Asleep Are the Dogs: Chapter 6

June 1, 2013 in Asleep Are the Dogs, moonrise31 by moonrise31

In this dog-eat-dog world, don’t be surprised when he bites the hand that fed him.

Chapter 6: Of Flashbacks and Uneventful Cliffhangers

“Lieutenant, it’s not working.” Hyomin’s eyes were anxious, agitated.

“Keep going,” Sunny replied immediately, ripping her gaze from the window to glance at the glowing red timer. “We’ve got three minutes.”

The other woman swallowed, the frightened expression on her sweat-drenched face disappearing from Sunny’s view as Hyomin returned to the bomb in front of her. Sunny followed the other’s line of sight, examining the device from where she was standing. Her fingers itched to figure out what was so odd about this bomb, but she had her own job to do, and the rest of the girls in G7 were more than capable of handling it themselves.

“The building’s clear,” Sunhwa reported as she entered the room. 

“Good. Not a lot of people left around here, anyway,” Sunny commented as she scanned the empty streets. A town near the North Korean border wasn’t the best location in the first place, and with the recent skirmishes that had erupted a few months ago, civilians were even more scarce than usual. “Sunhwa, give Hyomin a hand. We’re under a bit of pressure at the moment.” 

 “Something’s just weird about this,” Hyomin muttered as she carefully probed the object in front of her. “It’s a standard time bomb, so why aren’t the standard protocols working?” 

“Ah…” Sunny heard Sunhwa exhale as the younger woman knelt beside Hyomin. “Maybe it’s actually not standard?”

The sound of knuckles rapping helmet. “Thanks. Remind me how an airhead like you managed to even pass basic training?”

“I dunno,” Sunhwa snickered. “It’s a secret.” 

A tired chuckle, and then Hyomin cursed. “Two minutes.” 

“Isn’t this wire out of place? Did you already disconnect it?”

“That one? No…”

Sunny allowed herself a small smile; Sunhwa was a good kid. A shadow moved at the corner of her eye, and she immediately locked her gaze on the person responsible: a young man, early twenties, maybe, loose tie and wrinkled suit, talking into a cellphone.

She frowned and brought her walkie-talkie to her face. “Lee to Park, requesting civilian extraction from within the danger zone. Over.”

The voice on the other end crackled an affirmative and she set the radio aside, watching as the man continued to approach the first floor window she was stationed at. He was just three meters from her, speaking loudly enough for snippets of what he was saying to reach her ears.

“Is this good? …Okay, keep walking…Now? Ah, okay…”

She’d been about to shout a warning to him, but she slowly closed her mouth, eyes now narrowed. The man certainly wasn’t having a normal conversation—it seemed more like he was receiving instructions. For what, she didn’t know.

Hyomin grunted in frustration. “Damn, I thought that was it.”

“It’s alright, we still have a minute left,” Sunhwa encouraged.

“This is good?” The man was asking.

Sunny remembered a rare night when both she and Yuri were off-duty, and they had spent it watching an action-packed thriller. She had scoffed to the doctor that only in movies would bombs actually explode exactly when they said they would.

The realization hit Sunny with a force that made her stomach plummet. She leaned out of the window. “You! Get away! NOW! And take that phone with you!”

The man looked up, startled at her sudden outburst, but her commanding tone and fierce expression drove him away as fast as his legs could carry him, the cellphone clenched tightly in his hand. Sunny turned and crossed the room in a flash, grabbing the backs of the other girls’ collars and yanking them behind her. “We have to get out. NOW.” 

The two knew better than to disobey their lieutenant, and her urgent demeanor was more than enough to quell any protests and send Hyomin and Sunhwa dashing out of the room. Sunny took one look at the blinking bomb and its taunting timer — 45 seconds, it lied — and hoped to whatever higher power was out there that her superficial evaluation was correct, because she was going to do something that would make any member of G7 look at her like she was crazy.

She lifted one leg and kicked the bomb as far as she could.

The device soared through the air, fortunately still dormant, its trajectory carrying it well into the next room that was opposite of the direction Sunny was now scrambling. She silently thanked whoever had taken out all the doors in the building, but quickly withdrew her gratitude when she realized that there was nothing to shut behind her as she tried to create as many barriers between them and the imminent explosion as possible, knocking over spare crates and shoving furniture behind her as she ran.

“Sunny!” Rank momentarily forgotten, Hyomin turned back and reached out with one hand. Just a step beyond her, Sunhwa paused to wait as well. 

Sunny barreled into Hyomin, taking Sunhwa down too. She landed on top of both, shielding them as much as she could. “Idiots! Get down!”

Things afterward came in flashes as bright and brief as the explosion had been. There hadn’t been much pain, or at least, not that she had noticed. Were they okay, though? Hyomin, Sunhwa. Hyojin had gotten that man out, right? Hara and Hyuna had been on recon on the other side of town.

It was so loud. Murmurs, footsteps, gunfire — everything was too loud, too much of the time. She was part of the bomb squad. They disabled explosions so that they would never have to hear one set off. Why did she have to be different? 

The sound of an explosion was the sound of her failure, ringing in her ears and her head and vibrating throughout her entire being. It made her hurt more than whatever injuries she’d sustained before they’d managed to dig her out of the rubble. Bruises, cuts, broken bones — those went away soon enough. But the sounds never did.

She just wanted it all to go away.

Sunny woke with a start, bangs stuck to her sweat-dampened forehead and heart pounding against her chest. She sat up and closed her eyes, willing her breathing to even out. Then she slid out of bed and shuffled to the bathroom.

She splashed wave after wave of cold water onto her face, hoping that they would organize her thoughts and clear up the internal maelstrom her frontline memories had stirred up. Still, questions remained. That bomb had finally been set off by the man’s phone, Sunny was sure. He’d been questioned afterward, of course, but he was only a daredevil answering some mysterious caller — one who had promised him the ultimate challenge. Even so, Sunny had made him retreat. She wondered if the sudden distance had done enough to delay the signal, giving them those precious seconds that let them survive while the building lay in pieces.

Was that Ahn guy on the other end?

She dried her face with a towel and returned to her bedroom, looking thoughtfully at the phone sitting on her nightstand. The first rays of sunlight were now starting to peek over the horizon, muted by translucent curtains. She walked over and drew them back a little, watching as the sky was painted with the cozy pastel colors of dawn. The warm feeling reminded her of when she finally broke free of that delirious haze and found herself lying in an infirmary bed, Yuri sitting beside her, ready with soft words and a tired, but sincere smile.

“Another day, huh, Ahn?” She said to herself. “Bring it on.”

Taeyeon stopped in front of her office, pulling her keys out of her purse as she reached for the knob. She raised her eyebrows when the door swung open, revealing Tiffany seated at the receptionist desk and Jessica lounging in one corner.

Taeyeon stepped inside and closed the door behind her. “I don’t seem to recall making copies of my keys just yet. Has Yoona given up hers so easily?”

Jessica lifted her shoulders just enough for a barely passable shrug. “Amazing, the things you’ll do for the person who controls more than half of your paycheck.”

“I often look forward to the day when I’ll finally start earning more than you, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that such a day will not be in this lifetime,” Taeyeon remarked, waving to Tiffany and entering the inner office. “If reincarnation ends up being a lie, my soul will be at an eternal loss,” she added glibly as she reappeared, working an arm through the sleeve of her lab coat.

“Thanks for letting us use your office as a base,” Tiffany offered with a wide smile as she tapped away at her keyboard. “And your wifi is unbelievable.”

“Much better to work here than at the Icee Queen,” Jessica agreed. “All those people, coming in and wanting things. It’s enough to give anyone a headache.”

Taeyeon chuckled and winked at the other girl. “Show your customers some more appreciation, Sica. Ice cream might not be the most lucrative for you, but it’s certainly what’s keeping me around.”

Jessica rolled her eyes, deciding that a comeback wasn’t worth the effort. “How’s it going, Tiff?”

“I’ve got another page of names or so,” Tiffany replied. “You’d think that after a week, the number of people with the name ‘Ahn’ would start to go down.”

“But that wouldn’t be fun now, would it?” Taeyeon reasoned as she reached over Jessica’s head. “Excuse me for a moment. I think my hours today will need a little adjusting.”  She flipped the sign hanging in her window to “CLOSED”.

The door swung open. “Well, that’s three more Ahns we can cross off our never-ending list,” Sunny reported as she entered, Yoona close behind. “And it’s not even noon yet.”

“Still nothing, huh?” Tiffany frowned.

Yoona shook her head. “Ahn Eunyoung was discharged after he hurt his ankle during basic training. That guy can’t find his way around his apartment, much less a bomb.”

“Ahn Tisong was an IT specialist, but they let him go because he couldn’t focus on his work.” Sunny shrugged. “The allure of Starcraft was too strong, I guess.”

“Ahn Hibyuk seemed pretty suspicious at first,” Yoona continued, “but we’ve confirmed that his face really is just like that all the time.”

“At this rate, you’re gonna go through half of Seoul’s population before you get anywhere,” Taeyeon commented.

Tiffany groaned and dropped her head, forehead hitting desktop with a dull thud. “Thanks for the encouragement, doctor. I can’t believe there’re this many Ahns in existence, much less just in the military.”

“Hey, guys.” Sooyoung walked in, covering her yawn with one hand. “Any luck?”

“Doesn’t seem like you’ve had much, either, unnie, ” Yoona noted.

Sooyoung shook her head. “This prostitution ring story you told me about is hard to crack, Fany. Ahn hasn’t so much as shown an eyelash yet. But my boss wanted something by this morning, so I had to chase down a silly piece about the best banana milk in Seoul.”

Tiffany frowned. “Sorry, Soo. I should totally be helping you with this.”

Sooyoung waved a hand. “Don’t worry about it. You’ve got loads to do, and I’ve managed alright so far just on my own.” She grinned. “Maybe I’ll stumble on something even the hacker has missed.”

Jessica looked up from her phone. “Hyoyeon and Seohyun are on their lunch break right now. All’s well down at the Assembly.”

“How’s Seohyun adjusting to life as a tour guide, I wonder.” Yoona grinned.

“She only scolded fifteen people today,” Jessica reported as she typed a reply to the text. “Hyoyeon says that two of them proceeded to excuse themselves before fleeing the premises.”

Yoona nodded. “Good. She’s improving.”

“Where’s Yuri?” Taeyeon asked suddenly.

“Probably down at her place,” Tiffany suggested, not looking up from her screen. “She’s always busy with patients.”

“She should be on lunch break too right now, though.” Taeyeon’s frown deepened as she fingered the lapel of her lab coat. “Usually that kid texts me some obnoxious picture of whatever health junk she’s eating, but she’s been quiet all morning.”

“I’m sure Yuri-unnie’s fine,” Yoona started, but was cut off when Taeyeon tossed the keys at her.

“Keep these kids under control, Yoong,” the therapist called over her shoulder. “If you’re bored, the carpet could always use some vacuuming.”

The door clicked shut, echoing in the tense silence that followed. “Yuri’s fine…right?” Sooyoung asked softly. It was rare to see Taeyeon so agitated over anything.

“I’m sure Taetae will call us if anything’s happened,” Tiffany said, although her uncertain tone left the others not assured in the slightest.

“Hm.” Jessica’s expression became even darker than usual as she crossed her arms, looking awake for the first time that day. Her next words rang painfully true for everyone in the room.

“I hate waiting.”