Unnamed Korean Military Thriller — My Writing Roots Vol. 4
In some of my past few posts, I have been sharing some bits of writing from my past. I started with my first full stories in elementary and middle school. I thought hard about what would be the best way to wrap this section up.
The point was to show how I got to where I am now. Even though I had been writing since childhood, I think my decision to try to be a professional writer was made when I was in college. That was when on of my lit teachers placed in the Writers of the Future Contest and had his story published in their annual anthology. That was when I set myself the goal of doing the same. That goal spurred me to start writing short stories, which in turn, led me to writing longer works and to building the relationships I have now with publishers.
So what fills the gap between middle school and college? I was still writing a lot when I started middle school, but near the end, and certainly by high school, I had all but stopped. There were more important things to do. I had to study, prepare myself for college. I had a part-time job, and demanding friends.
The next time I sat down to write a story was after I had been sent to Korea by the Army. I had chosen the assignment, and was rarely disappointed by the choice, despite all the extra field time and the curfews and the general shenanigans that went on there.
The story I wrote was not unlike “Deadly Creation.” At the time, I imagined I would be writing a whole book. And like middle school, I did not appreciate the scope required of such a project, nor did I have the diligence to finish it.
The story was a near-future sci-fi tale that was supposed to be about the problems with the reunification after Kim Jong-il is overthrown, in 2021. Of course, I had started the work while the old dictator was alive. That little detail quickly changed, and events did not pass as my “book” had presumed. Though, the concept might work even better now for his son.
Looking at it now, I think I could probably finish it, dress it up into a decent long story or even a novella, but I have too many other projects demanding my attention and time that I do not have.
Unlike the other stories, I wrote this one on my own computer so I still have the document file. I will paste the text below, rather than scans. I had to fight myself to not change anything, as there are many glaring mistakes and things that I don’t like. But for the sake of showing my growth as a writer, nothing has been changed except to take out some footnotes that didn’t really need to be there and wouldn’t copy over to this format well.
Well, that’s enough blabbing. Here’s the story.
Working Title: The Hydra Conspiracy (I don’t care for this title anymore)
All of the shops were bursting with customers, lines reaching out into the main walkway of the packed mall. The walkway was wide, dressed in sky-blue and white tiles, with thin transparent screens which rose halfway to the ceiling, dividing the walkway into right and left paths. The screens, whose picture could be viewed from either side, broadcasted news or advertisements shifting between English and Korean, for the various clothing and novelty shops nearby. Each shop lined the hall with walls of bluish, shatter-resistant glass and swift auto-doors that barely had an opportunity to slide closed, due to the extreme volume of people passing through or waiting in range of their motion sensors.
Yet even with all the bustle, the atmosphere was still rather calm for a Saturday afternoon. Couples walked hand-in-hand, to and from the various youth oriented fashion shops, while a few, well-aged old men laughed loudly at each other’s jokes on one of the synthetic wooden benches which were emplaced to help form the center divide of the hall, lying between and around the large screens. A nearby noodle shop overflowed with vendors, the summer heat overriding many shoppers’ urges to seek out the latest chic style, instead driving them to the refreshing rescue of cold naeng-myun.
A tall woman, dressed in grey jogging shorts and a light, short-sleeved hoodie of the same color, maneuvered in and around the various groups clogging the hall. Her complexion was slightly tinted by too much sun exposure and her shoulder length, black hair was lazily bound up in a ponytail. She was by no means physically imposing, but her erect and alert posture made her stand out amongst the crowd. She walked swift, but steady, white running shoes noiselessly traversing the polished tiles. Her age was difficult to determine at a glance, because she looked like she could easily be older than her features suggested, but if one had to guess, she might be in her late 20s.
If anyone asked, she was on vacation, no one needed to know anything more. She was very keen on privacy, and besides, just because she hadn’t come to a mall in over three years didn’t make her some sort of foreigner. She was here to shop, and nothing was going to get in the way of her holiday. Yet she did feel slightly disoriented; technology advances so fast that one can barely keep up with the new tech from a year ago. She had come to this mall before, but even in just a few years, the designs of many of the shops had changed, not to mention that many shops she remembered no longer existed in this mall. She walked passed a Puma store she had shopped at before, but wouldn’t have recognized it if it weren’t for the logo and name dancing along the glass wall, flickering from English to Hangul. Reinforced glass with pictures floating in it, now that was a trick. As she peered into the store, a sweeper robot skirted past her legs. Last time she was at this shop, the robot nearly scared her out of her skin with that move, but this time she remembered about it.
She watched the little, toaster-shaped robot as it wheeled its way to the center of the hall, stopping at a small docking station at the bottom of a large rectangular waste bin. As it was preparing to dock, a young man in a black suit dropped a bit of trash into the top of the bin. Four robotic arms came out and divided the trash, depositing it into various holes that slid open. The man paid little attention, instead turning to face his three young colleagues, also dressed in black suits. The four men walked in haphazard formation about a man of obviously many more years, dressed in a suit that was obviously worth many more dollars. As the group walked on, the two men in front parted the crowd while the two in back chatted and looked over the premises. The woman outside the Puma shop tensed as she watched the men walk by.
Where the men had just walked by, one of the large screens was broadcasting a live news report. A young woman stared at the camera from behind a large desk, while a multilingual ticker ran across the top of the screen.
“…talks came to a standstill today at the annual East Asian Cooperation summit, hosted in Beijing, when Chinese and Korean delegates pushed Japan on its isolation policy in regards to the North Korean refugee crisis…”
She changed her view back to the men who moved steadily through the crowd. They moved passed a large laser-light equipped water fountain that stood centered on a four-way intersection. Two shops from there, on the left side of the main walkway, the group entered a formal wear shop. Obviously the man needed another fancy tie to go with his fancy suit, or maybe cufflinks, he looked like a man who wore expensive cufflinks.
For a moment the woman felt a delicate silence, nothing but a very heavy static energy in the air…
Blue-tinted glass filled the air like grapeshot, the shockwave of the explosion rippling through the hall, destroying the shatter-proof glass walls and crushing the parapet of high-tech screens bordering the other side of the path. Every person within fifty meters was thrown to the ground, the ones closer to the blast riddled with shrapnel, the ones inside yet to be seen. Three of the men in black suits flew backwards through the air, their jackets flying open and their white shirts drenched in red. One of them was thrown all the way across the hall, smashing through the glass wall of an adjacent shop. All the while, the roar of the blast impacted on the ears of those who withstood the shockwave, bringing many to their knees. Smoke bellowed, bodies thudded to the ground, people screamed, sirens blared, fire extinguishers and sprinklers roared to life.
What in God’s name?!
The woman outside the Puma store took her hands from her ears and surveyed the devastation. The fire extinguishers were barely keeping the flames from spreading out from the destroyed shop, but by now fire-control robots had begun to arrive. Dozens of people rushed passed the woman as she slowly advanced towards the grim scene. As she began to regain her senses, she started giving orders to the people who remained. She grabbed a young boy who ran passed her, he arm trembling with fright, and directed him to a woman on the floor who was bleeding from her stomach.
“Get a rag, or a piece of cloth or something and put pressure on the wound. Bend her knees up too.”
The boy simply nodded and took to his task. She continued like this, guiding those whose wounds were small to aid those whose lives hung in the balance. She searched around the wreckage, but there was no sign of the rich old man. Just then, her foot brushed by something small and shiny on the ground. She bent down to pick it up and noticed it was a gold cufflink. She had been right about the old man. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a man in a dark hooded sweatshirt hiding around the corner of the walkway intersection. As soon as the man saw her looking at him, he ran.
The woman sprinted after him. Today was turning out to be one hell of a day, and the man made the mistake of trying to escape her when she had her running shoes on. Fat chance. The woman gracefully maneuvered the intersection, dodging wounded people and wreckage. Meanwhile the man bolted ahead, stuffing something rectangular in his pocket and pushing over an old man in his way. The woman, like a hurdler on a track, skillfully leapt over the old man as he started to come to his feet. She landed on the balls of both feet and kept running after the fugitive.
“Police!” she screamed, “Stop you bastard!”
The man came up to another intersection and shifted to take a right turn, just as a fire-control robot came around the corner. The man tumbled over the robot, arms flailing in the air, landing on his left shoulder with a loud thud. The robot continued on its way, ignoring the man on the ground or the woman chasing him. The man shifted to his right foot and dragged himself from the ground, holding his bruised shoulder.
Too late. A kick to the face brought the man to his feet. He raised his arms in time to block two rapid punches from both sides. The policewoman circled to the front of him. Her arms were raised in an attack posture. The man struck out with his fists. The woman blocked the left blow, then the right with upraised hands. She shifted to her right and kicked with her left foot. The man blocked the blow, inches from his head. He kicked at the woman’s right foot. She jumped back over his sweep and punched with her left hand. The blow crushed the man’s nose, drawing blood and staggering him backwards. She advanced with two more punches that the man managed to block by bringing both arms up to his face. The woman’s next kick slammed into the man’s left midsection, sending him a half dozen steps to the right. The woman charged, leapt into the air and thrust her foot at the man’s head. He dodged to the right, and grabbing the woman’s leg, threw her to the ground. Using the opportunity, he dashed away towards the exit.
The automatic doors quickly slid open for the criminal and his pursuer. Before he could make it past a car parked in the paved roundabout, the woman was on him. She grabbed his hood and jerked him backwards, ripping the clothing. Still holding on to the man’s hood, the woman slammed her knee into his stomach, stealing his wind. She slammed her palm into the man’s already broken nose, making him scream. Inside she broke into smile. She grabbed his collar with both hands and throttled the man who was already halfway senseless.
“You stupid son of a bitch! You thought you could get away from me?!” The young policewoman was in a rage. “What the hell have you done?”
A sadistic smile spread across the man’s broken face as he laughed, a dark, devilish laugh. He coughed up blood and glared at her, “I have merely set the kindling…”
The policewoman raised her fist to strike the man again, but was suddenly stopped by the screech of a car breaking to her right. A sleek, black car with black tinted windows stopped in the roundabout next to the pair. The passenger door flew open and a bulky man wearing a tactical vest and black cargo pants stepped out.
“Seo Saejin, Seojang, you and your playmate need to come with me.”
I don’t think it is very hard to see the improvement I made over all that time, though I clearly had a ways to go. This story seems to have seeded the action-centric style I have now, amongst other things.
That’s it. That’s really the final step bringing me to where I am now. Yes, I did study writing in college, but that decision was made even before I enrolled. I knew I was going to be a writer, though part of me imagined I would be 60 years old and retired by the time I actually started doing it.
Glad to see things worked out a tiny bit faster.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed sharing my writing journey.