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Your Basket

There is nothing in your basket.

We ought to be occupying this hotel rather than the baseball stadium. Kim Hak Su was in his room, adjusting the sheath of his combat knife, when the thought occurred to him. They had been prepared for a skirmish with the Coast Guard or the Self-Defense Force, but except for the two farmers they’d been obliged to eliminate on the island, everything had gone off without a hitch. He’d even had a conversation with two Australian girls on the ferry. They told him they were going on to Seoul and asked if he knew of a cheap hotel there, and Kim told them he was from the countryside and didn’t know Seoul well. The talk had then shifted to Korean arts and taekwondo. When the ferry landed, he and his eight comrades had split up into three groups to take cabs to their hotel. Strangely, even disconcertingly, it had an English name: Sea Hawk. On the way there from the landing he had also seen from the cab English lettering on restaurants and signs, including LIQUOR SHOP and RICE S H O P . He asked the driver whether this was an American residential area. “Nah,” the elderly driver had said with a deprecating chuckle. “But nowadays ya see English just about everywhere.” In a corner of their minds, the educated classes in the Republic all combined a deep-seated hatred of the Japanese with an uncomfortable sort of respect for a country that had once fought so fiercely against the West. The same sentiment was probably shared by people in China, South Korea, Vietnam, and Indonesia as well. In the Republic the most prominent factories, roads, bridges, and tunnels had all been built by the Japanese during the occupation. The Chongjin Steel Company, the chemical-fertilizer company in Kamhung, and the bridge linking Korea and China on the Tumen River were also largely constructed by the Japanese. Yet even if this mixture of animosity and grudging respect was common in East Asia as a whole, what did it matter anymore? Japan had degenerated into a country that was little more than America’s servile, tail-wagging lapdog. While Han was checking them in, Kim and his comrades took in their surroundings. The lobby’s ceilings, walls, and floors were all made of marble, as if it were a palace. People were coming and going in every direction, while others sat conversing idly in the coffee bar. Many of the men and women looked vulgar, with hair dyed in the manner of Westerners, absorbing the effluence of decadent Western music, and consuming Western food and drink. There was even a man with an earring, as though he were a woman. Heeding Han’s warning that they should be prepared to fight if the police were summoned because of any problems concerning registration, Kim had his hand on the pistol inside his backpack. The hotel staff, however, merely bowed and grinned. Han later noted wryly that they weren’t even asked for their passports. A bellhop came to take Kim’s baggage; though Japanese, he was dressed as an African. Kim was tempted to punch the man. He seemed to have stepped out of some sort of comedy film or come directly from a costume party. Kim had once visited several Eastern European countries when they were still part of the Soviet bloc. In the first-class hotels there, the bellhops had worn simple tuxedos or high-collared uniforms, with bow ties. He glared at the “African” until the poor man started profusely apologizing for what he took to have been some breach of courtesy on his part. When Han later asked his second-in-command what had happened, Kim told him that the bellhop had been dressed in an African costume. “Wasn’t that insulting?” Han explained that the Sea Hawk was known for having international themes to its various levels, and that the floor the nine of them were on was supposed to represent Africa. Any disrespect was unintentional, he said. The decor did indeed smack of something African. The bedcovers were of a tie-dyed fabric, the chair backrests shaped like horns, and the walls decorated with native spears and shields. As Kim unpacked his knife, pistol, and machine gun, he complained to Pak Myeong, his roommate, asking why a Japanese luxury hotel would give itself an African flavor. “Does it matter?” asked Pak, checking the safety catch and magazine of his own gun and then slipping the first hand grenade into his hip belt. “Africa, Mars, Hades—what difference does it make?” He went on calmly inspecting his equipment. This, thought Kim, is a very cool-headed young man. There were few people in the SOF who would say anything to Kim when his temper was up, and even the most stalwart did so with some trepidation. The only exception was Han Seung Jin, a man Kim trusted and respected more than any other officer. But here Kim was turning red with rage, and this youngster Pak Myeong didn’t seem intimidated and didn’t try to mollify him. At the age of twenty-three, Pak had made quite a name for himself with the 907th Battalion when, while serving for six months as a propaganda broadcaster in the demilitarized zone, he managed to persuade no fewer than three officers from the South to defect. On reflection, Kim could see that Pak was right. They had taken rooms in the hotel so they could check their equipment and go over operational plans prior to carrying out the mission, and the decor was nothing to get worked up about. Nodding slightly at the boy, he raised the cuff of his trousers and began to attach the knife sheath to his ankle. But deep down he still thought they should be taking over the hotel. He would have liked to slit the throats of those Japanese baggage carriers dressed as Africans. The sight of those buffoons bowing and scraping before foreign tourists was mind-boggling. Where was the Japan, he grumbled aloud as he finished securing his knife, that once shook not only Asia but the entire world? His whole perception of the country was being warped. As he tucked a fourth grenade into his belt, Pak reassured his superior that he quite understood his feelings. It was the Japanese, he said, whose perceptions had become warped. His eyes turned toward the television set, which the bellhop had left on after explaining its various functions. A man in a yellow wool sweater, his fingernails painted and his face daubed with make-up, appeared on the screen along with a small dog. The dog had long hair, a pointed muzzle, and extraordinarily large eyes; and around its torso was a sweater just like its master’s. In response to the emcee’s question about the dog’s favorite food, the man grinningly replied that it was a meat broth delivered by a specialty restaurant for pets. Pak looked away from the screen. “After losing the war,” he said, “Japan became America’s mistress and managed to become rich in a hurry. Now that the economy’s in a shambles, it’s starting to feel bitter about a lot of things. That’s on top of its usual sense of inferiority and guilt. The Japanese have nothing to look forward to and no plan of action. A country that knows what it wants, and knows what it needs to do to achieve that, wouldn’t dress up its workers as Africans.” Kim thought admiringly that he was quite right about this. His respect for Han’s choice of men grew all the more. Looking again at the dog on the screen, Pak remarked quite seriously: “Much too scrawny to go into a tan’gogi soup.” Kim had to agree. The attack on the baseball stadium was to begin at 19:00. Kim and Pak joined the other members of the team in Han’s room for a final cross-check. Designed for two people, it was crowded with nine. Han sat in a chair by the window. Next to the table beside him stood Jo Su Ryeon. Kim sat in a chair on the other side of the table, the remaining six on the bed and floor. This was the final run-through; they had already gone over all the details ad nauseam. The first team, consisting of Han and Jo, would enter the stadium from Gate 3, immediately occupy the broadcasting booth, announce the military seizure of the area, and simultaneously convey the KEF’s demands to the Japanese government. The remaining seven would be divided into three teams. Second-in-command Kim Hak Su and Ri Gwi Hui would enter from Gate 2 and seize the first-base infield seats; Jang Bong Su and Kim Hyang Mok would enter from Gate 4 and cover the third-base infield seats; and Choi Hyo Il, Cho Seong Rae, and Pak Myeong would enter from Gate 8 and take control of all the outfield seats. The stadium had a total of thirty-two exits, and obviously they couldn’t cover them all. Therefore, anyone attempt- ing to leave despite orders to the contrary would be warned with a show of small arms. Anyone disregarding that warning would be shot. Han handed out a transceiver to each of them. It seemed there was some danger of the cellular networks overloading if everyone in the Dome tried to use their phones at once. The sun was beginning to set. From their rooms they could see the streets of Fukuoka and the sea. Beyond the city, as far as the hills, stretched row upon row of private homes and office buildings. Han was saying that he would signal the withdrawal from the stadium by transceiver. The hostages would then all be released. Were there any questions? Choi was the first to put up his hand: What should be done in the case of mass resistance? Tonight’s Pacific League opening game would attract more than thirty thousand fans. If they took the risk of fighting back, weapons would be useless against them. The scenario was improbable, Han explained, but if this happened, they should retreat and join up with the first team in the broadcasting booth, temporarily holding back the crowds with random machine-gun fire. Ri asked the next question: Was it to be announced from the begin- ning that they weren’t regular troops from the Republic but rather a rebel army faction? “Of course,” Han replied. “To do otherwise would be to open the Republic to possible attack. We will say that we are fighting against the dictatorial regime of Kim Jong Il, that we desire peace for the Republic, the happiness of the people, and the unification of Korea, and that we are here to advance those demands.” Hearing this, Ri bit her lip and pressed a handkerchief to her eyes, and Kim Hyang Mok put an arm around her shoulders. The others, too, looked solemn. Seeing this, Han rose to his feet and said gently: “Come on now. Buck up.” Looking from face to face, he continued: “In 1853, a peasant named Ha Nil Ga from North Hamgyong Province crossed the Tumen River into Russia. Ha was the first emigrant-pioneer, enduring the harsh Russian climate and many hardships to develop the land. Thanks to his revolutionary efforts, more Koreans followed in large numbers, and eventually the Korean Autonomous Region was created. After that, many patriots made their way there, some voluntarily, others fleeing oppression from the Japanese imperialists. Never losing heart, though accused of being renegades, traitors to the Fatherland, and spies, they remained steadfast in their aims. Those patriots are now wholeheartedly revered in the Republic as forebears of the Revolution. For the sake of bringing peace and security to the Republic, we too must endure the humiliation of being temporarily branded rebels, but let us keep in mind the honor that will accrue to our families. We should have no regrets. Only through loyalty and sacrifice can the nation’s happiness be won. And only through loyalty and sacrifice can ordinary people be transformed into heroes.” Ri Gwi Hui dabbed at her eyes, nodding, then bowed deeply to Han, who brushed off her emotion by remarking that energy expended on tears and apologies should be refocused on the task at hand. Kim Hak Su thought to himself that as long as they had Han as their leader, their spirits wouldn’t waver. He now asked a question himself about the transceiver channels; and Ri, who had regained her composure, replied as the team’s communications expert. Then Cho Seong Rae wanted to know under what circum- stances the rocket-propelled grenades could be used. Han had a ready answer: if the police launched a massive counterattack, or if it became necessary to put on a show of force during the process of securing the stadium. The sun was lower on the horizon, its slanting rays casting orange patterns on the sea. The townscape of Fukuoka, for all its massive size, had something unreal about it. Even the vehicles on the streets below had the appearance of toys, and the urban scene as a whole resembled a well-constructed model. From the moment they entered the hotel rooms and looked from the windows on the upper floors, they had been dazzled by the sheer scale of it all. And yet within five minutes the wonder had worn off. As Kim Hak Su gazed at the view, he wondered whether he should bring up something that had been on his mind since their encounter with the fruit sellers. It was still trou- bling him now, though he couldn’t quite define what it was. He was brooding over this at the window when he found Han standing beside him. “What are you thinking about, Comrade Kim?” he said, clap- ping his second-in-command on the shoulder. “You look worried, and that’s not like you.” Kim shook his head. “I’m not exactly worried,” he said. “It’s just a nagging thought.” Han grinned at him and said, “Well, you’d better get it off your chest now. There won’t be time for discussions once we’ve moved in and are on our transceivers.” “I was thinking,” Kim said, “about the two fruit sellers. I’m not good with words, so I don’t know if I can explain it, but when Choi poked his fingers in the one man’s eyes, the other one didn’t try to make a run for it. And then when I got angry with that baggage carrier, he reacted like a dog hit on the head with a hammer. He just stood there and apologized.” Han suggested that when people are truly frightened, they become incapable of understanding what’s happening to them, and Kim seemed to accept this explanation. In any case, they had more pressing things to do, such as checking the message Jo Su Ryeon was to broadcast. And yet... the moment Choi punctured the eyes of the young man, something in the father’s body seemed to cave in, leaving him as empty as a straw doll. In the next instant Kim himself had grabbed the father’s shoulder and crushed his jaw with the heel of his hand, and he remembered how little resistance the blow had met with. It wasn’t that the older man’s jaw was fragile, but rather that all the life had gone out of him: he had already accepted death. Kim had previously killed two people using gyeoksul. The first was a political criminal in a concentration camp. The second was a caged special-forces infiltrator from the South, already half-dead after torture and interrogation. Yet neither of the victims had simply given in. The last one, in fact, had resisted like a frenzied animal. To Kim, the death of the fruit seller was mystifying. “Esteemed ladies and gentlemen,” Jo Su Ryeon had written, in stiff but polite Japanese. “To everyone gathered here in Fukuoka Dome, a very good day to you. My name is Han Seung Jin, com- mander of the rebel army faction of the Special Operations Forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea...” Choi pointed out that “day” should be changed to “evening”; Jo agreed and started over. Everyone enjoyed listening to him read. Kim, though fluent in Japanese, had no gift for words and so continued to stare out the window. The sun was setting, and a golden haze now enveloped the hills. As a boy, he had thought that every evening when the sun went down, it was extinguished, and that what rose the next morning was a new sun, born in the night. It was in this endless dying and renewal, he thought, that the notion of constancy must originate. Almost as constant, back in the Republic, was the image of the Japanese as complete monsters. But was that, in fact, the case? When he hit the fruit seller, it didn’t even feel as if he’d punched the jaw of a living being. That lack of any sort of resistance continued to puzzle him. “This way for guests heading to Fukuoka Dome to see the season’s opening game between the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and the Chiba Lotte Marines...” A female staff member stood at the entrance of a passage next to the hotel reception counter repeating this message. As the nine walked past her, with Han Seung Jin in the lead, she smiled and bowed deeply to them. Kim Hak Su had hanging from his shoulder the fishing-rod case containing the RPG. In his backpack was an Uzi sub-machine gun, hand grenades, and anti-tank rockets; a pistol was hidden under his windbreaker. He was the last to enter the passageway, both sides of which were lined with shops selling clothing, souvenirs, and shoulder bags. Groups heading toward the stadium were walking briskly. Many of the people were wearing caps and windbreakers emblazoned with a cartoon-hawk emblem. One group began to sing what sounded like a fight song and looked over at Han and his companions, as though urging them to join in. Han smiled at them, nodding with feigned enthusiasm. Emerging from the passage, they saw Fukuoka Dome stretching out before them, like an immense spaceship in a piece of science fiction. The game had already begun; from beyond the soaring steel wall came the roar of the fans. Breaking into their four teams, they headed for their assigned entrances. Choi Hyo Il, Cho Seong Rae, and Pak Myeong followed the wall to the left; the others went right. Kim Hak Su and Ri Gwi Hui had the farthest to go and so quickened their pace, Kim striding off and Ri trotting in his wake. The distinctive, awe-inspiring form of the Dome, gleaming silver in the reflection of streetlamps and car headlights, seemed to bear down upon them. We don’t have any buildings like this in the Republic, thought Kim. Pyongyang’s Arch of Triumph and the bronze statue of the Great Leader were certainly imposing, but they weren’t modern like this and had a very different feeling. Pairs of spectators called to each other to hurry up as they trotted toward the entrance. The local baseball team, the Hawks, seemed to have quite a following, with tickets for the opening game being difficult to procure. Without being informed of their purpose, a collaborator in Japan had been asked to buy them, along with mobile phones, transceivers, and maps, but had failed to get any tickets. Since their weaponry wouldn’t pass unnoticed through the metal detectors at the gates anyway, however, Operations Command had concluded that it wouldn’t matter if they had tickets or not. They passed Gate 4 and came to Gate 3. Han’s team would be entering here, but there was no time to wait and see if they arrived safely. Jang Bong Su and Kim Hyang Mok were presumably already inside the stadium, and the absence of gunfire, explosions, or any hue and cry suggested that they hadn’t met with resistance. They had been authorized to open fire if necessary; if initial warning shots went unheeded, they were to aim at arms and legs. To the left was a children’s recreation room. According to the building plan that had been drummed into their heads, Gate 2 should soon be in view, and now there it was, marked in huge letters. A sole ticket-taker, wearing an orange windbreaker with the team logo on the back, was leaning against a pillar next to the entrance. Kim had Ri go ahead. She gestured to indicate that her companion had the tickets, but before the man in orange could say anything, Kim had a pistol pointed at his forehead: “Not a word. Keep your mouth shut. We are Special Operations Forces from North Korea.” The man just looked at him, dumbfounded. Kim lowered his pistol. “Do you understand? Don’t move,” he said, and walked on. “Wait!” the man cried in a quavering voice. “Wait a minute!” Kim turned back to see him standing motionless, his face sheet- white. “That’s not allowed!” He didn’t seem to know how to react, as if unsure whether “North Korea” and the pointed pistol were for real or just a prank. Kim feared things were going to end as they had on the island with the fruit sellers. When he ignored him and pressed on, the man shouted after him, “Stop!” Up ahead at the metal detector, Ri Gwi Hui was pointing her pistol at a security guard. The man was dressed in a navy-blue uniform and armed only with a nightstick. Next to him was a female guard. Ri, gripping her pistol with both hands, kept it right at the man’s nose, but to her consternation he reacted with no more than a faint smile of embar- rassment, intermittently glancing at his female colleague, as though nervously trying to communicate something to her. If they lost any more time, Han’s announcement might begin before they were in position. Stepping ahead of Ri, Kim took the guard’s shoulder with his left hand, pushed him down, and smashed his right knee into his chest. The man fell to his knees with a rasping groan, holding himself and writhing in pain, while the woman covered her mouth with her hands and gave a muffled scream. “Tallyeora! ” Kim barked at Ri, and the two began running. Now inside the stadium, they sprinted down a long corridor, passing another security guard. “No running, please,” was all he said, but suddenly two more guards were coming toward them from the opposite direction. With the other teams presumably already in the stadium, they must have been alerted that there were intruders. Kim and Ri turned left and ran up a flight of stairs leading toward the stands and then into a tunnel-like corridor, where three female ushers asked to see their tickets. Brushing past them, they ran on until they came out into the open air. The sight that met Kim’s eyes was overwhelming: a field of dazzling green artificial grass and a lofty gray ceiling composed of a massive steel framework in complex patterns. He had never seen such a huge sports arena. Nor, for that matter, had he ever seen a baseball game. The whoops and shouts of the spectators shook the air. He was astonished most of all by the gigantic electronic scoreboard directly in front of him. The sheer scale of it prevented him at first from grasping what it was, and for a moment he just stood staring at it. A cartoon hawk was running across a display that had to be a thousand times larger than any movie screen in the Republic. The entire stadium reverberated with the sound it emitted, as colorful swashes of light pulsated and swirled. Ri ran up one of the flights of concrete steps that divided the spectator seats into various sections, and Kim followed. They needed to get to the top so as to have the whole array of infield seats before them and the wall at their backs. With every step Kim took, the RPG banged against the inside of the fishing-rod case. Now he heard the shrill sound of a whistle and looked back to see three guards pointing at him and ordering him to stop. Ahead of him, Ri was still bounding up the steps. The security service would have already notified the police. Han’s announcement had to be made before they surrounded the stadium. As they passed a young drinks vendor with an ice chest suspended from a strap around his neck, the kid caught sight of the pistols, as did some of the spectators. They heard voices behind them saying things like, What’s going on? Was that a gun? Looking back, Kim saw people staring at him with looks of disbelief. At this stage, the spec- tators could still have left the stadium easily enough, and yet none of them had done so even after seeing two figures dash up the steps with pistols drawn. Again Kim felt the same dread premonition, but he couldn’t let it distract him from the task at hand. At the top of the stairs, he handed his backpack and fishing-rod case to Ri. Still holding his pistol, he stood guard, scanning the crowd below while Ri unzipped the various pouches and removed the two Uzi sub-machine guns. She handed one to Kim, together with a spare magazine, and strapped the other to her shoulder. Next came the eight hand grenades, four to hang on Kim’s belt, the other four for herself. Finally, having removed the RPG from the rod case, she again slipped the backpack on, leaving one of the pouches half-open so as to have immediate access to the rockets. A few spectators nearby began to raise a fuss—What are they doing? Is this for real? Are they filming a movie or something?—but no one was attempting to escape. There was a lull in the game, while the batters and fielders switched over. A commercial for beer appeared on the giant scoreboard, accompanied by an ear-splitting jingle. The crowd around Kim were showing signs of agitation, and members of the cheering section below were looking up this way with puzzled expressions. The cheering section was split into three contingents of about a hundred people each, gathered in three separate spots along the third-base line. The members stood out because of their headbands and strange white getup, not to mention the huge banner bearing the hawk emblem that each contingent was gathered around. Some had painted their faces like primitive savages. Six minutes had gone by, and still the announcement had not begun. The guards assembled at the foot of the stairs all had wireless handsets to their ears, no doubt waiting for instructions. “Team One, Team One. Colonel Han. Comrade Jo Su Ryeon. This is Team Two. Can you hear me?” Ri got no response from the broadcasting booth, but Jang Bong Su of Team Three and Cho Seong Rae of Team Four checked in to ask if she had heard from their commander. “Not yet,” she replied and they reported the same. The situation was similar for all three teams: the crowds around them were growing restless and the guards were closing in. A video advertisement for Toyota now flashed on the enormous screen, and Kim found himself irresistibly drawn in by the size and brilliance of the images. A dark-purple car driving on a seaside road was suddenly seen soaring into the air, the next instant racing through a red desert, then plunging into the sand, and finally barreling around a caldera lake that looked quite like the summit of Mount Paektu. Ri nudged him in the side: there were six more guards by the gate, pointing in their direction, talking into their transceivers, and attempting to calm the spectators. Standing at the top of the stairs, Kim kept his eyes to the right while Ri looked left. One of the spectators nearby, a man in his thirties with two primary-school-age children in tow, spoke to them: “Excuse me.” Kim glared at him. “Can we go to the restroom?” When the man repeated the question, Kim motioned with his chin for them to go. The man thanked him, got up, and, together with the children, slowly walked down to the end of the stairs, where the guards called him over for questioning, their eyes still on the intruders. A woman sitting to the left of Ri said to her, “Where are you from?” just as a transmission came in from Team One. “This is Jo Su Ryeon. Can all of you hear me?” Ri replied: “This is Team Two, over.” The sound emanating from the billboard and the din of the spectators’ voices drowned out Jo’s voice. Ri pressed the receiver tightly to her ear and repeated his message for Kim: “The broad- casting booth has been secured. Light resistance. No casualties. Our message will be read in one minute. Over.” Ri responded: “Team Two reporting. Our position is secure. No resistance; no casualties. Over.” The transmission ended with Jang Bong Su and Cho Seong Rae providing much the same information. Ri had spoken loudly, in a clear voice, and now people in the crowd nearby were saying, Hangul! They’re speaking Hangul! The clock on the scoreboard read 19:13. In two minutes the Airborne Squadron would be taking off with the four companies of the 907th Battalion on board. Kim was concerned about the situation in the broadcasting booth but told himself that with a man like Han Seung Jin in command, there would be no indecision, no confusion, and no mistakes in judgment. Han had covered for Kim when he went AWOL from the 907th Battalion to attend his mother’s funeral, as a result of which his superiors had subjected Han to a brutal punishment involving a blowtorch, which left a keloidal clump where his ear had been. In tears, Kim had gone down on his knees to apologize to his benefactor, who laughed it off, saying that it only meant he’d not be able to wear reading glasses when old age caught up with him. The youngish woman to Ri’s left spoke again. “Excuse me. Are you Korean?” She clearly assumed they were from the South. She was wearing a cap with the Hawks emblem and eating noodles from a polystyrene cup. “No,” replied Ri. “Guess not,” said the woman to the man next to her, apparently her husband. She was still munching her noodles. “Don’t talk to the spectators,” Kim admonished his partner. “Don’t answer their questions.” The woman’s chopsticks were in constant motion as she stared at the two of them, her gaze shifting from their faces to their weapons and then back again. “Esteemed ladies and gentlemen.” Han’s voice came over the loudspeakers. “To everyone gathered here in Fukuoka Dome,” he continued, “a very good evening to you. My name is Han Seung Jin, commander of the rebel army faction of the Special Operations Forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. We are inter- rupting the festivities here today in opposition to the dictatorship of Kim Jong Il, for the sake of peace in our Republic, the happiness of our people, and the fulfillment of their dearest wish—the unification of our Fatherland. In view of this development, tonight’s game is now terminated. I repeat: the game is now terminated.” The response to the announcement was muted. No one seemed particularly surprised or frightened. Most had blank, uncomprehend- ing expressions on their faces. “My troops are all in position. We are well trained and armed with automatic weapons. For the time being, you must stay where you are. Do not leave your seats until you are told to. Under duress, we will open fire. If you engage in any sort of misconduct, we will shoot to kill.” The players at bat came out on the field and stared up at the broadcasting booth. The umpires walked toward the booth, stopped—perhaps able to see for themselves the men or the weapons in there—then motioned to the players to return to the bench. The three infield and two outfield umps came trotting back as well. The batboys likewise disappeared, and soon the field was empty. The screen on the scoreboard continued to pulsate with the animated bird and the message GO, GO, GO HAWKS, but the sound was off and the spectators had fallen silent. A message came over Ri’s transceiver. She listened and repeated for Kim’s sake, “This is Team One. Have heard from the Japanese Cabinet Secretariat and passed on our demands. Waiting for a reply. The airborne forces are on course. Repeat. Airborne forces have been launched. All teams, report your situation.” The clock on the scoreboard now read 17:19. The aircraft transporting the four companies would be arriving in two hours, bypassing southern airspace. Tense-looking security guards in the Dome were still gathering at the gates. As part of the demands made to the Japanese government, the airborne troops were to be allowed to land safely; in addition, no police personnel or vehicles were to enter within a five-kilometer radius of the Dome. Any sign of police activity inside that area would result in the execution of spectators. Team Four reported to Jo Su Ryeon that the spectators were getting restless. Kim Hak Su too could hear murmuring from the first-base infield seats. Everyone was now aware of the armed intruders and understood that the game had been cancelled, but no one among the thirty thousand spectators had the faintest idea how to deal with the situation. Ri looked at Kim and pointed down toward the home-team dugout. The three cheering-section contingents were merging there, each group flying their big Hawks banner. A large, bearded man in front of the largest group, carrying the biggest banner, appeared to be their leader. “What the hell?” he shouted into his megaphone, looking up at Kim Hak Su. The words prompted scattered laughter and cries of, “You tell ’em!” “You really from North Korea?” the bearded man shouted. “Your girlfriend up there—she in one of the Dear Leader’s Joy Brigades?” In response to this, a roar of laughter came from as far away as the outfield bleachers. The guards joined in too. It wasn’t that the man’s remark had struck anyone as genuinely funny. Kim recognized this laughter as an attempt to release tension and suppress fear. The series of advertising messages on the enormous screen continued automatically, and the voice of the man with the megaphone rever- berated around the stadium. Handing his banner to a fellow member of the cheering section, he began walking slowly toward Kim and Ri, dangling and swinging his megaphone. Over the transceiver came Han’s voice saying: “Team Two, can you hear me? Stop those people in white!” Ri asked Kim what they should do. “If they come any closer,” he said, “we’ll order them to stop. If they don’t obey, we’ll fire warning shots in the air. Don’t fire at their feet. The bullets might ricochet.” The groups in white had converged and were filing into the aisle behind their bearded leader. “How many do you think there are?” he asked Ri. “Two hundred fifty to three hundred.” There were no heroes here, thought Kim. This fool may think he can shout into a megaphone and swagger up to armed soldiers, but that’s only because he doesn’t know danger when he sees it. He’s an idiot, like that clown in the hotel. The bearded man reached the bottom of the stairs, where a guard tried to restrain him, only to be sent flying. “Hell!” the man shouted at him. “Why don’t you lot go up there? North Korea, my ass! Nobody messes with Fukuoka!” Again the stadium erupted in laughter. Players came out of the dugouts to watch. With his retinue in tow, the bearded man began to mount the stairs one by one. “Stop! If you come any closer, I’ll shoot,” Kim shouted. People in the crowd moved out like widening ripples on water. “Go ahead and shoot!” the man yelled, thumping his chest and taking another step as though to call Kim’s bluff. Again there were cheers. If he fired warning shots, fools like these would probably just keep coming. Inside, they were terrified, but extreme fear can drive people over the edge. If he shot him in the legs, he might ignite that fear and cause a stampede. If they all rushed them at once, he’d have to use the machine gun, but killing several dozen of them would make negotiations with the government more difficult. These people were like kids throwing a tantrum—or worse, zombies who’d lost touch with their real souls. At moments of crisis, people who just couldn’t deal with the stress often did things that were suicidal. A child you could just take in hand, but how do you get people like this in touch with their souls? They had to be shocked back to their senses, but how do you do that? How do you get a herd of zombies to go back into their graves? “Take cover, down there!” So saying, Kim picked up the RPG that lay at his feet. To avoid the back-blast, he stepped away from the wall and ordered Ri to load the weapon. “What’s the target?” she asked. “Never mind. Just load it!” He raised the muzzle to an elevated position, knowing the outer limit of the weapon’s range. “Loaded!” said Ri, and Kim pulled the trigger. An explosive blast ripped through the stadium, followed by a powerful shock wave as the rocket soared above the playing field toward the huge electronic scoreboard. A second later, half the scoreboard was reduced to shreds of plastic and glass, as gray smoke poured from what remained and sparks shot toward the roof. The crowd was hushed, all faces frozen. Now at last they knew where they stood. Kim put aside his RPG and, descending the steps, approached the cheerleader. “Well? Shall I shoot you?” he asked, pressing the muzzle of his pistol against the bearded man’s pale forehead. The man only moaned, a damp stain spreading on his white trousers. “Now go back to your seat!” Kim commanded him. Bobbing his head liked a chastened child, he did as he was told.     Extract from From the Fatherland, with Love, by Ryu Murakami.