Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 38
Cortaro was Borkou’s oasis. East of the Bodélé lowlands, the first city they met was Kanem province. It was 100 kilometers away. The northwest province went from N’Djamena to Barilga and was connected to Cortaro. Unlike Kanem province, Borkou was the FROLINAT’s front yard.
Team Ratel wandered around Mondo, a city in Kanem province, traveling for four days over 1000 kilometers. It was as if they had fought for their lives then ran into the gator’s mouth.
Captain Paul commanded them to stop when they reached 20 kilometers from Cortaro. Northwest of Cortaro was the Bodélé lowlands, to the north was desert, and to the east were the Ennedi plateaus. The Bodélé lowlands were endlessly wide. Long ago, it had been a marsh, but it had dried up and had become a desert. They could go tens of kilometers and not come across a single town.
As his comrades started to set up camp, Black Mamba slowly grabbed his AK-47 and headed out. At Uldi Harmarl, he had taken it to replace his broken Famas. He sensed that they would soon be forced into combat, so he had to get used to it.
He had tried the AK-47 at Calvi, but that was not enough. The gun was only as useful as its range and accuracy. This place was not a training ground but a war zone where the fate of one’s life hung on the balance. To increase the odds of survival, he must make the gun a part of his body.
The gun was in good condition and well taken care of. Its power was good, and it fired smoothly. Based on its condition, you could tell that the guerrilla troops who had surprise-attacked them were well trained.
“What is it? Where did the target go?”
Black Mamba, who had been out hunting, muttered.
The Sahel near Bilmar was a dry and bare place. Because shrubs and vegetation were not available, there were not a lot of choices for prey. The only things they were able to catch were rattlesnakes or small lizards. Antelope, gazelle, desert fox, and ostrich do inhabit the area, but they are a rare sight.
Once Black Mamba became accustomed to the AK-47, he practiced throwing his spear and rocks to catch small animals.
Swish— A reddish-brown lizard got its head skewered to the thin chopstick-like spear. It was a Bell’s Mastigure, a horned lizard with a netting design on its body.
It was a creature that lived near Bilmar. It reached a size of 10 inches and interestingly enough, though a large lizard, was an herbivore.
“I guess we have to eat lizards today again.”
Black Mamba caught five with his small spear.
Carnivores tend to have a more gamey flavor than herbivores, and their meat is tougher since the meat and fat that they consume gets formed into their muscle fibers. Herbivore meat is much tastier, so the Bell’s Mastigure’s fate was to be a meal for the team.
For two days, Black Mamba was unable to catch prey that satisfied him. The easiest ones were the reptiles. Bell’s Mastigures, osirents, giant plated lizards, horned salmosas, and unknown reptiles got their heads smashed. Even a six-meter long African snake showed up on their menu.
Strangely enough, Africa’s most dangerous animal, the Black Mamba, was never seen once. It lived in the southeast and some reports say that it’s been seen in Chad, but that has never been confirmed. It was as dangerous as it’s rumored to be, so there isn’t much of a chance to confirm it.
Jang Shin, as expected of a Chinese person, was not picky with his ingredients. He roasted the Bell’s Mastigure while getting poked by the thorns on its tail. The lizard, roasted in olive oil, was met with great applause.
The mercenaries tasted the roasted lizard and raised their thumbs. After having to eat bugs, no one rejected the cooked lizard.
Black Mamba was also satisfied.
The reptiles tasted like a cross between red meat and chicken. The canned food they had endured was no match for its tender meat. There was a lot of meat to eat off of it.
Black Mamba then forced the rest of the team to go hunting. Humans would consume anything that is supposedly good for their health or stamina until it becomes wiped out. If rat meat was good for stamina, even with its great viability, he was sure that it would have gone extinct.
The captain didn’t stop him either.
As a consequence of the battle of Uldi Hamarl, the hide-and-seek game between the FROLINAT army and Team Ratel had already started. They all knew that the team’s survival depended exclusively on Black Mamba’s condition. The captain determined that the enemy on their tail was less of a threat than Black Mamba losing his fitness.
Mike said he would try hunting, but he didn’t have much success. He was just a sniper, not Black Mamba. It was hard to find prey to hunt, and the small and fast prey was hard to hit.
Even when they succeeded, it was a problem. The strong bullets disintegrated the small lizards. Black Mamba was the only one who could aim precisely so that the bullet only hit the edge of the heads.
The best-known sniper’s pride was lost to embarrassment. Mike realized sorely that sniping skills were far from hunting skills.
The next morning, Black Mamba went out to hunt as usual.
Kyak— It was the cry of an ostrich. Black Mamba’s face broke out in excitement. It had been a long time since he met a large beast to hunt. His body stretched like a rubber band and slid over towards the sound. He was more agile now than he was when learning to do this while his teacher hit him on the head.
After going 300 meters, he saw the ostrich’s head poking out from the debris-littered grass. Its large eyes were reminiscent of a stray dog’s. He hesitated for a moment, then grabbed a rock the size of his fist.
The target was 30 meters away.
Swoop— The rock flew like a cannonball, hit the ostrich in the head, and shattered it.
Mouris and Miguel had followed along and cheered. They would not have been surprised if Black Mamba threw a stone and brought down a helicopter.
When Mouris and Miguel came back holding an ostrich, their teammates cheered. With the anticipation of eating a giant chicken, they all proceeded to drool. It was no Kentucky Fried Chicken, but they believed it would taste much better than the stir-fried lizards. Even such a small victory was good for their psychological health.
“What do we do?”
Jang Shin sighed as he looked at the giant bird that was bigger than he was. He was supposed to prepare the meal but did not know what to do with it. It was very frustrating.
“Just think of it as a little chicken.”
“It’s not little. It’s a huge chicken. How long would it take to pull out all those feathers?”
Burimer tried to give him a bit more confidence, but Jang Shin did not relax.
“Can I take care of it?”
Ombuti asked Black Mamba respectfully.
“Why is he asking me?”
Black Mamba wondered.
“You are Imoharen. Do you think you can do such lowly tasks?”
Ombuti’s hollow eyes started to smile.
“It is food that Wakil will be eating. Of course, it is something the servant must do.”
“I am not your master, and you are not my inferior.”
“A Tuareg warrior does not go back on his word.”
“Why do I even bother?”
Black Mamba grabbed the back of his neck at Ombuti’s stubborn behavior.
“As you can see, your friend is having some difficulties. Please help.”
Ombuti turned the ostrich’s head towards Mecca and started to pray.
Ombuti finished the slaughter prayer, pulled out the shamshir from his belt, and chopped off its head with one fluid swing.
Blood poured from the ostrich’s neck. Muslims believed that the blood of animals was unclean, and the Koran instructs them not to ingest blood. In Islamic cultures, the blood is collected and buried in the ground.
Koreans eat congealed blood soup and would have been appalled. At the Majang market, congealed blood cost 5000 won.
A culture’s food was not dependent on the race but on the area they inhabited.
Congealed blood soup was one of many familiar dishes to Koreans. Under the hills of Dae Gu there is a restaurant whose name starts with a “D” that specializes in congealed blood soup. They say that they go through a truckload of chopsticks per day. If the Arabs could see the Koreans eating the soup, they would probably faint.
A French actress accused Koreans of being savages because they ate dogs and got stamped as an uncultured woman who didn’t understand other cultures.
Ombuti peeled off the skin of the ostrich easily, being familiar with the process.
Jang Shin was flustered with the idea of plucking the feathers out of such a large bird but Ombuti finished it with ease.
Ombuti split the stomach using the Spetsnaz sword that Black Mamba had gifted him. Jang Shin removed its innards and chopped it into pieces. When the ostrich was placed over the tarp, the collected blood streamed down into the red ground.
Ombuti brought over a thick wire netting.
It was the metal netting used to pull out the pickup truck when it fell into the sandpits. Emil and Miguel went to gather dried acacia trunks.
A hungry moon rose above the red clay boulder. The cold emanating from it glowed blue.
The campfire burned strongly to dissipate the cold.
The mercenaries were sitting in a circle around the fire. They each sliced off a piece of the ostrich meat with their swords and ate it.
The faces lit by the fire all looked a mess. Each one of them had dried skin peeling from their faces. Black Mamba was slightly worried. When an operation’s initiation took too long, it was hard to maintain the troops’ conditions. If he had not met the strange skeleton at Wol Song San, he would be in the same state as his other comrades.
The Sahel night deepened with the red flaming fire over the acacia firewood, the sizzling ostrich meat, and the dripping of oil into the flames.
It was the seventh day of their operation.
Team Ratel was stretched thin. Ombuti, Black Mamba, and Emil met with the natives while the rest of the team went out in groups of three to survey the area. But, the three days in Cortaro yielded no useful information.
In the end, they couldn’t even find The Raccoon’s trail and had to abandon their plans. All that they accomplished was to waste time while trying to move without being discovered by the FAP.
There was no progress, and they were all highly stressed.
“We can’t trust the government army anymore. If we wander around like mad dogs all over the place, we are going to get killed. We have to get out of here now.”
Mike had been quiet for a couple of days but started to pour out his complaints.
Everyone’s gaze shifted to Black Mamba.
Mike flinched and turned away. Black Mamba was sitting cross-legged far away. When he was sitting in that position, he wasn’t interested in anything else around him.
“We can’t. The operation has not ended.”
When Burimer rejected the suggestion, Mike got angry.
“Son of a bitch, we’re all going to die. The fucking government punks have abandoned us.”
“Mike, watch your mouth.”
“I only say what’s true. I’m only saying let’s look at the reality of the situation right now.”
Black Mamba smacked his lips together.
“Hmph!” Surprised, Mike closed his mouth.
Because his comrades were bickering, his meditation was broken.
Black Mamba stared blankly at his fighting comrades. He didn’t care much whether they decided to continue or abandon their mission. All a soldier has to do is follow orders. Talking about it doesn’t change the fact that they can’t change the mind of the strategic team.
The lower-ranked Jang Shin couldn’t interject with his input and walked toward Black Mamba.
“I would like to eat Xiaomien filled with herbs. Don’t you want to also?”
The random statement from Jang Shin made Black Mamba burst out laughing. It revealed how nervous Jang Shin was. People tend to think of the good memories instead of the bad when they are put in a highly stressful situation.
“I think I’ll pass.”
There were no Chinese restaurants in the Sahel anyways, but he never wanted to eat the food with that potent smell again. He craved spicy kimchi stew instead.
“What do you think Black?”
“We are mercenaries. We received the money, so we have to pay the price.”
At Black Mamba’s words, Jang Shin nodded his head. If the leader decides, then all they had to do was follow.
“That’s true. Mike’s disease seems to have spread.”
“Haha, if they all need to learn their lesson, then we can teach it to them.”
Mike’s face changed color upon hearing the low voice.