Mercenary Black Mamba - Chapter 460
This really was a jackpot.
They said that good things happened to those who waited. And Mu Ssang was just waiting around doing nothing but snoozing away in Djibouti’s beach – only for a jackpot to land on his lap. No, wait – it’d be more correct to say that it rose up from the ground, instead. Maybe he saved the whole planet in his past life or some such…
-Sir, it’s not a jackpot but oil…
France-born Professor Mulsoli didn’t seem to get the idiom, unsurprisingly enough.
“No, professor. Oil is the jackpot. A huge jackpot, no less. Please explain in detail the situation before and after.”
Mu Ssang wanted to dance around in joy if he could, but had to do his best to calm his excitement down. He got lucky finding oil without doing the ‘wildcat’ (a test bore; an operation to drill a chosen anticline to confirm the viability of oil extraction) first, but it was still too early to celebrate just yet.
Until around the year 1860 when Étienne Lenoir ‘invented’ a working internal combustion engine, oil was mostly used as fuel to power lamps. With the mass production of cars, the demand for oil exploded, too. As such, finding oil would turn you into a millionaire overnight. People, gone crazy from the devil’s black tear, began overturning deserts and jungles searching for this black liquid ever since.
Oil wells that were successfully in the ‘wildcat’ stage but didn’t have the economic viability for one reason or another were referred to as the ‘curse of the good fortune’.
Imagine that your new oil well, discovered through so much investment, turned out to be a curse of the good fortune. Countless many prospectors went mad from despair in the past when this happened to them. Even if you discovered an oil well, it’d be for naught if the scale of the reserve and the ease of drilling it – in other words, productivity – were too poor.
-We were constructing the spinning plant in the area designated R-28. During the excavation procession, we found groundwater around the depth of fifteen meters. After setting up watertight bulkheads, we used pipes to draw out the groundwater while continuing with the excavation. But when we reached 30m, the workers began complaining about the saltiness of the groundwater. Just in case, I brought out the drilling rig and tried boring the ground.
“What do you mean, just in case?”
-Oil is a type of liquid that flows between earth’s different strata, sir. To contain liquids, you first need a container. A container underground that contains oil is called the petroleum trap.
-The bottom of a trap is highly porous sedimentary rock while the top needs to be impermeable rock, sir. In terms of geological structure, traps comes largely in the categories of anticlinal traps, fault traps or ones formed under an unconformity, etc. Not all traps are accompanied by a layer of salt, but most layers of underground salt are accompanied by traps. Meaning, there’s a high probability that the stratum producing brine also contains bedrock with an anticlinal trap and an oil deposit.
-Even though I said a high probability, the odds of an oil reservoir is only around 20%, sir. And only around 5% of them are economically viable. But that already is a very good probability. I mean, millions of French people still to this day scratch away at the lotto tickets with odds of million to one just for the chance to win a million francs, now don’t they! Ahahaha!
Professor Mulsoli laughed heartily like a man. Even the sunspot couldn’t dampen the ‘inspired’ professor’s emotions, it seemed.
Professor continued on.
-Sir, oil is a hydrocarbon liquid. The most common hydrocarbon is bitumen. The people of ancient Mesopotamia thousands of years ago used it as mortar for their Babel tower. The ancient Phoenicians used the substance to fill up the gap between their battle ships. The ancient Egyptians used it as a preservative in their mummies. And even further back in time, Noah used it to fill up the gaps of his ark, sir. It’s that bitumen.
-Bitumen is the type of hydrocarbon that breaks through the gap of anticlinal trap cut off through the faultline activity to reach the surface, sir. There is even a pool of petroleum under Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, as well.
-And in China, people have been searching for the underground brine layer to extract oil since ancient times. They called the well where oil comes out as ‘Fire Well’, while the oil itself was called ‘Black Lacquer’. Hollowed-out bamboos were used as pipelines back then.
-Some scholars even insist that the Dead Sea is an entrance to a massive oil reservoir, sir. You need to discard the notion that oil only exists thousands of meters underground.
“Huh. I’m surprised that oil can exist so close to the surface, professor. Please continue.”
-I examined the stones extracted from drilling under microscope, and my suspicion became a certainty. So, we continued to dig deeper. And when we reached the depth of 500m, we hit oil, sir. Usually, you’d need to drill past the 1,000m mark to hit the anticline, but the crust in this area is on the thinner side than usual, sir. The part that the drill had dug up is a layer of salt. In other words, oil from the reservoir has penetrated the disconnected stratum to seep into the salt layer.
“Hehehe, salty oil, you say~? But, you are saying that we still haven’t dipped our straw in the oil reservoir yet, yes?”
-Hohoho. Madam has gone out, so a maid certainly can’t do as she pleases in the living room, wouldn’t you agree? We first need to install a proper oil rig, and there’s also the decision of developing the oil field publicly or covertly, too. To get the necessary funds, I requested your henchman to get in touch with you, Wakil.
“What is the reservoir’s commercial viability?”
-Not even Allah can tell us for certain the size of the deposit or the recovery rate, sir. However, I predict that the odds of the curse of good fortune will be almost zero for us. Since I still have a ton of things to do and the reception remains rather poor, let me summarize my explanation.
-Four conditions need to be met before oil can be created, sir. The suitable parent rock where petroleum can be formed, the favorable environmental factor to convert the material to hydrocarbon (temperature), the path for said hydrocarbon to travel towards the surface (gaps in strata), and finally, the trap where the hydrocarbon gets captured before it can escape to the surface.
-A trap is, in actuality, the oil layer. The upper part of a trap is impermeable cap rock, while the lower part is porous reservoir rock, sir. The moment the drill bit hit the salt layer of R-28, petroleum and brine mixture shot up 15m into the air. Not even the Ghawar oilfields in Saudi Arabia, the largest single oil reservoir in the world, has displayed instances of such a built-up pressure, sir. The size of the reservoir and the potential scale of the field will have to be investigated first to paint an accurate picture, but as far as the extraction environment is concerned, it’s the best we can ask for, sir.
-From an engineering point of view, I’m certain that it’s the first point, sir. (A trap with a 90% probability of successful production; the second point is 50%, while the third point is 10%)
“Excellent! What about the quality of the crude oil, then?”
“We will only know for sure after analyzing the impurity content first, sir. But my instincts tell me that it’s definitely light crude oil. If it’s around the level of West Texas, then I’ll have nothing more to ask for. If we want to use the oil as the petrochemical compound, then Arabian Night will be good, too.”
“I’m amazed by the fact that an expert in plant construction is so knowledgeable in petroleum like this, professor.”
Mu Ssang knew nothing about oil, other than some miscellaneous info he picked up along the way. He did hear that the quality of crude oil differed from one oilfield to next, but rather obviously, he didn’t know about the difficulty of extraction nor what a light crude oil even was. He also had no clue how good the quality of West Texas oil was, too.
Since it was a bit embarrassing to keep asking the already-busy professor more questions, Mu Ssang just paid some lip service and moved on.
-École Polytechnique doesn’t issue PhDs for free, you know. Thanks to minoring in the mineral and energy resources engineering, I seem to know a little more than other people, sir. Wakil? I’m feeling thirsty and all, so I think it’s about time we join the party, sir.
Mu Ssang could picture the scene of Professor Mulsoli showing off already. Well, she had achieved something pretty big, so she had every right to show off.
“Professor, hurry on and join the party. You can put the tabs on me, so drink yourself to stupor if that’s what you want.”
-Our dear romantic boss, thank you so much.
“No, thank you. Really, really thank you.”
Mu Ssang was choking up and couldn’t continue. Only after hanging up did the news of finding the oilfield hit him for real. This was why having talented people working for you was so important. If you were an ignorant fool, you’d discard good fortune even it came knocking on your door. What would Sun Woo-hyun have done in this case? He probably would have tried to pickle the cabbages for kimchi with all that brine, instead.
Whether it was a corporation or a nation, people were everything. Someone as talented as Professor Mulsoli working for him was definitely a heavenly fortune, indeed. No, wait – it was Mu Ssang’s good luck for accepting people for their abilities and humanity while not blinding himself to prejudices.
“Black… No, Dubaiburupa. Congratulations. You see? I told you that Edel is a bundle of good luck, didn’t I? Edel, hooray!”
“Whoa! A lucky sod is supposed to find money even after falling face first on the floor, and who knew, it was true! He stumbled into acquring a country, became an owner of a huge ranch for free, then he even got oil pouring out from said ranch, too! Holy cow. Dubaiburupa, hooray!”
Paul and Bell Man began cheering on loudly. Black was not only their friend, but their boss as well. In other words, Black’s good fortune was also their good fortune.
Even Mu Ssang, usually poker-faced, began guffawing like a madman. A joyous hum leaked out of his lips all on its own, too. Nothing was as sorrowful to the hearts of South Koreans as the matter of oil. Seriously now, just how badly did the whole nation suffer from the oil crises of the 70s?
The Korean government took the initiative to manufacture coal briquets by coal-dressing all the discarded low-grade coal ore. And the resulting low-quality coal briquets emitted deadly gas, causing countless many ordinary people to leave this world prematurely or become permanently disabled. And the aftermaths of terrible event were still ongoing.
Mu Ssang was also affected by it. The whole reason why he had to go to the blind end of a mine with a pickax in tow was all thanks to the damn second oil crisis, after all.
But now, he possessed his own land in Africa thousands of kilometers away from Korea, and that land had begun producing oil, too. His own land, and oil to boot! Economic goods that an entire nation of people felt deeply sorrowful about had somehow landed on his lap, just like that. What an unimaginable good fortune this was.
It might sound funny coming from him, but he was glad that this oil was found not in South Korea, but in Chad. What would’ve happened if the oil was discovered in a paddy field he owned, for instance? Ten times out of ten, the government would have stuck its nose in.
A regular civilian would have backed off after receiving some compensation. But Mu Ssang was no regular civilian, and that was the problem. The military regime and well-heeled chaebols would have no doubt rushed in, leading to an inevitable conflict if he chose not to yield.
“Let’s go and start a celebration, man! Let’s rent out Djibouti Palace Kempinski’s banquet hall and drink ourselves silly the whole night or something. I mean, we got oil pouring out, so who cares about that little pocket change?” Paul roared out in a heated voice.
“Give me a freaking break, you dumbass!” Bell Man smacked the back of Paul’s head. “Black, listen. After experiencing two separate oil crises, countries around the world have begun putting an incredible effort searching for oil. Everyone said that the Ghawar oilfield will never run out of its reserves, but it has already went past its peak.
“In the future, it won’t be oil crises but oil depressions, instead. A barrel of crude costs around $31 right now in the international market, but that can easily shoot up to $100 a barrel in no time at all. If you throw parties around like this dumbass has suggested, then someone else might end up with all the chicks while you’re left with the bills, know what I mean?
“You gotta hurry up with shutting the mouths off all the workers there and plan the defensive measures.” Bell Man was already packing up in a hurry. As expected, a man who dealt with information was cut from different cloth.
Black quickly picked back up the satellite phone. He dialed the secret number and called Ombuti.
-Is that you, Wakil?
“How are you, Ombuti? How have you been?”
-Hooray, long live our king! Yes, this is Ombuti, Wakil’s faithful servant!
‘Gimme a break…’
Mu Ssang shuddered silently at Ombuti’s unmatched ability to go overboard. He might have given up on fixing the old man’s habits a long time ago, but he still got nasty goosebumps every time he had to hear all these praises.
“Ombuti, is everything working out well with Bassel? Didn’t you say that a competent butler is hereditary or something? You should hurry up with a child, then.”
Now that was a stroke of genius. Ombuti was about to start a round of prayers, only for his lips to freeze still right then.
-…Ehehehe, this servant’s happiness is all thanks to Wakil, of course.
A beat later, a sly voice began tickling Mu Ssang’s ear. Ombuti was in his 50s, while Bassel was only 19 this year. Well, an old dog found himself a young beauty so it was understandable that he’d act so lovey-dovey like this.
“…We need to strengthen the security of the Samaria ranch.”
-Wakil, please don’t worry too much about it and enjoy your vacation, sir. Aklan crew exists to protect your peace of mind, after all. Ibrahim and Aishe have already departed for the Doba farm with 300 Kurdish warriors in tow, you see. Even Mohammad had set off with fifty members of Novanez (Nova’s eyes) to manage the information flow, too. Rest your fears and simply return to Jipoon Dari, sir. You and Lady Edel should ‘bunga bunga’ and then… Hehehehe!
‘Urgh, this damn roasted-his-beans-with-a-lightning old man!’
For a moment there, Mu Ssang was left utterly speechless. An old rat would break through the jar, and an aged ginger would be quite spicy, or so the old saying went. He was surprised by Ombuti’s quick reaction in dealing with the necessary measures, but what surprised him even more was the old man’s ability to create an intelligence agency and a combat force in less than a year.
It could only mean that someone was helping him out.
“If it’s Osmaniye’s Lynx, Ibrahim and Maydanki’s Fog, Mohammad, then I can rest easy. But the distance is not to be scoffed at, so what did you use as the transportation?”
-A friend of yours from your hometown, Sang-cheol Kim, lent us thirty trucks, sir. Both the combat and the intelligence teams loaded their weapons and fuel on the trucks before departing in the early dawn this morning.
“Nice work. I’ll be leaving soon, too.”
-Hooray, hooray, long live our king! I pray that Allah’s grace be granted to Dubaiburupa and no one else. Dubaiburupa must be our prophet in a different name. Oh, the eternal romantic master of the desert, Dubaiburupa~~.
“…Ombuti, if you wish to keep Bassel happy, you need to look after your health, okay?”
Mu Ssang hurriedly switched the satellite phone off. If he listened any longer, his entire skin might end up covered in goosebumps. The best option to shut Ombuti’s mouth was bringing up Bassel, it seemed. The old man got himself a bride far too young for him and understandably, he became a bit neurotic about being called a cradle snatcher.
Mu Ssang silently shifted his gaze over to Dino. This creature was a monstrous animal possessing an unending pool of stamina and powerful combat abilities, coupled with shockingly acute senses. Not only that, but it also awakened its spirituality, making it smart enough to easily make a mockery of an average person.
It should be perfect in the role of the oilfield watchdog, in that case.
There was no such thing as coincidence in this world. Mu Ssang was needed and that’s why he was born. And Dino made his appearance in the world because its presence was required now. Even Sang-cheol bro had to travel all the way to the distant Novatopia out of necessity, too.
After being subjected to Mu Ssang’s gaze, Dino sneakily shifted its gaze over to Samdi while beginning to shuffle away cautiously. It eventually reached the front of its master, then raised its right front paw. A signal that Dino was ready to receive its master’s order.
“Heeyah~!” Paul ended up gasping out in admiration at this sight.
This creature must’ve seen the subordinates performing military salutes and taught itself to imitate them.
“Well, I’ll be!” Mu Ssang chuckled in contentment, and began petting Dino’s head.
Dino began making strange noises while staring at Samdi. The master was an existence Dino would remain loyal to the end, but the leader was a rival, an opponent. Dino’s challenges were far from being over.
Samdi’s expression crumpled unhappily.
“Paul, let’s return to Kempinski hotel.”
“Thinking of heading over to Samaria, are you?”
“Yeah. I need to confirm it with my own eyes first. Samdi, pack our luggage. We’re going to Doba.”
Just as Mu Ssang got ready to depart, the emergency radio began ringing loudly.
“Which moron is calling us in this historical moment?!” Paul grumbled while picking up the receiver. “What is it?”
-Captain, it’s the order to return to base.
The signalman yelled out each of the syllables.
“What are you on about? I’m on an official leave!” Paul shouted back.
He got himself fifteen days of vacation under the pretext of accompanying the special military adviser, after all. It’s been only four days, so being ordered to return had to be a mistake.
-It’s the commander’s order, sir.
“Is it an operational situation, then?”
Paul’s expression crumpled unsightly..