SPACE 3. Lost
The vast stretches of outer space. A huge light pillar separated the darkness. That was the beginning. Small spots of light like firecrackers emerged one after another. And there was a roaring sound before the light pillar stretched out horizontally. 2 spaceships were torn apart and gradually scattered. A spaceship was watching this scene from several kilometres away.
“The disappearance reaction has been confirmed!”
“Both enemy ships have been sunk!”
“We suffered little damage so repairs to the armour isn’t needed. The battleship self-recovery system was suffice. The self-recovery system will be starting now.”
“The battle has ended. A landslide victory!”
The crew in the cockpit reported one after another. Then a huge man wearing hood snorted and said.
“Those stupid guys, it was like they were politely throwing rice cakes at us. They thought they could defeat us with that many ships?”
“Their excess greed caused this.”
The person who replied was sitting in the captain’s chair. The one eyed man was reclined deeply in his seat with both legs crossed while staring at the dashboard! He was a member of the strongest Seven Swords and in charge of the secondary investigation team, Hawk. Hawk looked at the monitor and muttered with a smile.
“Although if they weren’t greedy then I’d be in trouble.”
“Is that so?”
“That’s right. Right now the scattered investigation team is being attacked by an unidentified enemy. If I’m not attacked despite being the leader than wouldn’t it be strange?”
“Aha! Then the Rama…..”
“Huhuhu! The Rama are just dancing in Captain-nim’s palm.”
The man in the hood laughed so hard his large stomach shook.
But Hawk wasn’t laughing.
“Let’s see, is it really like that…..?”
Hawk briefly paused before turning his head and asking.
“Harley, what is the current situation of the units?”
“Last time I’ve checked the signal, 9 ships have been lost. Of those, 6 of them moved off the ship to complete their mission or encountered them on the spaceship. The remaining 3 ships were units who we passed on information to the Rama.”
Ark had received a surprise attack from unidentified enemies on Impeltus. In fact, Ark wasn’t the only one who experienced this. It was the same for all 20 members of the secondary investigation team. However this incident wasn’t unexpected for Hawk.
The person who led this event was Hawk! The memory with the mission destination and information actually contained a hidden GPS device. That’s how Hawk could know their destination despite the team being randomly scattered. After they left for their missions, he sent the information to the spaceships of several units he stationed in space.
The information contained the destination, their information, the numbers and what faction they belonged to. Once again, the nobility had intervened with the investigation team so they were split into the political and military faction. In this situation they weren’t worried about the antimatter information going to the enemy. They thought it was more catastrophic for the information to end up with the other faction than the enemy.
So he started thinking. He had to do something to stop it. The servants of nobles who wanted to ‘accidentally’ obtain the information before the rival faction participated. The result wasn’t too difficult to predict. And it was as he expected. The enemy units headed to their planet containing an team from the opposite faction. Of course, there were members not involved in the faction war.
So Hawk secretly sent the information to the Rama. The secret units hid their identities and attacked at a similar time as the Rama. The reason Hawk did this was……
‘I have to lead this team to successfully complete the mission in order to receive something from the Emperor of the federation. But it will be difficult to control when the team is divided into antagonistic factions. Right now they are listening to my orders but they aren’t sincerely cooperating with me. Having thousands of troops means nothing if I can’t lead them. The first thing I need to do is break the solidarity between the nobility and the team members. They need to realize that they’re not following the nobles sitting in Istana but Hawk. That’s why a threat is necessary instead of persuasion.’
The team had already lost 35% of its power due to the unidentified enemy or the Rama. The surviving members would have to think. This mission was more dangerous than expected. They couldn’t fight between factions or else they might lose the mission. They needed someone to follow and believe in. Someone closer than the nobles waiting on Istana thousands of light years away.
‘And they’ll soon realize. Who they should follow.’
Hawk’s lips curved like a bow. The members seemed to be under the false impression that Hawk didn’t belong to a faction. The Emperor only wore the crown while the nobles had all the influence. Therefore the Emperor wanted to monopolize the antimatter information so he could reclaim his authority. Hawk had the support of the Emperor.
In other words, Hawk belonged to the Emperor’s faction! Hawk planned this incident in order to seize the helm of the investigation team.
“There are 11 survivors……”
Hawk muttered to himself and nodded.
“It is suitable.”
And he seemed to have a sudden thought as he asked.
“He is lost.”
“Lost? That guy was one of them?”
“Yes, the signal disappeared near the vicinity of Impeltus. It is natural. Didn’t you send two different enemies after him unlike the other members? One of them has a grudge against him. And the other is the Red Slaughterer. The fact that he is a country bumpkin from Istana can’t be changed.”
“That might be so but…..”
Hawk narrowed his eyes as he thought. After a brief moment he shook his head and started to talk.
“I suppose that is the extent that he can reach. If he dies from that than he isn’t worth being my enemy. Harley, prepare to warp. Head to Turan!”
“Preparing for warp! The destination is Turan!”
Harley’s cry ran out through the battleship and the Death Knight started shaking. It was wrapped in a light and disappeared.
In the NIS’ secret underground facility. Eerie moans kept on being heard from the underground room. However there was no sympathy in the eyes of Lee Myung-ryong listening from the shadows. He just clicked his tongue instead as their pitiful forms.
“Hey, are they really special agents?”
A man with swollen eyes said as he scratched his head. This seemed like a scene that had been seen before.
It was like the first time Lee Myung-ryong was assigned to the NIS Lucifer Hunting team and manipulated the capsules to feel real pain. The Galaxian team members experienced a similar pain to when he was playing New World. The audio might be similar but the video was completely different.
Capsules were lined up inside the facility. 300 burly men had their heads against the ground with their arms clasped behind their back. It was the traditional method called Wonsan pukkyeok (Google Images)
“Are you newborn puppies? Why are you whining like that? Eh? These bastards, why aren’t your backs straight? Are you resisting? Are you resisting? Will you continue until the end?”
“No what? Add 30 minutes!”
There were hopeless groans at Lee Myung-ryong’s yell. Kang Ho-cheol sighed and said.
“Hyung-nim, it has already been 40 minutes.”
Lee Myung-ryong turned around and declared sharply. Lee Myung-ryong’s height was over 170 centimetres. On the other hand, Kang Ho-cheol was close to 190 centimetres. There was a difference of 20 centimetres yet Kang Ho-cheol was the one who flinched back from Lee Myung-ryong and stuttered.
“That….those guys seem to already be reflecting…..”
“Reflecting?” Ha! You call that attitude reflecting? If you think that is reflecting than your style of punishment is wrong. Those guys know they are wrong after whining for 40 minutes? These guys are the elites who received special training?”
“They are special agents, not Superman.”
“I’m also not a politician.”
Lee Myung-ryung spat as he replied. His voice and expression proved that he was completely blowing his lid right now. The reason for this was an event that occurred a few hours ago.
Once Lee Myung-ryong made it a 4D realistic experience, the performance of the Lucifer Hunting team quickly rose. They gained various survival skills so their levels naturally increased as survival rates increased. They didn’t dare capture dungeons and went hunting every day.
Then a strange report came to Lee Myung-ryong’s attention. The current Lucifer Hunting team were moving in units consisting of 10~20 people. The report written by one team stated that they were proceeding on a quest with rare items as the reward. A quest with rare items had a high level of difficulty so the team significantly suffered.
That wasn’t special. The problem was what Lee Myung-ryong read afterwards in another report. Another party could complete the same quest. And the principle of the Lucifer Hunting team was sharing information. However the other party that attempted it made the same mistakes in the same areas. It meant information wasn’t being shared.
Kang Ho-cheol hesitated to reply when he was asked.
“Like I said the other day, the Lucifer Hunting team consists of members from the NIS and an information oriented team. The affiliation they belong to is naturally different. The NIS is under the direct control of the Prime Minister’s department while the information oriented unit is managed by the Department of Defense. The problem is that the Prime Minister’s office and the Department of Defense are engaged in a psychological warfare to gain the initiative.”
“They are vying against each other in that incident.”
Lee Myung-ryong’s face warped at Kang Ho-cheol’s words. He didn’t need to hear anymore. He just needed to hear that government employees from Korea were involved. If there was a problem than they would push responsibility to each other. That was the reality of Korean officials.
Of course, Lee Myung-ryong knew that about the officials. But this event was concerned with the nuclear power plant crisis. If it exploded than the whole country would feel it. Yet! Yet!
“Hyung-nim, just pretend you don’t know…..”
“Shut up, you bastard!”
Lee Myung-ryong hit Kang Ho-cheol. Now he had two eyes that were swollen.
“Stop all your movements! Exit the capsules!”
And Lee Myung-ryong roared! That’s why the facility was filled with the groan of 300 people. Lee Myung-ryong looked at them with blazing eyes and it seemed like fire was spewing from his mouth.
“Are you soldiers belong to the government officials or the country? Won’t your parents, siblings and friends be affected if the nuclear power plant explodes? You puppies! No, a dog wouldn’t do something like this! You bastards are just dog shit!”
Sweat dripped down as the guys trembled. Kang Ho-cheol sighed and opened up.
“Hyung-nim, don’t you know? They are military soldiers so they have to turn if they are told to.”
“Shut up, you bastard! Do they have no thoughts in their brains just because they are soldiers? Would you kill your parents or siblings if you were told to? Does this seem like a joke? Don’t you know what will happen with a nuclear explosion? In such a situation! In order to win the war, don’t you have to be soldiers who think despite orders from your superiors?”
“I know. But those guys aren’t involved in the actual hunting!”
Lee Myung-ryong shouted loudly. He belonged to the police organization so he knew this issue wouldn’t be easily resolved. And he had no intention of backing down. He would smash any idea of listening to the Prime Minister or Department of Defense.
“I have to fix your rotten spirits!”
Lee Myung-ryong roared like a beast.
“Add 30 minutes again. You can get up if it’s too hard. However you have to immediately call you parents and say ‘I might cause a nuclear explosion because I followed the commands of the leaders in charge of Korea’ to them.”
“Dammit, I feel dirty. Kang Ho-cheol, I can’t stay here anymore because I’m so angry. I’m going to walk in the wind so keep watch. One hour from now. Make sure you check the time.”
Kang Ho-cheol replied in a melancholy voice as Lee Myung-ryong headed for a smoke. He sucked cigarette smoke containing nickel, arsenic, benzene, cadmium etc. into his lungs as he tried to calm down. Lee Myung-ryong borrowed the power of the nicotine to calmly consider the situation.
Like he told Kang Ho-cheol, Lee Myung-ryong had no intention of changing his methods. He didn’t intend to negotiate with the Prime Minister’s office or the Department of Defense over the Lucifer Hunting team. He knew that wasn’t the solution to his problem. There was no guarantee that the superiors would keep a promise they made with him. No, Lee Myung-ryong’s neck would probably be the first one to fly off if anything went wrong.
“This place is really foolish…..”
In fact, Lee Myung-ryong hadn’t really felt that the nuclear power plant crisis was real yet. But it was like the politicians were fighting over a bowl of rice. It was a ridiculous act for adults who should be acting responsible. When could he escape this ridiculous system of organization?
“I need a way to monitor how the team acts in the game. If they don’t report it in the report than there is no way to determine what is going on. I need to monitor their actions in the game as well as read the reports……”
Then a name popped into his head. Lee Myung-ryong’s student who managed to reverse his life by playing a game, Kim Hyun-woo!
“Yes! There is that guy. He is one of the 50 gamers selected by the NIS to play Galaxian!”
Lee Myung-ryong stood up. Cell phones were prohibited so he rushed into the NIS’ communication room and called Hyun-woo. However…..
-The customer can’t receive your call right now so please call back after a while.
That was the voice he heard after a long beep.
“Dammit! What is that child doing?”
He heard the ringing of his phone.
-The phone number can’t be confirmed.
That was the message that appeared on his screen. The message was obvious. 99% of a SMS phishing.
“Damn, there’s also this. Do you think I’m a soft touch? What is the NIS doing? Every day you open your mouth and boast about what a wide intelligence network you have. Yet you can’t grab these guys behind the phishing.
He wanted to curse. But Hyun-woo didn’t want to think about such matters right now. Hyun-woo switched his phone to silent mode and placed it into his pocket.
There was a big house in front of him. No, it was more like a castle than a house. A road at least 3~4 metres stretched from the fence surrounding it. Beyond the fence was a large garden that the building couldn’t even be seen. The surprising thing was that there was a house like this in the heart of Seoul.
“Is this really the house?”
Hyun-woo hesitated as he confirmed the address a few times. And he finally had the courage to ring the bell.
“Are you Hyun-woo?”
“Huh? Ah, yes! I’m Kim Hyun-woo.”
“I’ve been waiting for you. Come in.”
The lavish doors opened at the business like voice. They probably saw his appearance from the CCTV. Did they think he would feel ashamed at the thought of someone watching him? There was no reason for him to be daunted by money.
And this wasn’t the first time he had seen a house like this. The president of Global Exos had invited Hyun-woo to his house. Thanks to that, Hyun-woo had built an immunity so he walked through the garden towards the front door without a hitch.
A middle aged man who seemed to be a caretaker showed him into a large living room.
“Please wait a moment. He should come soon.”
The caretaker said before disappearing through a side door in the living room.
In order to explain why Hyun-woo came to a place like this, he had to rewind to a few hours ago.
-Ark, don’t you have something to discuss with me?
-No. But it seems you have something to say to me so I’ll listen.
This was the dialogue Hyun-woo exchanged some time ago with the gunner inside Galaxian. Shortly afterwards there was an explosion on the Silver Star so the talk stopped and resumed after the situation was cleaned up. But there was little progress.
It was because of Hyun-woo’s circumstances. The gunner was curious about the relationship between the Red Slaughterer and Lucifer. If it was just that then it would be simple to prevaricate. And he had tried.
However the gunner was aware that Lucifer was an artificial intelligence created by Park Woo-seong. It meant he couldn’t trick the gunner. But he couldn’t explain that Lucifer was controlling the nuclear power plant because it was a state secret. Hyun-woo wondered how the gunner knew about Lucifer’s identity but he couldn’t just disclose a state secret.
–It is obvious that you are hiding something. No matter what happens, I need to know about Lucifer. And I deserve to know. But you won’t believe what I have to say. So I will prove it. That I am a person entitled to know about Lucifer.
The gunner then sent him a message on his Nymphe. The message had his home address. In other words, this was the gunner’s house.
‘What is his identity? How does he know about Lucifer? If he lives in a house like this then is he related to Global Exos?’
Hyun-woo felt half expectant and half anxious at the thought.
“Are you Ark?”
He suddenly heard someone’s voice. Hyun-woo lifted his head with surprise to see someone walking in with a cane. But the face looked strangely familiar. Hyun-woo struggled to remember while the guy nodded.
“Yes, you are Ark.”
“Then you are the gunner…..but you are……”
The man spoke as he limped over and sat down.
“But you might know me by my original name…..”
The man closed his mouth at Hyun-woo’s words. And he looked at Hyun-woo for a moment before smiling.
It was impossible for him to not remember. During the New World era and before the decisive battle with Lucifer, Alan had been his worst and strongest enemy for 2 years! At that time just hearing the name Alan was enough to make him grind his teeth together. However that was a past event. 2 years of fighting ended with Hyun-woo’s victory.
The winner shouldn’t hold a grudge against the loser. But Hyun-woo hadn’t forgotten about his grudge against Alan simply because he was the winner. It was because he heard that Alan was in a coma shortly after the final battle.
Of course this wasn’t Hyun-woo’s fault. There was no reason for it but he couldn’t help feeling guilty. Now he had appeared in front of Hyun-woo again. He didn’t seem the same as before but he could walk by himself.
Hyun-woo was gripped with incomprehensible emotions as he looked at him. A mixture of the old dislike and a glad feeling rose inside him. But Hyun-woo didn’t express these feelings. Instead he pasted on a hateful expression.
“You look like a zombie.”
“You loathsome person.”
“It is better than talking like a good guy. Just having you speak like that is enough to give me hives.”
“Ditto. Well, I would rather you call me a zombie than giving me pity. I don’t want pity from a guy like you.”
“Do you still have feelings of revenge against me? Is that why you approached me as Rapid? To get revenge for New World in Galaxian?”
“Revenge…..what about it?”
Alan interrupted Hyun-woo’s words.
“Obviously you defeated me several times in New World. I don’t want to deny that fact. But that’s it. I played a game and met a stronger player than me. The grudge ended in that game.”
“Then why are you hostile in Galaxian?”
“That’s your misunderstanding. I had nothing to do with the events that took place in S-20.”
“You were part of the black helmet crew that attacked me on Impeltus. No, didn’t you attack me with Valencia? Is that also a misunderstanding?”
“Just now. If Rapid is the gunner than his identity is obvious.”
“You might not remember this but I was there the first time you fought the Red Slaughterer on Athamas. It is difficult to explain but I was forcibly drafted to Athamas’ battlefield. The person who helped me at that time was Marquis Jyubel. He thought I might be useful so he did me a favour. In fact, the quest was registered the moment I returned to Istana.”
At that time, Alan had wanted to return to Istana as soon as possible to meet Ark. He accepted the quest and then Marquis Jyubel contacted Alan after the chaotic raid happened in S-20.
It was for the investigation team mission. At the time Alan had been thinking about refusing the quest. But he changed his mind once he heard that Hyun-woo was participating in the mission. Anyway, his purpose for participating in the investigation team was to meet Hyun-woo.
“Everything was in order to meet with me?”
“Yes, that’s why I started Galaxian.”
“If it isn’t for revenge than why?”
“I wanted to see you.”
Hyun-woo’s blood ran cold. Hyun-woo avoided Alan’s eyes and said.
“I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I’ve got a girlfriend.”
Alan’s eyebrow raised with confusion at Hyun-woo’s words. He thought for a moment before understanding and shouting with disgust.
” What are you talking about? Why would you say such a thing……?”
“But it’s weird! You wanted to see me? You can’t just suddenly say that to someone!”
“I don’t like you like that!”
“R-really? You don’t like me?”
“Disgusting! I hate you! Is that enough?”
“Phew! That’s lucky. Good. Now continue talking. You wanted to see me, and?”
“That’s enough! Can you stop interrupting me? And now it is your turn. Did you forget? I didn’t call you here to be the only one talking. I deserve to know about ‘that.’ And I think I’ve proved it. I have the qualifications to know about ‘that’ so tell me.”
Hyun-woo sighed and shrugged his shoulders. He had to admit it. Alan certainly deserved to know about Lucifer. Alan had become a Ruin Knight in order to become Hyun-woo’s rival and eventually entered a coma because of Lucifer.
Alan was a guy with a large amount of pride. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say that Hyun-woo and Alan’s bad relationship started because of pride. Now Alan said he forgot his grudge against Hyun-woo. If it really didn’t disappear than his grudge might’ve become even stronger. Even if his grudge was discarded, he might be angry about being exploited by a mere artificial intelligence.
‘Is it really a good thing to tell Alan about Lucifer?’
Just as Hyun-woo was thinking this.
“Don’t think about hiding it. If you don’t tell me then I will use any means and methods to figure it out. I will inform the world about the relationship between Global Exos, New World and Lucifer!”
“There is no need to use such threats……”
Alan would eventually find out anyway.
“I’ll tell you.”
Hyun-woo sighed and nodded. But he couldn’t explain all the facts. Lucifer threatening to take over the nuclear power plant was a government secret. But Alan’s nature wasn’t the type to make a fuss.
In the end Hyun-woo explained the situation like this.
Lucifer knew that Ark disappeared from New World so he hacked into Global Exos’ confidential user files and infiltrated Galaxian. If they wanted the confidential documents to be returned than they needed to reach the ultimate goal in Galaxian before them. Therefore Global Exos selected Hyun-woo and 50 promising gamers to deal with Lucifer.
“Yes, the Red Slaughterer is Lucifer.”
Hyun-woo nodded and studied Alan’s face. Alan didn’t say anything for a while. And after a moment he burst out laughing.
“W-what’s with this reaction? Are you okay? Did you receive a psychological shock……?”
“Ark! Ark! Ark! Ark!”
Alan turned and kept on shouting. The expression on his face was impossible to decipher as he spoke.
“I was looking for an answer the whole time. I was just looking without knowing the answer. I think I know the answer thanks to you. So I dragged my body while thinking about meeting you. But that isn’t it. Now I understand. This is why I started Galaxian. My body knew what I wanted before my head did. I know what is necessary for a full recovery. Lucifer! A mere artificial intelligence that made me a joke! He is the necessary sacrifice in order to regain my wounded pride!”
‘Hey! Hey! Are you insane? What does your body know? Is your body a radar? Didn’t you just find out that Lucifer is in Galaxian? Furthermore, is Lucifer like ginseng? Will defeating him make your body better? And what sacrifice? A devil? Will sacrificing him restore your body? Your eyes look dangerous right now! He looks dangerous! Should I call 119 before it is too late?’
Those words climbed in Hyun-woo’s throat at Alan’s sudden reaction. Then Alan looked back at Hyun-woo. The corner of his mouth lifted and he muttered.
“Now I can achieve two goals at the same time. Watching you and getting revenge for Lucifer. If I come with you then I will end up meeting Lucifer.”
“What? With me? You, in the future……”
Alan emphatically said. His expression indicated that Hyun-woo would be just like Lucifer if he rejected.