SOSHI: The Roads We Have Taken – Chapter 4

July 27, 2014 in moonrise31, SOSHI, The Roads We Have Taken by moonrise31

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

William Blake

Chapter 4: In which aircrafts land, hopes rise fragile, and everything just might go up in flames.

Jessica blinked, groaning softly as they stepped off the plane. “Why is it still morning. We left when it was morning and I didn’t sleep a wink, and now it’s still morning.”

“Jessi, not sleeping?” Tiffany put on an expression of mock horror. “I think the world has ended.”

Jessica’s only response was to mutter something about how incredibly illegal it was for the other to be so cheerful after “sitting in a cramped space inhaling stale food and tank oxygen for fourteen hours straight.”

“Well,” Sunny yawned, trying to rub the tiredness from her eyes, “the day has just started, unfortunately. Should we go pay Amber-sshi a visit?”

“Sure.” Tiffany held out a hand. “Give me that address.”

It had been a while since either American had been back in the States, so to Tiffany’s dismay (and Jessica’s resignation), some things had changed. Luckily, after only three wrong turns and one instance of almost being run over (“damn L.A. drivers are still the same,” Jessica grumbled), the three found themselves in front of a small but respectable store with the “Shock Electronics” sign hanging overhead.

“Couldn’t we have just taken a taxi?” Sunny realized somewhat belatedly as they entered, the bell above the door jingling softly as they did so.

“But where’s the fun in that?” Tiffany practically chirped.

Jessica spared her a withering glance before turning to Sunny. “At the rate our moods are going, I think you should switch names with Miss Sunshine over there, just to be consistent.”

“Hello!” A cheerful voice greeted in English from the back of the store. “Welcome to—” The greeting abruptly switched to Korean. “Hey, I didn’t expect you guys so soon.”

“We got on the first plane over,” Tiffany explained. “How’s it going, Amber?”

“Not bad.” Amber grinned. She walked out from behind the counter. “Victoria-unnie told me you guys wanted sale records?”

Sunny nodded, pulling out the scrap of paper with the fragment of serial number Seohyun had scribbled. “These wires were used for a bomb that exploded last week, and it seems like they were purchased within the last month.”

“Alright, I can look that up for you, no problem.” Amber leaned over the counter to pull out a laptop. She opened the lid and began tapping at the keys. “It should just be a second.”

“Do you get a lot of people?” Tiffany glanced around the store, but they were the only ones inside. “Customers, I mean.”

Amber shook her head. “This street’s pretty quiet in general, which is why we chose it in the first place. We’re not really interested in selling stuff, you know.”

“You think you’d remember who bought these wires, then?” Sunny asked, picking up on Tiffany’s train of thought.

“I wasn’t here back then,” Amber reminded them. “You’d have to ask Sulli…”

Jessica looked up when she trailed off. “Something wrong?”

“Nothing,” Amber murmured, rubbing the back of her neck and chuckling nervously. “I just keep mistyping the password, silly me…”

“Really?” Jessica frowned, making her way over to the counter so she could peer over Amber’s shoulder. Her eyes widened. “Wait no, don’t—”

Amber blinked as the computer screen went blank. “What’d I do?”

Sunny joined them, reading the words now flashing across the screen. “It locked you out? Because you entered the incorrect password too many times?”

“That’s what seems to be the case.” Jessica narrowed her eyes. “Except I don’t really believe you managed to mistype ten times. And it shouldn’t lock you out for more than a month.” She pointed at the countdown clock, which showed thirty days, twenty-three hours, and fifty-nine minutes left.

“So…” Amber blinked. “What’s that mean?”

“It means that you’ve been hacked,” Jessica answered grimly.

“Wow,” Tiffany spoke up, thoughtfully tapping her chin. “If only we had someone with us who did computer things all the time…”

Jessica rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, I was gonna offer to fix it anyway.” She scooped the laptop off of the counter. “Got a place for us to stay, Amber?”

“Oh, yeah! Just right upstairs; Krystal was—” Amber stopped.

“That’ll be fine,” Tiffany assured her. “Perfect, actually. We were gonna look for her too, anyway.”

Amber bit her lip. “So you really think she got taken?”

Jessica raised her eyebrow. “You think she just went off on a stroll and hasn’t come back yet?”

“No! No.” Amber waved her hands frantically. “It’s just…I dunno. Things never go as planned in this line of work, right? We should just be prepared for this sort of thing; I know she’d probably hit me or something if it turned out that we were all overreacting.”

“She can hit me all she wants when she’s back,” Jessica replied bluntly as she skirted the counter and headed for the stairs behind them.

“If she doesn’t mind Jessi hitting her twice as hard in return,” Tiffany whispered conspiratorially before following.

Amber cracked a grin.

“Don’t worry,” Sunny said, patting the other girl on the shoulder. “We’ll get her back.” Then their eyes met, and their mutual thought thankfully went unspoken.

I hope.

“Excuse me. Pardon me. Agents coming through.” Taeyeon flashed her badge, and the crowd parted in front of her. Sooyoung, Yoona, and Hyoyeon hurried after.

“Hey, Sulli!” Yoona called, waving at the younger agent as they ducked under the yellow tape sealing off the area.

“Hey, unnies.” Sulli trotted up to them. “Now that you’re here, I can take my leave.”

“Going so soon?” Hyoyeon asked. “If you didn’t like us, you could just say so.” She winked.

Sulli shrugged. “I’ll give you what little information I have. But mostly, I don’t wanna be around when those guys get here.” She jerked a thumb over her shoulder.

Sooyoung squinted at the figures on the other side of the bomb site. “Who’re they?”

“I think some sort of agents from the United States.” Sulli patted Taeyeon’s shoulder. “They sure got here fast. Good luck, unnie.”

Taeyeon sighed and rubbed her temples. “Great.”

As Sulli related the few facts she’d gathered, Hyoyeon leaned in close to Sooyoung. “Do you smell that?”

Sooyoung sniffed the air. “What, you mean the smoke?”

“No.” Hyoyeon shook her head, nose scrunched. “It’s something else…but I can’t put my finger on it.”

“Maybe Seohyun will know,” Yoona suggested, pocketing her phone. “She just texted me. She’s in a taxi and heading over right now.”

Sooyoung pursed her lips and crossed her arms, surveying the wreckage before her. “There’s a lot of smoke coming from the front of the embassy. Was the bomb just at the entrance?”

“It was another car.” Taeyeon turned to them, Sulli retreating to the other side of the yellow tape behind her. “The person drove up, got stopped by the guards, and then the bomb went off before anyone could get a word in.”

Sooyoung winced. “How many casualties then?”

“Two dead—the driver and the guard who walked up to question them. Another two guards in critical condition, so they can’t be interviewed any time soon.” Taeyeon counted each of the casualties off on her fingers. “No identity on the driver yet, but I don’t think this was a suicide-bomber kind of situation.”

“If only we’d been able to get to the other bombing sites,” Hyoyeon murmured. “Might be able to find some similarities then…”

“Excuse me. Are you the agents in charge here?”

Taeyeon turned to greet the Americans. “Good evening. I’m Agent Kim Taeyeon. These are Agents Choi Sooyoung, Im Yoona, and Kim Hyoyeon. We’re from SOSHI.”

“Pleasure to meet you. I’m Agent Ok Taekyeon.” The taller man held out his hand to shake. “And this is Agent Park Jaebeom. CIA.” He nodded toward the front doors of the embassy. “We’re hoping to get this sorted out as soon as possible.”

“The investigations are only preliminary at the moment,” Taeyeon cautioned, “but we’re fairly certain this was not a terrorist attack. We’ve been dealing with some similar incidents throughout the city these past couple of weeks, and this seems to be the latest in the string.”

Taekyeon dipped his head again. “Well, we’ll leave it to SOSHI, but if this turns out to be some attack on the United States, we want in. For now, we’d appreciate if you just kept us updated on the progress of this particular investigation.”

“Of course,” Taeyeon agreed. “At the moment, I believe we’re writing this off as some kind of gas explosion or engine malfunction, though I don’t know how long we can keep doing that before throwing the entire city into a different kind of panic.”

Jaebeom spoke up. “If there’s anything we can do to help, Agent Kim, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

Taeyeon thanked the CIA agents, and then the latter two took their leave. Just then, a commotion burst from the spectator side of the cordoned-off area. They turned to find an exasperated police officer blocking someone from view.

“Miss, for the last time, please stay back.”

“I beg your pardon, officer, I work with SOSHI. I need to get past.”

Yoona grinned when the familiar polite but resolute voice reached their ears. She waved at the skeptical policeman. “Seohyun’s with us, officer. Let her through.”

“Got out of classes early?” Sooyoung asked once the doctor had joined them.

“It was just lab time.” Seohyun shrugged. “I can make it up later.”

“Seohyun!” Hyoyeon interrupted. “Can you smell that?”

The youngest inhaled slightly. “The smoke, unnie?”

Hyoyeon shook her head and grunted in frustration.

“There there, unnie.” Yoona patted her shoulder. “Your sense of smell has just become too good for the rest of us regular humans.”

Seohyun hummed thoughtfully, examining the smoking car frame. “As far as bombs go, there are a couple of ingredients that might cause an odor. Unnie, does it smell like rotten eggs? Or more like bleach, or chlorine at a swimming pool?”

Hyoyeon wrinkled her nose. “Maybe bleach. I use enough of it in my apartment.”

“Especially when you’ve had a bit too much to drink,” Sooyoung muttered, and then gagged when she received an elbow to the stomach.

Seohyun nodded. “If you can try and remember what you’re smelling, unnie, we can go back to my lab and confirm. But I think that whomever we’re looking for has a lot of ammonium nitrate around.”

“Ammonium nitrate?” Taeyeon frowned. “Is that a common chemical?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” Seohyun replied. “And odorless, too. It’s used in things like fertilizer and cold packs. But in certain reactions it can change into ammonium, which has the bleach or chlorine-like smell we’re familiar with.”

“Alright.” Taeyeon put her hands on her hips and looked around. “Every little bit helps. Let’s see if we can get anything else from the explosion site itself, but then I think we’ve done all we can here.”

“And what about those guys?” Sooyoung gestured to the crowd of reporters and cameras clamoring as they strained against the tape.

Taeyeon grimaced. “We’ll settle on the story to feed them and then I’ll take care of it.”

They made their way over to the ruined car, Yoona resisting the urge to put a steadying hand at Hyoyeon’s back every time the older woman nearly tripped over some random chunk of debris. But she managed to stop herself every time, quietly voicing caution instead, feeling a wash of relief when Hyoyeon stayed attentive to each of her instructions and managed to navigate the destruction with ease.

Sooyoung whistled lowly, examining the blackened and twisted metal gates that had formerly been protecting the front of the embassy. “We’re lucky the bomb somehow didn’t get farther and into the actual building itself.”

Taeyeon knelt down and examined the asphalt under the wreckage. “Okay, it was definitely the car and not something exploding from underneath, like that intersection. The road’s not broken up badly enough.”

“License plate is too wrecked,” Yoona announced from the back of the destroyed car. “I guess we’ll have to pull security tapes.”

Seohyun frowned as she paced around, leaning in closer once she rounded what remained of the hood. She took a tentative sniff. “Hyoyeon-unnie, I think you’re right about the ammonium. And someone will have to back me up on this, but it seems like the origin of the explosion was somewhere near the engine, like the other two cars. So I guess we have another ‘engine malfunction’ on our hands.”

Taeyeon rubbed her eyes with one palm. “I can see the headlines now: ‘Hyundai Engine Epidemic Strikes Seoul’.”

Sooyoung shrugged. “Better that than ‘Serial Bomber Strikes Again: Who’s Next?'”

The agents fell silent then. Sooyoung’s hypothetical question became all too real as it hung in the air, amidst the smoke from the car and murmurs from the crowd behind them.

…When the stars threw down their spears,
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?

But how could he who made the lamb make thee?