Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 7
On the table were the French Army’s fundamental guns: the Epal, Israel’s Galil, Germany’s PSG-1, and USA’s M40. These weapons, made to kill a person in the most efficient way, were gleaming on the table.
The PSG-1 cost 4 million Francs, an expensive gun with a precision of 0.7MOA. The M40 boasted a 1MOA with a range of 1,000 meters. For a mercenary, weapons mattered. Pief was counting on Park and laid out some choices to buy his trust.
“Dragunov!” Mu Ssang replied.
“What? You want to turn down a 4-million Franc countess and hold onto some 2000-Franc trash?”
What kind of an idiot was he? He had just kicked away 4 million Francs rolling into his pockets.
If he truly liked the Dragunov, he could have still chosen the PSG-1, sold it, and bought a Dragunov. It made him look like a naive Korean even more.
“What’s the reason?”
“It’s strong and quick.”
“The accuracy is lacking.”
Pief felt that his words would have no meaning. Park had managed to display a kill-all ability with the Dragunov.
Pief gifted the Dragunov without a second thought. He had managed to sway a god-level sniper with 2000 Francs. He caught a tuna with shrimp bait. He adored Mu Ssang, who was going to help him climb the ladder to a higher position. But Mu Ssang’s soul wasn’t that of a pet. It was that of a predator. Whether Pief’s goal, viewed through rose-colored glasses, would really come to be was something worth watching.
Sniper training was added to his daily schedule. Curses flew out of Mu Ssang’s mouth, “Damn, they’re still fussing even after I placed in the top 5 percent of the trainees. Master was right.”
Sniper training was a series of endurance tests, overcoming torment after torment. It was considered the most brutal training within the army. He regretted it, but it was too late. In the military, when one was asked to die, they had to die. That was why one had to make the right connections from the beginning.
According to the American Heritage Organization’s wartime research, 7,000 bullets were wasted killing one enemy during World War I. In the Vietnam war, over 25,000—three times the amount—were wasted.
Based on the value of a dollar in 1980, a 5.56-millimeter NATO bullet cost the US 70 cents to produce. This meant that the American military wasted over 17,500 dollars killing one enemy during the Vietnam War.
That amount was a military man’s yearly pay. This was only possible within the United States, a first-world country. Military spending was at its peak.
According to the French DGSE’s reports, a sniper used 1.3 bullets to kill its target, so it cost a dollar to kill one enemy. In the Vietnam War, a sniper could have killed 17,500 people with 17,500 dollars. The sniper could destroy a unit and, on top of that, a regiment. A life wasn’t worth the price of a coffee.
Voltaire once said, “God is not on the side of the big battalions but on the side of those who shoot best.” An army with good snipers was the best army. A sniper’s existence was significant enough to sway to the flow of the battle.
The purpose of an army was to prepare for war, suppress insurgencies, and kill enemies. A lot of training and plenty of experience made a good soldier and military. An army without much preparation and experience, but with high numbers of soldiers, was easy to deconstruct. And when the senior officers were incapable, the military was an ant that would be killed by a raindrop.
The most representative incident of this case was the Ssang-Ryung battle in January 1637. This was the most embarrassing failure in Korea’s history.
King Injo was frightened and fled to the Namhansanseong Fortress without fighting a single battle. Over 4 million soldiers moved from both the Gyeong-sang’s western and eastern provinces to save this king.
And unbelievably, the 4-million-soldier-strong army was defeated by 300 men at the battle of Ssang-Ryung. Three-hundred was not an exact number, but it was still a crushing defeat. Back then, most of the Korean army was equipped with the latest technology of that era, the gun, but was defeated against those soldiers who swung swords.
According to the records, General Huh-Wan, from the eastern provinces distributed 10 bullets to each gunner. The soldiers were new to the concept of guns and wasted the bullets, firing their guns indiscriminately. If just half of the army shot one round, they would have used over 100,000 bullets.
But they still weren’t able to defeat the 300 men with those 100,000 shots. The situation was incomprehensible. The soldiers who had used up all of their ammunition fought with others for more.
And at that moment, the Qing army advanced. The soldiers were scared and scrambled for their lives. And the Qing warriors on horses chased after the soldiers who were fleeing like ants. Several thousand men were trampled under their own comrades’ feet. The other thousands ran away. Even Huh-Wan himself was crushed by his fleeing men.
General Min Young from the western region didn’t distribute all of the bullets at once. It was only after they were up against the Qing army that they started distribution. And, at that moment, a soldier who hated Min Young set fire to the bullet storage building.
When the bullets exploded within the military camp, the soldiers panicked. And when the Qing horse riders attacked, Young’s men also trampled each other while fleeing. In the end, the fate of the army that Huh-Wan led wasn’t any different from what happened to Young’s army. Min Young was also stomped to death.
There were several conspiracy theories regarding the Ssang-Ryung battle, but the truth that Huh-wan and Min Young suffered a crushing defeat didn’t change. According to several pieces of evidence, the Joseonese army had 1,040,000 million soldiers. With such a large army, the Qing should have been defeated in a single battle.
It was the pathetic result of having untrained soldiers, incapable commanders, and a lack of experience on the battlefield.
Written early in the Ming dynasty, Liu Ji’s “One Hundred Unorthodox Strategies” included the “Cultivation” strategy that said, “a military without experienced generals and soldiers are bound to fail.” The first condition for a victorious army was well-trained soldiers and a capable commander.
Well-trained men were behind General Lee-Sun Shin in their victory against the Japanese army.
In the Three-Kingdom era, the Fifth general, Hwang Chung, became one of the five great generals alongside Jo-Ja-Ryong, Gwan-Wu, Jang-Bi, and Ma-Cho with his archery skills. Then and now, snipers were a necessity in winning a war.
On the battlefield, snipers heightened the fear of the battle and acted as a wild card to control the opponent’s movements. Sometimes they became the key to a battle. In World War I, Finland fought against the Russian army and using a well-trained sniper team, was able to stop the Russian army’s strong vanguard.
If there had been 400 qualified soldiers at Ssang-Ryung instead of 40,000 inexperienced men, the result would have been quite different. Using a simple defensive formation with gunners in four rows, they could have defeated the 300 warriors.
A sniper’s value could be calculated. A human target had an area of around 0.42m^2. And within that target, a shot could be fatal on only 40 percent of his overall body, and area of 0.16m^2.
According to the US Border Protection records, only 40 percent of bullets fired were fatal shots. This meant that the other 60 percent of the bullets hit limbs, ears, or some non-fatal area. Body armor lowered that percentage. One can assume that there were no stupid soldiers just standing around on the battlefield, so considering all the bad aspects, the kill rate is even lower.
Then what was the possibility of a 4MOA gun killing an enemy, in hiding, beyond 300 meters?
When the target was still, the head and shoulders created an area of 450cm^2. In the 300-meter range, the best possible shot with a 4MOA gun was, by the machinery’s standards, an area of 1,017cm^2. The chance of a fatal shot was 44 percent, so only one-out-of-three shots would hit the target. If only 40 percent of a target is visible, the chances of a kill further decreases to 16 percent.
In the end, only 10 percent of shots fired resulted in a fatality. If there was a misfire on the battlefield, even a critical shot was going to be difficult. Targets on the battlefield would be concealed and always in motion, and killing someone who was out of sight would further decrease the kill rate.
So it’s not hard to believe when the reports say that 25,000 bullets were wasted on one death in the Vietnam War. This is why militaries around the world tried to improve the accuracy instead of the range of their weapons.
A sniper’s psychological state can also give him an advantage. A soldier on the battlefield has a rush of adrenaline. Filled with rage, he fears nothing. Of course, beginners or those who were otherwise fearful, either cowered or screamed and became mentally unstable.
Another side of a soldier without fear was that he didn’t think he would be killed. He doubted that he would be hit by a bullet.
Many shots fired on the battlefield were stray bullets or misfires. So if a friend was to get hit, he might not have been the target for that bullet; it would just be one bullet out of millions that were fired. It would be almost a fluke if a friend had been hit by a stray bullet, and a hatred towards the enemy would accumulate until it exploded.
In movies, there is often the cliché scene where a fallen soldier dies while calling out to his friend. Some macho idiot leaps out of the hiding spot and runs forward in rage. This was something that did happen when the madness of the battlefield overruled a soldier’s fear of it.
When a sniper fires shots, however, the situation turns out differently. Every single bullet is aimed perfectly at the target. The bullets blow up the target’s head and pierce his heart.
Then, the situation changes. The belief that one won’t be hit by a bullet wavers. The realization that “I am a target,” becomes real. The death of a friend then brings forth not rage but fear because now this solder can imagine the sight of his head exploding. The mind goes blank, and the soldier puts himself in the line of fire.
This is called “Approach-Avoidance” and can be seen in animal documentaries about the Serengeti plains. Thousands of gnus are running on the plains. The wide Jambagi river is in their path. In the river, several alligators are waiting. The herd pauses momentarily, but then they jump into the river without hesitation.
Why do the gnus run toward their death?
The Approach-Avoidance theory postulates that the number of gnu that would be sacrificed to the alligators would be small compared to the numbers of the herd that survive. So the gnu proceed because, at the moment one of them is being sacrificed, several others can cross the river. The theory says that one gnu doubts that he or she would be the one caught by the alligators. Sadly, this is what makes humans no different from the gnu herds.
The term “sniper” was first used by the 18th-century English military. In the Indian mountains, there were birds called snipe, which were fast and agile, and, because of their irregular movements, they were a challenging object for target practice.
On top of that, their feathers were similar to the forest’s colors, so they were hard to find. Snipe were hardly seen and hard to shoot. It would have been a hundred times easier to shoot a lion or a tiger.
The act of shooting the snipes was called sniping, so “sniper” became the term for someone who targeted snipes.
As useful as snipers were, it took an immense amount of time and money given to cultivate them. Within Legion Etranger, there was a Deuxieme Rep just for those snipers consisting of four battalions. Sniper training began once a soldier had completed the training at Ecole and was assigned to that regiment.
In Mu Ssang’s case, he was starting early because of Pief’s intentions. Mu Ssang’s peaceful days were now over. He now was an official sniper trainee. If he was ordered to die, he had to follow that order.
Anyone could quit the regiment if they wanted to. Mu Ssang was someone who had more endurance and patience than anyone else in the world, but he never considered packing up his belongings just because his training got harder. It was nothing compared to the days he had spent in that cave in Bang Tae San.
At 23:00, while all of the trainees slept, Mu Ssang, wearing a self-made Ghillie Suit, hid in the middle of the Occitane Forest. The firing range could be seen in the distance.
That night’s training was about concealment, to stay hidden within a 250-meter radius after moving three times. Three professional training officers, all talented snipers, moved around looking for him. If they found him, he would have to repeat the training, and if they didn’t, he would receive a Glock 17 as a reward.
Pief, although this training was off the record, made sure there was a carrot on a stick so he could use this inexperienced trainee relentlessly.
The Occitane Forest was the trainees’ front yard. The officers, with over five years of experience, knew the surrounding region very well. This training limited a trainee to moving only within a 250-meter radius. It was hard to avoid the trainers’ excellent vision.
“Damn, are they asking me to become invisible or something?” he thought, very annoyed. Here he was training the middle of the night when all of his fellow trainees were asleep.
“What kind of training was this?”
If he had been asked if he wanted to become a sniper, he wouldn’t have been so annoyed. But he knew that he shouldn’t be in such a rush to finish this training.
Three hours passed, and he had not moved a muscle. He didn’t need a watch; he could tell the time by his body’s changes. He had once waited in the middle of Bang Tae San for 24 hours to catch a scorpion. Waiting in the middle of a mountain where fresh air flowed was nothing compared to that experience.
His brain, recognizing his dehydration desperately asked for water. His throat and mouth had long gone dry. His skin was tingling and his eyes had turned dark. In a short while, it was going to be 24:00. This cursed training had to end.
He had controlled his food intake, but he needed the restroom desperately. Snipers usually urinated in small spurts so that it dried quickly since the smell would linger for a long time.
The smell also spreads wide. Even a human, when trained, can discern the smell of sweat and urination from tens of meters away. Mu Ssang used the Combined Repetitive Expelling Theory’s principle of separated disconnection. This disconnection could prevent urination, sweating and even allow a woman to control her menstrual cycle. He pressed the tip of his tongue against the roof of his mouth and tightened his perineal muscles. Through concentration, he changed his body’s inner temperature through his veins and governor vessels. The gathered urine slowly seeped back into his body.
A clean wave fell over him.
Only a sniper could catch a sniper. Someone who had undergone extreme training could easily pinpoint a hiding spot a sniper might move to next, so the sniper whose previous spot had been discovered could easily become a target. A sniper’s skills were determined by their ability to hide, to use terrain to their advantage, and to perform subtle interventions and extractions.
Mu Ssang had learned how to become one with nature in his assassination of Chui Do Shik. A skill that had been in his unconsciousness surfaced because of the sniper training.
“I am the wind, the rock, the grass, the ground.” Mu Ssang steadily disappeared.
“F*cking hell, I’m going to die.”
He grit his teeth at a red ant’s relentless attack. It was a Lasius Nager, a wild ant that lived in the Pyrenees mountains that had very large pinchers for its size.
This fire ant originated in Argentina and was amazingly tenacious. In comparison to its small size, it had incredible strength. Once it got a hold of something, it never let go. When it was pulled away from what it was biting, it let its head get ripped away from its body, so it could keep on biting.
It had arrived in southern France, pushed out the indigenous fire ant, and conquered the Pyrenees. The annoying things even invaded the training camps.
“Ugh, I’m going to go crazy!”
The fire ant that had bit the tip of his nose was, for some reason, entering his nose. Mu Ssang instinctively twitched it. The officers were professional snipers, and their eyes and senses were different from those of normal people. Three days prior, Mu Ssang had failed the test at the very end because he had let his guard down trying to dig out a fly that had flown into his ear. If he moved now, the efforts of the past 24 hours would be wasted.
When his nose twitched, it angered the fire ant. It was a species that became stronger when its food resisted, so it bit into the soft tissues inside his nose and didn’t let go.
“Uggggh!” he screamed in his head.
The shout nearly escaped. The nerves that delivered pain tested his threshold. Goosebumps appeared all over his body. He never knew an ant’s attack could be this painful. It was to the point he missed his master attacking him with a staff.
And in that moment, he feared that his muscles would contract. If he moved his muscles, he might make a sound. He fought tooth and nail to relax his body.
At that moment, the first officer passed by him without realizing his presence. The pain in his nose felt like a red-hot iron torture device.
When someone feels pain, they shout, roll around, or make a sound, and that disperses the pain; it distracts the senses. Mu Ssang, however, couldn’t do anything to distract his pain. He couldn’t shout, nonetheless blink his eyes. His head was overloaded with several sensations and intentions swirling like lightning and hail.
It was the first time Mu Ssang experienced such pain. He wanted to gather all the ants in the world and kill them. He wanted to exterminate the Lasius Nager, but it was a hopeless wish. He couldn’t even get rid of the ant currently up his nose. Genocide was out of the question.
From what he knew, ants were diurnal creatures. He didn’t know that there were nocturnal ants, too. He believed that this ant should be diagnosed with sleepwalking problems.
The chances of him sneezing became exponentially higher. He ultimately suppressed his parasympathetic nervous system. There was no way he could get through this with simple breathing exercises. He attempted to make his nose run to chase out the ant without moving, that was the only way.
He gathered all his senses and concentration to make his nose run. His body, which was lacking in fluids, didn’t cooperate at first. Time seemed to pass slowly during his torment.
“Oh, it’s flowing, it’s flowing!” he thought with much relief.
He became emotional and excited. It was the victory of a human who had overcome bodily instincts. He never imagined that he would be so happy about a runny nose. The f*cking fire ant was pushed out of his nose from the flood.
While he was fighting against the fire ant, the training ended. The two shots meant the end of training. The 24 hours were up. He had concentrated on the ant so deeply that he hadn’t noticed the last officer passing him.
Mu Ssang enjoyed his freedom. On top of that, he earned a Glock 17. To Mu Ssang, the 4500 Francs weren’t easy money, but it marked the end of his concealment training, a training he never wished to go through again.
What situation would a human find the most torturous?
It was when they couldn’t move. No one could survive being in one position for a long time. A sniper had to remain positioned like this in the wild for over an hour.
Extreme sunshine and wind were easily bearable compared to an attack from a creature. An insect’s attack was the most fearsome when in hiding. A centipede could bite the penis, a bee could sting, an ant could bite inside the nostrils, mosquitoes could attack, and all kinds of flies and insects could crawl into any orifices in the body.
Sometimes bird poop landed on the face, a snake might hiss before one’s eyes protesting an invasion of its nest, pollen could bring out a sneeze, or a scorpion could bite one’s foot.
It was impossible to be still in the wild. Moving continuously for 24 hours would be better. After the training, Mu Ssang felt like a dead man.
The Lasius Nager’s impact had weighed heavy on his mind. He plopped down on the floor like a sticky rice cake and rested. At that moment, he learned that although rice cakes couldn’t become human, humans could certainly become rice cakes.