, cutting through the sheer darkness of the subway station. The underpass was safe, but…
‘It’s worse than I thought.’
The suffocating darkness carried a mental toll. It was enough to make someone claustrophobic. They also had to walk a far distance and hope that their lights would last the entire journey, adding more tension to the situation. All the members elevated their senses, but they were getting exhausted as they trudged forward.
There was another thing that they had to worry about. The mutant Gremlin that loves to hide out underground. While mutants were generally rare, the one that survivors encountered the most was the Gremlin. It usually hid in caves or other dark and shady places. Since Seoul was filled with subway tunnels, there was a high chance of one appearing. Another example of a mutant that preferred specific environments was David, who loved military bases where there was a lot of steel for it to chew on. Yohan suspected that it was attracted to the smell of steel or gunpowder.
‘There’s always something when things are this…’
The growl was deeper and louder than one from a normal zombie. Their worst fear had come true, a mutant had appeared. It was the same mutant as the first one Yohan had encountered in this timeline. The Gremlin flashed its yellow teeth at him and leapt away. Yohan followed it with his flashlight, lighting up a far away wall. He found the mutant hanging from the ceiling like a bat, snarling at them.
“Stop. It’s a mutant.” Yohan signalled. All the recon team members stiffen and nervously got ready for a fight.
Since they couldn’t see his hand signals, Yohan had to give orders aloud.
“Don’t use guns. Corporal Ong, So Hee, and Saeri, take your bows and crossbows and follow me. Sweeper and Ha Jin, prepare for melee. Everybody else split into two groups. One group will focus on using their flashlights to give us better vision while the other group will guard our rears in case more zombies approach us.”
All of the recon team members had studied mutant behaviors. If he had to rank the Gremlin, he would probably say it was an intermediate level mutant. It was not a threat to him and the people he chose to fight it should be able to handle it. They slowly approached the mutant. The Gremlin could sense them coming, its red eyes rolled around, watching them carefully. They stood just outside the range of the Gremlin’s attack and Yohan ordered a long-range strike. Three arrows flew through the air and pierced into the mutant’s body.
“Kyahhhhh!” The mutant screamed as its chest heaved. Yohan immediately pulled out a throwing knife and chucked it at its mouth. The blade pierce deep into its throat, eliciting another terrible howl.
The mutant got on all fours and started crawling along the walls towards them, closing the distance so that it could attack. So Hee fired more arrows from her bow, turning the mutant into a hedgehog as it circled above them. Three times, four times, five times.
“It’s coming.” Yohan warned them. As soon as the words left his mouth, the mutant screamed and charged.
Ha Jin immediately jumped forward to intercept the Gremlin, slamming his steel shield into the mutant’s body. The sound of the heavy impact echoed through the tunnels. It was a clean block. The mutant, realizing that its attack failed, tried to jump away again, but Yohan and Sweeper lopped off a limb each in an instant.
“Kyahhhhh!” The mutant screamed again, filling the tunnels with a horrific, nails-on-chalkboard-like sound. The recon team members instinctively covered their ears, momentarily halting their attack.
The Gremlin tried to use the opportunity to escape, but Ha Jin shield bashed it across the face. There was a mighty clang as the mutant was sent tumbling to the ground again. Yohan and Sweeper immediately followed up, removing its last two remaining limbs.
“Kya—kyahhh!” The mutant wriggled its head and torso impotently. It was now a one-sided fight.
Ha Jin lined up the corner of his shield above the mutant’s head and began bringing it down repeatedly with all his might. With each hit, crimson blood flew into the air. Ha Jin continued his single-minded assault until the mutant stopped crying out. The Gremlin that had proudly charged at them had been reduced into a bloody mess in less than 15 minutes. Ha Jin, Yohan, and sweeper wiped the blood off their equipment and rejoined the other survivors. The other recon team member watched them, shaking their heads.
“Heartless monsters…” It was hard to tell who they were referring to.
“Guys.” Yohan’s cold tone made them flinch. “Who told you to spectate while you were supposed to be on guard duty?”
Yohan lightly punched Jung Soo, who was the closest to him, on the shoulder.
“Let’s go.” Yohan ordered, gesturing with his chin. The recon team members moved quickly.
“If this was a game, we would’ve gotten a reward, but we didn’t get anything. We just wasted our energy.”
“Still, it’s a relief that we managed to kill it quickly. If we took too long, the zombies trapped in the subway trains could have broken out and came after us.”
“That would be horrible.”
Thanks to the unexpected encounter, the group’s anxiety was through the roof. It didn’t help when a zombie with both of its legs bitten off suddenly opened its eyes and snapped its teeth at Sweeper. Sweeper jumped out of the way and stomped down on the zombie’s head with his heel. There was a sickening crack as the zombie’s face was planted into the ground. Sweeper then hacked at its neck with his axe.
“That scared me. What are you doing, zombie bro? I think you watched too many horror movies.”
“Slowly, let’s move slower.” Yohan whispered his order. The group was starting to rush because of their mounting anxiety. It felt like something was about to break. It was better to pump the brakes at this point instead. “We’re moving too fast right now.”
The amount of zombie corpses in the tunnel increased. The recon team became quieter, even going as far as to soften their breathing. They crept along the walls as close as possible as they moved. Finally, they arrived at the Singil station boarding area. In order to transfer lines, they passed through several passageways containing closed stores.
Mercifully, the dark underground subway tunnels gave way to the bright lights of the outdoor rail. Here they will have to travel the distance of four more stations. Standing at the Singil station boarding platform, Yohan pulled out his binoculars and surveyed the area ahead of them. He was checking for zombies and any signs of other survivors. After determining that there were no visible threats, Yohan ordered the recon team to move.
Things were peaceful as they passed through Daebang station and Noryangjin station. As they crossed the Han River Rail Bridge, they could see Yongsan station in the distance. Yohan signaled everyone to stop.
“We’ll stop here for today and tomorrow, early in the morning before the sun rises, we’ll take a detour to the Yongsan station rear track and move to Namyoung station.”
“Why before the sun rises?”
“There could be survivors at Yongsan station. If we want to avoid them, it’s best to move while it’s dark.”
Yohan didn’t say anything more, but he could see that everyone looked exhausted. Their earlier fight with the zombie horde was pretty long and the underground trek took a heavy mental toll on all their senses. They needed a break. They found a small customer service center to settle down in.
“It may be uncomfortable, but everyone sleep in one area. Group one will start the night watch and we’ll switch every two hours.”
“What about the mercenaries following us?”
“I’m sure they’ll figure out their own rest schedule. Don’t worry.”
The recon team didn’t question it anymore and laid down on the marble floor.
“Wow, I feel like I’m about to die.”
“This is the most intense expedition ever, seriously.”
Yohan barely registered their complaints as he stood up to start the night watch. Two hours later, he went back in and saw four of the girls gathered together. They were chatting and giggling.
“Pio, switch. I told you to sleep, why are you guys still up?”
“The sun hasn’t even set yet. We’re not sleepy.”
Yohan frowned. They looked like they were trying to hide something. He walked over.
“What trouble are you stirring up? What are you devils planning this time?”
Yohan pulled Jung Eun’s hand out from behind her back. She was holding an explicit magazine that they had just found in an employee locker. Yohan took one look at the magazine and returned it immediately.
“Um…being able to relax a little is important.” Yohan said, trying to sound calm. The four girls looked at him with a mischievous smile on their faces. Yohan quickly turned around, redness filling his cheeks. Even though it was the middle of the winter, he was feeling a bit hot under the collar. It was probably because there were a lot of people crammed into this tiny building.
* * *
The hot evening passed and dawn was soon upon them. Before the sun rose, the recon team circled around to the back end of Yongsan station. They minimized the light they used and instead used the rail to guide them. Like cats wandering around alleyways at night, they stealthily reached their destination.
“It’s blocked, Yohan.”
Barbed wires sealed off every alleyway that passed behind Yongsan station. Huge steel plates were set up on either side to block out noise while barbed wire was laid out in the middle.
“Ouch, that hurts. What is this?” Jung Soo grabbed his arm. At first, he thought he got bit, but that wasn’t the case. It felt like a small cut from sharp paper or glass. Blood trickled out.
“Be quiet. What’s going on?” Yohan was trying to think and Jung Soo’s mutterings were distracting him.
“I think there’s some sort of sharp thread here. I’m bleeding…”
‘A sharp thread?’ Yohan frowned. “Sanitize it first and then tape it up.”
Jung Soo quickly pulled out his military gear and rummaged for his first aid kit. However, it was dark and he couldn’t see, so he pulled out a lighter and got down as low as he could.
Suddenly there was a familiar sound, a bang, as something pierced through Jung Soo’s head.
— Ω —