* * *
New Zealand. Auckland.
A woman smashed the window on the first floor and quickly entered the building. A few caucasian men were inside. They had been smoking but were startled by the sudden sound. The men reached for their guns but were unable to aim them at her before she killed them all with her own gun.
Groans of pain filled the room as the men bled out on the floor. One of the men, in agonizing pain, tried to reach for the gun that he had dropped but was interrupted when a large, black mass clamped down on his hand.
He screamed as the dog mangled his hand.
“Blackie, stop,” the woman commanded.
The dog barked once and then let go of the man.
The woman walked over towards the door and opened it to peer down the hallway. There were no more enemies in the area. A few moments later, three members of her group walked into the room.
“Saeri, jeez, we should stick together,” Jung Eun said.
Saeri smiled at her comrades. Ji Won and Eddie had joined her as well.
“If we don’t hurry, we’ll fall behind the other team,” she replied. “You know who is in that group, right? Blackie, let’s go.”
The dog barked and immediately followed after her. Saeri’s three comrades gave an agonizing sigh after witnessing the girl’s boundless energy.
After running for a little while, Saeri found herself in front of a strong, iron door. It was the headquarters of a business in western Auckland. The reason why her group had come here was to finish off the remaining resistance in the area and to rescue a group of hostages. Even though the mission they had been given was extremely difficult because they needed the hostages alive, no one complained. Impossible missions like these were so common an occurrence for this group of survivors that it just felt like another day at the office when they were handed one.
Saeri placed her ear on the iron door and listened. She heard footsteps approaching from the other side. Realizing that they must have heard her somehow, she quickly readied herself. She lowered her body and prepared to strike whoever was about to open the door.
The door suddenly swung open and Saeri wasted no more time. She lashed out with her leg and kicked one of the man’s feet out from under him. Then she grabbed his arm and twisted it, spinning him around. Before the man knew what had hit him, Saeri had the barrel of her pistol sitting under the man’s chin.
“Hello,” Saeri greeted the man with a smile. “Are you the last survivors in the western region?”
She didn’t expect an answer. These men were New Zealanders, after all, so there was a language barrier. She couldn’t understand them and they couldn’t understand her. So she was mostly just narrating her thoughts aloud to help her think.
Just behind the man that Saeri had in her grasp, she could see the hostages that she was looking for. They were wearing white lab coats and were trembling in fear. Noticing that one of them looked Asian, Saeri tried speaking to him, hoping that he was Korean.
“You, sir. Do you know how to speak Korean? Are you Korean?”
The man widened his eyes and shook his head, confused.
Saeri sighed in disappointment. Her attention was brought back to the man she had in her grasp a moment later when he started to struggle, trying to break free. Saeri grinned at his futile attempt.
“You are one of those Asian naval monkeys, aren’t you?”
Saeri narrowed her eyes.
“I don’t know about anything else that you just said, but I do know what a monkey is,” Saeri replied. “You shouldn’t have said that.”
Without hesitation, Saeri blew the man’s brains out at point-blank range. His corpse crumpled to the ground lifelessly. After confirming that there were no more enemies in the room, she lowered her gun and started walking towards the hostages.
Their eyes were wide with fear. They were gagged, so they couldn’t do anything else other than whimper and moan. They were terrified of her. A few of them looked like they were only a few moments away from having a seizure.
Saeri stopped a few feet away, completely unsure of how to handle the situation.
“Um…are you okay?” she asked as she removed their gags.
“Are you a rescue party?” one of them asked. “Or…are you with ‘The Asians?”
Saeri frowned. Once again, she had no idea what they were saying. So she had no choice but to wait for Sweeper to get there.
Saeri tried to make herself look as unthreatening as possible by smiling brightly. Then she tried to come up with something to say that they might understand with what little English that she knew.
* * *
After finishing off the resistance and rescuing the hostages, Camp Yohan’s soldiers headed over to Auckland Port. When they arrived, a helicopter picked them up. They traveled by air to an artificial island nearby that reminded them of the Sebit Islets in Korea. Yohan had chosen this place as their home base.
When the rescued hostages arrived, they were trembling in fear. They didn’t give off any sort of dangerous air and were entirely submissive. At the front of the building, there was a section made almost entirely out of a vinyl-like material. It was a facility that was used to disinfect anyone who entered the base. As they approached the front of the building, they were met by a chubby caucasian man.
“The men go to the left and the women go to the right. Go inside and take off your clothes. After you are all disinfected, new clothes will be supplied to you.”
Jack, a senior researcher at HW, was terrified. He knew who these people were. Or rather, he had heard the stories about them. The people in the area called them the ‘Asian Navy’ because, at first, that’s what everyone believed them to be. They had arrived in a warship, armed to the teeth, and had a terrifying amount of firepower behind them. At one point he had even believed that they were a rescue party sent from America. But it had become clear pretty quickly that they were nothing of the sort. They had proven themselves to be absolute monsters. They had arrived in Auckland with all the subtlety of a comet and had taken it over. They acted like invaders. They had cleared out the zombies and the mutants in the area with ease and had even started to take down some of the other groups of survivors in the area. Their brutality was shocking, according to the rumors.
Then they had set up their base on Auckland’s artificial island. On one occasion, they had even destroyed a building on the coast with their giant warship. They had been in the area for a mere 8 months and yet, during that time, they had gained indisputable control over Auckland.
His fellow researchers were now all being dragged inside their main base and none of them had any idea what to expect.
After going through the disinfection process, they all found themselves in a dining room. There was a giant window on the wall and the Auckland coast could be seen through it. In front of them, the Asian Navy’s boss was eating with his back facing the sun. He was much younger than any of them had expected.
Jack gulped and approached the young boss. Just next to him on one side, there was a soldier that went by the name Sweeper and, on the other side, there was a skinny secretary. Jack believed that the names that these people gave themselves were fitting.
“Sweeper, translate for me,” Yohan ordered.
Then Yohan started speaking. Sweeper immediately translated.
“Who is your representative?”
An Asian man in the group raised his hand at the question. Yohan extended his hand towards him for a handshake and introduced himself.
Jack clumsily accepted the handshake with both of his hands.
“I’m Jack Lee.”
Yohan continued to speak, using Sweeper as his translator.
“You look Asian, but you must be Dutch,” Sweeper relayed. “I heard that you were the researcher who was studying zombies. Is that right?”
“Yes, but I’m not from New Zealand. We’re American.”
“…I’d like to hear the results of your research.”
Jack’s eyes widened, surprised.
“Please speak freely,” Sweeper said.
After a few moments of hesitation, Jack acquiesced.
“To my shame, we learned nothing from our study. Well… apart from one thing.”
“We studied how human bodies become zombies by observing the process in a group of experimental subjects with the infection. At first, we believed that it was a virus that was causing it.”
That was the common-sense view that everyone, researcher or not, held.
“But it wasn’t,” Jack continued.
“We were able to rule it out. There were no other biological symptoms besides congestion and a fever. And there was nothing that we could isolate from a subject that would only be there if they were a zombie. As far as I can tell, there is no difference between a person and a zombie. Not at a biological level, anyway. There is no virus and there never was one.”
After Sweeper translated, Yohan found himself in shock.
“Zombies are the same as dead humans. There is no scientific method that can definitely show that a dead zombie was ever a zombie at all. Once whatever process that is keeping them moving ceases, they revert back to simple, dead bodies. They are usually mutilated, sure, and you can usually figure it out like that, but there are no biological remnants, viral or otherwise, that can be collected from a tissue sample and analyzed in a lab. They are just regular corpses.”
“So how can they move, react, and attack people?”
“We don’t know. What our lab concluded is that whatever this is, it’s beyond science. And that isn’t due to the lack of proper technology or equipment, either. If there was a virus to find, we would have found it. No matter what caused this, we should have detected traces of it simply because it has to interact with our biology in some way. But we found nothing. And that can only mean one thing. There is no cause. Zombies don’t exist. They can’t exist. Not like this. The only way to wrap your mind around this is in the realm of fantasy. It’s black magic. Wizardry. It’s supernatural. An act of God. Whatever you want to call it. Something beyond the physical universe caused this. There is no other way to describe a zombie.”
Jae Ho frowned, deep in thought. Yohan glanced over at him and the two of them shared a look. Then Yohan continued questioning the researchers.
He asked them everything he could think of, not wanting to believe what he had just been told. He asked about the details on how they had conducted their research. He asked if they had done any research on mutants and if they were willing to continue researching under him if Yohan provided a constant supply of samples, among many other things. Yohan was somewhat put at ease when he received favorable replies and that they were willing to work for him, so he approved them to join his group as a result. But he could tell that none of the researchers truly believed that further research would help.
They had been abandoned by America, in any case. So they had nowhere else to go. Yohan thought it’d just be a waste to send them off somewhere. Instead, he wanted them to keep working so that they could keep the hope alive that one day they would find a real answer that they had somehow missed.
Jae Ho recorded the entire conversation with a dark expression on his face.
Suddenly, the door of the room was kicked open.
“Yohan!” Saeri shouted as she burst into the room.
“Ji Hye, she’s going into labor!”
Yohan and the others quickly ran towards the delivery room. After disinfecting himself and changing into scrubs, Yohan entered the room and immediately made his way to Ji Hye’s side.
Her face was pale and she was moaning in pain. Yohan reassured her as best as he could and gave her hand one last squeeze before clearing out of the room to get out of the way.
It felt like an eternity as he waited outside for the baby. Ji Hye’s intermittent bouts of agonized screaming made everyone’s hearts lurch. But there was nothing they could do to help her except pray that she pulled through and that nothing went wrong.
Yohan had done his very best to keep the promise he had made her. He had killed all the zombies and mutants in the nearby area and sent away or killed as many groups of survivors as he could to prevent a zombie wave from happening. He had set up a sterilization chamber and had made many other extensive preparations for the day she would give birth to her child. They were as ready as they were ever going to be. But it was still hard on everyone.
Ji Hye’s screams abruptly intensified before finally coming to a stop. A few moments later, the sound of a baby crying could be heard in the delivery room.
Doctor Park Jae Bum, who was assisting with the childbirth, exited the delivery room.
“How is the baby?” Yohan asked.
“The baby is healthy, Yohan.”
Yohan released a massive sigh of relief.
“And Ji Hye?”
“Ji Hye is safe as well. But…she bled a lot more than I expected.”
“Is that so? Please disinfect the baby’s body thoroughly. Also, is it okay for me to see Ji Hye?”
Doctor Park nodded his head.
Yohan entered the room and grabbed Ji Hye’s hand. She looked so exhausted that he expected her to pass out any second. She was just barely clinging onto her consciousness.
“Yohan….” she whispered.
“I’m here, Ji Hye. It’s over now.”
“What about the baby?”
Her worried expression turned into a smile.
“How are you feeling?” Yohan asked.
“I feel numb. I’m in pain and my body feels hot.”
Yohan nodded his head and wiped off the sweat that was on her face. But he froze when he looked into her eyes. They were turning red. She was infected.
“My body is really hot. Am I getting infected? I can’t…leave my baby.”
Yohan held back a wince at what he was about to do.
“No,” he lied. “They’re not symptoms of an infection. Your eyes aren’t bloodshot and you’re not showing any other symptoms. Doctor Park said that it’s just the aftereffects of childbirth, so don’t worry. Did you forget that I got rid of all the Mutants that were nearby?”
“I didn’t forget,” she replied. “Thank you.”
“You did well today,” Yohan said. “And now it’s time for you to sleep. Leave the rest to us. Everything is going to be okay and we’ll see you again soon.”
Ji Hye passed out a few moments later with a smile on her face.
She didn’t make it. Yohan watched as her breathing thinned out before finally stopping. Yohan checked her pulse one last time just to make sure before stabbing her in the skull.
Yohan stumbled out of the room before slowly making his way to the sanitizing area. He met up with Noah there just in front of the door. Noah was watching over the baby. He had been struggling with guilt and had agreed to support the baby if something happened to Ji Hye during labor.
“Ji Hye…she didn’t make it,” Yohan spoke gravely.
There was a moment of silence between them.
“I need to know, Noah. You promised earlier but are you still…”
“Okay. I’ll leave it to you, then.”
Noah thought back to a conversation he had with Ji Hye months ago.
‘Have you thought about a name?’
‘Adam. Son Adam. If it’s a girl, then Hawa. No, maybe Eve is better?’
‘The baby will take the mom’s family name?’
‘Of course, it’s my baby so it should have my family name.’
“Adam. Son Adam.”
Noah was holding the baby reverently in his arms, trembling, and feeling overcome with emotions. Yohan quietly exited the medical camp and returned to his office.
Yohan slumped into his chair and sighed. Just like that, he had lost another long-time friend and comrade. But seeing it happen sparked something within him. Even though he was feeling completely wiped out, his will to live had never been stronger.
He looked out the window at the New Zealand coastline in the distance. It was a bright and beautiful view that didn’t match the world he found himself in. Yohan pulled out a cigarette and lit it. Acrid smoke filled the room.
‘No matter how dark it gets, the sun always rises again tomorrow.’
It was just another day in the apocalypse.
They were doing alright.
* * *
Side Story. Ending Credit.
In a place far removed from the Earth, there was a black room floating in space.
[That’s it. It’s over.] A voice declared. It had a robotic quality to it, almost as if it came from some sort of machine.
The sound of a bell ringing filled the room. There were round tables everywhere, making the area look like the inside of a casino and there were many figures gathered around. In front of them were holographic, 3d, virtual reality screens that showed images from Earth. On one of them, there was a picture from a version of Earth 3 years into the apocalypse.
[Dealer, cash me out if you’re done.]
The dealer smiled brightly and waved his hand in the air a few times. The round chips disappeared and found their way to their rightful owners. A few of the patrons cheered while others looked disappointed. Each of them were transfixed on what their displays were showing them.
[The Asians are doing better.]
[Dealer, what’s the final verdict?]
The dealer waved his hand again and adjusted each of the screens to allow everyone else to follow along.
[It’s 13,123 people.]
Images appeared on the holograms, with scores appeared beside them. A woman that had been watching quietly until then stepped forward in front of a specific picture and stopped the hologram from scrolling past a familiar face. It was a picture of Yohan, the person she had placed all her bets on. His was the highest score. 18,647 path. A big smile appeared on her face.
[That was too difficult!] Someone complained.
The dealer shrugged.
[During the last game, you guys complained that the game was too easy and were disappointed by how low the payout rate was. That’s why we increased the number of disciples and added additional rules this time.]
The dealer manipulated the screens once again.
[People are saying that the bonus the winner received from last round was too much.]
[It wasn’t fair.]
[Completely unbalanced, I say.]
[The ‘immunity’ perk is too overpowered. We need to get rid of it next time. On top of that, when all of the bets and power-ups are all given to one race of people, then the game becomes too easy for them. They need to be spread out more evenly.]
Everyone standing next to Stella gave her a pointed look as it was obvious that she was the one that the comment had been directed at. However, she was in charge of memories both the past and present, so they were wary of her.
[Are you thinking about betting on the same person in the next game? Stella?]
Stella flicked her hand without saying anything. All the passes that she had on her appeared in the air in front of her. This time, she was going all in. She was determined to not allow anyone else to bet on the same person as her.
[We won’t take that bet, jeez. You’re betting everything on one person again. You’re such a weirdo.]
A small smile appeared on Stella’s face and she nodded her head.
Showcasing their maturity, several people around her stuck their tongues out.
The eighth round was about to start and she had yet to change her strategy. This game of theirs was fun to play. And part of that fun came from branching out and betting on a variety of different options. But she was obsessed with one person and would always bet on him no matter what. A lot of people didn’t like that. Especially when she won so frequently doing it.
[I’m being carried this time.]
They had played a lot of Earth games and had picked up some of the slangs that people used in them.
Even though everyone tended to bet on different people, because those people tended to form a group with each other, there was almost always more than one winner by the end of each game. But occasionally, if there happened to be problems within that group, then they would find themselves as enemies. In those cases, the person Stella always bet on, Yohan, tended to always destroy all the others and cause her to win the game on her own.
The dealer’s bell suddenly started ringing.
[The next game is about to start. Please get your bets ready.]
The holograms suddenly activated. Stella didn’t need to scroll through any of the other options. she already knew who she was going to bet on. She pressed on his face immediately. He was her favorite. And she had no plans to change her pick any time soon.
Stella waved her hand causing a crystal ball to float over. The world in which the previous game had been held was stored inside. She picked it up and gently wrapped it as if she were handling a precious artifact. She placed it in her jewelry box next to her. Inside that box, there were 3 other crystal balls that all looked the same.
Out of the 8 games that had been played so far, KOR-1,912,042, Yohan, had won 4 times. Those three other worlds were contained in the other crystal balls that Stella had in her box. A version of Yohan was still living happily inside each of them.
Stella especially liked the ending of the second game. The person in charge of dreams had bet on Lina and, after coincidentally meeting Yohan, they had survived together until the end, got married, and had kids―a typical happy ending. Then they had both won.
Of course, she was extremely satisfied with the ending of the previous game as well. Where Yohan had built a huge kingdom and ruled over it.
[We’ll be changing the rules a bit this time.] The dealer explained.
Stella closed her jewelry box.
[I’m thinking about intervening a little more this time. I received a lot of comments that fights against other racers were more entertaining than fights against the disciples.]
[I’m thinking about making it a battle royale. The new rule is that the racers in B-147 will fight against each other. How about letting them kill each other until about 10,000 people are left?]
Almost everyone cheered. Some, however, frowned in disappointment. But they were all curious about how the game would progress nonetheless.
[Now then. Shall we start the next game?]
The dealer smiled. When he waved his hand, glittering powder flew through the air like magic.
End of Part 3
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