Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 72
“His talents are wasted. He should get rid of that Kepi Blanc and climb Mt. Everest.”
“I suppose if he climbs like that, he could conquer Mt. Everest within a day. He’d be able to earn so much money if he gets sponsored.”
“Wouldn’t he earn more if he competed in the Olympics?”
“What’s the point? He doesn’t know how to use it.”
“Right. He’s a virgin with a chastity belt. He doesn’t know women, doesn’t know alcohol, doesn’t know how to gamble. I’ve no idea what he does for fun in his life.”
“Wouldn’t he live for killing? There were seven guerrillas in Er Ekdim with their heads sliced off.”
“Do you suppose he dips his bread in blood when we’re not looking? Don’t the Chinese eat humans too?”
Emil and Jang Shin exchanged a meaningless conversation.
The mercenaries who had been listening in shook their heads. They couldn’t distinguish whether the two rookies were immature or fearless.
“Damn, the bread crumbs I spilled in the Legion Boutique (a small restaurant inside the Deuxieme Rep) are more than what they ate, but they’ve left their fear back in Corsica,” Burimer complained.
“The Angel of Death, the Explosives Devil, the Minimi Sniper. They’d earn heaps of cash if they formed an independent mercenary group. Do you think they’d let me join?”
There was a tinge of true desire in Bellman’s tone.
The desert night deepened.
The sandstorms calmed. The slightly sharp moon scattered its light while holding on to its halo. Their first day of the operation was last month. They could tell when a fortnight had passed by simply staring up at the moon.
At 100 meters high, there weren’t any flies or mosquitoes.
Black Mamba positioned himself alone atop the high cliff like a statue. The Djourab Erg seen from up high gifted him with different scenery.
He could see all of Erg in one view.
There was no need for night goggles. The moonlight was enough. The endless dunes clashed against the cluster of stars on the horizon.
The stars and dunes entangled themselves. Whether it was the stars that were being absorbed by the dunes, or the dunes jumping into the stars, a painting of the beginning was laid before him.
“To think animals lived in such dry land!”
An unknown animal’s cry howled endlessly. Sometimes, the supporting beams of the tent creaked, dragging the desert’s silence more deeply into the night. Despite being void of even one blade of grass, he respected those who continued to survive in this place.
He recalled his hometown with its clear water and ample mountains.
He hadn’t wanted much. He had dreamt of becoming a scholar after studying diligently. He wanted to spread a blanket and write poems underneath the peach tree in his house by the bridge.
He wanted to find his mother and ask why she had abandoned him. No, he wanted to show her how well he’d grown. He wanted to eat his mother’s warm rice and soup.
How did he end up in a rain of blood, thousands of kilometers away in a foreign land? The days had been a continuation of treading between life and death. Days of reaping lives and soaking the ground in blood. The place he had come to, to live like a human, was hell. Sadness welled up at the irony of having to kill humans to live like one.
He recalled the days when he had trained underneath his master’s violent staff as though it was yesterday. He wondered whether the Dolly Varden trout that he used to eat by Mt. Chung Saeng’s river were doing well. Those trout were classified as salmon because they died shortly after spawning. One, which he wasn’t sure if it was a rare one that survived spawning or a male, had been two feet long. No matter how much they grew, Dolly Varden trouts usually stopped growing at nine inches. He had considered throwing that one in his spicy soup bowl but allowed it to live its due life. He had always checked how well it was doing every time he bathed in the river. Connections were made like that.
“What am I doing here?”
His Master had always emphasized thinking.
“What do those fake monks do while they sit in that serious position? Well, they wrap it up nicely, mentioning zen, or mediation, but all anyone does is think. They think of climbing on top of prostitutes and head down to gather a bunch of offerings…. Even those fake priests with nothing to do think of making it big one day, so what do you think those secular ones do? Think a lot. If you think, answers come, and decisions can be made. You sometimes contemplate whether that b*tch that you call your aunt should be strangled or sliced, don’t you? If you think some more, the answer will come. Hahaha!”
His head rang.
He had forgotten about Jang. He had crawled into this hell because of that dirty b*itch. He hadn’t been able to erase the evil woman from his mind because she was his aunt!
“Would I have felt better if I buried that woman?”
He remembered the day he dug a hole at Mt. Chung Saeng to bury that assistant who had been allowed to live thanks to his master showing up. If he had buried that man, he would have buried Jang, too, for certain.
He remembered Chartres’ advice, of how the killing wasn’t everything. Chartres was right. She was a human worth killing, but with time, he realized that didn’t have to be the case. The method which Chartres taught him, of making her owe up to her debt for a long time, seemed right.
He had saved one life worth killing and had become a murderer reaping innocent lives in some random land thousands of kilometers away. There couldn’t have been a human who reaped as many lives, in a short time, as he did.
Was he truly cursed at birth, as Jang said?
Could he return to his hometown safely?
He wanted to eat Hae Soon’s Doenjang-jjigae so badly, it drove him mad. He missed his master’s stinging staff.
How was Hae Young?
Was she studying hard? Was she healthy? She must have gained a man. He had heard that in the States, a man and woman’s relationship was as free as it was in France. She must have someone, white or black. It’d be lonely otherwise.
It was only after he left his master’s side that he felt his master’s love. It was because of him that he had been able to swim out of the deep ravine called Hae Young. With his staff, he had shattered the hardened past his student carried around like a rock.
It was his master who used to give all of his offering rice elsewhere and return with rocks in the empty bag. He wondered whether he was even praying at his age, well over 80.
A Buddhist phrase rolled out without him realizing.
The sandstorm began to grow once more.
It was Djourab Erg’s capriciousness. The weather was hard to predict. A strand of sand covered the moonlight. The desert that had been shining became dark once more.
“That damned wind.”
Black Mamba put on his goggles instead of the night viewer. He couldn’t adjust to the sandstorms. The wind was strong, so much so that the large rock rang. Black Mamba, unable to bear the brunt on top of the rock, ultimately climbed back down.
Around the time Team Ratel had entered Djourab Erg, Habib was waiting for a guest in his mansion.
“Sir, I’ve been told that the chairman’s car had just passed Pangaro.”
Habib received his butler’s report and nodded his head. Pangaro was the first checkpoint from the entrance of the road leading up to his mansion. It had been made in a zig-zag pattern to prevent someone from speeding to the mansion. It took five minutes to reach it.
Habib’s huge mansion was located in the Undgar region of Paya Largo, but it was only after the car passed 300 meters in from the entrance, on the path, that it could greet the mansion’s walls.
Habib’s Romanesque, two-story, white mansion was hidden by a large array of trees. It was a rare sight in Paya, which didn’t get a single drop of rain all year.
Noel Habib was a member of the highest council in power within FROLINAT, the Council of 11. It had the most voting power, consisting of military figureheads that moved the FROLINAT as a whole.
Habib was wearing a yellow-brown uniform and exuded strong features unique to those who were Tibesti Arabs. The dark, burnt face, thick curls, deep-seated eyes, and slightly widened nose were the traditional features of the Arab locals who lived on the Tibesti mountain range.
Habib was the boss who led the Hawkish Faction of the Council of 11. He was waiting for the head of the Dovish Faction, a council member, and Chairman Tombye. A secret meeting had been established on Habib’s request.
Habib sat on the wooden chair on his terrace and lifted a cigar.
His butler immediately cut the edge and lit it. Habib’s face wasn’t bright. Whether it was raccoons or badgers, some unknown group had messed up his plans.
“Where did it go wrong?”
The smoke expelled from Habib floated out of the terrace.
The plan surrounding Makumbo had been made by the Hawkish Faction of the Council of 11 to alter the phase of affairs. The leaders were Habib and Goukouni.
Buying time was the main factor of Habib’s established plan.
When France began interfering with Chad’s internal affairs, once more, the FROLINAT sphere of power began to feel threatened.
Its power was stronger than Habre’s government, but there wasn’t a noticeable difference. If France supported Habre, then purely, with the influence of FROLINAT alone, they’d be hard to bear. Even the national media turned against the FROLINAT. It was because the northern army had plundered N’Djamena.
They needed time for the FROLINAT’s best military leaders, Goukouni and Habib, to unite their forces. And to unite their forces, they needed Gaddafi’s military reinforcements.
The main vein of his established plan was simple.
He, Goukouni, and Makumbo would share roles. Habib was responsible for controlling the Habre army, Goukouni was responsible for Gaddafi’s reinforcements, and Makumbo was responsible for blocking the French military’s movements to enter Chad, all to gain time.
Makumbo would turn and suggest an alliance with Habre’s army. France, who was feeling the pressure in military deployment, wouldn’t refuse. Habib would begin tailing them to erase the betrayer.
France would begin its operations to save Makumbo.
Makumbo would keep buying time by changing his location continuously. Habib would pretend to chase after Makumbo, but in reality, erase France’s special forces as they were deployed.
As long as Makumbo and he bought time, Goukouni would be able to receive Gaddafi’s aid of soldiers and weapons. Then, they would unite the moderate faction’s military strength and increase the speed of FROLINAT’s revolution.
Once the gauge of a revolution was filled, they’d destroy the government’s army and control it, at once. And then, they’d enslave the southern greasy bastards as they had done before.
That was the backstory of the Makumbo case.
But the successfully proceeding plan had suddenly flipped on its head.
The French special forces had broken his army and flipped the Sahel around. While he was chasing after them, Makumbo disappeared. Habib felt deeply suspicious of Makumbo’s sudden disappearance and the lack of contact.
A yellow Jeep arrived in front of his mansion. It was the GAZ69A four-wheel-drive Jeep that had been produced by the Soviets since 1972.
Habib ran down the stairs swiftly. An Arab dressed in a traditional brown Gandourah came out.
“Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuhu (May Allah’s peace, mercy, and blessings be upon you). Tombye, it’s nice to meet you.”
“Wa Allahaykumut salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu (May Allah’s peace, mercy, and blessings be upon you, too). It’s nice to meet you, Habib.”
Tombye, who possessed peaceful features, was a member of the Council of the 11 and followed a different line from Habib as the leader of the Dovish Faction. A soulless, formal greeting and blessing was exchanged between the two.
Tombye didn’t look comfortable.
Habib was the head of the violent military sector of the FROLINAT, the FAP. Habib was prone to execute violent military actions, and even the expressions of those military activities people had toned down. In reality, the criminal activities involved plundering and kidnapping. He was the reason that many tribes that had once supported the FROLINAT turned their backs to support Hissène Habré.
Losing the people’s trust would lead to the crumbling of the FROLINAT’s foundation. Tombye often criticized violent military activities, but Habib didn’t even snort. Tombye found the fact that he was even meeting with rough and violent Habib distasteful.
Habib led Tombye to the large second-floor terrace.
The butler brought out some tea and simple dishes, but the two didn’t even look at him.
“Chairman, we’ve been fooled by Makumbo and our countrymen. I’m sure that the French special forces are currently tracking Makumbo’s bait. Another team must have made contact with him. Makumbo should already be in Kanem Province or N’Djamena. That bastard should be enjoying his Chateau Mouton-Rothschild* with Robert Tanshe by now. Perhaps laughing until his mouth splits.”
*Chateau Mouton Rothschild is a product of Bordeaux, France, and one of the three French generations of wine. It became famous in 1924 for putting famous artist’s paintings on its labels: Picasso, Matisse, Dalí, Miró, Chagall, Cocteau, Kandinsky, and others, were featured. Depending on its vintage, it could be sold for 5,000,000 to 400,000,000 Won in South Korea.