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Following Kwang Hwi’s decision, the recon team commenced full-scale operations. However, it wasn’t at a large scale. While patrolling around the headquarters, they would eliminate the monsters. They would also search and rescue survivors at the same time. It was an excellent method to clean up and expand the area little by little. They were going to do this step by step to ensure success.
Jackson was the last person to get in the car. The recon team this time was made up of the first and second batch of new recruits—fresh out of training, with Jackson leading the group.
Jackson wasn’t typically a part of the recon team, but as the new recruits were still greenhorns and had yet to gain some experience, he was here to assist them and show them the ropes.
“Is everyone on board?”
Jackson picked up the radio after checking on the members of the recon team. New regulations had been added for regular check-ins when going outside.
“HQ. This is the recon team. We are ready to rock and roll.”
— “Confirmed. Recon team, deploy.”
The recon team set out on two Light Tactical Vehicles. Navigating through the quiet neighborhood, the vehicles entered the city in less than 10 minutes. A terminal appeared before them after crossing a bridge. Beyond it, large buildings stretched far and wide. It seemed to be the office district.
“Oh, around here should be fine. Let’s stop.”
Jackson got off the vehicle while holding a spray can. There was a wall with appropriate width and height conveniently on one side.
‘What should I write…?’ He thought for a moment about their recruitment notice. It wasn’t necessary to make it complicated; all it needed to do was to make everyone know that the Kwang Hwi Faction existed. By doing this, they could set the name of their faction deep in the mind of anyone who would read it. Even if they did not want to join them immediately, they could at least spread their moniker.
On the gray background of the wall, the black letters stood out like a blot on the landscape. When Jackson returned to the vehicle, the driver had already tuned into the frequency.
— “Greetings to all survivors. This is the Kwang Hwi Faction’s radio broadcast on 108.5 MHZ…”
For the past few days, the Kwang Hwi Faction had been conducting radio broadcasts regularly to attract more survivors and spread awareness. However, rather than live broadcasts, they were akin to pre-recorded messages. The content of the announcements was similar: what the monsters looked like, what the Kwang Hwi Faction called them, and an up-to-date recap of their characteristics. Through the transmission, the names Keku, Black Wolves, and Blisters were popularized. Of course, some propaganda was mixed in too.
— “The Kwang Hwi Faction regularly patrols the Dongducheon area. Our goal is to one day defeat the monsters and return to our previous way of life. We welcome all survivors! We can provide food, shelter, and security—the three most essential things under the circumstances.”
It also criticized the government, which had yet to take any action. Of course, this was done intentionally to spread skepticism among people regarding the authorities.
— “Do not expect help from the government. You must face reality. If fighting the monsters is inevitable, then you must make the most of the tools you have. You must depend on yourself. Do not risk heading to the police station as all guns have rusted.”
Jackson closed his eyes and fell into his own thoughts.
‘I don’t know if Mother or Father are doing well.’
Kwang Hwi, Soo Min, and the other Korean members were mostly orphans without families, so they had little to worry about. However, both of Jackson’s parents were alive before the catastrophe. The monsters made him concerned about his parents, but there was little Jackson could do right now. He couldn’t even contact them, nor could he travel to America.
‘It might be possible later on, right…?’
Jackson believed in Kwang Hwi. Though cold on the surface, Jackson had never seen anyone take care of their people so much. It was significantly different from what he had heard from his superiors in the U.S. Army. Considering how he maintained their production of armored vehicles, they’d be able to produce helicopters and transport aircraft in the future.
— “Recon Leader, this is Ryker 1.”
The sudden interruption broke his reverie as Jackson opened his eyes to the voice in his ear. Ryker 1, who was leading at the front, began to slow down. When it came to a halt, Ryker 2, who was following, was also forced to stop.
“Ryker 1, this is the Recon Leader. What’s the situation?”
— “Ryker 1 reporting. There’s a survivor down on the road ahead.”
“A survivor? Alone?”
“Secure the perimeter. I’ll check on the survivor.”
Jackson stepped out of the car. Indeed, there was a man who had collapsed on the road in front of Ryker 1. His face looked pale and close to death. It wasn’t apparently whether it was from injury or an adverse health condition.
“You over there, can you hear me?”
Jackson slowly closed the distance while being fully alert. His gun aimed at the wounded as he checked his surroundings. However, the man did not reply. No, it seemed more accurate to say that he wasn’t able to give a reply. His face was sweating profusely and his whole body was shivering as if he had chills.
The man’s body shook violently for the last time and his arms and legs bent at odd angles, showing a grotesque appearance.
Jackson cursed in English due to the sudden change. He tried to keep calm at the inexplicable and spooky scene in front of him.
Black blisters pierced through the man’s clothes. The blisters, originally the size of fingernails, quickly grew and expanded throughout the man’s body, covering him entirely. The familiar shape of a human soon disappeared and only a strange creature remained in place. It was like a scene from a horror movie.
Jackson started to back away without realizing it, but he kept his aim steady. It was a familiar-looking monster: The Blister from Dongducheon General Hospital.
With a bang, the P90 in his hands started spraying bullets as flames sparked from the gun. The small caliber, high velocity 5.7mm ammunition hit Blister’s torso. With the sound of tearing flesh, a small hole was formed in its heart. The shattered black crystals broke out of its body and scattered on the floor. Following the fall of the Blister, the screeching sound of Blisters came from all directions. Jackson’s blood ran cold and his hair stood on end.
He hastily turned his body to retreat to the vehicle. However, a Blister suddenly appeared in his view. Without giving it a chance to launch an attack, Jackson pulled the trigger reflexively. The Blister collapsed, beaten down.
However, there were not merely a couple of Blisters. Rather, they numbered in the hundreds. They came running from all directions like a roaring flood. From a lightless opticians store, from a clothing store with shattered windows, from a narrow alleyway between buildings. No direction was left empty.
Jackson jumped onto the car with the utmost haste. A soldier holding a machine gun awaited orders with a panicked face.
“W-What do we do, sir?”
Jackson roared at the soldier in English but soon followed it in Korean. The vehicle-mounted M240N’s muzzle lit up as the rain of bullets fell on the Blisters. Ryker 1, up at the front, also started firing its machine guns. The Blisters that could not even withstand gunfire from pistols collapsed without taking a single step further. Black crystals from the Blisters’ bodies covered the asphalt road. Though they had taken down dozens of Blisters at once, Jackson’s expression did not relax. There were more of them out there, way more than they’d ever hope to take down.
“Ryker 1, get moving! We’re getting out of here!”
— “Yes, sir!”
The engine of the stationary Light Tactical Vehicle roared as it began moving. The crystals crumbled under the weight of the wheels when they sped up. More Blisters rushed in but could not keep up with the car running at full speed. The gap widened quickly as they left the horde in the dust. Jackson gave a sigh of relief before pressing the transmission button.
“HQ. This is the Recon Leader.”
— “This is HQ. Go ahead.”
“Multiple Blisters encountered at the Woosung intersection. We made contact and are now leaving the scene.”
— “Copy that. Return to HQ under standard recon protocols. What’s the sitrep?”
“Currently, we are—”
The vehicle collided with a Blister that suddenly appeared in front of it. Ryker 2, on uneven ground, took to the air after the impact. Jackson strained to hold on to the door handle and keep himself steady. Blood began to pool in his skull with his body inverted. With a boom, the Light Tactical Vehicle landed, flipped, and skidded several meters across the ground, sending sparks flying everywhere. The screeching sound of the metal grazing the hard surface created a sharp noise.
Jackson shook his head after the crash. Ryker 1 entered his shaky and blurry vision. Slowly, he came to realize that they had stopped in the middle of nowhere. He looked at the other soldiers. The trooper that had manned the machine gun earlier had slipped back into the car at some point and now sat slouched in the passenger seat. The driver was in a similar dazed state.
Jackson checked their pulses in a hurry. Thankfully, they were still breathing and were merely unconscious. Jackson undid his seatbelt and searched around for his gun. Fortunately, it was right next to him.
The Blister that had followed them from behind ran right past Ryker 2 and headed directly for Ryker 1. The machine gun on Ryker 1 lit up. The people stuck in Ryker 2 heard banging sounds as more Blisters swarmed around them, pounding the vehicle. Thankfully, amidst the chaos of flipping, the door was not damaged and did not open.
‘Just need to hold on for a little longer.’
While the engine would likely not start, the body of the car was sturdy. Additionally, with the support fire from Ryker 1, rescue would be possible in a short time. There were already dozens of dead Blisters near Ryker 1. Jackson aimed his gun through a port in the door. It was an opening for the combatants inside to fire upon enemies outside. The monster’s body that was attached to the door fell apart under his firing.
The APC Namer drove down the road at high speed. Debris and wreckages often lay on the path, blocking the way ahead. But, the APC drove on while smashing through them. Speed was its priority.
Kwang Hwi’s face held a stiff expression. The rest of the crew were not much different.
“ETA 7 minutes at current speed. 3 minutes until the Heron is in the area.”
“We are periodically checking in with Ryker 1 but not with Ryker 2, which has flipped over.”
The screens on the inside of the APC blinked and a static noise sounded.
— “The Heron arrived at the location. Live feed connection established.”
The camera, which had been panning around for some time, soon fixed upon one direction. The flickering scene displayed the situation outside. A desolate street emerged beyond the lens. Ryker 2 had been turned upside down and Ryker 1 was stopped a little way away. The Blisters were headed for the two vehicles. Ryker 1 was laying down suppressive fire with its machine gun, but their numbers did not wane. There were just as many Blisters coming out as there were being felled.
“This is HQ. Zoom out the camera.”
— “Zooming out from 10x to 4x.”
The camera zoomed out to increase the area in view. The surroundings that were not visible before entered the screen. Seeing the situation, the faces of the crew became grave.
— “B-Boss. Are you seeing this?”
Kwang Hwi bit his lips due at the horrible scene. The area was swarming with Blisters. It was fortunate that the recon team could not see this scene or they would have been filled with despair.
It was like a sea packed with Blisters.
— Ω —
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