by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
Date: 22 June 2004
On board the freighter Sabita Baketsu Maru
Location: Sea of Japan
Jonas was watching his cannon fodder. They were drunk. Then again, so was he. Tomorrow, they’d all get their guns and a trip on a helicopter to go on a vacation in North Korea.
Jonas looked at his beer and looked forward to spending his pay. He also used the time to spin some cock-and-bull story about what he did for a living. Not that he usually talked to people that much anyway. He mostly just shot them.
His new client was the U.S. government. They had made no attempt to hide it from him. Three Black Hawks were to fly him into North Korea tomorrow, drop him off along with a squad of goons he had picked up and who were willing to take minimum wage on the promise they got to kill some people.
One must always have goons. Even if they mostly just shoot each other. They were something for the local authorities/villain of the day to shoot at while he himself fixed whatever needed fixing: blow up the bridge, set fire to the lab, kill the villain of the day...
North Korea was in the news everywhere lately; nothing special, just a huge radioactive cloud, spreading before the summer monsoon over China. Of course, the Chinese were most happy to receive the cloud, especially at night, as it saved them the electric bill. The Chinese authorities were curious about this novel gift, but the North Koreans were silent as the grave.
The CIA flew a satellite over the source. They quickly found it. A patch of jungle had just cleared for some reason, revealing a large building. There wasn’t any damage to the building to be seen, but there were things that looked like bodies lying around the place.
And that’s where Jonas was headed. He would go and look at what was going on, kill anybody found alive, destroy anything that might have been built there, including any data, then go back and report. This would have to happen before the Chinese came in and confiscated the North Koreans’ new toy, whatever it was. This wouldn’t take long, just a day or so. Then he’d call the choppers again, and he would be out.
The North Korean army was waiting for the radioactivity to go down a notch. That was where the real race was; scientists said the dust would have settled on the second or third day and radioactivity would be within horribly unsafe yet acceptable limits in a week or so. Jonas and his goons would go in on the sixth day. The North Koreans would see them go in and follow them, or not, and go in day later. Hopefully late enough for Jonas to make it back and report.
Jonas went to bed after six beers. No use having a bad hangover during the mission.
* * *
The next morning, the goons were all hung over. Jonas opened the crates he had ordered and handed the men rifles, one each: an AK-101, .223 calibre automatic rifle with a folding plastic stock. Jonas had had a flashlight fitted on each. There was a different crate holding the magazines, and the third held the rounds: ordinary soft-point medium-game bullets. Not NATO rounds. No use spreading obvious evidence.
There was also a fourth crate, holding fifty kilos of Compound One.
Each man got one rifle, ten magazines, two kilograms of C-1, and a bulletproof vest. The vest was actually redundant, because the North Korean army’s Type 88 — their copy of the AK-74 — was more than able to poke holes in it, but it made the men feel secure. Mostly, they just revelled in wearing a bulletproof vest.
The Black Hawks were stored in the hold. The Sabita Baketsu Maru had been equipped with a couple of cannons and a few AA-rockets, just in case it was detected by the coast guard. The crew was Polish. The crewmen had been told this was an operation to save the daughter of famous drug lord San Miguel from the clutches of the evil commie bastard Kim. They seemed to pretend they believed that.
Jonas stared down as they flew over land. Woodland. Not exactly deep forest, but loads of concealment.
In an hour they arrived. The building was in the middle of a circle of dead trees, 500 meters in diameter. It was low, flat roofed, ugly, unpainted; just grey concrete. The choppers flew a circle around the place and another circle around where they dropped Jonas and his team. The choppers couldn’t land because of the trees. When the team was all down, the choppers left.
Jonas and the team were now twenty meters from the building, hiding behind some trees. They spotted what they thought were two people, both lying dead. They creeped closer. The building looked empty: dark, grimy, and crumbling. The building wasn’t likely more than five years old, but it looked as if it had been there for over thirty years.
Jonas had his team walk around the place, trying to stay out of sight. Without the leaves, there wasn’t much cover. The team told him of three doors, and five or six more bodies. Jonas sent a couple of guys to check if the doors were open. He sent two others to check the bodies. The doors were unlocked, and the bodies were all dead, seven corpses in total. Just dead; no bullet wounds, no blood.
Jonas divided the group in three, and told the men to sneak in, seven in each of the two front doors, he and five others in the back.
A dead guard was lying in the foyer, a Type 88 by his side. A door was open into a hall. Jonas sent a goon to peek. Nothing; it was just a hall. The power was out, so they turned on the flashlights.
Gunshots rang out, followed by some yelling. The team tensed up.
“Sorry, false alarm,” said a voice on the headset.
“Report,” said Jonas.
“It was just a shadow.”
“No! That body moved! I saw it!” said another voice, rather upset.
“Stay there,” said Jonas.
There were a few bodies in the house, but none alive. When Jonas got to where the other team was, the third team was still lurking around, looking for something to shoot.
The dead body in question was lying on the floor, up against the wall of the mess hall. It was kept company by several other bodies of equal deadness. The craters on the wall told it had been shot five times. The sixth and seventh round had missed it completely and hit the wall above.
“He was sitting there, and when I shone my light on him, he moved!” said the shooter.
Jonas looked at the body more closely. It was dead and had been for a long time, too. He guessed his overzealous goon had mistaken his own moving shadow for a movement in the body and been startled.
“Our team member has just bagged himself a suspected zombie,” Jonas said into his headset. “Be on the look for the living dead. Remember, shoot them in the head, like in the movies.”
The team chuckled.
“Seriously,” said Jonas, “don’t shoot unless you absolutely have to. I think they may have been researching some sort of poison gas here. You don’t want to poke holes in any containers.”
“Poison gas? How can you tell?”
“Just look at the corpses.”
It took the brightest member of the team ten seconds to get it. And in ten more seconds, news came from the third team from somewhere inside the compound: “We found something, a door. It doesn’t seem to lead anywhere.”
Jonas went to see what was up. It took a minute to find the team, standing around an open door to what must have been the main test facility: a six- by ten-meter room with a very large observation window on one wall, a door on one end and a large dark hole on the opposite wall.
All markings were in Korean, but Jonas guessed he might have found the thing he was here to destroy: the lab. He had just enough C-1 with him to blow it up a couple of times. But first, what was it?
Jonas looked at the hole. Nothing. There wasn’t even a room beyond, it was just a blank, black opening. Jonas flashed his light into it. He thought it was probably just a big cave, and with the electricity gone, dark as a medieval wine cellar. He decided to figure out the depth of the cave and took a piece of plaster off the floor and threw it in. It disappeared from sight immediately as it passed through the door. Seconds passed. Not a sound.
“It’s a bottomless pit,” said Jonas. “Just close the door. I’m gonna blow the place up.”
A man moved to the door to fling it back, when Jonas had a thought: “Stop, wait.”
Jonas wondered if it would at all be possible to turn on the power again and get a better look at this thing. He wondered what the light fixtures looked like. After he had been staring at the ceiling for a whole minute, the men became restless and asked what was so interesting up there.
“Have a look,” Jonas said to them. “Tell me what you think of the ceiling in there.”
Two men gazed inside, then a third. “It’s too far away. We can’t reach it with the light,” they said.
“No it’s not. This building has only one floor; that’s the ceiling.” Jonas pointed up at the white ceiling, then looked at the men with a bewildered look on his face. A room bigger than the building it is in? No way. He shook his head. Just blow the joint up, Jonas, he thought to himself.
Everybody was carrying explosives. Jonas had the detonators and timer. He set the timer on two minutes and wired the explosives. He put a kilo in each corner of the room with the door and the same in the room leading to it and the observation room. He also put some around the door itself, and around something that looked like a load-bearing column; five kilos in all. Not exactly demolition, but it would be a really cool explosion.
He had the men seek out all computers and bring them into the mess hall. That didn’t take too long, even though some units had to be manually torn out of the furniture. The stuff was then piled up, and wired with a kilogram lump of C-1. In two minutes, it would be all over the mess hall.
Then they ran out.
* * *
Copyright © 2004 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson<