Buzzer Back Story

Steampunk gunJin-Sang swallowed as his squad neared the house. It looked odd and out of place, no matter how you looked at it. With its bay windows and teetering spires, it was easily recognisable as the only western townhouse in Rasin. He had requested this posting at the uppermost tip of North Korea, if only to get away from the constant tension of the 38th parallel. Normally house raids would be relatively standard procedure, but there was something unsettling about the reports he had read. Neighbours, even from hundreds of metres away, testified that strange lights would flicker in the windows during the night, and often told of weird crackling noises that made their teeth ache. His sergeant, an aging man with the customary scars and stubble, had no such qualms, or if he did, showed no sign of them. He called for a halt, and continued on alone, marching up to the door and knocking hard enough to shake dust from the windows. After a few moments, hearing no reply, he knocked again and called out in angry Korean;
 “KPA! Open up!”
 There were a few clanking noises from within, but still nobody answered the door. Losing his patience, the sergeant signalled to Jin-Sang and his comrades, who stomped up to the threshold in intimidating unison. The two privates at the head of the squad began to ram their rifle butts into the door handle in turn, slowly splintering the wood around it. Jin-Sang and his squad mates not occupied with the door aimed their rifles at torso height, in case somebody should be on the other side. With a final crack, the doorknob fell to the ground and the door swung inwards. Yelling in Korean, they stormed in to the house, guns up. Straight ahead was a staircase, which the sergeant covered. Jin-Sang turned right with one of his comrades to clear a living room. He had just formed the word in his mouth when a sizzling noise tore through the commotion of the raid. He spun in time to see an arm sized cloud of steam laced with sparkling electricity blast his sergeant out of the door. Somebody shouted and fired up the stairs, only to be slammed into the wall by a second blast. Jin-Sang raised his rifle and stalked back to the entrance hall, his squad mate covering him. With terror coursing through him, he leaned through the door so that barely a sliver of his eye was showing. He saw a man in a coat wearing a gasmask and a helmet. He pulled back immediately and felt his scalp tingle as the air where his head was ionised into oblivion. He waved a retreat to his friend and they crept backwards and took cover behind the furniture. After a few moments, the gas mask poked around the door. They didn’t have time to fire before it pulled back. This time Jin-Sang got a better look at the man. His helmet had a white star on it, and his coat had chevrons on the shoulders. Was he an American? Why was he here?
 A section of the wall melted and gave way to the terrible steam-gun. Jin-Sang ducked and hear a blast sear overhead. There were hurried footsteps and then the soldiers ducked as a final blast shattered the window they were facing. The American leapt over their sheltering sofa and through the broken glass, landing awkwardly in the street. Jin-Sang’s training forced him to the windowsill where he took a bead on the fleeing man. As he was about to fire, the American produced a small box and jammed a button on its side. In a flash of blue and a spherical display of lightning, he was gone, leaving nothing but a small black smudge on the tarmac. Jin-Sang and his fellow private exchanged astonished glances. Headquarters was never going to believe this.

from the biography of Bernard Maets

The Unknown Wonder of Invention – by Jason Crick

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