28. Rain of Steel
As soon as the hour hit 8 o’clock, an alarm went off. Kwang Hwi looked at the commander and calmly issued an order.
The Heron, which was deployed earlier, hovered above Yangju City. It had already sent the coordinates for the first target. The commander held onto the radio and contacted the troops.
“SPG-1, report. Did you confirm the coordinates?”
— “This is SPG-1. Affirmative, we’ve confirmed the coordinates. Ready to fire.”
— “Firing at designated coordinates!”
A loud roar rumbled through the open window, shaking its frame. The shell soared through the sky, reaching its designation shortly after. The patrolling Monkeys looked up at the incoming foe, fully alert. A black silhouette covered their vision as the shell crashed into the ground.
Swarms of Monkeys instantly disappeared in the detonation. The fire raged devastation as the sharp screams filled the air. Others were dazed at the sight of it. In the blink of an eye, the companions that were standing in front of them had disappeared. Soon after, the monsters urgently bawled and scurried away. They flocked into the buildings without hesitation, as if rehearsed beforehand.
Identifying the buildings packed with the most Monkeys, the UAV sent firing data to the SPGs. Once received, the coordinates were automatically punched in. Having patiently waited for its turn, SPG-2 raised its head, like a sleeping behemoth opening its maw. Its next target was a four-story building in the shopping district. The 155 mm shell was already loaded inside.
— “SPG-2, ready to fire!”
“Bring them hell!”
The SPG trembled as it sent off the explosive. Shells flew high into the air at set intervals. This was K9 SPG’s Multiple Rounds Simultaneous Impact feature. In MRSI mode, the K9 could fire three projectiles in under 15 seconds, allowing for quick response at demand.
— “MRSI completed!”
“Be on standby.”
On the screen, a white dust cloud rose from the shopping district. The first shell blew away the roof while the other two flattened the entire building. The monsters hiding inside didn’t even have a chance to escape. It was like a rain of doom falling on them.
— “Target eliminated.”
— “Received new coordinates!”
With the Heron’s guidance, the next target was quickly selected. The automated fire control system calculated the trajectory and made appropriate adjustments. A new shell was inserted with the autoloader. The weaponry once again proved that although physically weak, humans were still at the top of the food chain.
— “Ready to fire!”
SPG-1 continuously fired, unloading its burden. Once again, the shells hit the building with high precision. The windows were shattered and concrete blocks were thrown out in all directions. The building trembled under the might of artillery fire.
Sensing danger, the Monkeys immediately jumped outside the building, but it was futile. The place was already collapsing, annihilating their hopes. It was a difficult situation to run away from, after all.
The Heron captured all of that from the sky above and sent new coordinates. Another shell landed, right above the escaping Monkeys. The asphalt road overturned and the simians were swallowed up in dust clouds. The frantic Monkeys hurried to hide in a different building. Still, they were bombarded with new shells and buried alive in a matter of minutes.
Similar scenes repeated several times. It didn’t matter whether they hid or ran away. In the end, they all met their fate and died. Realizing that peril existed regardless of where they holed up, the Monkeys started moving towards the south.
SPG-1 fired a shell towards the expected pathway with the Heron’s assistance. While the Monkeys were trying to minimize the damage, they had a habit of moving in groups. Explosions continued to engulf them, killing multiple at a time. SPG-2 focused on firing on buildings, even if only a single Monkey took refuge there. This was just in case there were babies or injured monsters.
Back in the Situation Room, all the data gathered over the past few days was presented.
“72nd building in 16th street, Monkeys confirmed 3 days ago!”
“102 Star Hills Apartment, Monkeys sighted yesterday!”
“Deokjeong Elementary School, 4 days ago!”
“… 2 days ago!”
“We’ve confirmed yesterday!”
The members present in the Situation Room were hard at work. Even though there may not be a Monkey in the building, they had to demolish the ones that the monsters had previously accommodated. The number of targets kept increasing with each report.
The Star Hill Apartment crumbled helplessly while an elementary school sunk. But soon after, the SPGs that were firing in turn went silent.
— “SPG-1! No ammunition left!”
— “SPG-2 has also exhausted all its shells!”
“Boss. We’ve received reports that our SPGs have consumed all of their ammunition.”
Kwang Hwi checked the time. Morning had barely passed since they began the operation. It may have been a short operation, but the results were satisfying.
“Restart after 3 hours.”
The radio broadcasts resumed after being suspended for a while. It touted the power of Kwang Hwi Faction and did not forget to warn others of another artillery attack.
— “We will temporarily stop bombarding the city between 10 AM and 1 PM. If there are any survivors nearby, please escape Yangju City or hide in underground shelters.”
“What are you doing?”
The man looked at his friend, dumbfounded. His friend, with a blank expression, flung a backpack towards him. A jerky wrapper was sticking out through the zipper.
“Did you take a good shit? Here, I packed a bag for you.”
“A bag…? I mean, what are you doing?”
“Can’t you tell? I’m preparing to head outside.”
For emergencies, they had already prepared two bicycles and placed it at the entrance that was connected to the ground level.
“Are you crazy? What about the monsters on the surface?”
“Just listen to this first.”
The man received a radio from his friend. From it, he heard a familiar voice from yesterday.
— “At 8 AM today, Kwang Hwi Faction conducted a military operation around Yangju City. Utilizing K-9 SPGs, we have killed a number of Monkeys in the Deokjeong area. We are confirming that Monkeys are running away from Deokjeong…”
“It’s saying that the Kwang Hwi Faction is sweeping up the monsters with artillery shells, so it’s the perfect chance to make a run for it.”
“Stop spouting non—”
“We don’t have much time left. If we hadn’t slept in, we could have left comfortably by now.”
The man wanted to stop his friend, but before he knew it, he was being dragged away. As the door to the ground level opened, their noses were pricked by the thick smell of gunpowder. It was more than enough to make them frown. There was even a faint smell of cooked meat mixed amongst it as if someone had held a barbecue party here.
“I’ll take the lead, so follow me.”
The two men carefully observed the surroundings. They couldn’t be lax just because of an announcement that they couldn’t verify.
“I think so.”
They checked one more time before riding their bikes. The familiar shrieks that had haunted their ears before had disappeared without a trace. The silence even unnerved them a bit. The buildings that were perfectly fine a few hours ago were all flattened and, between the gaps of the wreckage, a Monkey arm was sticking out. The entire road was littered with the flesh, presumed to have belonged to the simian monsters. The flat highway had large craters in it. The whole scene appeared to be taken from a post-apocalypse movie.
“Why are there so many cra—”
A shrill screech sounded in his ears as the man swerved sharply. A black shadow passed right by his nose. A hot sensation of pain came belatedly and beads of blood dripped from his nose to the pedals. The man was left petrified at the sudden ambush.
The Monkey, who missed, screeched louder. In response, cries could be heard from everywhere. The two men felt like they were in the middle of a jungle, amid hungry predators thirsting for their life.
“Yo! Step on it!”
The men pedaled with all their might—their lives hinged on it, literally. The bicycles started to pick up speed. It was certainly fast, but the two couldn’t relax as they could still hear loud squeals right behind them.
“This was your idea of a perfect chance?! A perfect chance to die?!”
“Shut up and keep pedaling!”
Their quarrel didn’t last long because they were greeted by a new group of Monkeys up ahead. They did not look very well, though, as their bodies were scarred by shrapnel and some even had one or two limbs missing. The problem, however, was their numbers. There were more than ten. With menacing glares, the Monkeys blocked the road. Even if they had some minor or severe injuries, it wasn’t going to be easy to confront them.
“Hey! What are you going to do about that?”
“What else can we do?! Just break past them!”
If they turned here, they would be cycling around Yangju. By then, more monsters would pick up their trails and they would lose all chances of escaping. As the distance narrowed, they could smell the foul breath from their gaping maws. The two friends closed their eyes. It was too late to avoid the clash now.
‘It’s either do or die!’
They roared at the same time. It was their last-ditch move, a gamble with their lives, and it worked magnificently. As if their bodies had emitted an intangible shockwave, the Monkeys that were standing in line were sent flying. They flew through the air before crashing into the walls of buildings. Others were skewered by the steel bars jutting out from the road, like a monster kebab.
In the empty road, the two bicycles passed by safely. Not feeling the expected crash, the two men opened their eyes, nervously.
Some Monkeys were still falling from the sky. The monsters tried their best to do something, but they couldn’t defy gravity. The lucky ones received grave wounds, while the unlucky ones died immediately.
Seeing the head of a primate crushed like a watermelon, one of them cringed. It was not something he would have liked to see and almost fell off his bicycle as a consequence.
Maybe, they were surprised at the death of their comrades? Nevertheless, the Monkeys behind them slowed their pace. Having already gone through a catastrophe, they were rather wary of any unusual happenings.
“They must have given up the chase!”
“Hell yeah! I thought we were going to die!”
Abruptly, a wristwatch beeped, breaking their joyous cheering. Seeing it, the man’s face became pale with fright.
“Time for what?”
“Time for the artillery attack to resume.”
Right after he spoke, a sharp sound pierced the sky above, bringing his fears to reality. A black shell was falling directly above their heads.
After restocking ammunitions, the SPGs spat fires once again. Kwang Hwi’s gaze was fixed on the screen. The Heron was displaying two civilians that had barely escaped the SPG’s attack. An explosion erupted behind them, almost making the two men lose their balance. However, they quickly regained their senses and continued their getaway. The Monkeys chasing them from behind were caught in the explosion and died.
Kwang Hwi gestured towards the civilians on screen.
“Use the transport vehicles and rescue those two men.”
“I’ll do so immediately.”
It was more of a coincidence that Kwang Hwi had found them. Before they resumed firing, he had spotted a small horde of Monkeys. Tracking them down, he saw the two men.
“Can we review the video footage taken just now?”
“Yes, we can.”
On another screen, a video was put up, replaying the scene right before the two civilians were supposed to crash into the Monkey horde. However, the monsters were suddenly thrown into the air, preventing the expected catastrophe.
The video was enlarged, showing that the bicycles never collided with the Monkeys. Even if they did, it didn’t make any sense. Instead of knocking out one or two Monkeys, the bicycles should have flipped over.
Instead, the entire horde was thrown away violently as if they were hit by an invisible force. The thin bicycles did not have the mass of an armored vehicle. Therefore, it was highly likely that the civilians did it. Aside from himself, they were the first awakened ability users he had seen.
— Ω —
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