Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 56
“Ombuti, do we have enough gandura and ritam?”
“We weren’t able to sell a lot last time, so we have a lot left in stock.”
At Burimer’s question, Ombuti answered him jokingly. The strict Ombuti had gotten used to the relaxed nature of the other mercenaries.
“We’ll split into three groups. Captain, Jang Shin, and Morris will be Alpha, Mike, Miguel, and Emil will be Beta, and Burimer, Black Mamba, and Ombuti will be gamma. Belman will nurse Chartres at the camp. Beta will guard against any unexpected turn of events.”
Finding out that he was a backup team caused Mike to flare his nostrils, but upon glancing over at Black Mamba, he didn’t argue any further.
Burimer added to Captain’s command, “Wear the gandura over your uniforms and wrap the ritam tightly over it. Only take self-defense guns, and Ombuti and Morris will make contact with the natives.
Captain waved Black Mamba over.
“Black, entering the village is dangerous. We’re going in trusting you. Whether the villagers are for or against the northern army, they have a much higher chance of cooperating with them than us. You must do what you must based on the need.”
Black Mamba nodded without answering back.
The northern part of the Sahel belt was occupied by Muslims. The majority of the citizens were Arabs. The most prevalent people in the north were known as the Toubou, and they too were Arab. The native Raka and Umbum clans were also Muslim.
Maybe it was due to their religion being the same, but they strongly accepted the influences of Libya. Gaddafi continuously stirred them and pushed them toward civil war. There was a high chance the Ekiya civilians and the rebel guerrilla troops were interconnected.
Captain instructed them to swiftly get rid of any man or woman, old or young, if they sensed that they were part of the resistance. He was not only forced to be a living radar but was also assigned as an eraser man. He didn’t like it, but it was something that had to be done.
Captain patted his shoulder as if relaying to him that he understood exactly how he felt.
Black Mamba was sick of Chad as a country, the Sahara desert, and the wretched place that they were in called Sahel. The annoyingly dry heat, the hoard of flies and mosquitoes that attacked them day and night, the never-ending sandy winds, the rebel troops that stuck to them like fleas, the traitors that backed them into the corner…he also hated the rebel guerrilla forces, the government troops, and Makumbo who they called Raccoon.
What he hated the most was the fact that he had to kill people. He couldn’t even count the hundreds that he had already killed. He felt that he would never be able to rid himself of the smell of blood-soaked sand that was branded in his soul.
His teacher would never be able to imagine what his apprentice had become. It had been a year since he hit the moktak and read the Buddhist proverbs. The more he murdered, the heavier his heart became.
As mercenaries, they had no choice, but murder was still murder.
He was also afraid of how he was becoming less and less affected by the murders. The image of Gaji pruning trees with an ax overlapped with his current kukri-holding self.
After being framed and losing his love, Mijikiko, Gaji was pushed into war by a powerful government monster. The image of Gaji yearning for Mijiko in the fields of Manju overlapped with his current state.
“Damn, to live like a human, I have to kill other humans!”
The monologue of Komika and Junpei flowed out.
Whether it was a mask or their real face, there are some conscientious Japanese.
Beta was set to stand guard outside the village in case of emergencies, and Alpha and Gamma stepped inside the village.
In Sahel, the roofs of the houses were made with tied reeds. The walls were made with braided reeds or cow dung stacked on top of each other. The dried reeds were good kindling. If there was ever a fire, the area ran a great risk for swift destruction.
Although it sounded ridiculous, cow dung was Sahel’s unique construction element. Because it was fibrous and contained oil, cow dung, when applied onto walls, made them hard and sturdy.
Black Mamba, Burimer, and Ombuti entered the village as a group. The eyes of the natives upon seeing troops in unfamiliar uniforms were filled with fear.
At the village entrance, women were collecting water into jugs.
The women had their entire upper bodies exposed, and they could see the bottom of the puddle that had a pool of muddy water. Every time the women moved, their sagging breasts would dangle.
Burimer clicked his tongue and turned his head. Korean curse words had become customary for the Lattell team.
Black Mamba too felt embarrassed and disgusted and turned away. His fantasy regarding a woman’s breasts was quickly shattered. The longing he felt for his mother’s breast and the lust that he felt for Hae Young’s breasts were tainted. He realized the truth that every woman’s breasts were not beautiful.
Wherever you went in Sahel, they used pools as watering holes.
A pool was not water that sprouted up, but stagnant gathered water. Not only was it muddy, but it was not sanitary. Other than a few oasis villages, it was difficult to see clear wells of water.
Why were they not digging wells? He couldn’t understand it.
The thing Black Mamba could not understand the most from his perspective was prayer.
These people praised Allah at every moment. They would lie in prayer several times a day to chant out in praise.
At the straw bridge, there had never been enough food, so the women went out into the fields. They picked herbs, gathered grains, and harvested mountain vegetation. They sometimes even brought back cuts of unripened barley.
All these people did was pray.
‘Their children were starving to death, so what was the point of praying for Allah’s grace?’
He clicked his tongue. It may be that the more difficult reality was, the more fervent their attachment to religion became.
They entered the village.
They did not see a lot of men, and there were only women and children sitting in front of their houses. Even the children that should have been running around playing were lying under the shade of their houses. Each one of them had protruding ribs and inflated stomachs. Their bloodshot eyes looked up at the unfamiliar faces.
“Ombuti, there are not a lot of men. Is it due to the war?”
“That is probably the reason. Those Frolinat punks probably forcefully drafted all of them.”
“Whew, the more I kill, the more they will get conscripted,” Black mamba sighed.
“Wakil, don’t hold it in your heart. It is these people’s fate.”
“True. What could I possibly do about it!”
Black Mamba stared at the woman with the sad blank look in her eyes. In the woman’s embrace was a small, bony child. It made his heart ache. He pulled out a piece of chocolate from his bag and handed it to the woman.
“Ah shoo kuruka! Thank you!” The woman said quietly as she received the chocolate. Her frail trembling hands unwrapped the chocolate and placed it in the child’s mouth.
Black Mamba looked away. He felt like he could cry. All mothers in the world were all the same. They pulled out some supplies from their backpacks and handed them to the women carrying children.
Ombuti watched this scene with a joyful expression.
Ombuti asked the women about this and that.
Black Mamba couldn’t understand any of the fast-spoken Arabic. Ombuti shook his head. It looked like it didn’t matter anyway.
Black Mamba didn’t want to show his disappointed face, so he turned his head. Inside the village, he saw a large, thorned tree. Above the thorned tree were several goats eating its leaves.
Goats climbed trees like a puma. It was a funny sight, but no laughter came to him. He felt bad for the goats that were forced to climb the top of a tree just to eat a handful of leaves.
Black Mamba, who could not communicate with the villagers, could do nothing but guard Burimer and Ombuti. Ombuti, being familiar with the village, was able to gain essential information.
“Captain, it looks like Makumbo stopped by this place for a bit. They are saying that an elderly man and three armed guards had been here.”
“When was that?”
“Three days ago.”
Captain was in a difficult position.
At the end of their trials and tribulations, they had finally arrived at their intended destination, but all they had found was the urine trail of the Raccoon before he disappeared.
Bodele was too wide. They couldn’t even guess at which cave the Raccoon would be hiding. They were at least relieved to find that the government headquarters had not fed them fake intel.
“Ombuti, we should check the surroundings.”
“Alright. The village leader says that if we give them money, they will rent out a house for us.”
“I can’t trust them, I hate ticks and fleas more than the rebel forces.”
Emil nodded his head vigorously. Strangely enough, out of the group, Emil was attacked the most by bugs.
The looks of the natives toward the mercenaries caused them discomfort. There was not a single mercenary that wished to stay in this dirty cow dung smelling place overnight.
That night, they searched the Amja and Yungsur villages, but there was no trace of what they were looking for.
Black Mamba felt sorry for Captain, who was trying so hard.
From the time he was very young, Black Mamba had been betrayed many times. He had already come to realize that another team had taken Raccoon for their own. He was just not saying his suspicions out loud.
Lattell team made camp at a place 5km away from Yungsur village. For three days, they searched all the surrounding areas around Ekiya oasis.
They visited five small and large villages and investigated Tanga’s wadi and valleys. They went deep into the Bodele badlands and even searched the ruins of the Nga Zala region.
They searched under every small rock. However, they reaped no results. The Raccoon must be disguising himself because they couldn’t even find a hint of his tail.
“Burimer, where did you say the Makumbo and the Habib army had fought against each other?”
At Captain’s question, Burimer thought for a moment, trying to remember, then answered.
“Ombuti, do you know Ongur?”
“It is a village about 70km west from here. The civilians are Arab.”
“It’s not too far from here. We should try looking around there first.”
Even as Captain spoke, he couldn’t help but sigh.
He kept them moving due to his responsibility, but he couldn’t shake off his sense of hopelessness. Was it better to continue wandering around searching for Raccoon without adequate information, or was it better to request their return? He couldn’t reach a decision.
It was the 17th day of Operation Smoke out Raccoon.
Once the sun went down, the three pickups carrying the Lattell team arrived at their resting stop at Ongur. The Lattell team left the injured Chartres and Belman at the camp while the rest of them went to check around the area.
Ongur oasis was about 70 acres. Among the villages of the Bodele badlands, it was one of the bigger ones. Ombuti and Morris, who knew the language, lead the way.
“Ooh whoo, alla ihi! (What in the world!)”
Ombuti slammed his hand on the handle and yelled as he entered the village.
In any surprising or rushed situation, their native language popped out. The scene in front of him was worthy of Ombuti’s surprise.
The village had disappeared, and all that was left was ruins.
Most of the houses had collapsed and were burned. The houses were wooden skeletons with braided reeds for roofs. The burnt houses had collapsed completely, and all that was left of it was black ash.
Morris jumped off the pickup like lightning and threw himself into the pool. He flattened himself as much as possible in the shallow pool and observed the village with his scope. There was no movement in the village. He didn’t even spot a single dog.
Judging that he was not in danger, Morris crawled out from the pool. His gandura was covered in mud.
“Damn, what is this!”
Morris picked off the dirt and muttered as he was cleaning himself up, “I’m going in.”
Ombuti pulled out his rifle.
Once they entered the village, the corpses of people and livestock were everywhere. The corpses all had bullet wounds in their backs.
“Oh, Allah! When the day of judgment arrives, burn those scum in the fires of hell.”
Ombuti clenched his teeth.
It was deja vu. The Ahim village of Dujorab Agra was a small oasis village north of Faya which required crossing 230 km through the sandy desert and the red canyons.
There was a lovely daughter in her early twenties, a flower shot down before even reaching her prime. The entire village was destroyed, and the wives and daughters had been raped. Ombuti’s eyes burned red.
“Morris, do you think its the FAP punks?”
“I’m sure of it. It is their new recruit training. Those damned devils!”
Morris nodded his head with a stone-faced expression on his face.
They threatened the natives to make them run away, then shot them in the back as practice. As practice for the child soldiers, they used real people as targets. It was an often-seen practice for Frolinat FAP.
“Looks like Black will have to serve just punishment to Musta and Ahmud,” Morris muttered to himself.