The newly trained Jeonsa had assembled in the parade ground awaiting inspection of the region's Daechwa. It had been 2 hours since they arrived from basic training on their first posting, a riverside vehicle compound housing a column of new T-62 battle tanks.
The base itself was located on the banks of a tributary to the river Taedong. The new recruits would be tasked with defence as well as maintaining efficient running of facilities as well as any vehicles stopping by. A port was in construction to allow for large transports capable of carrying tanks along the river and providing fire where needed. New facilities such as this were a priority for the North Korean military and had been since the beginning of a war with the Sixth Republic of South Korea.
The entire incident had begun over South Korean military vessels moving into supposedly neutral waters off the west coast of the peninsula, near to Kalchong. The North Korean government claimed this was a blatant act of military incursion. Frequent exchanges between the two nations in the proceeding months gathered momentum incredibly quickly and soon an international incident was on the horizon.
The North Korean military had decided to strike first before they were stuck on the defensive. Movements began along the entire border, with any ground being a worthwhile gain. The size of the front, however, meant that forces were spread thin. South Korean infantry quickly pushed them back and decided on a more concentrated offensive in the west.
At current, their gains had reached as far Northwest as Chaeryong and the next step was looking for a way through the Molak Mountains, where heavily entrenched North Korean artillery positions were able to rain down fire on nearby cities, chief among which was Haeju, a major coastal city and the most valuable asset for the South Koreans since their movement into the North.
The North Korean Defence Force had decided to allow for extra concessions of ground that seemed inevitable and set up military installations north of the frontline. This new port base, known as Hwangju i giji leul gigyehwa, or Hwangju Mechanised Base, was to provide support to the Molak Mountains and, if it came to it, it also had the range and transport links to deliver columns of tanks to the capital Pyongyang by river in the event of it being stuck under siege.
This far away from the frontline, there were still lots of formalities around the entrance of the compound. The Daechwa had arrived through the gates after a few minutes of identity checks and salutes from the entry guards, all the while under the watch of riflemen in towers either side of the entrance.
The Daechwa's jeep drove up toward the perfectly aligned troops and he exited, cast a judging eye over the new recruits and got the men to stand at ease. He had received orders for them to make use of any available docks to ready transports for carrying the waiting tanks downstream to provide relief for weary forces in the area.
He drew in a long breath, savouring the freshness compared to the fumes that built up further south from several skirmishes and many destroyed vehicles. The troops were one of the few saving graces that could prevent these kinds of losses, and this base had to be functional and defended as a high priority.
"New children of the North Korean Army, your country is forever grateful for your patriotism and determination to protect your country from enemy invasion." He began as he always did on the first meeting with newly trained soldiers, hoping to point out their dedication to the cause.
"You have been briefed upon arrival at this facility that this port is a key chain in our nation's military for supplying vehicles to the front and your efficiency at preparing and maintaining these vehicles will result in many more miles being gained for our brave infantry on the front lines daily. The North Korean Military High Command expects you to perform at your best and beyond. Your actions will stop the South Koreans and their murderous advance into our peaceful country and will push them back from whence they came. The people of this great country will be forever in your debt, and they will be proud to have you watching o…"
The assembled men had witnessed the next few seconds in slow motion. The left temple of the Daechwa's head impacted and buckled inward, and his neck whipped back painfully. The back of his cranium exploded out in a shower of blood, brain and bone fragments. The bullet that had caused all the damage continued into the door of his jeep, a few inches from his driver. He collapsed on the ground, a large stream of blood flowing cleanly from the gaping wound. The soldiers were stunned. One moment, they had been receiving a rousing speech from their Daechwa, readying them to fight to the death for their country. The next, he was dead, lifeless on the ground not ten feet from the first row of them.
After the initial shock, the men had gathered their weapons into their arms and sprinted off for cover. They dived into barracks, garages, the mess hall, anything to keep them from being the next target.
But the bullet for the Daechwa was the only one to be fired at them. A kilometre away, in the ruins of a bunker that had been left gutted and bare from recent artillery fire, an empty shell casing clinked onto the stone floor, echoing around the walls left standing. The gunman smirked, patted the barrel and spoke quietly under his breath. "Still yet to put a foot wrong, have we?"
He saw all he wanted, so he removed the magazine, topped it up with an extra round and replaced it. Slinging the weapon over his shoulder, he turned for the exit and strolled out, casually as anyone who had just finished a day at work. Well, technically you could say it was. He took out a mobile phone from his pocket, flipped through the contacts and called the number he needed.
"It's Hunter. The job's done."
"Efficient work Mr Hunter. We appreciate you take our work as a priority, you may hear from us in future. Enjoy your pay."
The voice on the other end of the line hung up. He was used to this conversation. No small talk, just business. It was a couple of miles to his car, a beat up Daihatsu Compagno he bought wholesale, and another hour's drive to return to what he called home.
He had arrived back to a small warehouse in the more run down district of Nampo, a port city on the west coast of North Korea. From there, it was a short journey to the country's capital, Pyongyang, where he had received most business in the past weeks.
He wandered in through a side entrance and went through into the offices. He was greeted as usual by his associates.
"Hey Dave, hope you had a nice relaxing time out in the mountains!" Was the call from a worn sofa facing the television, which was showing the latest news in the area.
"Could say that. I bet you must have been so disheartened when you just had to sit here and watch telly for three hours alone, eh Mark?" Was the reply from David, glaring a smile toward his associate.
"Anyway, I'm just gonna check the payment went through. I can never be able to trust the Chinese, no matter how much work they give us here."
"Speaking of Chinese, guess what happened with Lien and Sergei."
"I know it can be hard with this line of work, but surprise me." David called from across the room, his eyes not lifting from the laptop's screen.
"Turns out those 'empty' supply trucks the South Koreans were paying them to destroy were filled with bullets and RPGs bound for Sariwon. They set the trucks on fire as planned, right? They turn the corner around the refuelling station; the first cartridges explode and send two of the damn things up in a fireball. Almost took half the surrounding building with 'em." And Mark was barely able to finish before trailing off into a few chuckles from just hearing about the incident.
"Heh… and there's the intelligence of the South Korean military shining through." was the oh-so familiarly sarcastic reply from David.
"Yeah. At least they got back undetected, as miraculous as it sounds. Still no news from Jimmy and the prices for bulk ammo from the Russians. Shouldn't be too long till he's back though, Wonsan isn't more than a few hours there and back."
David had finished checking payment and wandered over to the fridge and grabbed a couple of beers, throwing one to Mark and opening one for himself.
"At least with the way things are, we're gonna be looking at some serious pay checks in the next few weeks."
The TV suddenly caught both their attention with the new headline being read out by the announcer.
"Earlier today a North Korean Officer was confirmed dead from a gunshot wound to the head, killing him instantly. The officer was killed in the midst of making a speech to some troops at a military base near to the current front lines in the country. No conclusions have been drawn as of yet, although local authorities have been quick to blame South Korean infiltration in the area. In other news in the North/South Korean conflict, battalions of South Korean tanks and AFVs have been mobilised north of the border to begin another assault on the Molak Mountains. American military in the regions to try and quell the war have so far found that resistance in the Mountains is likely to be fierce and may continue for weeks."
"Looks like business may be booming very soon. But for now, let's just wait for the others to get back." David walked over and sat on the sofa, taking the remote and flicking through the channels. He held up his beer toward Mark. "Cheers."